December 29, 2022
How to Nail One Big Goal for 2023
I hope you have been able to find the time to relax and catch your breath this holiday season.
This time of year is always a natural spot to reassess, recharge and recommit. That can be applied to all aspects of our lives— our personal relationships, our careers, and yes, our financial goals.
On that last one, I have a strategy to help you stick with and achieve whatever financial goal you have.
Step 1: Focus on One Thing
Don’t spread yourself thin here. I understand you may have multiple financial goals you’d love to tackle. But I think when you try to do so much all at once, it can often lead to goal burnout. You trip up on one goal and feel defeated, and all of a sudden you’ve lost the motivation to keep at your other goals.
So for now, take a minute to think about the one financial achievement that would make you feel great. It’s not about what I think. Or what anyone in your circle thinks you should do. This is about what will make you feel good and proud of yourself. Period.
Step 2: Think Big and Focus Small
I am 100% behind you having a very big goal. You want to wipe out a large credit card balance. Or you are ready to work toward building a big emergency savings fund. Or you want to, finally, make some serious progress on saving for retirement.
All that is great. But now I want you to break down whatever your goal is into a monthly goal. The idea here is to give yourself a bite-size goal you can reach in a short period of time. You will only reach a big long-term goal if you can keep the momentum going month in and month out.
Make your monthly goal a mantra you can repeat to yourself. “I will reduce my credit card balance by at least $100 this month.” Or: “I will save at least $100 a month in an emergency account.”
Notice I framed these with the phrase “at least.” The idea is to set a base achievement that you can reach each month. But also leave open the possibility that you may be able to achieve even more.
Step 3: Automate it
Many financial goals can be automated. Depositing money from a bank checking account into an emergency savings account can and should be automated. Ready to save for retirement with a Roth IRA? Any discount brokerage you open a Roth IRA account with will be happy to set up (for free) an automated schedule where you have money sent from a bank account into your IRA account. You can even automate your credit card bill pay. Check what the minimum amount due is this month. Can you afford to automate payment that is $100 more than the minimum? Or $150? Or more?
Automation is your best financial friend. I know you have the best of intentions to build financial security. But if we don’t have a set system for keeping at a goal, we can slip up. That’s just part of being human.
Step 4: Share It
Make 2023 the year you start talking (more) about money. Our financial challenges and goals occupy so much space in our heads—we worry, we dream—yet we don’t share that with other people. Operating in isolation is a burden.
I want you to tell at least one friend, or colleague, what your 2023 financial goal is. Even better: Create a financial sharing circle with a group of people who have your back. Then set a schedule for that sharing. You will text/call/meet up with them every week or month to review what you achieved last month and what you’re aiming for this coming month. Ideally, they are the people you check in with if you find yourself on the verge of falling behind on your goal. They are your “accountability” squad who will know whether to support you with commiseration or with a friendly kick in the rear to stay on track.
Step 5: Celebrate Each Monthly Win
The most important step is to take the time (at least once a month) to give yourself a huge pat on the back for making progress. Don’t worry about the big end goal. It may take many months, or years, to reach an end goal. The way to get there is to remind yourself how your decisions each month, or each week, are moving you closer to that goal.
If after a few months you find this goal to be an easy “habit,” that’s great! Perhaps you’re ready to add another goal to your financial plan. Just follow the same strategy. And if you want to stick with this one goal for 2023, that’s great too. Doing one thing well is far smarter than trying to do multiple things at once, and losing your way. Make progress on your big 2023 goal and we can talk about adding another goal for 2024.
May the year ahead be one of health, happiness, and financial progress for you.