Effective Financial Goal: The Five Characteristics

In financial management studies, an effective financial goal should have 5 characteristics which could be easily remembered as S-M-A-R-T. The following paragraphs explain all the 5 characteristics:

1) Specific

We might be thinking of being financially free but do you know what it takes? This goal is seems to be too general. Our goal needs to be specific so that we can focus particularly in each area of financial planning and easily to manage our own expectations. Specific goal normally has only one outcome.

For example, goal to invest RM200 per month in unit trust and accumulate at least RM2400 in a year; or spend within our budget every month. These specific goals are going to have different outcomes but when combined, they will ensure our cash flow to be healthy. When each specific goal is accomplished, we are getting nearer to financial freedom.

2) Measurable

We might be working very hard, but how do we know whether our goal is achieved? Therefore, our financial goals should be quantifiable.

For instances, we want to invest and accumulate RM50,000 in 2 years and the progress can be easily quantified by looking at our investment account statement.

In fact, we must be able to measure or review the progress of achieving the goal such as calculating our current net worth, debt-to-income ratio and reviewing, return-on-investment (ROI) and our current insurance policy. It is good if we can keep a journal and review our current planning.

3) Achievable

Many people are influenced by the ‘Law of Attraction’ and believe that ‘nothing is impossible’. Because of this, we’re tend to set difficult goals which require great effort. However, are these goals realistic and achievable? It’s important to know whether the goal is within our potential and logical norm.

For example, if your target is to achieve RM1 million in a year by only investing RM1000 per month in any scheme. How likely can these be achieved? In fact, such investment scheme will require very high ROI within a short duration and often comes with very high risk. You might lost your capital easily.

The most importantly, we should not stretch ourselves to achieve unrealistic goals. This is to avoid frustration over failure which could ended up in great disappointment.

4) Rewarding

We want to achieve a goal because want to get something in return or else nobody will work hard. While working towards goal achievement, we must be certain on the outcome to be achieved and it’s importance to our life. In fact, it must be meaningful and enjoyable.

For example, a man wants to invest his money to accumulate education fund for his son in 20 years. In the future, this goal will be rewarding because his son will be able to enroll into higher education.

However, the rewards could be in any form such as material, financial, relationship and spiritual.

5) Time-bounded

We need adequate time to achieve our goals. It could be short-term, medium-term or long-term, depending on the type of goals to be achieved. Timeliness has been an important aspect in life. Therefore, we should allocate a time frame to avoid procrastination. It will be good if we can set a schedule for everything to be done.

For instances, saving for retirement would require many years because it is a long-term planning and involved huge sum of money. Therefore, planning for retirement in a short-term (1 to 5 years) could be unrealistic unless someone is willing to have huge commitment on this.

In brief, time is priceless because it gives chances for development and create greater outcomes. Therefore, the wise man always said, ‘start early and stop procrastinating’.


An effective financial goal would always has these SMART characteristics; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding and Time-bounded. This is to ensure that our goals are meaningful and get us closer to financial freedom. Good luck in your goal setting.

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