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Teach Your Teen To Set SMART Goals

Most people set new goals for fitness, work, and education. Teenagers typically don’t think of setting goals related to money, but financial goals are important too. Teaching young people to set financial goals is a key component to establishing healthy habits with money early on.

Here are some helpful steps that teens can take to set effective financial goals:

Step 1: Put your goals on paper.

Goals that stay in your head are simply dreams. Goals become most effective when they are written down or printed out. Put them in a prominent location where you’ll see them frequently, like your bedroom mirror or the refrigerator door. Take a photo and make it your phone lock screen. Read your goals daily to remember what you’re working toward.

Step 2: Use the SMART acronym to make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

SPECIFIC – State exactly what will be done with the money involved.

MEASURABLE – Set an exact dollar amount involved.

ATTAINABLE – Create a step-by-step action plan for how the goal will be achieved.

REALISTIC – Think through the trade-offs and opportunity costs to make sure you can reach the goal.

TIME-BOUND – Set a specific date the goal will be reached.

For instance, it’s not enough to say “I will save money for a car,” that’s just too vague. A SMART goal might say “I will save $3,000 to buy a car in 12 months by getting a part-time job and saving $250 each month.” Check out this quick video about setting SMART goals.

Step 3: Frequently evaluate your goals and make adjustments, if needed.

Think of your goals as a living document. Things rarely ever go as planned, so you’ll need to make adjustments as life changes. Perhaps you get extra hours at your job and can save more than you planned each month. Or maybe an unexpected expense comes up and you need to push your deadline back a few months. Don’t let life’s changes make you give up on your goals. Simply adjust and keep going.

Step 4: Make your goal public.

Share your goal with trusted family members or friends and ask them to check in with you periodically to see how you’re doing. People who care about you will want to see you succeed, and they’ll celebrate with you when you achieve your goal.

This month is a great time to help your teen set a financial goal for 2022. Perhaps they want to save up for the expenses of going to prom, tickets to a summer event or concert, a down payment on their first car, or another idea unique to them. Just the action of setting a goal, making an effective plan and working the plan will expose them to a positive life skill that will help them in the future.

Help us empower the next generation for financial success!

The Center for Financial Empowerment is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower disadvantaged youth through financial literacy education. Find out more about our work.


Setting Financial Goals, Take Charge Today, January 2007


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