Financial Check-Up: 6 Tips to keep you Accountable

Howard Morin |

Every year, we dig up our hopes and dreams and make and set some goals and make some resolutions. Getting back in the gym, losing weight, and eating clean, are usually at the top of the list, but what about your finances? The health of your accounts, spending habits, and investments are just as important to evaluate. When it comes to your financial resolutions this year (and beyond) use these tips to do your own financial check-up and actually keep and reach your goals.  

Turn Dreams into Goals

Dreams are something the heart wants and the mind envisions. Whether that’s starting your own business, retiring early, taking a trip around the world, or even just being able to pay for part of your kids’ college tuition. The hard part is taking those big ideas and transforming them into actionable goals. Financial goals operate like any other goal in the way that they benefit greatly from being written and planned at SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable or Agreed-upon, Realistic, and Time-based.

Taking a big dream and breaking it down into something that features clear-cut amounts and is tied to a certain time can be difficult, but that’s the purpose of SMART goals—to make you think with intention about your goals before agreeing to them. Take a blank piece of paper and write out a few versions of the same goal, and then talk it over with trusted confidants or other stakeholders (such as a spouse or business partner) before solidifying the goal(s) you’re going to stick to.

1. Google It

Want to make a financial goal but aren’t quite sure where even to start. Surf the internet to get some crowd sourced ideas and then adapt them to your personal situation. Google “financial resolutions” or “ideas for financial goals” to get your brainstorm going. You can also look to your social media network like Facebook, asking your digital community examples of their personal finance intentions.

2. Baby Steps

If you’re saving for something big like a down payment on a house (especially here in Seattle) or want to completely pay off a maxed credit card, those can be huge numbers at face value. But, if you set a miniature step such as saving $100 a week that you will then put toward the payment or bill it becomes more manageable. After even six months that weekly savings will have added up to a significant number that will cut away at the greater goal. Set a plan of how you can save that $100 a week by reasonable cutting down on extraneous expenses (mochas, lattes, shoe shopping, sports tickets) more often than you have in the past.

3. Get a Personal Trainer for your Money

When we make exercise and weight loss goals one of the first things you should do is invest in a personal trainer—someone to hold you accountable for your goals. Consider a financial advisor your guru to get your portfolio and finances in shape. If you already have an advisor, reach out and get back in regular contact them. Set up an appointment for a financial check-up and set a plan to reach your goals together. If you don’t already have a financial advisor, that’s your first step. Not sure where to even find a financial advisor? Ask your close friends, family, and colleagues whom they trust with their money. At Helium Advisors we believe it is critical to perform and immediate financial check-up with any new client. Our approach is no different than a patient visiting a doctor with some kind of ailment.

4. Regular Review

Don't wait until the New Year or end of the year to refocus and reevaluate your goals and objectives. They are too important for you to set aside for the majority of the year. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to regularly review your financial goals in increments that make sense for your monetary goals (whether that’s once a week, month, or quarter). During these review sessions (that should sometimes include your financial advisor) be thorough and honest with your progress and setbacks. This is not the kind of thing you want to bury your head in the sand in hopes it gets better.

5. Slip-Ups Will Happen

No one is perfect and it’s wrong to assume that just because you’ve set a financial goal the journey to that goal will be without a few pitfalls or setbacks. It happens.

If saving, investing, paying off debt, and reaching financial goals were easy you likely would have already done so. And failure is likely to happen. Say your goal is pay off all credit card debt over the next 10 months, but you end up spending extra cash flow on a spontaneous trip. It’s okay, but don’t beat yourself after the fact or think that because of one diversion your whole goal is caput. Incentivize yourself to keep your difficult financial resolutions. For instance, say you want to pay off student loan debt at a better rate than years past. Set up automatic payments to meet your goal rate and tell yourself that you'll visit your favorite, expensive restaurant for a nice dinner only after you reduce your base loan amount by a 40%.

6. Embrace Tech

Your smartphone and laptop are always nearby, so use them! There’s a wealth of financial apps out there to help you set and track your financial progress toward goals. For a low monthly fee or even free you can have a personal budget tracker and analyst in your pocket that assist in budgeting and investing on a daily basis. Turn the notifications on and you’ll quickly notice that financial budgeting and savings apps are solid way to keep your goals top mind well after the new year has passed.

Resources

  1. http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-set-and-keep-your-personal-finance-resolutions-1483185601
  2. http://money.usnews.com/money/the-frugal-shopper/2015/05/20/3-ways-to-set-financial-goals-youll-actually-keep
  3. https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php
  4. http://www.americanbanker.com/news/bank-technology/top-7-apps-for-putting-short-term-financial-goals-in-motion-1076624-1.html
  5. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-smarter-mutual-fund-investor/2014/01/09/5-ways-to-meet-your-financial-goals-in-2014
  6. http://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/tips-setting-keeping-financial-goals.html/?a=viewall
  7. http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/refocusing-on-financial-goals.aspx

*This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal or tax counsel. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a representation by us of a specific investment or the purchase or sale of any securities. Asset allocation and diversification do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.