Personal Finance

How to Build a Roadmap to Crush Your Financial Goals

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Got money goals?

Unless you live off the grid, you likely know that money is a huge part of living in today’s modern world. Your Netflix subscription costs money. Your food costs money. The Christmas gift you forgot to buy Aunt Sheryl? Also costs money.

But here’s the thing —

Money, while important, is just a tool.

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ One more time for the cheap seats!

Money is only a tool.

Sure, money is great. But money itself should not be the end goal. It’s only a tool that can help you reach your life goals.

Sound good? If so, keep reading. In this post, we’ll cover how to build a roadmap to meet your financial goals and shape the future you want.

“If you don't know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”

Henry Kissinger

Why You Need a Roadmap

Why are roadmaps so important?

Easy – because they work.

  • 55% of people with a plan made excellent savings progress versus 23% of people without a plan
  • 84% of people with a plan spent less of their income and saved the difference versus 46% of people without a plan

In sum, plans work. And they just might be the magic sauce you need to reach your financial goals.

Now that you know why you need a roadmap, let’s go through the step-by-step process of building one.

Step 1: Start With Your Why

You’ve heard how important it is to save money, pay off debt, and invest.

But do you know why?

All of these activities are great, but if the reasoning behind them isn’t personal to you, you’ll have a hard time of doing them successfully.

So, start with your why.

Ask yourself: What do I want my life to be like in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

Then, ask yourself why. And, keep asking yourself why until you drill down your answer into something that’s undeniably personal and meaningful.

Let’s walk through an example to explain.

Let’s say, in the process of discovering your life goals, you craft four ultimate achievements:

  • Get married and have children
  • Own your own home
  • Own your own business
  • Be debt-free

Perfect! These are great life goals. Let’s take a closer look at one of them: owning your own business.

Let’s say you want to own a business because you don’t like working a 9-5 job.

Okay, great. But why? Why don’t you want to work a 9-5 job?

Perhaps you want to leave the 9-5 job because you hate the office structure.

Sounds good. But why?

Let’s say after some time of asking yourself why, you decide you want to start your own business because you want the freedom to decide what to do with your own time. Perfect! That sounds personal and meaningful.

Continue doing this with the rest of your goals until you have a core set of values that will guide your decision-making.

Step 2: Assess Your Current Situation

Once you understand your “why,” revisit your life goals to get further clarity. Ask yourself: what steps do I need to achieve these goals? Be sure to take notes! These steps will be the essential building blocks for designing your roadmap.

For example, let’s go back to your goal of owning a business. As we discovered in the last step, this goal means a lot to you because you want the freedom to own your time. But what’s preventing you from quitting your job today to start and manage a business?

Perhaps, without your job, you don’t have enough money to live comfortably.

That’s sounds reasonable. But, how much money do you need to live comfortably?

Let’s say, after gathering your expenses, you discover you need $2,000 per month to live a lean lifestyle. And, let’s also presume that you need about $6,000 in startup costs plus one year of zero income before your business becomes profitable.

That means, to start your business comfortably, you would need $30,000 of onramp funds.

Sounds like you have a tangible action toward reaching your goal of owning your own business!

Work through each of your goals until each one has a realistic action that you can take toward achieving it.

Step 3: Be S.M.A.R.T.

So, now you have a set of tangible financial actions. But, before you can pat yourself on the back, you’ll need to rework them into achievable goals.

In other words, your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific: Is this goal simple, narrow, and easy to understand?
  • Measurable: How will you know that you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Attainable: Can you actually achieve this goal within your given timeframe?
  • Relevant: Is this goal related to your objectives?
  • Time-bound: When will this goal be achieved?

Let’s go back to our previous action item – save $30,000 to start a business. That’s a great start, but unfortunately, it’s not enough to be useful.

What could we do to make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal?

Saving $30,000 is specific, measurable, and relevant, but without a realistic timeframe, it’s neither time-bound nor attainable. Let’s try again:

  • Previous Goal: Save $30,000.
  • New Goal: Save $30,000 in 2 years.

Now, the goal is time-bound. But is it attainable?

Perhaps, looking at your budget, you realize you only have $500 to save toward your business-building goal. That means, after two years, you will only save $12,000! Let’s adjust your goal to make it more attainable:

  • Previous Goal: Save $30,000 in 2 years.
  • New Goal: Save $30,000 in 5 years.

This is getting better, but 5 years is a pretty long time. Can we break this down even further to make it more specific?

  • Previous Goal: Save $30,000 in 5 years.
  • New Goals:
    • Save $500 each month.
    • Reach $6,000 saved in one year.
    • Reach $30,000 saved in five years.

Now we’re talking! Not only are these goals S.M.A.R.T., but they’re split into short-term, intermediate, and long-term goals to make them easier to achieve.

Looks like you have yourself a roadmap! Continue doing this until you have S.M.A.R.T. goals for all your action items.

Step 4: Check Yourself

Not so fast! You didn’t think we were done, did you?

The last step for building an effective financial roadmap is checking on your progress. Or, as one philosopher said, “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.”

So, be sure to check on your goals.

Make it a point to check in regularly – whether this means monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Not only are these check-ins a good time to adjust your goals (in case you’re missing the mark), but they’re a great opportunity to pat yourself on the back and celebrate.

Always remember to celebrate your success! It’s just as important as, if not more important than, critiquing your mistakes.

We’ve Got Your Back

Building a financial roadmap is an awesome part of adulting, and the Axos team is here to help you through each step of the way. If you’re in need of high-interest accounts to store your cash, you can browse our savings accounts to get started.

In the meantime, go get ‘em tiger!

How to Build a Roadmap to Crush Your Financial Goals

This blog post was published by Axos Editorial Team on February 16, 2021 and last updated on August 12, 2022.

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