Seven Tips to Keep You Financially Accountable

Ann Miller |

You don’t have to be an expert in personal finance or have a big investment portfolio to be financially secure. It is important to understand the basics of financial planning, however. Adopt these seven habits of the financially savvy and you’ll become smarter with every dollar.

1. Turn Your Dreams into Goals

To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Whether you’re opening your own business, taking a trip around the world, or even just aiming to pay for part of your kids’ college tuition, the hard part is taking those big ideas and turning them into something actionable. Financial goals operate like any other goal in that they greatly benefit from being well-defined, written, and planned. SMART goals are a common way to organize your ideas. This system asks you to create goals that are: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable or agreed-upon
  • Realistic
  • 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.

2. Search It

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

3. Baby Steps

A down payment on a house, student loans, and credit card debt can be huge numbers at face value. But if you break down these numbers into smaller portions, paying for these items can feel more manageable. Start by saving an easily manageable amount each week. Even after a few months, the savings will add up to a number that can cut away at the greater goal. Set a plan of how you can save by reasonably cutting down on extraneous expenses or look at ways to increase your income.

4. Get a Personal Trainer for your Finances

Many people work with a personal trainer when they’re trying to reach a fitness goal. Trainers will provide support and help hold you accountable for your goals. Think of us as your financial professional as a trainer to help get your portfolio in shape. We can help you create a plan so you can work towards your goals.

5. Schedule Regular Reviews

Set calendar reminders to review your financial goals. Create a schedule that makes sense for your monetary goals; whether it’s once a week, monthly, or quarterly. During these review sessions be thorough and honest with your progress and setbacks.

6. Accept that Slip-Ups Can Happen

Even well-constructed goals have setbacks. You’re not a perfect person, and it’s not fair to hold yourself to unrealistic standards. If saving, investing, and reaching financial goals were easy, you likely would have already done so! Failure can happen, and if it does, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up and assume that your goals are unattainable because of a setback. Instead, find ways to motivate yourself and make the journey to your goals easier.

As an example, let’s say you want to pay off your student loans at a better rate than in previous years. You may want to try setting up automatic payments, and then tell yourself you’ll treat yourself to dinner at your favorite restaurant once you hit a certain milestone. Building a reward system may make the journey more enjoyable.

7. Embrace Technology

Your smartphone, tablet, 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 in your pocket that assists you on a daily basis. Turn on notifications to be reminded of your goals and current progress throughout the day. It can help keep your goals top of mind well after the initial new year motivation has passed.