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As I reflect on the past year, I have much to celebrate and plenty of things that are motivating me for the new year. Before I start making solid plans, I like to spend some time performing a “year in review,” which can be quite therapeutic. Recognizing how far you’ve come, even if you’re not quite where you want to be yet, is important to keeping you on the path to the life of your dreams.
Take some time over the next couple days to focus on where you’ve been and how far you’ve come before you start worrying about where you’re going. (If you do need to correct course, you also have to know where you are first.) Here’s a little guide to help you get there:
1. Get comfortable.
Think of this as “you” time. I prefer to perform this exercise in the relaxation room of the spa, when at all possible. Goal setting is self care just like indulging in a massage or hard workout. If you think of it that way instead of as something to dread, you’re much more likely to do it…and enjoy it.
2. Do a mental walk through the past year.
Think back to how you spent last New Year’s Eve then month by month, think of the significant things that happened to you and write them down. It doesn’t have to be a “life event” in the Facebook sense. It could be as simple as completing a big project, reaching a savings milestone or hosting a party. My list includes big things like some amazing travel, buying a new car and hosting my first holiday, but also little things like more time spent with my parents and starting therapy.
3. Review last year’s goals.
If you didn’t write them down, that’s ok. Write down what you remember them to be now and review.
Don’t self-flagellate if you missed one or two, but it is a good idea to reflect on what got in the way. For example, my weight loss goal turned into quitting dieting forever and throwing weight loss efforts out the window (this book was my inspiration). That’s opened up a whole new avenue of things to work on – eradicating fat-phobia and learning to love my body the way it is today, while also re-learning what “healthy” eating means without dieting rules.
4. Adjust your course if needed.
My financial goal was to fully fund my health savings account, which I did, but I also needed all of it in 2019 with a DVT diagnosis and a severe ankle sprain that has me limping in to 2020. To adjust for this, I had to rethink my insurance choices for 2020 at open enrollment.
If your goal was to pay off a credit card but instead you find yourself deeper in debt, what happened? Perhaps an emergency came up that you had to use the card for. Adjust the goal for 2020 by including a plan to create a cash cushion so that you can put the card away for good while you pay it off.
5. Make sure you’re setting SMART goals.
Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. “Save more money,” isn’t a goal. “Build a $1,000 nest egg by June 30th,” is. You know exactly what you’re shooting for, and you’ll know exactly when you get there.
6. Make your plan to get there.
Set yourself up for success by automating what you can. A $1,000 nest egg in six months requires $83.33 per paycheck (if you’re paid biweekly) in savings. Set up an auto-transfer to a savings account now for that amount, then forget about the account.
Want to go a little deeper into your 2020 goal-setting? I highly recommend Debbie Ford’s book, “The Best Year of Your Life.” I recently re-read it and am using it to set my 2020 plan just as I used it to set my 2015 plan, which lead me to the place I am today.
Whatever you do, it’s worth taking time to reflect on what’s worked so you can try to replicate the conditions that helped, while also avoiding any patterns that might get in the way. Cheers to kicking off a fantastic new decade!
I believe that the true meaning of financial security is the ability to make decisions without having to worry about money. There are both factual and psychological aspects of this belief and my mission is to help people find that intersection in their own lives according to their personal values and goals.
I hold the CPA/PFS license and am a CFP® professional, but I don’t sell any products or manage any money. When I’m not writing, I’m working one-on-one with people through my coaching business, Financial Bliss with Kelley Long. I’m also a member of the AICPA Consumer Advocate Council and am frequently quoted in the press on financial literacy issues facing Americans.
I love to apply my own money lessons to my writing as well as break down some of the more complicated financial planning techniques into plain English. My goal in life is for all people to feel able to make their own financial decisions with confidence, being fully aware of the pros and cons of the actions they take.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.