Get SMART About Financial Goal Setting

As the New Year approaches, many of us have started drafting up goals for 2020. Although 55% of New Year’s resolutions are health-related, focusing on weight loss, exercise habits and improved diet, other common resolutions revolve around increasing our financial well-being.

When setting and sticking to financial goals, it’s important to define your starting point and where you want to be. Immediate financial goals may include establishing an emergency fund or paying off credit card debt, depending on how much you have. Longer-term goals may include saving for a down payment for a home or paying off your mortgage. Big-picture goals may involve saving for future education expenses or increasing and taking advantage of the retirement account funding options available to you.

No matter your goals, following these SMART guidelines can help make them feel more attainable.

SMART goals (with examples) are:
Specific: I want to start an emergency fund, so I’m not so stressed about unexpected repairs and expenses that pop up. Having this reserve will help me avoid more credit card debt.
Measurable: My short-term goal is to save $1,000. My long-term goal is to set aside enough money for three months of living expenses.
Attainable: I have $100 I can put toward this goal every two weeks.
Realistic: I’m committing to set aside $75 every pay period so I don’t squeeze my budget too much.
Timely: Based on what I can afford, it will take me about 13 pay periods, or 6-7 months to save $1,000. Setting aside three months of income will vary based on what I make, but the same math will get me there.

Being realistic when setting your goals requires you to understand your unique financial situation. Developing a budget by tracking your expenses for a month or two can help you do this. Choose the budget method that works best for you, from handwritten to detailed spreadsheet budgets, the key is to use a method that you will use to track your spending. For the tech-savvy, there are helpful apps that can make this process easier, such as Mint or Everydollar.

Setting goals that are unrealistic can make you feel disheartened when they’re inevitably not met. Following the SMART process and working within your budget can help you avoid this trap if you’re diligent and stick to your plan.

You might not think about your health care plan as a partner in achieving financial well-being, but it absolutely can be. Knowing what your plan covers, understanding the providers that participate in your plan and the benefits your plan provides can assist you in making the most cost-efficient decisions regarding your personal health. Eligible BCBSM members can even get rewarded for shopping around for certain health care procedures.

Stay on top of your plan benefits by registering for your online member account through the Blue Cross app or at bcbsm.com. By registering online or through the app, you can check your plan coverage, locate a doctor and make the most economic decisions for your health care. Your BCBSM membership also provides you the opportunity to use member-exclusive discounts on offers such as gym memberships, LASIK procedures and other wellness-focused services.

Understanding the type of health care plan you have and what it covers can help you when planning a budget and setting financial objectives for yourself. During open enrollment season, look at your average spending on medical care over the past 12 months and pinpoint your highest spending areas to determine which plan would be the best fit for your family. Whatever the plan, make sure to take note of your plan deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance so that you can anticipate how much money to set aside for anticipated out-of-pocket medical expenses.

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