Setting ‘micro-goals’ for yourself every month can lead the way to the big results you want

By Katie Matthews, SCACPA Contributor

When you make the time to set career and financial goals, try not to fall into the trap of creating plans that are too grand. Those are the ones that tend to be easiest to abandon. Surveys reveal that 80% of us fail to stick to our New Year’s Resolutions, with many losing their resolve by the time February rolls around.

Instead, try listing realistic micro-goals. The rewards from small successes will motivate you to achieve bigger goals over the long run.

Let’s talk about ideas for realistic career and financial goals you can set for 2020:

Career Goal 1. Update Your Skill Set

Business Insider’s 30-step plan to getting promoted urges professionals to consider learning new skills to gain a competitive advantage at work. Attend workshops, enroll in an online course, or work on how you communicate with others — these are examples of how you can update your soft and hard skills. Develop your current skill set this year, and work your way to a promotion or a nice salary bump.

Career Goal 2. Take Initiative at Work

When opportunities present themselves in the workplace, step up as a project leader. You’ll get noticed as someone with a plan for career growth.

Career Goal 3. Set New Performance Metrics

Other than formal work evaluations, it’s worth setting personal performance metrics for yourself. For example, you can aim for a higher sales target or better customer reviews.

Career Goal 4. Learn to Love Networking

Networking is a time-tested method for achieving career and entrepreneurial growth. However, many professionals still think that it requires too much effort and therefore shy away. But maybe all it takes to better connect with fellow professionals is empathy. Listen and engage in conversations, and be sincere in offering to help or collaborate. When you develop a reputation for trustworthiness, mutually beneficial relationships can grow naturally.

Financial Goal 1. Set Up an Emergency Fund

By definition, emergencies are unexpected. Force yourself to be prepared for one financially. The size of your emergency fund should depend on your income, debt and monthly spending. Generally, it is recommended that you set aside three to six months’ worth of expenses in an emergency savings account – and continue adding from there.

Financial Goal 2. Pay Your Way Out of Debt

Student debt, car loans, and mortgages affect your life in more ways than one. That’s why it’s best to start paying off debt as soon as you start making money. The two most famous strategies to debt payment are the avalanche and snowball methods. You can choose to pay off loans with the highest interest rates first in what is known as the avalanche method. Conversely, you can work your way up from your smallest to your biggest debt, like a snowball. Regardless of the strategy you choose, aim to make timely payments on your loans.

Financial Goal 3. Stick to a Budget

A popular and effective budgeting rule that you can easily adopt is “50/20/30.” It dictates that you divide your income into:

  • 50% for your needs
  • 20% for your savings
  • 30% for your wants

Your needs include your monthly expenses — utilities, rent, etc. — as well as debt payments. Then, put a portion of your income into a savings account. Marcus’ guide to high-yield savings accounts highlights that this type of account can help you earn more interest in the long run, compared to traditional ones. That’s because your money will continue to grow faster while it sits in the bank.

Lastly, set aside money for non-essentials such as dining out, vacations, or shopping sprees, but make sure not to dip into your other funds.

Financial Goal 4. Start Saving for Retirement

CNBC’s report on retirement trends reveals that only 39% of adults start saving for retirement in their 20s — a time when financial experts emphasize the importance of worrying about our golden years. It’s never too late to start, though, and you can do it by putting away 10% of your income each month, which can be budgeted into your savings allocation.

Good luck with your micro-goals – and here’s to the big things in store after that.

About the author: Katie Matthews is a finance advisor with a passion for writing and making numbers, rates and policies more understandable for all. When she’s not working or running after her energetic 4-year-old, Katie enjoys yoga and hiking.