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Practical and Actionable Tips to Help You Achieve Your Financial Goals

What are your financial goals? Are you saving for something special, wanting to pay down debt, plan for your retirement? Read on to find ways to help you achieve your financial goals.

When setting your financial goals, or any goal really, you should ask yourself what is it you really want to achieve? For example, saving is a great goal, but how much, what for and when do you need the money by?

Whatever your goal, or goals, write them down and leave them somewhere you will see them often to remind you.

Here’s a list of the top 10 goals we see on a regular basis from our clients:

  • Pay off debt (credit cards, personal loan, HECS or HELP)
  • Pay down mortgage
  • Create an investment portfolio
  • Purchase an investment property
  • Review your investments
  • Create an emergency savings fund
  • Save for children’s education
  • Save for something special (home deposit, wedding, holiday)
  • Ensure you and your family are protected in case of illness or injury
  • Planning and saving for retirement

And now, here’s how to achieve them.

How to achieve your financial goals

The saying goes ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’. So you’ll need to think about not only what you want to achieve but, when and how. For example, don’t just say ‘pay off credit card’. Think about what’s manageable… let’s say you can afford to pay $200 per month, with a $1,000 balance (if only!) you will pay this off in 5 months. The goal is then ‘Pay off credit card by December’ AND you have a plan for how to do that (the $200 per month).

Debt

Goal: Pay off debt

These kinds of debts can be overwhelming, especially if you have more than one. One way to feel like you’re getting back control is to review the amounts and interest rates of all your personal loans, credit cards and other debts such as car loans, loan from your mum etc.

Generally, the advice will be to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first and we definitely advocate this. But there may be some extenuating circumstances, for example if you’ve borrowed money from a friend or family member they may need it back quickly, or you may only have a small amount left to pay on one particular debt.

Check out our blog on credit card debt here for more information on how you can get rid of your debt.

Goal: Pay off mortgage

When was the last time you looked at your mortgage? Do you know how much is left to pay, or what the interest rate is? Options to consider are refinancing, asking your bank for a better rate, looking at fixed rates versus variable rates and consider increasing your payment frequency.

More information on refinancing can be found on our blog here.

Investments

Goal: Create an investment portfolio

Many of us would like to invest but find the concept confusing or think we don’t have enough money to start. Luckily, this is not true! A good adviser can help you figure out where to invest and you don’t need a lot of money to get started. You can start small and add money as you go along.

An adviser will help you with deciding when, where and how much to invest. Importantly, they’ll also discuss the why, because everyone’s needs are different. Your goals for investing might be short term, long term or somewhere in the middle.

Our adviser, Dan Hewitt, created this list of 8 things you should consider before investing.

Goal: Purchase an investment property

Don’t we just love property here in Australia? It seems like everyone who wants to invest starts with an investment property. There is something secure about a bricks and mortar investment unlike shares which seem so intangible.

You’ll need to look at both the cost to buy a property (stamp duty, legal costs etc.) as well as the ongoing costs of running the property such as council rates, landlord’s insurance and so on. If you decide this is something you can manage on an ongoing basis, then you should look at how you will get your deposit together. The next section covers tips on saving.

Goal: Review your investments

We suggest you review your investments on a regular basis for a few reasons. Your circumstances may have changed, perhaps you’ve bought forward your retirement or you’ve had a windfall. You may feel more or less confident with the market and wish to change your risk tolerance.

We always suggest that your portfolio is rebalanced to make sure your asset allocation is in line with both your investment goals and your risk tolerance level. Sometimes changes in the market can move your portfolio out of balance, the process to rebalance only takes a few minutes.

Saving

The first step in any savings plan is to look at your budget and understand where your money goes, and what you can afford to save.

You can use any number of apps or our tool Wealth Portal to help you track your spending. Once you have an understanding on areas where you can save, set an amount and arrange for that money to go straight from your pay to the dedicated savings account.

Goal: Create an emergency savings fund

We recommend, if you can, to have around 6 months salary saved in case of an emergency – this should cover you in case of job loss or unexpected medical bills. This way you have ready access to cash and won’t have to sell any assets or rely on credit cards if you don’t have any money coming in.

Goal: Save for children’s education

There are a variety of ways you can save for your child’s education, specific Education Funds exist with rules around what you can and can’t use the fund for. This is helpful in ensuring funds aren’t misused. Of course, you can set up any type of bond, investment or savings account to hold the funds and contribute to. Starting as early as possible is going to give you the best chance of making sure you have the money required ready at the right time.

The trick is knowing how much you will need. Fees may change, then there’s cost of books, uniforms, school trips, social events, the list goes on – do you want to cover all of these as well?

Goal: Save for something special

Are you planning a grand holiday, a wedding for you or a family member or a deposit for your first home? Saving is key for such events, loans and credit cards should definitely be avoided.

Once you’ve decided it’s time to start saving, have a look at some realistic timelines. If it’s an event like a wedding then you may have a fixed timeline but most can be flexible. Look at when you want to have the money by and work backwards to figure out how much you’ll need to save each pay cycle. If you can’t manage that, you may have to push out your holiday or that first home purchase.

Also look at where you’re saving your money, a term deposit or high interest savings account might work well if you have a short term goal. For longer term goals it may be worth considering investing. For first home buyers, you can use your super through the First Home Super Saver Scheme.

Protecting your family

Goal: Ensure you and your family are protected in case of illness or injury

Are you financially prepared if you were to suffer a serious illness or injury? What would happen to your family if you were to pass away? Would they be able to stay in the family home? How would they pay for your funeral?

There is so much to consider and making sure your family is looked after in these situations is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, and yourself. Personal insurance is designed to pay out on the event of your death (or diagnosis of terminal illness), total and permanent disability (self explanatory), trauma pays out on events such as heart attack, cancer etc. and there is also Income Protection which will pay 75% of your salary if you are too unwell to work. Of course, all of the above have conditions.

If you currently have insurance in place to cover you, it’s important to review this on a regular basis to ensure you have the right cover, and that you are insured for the right amount and events. We can help you understand your insurance needs.

Retirement

Goal: Planning and saving for retirement

The earlier you start planning for your retirement, the better. You may not be thinking about it yet, or maybe you are but feel you’re not in a position to do anything it right now. Regardless of where you're at, you should still be taking action.

What everyone seems to forget is that super is your money, even if retirement is in your distant future you should still be in control of what is happening to your money. Your super should be invested in a way that suits your investment profile. If you can afford it, try salary sacrificing to boost your retirement savings – just beware of the caps on making these contributions. Compound interest over the years can help with the growth of your super along with the contributions you make.

If you’re a little closer to retirement and starting to think about how you want to spend your post-work years, then we can help here too. Think about the lifestyle you would like in retirement; the standard seems to be a life of travel but maybe that’s not for you. Maybe you want a small art studio or workshop in your backyard, or you want to make room so you can become the new day-care for your grand kids. Planning now for this future is the best way to make sure it actually happens.


We hope this list has helped you set some goals, and start taking the steps you need to take to get there. If you have any questions or would like further advice, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

It is very important that you understand that whether the above information is appropriate or not will depend on what your personal circumstances are. Please consider getting professional advice to ensure that any action you take will meet with your objectives, goals, and financial situation.

Disclaimer: Due to the ever-changing landscape of the Australian financial and taxation system, please seek out advice from a professional before taking this advice into consideration. The above information is general in nature and should not be considered as advice.

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