If you’re like most people, you have several goals for 2015, and being better off financially is probably one of them. That’s good, but in the rush to move on to something new, there’s a missed opportunity if you don’t first look at your 2014 goals.
This review actually isn’t limited to goals. You also want to look at your behavior and feelings about different financial decisions. Did some goals fall into place while others were a struggle? Did you feel really good about certain choices but get heartburn over others? This sketch from Carl Richards, director of investor education for the BAM ALLIANCE, may help you visualize the relationship your values or goals and your use of money have to your happiness. To help you accomplish your objectives for 2015, it’s practical to look back before looking forward.
1) We avoid repeating mistakes. Raise your hand if you have a similar goal year after year. Most of us do. There’s at least one stubborn thing that we know would be great if we could just get it done. But somehow, it doesn’t happen, and it goes on the list again every January.
By taking a look at what’s worked for us (or not worked, in this case), we create the opportunity to adjust our approach. If we don’t adjust, then we’ve set up a goal that will never come off the list.
For instance, let’s say we set a goal to save an extra $100 every month. However, by the end of the month, there’s no extra money to save. If we decide that saving that extra $100 really matters to us, we can take steps to save it earlier in the month. Maybe we even automate the decision. Whatever the process, we can identify ways to fix whatever keeps getting in the way of the goal.
2) We learn what really matters to us.Some goals got checked off the list faster last year. Yes, they might have been easier, but it probably has something to do with how much we valued that goal, too. The reality is that some goals sound fantastic — in theory. Unfortunately the reality doesn’t look or feel the same to us, so we procrastinate.
If we’re finding it difficult to achieve some goals, we need to look hard at why they are even on the list. Is it because we think they should be? We can do so many worthwhile things; it’s ridiculous to keep goals around because they sound good.
By identifying our past mistakes and understanding what we really value, we increase the odds that we will actually accomplish any future goals. Keep that in mind as everyone around you sets goals. Do you know enough about your past goals, behavior and emotions to avoid undermining your future ones?