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July 8th, 2014 |
By Sandi Maxey, SVP, Learning & Professional Development Manager
The family vacation is the centerpiece of the summer for many families. Many of us look forward to making memories by spending quality time with family free of homework, soccer practice, and school fundraising. This annual homage to summer can be as simple as exploring your own state parks or as elaborate as a ten-day cruise. If you’re like me, the vision of your “dream vacation” sustains you through long days at work and the cold days of winter. I am the mom of three children who entered this world within five years of each other. At the point in time when I could finally imagine a vacation without diapers, I set my sights on the most magical place on earth – Disney World.
Magical as Disney World may be, cheap it is not. I remember the sticker shock when I started researching trip packages. On the surface, my family vacation goal seemed pretty simple. I wanted to take my kids to Disney. But don’t mistake the intent of the goal with the goal itself. The result of achieving my goal would be a vacation to Disney World but I wanted to achieve this goal without draining my savings or relying on credit. I realized pretty quickly that my husband and I needed a good plan if we were going to achieve this dream vacation without going into a vast amount of debt.
Achieving any goal, whether it’s related to finances, health, or is professional in nature, requires intentional planning. As humans, we are most strongly motivated to act by clear, unambiguous goals. Vague or fuzzy goals don’t create a clear vision of what success looks like and won’t drive our behavior. A SMART goal, on the other hand, gives us a template for constructing a goal that will provide the clear vision of success we need to inspire the right behaviors to achieve it. A SMART goal is a well-known acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
Specific – The goal has the details needed to describe what achievement will look like.
Measurable – The goal includes quantitative metrics.
Attainable – The goal can be reasonably obtained.
Relevant – The goal, if executed well, will help you achieve the result you want.
Timely – The goal defines a deadline for achieving it.
Back to my story: When I realized achieving my goal would be a bit more complicated than I originally thought, I revised it to make it a SMART goal. Here’s the “before” and “after:”
Original goal: To take my family on a trip to Disney World.
SMART goal: To save a budget of $5,000, including all expenses, to take my family on a one-week trip to Disney World by July 30, 2006.
Do you see the difference? The first goal outlines no parameters for success and provides no guidance for how to achieve it. It simply states the end result without regard to the “how.” The SMART goal leads me directly to the action steps I need to take to achieve my goal without going into debt (the how).
What are your financial goals? Do you have a clear vision of the financial life you desire now and in the future? Do you have a written financial plan that includes SMART goals to outline a path to achievement?
My story has a happy ending. My family enjoyed a dream vacation and made the memories of a lifetime. Furthermore, we achieved it on time and within budget. All thanks to a SMART goal!