September 26th, 2012

3 Steps For Never Failing Your Financial Goals

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how to set goals

**Welcome to Self-Improvement Month here on the Credit Karma Blog! Today’s guest post is contributed by Jeffrey.**

Do you think willpower is what determines whether or not you accomplish your goals? No?! I’ve never been a big believer myself. Sure, having a concrete goal is crucial, but why stop there when you can use tricks that will be much more effective in ensuring success?

After trying out lots of different strategies for achieving goals, here are my three easiest steps to help you accomplish yours.

1. Decide Why Your Goal Is Important

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve set goals, financial or otherwise, and have failed miserably. For example, I’ve attempted to learn a new language several times. I’ve even gone as far as to spend hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone. But just deciding (and spending the money) wasn’t enough, and I’ve never achieved the results I wanted.

Why? I didn’t have a powerful enough reason to want to learn the language. I treated my lessons like a hobby that I’d get to whenever I’d have time since I didn’t make learning Spanish a priority. I just felt like learning a new language, even though I didn’t have a real reason to do so, and this ended up being a barrier to accomplishing my goal. I knew the “what” but not the “why” of what I wanted to do.

When I decided I wanted to quit my job, I approached the situation in a completely different way. I thought long and hard about my decision, and I knew exactly why I wanted to go for it – so I could have more freedom to live and travel wherever I wanted. To me, that’s a very powerful and motivating goal, and this made the “how do I get there?” much easier to solve.

When you’re setting your goals, don’t make the mistake that I did with languages. Think about or write down why this goal is so important to you that you won’t allow yourself to fail. Make sure your “why” is extremely compelling, or you’ll risk failure.

2. Create an Automatic System

Once you have your goal, I strongly recommend doing everything you can to guarantee you won’t deviate from your plan. For me, the best way is to automate your goals in every way possible.

Why automate? First off, it works better when you don’t leave success up to your memory or daily decision-making. Once you have a system set up, there’s no further action necessary, and it’s much hard to rethink and reconsider your decisions.

Once you put your system in place, you’re less likely to undo your decisions, too. If it’s an automatic payment towards a bill, there’s no turning back once it’s applied to your account. If you’re moving money into savings, you’ll have to manually go in to your account and transfer it out. I don’t know about you, but it’s extremely hard for me to hit the “Accept” button on any financial transaction that I know is going directly against the goals that mean the most to me. Oftentimes I’ll scrap plans to take money back out of savings because it just pains me too much to let myself down like that.

The best part is automation works for a wide range of financial goals: savings, investing, paying down credit card or student loan debt. Virtually any action that involves moving money around can be automated.

For your goals, ask yourself how you can make success more automatic and leave less up to chance, memory, and your own discretion.

3. Make Your Goal Known, and Make it Painful to Fail

To me, the only thing worse than failure is being seen as a failure by others. That said, to keep myself from failing, I like to make my goals as public as possible. I’ve posted what I want to accomplish my blog, my Facebook page, and in emails to my support group of friends. After doing that, I feel accountable to dozens of people and more driven to succeed. But if I was the only one who knew my goals, it would be much easier to brush off failure and forget about it.

Do you want to fully fund a Roth IRA this year? Or maybe you want to finally save for a trip to Barcelona. No matter what it is, tell someone your exact goal. Better yet, ask them to check in on you and hold you accountable every week or two, and I’m sure you’ll feel more pressure to not let them down.

If humiliation isn’t enough for failing your goals, set up a financial penalty if you don’t make it. I recently decided to donate to the campaign of the presidential campaign I’m NOT supporting if I fail daily or weekly goals. Giving money to this candidate is one of the worst things I can imagine, so I’m very motivated to work harder on my goals and stay on track with my budgeting and retirement milestones, too.

If you want increased “refereeing” for your particular situation, check out StickK, where you can make a commitment contract, find someone to hold you accountable, and get support, too.

You don’t have to copy my example, but you could instead cancel plans to eat out or upgrade your smartphone unless you accomplish your goals. For your money goals, maybe you’ve committed to not buying lunch on workdays or staying within spending limits each month for. Whatever motivates you to do (or to not do) something, use it to your advantage, and I guarantee you’ll instantly be more focused and likely to stay on track.

Jeffrey Trull is a freelance writer and blogger at Money Spruce, where he helps others spend money doing the things they love most. You can find his work around the web on his writer website.

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