Investment goals are spread over three branches, according to age, income and expectations. Age can be divided into three distinct sections: youth and beginnings, life expectancy, family building, seniors, and self-directedness. These labels often miss their marks for the right age, as middle-aged people seek investment for the first time or seniors are forced to set a strict budget, exercising the discipline they lacked when they were young.
Income provides a natural starting point for investment goals because you cannot invest what you do not have. The first professional job issues a wake-up call for many young people, forcing decisions about 401 (k) contributions, savings accounts, or money market and lifestyle changes needed to strike a balance between increased affluence and belated gratification. It's common to experience setbacks during this period, to stumble upon expensive home rentals and car payments, or to forget that mom and dad are no longer charging your monthly credit card bill.
Outlook describes the playground we operate in during our lifetimes and the choices we make that affect wealth management. Family planning is at the top of the list for most people, as couples decide how many children they want, their favorite neighborhoods and how many people paid they will need to match these goals. The career outlook matches these accounts, with highly educated people mounting in years of increasing earnings power while others are stuck in clogged jobs, forced to cut back on their expenses.
Investment targets become moving targets for many individuals, as carefully crafted plans face barriers in the form of layoffs, unplanned pregnancies, health issues and the need for elderly parent care. These unexpected challenges require a dose of realism when choosing to allocate your 401 (k) or deciding how to spend the year-end bonus, while ignoring the old axiom of "saving for a rainy day" by many people until it is too late.
Fortunately, it is never too late to become an investor. You might be in your forties before you realize that life is moving faster than expected, which requires thinking about old age and retirement. Fear can dominate your thinking if you wait that long to set your investment goals, but that's okay if it adds a sense of urgency to wealth management. All investments start with the first dollar earmarked for this purpose, regardless of your age, income, or expectations. Of course, those who invest for decades have a huge advantage, while their increased wealth allows them to enjoy the fruits of their savings habits.
Set up an investment goals workflow
Investment objectives address three main areas related to money and money management. First, it intersects with a life plan that engages our thought processes in unexpected ways. Second, it engenders accountability, forcing us to review progress on a periodic basis, invoking discipline when needed to stay on track. Third, the drive that affects our non-financial selves is created in positive ways that can improve our outlook on mental health.
Once established, an investment plan forces you to think about the sacrifices that must be made and the budgets to be balanced, and the realization that a delay or failure will have a direct and immediate impact on your wealth and lifestyle. Thinking and planning, allowing you to forgo the long-term approach. Dealing directly with things and prioritizing the things you really value in life.
Use monthly or quarterly statements of accounts to review progress and recommit to your chosen life plan, and make small adjustments rather than big changes as the money flow improves or worsens. Review your annual earnings periodically, and enjoy seeing your fortune grow without direct intervention or leave check from your grandmother. Learn to handle lost periods in a mature way, using red ink to build patience while re-examining how your decision-making affects these negative returns.
The Australian Investors Association recommends using the SMART format when setting investment goals. These are the elements:
Specific - Make each goal clear and specific
Measurable - Frame each goal so you know when to achieve them
Attainable - You need to take practical action to achieve a goal
Relevant - Determine if your goals are relevant and realistic
Time-based - Set a timeframe for each goal so you can track progress
Start writing a document or journal that lists each investment goal and how you will measure progress. List as much detail as possible, keeping both short-term and long-term goals in mind. Let's say you want to save for retirement but also plan to own a home in a safe neighborhood, with enough cash left over for an occasional vacation. Now review your current financial situation, and note how well or poorly the funds have been managed up to this point and the steps you would like to take to achieve this list of goals.