A financial advisor sits across the table from you. They blandly ask, “so, what are your financial goals?”

Uhhh – I don’t know? Retire? Travel? Not die poor?

I shame myself for asking such a broad question without giving any guidance on identifying and setting realistic goals in the first place! So, here we go:

1. Grab a pen, paper, and a friend.

2. Ask yourself some key questions.

3. Set realistic time frames.

Ok. Done.

Just kiddingggg. I won’t leave you hanging with that little information again. Let’s explore those points more:

1. Grab a pen, paper, and a friend.

You will never reach a goal if you never set one. Which is sad… because achieving goals feels really good! And here’s the thing, if you didn’t write it down and/or tell someone about it, did it ever happen? You surely aren’t going to remember the specifics of your mental goal 10 years from now. Telling another person about your goal gives you accountability, too!

Consider getting a special notebook you keep solely for tracking these goals. Store it somewhere visible; it will serve as a subconscious reminder of what you wrote inside it. If you are techy, considering making a file you see and will come across regularly.

Use the link below for a worksheet you can use for this purpose. It will be very useful for the next portion.

Worksheet: What Do I Want?

2. Ask yourself some key questions.

– Who do I want to be known as?

– How do I want to feel?

– What do I want to have?

When asking yourself these questions, think about your family life and relationships, your skills, your bank account, your health, and your home.

Possible example:

I want to be known as a sought-after doctor, an experienced traveler, and a

generous supporter of the arts.

I want to feel secure and grounded in my family, friendships, and finances.

I want to have 6 months of living expenses in my bank, have $200,000 in my 401(k), have a comfortable home that I own, and have no credit card debt because of the freedom these goals will allow me to experience.

If you don’t know WHY you’re pursuing a goal, your motivation to work toward it will fade.

3. Set realistic time frames.

There is no such thing as an unrealistic goal – just an unrealistic deadline.

There is no such thing as an unrealistic goal – just an unrealistic deadline. Share on X

If you earn $60,000 a year, you probably aren’t going to grow your investment portfolio from $50,000 to $300,000 in a year.

It’s also extremely unlikely you will be able to retire and travel the world at age 45.

While I am a fan of setting high goals, they must be set for reasonable time frames. Perhaps you want to grow your portfolio from $50,000 to $300,000 in 10 years. Maybe you want to retire and travel the world and you’re willing to put in the work until age 55.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting goals you won’t be able to meet.

Perhaps you’re uncertain about a realistic timeframe for your goals. Talk to your financial advisor and let her map out your goal with you to set a probable deadline. Then, take the steps necessary to achieve that goal!

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So, the next time some boring financial professional asks you the dry question of, “so, what are your goals?” you can respond with a well-defined, realistic explanation of your financial hopes and dreams. Then, be willing to take their advice to meet your goal by your desired deadline. The best thing you can do for your future self and future goals is to start NOW!