FLM Step 11: Grant Baldwin on setting SMART goals

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, we created a microsite that offers 30 simple steps to financial wellness–one for each day of the month. To enrich the experience, we asked some amazing people to guest post during the month on a topic that is related to the day’s step. Their dedication to financial literacy is truly inspiring! Today, Grant Baldwin, author of Reality Check, discusses goal setting.

Creating and working towards goals are critical components of being successful in the future. Goals are a way for you to bring clarity and focus to where you’re going in life. There’s the old saying that “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

As you begin to create goals for yourself, use this acronym for SMART goals to help guide your thinking…

• S – Specific – What is the exact result you want to achieve? Be as specific as possible. Goals like “I want to make more money” sound nice but are really vague. By answering specifically how much money you want to make, you can be more detailed when setting your goal. For example, you could say, “I want to make $10,000 in the next 6 months.” That is a very specific, detailed goal.

• M – Measurable - What is a successful result? How will you know that you've reached your goal? When setting financial goals, measuring it should be relatively simple because there is generally a number associated with the goal. When there is some kind of number attached to it, you have something you can measure. You can track how you’re doing.

• A – Achievable – I’m all for dreaming big, but you have to ask yourself if your goal is realistic. “I want to be the first Jr. High student to play in the NBA” – sounds good; it’s even measurable and specific, but I don’t know how achievable it is. You have to balance between pushing yourself to accomplish a challenging goal but also making it realistic.

• R – Rewarding – There’s not a better feeling in the world than accomplishing a goal you’ve been striving so hard to achieve. I remember when I finished writing my book Reality Check how rewarding it felt. All the effort, energy, and time that you put into your goals should produce a rewarding feeling for your work.

• T – Trackable - What is your cut-off date for achieving this goal? There should be a set finish line, so you are pushing yourself to achieve your goal. Without a timeline for accomplishing the goal, it is very easy to get off track, and you just get to it when you get to it. A goal without a deadline is just a wish.

Grant Baldwin is the author of Reality Check, a book about helping students transition into the real world. His new website, BrokePiggy.com, answers questions from teenagers about personal finance, savings, and all things money.


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.