Many people in your life – from your fourth-grade teacher, to your parents, to your employer – have likely touted the benefits of setting goals for your future. You may have written down you would go to medical school and be a doctor, or get married and have children or buy your first home by 25. We create life plans and vision boards that project where we would like to be at some point in our future. And then often, they collect dust. They get pushed to the bottom of a stack of junk mail on your counter and you lose motivation.

As wealth advisors, we start with your personal goals. During our discovery meetings with clients, we spend time learning what’s important to them around money. Helping clients live fully requires understanding the values behind the goals, and without that, the numbers can feel meaningless.

Whenever my husband, Greg, and I meet with our advisor, we start by restating what we want to do: Short-term goals like taking a family vacation without incurring debt, medium-term goals like sending our kids to college, and long-term goals like that elusive early retirement. These things compete for our energy, and more importantly, our dollars. You see, regardless of how much money we have or make, the number of dollars we have is finite. Our goals, followed by the values we hold dear, dictate where those dollars go, and in what order.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Aimee, how does this help me? I know I don’t have infinite dollars.” My answer: Prioritization.

As an advisor, I know that a proper cash reserve, debt reduction and risk management plan are necessary for financial success. Beyond that, goal prioritization gets more personal. Greg and I hold family time, personal accountability, education and financial freedom among our top values. These dictate our savings plan. We plan for family vacations because it’s important for us to make memories and for our kids to spend time with our far-flung relatives. We balance some college savings with our retirement goals because we want them to take responsibility for their education, but want to provide what our parents did for us. My parents sacrificed to help me with an education at a private college, but I also paid with scholarships, loans and part time work.

So how do you take this information and apply it to your specific needs?

  1. Clarify your values. What are the things that encourage you to work towards a goal? Family? Education? Adventure? Philanthropy? Something else?
  2. Get clear on your goals. Write them down. Make sure they’re specific, measurable and have a time frame.
  3. Work with a financial professional. They can help determine if your goals are reasonable and put an action plan in place.
  4. Lastly, work with an accountability partner. Stay on track with the help of a spouse, significant other, professional, etc.
  5. Readdress your values and goals. Do this at regular intervals, or when things change.

As a wealth advisor, I follow this process with my clients, and Greg and I have been using it with our advisor for years. What I’ve found is that combining our values with prioritized goals has allowed us to achieve each one along the way and feel confident in our decision making around money. Let us know if we can help you the same way!