Some pieces of financial advice apply to everyone: Save for retirement. Pay down debt. Spend less than you earn.
But turning these into financial goals that are specific to you requires some personalization.
Here are five tips for customizing your own financial goals.
1. Find inspiration
Don’t just think about what you want to achieve; focus on why you want to achieve it. For example, saving for a bigger house will allow you to grow your family someday. And you’ll be more inspired to get rid of debt when you think about the long-term benefits, such as living in a nicer apartment or being able to dine out with friends more often.
Reflecting on the emotional reasons behind your goals can keep you motivated.
2. Learn where you are now
Are your financial goals vague? Do you feel torn between two, such as renovating your home or saving for retirement? Define your goals by looking at where you stand today.
Start by assessing your income, tax situation, net worth and budget. Calculate your financial health score, which looks beyond your credit score. Knowing in which areas you're doing well (and in which you could use some work) will help you prioritize your goals — and reach them even faster.
3. Treat yourself
Reward yourself (responsibly!) when you make progress. For every $1,000 you save in your emergency fund, allow yourself a little treat. (Just don’t go overboard.)
You can also treat yourself by setting a new, exciting goal once you’ve completed an old one. When your emergency fund is flush, you can start saving for a vacation or a new car.
4. Set ‘SMART’ goals
Is your goal “SMART”: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound?
“Saving for a vacation” is a good start, but you should dig into the details. Where are you going, what would you like to do there and how much do you need to save for it? A week in Paris will look very different than a weekend in Austin, Texas.
When planning how you'll save for your trip, consider different saving techniques, such as automatically transferring a bit of every paycheck into your travel fund, and research the best travel credit cards.
Laying out the steps beforehand will help you create a “SMART” goal. If the goal doesn’t seem achievable, think about pushing it back or replacing it with something else.
5. Jot them down
Once you’ve defined your financial goals, write them down somewhere you can easily see them, such as a spreadsheet, notepad or whiteboard.
You can also leave reminders around the house. For example, put a sticky note on your refrigerator reminding you to cook more (and save for that big trip) or on your laptop for when you feel tempted to do some online shopping.