We all have our own dreams about our finances, and – winning the lottery aside – your monetary goals are likely to be unique to you and your circumstances. Whether it’s to finally break free of a long-term debt, to have enough money to start that business you’ve been talking about for years, or simply to build up a safety net for you and your family; there is no ‘wrong answer’ when it comes to your financial dreams.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of wrong answers out there when it comes to money management and achieving your goals, which means bringing your dreams to fruition can be really tricky. It’s not impossible however, it just takes a little discipline and a bit of time. Read our top tips on how to reach your financial goals, and how to stay focused on achieving them.
Pin down your financial goals
The first step is knowing exactly what you want for your future finances. Focusing on a dream you’re not overly invested in or that doesn’t excite you may well be doomed to fail from the start, so it’s important to make sure you’re fully on-board before making any plans. Your goals don’t have to be complicated or even long-term if you don’t want them to be - the decision is entirely up to you.
Whatever you settle on, it’s likely you’ve got a rough amount in mind you’ll need to save before you can make a start making your dream a reality. Do as much research as you can to make sure you have a number that makes sense. For instance, if you are saving a deposit for a house, it can help to understand the property market. Research rough prices in your area and have an idea of the kind of property you’re aiming for.
This will provide you with a number – it may help to round it up to an easy-to-remember amount. Don’t be daunted if it seems utterly impossible at this stage. It may take time to get there, but it’ll be worth it when you get to realise your dream.
Stick to your plans
One of the more difficult parts of the process is sticking to your plans in the first place, especially if they are long-term. It can be hard to stay focused on your goal, particularly when life in the here and now gets complicated. You may need to dip into your dream fund in case of emergency, or if something unexpected comes up that simply can’t be put off. This frustrating stuff will happen, and many have given up on their financial goals because of it.
Understanding there will be setbacks and you will have to compromise your plan at some stage is a good start. Knowing there is no easy path to obtaining all the money you need can be a good motivational tool, although it may not sound like one! You are much less likely to give up on your plans after a setback if you expect the odd glitch. That’s life, and you have to work around it if you are to succeed.
How to save effectively
The best way to save depends on how and when you get paid, your everyday expenses, and your personal preferences. No matter how you prefer to do it, make sure you keep your savings in a safe place, such as a savings account with a bank or building society.
- Know there are no rules – you can save £11.37 if you want to, it doesn’t always have to be a rounded number
- Reduce costs in other areas so you have more chance of meeting your saving goals
- Keep an eye on your savings and watch as they grow. The more you save, the more motivated you’ll become
How to invest successfully
Investing your money in order to help it to grow is a way to speed the process along, but there are always risks to be aware of. No investment can guarantee a certain amount back and the higher the stated return, the more risky they tend to be.
- Always invest with a bank or investment company that is established, professional and trustworthy. They must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
- Never invest all of your money in one place. Split it up and see what works
- Don’t just go for the investment with the highest predicted return – it’s likely to be the most risky
- Do your research before you start so you are not taken advantage of, and so you can choose the best investment option for you
How to borrow money safely
Sometimes your finances will need a little help due to unforeseen circumstances, or it may become clear you can accelerate your plans with a small cash injection. For instance, you could be saving to start your own business, but you need to pay out for a training course or qualification before you can do anything. In instances like these, borrowing money can get you closer to your goal.
- Always make sure the repayments are affordable for you and it’s perfectly possible to pay off the debt
- Understand what type of borrowing you’re likely to be approved for. Check your credit rating to see where you stand
- Avoid payday loan-style debts if you can. If you want short-term borrowing, look into pawn loans or personal loans from trusted, fully regulated providers
Allow your plans & goals to evolve
As time goes on, your goal could change due to various issues you may encounter, but this doesn’t mean it’s always going to be more difficult. For instance, if you’re saving for a house deposit, you may get to a point where your original goal is too low due to rises in house prices. Or, alternatively, your local authority could introduce a home-buying initiative in your area where you need less than you thought to get a foot on the ladder.
Check up on your progress every so often and tweak your plan so it works. This may mean putting a pause on saving anything during difficult or financially busy months, and saving more money when things are a little easier. As long as you keep your goal in mind and continue to work toward it; how you get there is up to you.