We’re into the second half of 2021, so it’s time to take a moment to look at your financial goals for the year.
Of course, it’s hard to meet your goals if you haven’t defined them. But it isn’t too late to tackle that now. You still have nearly six months.
So, let’s start with that. If you want a goal to be attainable, the first step is to make it as specific as possible. “Save more money” isn’t a proper goal. It’s too vague and nebulous, and it’s just about impossible to measure success. “Save $50,000” is a number. You will achieve it, or you won’t. But at least you can measure your success.
The same principle applies to other endeavors of your life. “Lose weight” or “exercise more” are not measurable goals. But you can track a goal like “lose 10 pounds” or “go to the gym twice per week for three months.” So, with that said, let’s define some goals, starting with your 401(k).
Savings Financial Goals Are Easy to Define
An easy way to quantify your savings goal is to start with a simple question: How much do you want to contribute to your 401(k)?
The maximum for 2021 is $19,500 (or $26,000 if you’re 50 or older).
Is that your goal? If so, let’s figure out how to get there.
Take a look at a recent pay stub to see how much you’ve already contributed for the year. Let’s say you’ve already contributed $5,000. Then subtract $5,000 from $19,500 and then divide by the number of paychecks you have remaining this year (check with your HR department, but it’s probably about 12). $19,500 minus $5,000 is $14,500. That number divided by 12 paychecks is $1,208. You’d need to set aside $1,208 per paycheck to meet your goal.
Is that doable? If so… get on it! If not, pick a number you believe you can achieve, and go for it. Even if your own savings goal is much lower, the important thing is that you are attaching a number to that goal. It’s something you can track as the year goes on.
Trading Financial Goals Are Trickier
When it comes to financial goals, savings milestones are easy to quantify. Trading goals are tougher.
We all want to be better traders, but measuring success here is trickier because the market has a mind of its own. No amount of planning can “make” the market go the way you want it to. And even the best traders go through rough patches.
But you can pick a measurable process and stick to it.
When you entered a trade, did you have an exit strategy?
If you designated a stop loss, did you honor it? Did you follow your own rules?
In Green Zone Fortunes, we follow a rigorous quantitative stock selection process, and then we manage the positions with stop losses. Our system works, but we have to be disciplined and follow it.
So, in your case, whatever your trading strategy might be, just make sure you’re following it and that you can measure that you’re following it.
Maybe it’s as easy as creating a checklist for each position within your portfolio. Write out your exit strategy on each position and check the box if you follow through with your plan. If you have 20 positions in your portfolio, you can quantify how many of those positions you stuck with your plan on.
Most of us like the idea of being better parents, betting spouses, better children… But as with so many other areas of life, it’s hard to measure success here unless you make it as specific as possible.
I vowed to “spend more time with my kids” as my New Year’s resolution. But I can’t say if I achieved that goal or not because I gave myself no real way to measure it. So, I’m resolving now to spend at least one uninterrupted hour per day with my kids, undistracted by work, by my phone, etc., apart from “normal” family time like dinner.
I don’t know what your goals are, but make them quantifiable. Set numbers, even if they seem unattainable. There’s no shame in falling short of a goal so long as you learn from the experience. Perhaps saving $19,500 in your 401(k) or spending an uninterrupted hour with your kids isn’t possible. Perhaps, after setting a lofty goal, you realize that $10,000 in savings or 45 minutes of quality time is the best you can do right now.
That’s fine. But by measuring it, you can at least pace yourself and set harder goals as you go.
To safe profits,
Editor, Green Zone Fortunes
Charles Sizemore is the editor of Green Zone Fortunes and specializes in income and retirement topics. Charles is a regular on The Bull & The Bear podcast. He is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business.