Revisiting SMART Goals

One of my first ever posts on this blog was on goal setting. A topic you all know is near and dear to my heart. I’ll link the original post here but it was time for a refresh which brings us to this new (and hopefully improved) post on SMART Goals.

The past few weeks I’ve dedicated time reflecting on this past year, inventorying accomplishments, reflecting on areas that need improvement and visualizing what I hope to achieve in this new year. One exercise I recently completed was writing down my response to the prompt below.

At the end of 2021, the following has happened, and I feel great satisfaction with myself and my life…

I love this prompt because it forced me to focus on the things that bring ME (not my employer, not my family or friends) satisfaction and fulfillment. What is important to me and my life? Answering this particular prompt on what brings fulfillment to my life was much harder to answer than I originally thought. While this question isn’t part of the SMART goal process, it was the perfect warm-up exercise to bring me to the right headspace to begin goal planning and setting for the year ahead.

Goal Planning vs. Goal Setting

To differentiate between the two, goal planning is mapping out the general direction of one’s goals while goal setting is filling in details for each goal and starting the journey towards the end goal. This post from a few weeks back was my goal planning session and taking each goal through the SMART Goal questions is where the goal setting begins.  


Alright, I’ve thrown out the term SMART Goals a few times already, but what does it actually mean? SMART is an acronym and stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. With each goal, you must also be able to confidently answer the following five questions.

  • What is the SPECIFIC Goal?
  • How can I MEASURE if this goal has been achieved?
  • Is this an ATTAINABLE goal?
  • Is it RELEVANT to my career and/or situation?
  • What is the TIMING of this goal?

This sequence of questions is where the magic happens. If you get stuck on a question or unable to provide a thoughtful answer, you probably need to go back to the first question and rework the goal. This SMART goal setting technique can be applied to all goal types, personal, professional, financial. In fact, I was first introduced to this method to create professional goals.

One of my favorite examples of the SMART “magic” in action was during a conversation with one of my clients. Ironically it was around a car purchase (more on that later). My client was trying to determine how much he could spend on his upcoming car purchase. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he got hung up on the third question, “Is this goal attainable?”.

When crafting a financial goal, this is the section where you review cash flow and determine the following:

  1. Do I have the room in my monthly cash flow/budget to support a new car payment, insurance, gas, etc.
  2. Do I have the ability to save for my car purchase given my current cash flow/budget in the time allotted?
  3. Will allocating “x” to future car payments take away from funding my other financial goals?

We spent a good amount of time answering these questions together and one of the outcomes of the discussion was him realizing that an unnecessary amount of his cash flow was going towards an apartment with extra space that he didn’t need. He determined that his car purchase goal was not attainable unless he right sized his apartment. I love this story because the result that came from SMART goal setting was unexpected but powerful.

The ability to answer all five questions confidently is the sign of a well thought out SMART goal. Back in the fall of 2019, my husband and I sat down and took our goal of purchasing a home through the SMART process. Here we are today in early 2021, with a beautiful roof over our head that allows us to stay on track with our other financial goals.

My 2021 SMART Goal

In the spirit of creating personal financial SMART Goals, I thought I’d share the latest SMART goal in the Financial Fashion Planner household. I’m hoping it’s also helpful to see how I approach answering the tough questions like is this goal attainable or relevant.

  • What is the SPECIFIC Goal?
    • Purchase a used Ford Explorer by Fall of 2021 that will leave us with monthly payments of $350/mo. or less.
  • How can I MEASURE if this goal has been achieved?
    • This one is easy… It’ll be obvious if we’ve achieved this goal because we will have a new car sitting in our driveway and monthly payments of less than $350/mo. in the following months.
  • Is this an ATTAINABLE goal?
    • Yes, this goal is attainable. We’ve identified how much money we would need to put down on this specific car to keep our monthly payment under $350 and we have the ability to save the amount needed in the next 9 months within the context of our cash flow.
  • Is it RELEVANT to my career and/or situation?
    • Yes, we’ve thought this through and this is a relevant goal. We need a second car and want to purchase a car that will grow with us and accommodate our polar bear of a dog. Fords are reliable cars and future car payments and maintenance won’t impact our ability to save towards retirement and other near to midterm goals.
  • What is the TIMING of this goal?
    • Our target is to have a second car by the fall when we will both be working full time from our respective offices (fingers crossed!).

This was not our first attempt at this SMART Goal. Originally, we had our sights set on purchasing a used Audi Q7 but had a hard time getting past the attainable and relevant question. While it would be nice to drive a luxury car, it won’t make our lives fuller, and the higher monthly payments would take away from other savings goals. No car is worth skipping a vacation or impacting retirement savings.

And that folks, is why my first car purchase was a Ford Escape and not the white BMW 3-series I visited multiple times at the dealership.

Your Turn

What are your upcoming SMART Goals? Are they personal, professional or financial? Whatever they are,  I hope they happen for you in 2021!

Also, you know where you can reach out if you get hung up in crafting those finance SMART Goals. 

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