5 key strategies to reach your money goals

5 key strategies to reach your money goals 


Making progress against your money goals can be challenging.  

Six in 10 Americans feel their income isn’t keeping up with inflation and the cost of living, and only 11% strongly agree that inflation will go down. 

Against this macro landscape, Americans are focused on making enough money to pay their bills on time (45%) and to retire when they want to (39%). Over 1 in 4 want to make enough to avoid working multiple jobs. 

Here are some steps to help with building a sense of financial security. With time, incremental financial goals can become attainable with planning, discipline, and patience. 

1. Assess your financial goals 

Sometimes the reason we feel like we aren’t making progress on our financial goals is because we may be starting out too ambitious and not spending enough time on the fundamentals: Good money habits take conscious effort and consistency.  

Like with starting any new practice, such as eating healthier or working out more, you must be clear on your vision, which gives you a sense of purpose and helps you stay motivated and accountable on the journey. It’s often easier to plan and stick to money goals every month when you reframe the choice as investing in a better financial future, rather than a sacrifice. 

The next step is to create smaller, more realistic goals that ladder up to that larger target. This can help set you stick to your financial goals, because you’re finding success along the way. 

Financial goals take time. The key to reaching them as quickly as possible is to stick to them. 

So write down your existing financial goals and assess, and consider how they align to the SMART goals model. Are they: 

  • Specific? 

  • Measurable? 

  • Achievable? 

  • Relevant? 

  • Time-bound? 

If any of your goals don’t fit into these categories, adjust them until they do. 

2. Be your biggest ally 

Celebrate the small, incremental financial wins on your journey to the larger ones. There will no doubt be challenges along the way but stay focused on the positive outcomes.   

Whether it's paying off a credit card, reaching a savings milestone, or consistently sticking to your budget, take a moment to acknowledge your achievements.  

Remember, it may take time to reach your financial goals and the journey won’t always be linear. When you reach a major financial milestone, you may look back and see that it was the daily decisions, persistent practices, and small money habits that helped you reach that goal. 

3. Identify the struggles 

Sit down with a pen and paper and take some time to journal about your finances. You may uncover some money habits that impact your ability to stick to a specific financial goal. 

Ask yourself critical questions: 

  • How am I spending on a monthly basis? 

  • What are my essential monthly expenses? What are my non-essential monthly expenses

  • What’s the market value compensation for my role in my industry? 

  • How much am I saving every month? 

  • Am I contributing to my retirement?  

  • Are there additional factors at play that are preventing me from reaching my financial goals (i.e. a family emergency, a sudden unexpected expense, loss of a job, etc.)? 

4. Come up with a plan 

Now that you have a clearer picture of where you are on your financial journey, it’s time to come up with a plan. Using your journaling exercise from above, start to ideate ways that you can change your financial strategy to better reach your money goals. 

a. Create a budget, and cut back where you can 

Creating a budget isn't all about limitation – it's about empowerment. Writing down your monthly income and expenses, or using an online budgeting tool, will show you where you may want to cut back on costs. For example, cutting back could mean deleting unused subscriptions, eating out less, or finding ways to save on groceries. This process may also involve bigger-ticket items such as cutting down on rent (by moving or house hacking) or looking for new transportation methods (selling or getting a cheaper car). 

Prioritize your essentials, but don't forget to allocate a portion for fun. This balance ensures your budget becomes a tool for your financial empowerment, allowing you to meet your obligations while still enjoying the things in life that bring you joy.  

Read more: 9 budgeting hacks that help build financial strength and resilience 

A budget is not a set-it-and-forget-it tool. It requires regular maintenance. On an ongoing basis, conduct thorough reviews of your spending habits, identifying areas where you can cut back or find more cost-effective alternatives. Negotiate bills, scrutinize subscriptions, and be diligent in tracking your expenses. A well-tuned budget allows you to adapt to changing circumstances and optimize your financial resources. 

b. Build an emergency fund 

An emergency fund is designed to help you cover unexpected expenses. Beyond just a savings account, it’s your financial safety net. Even if you can only save a small amount each month, a cash cushion can help you in times of need, whether that’s to replace an appliance, repair your car, or cover expenses in case of job loss. 

Start by setting aside a small amount, gradually building it over time. First, aim to amass $1,000 in savings. Then work toward saving 3-6 months of basic living expenses.

c. Maximize income streams 

While managing expenses is crucial, expanding your income streams can be a great way to add some much-needed cash.  

Maybe you decide to focus on your job. Consider ways to increase your salary: 

  • Negotiate a raise  

  • Finda higher-paying role within your company 

  • Search for a different job 

Diversifying your income not only provides financial flexibility but can also accelerate your journey toward financial success. Consider investing time and effort in pursuits that align with your strengths and interests, turning them into additional income sources. 

d. Prioritize your bills 

While saving where you can and finding more ways to earn, be sure to pay your bills on time and in full to avoid falling behind on payments. For instance, credit card debt can be particularly debilitating with its high interest rates. 

e. Maintain perspective 

Perhaps you realized that there are extraneous circumstances preventing you from reaching your financial goals, like a recent family emergency, the loss of a job, or a cross-country move. Ask yourself if this season of financial strain is temporary. If so, when do you anticipate it ending? Is there anything you can do to speed up that process? Cut yourself some slack for not reaching your financial goals during a challenging season. 

This exercise can help you identify clear, actionable steps to get yourself “unstuck” and heading in the right direction. 

5. Use the tools at your disposal 

From asking for advice from a trusted individual to using free online financial tools to manage your cash flow, there are often resources available to help you reach your financial goals and reduce strain. 

Need specific financial advice but don’t have the money available to pay a professional? Turn to Empower’s comprehensive library of free financial resources

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Courtney Burrell


Courtney Burrell is a Senior Financial Professional at Empower. She coaches clients to build successful wealth building habits from mindset to successful saving and investing. 

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