We are officially over two-thirds of the way through 2021, and the fall is a great time to check-in on your financial goals. Even if you didn’t set any goals at the beginning of the year, taking a peek at your finances is always a good idea. You never know what you might find when you start looking at your bank and credit card accounts.
You should track your income and expenses every month to get a clear sense of where your money is going, but it’s okay if you’ve let that slide throughout the year. That’s why it’s a good idea to reflect on your financial goals at certain points during the year. Many people enjoy quarterly check-ins after each quarter of the year has concluded (April, July, October, January).
Regardless of when you decide to take stock of your goals, make sure you take some time to reflect, check your progress, and make adjustments going forward. Taking these steps will help you reach your financial goals as soon as possible.
Reflect the Goals You Set
Hopefully you wrote your goals down somewhere. Did you know that a goal that is written down is more likely to be achieved? I first heard this over twenty years ago on The Oprah Winfrey Show. At the time, I wasn’t happy with my job, so I wrote what I thought was my dream job in the back of my journal.
This was long before I discovered Create Write Now and all the benefits of journaling, so it was almost the only thing I had written in that journal. I have no idea why I wrote it on the back of the last page. I guess, at the time, I was unsure that this method of writing down your dreams actually helped make them come true, so I sort of hid it away.
A few years after writing in my journal that I wanted to work for a “Big 4” accounting firm, I was offered a job at one of the largest international accounting firms at the time. Yes, it was one of the big four! So, even if you are unsure of this method of writing down your goals, give it a try. What can it hurt?
If you didn’t write down any financial goals for 2021, it’s not too late to do so. Maybe you are so clear on those goals that you have them in your head. That’s fine, but you’ll need to write them down to complete the rest of the steps of checking your progress toward your financial goals.
Check Your Progress
Once you have your 2021 financial goals in front of you, I’d like you to make some notes about them. You are going to evaluate your progress so far. Point form is fine, but be as specific as you can. For example, if you had $25,000 of debt you wanted to pay off, how much have you paid off so far, and how much is remaining to reach your goal by the end of the year?
I’ll revisit this in the journal prompts section, but do this for each of the financial goals you set. How are you feeling about your goals? Do they still feel reachable by the end of the year? If not, I address that in the next section.
I spent over twenty years working as an accountant. One of the things accountants commonly do when working on company financial statements is make adjustments. This means we are updating the client’s bookkeeping records to reflect what is actually going on. This is no fault of the client’s bookkeeper; they just don’t know the accounting and tax rules.
If the financial goals you set at the beginning of the year no longer feel achievable by the end of the year, it’s your turn to make adjustments! Life circumstances change, and our goals should change too. So many things in life affect our personal finances, so I recommend people update their financial goals at least every time a major life change occurs, if not before.
There’s no reason to feel bad about updating your goals. You want your goals to be realistic, so you will achieve them. It’s actually a good thing to recognize that you need to update your goals. If you never achieve your goals, you will end up wondering what the point is and stop making them.
Affirmations are a great tool to help you reach your goals, financial or otherwise. You can use affirmations as a way to overcome negative thoughts associated with not reaching your goals. Here are a few to try:
- My financial dreams are coming true.
- I am making progress toward my financial goals.
- Every day, I take the necessary steps to better my personal finances.
To remind yourself to use affirmations, try writing them on sticky notes and placing them on your bathroom mirror or recording them on your phone and setting a reminder to listen to them.
Let’s revisit some of the questions I asked earlier in the post via your journal.
How are you feeling about your progress toward your financial goals?
Whether you're feeling positive or not about your progress, it’s important to get your feelings down in your journal. When we write things down, we give ourselves a chance to process our emotions in a healthy way. This is especially important when it comes to money, because it is already such a heated topic for most people.
Another good thing to do is ask yourself, “Why?” Sometimes we don’t understand why we are feeling a certain way, and that’s okay. As you complete the next journal prompts, you may have more insight into this.
Do you need to make any adjustments to your financial goals? What are they?
This journal question is all about getting back on track to reaching your goals. Take some time to brainstorm how you might do that rather than simply stating that you need to make some changes. Often, when we don’t reach our goals, it’s because we decided something else was more important.
In the above example of wanting to pay off $25,000 of debt, it’s possible the debt isn’t being paid down because choices were made about other things that were more important, so the money went there instead of to the debt payments. If this is the case, how can you make your financial goals a priority? Achieving our goals or not is always a series of choices we make.
What do you need to do to reach your goal by the end of the year (or other timeline you set)?
Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas for adjustments you need to make, choose the ones you like the best and create a plan. It’s best if you can include a timeline. For example, “I will put $20 into my savings account every payday, starting in two days” is much better than, “I will put more money aside for savings.”
Remember, it’s not just about saving money. You may have some expenses you can cut back on too. Saving and cutting back on expenses is a double-whammy when it comes to working on your financial goals.
Whatever your financial goals are, I believe you can achieve them. By checking in with yourself regularly, reflecting, and making adjustments you’ll start to see a difference in your financial situation.
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Author bio: Michelle Cornish is the author of Prosperity Planner: Manage Your Personal Finances and Get Out of Debt, an undated planner where she shares more about her personal financial journey and her TREE Method for keeping her personal finances in check.