Get Your Goals On

We all have dreams, now let's get to work achieving them!

Don't Fall Behind on Your Goals

When Daylight Savings Time ends, we all "fall back" an hour. This year, instead of sleeping through that hour, use some of the extra time to check in on your savings goals and make adjustments to ensure you reach them before the end of the year.

Revisit your motivation. There was a reason you set your goal(s) back in January. Take a minute and find a picture or a phrase to remind yourself, and post it somewhere you'll see it every day.

Measure your progress. If your goal was to save $1,000 more per month, you should have about $10,000 so far. Every goal should have milestones to keep you in check. If you're not quite there, see what it would take to get closer and make the necessary adjustments to your spending or saving.

Set reminders. As we near the end of the year, take a minute to set a weekly reminder on your phone or block out a regular time on your calendar to help you stay the course through the last weeks of the year. Things are about to get hectic for almost everyone and it's easy to let your long-term goals fall behind the day-to-day frenzy. These reminders will help you not blow it in the home stretch.

If you take the time to take these steps and find you're on track to get there, congratulations! Enjoy your accomplishments and start thinking about what goals you'll set for next year.

4 Expert Tips for Your Financial Goals

Have you set your New Year's resolutions? Here are a few additional expert tips to help you make it your most financially fruitful year yet.

Little things add up to big things. You won't gain those extra pounds in one meal and you probably won't get into serious debt with just one purchase. Likewise, success in paying off debt will come with the accumulation of lots of little choices. Stay the course, even if at first it may not feel like it's working.

Write it down. It's easy to stay motivated in the early days of the year, but we all know that in order to not lose steam, we need ways to keep going after the excitement of the challenge wears off. Putting your goal(s) in writing and reviewing on a regular basis will help keep it fresh.

Keep the end in mind. Think about what achieving your goal will mean to you and find a picture that represents it. Saving for a new car? Put a picture of it on your bathroom mirror for a daily reminder! Digging out of debt? A photo representing freedom is a great visual motivator.

Tell the world. Allowing others in your circle to hold you accountable will make it that much easier for you to stick to your plan. Share your goals with trusted friends and family and ask them to remind you when you need a boost. Extra tip: Consider organizing a monthly get together with your group of friends or family to see how you're all doing with your goals; making it social can help make it fun!

Don't Ditch Your Resolutions

National Ditch Your Resolutions Day is January 17th – that's the day that a study found most people give up on their New Year's resolutions. But even if you've slipped up once or twice, you have all year to reach your financial goals. Don't abandon ship! Now that the newness of the New Year challenge has worn off, here are a few pitfalls to watch out for if you want to keep on keeping on.

Make sure you have an "In Case of Fun" fund. Most budget tips focus on covering needs while cutting back on wants, or figuring out how to limit overspending on splurges. But you should have a little bit set aside to cushion your budget in case something fun pops up that you either forgot to plan for or didn't expect, such as a last-minute road trip or a friend's pop up wedding.

Watch out for what you know is coming, even if you don't know when. It's a challenge to budget for things like car maintenance, pet care or home repairs, even though we know those expenses will eventually come due. Since we don't always know exactly when, we often forget to set the money aside. Make sure you have a sufficient amount set aside to cover at least one flat tire, cat surgery or furnace repair. You may not know the exact date that bill will pop up, but you'll be glad you have the cash set aside when it does.

Go ahead and give yourself some wiggle room and don't be too hard on yourself if you've slipped a little on your plan for the year. Even if you do ditch your resolution for one day, you can always get back on track the next. 

Spring Forward

Here are a few small changes that can make big leaps in your net worth.

Increase your 401k deferral by 1%. It doesn't seem like a lot (and you probably won't even notice the change in your paycheck), but this slight increase can really help move you closer to your retirement savings goal.
Boost your per paycheck savings by $25. Increasing the amount you put into savings is another change you may not even notice, especially if you have it transferred automatically, but it adds up. If you get paid twice a month you'll have an extra $300 saved after just six months!

Try the third-third-third rule with your tax refund. Here's how it works: divide your refund by three, then use one-third to make an extra payment on debt, one-third to boost your savings and one-third to splurge on something you want. You still get to have some fun, while also making extra strides toward long-term financial goals.

Try these little changes today for big results over time.

Awakening Your Savings Force

A great way to find some extra cash to save toward your goals is to sell items that you know longer want or need. Collections of toys, such as those original Star Wars* figurines, can collect a pretty penny instead of collecting dust in storage. 

To get started with making room in your home while padding your wallet, you first need to decide on the best place to sell your stuff. In general, there are three types of markets: consignment shops; online trading places, such as eBay or Amazon; or direct to buyer, such as garage sales or craigslist. Here's a breakdown of considerations for each.


Best for designer clothing, high-end furniture, etc.
Easiest, least hassle
Can have high fees due to seller's commission.

Online trading places:

Best for collectibles, in-demand accessories and some electronics
Safe but requires savvy descriptions and photos

Don't forget packaging and shipping
Fees: either fixed or percentage of sale price.

Direct to buyer:

Best for hard-to-ship items or lower value household goods
No fees, but requires a time investment

If using online sites, be safe; watch out for scams and only trade in public spaces.
As you turn your treasures into cash, make sure to apply the money you collect toward your goals instead of just absorbing it into your everyday spending. The little transactions can add up to big dollars with some time and discipline!

*Happy Star Wars Day to my fellow galaxy members – May the 4th be with you.

Recommit to Your Goals

Did you know that May is National Recommitment Month? As summer approaches it can be easy to lose steam on goals set in January. Take some time in the coming weeks to revisit the goals you set for yourself this year and recommit to making them happen. Need an extra push to get back on track? Here are a few tips to help get you there.

Get friendly. Check in with friends and family to see where they are with their goals. Recommit together and make a pact to support each other as you continue to work toward your goals.

Touch up your timeline. Setting milestones is one of the most important steps in goal setting. However, sometimes the timeline you create can turn out not to be as realistic as time goes along. Things change, and that's OK. Take a look at where you are now and adjust your timeline as needed. With a little re-working you will be back on the road to achieving your goals in no time.  

Keep your eyes on the prize. Remind yourself what achieving your goal will mean to you and find a picture that represents it. Saving for a new car? Put a picture of it on your bathroom mirror for a daily reminder! Digging out of debt? A photo representing freedom is a great visual motivator. 

Stay positive. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is financial success. Reaching your goals takes time, and even the smallest step forward is something to be proud of. Even if the road gets bumpy in the months ahead, keep your chin up and remind yourself that you CAN do this!

It’s not too late to make  your dreams come true. Give your goals a mid-year check-up today and make a strong recommitment to yourself!

When I'm 64...

Retirement often feels like it’s a way off, even for people who have been in the workforce for a couple decades. But when the concept of "retirement" is reframed as "financial freedom," or, at least, "career freedom," the sense of urgency often increases. Here are four tips to help make that freedom day less of a distant myth and more of a reality:

Don't wait until you can "afford" to start saving. Get used to the feeling of saving money as soon as you start working, even if you're starting small. Time is on your side when you're young, meaning that a little bit saved today could grow into a lot more in the future.

401(k) plans aren't the only option. If you are currently not eligible to participate in a 401(k) plan, you can still put money away for the future. A traditional or
Roth IRA is a great way to accumulate retirement savings.

Remember the Rule of 72's. The rule says that dividing 72 by your interest rate gives the number of years it will take your money to double. So, if you put your money in a 1% savings account, it will take 72 years for it to double. Retirement may feel like eons away, but it’s not 72 years away! Make sure you're not investing too conservatively.

Give some thought to your asset allocation. A long time horizon does afford more room to correct errors in investment selection, but it's still important to make wise choices. Educate yourself on the basics sooner than later.

Set yourself up for freedom from financial worries by saving early and saving often. Your future self will thank you!

Stop the Madness!

July 14th is Pandemonium Day, a day to expect chaos, madness and unexpected surprises. It's also a good reminder to make sure your emergency fund is in place. 
 Experts recommend keeping three to six months expenses in a separate savings account for emergencies, but that amount can seem impossible to reach if you're just getting started.

Here are four easy steps to help you get there:

Start small. Make your savings automatic and strive for a base amount of $1,000 to cushion against those unexpected expenses that pop up.

Once you get there, set a goal to have three months worth of rent or mortgage saved.

Next, try to save three months worth of your car payment.

Then, shoot for three months of your utility bills.

You get the idea. By breaking the goal into smaller, easier to achieve milestones, you'll see reward sooner. Then you'll be ready for pandemonium any day!

Are You on Track?

August 4th is Social Security Day, in honor of President Roosevelt's signing of the Economic Security Act creating Social Security in 1935. While it may not be the most exciting of holidays, it's a good reminder to see if you're on track to retire, factoring in Social Security.

Here are a few steps and calculators to help:

Run my 401(k) calculator to see what you are projected to have saved for retirement with your current plan.
Log in to to find out your estimated Social Security payment in retirement.

Create a retirement budget based on your budget today to figure out how much you'll need to save to maintain your current lifestyle—make sure to include any additional costs you expect or hope to have, like travel.

If you're on track, congratulations! Keep doing what you're doing. Have room for improvement? Consider increasing your retirement savings by 1%, perhaps around annual raise time so you won't feel the pinch. Revisit your plan and these calculators each year to measure your progress.

3 IRA Numbers You Need to Know

Let's cut to the chase: planning for retirement can be confusing. There are all different choices for accounts and each one has its own specifics. Today we're going to lay out a few helpful numbers if you have, or are considering, an IRA: 

$5,500: The maximum amount anyone under age 50 can deposit into a traditional or Roth IRA in 2016 and 2017.

$612,891: The projected value of an IRA if a 30-year-old deposited $5,500 per year each year until age 65, at an average annual return of 6%. (Psst, that's a conservative estimate!) 

$4,125: The actual after-tax cost of making the maximum contribution to a traditional (pre-tax) IRA for a single person making $60,000 per year and using the standard deduction.  

3 Financial Goals for 2017

Happy New Year! Is paying down your debt or saving more money on your list of resolutions for 2017? Rather than saying, "I want to save more money," try specifying exactly how much you want to save this year, then make it happen. 

Not sure how to get more specific? Try one of these ideas: 

Resolve to max out your IRA. The most you can put into an IRA this year is $5,500 ($6,500 if you're over the age of 50). If you get started right now, it's only a little more than $15 per day. If you get paid every other week, set up a direct deposit into your IRA for $211 on payday, which will get you to the max if you start with your first check this year. 

Resolve to be debt free.  Use the Accelerated Debt Payoff calculator to help figure out how to get there by next New Year's Eve. 

Resolve to take that trip. Make 2017 the year you save the cash for that dream vacation you've been wanting to take. Research the costs, figure out how much you need to save each month, then make your savings automatic.  

Have other goals on your mind? Make your plan today! 

Don't Let Ads Intercept Your Savings Goals

Were you one of the 100 million people who watched the Super Bowl last year? Studies show that the majority of these viewers watch just as much for the ads as they do for the game! There's a reason big brands are willing to spend upwards of $5 million just for 30 seconds of airtime - they want to influence your spending decisions.  

So, how do you resist making an impulsive purchase based on ads? Next time, ask yourself these questions: 
What is influencing this desire? When you find yourself pining for a product, stop and ask yourself if you're trying to recreate a feeling or look you saw in a particular ad. If the answer is yes, re-think your purchase and wait a week to see if it's something you'll still want. 

Is it something I truly need? If the product isn't going to enhance your life, then wait to spend your hard-earned money on something that's worth it. Don't diverge from your savings goals on something you won't use a month from now. 

When you do talk yourself out of an impulsive purchase, reward yourself by transferring half of the money you WOULD have spent into your savings. Now that's what we call a touchdown!

Celebrate America Saves Week

Happy America Saves Week! Did you know that having specific goals tied to your savings plan increases your chances of success? In fact, more than half of the people surveyed by America Saves who had specific goals were increasing the amount of money in their savings accounts, while more than 75% of people without goals were not making progress.

Ready to jump-start your savings? Here are 4 ways you can take action this America Saves Week: 
Take the America Saves Pledge to set a savings goal and get support year-round.

Make your savings automatic.

Remember, the best way to celebrate is by setting your goals and taking steps to achieve them. Even better, get your family and friends involved to make it fun! 

Don't Rely on Luck

Do you ever catch yourself saying things like, "If I'm lucky, I won't have to work until I'm 80," or "I'm out of luck if I lose my job"? It's true that life happens and we often can't control the unexpected, but when it comes to your finances, there are ways to improve your luck (and no, we're not talking about heading to Vegas!). 
Louis Pasteur famously said, "Fortune favors the prepared mind," meaning that if you want to "get lucky," being prepared is your best bet.

Take these steps to improve your chances of financial success:

Get your emergency savings fund in place. Ideally, you need at least six months of expenses set aside, but even just having $1,000 cash in a separate savings account can save you from unnecessary debt when bad luck strikes. 

Eliminate credit card debt. Freeing yourself of monthly credit card bills will allow you to direct your treasure toward present expenses and future goals. Make a plan today. 

Stay on track to retire when you want. The earlier you start saving, the better your chances of being able to retire when you want, no pot o' gold required. Calculate where you are today and figure out what you need to do to get there.