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As investors, we’re all intent on growing our wealth and net worth through our investing. Our aim, when investing, is ultimately to afford a better quality of life for ourselves. What this life looks like will vary from person to person, however the underlying goal is almost always consistent: we want financial freedom.
It’s not enough to simply want financial success. We need to take a structured and goal-oriented approach to investing. One of the ways to do this is to use the SMART goal-setting framework to guide your investment strategy, which we’ll expand on below.
Goals act as a road map for your investment success
Once you put your investment plan together, having an actionable step-by-step process will help you stick to your plan and make it a reality.
Your goals will also make it easier for you to chunk down your plans and make smarter decisions because goals, when done right, force you to really think about where you’re going and how best to get there. They’ll help you see any holes in your strategy and make it easier to change tack when an investment decision doesn’t go as planned.
Most importantly, goals will help you keep track of your progress. While this framework is geared towards investing, these are principles you can apply to all aspects of your life – from health to your career.
Mapping out your goals using SMART framework
SMART goals stand for
S = Specific: Is your goal clear? A clear goal takes a general wish such as “I’d like to start investing this year” and turns it into a clear, specific and workable plan like “I’d like to start investing into a tax-free investment account through ETFs so I can supplement my retirement”. Use Who/What/Why/When/Where/How questions to guide you. The rest of the SMART acronym will help you add some structure to the now very clear statement
M = Measurable: In order for you goal to be measurable, you need to add some metrics to the mix to help you see your progress. What time lines are you dealing with? How much do you want to contribute? How frequently can you make contributions? How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
A = Attainable: Once you’ve got your metrics in place, you need to assess whether you have the means to start moving with putting your goal into action. Whether a goal is attainable or not depends on your financial circumstance. If you’d like to invest the full R33,000 in your TFIA per tax year, you’ll need to be able to contribute R2750 a month. That means you need to look at your income and see if this is a possibility. You also want to set your goals up in such a way that you’re not setting yourself up for failure. This means not setting a goal to save R1,000,000 in a year when you have no reasonable plan in place to acquire that money. Unfortunately, betting on the possibility of winning the lottery isn’t a plan.
R = Relatable/Realistic: We’ll break these down into two components. As it relates to relatability, your investment goal should be consistent with your lifestyle needs and your personal values. If your aim in life is to retire by 35 and travel the world, your goals and investment strategy will be very different from someone who wants to be married with 2 children (in private school), a gorgeous house in an affluent suburb and a c-suite job by the time they’re 40. You also need to be aware of the opportunity cost of investing, for instance, will choosing to invest aggressively mean you can’t further your studies or will it have an impact of the kind of house you can afford? Or will you have a time opportunity cost because you must pick up a side hustle to reach your investment targets?
When it relates to being realistic, your goal needs to make sense given your resources and competing responsibilities. If your salary is R30,000 a month and you have a house, car, education and general expenses to take care of, you might not be able to invest R15,000 a month simply because your income doesn’t give way for that kind of aggressive investing. It’s may be an unrealistic target and might end up having a counterproductive impact on your investment planning.
T = Time-bound: Lastly, you need to have a sense of time limits around your investment time horizon. This ties in with having measurable goals. Are you investing for retirement? Children’s education? When will you need the money you’re putting aside? Are you going to break down your progress into 12-month progress intervals? How often will your review your strategy?
Be disciplined but leave room for life to happen
As with all things, have a plan but don’t forget to factor in life’s up and downs. Certain events might force you to change your investment goals or affect whatever progress you’ve made. There’s not much you can do to stop these but the most important thing is to get up and keep going. It’s important to start, and then keep going, no matter what obstacles find their way onto you path.