This blog has been sponsored by Zurich Insurance
Trying to “sort your finances” without a goal is like trying to drive somewhere you’ve never been before without a sat nav: you might find your way eventually, but it will take you a lot longer and be a lot more stressful.
Achieving any goal, one way or another, usually involves money. So having a goal works if you want to be better with money. It just does. According to Zurich, the insurer, if an employee typically earns £30,708, the ‘‘goalless’’ saver would put away just £1,646 per year into their pension, compared with £2,226 per year for those with set goals.
But coming up with the right goals? That can be tricky, because if we aren’t thinking too hard about it, most of us just have the same money goal: “More of it please and I never want to worry about it again”.
Equally, for many of us, the financial challenges of buying a house and retiring nicely in this world of economic pressures and shocks can seem so great that setting goals seems almost pointless.
The trick is to making it work is to not get too bogged down in the challenges – and to get specific; to think about what you want out of life and then work backwards to what your money needs to do to achieve that.
Take a step back – what are your life goals? Is one of them to one day own a boat? Is it to travel to Mozambique on safari? Is it to open your own cafe and bookshop? Or learn how to drum?
Once you’ve started to have a think about goals, then start to share, because talking about what these goals might be with family and friends, or the taxi driver, or the nice lady at the One Stop, can help crystallise your thoughts and help turn them into reality.
“Only connect” said EM Forster, the author. Connecting a bit more over our goals and how we plan to achieve them through sensible money management could reap dividends. Because once you’ve verbalised the goal – it’s like a commitment to making it happen.
So convincing is the goal-setting theory that Zurich has even started a social media campaign – #shareyourgoal. The #shareyourgoal competition will reward four winners with £5,000 to put towards their life goal, a bespoke life-goal experience and a financial assessment. To enter you must share a description, photo, or video of your life goal using #shareyourgoal as part of your post or tweet, or comment on the Zurich Facebook page.
All competition winners will be announced by April 17. Full competition terms and conditions are available on the Zurich website.
Personally? I want my business to succeed and I want to sell it in five years’ time. I want my children not to feel the anxiety of being a household always on the edge of financial disaster (as I experienced in my own childhood) and to have plenty of memorable experiences (which usually need to be paid for). I want the luxury of time to write a book, I want two amazing adventure holidays a year and maybe a house I could get lost in.
I’ve kind of worked out what I need to save to achieve all of this but I’ve tried to be realistic about how long it will take too. Then there are the money goals – I reckon £300,000 in savings for a nice retirement by the time I am 65 (through a combo of pension, stocks and shares ISAs and buy to let), £20,000 each for my boys when they are 18, saved in junior ISAs, and overpayments on the mortgage to bring the end of the term to when I am 55. Aiming for these financial goals to support my life ones is important too, because in quantifying them, I can see just how hard I need to work to make it happen.
Despite the view that the British are pretty tight-lipped about their money, when I asked my friends on Facebook what their financial goals were, they were really forthcoming.
Here are some of the replies:
“To be able to make the bulk of our big life choices without ‘can we afford it’ being the main consideration. Perhaps a pipe dream.”
“To be in a position to retire at 55!”
“To have financial freedom (e.g. no mortgage and enough income to get by) by the age of 55 so my husband and I can travel the world while coming back whenever we want to the UK to check on our ‘grown-up kids’. I won’t be fully retired but will earn income through various blogs. Short-term – get rid of any credit card debt and decide what to do in terms of pension / investment / savings as a self-employed person who has never paid into a pension..”.
“To do everything I can to try to ensure my children won’t start their working lives saddled with student debts and to try to worry less about what my financial future holds.”
Some could only see challenges ahead – too many for them to feel able to imagine achieving a goal at the moment:
“As a single person at 35 I worry about the future as it’s a struggle having to pay everything on my own. I’ve only just got on the housing ladder at 35 and feel I’ll be working until I’m about 75 just to pay off a mortgage and government loan, at my age I should be able to think about saving a pension but I can’t ever see how I will be able to retire to enjoy being a pensioner and not having to work. On the flip side I suppose it’s only me I have to worry about and who knows what the future holds!”
… But also the same
When I thought about what was underlying my answers and my friends, the theme is freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want, when you want it.
But the idea of freedom in itself isn’t quite enough to get you motivated – what you will do with that freedom is.
From baby steps to giant leaps
Having read my friends’ replies, it became clear that most of our goals are a mix of short-term and long-term aims – we don’t want to save all the good stuff up til we retire (although we don’t want to spaff it all on nice clothes and furniture before then either).
A balance between the two seems healthy to me. So perhaps what can make the whole goal-setting idea realistic and manageable for you is to imagine a mix of immediate goals – to achieve a sense of satisfaction at making baby steps in the next few months, but also distant ones – so you’ve always got one eye on the grand prize, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: your freedom, however you choose to express it.