How to Choose What Financial Goals are Worth Setting

save-saving-housing-house-money-cash-e1394569718602Everyone needs financial goals in order to be efficient and successful, but determining which goals to prioritize can be difficult. If you don’t set enough goals, you may not save enough money. However, if you set too many goals it can be difficult to achieve all of them, and repeated failure can get you off track.

It’s best to prioritize how important different goals are in terms of the immediate future, as well as your long-term hopes and dreams. Once you know what is the most important to you, you can figure out which goals you should focus on. Survival should be your first priority; you need to pay for your basic needs first. After that, you can focus on longer-term goals. Consider these five questions as you set your next financial goals.

1. Do I need it to survive?

Obviously, you need food and shelter to survive. Your necessities have to come first. This means that you will need to have enough money to pay your rent and utilities, purchase groceries, and receive medical care when you need it. There are other things that may be necessary depending on your personal circumstances. You will probably require a job, and you might need a car to get there. You also will need clothing, so your first goal should be to afford basic necessities. If you can’t do that yet, then your other financial goals need to wait.

2. Is the goal too big or too small?

Setting goals that you can’t possibly achieve will only bring failure, and can potentially make you depressed or frustrated. If you can barely afford rent for your current one-bedroom apartment, you probably shouldn’t make a goal to purchase a four-bedroom home this year. But you can make long-term goals that include purchases you couldn’t possibly make now. Your income should increase as you become more experienced in your job field, and you can certainly make long-term goals that factor in your anticipated income.

You also shouldn’t spend too much time on goals that are really small. While setting some small goals may build your confidence (such as saving for a new dress or suit), setting too many small goals will pull your priority away from bigger goals.

3. How can I achieve my goal?

You can increase your chances of achieving your goal by taking extra steps to make it happen (outside of just making the goal itself). If you want to purchase a house, but you need to save for a down payment, start small. It’s good to start off by setting up a savings plan, finding out if you qualify for assistance, and cutting back on expenses. You don’t have to purchase a home (or a new car, or whatever else your big goal entails) right now. Make a plan for just how you can obtain your goal.

This is also true of other financial goals, such as moving up at work and making more money. If you want to move up, focus on the ways that you can improve your work performance and set yourself up for a promotion. Consider educational classes if necessary. You also might consider relocating if it will help you advance in your career. Taking proactive steps to achieve your dream will help you get there, and also may make you feel more accomplished and on-task.

4. Am I thinking about the future?

Vacations and fancy clothes can be wonderful, but you need to think about your future, too. Besides basic necessities, you should also prioritize your retirement savings. According to the United States Department of Labor, knowing your retirement needs, contributing to your employer’s retirement savings plan, learning about investment principles, considering using an IRA, and knowing about your social security benefits, can all help you plan for retirement.

Complete the necessary research in order to determine how much you might need to retire, and also to determine where you might want to live, which will affect how much money you need. You also need to consider your future health, and how it might impact your finances.

To get more information on planning for your retirement and schedule your complimentary appointment, contact First Financial’s Investment & Retirement Center at 732.312.1500 or email 

5. How much time do I need?

This question factors into many of the other questions on this list. One of the best ways to achieve your goals is to set realistic ones, and to figure out when and how you will achieve them. Determine how many years you think it will take you to save enough for the type of home you want, or how much you need to save each year (and for how many years) to be comfortable in retirement. If you want to save for a vacation, consider how you will have to alter your current spending, and for how many months you will have to do so.

Short-term goals often take less planning, but it will still help you to determine how much time you need to achieve those goals. It’s easy to tell yourself that you can save enough for a trip in a few months, but actually sitting down and determining how much you need to save each month, and for how long, will help prevent overspending.

Here at First Financial, our first priority is helping you achieve your financial dreams by defining your dream goals and lifestyle, empowering you through financial education, building your wealth, planning your retirement, and managing your risk. Establishing financial goals is an important part of saving enough money and being ready for the future, and we are here for you! Stop into any one of our branches and sit with a representative to have an annual financial check-up of your finances and portfolio. 

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article source courtesy of Sienna Beard of

Don’t Eat the Marshmallow! 4 Tips for Financial Self-Control

The “Marshmallow Theory,” based on a landmark Stanford University experiment, has been used countless times to demonstrate the power of self-control in your financial and personal life.

The experiment followed children who were left alone with a marshmallow and told that if they didn’t eat it they would get a second one 15 minutes later. Some of the kids waited the full 15 minutes, some ate the marshmallow immediately, and others waited for a short period of time before eating it.

Years later, researchers tracked down the children and found that those with the willpower to wait to eat the marshmallow — 1 in 3 of the test subjects — grew up to become more successful adults than those who ate the marshmallow immediately.

Temptation Never Goes Away

Joachim de Posada, an author, motivational speaker, and adjunct professor at the University of Miami, has gotten a lot of mileage out of the marshmallow experiment. He’s written three books based on the theory.

His latest — “Keep Your Eye on the Marshmallow” — teaches readers how to take responsibility for their own financial, career and personal success by keeping their attention focused on long-term goals rather than instant rewards.

“One of the lessons we can learn from the marshmallow experiment is that among the 1 out of 3 kids that didn’t eat the marshmallow, some already had willpower and some understood they needed to use different techniques to avoid eating it,” says de Posada. “Leadership, like willpower, can be inherited, but it can also be learned through emotional intelligence.”

While the children in the Stanford experiment resisted eating the marshmallow by turning their backs on it or distracting themselves by drawing on the walls, de Posada suggests that adults can use similar techniques (defacing property notwithstanding) to avoid the allure of instant gratification.

4 Ways to Artificially Boost Your Willpower

If you lack financial willpower (e.g., the wherewithal to save your paycheck instead of spending it right away), de Posada recommends the following workarounds to help you delay gratification:

1. Choose an accomplice. Let’s say you have a goal of saving 10 percent of your paycheck until you have enough to cover six months of living expenses to stash into an emergency fund. If you can’t do this on your own, de Posada suggests you identify someone whose willpower is stronger than yours either to keep your money for you or be the person to whom you are accountable.

“If you trust them, send them the money and tell them they can’t give it back until you’ve reached a certain goal,” says de Posada. “Or have your mother or your brother or a close friend call you every 15 days and ask you how much you saved or what you spent your money on during the previous two weeks.”

2. Have your boss hide away part of your paycheck. If you work for a larger company, de Posada says you should have at least 10 percent of your income transferred into a 401(k) or other financial instrument before you ever see it. Just like the kids who looked away from the marshmallow, your money will be out of sight and out of reach.

The Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial can assist members with saving, investing, and planning for retirement. Set up an appointment with the Financial Advisor by calling 732.312.1500 or stop into any branch and ask a representative to schedule an appointment for you.*

3. Use a money planner. “You schedule your time with your iPad or your calendar, so schedule your money in the same way,” says de Posada. “Give yourself orders that you need to follow in your planner, such as saving a specific amount each week.”

Committing these money appointments to your calendar makes them more concrete, as opposed to vague, far-off goals.

De Posada suggests establishing your financial priorities as you would other activities, with the “A” level urgent actions that must be done today, such as paying a bill on the due date; “B” level tasks that are important but can be accomplished by a future deadline, such as reducing your debt by a particular amount; and “C” level long-term goals such as funding your retirement. He recommends checking your money planner weekly rather than daily.

4. Take action now for future rewards. Overcoming a bit of discomfort in the short term often accompanies actions that pay off in the long term. Investing in the stock market requires weathering the inevitable short-term gyrations and reminding yourself that over the long term the market has steadily risen.

“You need to understand who you are and your appetite for risk, but be aware that when you’re younger you can be more aggressive in your investments,” says de Posada.

De Posada says the most important part of the marshmallow theory is to understand how you would react to the experiment.

“If you know intrinsically that you’re a marshmallow eater, then find a technique to overcome that character trait,” he says. “Recruit someone to help you or put systems in place that will force you to wait for that second marshmallow.”

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*Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value, and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the Credit Union.Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members.