With July marking the start of the new financial year, this may be a good opportunity to think about your financial goals, and potentially revisit those resolutions that you may have long since forgotten from January.
But just like with New Year’s resolutions, it’s sometimes hard to know where to even begin with your financial goals, let alone sticking to them. So to kick start this new Financial Year, we’ve put together five steps you can take to hit the ground running with your financial goals.
What’s the secret to success?
With many years of financial planning experience under our belts, we’ve often found that individuals who succeed with their goals are those who have set things up to make it easy to achieve their money targets. Because in reality, the harder you have to work to achieve your goals, the greater the chance of life getting in the way, ultimately decreasing your chances of success.
The secret to achieving your goals is to build habits and actions into your routine which mean you’re not going out of your way to stay on track. It’s about following frameworks and processes that make your default outcome success, so it becomes almost effortless to achieve your goals. We dive into how you can do this below!
STEP 1 – Assess your cash flow situation.
When it comes to your financial goals, the first place you should start is with your cash flow situation. It is important you take stock of where you are now so that you can start planning and working towards where you want to be. We suggest using ASIC’s MoneySmart Budget Planner to get a valuable insight into your cash flow situation.
Understanding how your money is flowing is a crucial first step that can help you set achievable financial goals.
STEP 2 – Dream big. Plan SMART.
Once you’ve assessed your cash flow situation, you can start planning some goals you’d like to achieve. Your goals could be anything from saving for a holiday, putting money towards a house deposit, paying off credit card debt, setting up a rainy day fund, boosting your retirement fund or simply saving a set amount each pay-day. The sky is the limit when it comes to setting your goals, so long as they are SMART goals.
SMART goals are:
- Specific: Well defined, clear, and unambiguous.
- Measurable: Specific criteria that measures your progress towards the accomplishment of your goal.
- Achievable: Attainable and not impossible to achieve (i.e. look at your cash flow situation).
- Realistic: Within reach and relevant to your overall life purpose (again, look at your cash flow situation!).
- Timely: A clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date.
This SMART goals framework can help you hone in on what you really want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and ensures your goals are realistic and relevant to your situation.
When thinking about the timing of your goals, you should start with some short-term financial goals (i.e. within 3 years), and then move on to your medium (3 – 7 years) and long-term goals (7+ years). It’s key that you set a target for when you want to reach these goals as not setting a timeframe can lead to a lack of motivation, and decrease your likelihood of achieving these goals.
STEP 3 – Build your game plan.
Taking control of your income streams is an essential step you need to take when working towards your goals. You need to have a plan to make sure you are saving consistently and automatically so you’re more likely to accomplish your goals.
Many people usually turn to a budget to manage their cash flow. However, the reason why budgets don’t work for a lot of people is that they can feel restrictive, and may not fit their busy lifestyle. That is, while it’s easy to say you’ll spend X amount on food, transport or bills, in reality it can be much harder to continually monitor that you’re sticking to your budget, and you may start to feel burdened micromanaging your finances.
A budget also doesn’t take into account the timing of your income and expenses, which is one of the most important factors when it comes to cash flow management. That’s why instead of having a budget, you may find it easier to track and manage your spending in real time by setting up automated spending and saving ‘buckets’. By automating your finances, you can feel confident that your money is being sent to where it needs to go without a second thought or effort on your part.
STEP 4 – Put your plan into action.
In this modern day, where access to your money is made simple through online banking, automating your finances into separate ‘buckets’ could make cash flow management an easier task for you. Automating your finances can give you the comfort of knowing that all of your bills are paid for, and gives you the flexibility to still enjoy life the way you want to today. It also allows you to simultaneously save towards your short, medium and long-term goals.
Many financial institutions allow you to set up multiple savings accounts that you can name and dedicate funds entirely for the purpose of the account. For example, you may automate your cash flow by directing your income into five different accounts:
- Pay your bills: money to cover rent, utilities, transport, groceries, insurance premiums etc.
- Pay yourself: your personal allowance, a weekly (or fortnightly) amount you can spend on whatever you want, guilt-free.
- Save for short-term goals: money saved for immediate goals you want to achieve within 3 years, like saving for a car.
- Save for mid-term goals: money saved for intermediate goals you want to achieve within 3 to 7 years, like saving for a house deposit.
- Save for long-term goals: these savings should first be allocated to an emergency savings fund that could cover 3 – 6 months’ worth of expenses if something were to happen to your income. Once that’s taken care of, you could consider investing for long-term growth.
You may like to use the above diagram as a guide for distributing your income into each bucket, but you should consider your own circumstances and what is important to you, and allocate your money accordingly.
When you set up different buckets for your money, you bring discipline to your spending and savings, and you are less likely to feel restricted in comparison to how you may have previously felt with a budget. This approach is also more fluid than a budget, and can help you get a more holistic picture of your spending habits and how they might change from week to week.
STEP 5 – Track your progress.
As with any goal in life, you need to regularly review your progress. You may even need to review your goals in case they have shifted, and check whether the approach you are using to achieve them (e.g. automation) is still working well for you. You may like to commit to a progress review every 3 – 6 months to re-evaluate your finances and check you’re still on track to achieving your goals.
You should also be mindful of lifestyle creep and try to avoid it as best as you can. Lifestyle creep occurs when you increase your standard of living to match a rise in your discretionary income. For example, if you get used to living off $3,000 or $4,000 a month, you might wake up a decade later and find you’re spending $10,000 a month. But just because your income goes up doesn’t mean you should be spending more money. Avoiding lifestyle creep is often acclaimed as one of the key ways to build wealth, and can help you save more for all the meaningful goals you aspire to.
Sometimes all we need is a little push to do the things we’ve been putting off, and the new financial year presents the perfect opportunity to make some new financial resolutions. If you ever need any help defining your goals, or putting your plans into action, we’re always here to help! You can get in touch with us on 1300 850 757 or at GBW@ajg.com.au.
The information and any advice in this article does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these factors before acting on it. When considering whether to acquire a financial product, before making any decision, you should obtain the relevant product disclosure statement.