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Setting goals

Get goal savvy

10 March 2017

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

No matter what your financial and lifestyle goals may be, here are some proven techniques for setting yourself up to succeed in reaching them.

Write your goals down, and review regularly

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional Brendan Burrows of PSK Financial Services in Sydney says financial goals “need to be specific, clear and measurable. If this formula is not followed, the goal loses its relevance, and you may never know if you have actually achieved it.” An example might be: save $25,000 for school fees by March 2019.

Be specific

Adrian Raftery, CFP® and course director for financial planning at Deakin University in Victoria says don’t just say that you are “going to save”. He says to write down an exact figure that you want to save such as “$325 per month”.

Raftery has some other “golden rules” when it comes to setting financial goals.

Goals must be realistic

“You want to set goals that are challenging yet attainable if you put in the hard yards. You are (probably) not going to make a million dollars so it is a waste of time putting that down,” he says.

Set timeframes

Don’t leave your goals open ended. Set a date that they must be achieved by. For example, pay off your credit card by April 2018.

Monitor your goals

Put a note in your diary or Outlook calendar to review your goals every three months. A mid-year financial check-up can set you back on track if you have been slack.

Brendan Burrows says by scheduling a monthly reminder you can see if you have completed your actions for the month. He says you need to keep a reminder for why you designed the goal.

“Over time, the reasons for making certain decisions can be forgotten, or ‘more important’ goals may present themselves. You need to maintain your drive to achieve the original goal over time, and be able to rank the importance of this goal against other goals as each challenge presents itself,” Burrows says.

Break the goal down into increments

Burrows says you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with activity, but if you break the goal down into small and measurable chunks, these small actions will set you on a path to achieve the longer term goal.

Research done by the American Psychological Association has shown that if you constantly monitor your progress towards your goal you are more likely to attain it. Goals are then translated into action and the monitoring process acts as a motivator to keep you on track.

Investment tips

When it comes to investing, CFP® professional Nathan Nash of Scarlett Financial, who specialises in helping young people build wealth, gives these tips:

  • invest early and regularly to minimise risk and maximise the power of long term returns
  • borrowing to invest is an effective wealth accumulation strategy, but be mindful of the risks involved
  • alternative approaches to property investment need to be considered in the current environment.

Nash often uses a number of strategies with his clients.


Rentvesting has become increasingly prevalent. First homebuyers need to consider alternative approaches to entering the property market without forgoing their current lifestyle. ‘Rentvestors’ purchase property as an investment in more affordable parts of the city or in regional areas and rent that property out whilst remaining as renters in their current location.

Nash says rentvesting is a very relevant and effective strategy to help people enter the property market sooner. (Rentvesting allows you to use renting as part of an effective overall investment strategy. The property you buy can then be rented out to help cover your own rental payments and later sold for a capital gain).

Instalment Gearing

A monthly investment strategy which is sourced from a combination of personal savings and borrow funds. The addition of borrowing provides the potential to amplify returns over the long term. It is important that this strategy is employed with a prudent level of borrowing and a longer time frame.

An effective overall strategy

This is one that makes productive use of income by ensuring there are regular investments made from income earned; makes investments that are diversified across asset classes such as property, shares, managed funds and bonds; and makes sure any level of borrowing is at a comfortable level so that you can manage life’s ongoing challenges.

This article contains general financial advice only. It is provided by an Australian Financial Services licensee (AFS licensee) or the employee or authorised representative of an AFS licensee as identified in the article.

General financial advice does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs, and you should consider seeking professional financial advice before acting on the general advice provided.

Brendan Burrows is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional and senior financial adviser at PSK Financial Services. AFSL 234665

Nathan Nash is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional. He and Scarlett Wealth, a holistic financial services group with offices in Sydney and Canberra, are Authorised Representatives of Lonsdale Financial Group Limited. AFSL 246934

Dr Adrian Raftery is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® and the course director for Financial Planning in the Department of Accounting at Deakin .