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SMART goals make good New Year’s resolutions

Creating a SMART goal for the New Year will help lead to success whether the New Year’s Resolution is to save money, lose weight or quit smoking.

With the New Year around the corner, many people start to look at setting New Year’s resolutions to better themselves and their lives. How many times have you set a New Year’s resolution only to feel like you were not able to achieve it? To help you be more successful this year, start with a solid, goal-setting plan.

Your New Year’s resolution should be SMART to be successful! Michigan State University Extension is going to help you make those goals “SMART,” an acronym:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

When creating a goal, there are a variety of questions you should ask yourself as they relate to specific parts of the acronym:

  • Specific – What exactly needs to be accomplished? Who else might be involved? Where will this take place? Why do I want to accomplish this?
  • Measurable – How will I know if I have succeeded? How many steps will it take to achieve this?
  • Attainable – Do I have the resources I need to make this happen? Is this goal neither too easy, nor too hard for me to accomplish? Will the steps I have planned help me reach my goal?
  • Relevant – Can I commit to this goal? Will I not be able to reach another goal or do something else I want to do because I am working towards this goal?
  • Time-bound – When is the deadline? When do I need to take action?

Setting SMART goals can help you decide if the goal is a good fit for you as it is, or if you need to revise it to ensure success. It is often best to start with the “time-bound,” “specific” and “measurable” and then review them for being “attainable” and “relevant.” An example of a goal that isn’t quite SMART would be, “I want to take a trip to Europe in October 2013 for my birthday.” The same goal, after being put through the SMART process by an individual, might look like this:

  • Specific – “I want to take a two-week trip to Ireland with my sister for my birthday in October 2013.”
  • Measurable – “I need to save $4,000 needs to cover flight costs, lodging, transportation and miscellaneous costs based on my research.”
  • Time-bound – “October is 9 months away. That means I need to save $444 a month until October to have my $4000 set aside to cover costs.”
  • Attainable – “$444 is a lot of money a month for me to set aside when I also am saving for a car.”
  • Relevant – “I am not sure I can commit to this goal. It might set me back from getting my car; perhaps I should plan for a different trip.”

Having decided this goal is too much at this time, the process can be repeated; this time, the new goal is to take a trip to a Seattle for five days and save $1000.

The National Endowment for Financial Education High School Financial Planning Program uses SMART to help young people make financial goals such as buying a smart phone, saving for spring break or getting a new pair of sneakers. More information from Michigan State University Extension on setting financial goals can also be found at the MI MoneyHealth website.

The SMART goal process works great with financial goals, but it can also be used for any New Year’s resolution goal such as weight loss, saving for a home, organizing a room or quitting smoking. By being SMART, you will be on your way to reaching your goal for the New Year!

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