Alberta couple works together to set smart financial goals.

How to Set SMART Financial Goals (& Keep Them!)

Have you set any financial resolutions for the upcoming New Year and beyond? While it’s easy enough to say what you want to achieve, it can be much harder to actually see it through to the end. Don’t let this happen to you! Using SMART goal-setting and financial planning, you can make your goals a reality. Now let’s start planning your financial future so you can invest in yourself!

What are SMART goals?

SMART goals are the key to accomplishing your goals on time and with minimal stress.

What does SMART stand for? It’s an acronym that stands for:


How to write a SMART goal

A great way to think about writing a SMART goal is to investigate your goals like a good journalist. That means delving deep into the who, what, where, when, why and how of each goal that you’re setting.

Who are you making this goal for and who will be involved with it?
What are you trying to accomplish with this goal?
Where will you put your savings for this goal or where do you plan to work on this goal?
When do you plan on accomplishing your goal?
Why is this goal important to you?
How will you accomplish this goal?

Let’s break it down…

Step 1: Be specific with your financial goals

Ask yourself: What exactly do I want to achieve?

Before you can do anything, you need to be clear about what goals you want to achieve. This is the time to get into the nitty-gritty of your specific goal so you can understand your intentions behind it.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Who needs to be involved with your goal and who is your goal for?
  • What are you trying to accomplish with this goal?
  • Where will you be putting your money to save for this financial goal?

So instead of simply saying, “I want to build an emergency fund,” say:


I Want to Save $1,000 in My Emergency Fund So I Can Protect My Family from Unforeseen Expenses.

Step 2: Track your spending and measure your success

Ask yourself: How am I going to track my progress and measure my success?

Once you’ve specified your financial goal, now is the time to determine how you’re going to track it. What metrics or data will you use to confirm you’re on the right track? Goals are more likely to be followed through if you have ways to measure and monitor your success each month. Ensuring each of your financial goals is quantifiable and can be set with clear, hard numbers will make it easier for you to track your progress as time goes on.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Set up daily, weekly or monthly reminders on your phone or set up a recurring “money date” alone or with others to review your financial goal and make any necessary revisions
  • How will you track your success at each check-in?

So instead of simply saying, “I’ll reach my goal when I save $1,000,” say:


I Will Set Up a Recurring Monthly Check-In to Review My Goal and Track My Progress.

Step 3: Write down actionable steps

Ask yourself: What steps will I be taking to help me reach this goal?

How do you plan on accomplishing this goal? Make a detailed plan so you can clearly see and understand the steps you need to take each day, week, month and year. What tools, resources or education do you need to help get you started?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you need to set up a separate savings account?
  • Do you need to automate your savings so you don’t have to think about it?
  • What are some potential roadblocks you may hit along the way and how will you overcome them?

So instead of simply saying, “I will save $1,000 in my emergency fund,” say:


I Will Put $100 Into My Emergency Fund Each Month to Save $1,000.

Step 4: Make realistic financial goals

Ask yourself: Is my goal realistic given my current financial situation?

We all have wild dreams for ourselves and that’s a good thing! But in order to maintain the motivation necessary to achieve your financial goal, you need to ensure your goal is realistic and attainable. If you’re struggling to save even $50 a month after all your bills and expenses are paid, it’s probably not realistic to think you can magically start saving $100 a month for an emergency fund. This is the time to take a hard look at your budget, incoming and outgoing money, and financial responsibilities. to get an accurate picture of your finances. Only then will you be able to know if this financial goal is realistic for you and your family.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Are there places in your budget you can modify to achieve this goal?
  • Do you need to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate this goal?
  • If this financial goal is too unrealistic right now, can you break it down into more attainable, bite-sized chunks for the time being?

So instead of simply saying, “I’ll find a way to build my emergency fund,” say:


I Will Consider My Budget and Financial Responsibilities When Setting This Goal.

Step 5: Create a goal-setting timeline

Ask yourself: How long am I giving myself to complete this goal?

A goal isn’t a goal until you’ve given yourself a deadline. Once you’ve established the who, what, where, why and how of your financial goal, it’s time to determine the when. By establishing a deadline to complete the goal, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate and hold yourself accountable.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Is this a short-term, medium-term, or long-term financial goal?
  • Don’t use the words “someday” or “one day” when talking about your goals. Those days will never come if you don’t have a clear date in mind.

So instead of simply saying, “I will one day save $1,000 in my emergency fund,” say:


I Will Put $100 Into My Emergency Fund Each Month to Save $1,000 in 10 Months.


Let’s recap our SMART goal-setting examples

Specific goal:

I want to save $1,000 in my emergency fund so I can protect my family from unforeseen expenses.

Measurable goal:

I will set up a recurring monthly check-in to review my goal and track my progress.

Actionable goal:

I will put $100 into my emergency fund each month to save $1,000.

Realistic goal:

I will consider my budget and financial responsibilities when setting this goal.

Timely goal:

I will put $100 into my emergency fund each month to save $1,000 in 10 months.


Setting goals and dreaming about your future can be fun and exciting, but don’t let those dreams die from neglect. By creating SMART financial goals, you’re setting yourself up for success and will be more likely to see those dreams become a reality. And don’t forget to conduct yearly financial check-ups to review your current and financial goals, track your ongoing progress, and celebrate your wins!

If you’re having trouble establishing SMART financial goals for you and your family, we can help! Our experienced counsellors can walk you through your current financial situation, set achievable short- and long-term goals, adjust your budget, and create a Money Action Plan to help you move forward. Book your FREE Money Coaching appointment with us today to get started!


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