12 Steps to Setting a Financial Goal

by Ron Haynes

Athletes set goals to win their competitions. Sales people set goals to close sales. Politicians set goals to get votes. Students (hopefully) set goals to get good grades. CEO’s set goals to increase revenue. What personal financial goals have you set?

Constantly setting goals is a mark of successful people. That sounds like a broad statement, but it usually is true. Humans need something to strive for, something upon which to focus their energies and efforts. Unsuccessful people allow life to happen to them by accident. They have no plan for the future and then wonder why successful people “get all the breaks.”

I’m not going to let myself fall into this trap. I plan to follow these 12 steps for every goal I set for myself. One of my financial goals is to perform an analysis on my personal finances and then set a livable budget. I’ll walk through the universal goal setting steps to demonstrate.

1. You must have a desire or need to accomplish your goal. It sounds like a “duh” moment, but it really is the first step. I sincerely want to perform this analysis and get back on a budget.

2. You must believe you can achieve your goal. Your goals must be believable, achievable, and realistic. Set a goal that causes you to stretch, but set one that is reasonable. I believe that setting aside time to analyze my finances and getting on budget is a reachable goal.

3. Write your goal down on paper. Experts agree that the act of writing down your goals is a key component to achieving them. I will write down mine and perform my analysis on paper. I will also write the budget on paper, but will move it to Excel soon afterwards.

4. Determine how you will benefit by achieving your goal. The more benefits you can list, the better. A long list will position your goal more forcefully in your mind.

5. Analyze your current position in relation to your goal. This requires a little maturity. To get somewhere, you have to have a starting point. Where are you now financially? By performing a financial analysis I will have my starting point established.

6. Set a deadline to accomplish your goal. A goal without a deadline is a wish. It holds no importance in your mind. My deadline to do my financial analysis is February 3rd. Why so far away? See point #9.

7. Identify what obstacles are in your way. Also write these down. Many times, after writing down what obstacles you think you’ll face, you realize how petty and insignificant these obstacles are in light of your goals. My obstacles for the financial analysis include the good old “time” excuse and the inevitable “I can’t find all the paperwork” excuse. Obstacles for stetting and staying on budget include all the “what ifs” and just “life.” I need to better address what I consider my obstacles.

8. Identify what knowledge you’ll need to accomplish your goal. There is almost always something you’ll need to learn to accomplish a goal. In my case, I need to fine tune both my financial analysis and budgeting knowledge.

9. Identify the people or organizations you’ll need to partner with. Your goal probably will require the help of another person or group of people so make sure you consider this in your goal setting process. I will require the help of my wonderful wife because without her help and participation, everything will fall apart.

10. Make your plan. Assemble everything you’ve written and write out your plan to reach your goal. Put everything on paper. Always try to think on paper if possible. I’ll write everything down, but will transfer it to Microsoft Word or Excel.

11. Visualize what accomplishing this goal will look like in your life. Think about all the positive changes your goal will bring and keep that image in your mind. Keep your goal in the forefront of your mind by writing it every day and reviewing it constantly. I visualize paying off debts and attacking the mortgage. I cannot wait to never have a mortgage again!

12. Take action every day. I need to . Never let a day go by without working on your goal. Never give up. You’ll experience some setbacks to be sure, but you must persist. John Quincy Adams said “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

Don’t drift through life! Become a goal setting machine. Rarely does anything good happen until someone sets a goal, so set your goals according to these steps and you’ll have a proven pattern that works.

Personal Financial Goals around the Web:

Get Rich Slowly
The Simple Dollar
Gather Little By Little
I’ve Paid for This Twice Already
Cash Money Life
Five Cent Nickel

[tags]life, money, personal finance, goals[/tags]


Insurance should be part of any preparation plan. From car insurance and even homeowners insurance, we can provide you with an affordable quote. Be sure to check out our insurance news for the latest on the insurance market.


About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Awesome article! Following these steps will surely get you to your goal.

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

Ron – This is another great article! I couldn’t agree more with the steps you laid out above. They are dead on! Step 12 is the toughest. Sometimes it is hard to stay focused when you see very little movement toward accomplishing your goal. I appreciate the encouragement I get from your site.


Thanks Ron,

To none goal oriented folks, these 12 points seem to be somewhat elusive. Only because they themselves aren’t headed anywhere in particular.

As you said, waiting for life to happen instead of deliberately going in a chosen direction, is the biggest downfall to those who make goals and fall down at certain points….and then give up.

Learning to get back up and start again is a mark of maturity, that is to be desired by all those that work, seeking for a successful life.

John Q. Adams said a lot of great things as did his Dad, John Adams, and they are still quoted today because they are true.
Patience and perseverance is invaluable in life same as it was back then!!!

Thank you again for these excellent points.
I love your website! :-)


Thanks Patrick!
The hardest thing to do is follow your own advice sometimes. I’m working on it right now.

Love YOUR site at Cash Money Life. Come back and visit again!



Some people live their lives by the Law of Accident. They think everything that happens to them is by accident and not the result of their own poor choices or failure to follow a plan.

Others live their lives according to the Law of Cause and Effect. They think that everything that happens in their life (the effects) are the result of causes. If you can change the causes, you can change the effects. Causes are habits, thoughts, and attitude choices.

Our attitudes are based on the expected outcome of an event. If you expect positive things, you have a positive attitude. If you expect negatives, you’ll have a negative attitude. It’s just human nature.

If you go on a sales appointment mistakenly thinking that you have a dread disease, what are the chances that you’ll close the sale? Conversely, if you go into that same sales meeting mistakenly thinking that your spouse just go a huge promotion and salary increase, how likely do you think you’d be to make that sale? The truth didn’t matter, all that mattered in both cases was your attitude. THAT determines how you approach just about everything in life.


Great article on setting goals, particularly the last point: take action everyday. I think that is very important and allows you to take little steps rather than sometimes large difficult steps.

Thanks for including my article as well. Truly an honor to be included amoungst such reputable blogs!


Good Morning Glbl,

You’re welcome. I appreciate your comments and feedback. I also loved your post on Keeping It Real: Confessions of a Personal Finance Blogger.
That took a lot of guts and I applaud you for it.


Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. Persistence is difficult to learn when things aren’t going well. But keeping on keeping on will almost always pay off in the long run.

Lynnae @ Being Frugal.net

I just landed here via Stumbleupon. Great article! I especially agree with making a plan. Without a plan, I know I just wander aimlessly, never achieving what I set out to do!

I’ll be back! :)


Welcome! Glad you’re here. (love your site btw) :)

Lee Matthews -- Financial Concepts West

“I visualize paying off debts and attacking the mortgage. I cannot wait to never have a mortgage again!”

You don’t have to just visualize it — take action; home mortgage acceleration is the key:

More and more folks are using a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) or a business-line-of-credit (BLOC) or personal-line-of-credit (PLOC) as an interest cancellation account to accelerate their home equity and payoff their home *years* sooner than listed on their mortgage amortization schedule.

Unfortunately, today’s Real Estate market means that folks can no longer count on appreciation to build home equity. Those who realize that they need to pay down their current mortgage debt are looking for alternate ways to aggressively (yet safely) build equity.

And they’ve discovered a perfect online system to do that; they can focus on their wealth accumulation goals while accelerating their equity simply by using an Advanced Line of Credit (ALOC) to ‘power’ the Money Merge Account™ financial solutions program.

A typical 30 year loan (of whatever type) can be paid down in 1/3 to 1/2 the time — it’s a great way to save *huge* amounts of income by eliminating a mortgage amortization front-end interest load. (On a million-plus dollar home, I’ve personally seen where the Money Merge Account™ program will save the homeowner $750,000 in interest charges!)

And the best thing – homeowners don’t have to refinance their existing mortgage or, in most cases, make any adjustments to their lifestyle.

It is unfortunate that most of us were never taught to follow three essential principles: (1) Avoid paying interest, whenever possible, (2) Use other people’s money, whenever possible and (3) Find and use a financial system that will guide you, especially if you have the tendency to go off-track. The Money Merge Account™ software and the program’s counselors use these principles to keep each homeowner focused on their wealth accumulation goals.

I’d be happy to provide further details…



I think this is excellent and right on the money! Thanks for the great wording, short – to the point and the short one sentence examples. Helps immensely. I never used to be so “off goal”, or unorganized till an accident 4 years ago. I read a lot to help with what has been lost to the accident and this is one great and very useful read that I will put to use to help organise me with my goals I have in mind, but do not seem to get as far as I would like with.

With appreciation, Vi :grin:

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