You can get lucky by finding a parking meter with time left on it. You can “luck out” by having nice weather on your vacation. You can even be lucky at love. But when it comes to financial matters, you’re better off not counting on Lady Luck — and focusing instead on setting and pursuing goals.
Here are some suggestions for establishing and pursuing your financial objectives:
Be specific. You probably have a lot of ideas about what you want to do, but if you’re going to turn these wishes into reality, you need to get specific. So, for example, instead of telling yourself that you want to retire early, set a goal of retiring at, say, 62. You can then use this target number to help guide your overall investment strategy. To illustrate: You can determine that you need to invest a certain amount of money each year, and earn a certain rate of return, to be able to retire at 62. You can also estimate about how much money you can afford to withdraw from your investment accounts each year to sustain a retirement that begins at 62.
Prioritize your goals. Of course, you want to achieve all your financial goals —and you can have a better chance of doing so if you rank these goals in terms of both importance and timing. For example, you may want to send your kids to college, purchase a vacation home and still be able to retire at age 62. How should you allocate your resources to each of these goals? Should you invest more at any given time for a specific goal? What types of investments are best for each of these goals? Prioritizing your goals can help you answer these and other questions — and help direct your overall investment strategy.
Be prepared to change your goals. Over time, your family and financial circumstances can change considerably — which means you shouldn’t be surprised, or alarmed, if you have to change your goals accordingly. And you’ll find it easier to maintain this flexibility if you’ve worked diligently to create an investment portfolio with sufficient resources to allow you to change direction, as needed.
Review your progress regularly. If you’re going to eventually achieve your goals, you absolutely need to measure your progress along the way. Are your investments performing the way you had anticipated? Are your goals becoming more expensive than you had initially envisioned? To achieve these goals, are you taking on too much — or too little — risk? To answer these types of questions, it’s a good idea to review your overall progress at least once a year and then make whatever adjustments may be necessary.
As you can see, it will take considerable effort to set, review and (hopefully) achieve your goals. And it can be somewhat complex, too, so you may want to work with a financial professional — someone who takes time to talk with you about your goals, understands your risk tolerance and family situation, and has the training and experience necessary to help you work toward your objectives.
But in any case, think hard about your goals and how you might accomplish them. And don’t delay in taking action — because goals are generally easier to attain if you have time on your side.