Money Management

The 6 Step Plan to Set Your 2021 Goals

By  Kelley Long

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As we reflect on the past year, there is much to examine – safe to say that 2020 turned out to be a year that none of us expected.

For many of us, despite gut-wrenching headlines and world events swirling around us, it may have actually been a good year in many ways – babies born, promotions earned, businesses started, exams passed, love that’s blossomed. 

While 2020 may have veered off course in terms of how things got done, before we charge into the new year with renewed hope for better days worldwide, it’s still a good idea 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 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 possible, but if not, then a quiet space with soft lighting and a hot cup of tea will suffice.

Goal setting is self-care just like indulging in a massage or 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.

This is the fun part where you celebrate your wins.

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 coming up with a way to manage multiple family members suddenly stuck at home together – anything that made you feel proud, relieved or even a sense of ‘good riddance’ is worth putting on the list.

My list includes big things like quitting my job to go freelance, hosting my Dad’s 70th before the pandemic and dealing with my cat’s cancer diagnosis, but also little things like way more time spent in my craft studio, creating a meditation practice and some really great walks in nature.

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, especially during a crazy year, but it is a good idea to reflect on what got in the way that you can learn from. Perhaps a career goal went off the tracks due to events outside your control, but reflect on how you handled the change and whether you’d do things differently or if you’re proud of your resilience.

4. Adjust Your Course If Needed.

My financial goal was to get my investments more organized, and while I did consolidate all my accounts with one brokerage, there’s still work to be done to make sure my investments are in line with my goals and risk tolerance. 

I’ve also found myself needing less of the cash savings that I had gathered in anticipation of leaving my job, so I need to contemplate whether I’ll use that to allow me more freedom to delay any hard-hitting career moves or if I’ll invest some of that money in a business idea or just in the market.

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, which is perfectly fine. Adjust the goal for next year 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 goal-setting? I highly recommend Debbie Ford’s book, “The Best Year of Your Life.” I like to re-read it every couple years and use it to set any bigger plans in place. The years that I’ve used it have led to major long-term life changes, including the direction of my career that I never could have envisioned before it happened!

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 year!


About the Author

Kelley Long

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.

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