Getting Goals Right

The new year is a great time to evaluate our goals, make course corrections, and give ourselves permission to dream big.

The Roaring 2020s? As we embark on a new decade, it’s natural to wonder about what lies ahead. A century ago, they called them the “Roaring Twenties,” but what will be the hallmark of this era? We can be sure it will bring both challenges and opportunities. The new year is a great time to evaluate our goals, make course corrections, and give ourselves permission to dream big.

Flexible Goal Setting. Whether you’re just starting out with your retirement strategy, almost there, or already enjoying the collective fruits of your labors, it’s important to think of your strategy as something you will continue to manage for the rest of your life.

The best retirement strategy for you is one that takes into account your risk tolerance and time horizon, and is centered on the carefully-considered goals you have set for your future. But a truly great retirement strategy is also flexible. It takes both highs and lows into account, and it’s crafted with a variety of market conditions and outcomes in mind.

Making adjustments to your goals along the way is one way to help keep your cash flow strong and your retirement strategy on track. Your trusted financial professional is an ally in crafting a financial outlook that is both strong and flexible.

Tending Your Garden. While it sounds appealing, a “set it and forget it” approach to retirement preparation is unrealistic for many, if not most. That’s because it may not account for the flexibility and ongoing maintenance that keeps your strategy strong.

Think of your retirement strategy as a garden, one that you hope to keep alive for the rest of your life. Whether you’re just planting seeds or already reaping a harvest, keeping your garden alive means you must actively take care of it through all seasons. You will pay attention to what’s growing, examine what isn’t, and understand why. You will enjoy the fruits, and pull the weeds. You will be planting and pruning for years to come.

As you continue to refine and nurture your retirement strategy, it’s essential to also have coherent and clear ideas of where you are headed. That’s where good goal-setting habits come in. Let’s take a look at how setting SMART goals can help your garden grow.

Be Smart About It. You might have heard of the popular concept of setting SMART goals.1 This helpful acronym represents a method for evaluating and clarifying the quality of a given goal you’re setting. While often used in corporate or personal development environments, you can also apply the SMART-goal concept to your ongoing retirement strategy.

SPECIFIC: Make sure your retirement goal is clearly defined and articulated.

MEASURABLE: Make sure you can measure outcomes. Specific numbers can help with this.

ACHIEVABLE: Each goal should actually be possible for you to reach (no genie lamps here!).

RELEVANT: Your goal should make sense for your lifestyle and support other goals you’ve set.

TIMELY: Deciding when you will achieve the goal helps ensure you actually complete it. 

How It Works. So, how might the concept of SMART goals apply to your financial strategy? Here’s an example of a goal that is not so SMART: “I want to make a larger contribution to my retirement plan.” While this might be a good idea, depending on the hypothetical situation, it’s not very specific, and you’d never be sure when you had completed it.

Fine-tune that idea with the SMART concept, and you’ll discover that you now have something you can act on. Consider this alternative version: “I will increase my monthly retirement plan contribution by $500 each month, starting in January.” This SMART goal puts actual numbers on the table. Now, you have a starting point, an amount, and a schedule.

No matter how SMART your goals are, however, life can still throw you a curveball. It is important to remain agile and flexible, should circumstances require you to change directions. How? Your advisor can help you create strategies that can stand the test of time. One real-life goal that illustrates the importance of staying flexible is working during retirement.

Example: Working in Retirement. Many pre-retirees may have a goal of continuing to work after they retire. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), 80% of workers intend to continue to work during their retirement.2 However, a surprisingly large number of people end up going a different route than they expected: only 28% of retirees report actually working for pay during retirement.

Perhaps those who changed their minds encountered an illness, a family responsibility, or simply found a work-free retirement more enjoyable than they’d anticipated. Whatever the reasons, the frequency with which this situation occurs underscores the importance of staying flexible and having a retirement strategy that can account for life’s shifts and changes.

Keep Dreaming! The best retirement strategy is one based on SMART goals, but with the flexibility to change and adapt, if necessary. We encourage you to keep dreaming and scheming toward your ideal scenario and aim your goals toward what you’d most like to see come true. If you want to spend your retirement playing golf and traveling, strategize for that. If you’re hoping to spend more time with loved ones, use that to form your goals. If you’re already in retirement and you have new goals you’d like to consider, let’s talk about how we can work toward them.

Whatever this decade may bring, you can be sure that new risks, new opportunities, and new goals will be part of it. Together, we can work to ensure that come what may, you’re prepared.

 

Sources:

1 https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm

2 https://www.ebri.org/docs/default-source/rcs/2019-rcs/ rcs_19-fs-2_expect.pdf?sfvrsn=2a553f2f_4

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