What They Don’t Teach You in School: Money Management and Laying out your SMART GOALS (Part 1 of 2)

Personal Finance

October 29, 2020
5 mins read

Special contribution to RentReporters blog

By: Sue Katz, American Consumer Credit Counseling

Money management is a skill that we all believe we possess but few of us have ever been taught where and how to begin. 

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in the 60’s-70’s, a time where I was taught financial literacy in high school and I also had the benefit of learning much from my mother, a Depression Era baby. Some of her lessons will resonate with many of us today because much was about planning for that rainy day…..and we have all certainly had a bit of rain this year!

In my role as a credit counselor I start out with the hard truth when speaking to my clients — and that truth is that we all have different wants and desires in our financial lives. But the harder (albeit obvious) truth is that money does not grow on trees, which means that without good money management skills we will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to reach our goals. However, with just a little bit of CONSISTENT planning, we can live a rich and rewarding life. That’s what a budget is all about! Here are some steps that can help:

Step 1. Close your eyes and dream for a few minutes. What does a successful, happy life look like to you? Was money discussed in your household growing up or was it taboo? Do you understand your worth or the worth of what you purchase? Said differently, I ask you to think about some of your more extravagant purchases, which ones bring you joy today and which ones do not. This can be difficult yet so important because without visiting our past we can’t change the future. Understanding what brings us lasting joy helps us organize our thoughts and our finances.

Step 2. Now let’s do some writing: Journaling is a good way to help you figure out your true goals. Where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the road? What do you need to do to get there? Now you have started to conceptualize your goals and dreams. We refer to these as SMART goals. The acronym stands for Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely. Let’s break down the long-term goal to see what you may need to do to get there:

A: Let’s say in your dream, you wanted to have a house and a well-paying job.

B:  Do you have a job now?

C: Do you need more schooling to obtain the job you want? If so, these would be the first things to set as goals for the short term. You will also need to set a budget to work towards getting that accomplished.  How will you pay for this? Many schools are ready to give loans but remember they have to be paid back and finding ways to do without tremendous debt is vital.

You can also look at options like grants, scholarships and community colleges. This can help you attain this part of your goal sooner. You can usually see more clearly when you break down your goals into small, attainable, and realistic steps. From there, you can determine how long it will take to achieve. You could think out of the box even more and look at certificate classes, trade schools or self-study programs if appropriate for the position you want. Not everyone needs to get a four-year degree to secure a job they love.

Remember, being frugal and remembering what is of value can help you break down those dreams into SMART goals you can obtain!

In my next post, I’ll offer budgeting advice for saving for a major purchase like a new car or a home.


Sue Katz is Community Outreach Coordinator with American Consumer Credit Counseling and a Certified Credit Counselor & Educator.

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