Creating an investment game plan now can save you a lot of complications down the line.
However, deciding how you’ll invest your money can be a complicated and overwhelming endeavor if you aren’t familiar with the territory. It’s important to learn, though: financial planning is key to success for small businesses and individuals alike.
I’ve worked in the business/finance sector for over a decade and am fully equipped to provide you with everything you should know to start planning your investments.
If you feel like a total beginner, have no fear. You’re here to educate yourself, and that’s a great first step!
What is an Investment Goal?
An investment goal is an objective when choosing how to grow your money. Investment goals can include:
- Short-term financial needs
- Long-term retirement savings
- Income needs
- A combination of short- and long-term goals
Investment goals will vary based on individual needs. Some may focus on growth, while others prioritize preserving their existing capital.
No matter what your investment goals are, clearly understanding how you want to invest your money is an essential step in setting yourself up for success.
What are SMART Investment Goals?
S.M.A.R.T Investment Goals contain five essential aspects to help you analyze your goals. The acronym is as follows:
You can apply SMART Criteria to any project that involves setting goals and objectives. It’s beneficial for investment goals because they help you create a clear road map.
So, what does each aspect of a SMART goal entail?
Specific goals have a clearly defined and understood desired outcome. When it comes to investing, this could be a goal of profit, capital maintenance, growth — anything you want to see as a result of your goal’s accomplishment.
For example, you may have the eventual goal of financial security. To turn this into a specific plan, decide what that security would look like on an economic level. What’s important here is ensuring that your goal has a clear, tangible outcome so you can confidently work towards it.
Measurable goals are the numbers you’d use with your goal. For investing, this will likely be a profit margin or growth percentage. Making a goal measurable is also an opportunity to decide what data you’ll use to measure your goal.
For a goal to be SMART, it needs to be Achievable. If you’re starting with a lofty investment goal, you can break it into easier-to-handle chunks.
Relevancy is the next-to-last fundamental aspect of SMART goals. What does this mean for investing? Don’t choose to invest your money just for something to do. Make sure your investment goals are working in service of your life and security.
Finally, a SMART goal is Time-Bound. In other words, your goals should have a deadline. This will help you identify your process as successful or not and give you a solid opportunity to analyze your growth.
Types of Investment Goals
There are many reasons why people choose to invest as part of their financial planning. I’ll detail some of those reasons below, but first, it’s important to understand the resources available for choosing where to invest your money.
SoFi’s Investing Center is a fantastic online knowledge base that can help you better understand different investments and how they can serve your purposes.
The further you go in life, the higher your financial load may become.
Having nothing to fall back on but government checks when retiring will likely cause tremendous stress. You can avoid this predicament with retirement planning.
Retirement planning is the process of figuring out how much money you need to invest and save to be able to retire comfortably. This will involve evaluating your current and future financial situation, choosing an appropriate retirement age, and selecting investments that have a good return but still fit in with your risk tolerance.
There are many different metrics you can use to calculate your retirement needs. Fidelity Investments, for example, recommends having at least 1x your pre-retirement income saved by age 30, then 3x that at 40, 7x that at 55, and 10x that at 67.
Life Events & Emergency Funds
Emergency fund planning should also be part of your financial wellness plan. This type of goal considers short-term needs that may arise from life events or major expenses.
You can start your emergency fund by setting aside a small chunk of money each month, around 3 – 6 months’ worth of living expenses, in an easily-accessible account.
In an emergency, your emergency fund will help you pay for medical bills, car repairs, and other unexpected costs.
Lifestyle goals focus on the type of lifestyle that you want to enjoy in the future. These goals often reflect your values and interests and should be based on what is important to you.
For example, if traveling is your priority, then a part of your lifestyle goal could involve setting aside funds for travel. Set a goal of reaching a certain level of financial independence to spend your time doing what you love — think of this as early retirement.
No matter your lifestyle goals, the critical part is to be honest with yourself about them and make sure they align with your values and vision for the future. Including these goals in your financial plan is a favor to yourself, as it’s the first step in creating your dream life.
College planning is a type of financial planning that many people encounter at some point in their lives for themselves or their children.
College planning involves looking at the entire college experience, from choosing a school to paying for tuition and books. It can include exploring various financial aid options such as grants and scholarships, taking out loans, or investing in research-based stocks that may increase in value over time.
Many financial advisors suggest starting early when it comes to college planning. By saving money early on, you can save a lot of stress as the departure date approaches. For example, if you’re saving for your children’s college educations, consider asking family members to donate to a college fund rather than giving birthday and holiday gifts.
Family planning involves ensuring you can provide for a family and establishing the necessary financial security to make it possible.
It takes into account factors such as:
- Health insurance
- Housing costs
- Childcare expenses
- Education fees
- Student loans debt repayment
It also includes setting goals and savings plans for the future. Adjust your budget and find ways to save money to start a family or make it easier for existing family members.
What are the Three Common Goals of an Investor?
The big three objectives when it comes to investing are safety, income, and capital gains. Here’s what they each mean.
Safety: Investment safety refers to protecting your principal capital and ensuring that your investments will not lose value over time. You don’t want to end up with less money than you started with. Investing in low-risk assets such as government bonds or other secure investments is a good way to ensure safety.
Income: Investment income involves generating consistent cash flow from investments such as dividend stocks or high-yield bonds. This can be used to supplement other sources of income or as a way to reach financial independence.
Capital Gains: Capital gains in investing refer to the profits or losses you make from investments over time. This could include stocks, real estate, and other assets that may increase in value over the years. Capital gains can provide an additional revenue source and help build wealth over time.
Regardless of your investment goals, it’s important to remember that safety should come first when investing. Make sure to understand the risks associated with each type of asset before investing, and consider working with a professional financial advisor if you need guidance. With careful planning, investments can be essential in achieving financial security.
What is the Best Investment Goal?
The best investment goal for you depends on the time in your life that you’re starting to invest and whether you’re interested in short-term or long-term goals.
No single action plan fits all when finding your investment goals. What may be effective for retirement savings might not suit an emergency fund or a down payment on a house – you need the right strategy tailored to each particular goal.
If you’re interested in short-term financial planning, your best bet is a savings account. With this approach, you can access a high liquidity and low-risk financial move.
For a long-term goal like retirement, you want to orient your financial planning towards a tax-advantaged retirement account to help your money effectively compound.
How to Set Investment Goals
Let’s go through each of the steps necessary to set investment goals.
Step 1: Define Your Goals
Before you start investing, you should define what your goals are. This could include saving for retirement, buying a home, paying off debts, taking out loans, or investing in research-based stocks that may increase in value over time.
I highly recommend referring to the SoFi resource I linked above for help defining your investment goals.
Step 2: Choose an Investment Strategy
After you’ve identified your goals, you can choose an investment strategy to help you achieve them. Investment strategies come in various forms and can involve anything from high-risk stock trading to low-risk investments such as bonds or mutual funds.
The best way to determine which investment strategy is right for you is to consult a financial advisor. They can help assess your risk tolerance and provide advice on what strategy may be best suited to meet your investment goals.
Step 3: Setup Investment Automation
Once you’ve chosen a strategy, the next step is to set up automated investing. This involves setting up an account and linking it with your bank account to allow regular deposits or withdrawals. Investment automation can help ensure consistent payments, helping you to reach your goals promptly.
Step 4: Stick With It!
Investing is a long-term process, so staying disciplined and sticking with your plan is essential. Investment goals can take months or even years to reach, so it’s critical that you stay motivated and stay on track.
Above all, remember that investing is a marathon, not a sprint – so don’t be too hard on yourself if you hit a few bumps along the way! With dedication and focus, you can reach your long-term financial goals.
Investment Goals by Age
Investment goals vary quite a bit by age. Let’s go through each of these to give you a better idea of what you should be focusing on at each age milestone.
Young Adults: 20-40
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, your best bet is to focus on short-term goals such as building an emergency fund or paying off college loans. Check out this article on investing for college students.
Start by setting aside some money each month into a savings account. Then, consider opening an investment account that allows you to purchase stocks, mutual funds, and other investments that can help you save for retirement or a home purchase down the road.
It’s also important to keep up with your retirement planning. Consider setting up an employer-sponsored 401(k) or an IRA as soon as possible, and make sure to contribute regularly to start building a nest egg for when you’re ready to retire.
Finally, if you have extra funds available each month, consider investing in index fund ETFs as a low-cost way to diversify your portfolio and build wealth over time. Investing when you’re young can make a huge difference when it comes time to retire.
Middle Age Adults: 40-55
If you’re in your 40s and 50s, it’s time to consider long-term goals such as retirement.
Start by maxing out contributions to any employer-sponsored 401(k) or IRA accounts. This will help ensure that your money works the hardest for you and grows over time.
It’s never too late to invest in index funds ETFs, either. You should also research other investment strategies that could help maximize your returns while minimizing risks.
Finally, it’s essential to start thinking about estate planning. Ensure your will is up-to-date and you have designated beneficiaries for any investment accounts or retirement plans. That way, your assets go to the people you care about in the event of your death.
Adults Approaching Retirement: 55-59 1/2
If you’re over 55, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your assets. It’s important to create a plan that will allow you to continue generating income throughout your retirement.
Start by talking with a financial advisor who can help assess your current investments and recommend strategies for maximizing returns while minimizing risks.
You may also want to research tax-advantaged investments such as annuities and municipal bonds. These can help reduce your taxable income, allowing you to keep more of your money for yourself.
Finally, make sure that you’re taking full advantage of any retirement benefits for which you may be eligible. If you’re still working, consider contributing to a Roth IRA or Health Savings Account (HSA).
These strategies can help you create a more secure retirement and ensure that your money is working for you well into the future. Proper planning allows you to reach your long-term financial goals and enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Adults in Retirement: 59 1/2 +
If you’re already in retirement, creating a plan that will allow you to continue generating income for as long as possible is crucial.
Start by consolidating your investments into one account and diversifying your portfolio. Consider investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and index funds to reduce risk while also giving yourself the potential to earn additional returns.
Taking advantage of tax-advantaged investments such as annuities and municipal bonds is also important. These can minimize your taxable income and ensure you have funds available later.
Finally, it’s essential to monitor your investments and make any necessary adjustments to ensure you’re still on track to meet your long-term financial goals.
No matter your age or investment goals, I recommend creating a comprehensive plan. With proper planning, consistency, and SMART investing strategies, you can be well on your way to reaching your financial goals.
Investment goals are the cornerstone of any successful financial strategy, so make sure you’re reflecting on your future life and how you’ll arrive there.
Best of luck as you strive to reach your investment goals! Remember that no matter your life stage, it’s never too late to start.
If you have any questions or further advice, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.