5 Easy Short Term Financial Goals To Set For The New Year

financial goals
Usually when a New Year rolls around, many are thinking about setting new goals and resolutions. There are numerous studies out there touting why most people don’t reach them such as: making them too vague and impossible to reach. As someone that’s always been goal oriented, I feel that many fail because they only list and focus on long-term goals.
I started this website to get doctors/dentists to focus on paying off debt aggressively and experience financial freedom. It all starts by learning to take baby steps and one of the best is focusing on short term financial goals. Let’s get started…

Short Term Goals Vs Long Term Goals

A friend of mine that I play tennis with owns the local health club. He once told me that they get more new clients to join in January and February than the remaining ten months.

He also told me that those same new clients typically quit coming in after about four weeks. Why? Again, they’re focused on long term goals only.

Let’s take someone that wants to lose weight for the new year. If they start off January 1 by stating, “I’m going to lose weight and get in better shape this year” then they’re setting themselves up for failure.

Instead, this person could increase their chances of reaching their goals if they shorten the term like, “In the next 30 days, I’m going to cut out soft drinks, walk two miles a day, and go to the gym three days a week.”

Not only is this goal for a shorter time period (30 days), but it’s also much more specific.

Doctors Beware

Most dentists/doctors choose their careers in order to help people but also because they want financial stability too. Unfortunately, too many go through life without it.

They get “Doc-itis” (myself included) and want everything yesterday that they’ve been putting off years to get.

Many young graduates can typically face:

  • poor money management
  • too much high interest debt (practice/student loans)
  • or experience a crisis that’s out of their control

The good news is that the damage from most of the above is preventable.

The key is to establish short-term financial goals (achievable in one to two years) which will also help make long-term goals possible.

Most investment advisors say your first short-term goals should be getting your financial house in order by:

  • eliminating credit card debt
  • establishing a rainy day fund

Long-term goals include buying a house, saving for retirement, and setting up kids college funds.

Here’s X short term financial goals to focus on now….

5 Short Term Financial Goals For The New Year

1) Start an emergency fund

emergency fund

In my opinion, starting an emergency fund is the most important short-term financial goal to start with because it can protect you from the unexpected.

According to CNN, 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency. Not good.

Many are just a car accident or a doctor’s visit away from being in serious debt.

In a previous post, I talked about Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps to financial freedom. He recommends starting off by saving $1000 in an account that is earmarked for emergencies only.

Surprising your spouse with a week long Caribbean anniversary trip is NOT an emergency. Sorry Mrs. Debt Free!

I feel that $1000 is a bit on the low side. Initially, because we’re talking about the short-term, I’d shoot for $5,000. That should cover most common emergencies such as a car repair or AC unit going out in the heat of the summer.

Eventually, focus on acquiring at least 6-12 months of living expenses to provide a better cushion.

For instance, if you need $8,000 a month to live on, then shoot for saving $48,000 – $96,000.

I opened a Vanguard money market account to keep ours in.

2) Create a debt repayment schedule

If you’re debt situation is anything like mine was after graduating dental school and completing a residency, then you may by clueless of where to start.

I can still remember the day that my student loan forbearance ended. Staring at that page long list of different loans made reality sink in fast.

Remember, we are focusing on short term for now. Here’s some steps to help get you on your way to becoming debt-free.

Step 1: Organize your debt

Create your own debt payoff form.

Step 2: Use the debt snowball method

If you put pen to paper then this method is not about paying off debt  the most efficient way. It’s more about paying it off in a way that brings fast results. Short term, remember?

List your current debts from smallest from largest. For now, don’t worry about high interest rates. Next, determine how much extra money you can put toward your smallest debt then attack it aggressively until it’s paid off.

Once that one is out of the way, take the money you were paying towards Debt #1 and add it to the next one on your list.

I remember once I got down to the fourth of fifth debt to payoff, there was some serious money going toward becoming debt-free. This method gives you a huge psychological boost to getting rid of debt once and for all.

3) Stop using credit cards

credit cards

I admit, I’m stupid. For 10+ years, I’ve been paying all of our personal and practice expenses with checks and debit cards. Just within the last three months, I started paying these same expenses with a business credit card and am amazed (and appalled) of how many points I’ve missed out on. 🙁

I admit, during the process of becoming debt-free, I used Dave Ramsey’s plan to a “T” including NOT using any type of credit cards.

I guess I’d gotten so used to it, I never gave it much thought until I came across The Physician On Fire’s post about how to get free travel and cash using reward points.

My advice. If you routinely carry a monthly credit card balance then stop using them and pay them off as quickly as possible. These high interest rate debts will keep you from building real wealth.

4) Perform an insurance check-up

Every January I perform certain tasks such as:
  • scheduling my annual physical
  • replacing wiper blades on both vehicles
  • planning all of my marketing/meetings on a wall calendar
Another important thing to do each year is an insurance check-up. We can break this down into two parts:
a. Adequate coverage
As your practice and family changes, so does your insurance needs. By reviewing your coverage each year, you’re making sure you have your family protected against the unexpected. 
Consider reviewing policy limits on:
  • Life
  • Disability
  • Homeowner’s
  • Malpractice
  • Business Overhead
  • Workman’s Comp
b. Better rate
As you review your currently policies, take a look at the amount you’re paying. You may be able to find better rates by switching companies. Take the time to shop around and see if you can save money each year.

5) Calculate your net worth

The more financial books I read, such as The Millionaire Next Door and the recently released Everyday Millionaires, the more I realize how important it is to track net worth.

Here’s what I use and recommend:

Personal Capital – They provide financial software somewhat similar to Mint.

You can track your net worth, your cash flow, your portfolio, your investments, and more.

Personal Capital will give you a starting point as to the amount of assets and liabilities you have.

I wish I’d started using them as soon as I graduated but better late than never.

Bottom Line

If you’re still not sure where to start with creating your short term financial goals, focus the next month or two on opening an emergency fund. That way, when something unexpected happens, you’ll be prepared.

If you're not using Personal Capital yet, sign up today. It's one of my favorite resources!

2 comments

  • Tommy Smith

    Thanks Jeff:
    These 5 steps are great and remind me of my father who was a dentist who retired at age 49!
    He raised five kids sending them all through college.
    Yes, he was debt free and taught us many conservative practices.
    As you have discussed, financial statements, I still complete one every January. I now have a 60 year record.

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