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Setting Financial Goals

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The Second Step in Personal Financial Planning

The first step in personal financial planning is controlling your day-to-day financial affairs to enable you to do the things that bring you satisfaction and enjoyment. This is achieved by planning and following a budget, as discussed in the first article in this series.

The second step in personal financial planning, and the topic of this article, is choosing and following a course toward long-term financial goals. As with anything else in life, without financial goals and specific plans for meeting them, we drift along and leave our future to chance. A wise man once said: "most people don't plan to fail; they just fail to plan." The end result is the same: failure to reach financial independence.

The third step in personal financial planning, "Building a Financial Safety Net," is discussed in the third article in this series.

FOUR SIMPLE STEPS FOR SETTING FINANCIAL GOALS

Step 1: Identify and write down your financial goals, whether they are saving to send your kids to college, buying a new car, saving for a down payment on a house, going on vacation, paying off credit card debt, or planning for retirement.

Step 2: Break each financial goal down into several short-term (less than 1 year), medium-term (1 to 3 years) and long-term (5 years or more) goals.

Step 3: Educate yourself! Read Money magazine, or a book about investing, or surf the Internet's investing web sites. The stock market is not voodoo. With a little effort you can learn enough to make educated decisions that will increase your net worth many times over. Then identify small, measurable steps you can take to achieve these goals, and put this action plan to work.

Step 4: Evaluate your progress. Review your progress monthly, quarterly, or at any other interval you feel comfortable with, but at least semi-annually, to determine if your program is working. If you're not making satisfactory progress on a particular goal, re-evaluate your approach and make changes as necessary.

DO IT NOW!

There are no hard and fast rules for implementing a financial plan. The important thing is to do SOMETHING, and to start NOW.

Read the third and final article in the Introduction to Personal Financial Planning series: "Building a Financial Safety Net" to prevent financial disasters caused by catastrophic illnesses or other personal tragedies.

RECOMMENDED READING:

The Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s Book
My own book that demystifies personal finance. Easy to read and easy to understand.

Top Ten Books About Managing Your Money
I've read over 100 books about personal finance, and these are my top picks.

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