Tackle Your Debt in 2018 Using SMART Goals

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SETTING SMART FINANCIAL GOALS FOR 2018

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2018 and you’re thinking about your goals or resolutions for the year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on where you sit financially and tackle your debt. Perhaps, you have already set out to be more physically fit by signing up for those hot yoga classes, or are tapping into your mental wellness by dedicating five minutes to meditation. While these are all great goals, why not round out 2018 by focusing on improving your financial wellbeing?

With any goal, financial or otherwise, it takes thoughtful planning and organizing to be carried through.  Avoid delays in your achievements by setting SMART goals to keep you focused, organized and on track for success. SMART goals are one of many goal planning tools that can be used to organize and track your financial progress throughout 2018.

SMART goals consist of 5 key components. They must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. When developing your SMART goals, keep these helpful tips in mind:

1. Be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about “what” is important to you and why?

2. Make sure the goal is measurable to help track your progress. Assign numbers or percentages to your financial goal, like “paying down $10,000 of debt” or “saving 10% of each paycheque”

3. & 4. Have an achievable and realistic goal. Think about the factors that are outside of your control and how those factors could impact your success.  If the goal isn’t realistic, think about what is achievable and plan from there.

5. Set specific milestones throughout the year to measure your progress.  For example, if your goal is to build an emergency fund, think about how much you want to have saved in 3 months’ time. At the end of each quarter, check-in on to see if you’re meeting your goal..  If you’re on track, great – keep doing what you’re doing. If not, make adjustments to ensure you reach your target at the next check-in point.

To make planning SMART goals easier, check out online goal tracking tools like Goal-Buddy.com.


STAYING FINANCIALLY MOTIVATED IN 2018

Staying motivated to achieve these goals can be difficult, especially when it comes to reducing debt and saving money. It’s easy for anyone to have set backs when it comes to financial planning, as it involves changing habits that can be difficult to break like spending less, learning to budget and putting a stop to using your credit cards.

To help you achieve your 2018 financial goals, our Licensed Insolvency Trustees shared their top tips kii.,/,to staying financially motivated:

1. Refocus by revising your goals to be more realistic and attainable. Goals should be flexible and fluid; this goes back to using the SMART goals guideline.

2. Search out information that gives you control of your finances. Getting your credit reports from the two national credit bureaus, Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada, can help you see what your creditors are reporting about you, dispute any inaccuracies and understand your credit score.

3. Get a goal buddy. The commitment to a New Year’s resolution is improved when you have someone to hold you accountable. Include your partner or friend in your goal by setting a financial challenge like seeing who can spend the least on eating out during the month. A fun and competitive challenge between friends becomes ultimately a win-win!

TACKLING YOUR DEBT IN 2018

If you review your finances and find yourself with more debt than you feel you can handle, tackle that debt. With the proper information, motivation and support, facing your debt can be achievable. The first step is being aware of your options when it comes to debt so you can choose the proper course of action for your unique situation.

Here are a few tips to tackle your debt in 2018:

1. Negotiate a lower interest rate with your creditors.  It doesn’t hurt to ask – before calling a credit card company, know the annual interest rate you’re being charged (average 20%) and ask for a rate reduction. Success will depend on your credit score, history of payments, income level and giving them good reasons to lower your rate. This could take some negotiation, so be polite, but persistent until you get an answer.

2. Consolidate your debt under a consolidation loan.  A consolidation loan can be effective as a debt repayment plan only if you adjust your spending and the money management behavior that caused your financial difficulties. To qualify, your total debt service ratio can’t exceed 40%. The bank will calculate if the monthly loan payments, combined with other debt payments you have, exceeds 40% of your monthly gross income.

If you’re making use of credit card balance transfers, keep in mind that the 0% interest rate being offered is temporary (usually 6 months) and if you haven’t adjusted your spending/money management, you might find yourself unable to you keep up with the payments once interest kicks in.

3. Lastly, speak to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee if you are:

  • Constantly stressed out about your money & the bills
  • Using credit on items you used to pay for in cash
  • Taking out payday loans
  • Requesting your credit limits be increased or if those limits are maxed out

Licensed Insolvency Trustees offer free consultations and will review the pros and cons of all debt solutions. For example, a consumer proposal will allow you to pay a monthly affordable and fixed payment at 0% interest until you pay back a percentage of your overall debt. Your creditors decide if your offer is fair and reasonable and, if they accept it, the offer is binding and the remainder of your debt is wiped out once you complete the payments.

Freida Richer LIT
Freida Richer is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee with our Edmonton, Alberta practice. You can watch her Money Smarts segment on the third Monday of every month on Global Morning News Edmonton.