You Can't Have It All

Goal Planning

You Can't Have It All

Staying focused on what matters most can help you plan and prioritize.

November 20, 2014

Many of your life goals have something in common – they take money. But few of us have the resources to be able to afford all of our needs, wants and wishes. So how can you prioritize one important goal over another? Here are a few ways to help you gain some perspective and find some middle ground.

  • Acknowledge conflicts. Your goals aren’t going to line up neatly. In fact, they’re likely to conflict with each other. While there’s never an easy answer, knowing you will have to make tradeoffs can help.

  • Be prepared for change. Your goals, and how you prioritize them, are going to evolve. While you don’t want to lose focus by constantly tinkering with your plan, revisit it periodically and be willing to make adjustments as needed.

  • Be optimistic. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right,” meaning that attitude can take you a long way. If you’re willing to be realistic, accept tradeoffs, and do the things necessary to achieve your goals, your future is bright.

  • Create a budget. It’s easier to make tradeoffs if you know exactly how much you’re bringing in and how much you’re spending. Then you’ll know if you have wiggle room or extra funds to put toward long-term goals.

  • Get stubborn. Say no to unnecessary expenses. The purchase must really be worth it to commit. Another new shirt? No. A latte? No. Dining out? Maybe once a week. You get the picture.

  • Don’t stretch. Don’t overextend yourself when buying big-ticket items like a house or car. Payments should be manageable. Avoid the stress!

  • Get disciplined. Automate your savings so you never see the money in your spending accounts. Even saving a mere $5 a week becomes something much more with compounding. And if you’re still working, you can arrange for automatic deductions from your paycheck into your 401(k) and take advantage of any employer match.

  • Be realistic. Very few of us get everything we want, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. As a practical matter, you’re better off slimming down your list of objectives and concentrating your efforts on those that matter most.

  • Include loved ones. Discuss your priorities with your partner, your family and your advisor. Don’t assume you know what your loved ones want or what’s best for them. It’s a great way to make choices about saving and investing. Plus, you’ll be accountable to someone else, and you’ll have a better idea of where you’re willing to make small or even large tradeoffs in order to reap rewards down the line.

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