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4 Characteristics of Setting Goals

January 07, 2016

As we embark into 2016, the New Year provides us with renewed enthusiasm, energy and hope for the future. The New Year provides us with the opportunity to review our current goals and embark on new ones. In my experience, there are four characteristics of setting goals worth reviewing:

1. Be realistic and specific. It is as important to have a dollar amount in mind associated with our goals. For example, the goal of Buying a Home: “I want to purchase a home of no more than $250,000”. This amount should be based on your budget and realistic expectation of what you can afford. You should develop an action plan to have the appropriate amount to qualify for the purchase. In the case of the Retirement Goal, consider the amount of income and lifestyle you want to enjoy. Let say “I want to retire with $5000/mo”. This amount is important since you should consider all the income streams that play in your retirement (i.e. pension, 401K, IRAs, Social Security). The same applies for college savings for your children—how much should you realistically save based on projected costs? What other sources of funding are available? State college or private?

2. Set a specific date. It is important to have a specific date in mind when setting goals. For example: saying “I want to buy a house in a year or two” is not clear enough. It is best to say: “I want to buy a house by March 15th of 2018”. Having a specific date provides a yardstick to measure against in developing a plan of action towards achieving the goal. In the case of the Retirement Goal, it is best if you plan to retire on a specific date, for example, June 1st, 2020. This way, you have a benchmark to measure against and set in motion the proper actions to synchronize the different income streams at retirement. In the case of higher education for your children, “I want to have $$ by my son/daughters 18th birthday”.

3. How would you feel or what would you be thinking? Imagine you are already there. How would you feel having achieved your goal? Although very subjective, this characteristic of setting goals is crucial. Many self improvement books suggest visualization as a means of setting in motion the actions that have the most probability of getting you there. For example, how would you feel when you see yourself closing on that home and having the keys in your hand? How would you feel seeing yourself enjoying your retirement lifestyle without having to worry where income is coming from? In the case of savings for your children’s higher educating; how would you feel when you child’s name is called, holds the diploma in hand and shouts: “I made it—thanks mom & dad!”? Using visualization, your emotions and feelings can serve as the spark to get moving on the road map towards achieving your goals for the reasons that are important to you.

4. Develop an action plan and stick with it. This is the most important characteristic of goal setting. You can dream it, you can plan for it, but if you do not take action, you may never achieve your goals. Once you have an action plan in place, stay the course, take the time to review it periodically and make course corrections as needed. It is easier to tweak a plan than to have a knee jerk reaction every time life throws unexpected curves at us—and it will.

Jose "Rafi" Rodriguez is a Retired Colonel, United States Air Force and President of his own financial services practice, Rodriguez Financial Strategies, LLC, 2661 Commons Blvd, Beavercreek OH 45431 (937) 427-4292, cell (937) 304-7393, Fax (937) 427-1242. Rafi Rodriguez is also a Retirement Income Certified Professional®.Securities offered through Securities America, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Jose R. Rodriguez, Financial Consultant. Advisory Services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc. An SEC Registered Investment Advisor, Jose R. Rodriguez, Investment Advisor Representative. Rodriguez Financial Strategies LLC and the Securities America companies are unaffiliated.