I am a list maker and a goal setter.
How else do you achieve things if you don’t know what you want to achieve?
I’ve never actually been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but since I started blogging, I’ve used that as my time each year to reassess my financial goals and sort of start the clock over on each one.
The vast majority of my financial goals have always been saving related. Right out of school, there was also the big goal to pay off debt. My financial planning started out really easily – there were three tiers.
- Save for retirement (max out IRA/at least meet any 401(k) match amounts from employers).
- Build up an emergency fund to $1,000.
- Pay off all my student loans.
So I split up $5,000 and figured out that each month I needed to save $416 for my Roth IRA, and because of the power of compound interest, that has always been my highest savings priority. When things are slow and I fall behind, it’s also the account I put the most effort into catching up on. When things are good and I’m a little flush, it’s the account I add extra to in order to make sure that it gets maxed out each year.
To get my emergency fund from zero to one thousand took $84 a month. That baby emergency fund saved my butt many a time from adding more credit card debt because of car trouble, health insurance co-payments, dental visits, etc.
My final priority was my student loans. All of my extra cash would go towards these. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make minimum or just beyond the minimum payment each year for a few months until I had my Roth IRA maxed out, but after that it was a free for all on this sucker.
I’ve spent a lot of time this summer thinking about my savings goals now and how to prioritize them, because I didn’t make enough money all summer to meet my monthly goals on most of them.
Fortunately, debt isn’t in the picture anymore, but now that I’m in my early 30s, I have several more short and medium term goals that I’m saving for in addition to retirement.
- Save for retirement.
- Build up an emergency fund to $10,000.
- Buy a new Macbook with cash in February/March 2016.
- Buy a new car with cash in 2022.
- Save for a down payment on a house.
- Invest $1,000 in the stock market.
Thanks to the fact that I still do the same thing with paying as much into my Roth IRA as I have extra, I’m only $800 short for the year and will probably finish saving for that by the end of September, beginning of October. Although most years I’m done by summer.
It was the rest of the savings goals that I had to reevaluate and I decided to prioritize the Macbook goal since it’s coming up the soonest and some of my income comes from my computer in the first place. So every month I managed to scrounge up the $100 I’ve aimed to put in that account (generally using the money digit has been siphoning out).
The other good month this summer, a $100 was added to the new car account.
The dates that are the farthest away provide me with extra time to catch up and still make the deadlines.
I also didn’t just let go and figure out that I won’t make the goals. When I knew my financial situation was going to change for 4 months this summer and then change again in the fall (which I didn’t really know back in January when I set the goals), I reassessed them all to make sure they were still doable.
With a little bootstrapping, good luck and good budgeting, they just might be, so I’m not letting go of these goals yet.