You got this: An easy guide to making your financial plan

To start, it’s time to tackle setting your financial goals. Because it’s always good to have a clear idea of what you’re saving your hard-earned money for.

1. Think about what you want your money to do for you

Goals help guide your plan. They don’t have to be set in stone. In fact, you’ll revise them throughout your life. But you need to start somewhere.

Everybody wants to grow their money saved, of course, but how much, how fast, and for what reasons? That varies from person to person.

The key question … what kind of life do you want now? Later? Take a look at some examples below:

Basic life and money goals

  • Buy a home. Or a different home if you already have one.
  • Remodel or repair your house. Examples: new roof, finish your basement, update your kitchen.
  • Pay down debt, such as loans and credit cards.
  • Buy a car.
  • Build an emergency fund.
  • Pay off student loans faster.
  • Pursue hobbies and interests, travel. 
  • Give annually to a favourite charity.
  • Start a new business or expand a current business.

Family-related financial goals

  • Get married. (Rings, honeymoon, flowers. It adds up.)
  • Plan to have children. Think day care, activities/sports, braces, and school holidays.
  • Help kids with college expenses.
  • Leave the workforce to raise a family, care for aging parents, go back to school.
  • Help adult children with expenses, like pay for a wedding or a down payment for a house.
  • Leave an inheritance for your loved ones.

Retirement-related goals

  • Retire from working full-time. (Or goal may be to work part-time, or to retire early.)
  • Move somewhere that has a lower cost of living, or where it’s warmer, or to be closer to family.
  • Pay off your outstanding debts before you retire.

2. Categorise each goal as short-, mid- or long-term

Use this as your guide to help you complete your financial goals worksheet:

  • Short-term goals: 6 months to 5 years
  • Mid-term goals: 5 to 10 years
  • Long-term goals: more than 10 years

3. Set a target date for each one

Being specific helps, even if you adjust the date over time. If you have a son headed to college in 2030, you have a target date for your college savings goal. Want to take a cruise for your 10th wedding anniversary? You know what timeframe you're working toward. Add target dates to your worksheet.

4. Prioritise each financial goal: critical, need, or want

It helps to prioritise, so if push comes to shove, you know what to fund first. Label each goal on your worksheet: critical, need, or want. Let’s say you have a short-term goal to build up your emergency fund, and it’s “critical.” But another short-term goal is to trade your car, which is running just fine; it’s a “want.” If funds become tight 1 month, you know where to put your money.

5. Know how much you have vs. what you still need to save.

Where do you have money saved and how much? Log those numbers on your worksheet toward a retirement-related goal. Note: Some goals may not have current savings. That’s OK. You have to start somewhere.

If you plan to buy a home in 2 years and you need money for a down payment, divide what you need by 24 months. Then you know what you need to save more per month to help you attain your goal.