Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Financial Goals

I just read this morning that research shows that writing down your goals makes you much more likely to accomplish them then if you just visualize them. I was thinking about financial goals and their importance. Do you have any financial goals for the new year? Would you like some (or even one) but aren't sure where to start? Here are a few potential ones:

1. Give (consistently) a portion of your income. Whether it is the classic 10% or something more or less, giving is perhaps the greatest financial habit you can master. Why? Because it makes us feel good and shows us that we are not slaves to our income - we are the masters. For Christians, giving is a unique form of worship that is both a command to be obeyed and a blessing to be experienced.

2. Spend less then you make. The reduction in stress one feels when one keeps one's spending below what one is making is huge! I have met many people who make less then $40,000 a year who are much more at ease and less stressed then their "wealthier" friends who make 2 or 3 times what they do (but spend more then they make). The first kind of couple are wealthier - they have something left over at the end while their "richer" friends are in the hole.

3. Pay off debt. Setting aside a portion of your income to pay back debts builds your self esteem and reduces your stress. Even paying off smaller debts has great benefits.

4. Buy some assets. Purchasing things that put money into your pocket (instead of taking some out) just makes sense. It is short term gain (going without that new TV or car) for long term gain (seeing your nest egg increase, adding to your monthly income). Assets include stocks, real estate, small businesses, etc.

5. Pay yourself first. Putting aside a percentage of your income every month to invest will pay off in 5, 10, or 20 years (depending on how aggressively you invest). After giving, this is in my mind the most important thing you can do for yourself financially.

6. Track your income. Also known as (ahem) budgeting, tracking your income causes you to face the truth about where you are at and find ways to achieve your hopes and dreams. Budgeting takes a lot of discipline at the start but when it becomes a habit you'll wonder how you ever lived without it!

7. Increase your income. Instead of complaining about how you don't have enough money to meet your needs (or wants), take action. Set a goal to increase your income by a certain amount. If you don't know how, then brainstorm and research. Ramit Sethi has a lot of ideas in his "An Extra $1000 a month challenge."

8. Learn something new. If you aren't quite ready to take action, maybe you can inspire and educate yourself. There are plenty of good books out there that will not just tell you things but inspire and motivate you to do better with the money God has given you.

9. Find a mentor. Do you want to handle you money wisely? Then find someone who does so and ask if you can learn from them. Most people who are wise with finances learned it from others and are more then willing to share. Arrange to meet with them once a week/month/quarter to hear what they have to say and let them speak into your life.

10. Pray about your finances. Many people believe that the more faith you have, the less you think (or care) about money. Yet the Bible is full of advice, thoughts, warnings, and encouragement about how to use the money we get. God does care about these things. Praying for wisdom, control, balance, and that He would take care of you and your family when it comes to finances is a great thing to do. To make sure you are praying healthily, it is good to study what the Bible says about money and keep those thoughts in mind as you pray. God isn't Santa after all.

So there you go, 10 basic potential financial goals for the new year. Let me know if you think of any more.


Stacey said...

I agree with #10. You give some great advice, but worrying about money is actually NOT a good thing. If it's all you focus on, or spend a lot of time focusing on it, I think that's actually wrong.

And I keep being reminded of the verse about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil.

I think it's great to invest, etc, but are we doing it to hold onto 'stuff' for ourselves? Is it so we can be more financially secure? Or so that we can give more to God's work? It's definitely a lot to think about.

Mark said...

Hi Stacey, thanks for your thoughts. Not worrying about money might actually be a great potential goal to add as well!