No achievement occurs by accident. It takes intention, planning, hard work, and perseverance to accomplish a significant task. For this reason, I have always been a big believer in setting goals in writing. For something to be a “goal”, it needs to be concrete and not merely a vague desire. Your chance of achieving a goal is dramatically improved when it is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This simple, perhaps corny, acronym has guided many for decades because it works.
When a goal meets the SMART criteria, you can lay out a blueprint of steps you will take to accomplish your goal. We can break these steps down further into long-term, intermediate, and short-term goals. If your long-term goal is to graduate from college with a certain major, that will require a series of required and elective courses and credit hours you must complete. That is a four-year goal. The intermediate goal might be to pass specific courses this semester. You have to pass Econ 101 before you can take Econ 102. The short-term goal is to do the reading and homework that is assigned for this week. If you don’t do the short-term work, you cannot pass the course this semester, or graduate in four years. Your short-term goals feed into your intermediate goals and into your long-term goals.
This concept is so basic and universal, that it seems almost unnecessary to even need to mention this. Unfortunately, when it comes to finances, many people don’t apply this same thinking and planning process that has enabled them to succeed in other areas of life. They don’t set SMART goals, nor do they work on short-term objectives which will enable them to achieve their long-term goals.
Instead, they hope that the finances will magically take care of themselves. Or that they don’t need to worry about it now, because it will be easier later. Or fatalistically, that the game is rigged and that they shouldn’t even bother trying.
The desire should be to become wealthy. Unfortunately, this statement carries a social stigma for many of us. It’s not something we’d want to say in public, put on our resume, or post as our Facebook status. We are taught to be humble, eschew materialism, and reject greed, as we should. We have heard that the love of money is the root of all evil. We may sub-consciously believe that people who have money have gotten it by exploiting others, cheating, or deceit.
Unfortunately, these beliefs are ultimately self-limiting. They create an excuse for not setting financial goals and keep smart people poor. Chances are that you simply have not looked at finances as an area where you have as much control as other areas of your life. Many people spend more time planning their next vacation than they do planning their financial goals. Granted, a vacation is more fun than organizing your finances, but financial planning has to start with you. No one else can make you do it.
You need to sincerely have the desire to become wealthy. Without that strong drive, you will not be successful. It is like training for a marathon – you don’t just wake up one day and go run a marathon. It takes planning, training, perseverance, and dedication. If you cannot imagine yourself as deserving to be “wealthy”, you may find that another term may be more meaningful for you and resonates with you personally. Consider: financial independence, security, or abundance. As in “my desire is to create a life of abundance for my family”. Let’s avoid framing a goal in negative-terms, what it is not, but you could also say that the goal of financial independence is to eliminate stress and fear of running out of money. Whatever terminology or mantra fits best for you, it is essential that you adopt this desire earnestly.
I view money like water – it is the most abundant resource on the planet, available to us in vast and limitless quantities. The world is literally awash in money. However, it is also true that many of us live in a desert where water is scarce and hard to come by. We can bemoan this fact, but that will not get us any closer to the water. Even worse, we may have decided to live in the desert, but then claim that we have no choice. We think that because there is no water here, that there is no water anywhere, which is false. We may give up, since there is no water here. Or, we may stubbornly keep digging a deeper well, even though our efforts are getting us nowhere.
We have to empower ourselves to recognize that there is no one holding us back from finding water. We should stop blaming ourselves if we do not find water where it isn’t located. But we do have to move on, and accept that we will go to where the water is. Some people seem to be natural at finding water, and once they have that skill, they don’t ever have to fear being thirsty again. They have created a well that provides them abundantly. Even if they lost all the water they have now, they could go out and find more. It is there for the taking.
Many people fail to realize that they are in a desert and think that those who have an abundance of water are smarter, harder-working, lucky, or just born with it. And while that may sometimes be true, I can tell you that many, many people who lead a life of abundance are not better educated or any of these things. They simply have taken a step back and made deliberate choices to be where the water is located. They believe that they do deserve abundance and will take the steps to earn all that they can.
A desire for wealth will not take you very far by itself. For this to become a goal that you can use to take actionable steps, it must be more concrete. A SMART goal gives you the road map and lays out your short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals.
When I started Good Life Wealth Management, a few advisors told me to set high account minimums and only accept clients who had $500,000, $1 million, or more. I understand their business rationale, but previously working at a firm where a $1 million account was considered a nuisance, I missed the thrill of helping investors set goals and chart their own road map.
If you’ve been waiting to get started, afraid to find out how much you should be doing, don’t delay further. Let’s get started on your goals today.