Hello, 2017! Now that you’ve made it through all the financial obstacles of the new year, it’s time to start looking ahead.

Save more, spend less! Sound familiar? That was was one of the top 5 most popular new year’s resolutions this year, up 17% from 2016. As a financial planner, I love to see this! If reevaluating your budget was on your resolution list this year, then congratulations — You’re on your way to greater financial security and freedom.

We all know from past years, however, that setting a goal isn’t always enough to actually reach that goal. That’s why I want to share some of the most effective strategies I’ve picked up in my years as a financial planner for turning financial goals into financial accomplishments.


The Goldilocks Rule

You likely have some big dreams about your ideal financial situation and what it could mean for you and your loved ones. That’s great, and setting goals is the first step to getting you there. But goals are different than dreams — they need to be realistic and achievable. And remember, a handful of realistic, motivated goals can add up to a big dream.

Don’t aim too high or too low with your goals. Your advisor can help give you a sense of what’s right for your situation, but you should be aiming for that sweet spot which is both substantial and doable. Your goals should be a personal challenge, but not one that feels so big that there’s no point in trying.

If you’re setting more than one goal at a time (chances are you are) then they need to follow this rule both individually and together. Five perfectly reasonable goals might be wildly out of budget when you add them all together. Remember: If your goals aren’t feel realistic in the short term, they won’t be realistic in the long term either.


Be Specific

Saying “I want to be financially secure” is an admirable idea, but it’s hard to say exactly what that means for you personally, which makes it hard to work towards in a concrete way. Saying “I want to set up an emergency fund” is better, but deciding “I’m going to put $100 into a separate account every week until I’ve saved six month’s salary” is a strong, specific plan to bring your goals into reality.

One of best ways to set yourself up for success is to make sure each and every goal includes a timeframe, a dollar amount, and a concrete definition of success.


Don’t Make Resolutions, Make An Action Plan

It might not be at the top of this post, but this is rule number one. It’s easy to make long and hopeful wish lists, but I’ll spare you the cliches about what happens if wishing is all you do. Reaching your financial goals is often more feasible than you think, but you have to actually take the first steps to make progress!

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. Your financial advisor can help you develop a tangible action plan to take you from A to B. Once you have a roadmap, it’s up to you to revisit and reevaluate your progress periodically. Schedule periodic “check up” appointments with your advisor to get an objective view on your progress and make sure your action plan is working with your lifestyle and situation.


Baby Steps

The thought of saving up $50,000 to launch your own business can be overwhelming, but aiming for a $10,000 fund by the end of this year feels much more manageable. Depositing $800 by the end of the month is an attainable goal, and setting aside $200 this week is a lot less intimidating!

You may have big goals, and you should! But setting smaller milestones along the way can help you tackle large plans productively, and give you that well-deserved sense of accomplishment and motivation along the way.


Make a Contract with Yourself

The act of simply writing down your goals once you’ve set them can be surprisingly powerful. Setting your plan in writing is like making a contract with yourself, and you’ll be far more likely to take it seriously. Likewise, you can hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with trusted family and friends and talking about your progress and setbacks along the way. Your financial advisor can also be a huge asset in helping to keep you motivated and on track.