62. Setting Financial Goals for the New Year

January 3, 2023

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The following article may contain affiliate links or sponsored content. This doesn’t cost you anything, and shopping or using our affiliate partners is a way to support our mission. I will never work with a brand or showcase a product that I don’t personally use or believe in.

If your goal is to get better with money in 2023, you’ll need to make a plan…

In this episode, Tori guides you through her own goal-setting practice to help you gain clarity and get specific about the goals you set in order to actually achieve them.

What you’ll learn:

  • Why getting extremely specific is the most important part of goal setting

  • How to write your goals out to make them more affective

  • Why your goals should be “sticky”


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[00:00:00] Tori Dunlap: So at the end of like 2020, I guess it would’ve been at 2021, I wanna Instagram live. I was not tipsy that time, and I guided everyone through a goal setting exercise. If you know me and you’ve been following this podcast or you’ve been following us on Instagram, TikTok, you know that I am big on goal setting the $100K goal.

[00:00:19] Tori Dunlap: My origin story was just like me reading a blog post and deciding, this seems fun. So a part of the goal setting process for me. Is taking this intangible goal and turning it into something I can look at and visualize in a very like physical sense. I make vision boards every year.

[00:00:39] Tori Dunlap: Literally the background of my laptop is a vision board. Every year for the year, I leave post-it notes around, I journal a lot. I write down almost every goal I have from the, like the tiny to the like extremely ambitious. And here’s the thing. I almost always hit all of my goals, even if they’re crazy and massive. Goal setting is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Regardless of whether it’s related to money or not, big or small, your goals help you become the kind of person you want to be and live the life you wanna live.

[00:01:14] Tori Dunlap: And of course, it isn’t guaranteed that every goal you have will happen exactly as you planned, because that’s fucking life. And it’s also likely that your goals should and can change as you start working toward them. You are so much better off for having set them and changed and adjusted the goals when life demanded it, rather than never setting them at all.

[00:01:36] Tori Dunlap: We see this with money a lot, right? We’re like, okay, if I can’t do the crazy thing, I’m not gonna do anything at all. And the truth is, is that some sort of progress is better than no progress. 

[00:01:46] Tori Dunlap: And that’s one of the things I see with goal setting all the time too, is it’s like, it’s either I go crazy and I work out every single day, right? Or I don’t work out at all. And the truth is, you.

[00:01:59] Tori Dunlap: Will not be able to work out every single day. You will not be able to save a million dollars in a year unless you’re already making $10 million. So do set goals, even if they’re small. Even if they’re small to you. Being able to set these goals and make some progress is better than completely opting out at all.

[00:02:18] Tori Dunlap: So today I’m taking you through this goal setting exercise. You can literally come back to this. Any time of the year. We don’t just set goals on January 1st, right? We set goals constantly. We adjust them constantly. So whenever you need to reset your goals or you just need a good pep talk, or you’re like, okay, I need toget my shit together, this episode’s for you.

[00:02:41] Tori Dunlap: So if you are able to grab yourself a pen and paper or open up the notes app on your phone, start a Google Doc and let’s get. This episode is going to take you through the goal setting method that I use in my life, and that will help you set these actionable goals for the year ahead.

[00:02:59] Tori Dunlap: Go ahead and get set up. We’re gonna do a little like woo woo vibes today. If you can find a space that inspires you and maybe pause the episode if you’re not in a space that inspires. Maybe that means you take a walk to your local park, maybe you go to a coffee shop, maybe you find a cozy corner in your house.

[00:03:17] Tori Dunlap: Maybe you have a meditation cushion. Maybe you wanna curl up in your bed. If you have a notebook, if you are a journaler, if you like, like fun colored pens. Time to grab those. And I think dreaming and, and taking stock of your. And that’s really what we’re doing when we’re goal setting, right? We are like making these dreams into reality.

[00:03:40] Tori Dunlap: We want to do this when we’re excited about it. So whatever excites you, that’s, that’s what needs to happen for this exercise. So get yourself in a place that inspires you and that you feel comfortable and like the highest version of yourself. All right? Number one, I need you to start with two truths. , I want you to write down at the top of your page or type at the top of your page a mantra I follow and remind myself of.

[00:04:06] Tori Dunlap: Often a goal without a plan is just a wish. Take a second to really write that down. Let it sort of settle onto you. A goal without a plan is just a wish. Yes, you can set your goals and have all the intention in the world of seeing them come to fruition. We all do that, right? But if you do not have a plan for your.

[00:04:28] Tori Dunlap: It will not matter one bit how much you want it. If you do not have a plan to actually execute your goal, it won’t happen. It never will happen. It doesn’t even have a chance of happening. All right. Next up, I want you to write directly under that. Nothing changes in life unless I change it. Nothing changes in life unless I change it.

[00:04:53] Tori Dunlap: Especially when it comes to money. We’ve been told our whole lives that we should just know how to handle it, right? We should know what to do with, we should know what to do with it, when we get it. And if we don’t, we are somehow less than or unworthy of it. And if you’ve already started reading my book, we talk about this a lot, right?

[00:05:08] Tori Dunlap: We talk about this feeling of, of you should just know how to money. And unfortunately there’s no, that was easy button. There’s no staples easy button for money, and there’s no money fairy that comes and handles our finances for us. You can have all the resolution in the world to pay off your debt or to ask for a raise or to start as busin
ess, but if you don’t have a plan to get there, and if you don’t change anything about your life, you’ll be stuck in this holding pattern of wishing.

[00:05:38] Tori Dunlap: Now, this can be a really scary realization. We are, we are the ones responsible for our money, right? That like all of this is us. Holy shit, this is all me. Now, of course, each of us faces different struggles when it comes to finance. We’ve talked about this.

[00:05:54] Tori Dunlap: I mean, this is the whole thesis of the podcast, the thesis of the book, right? If you’re a woman, a person of color, a disabled person, a queer person, right? All of your experiences are going to be nuanced, and it’s not just about your personal choices, right? It’s like 20% personal, 80% circumstantial.

[00:06:10] Tori Dunlap: There’s always going to be outside factors. We’re looking at that in Financial Feminist, right? We’re looking at that in this podcast and through the book, but regardless of where you’re starting or what you’re up against, the statement before is true. Things do not change unless you change.

[00:06:28] Tori Dunlap: Of the things you can control. Nothing will change unless you change it. Now, it may be incremental. It will be incremental. It will not happen really fast, and there will be times where you find yourself making these huge strides, and then there’s gonna be other times where you can’t get outta bed, and that’s okay.

[00:06:49] Tori Dunlap: Progress over perfection. What matters is that you keep moving and that you change the things that you can and want to. . Okay. Three things to remember when actually setting goals, now that we’ve got this framework of a goal without a plan is just a wish that nothing changes unless we change it. It’s time to actually talk about how to set these goals in a way in which you’ll follow through on them.

[00:07:14] Tori Dunlap: Do you remember, like back in school when you learned how to do reports and your teachers were like, you need to answer who, when, why, what, how? Questions. It is the same with goal setting. You’re making the picture of your goals incredibly. When you have to answer these questions first, so let’s dive into that a little bit more.

[00:07:32] Tori Dunlap: First, I need you to get specific, like really specific. One of the ways you’re hampering your progress with your goals is by not getting incredibly specific about what you want. It is not enough to just be like, I wanna get better with money, right? Or like, I wanna save money. Even that’s not specific enough.

[00:07:51] Tori Dunlap: Or, I wanna eat better. You need specific, We don’t know what better looks like to you. Better cannot be measured. If you’re like, I wanna get better with money and you save a dollar next year, maybe that was your goal. Cool if, but like that is not measurable. If you, if you do like two seconds better on your money , then you’ll be like, cool.

[00:08:15] Tori Dunlap: I guess I did it better is not measurable. You need specific language. So instead of saying, I want to save. You might say, I will save $5,000 this year, or instead of I want to eat better , I’m gonna cook at home five nights a week. These are so much more specific, and you’re going to know immediately if you’re on or off track.

[00:08:41] Tori Dunlap: They are measurable. You’ve either done it or you haven’t. Right. There’s no gray area. Better. I’m going to get better at something. I’m going to do something with no specific time or number, right? That’s very gray. Here are a couple of finance specific goals to help you get started. I’m going to max out my Roth IRA this year.

[00:09:05] Tori Dunlap: I’m going to save X amount of dollars in a high yield savings account. I’m going to pay off and keep off all my credit card debt. I’m gonna pay off my debt and I’m not going to go back into it. I’m going to pay $5,000 towards my student loans in the next six months. I’m going to save a hundred dollars a month.

[00:09:23] Tori Dunlap: These are specific. And timely, which leads me to my next point.

[00:09:30] Tori Dunlap: We give a time limit in all of those examples, whether it’s by the end of the year or by the end of a certain month. Putting a time limit on your goals is again helping you keep out of that gray area. And the good news, even if you don’t make your time perfectly right. For me, it was a $100K at 25. My dad asked like, what happens if you don’t hit it?

[00:09:49] Tori Dunlap: Well, cool. I still had like 75 or 80K, which is what I told him. He’s like, what if you don’t make your goal at 25? And I’m like, well, I still have more than I had before. You’re still working toward it, right? What if it takes 14 months to pay off your debt instead? You still have paid off some of your debt, right?

[00:10:09] Tori Dunlap: And probably more debt had you not set the goal. So the timeliness is to just give you some sort of parameters, and it’s also easier to calculate if you say, okay, I wanna save $10,000 this year, then you’re gonna take $10,000 divided by 12, and that’s the amount of money you need to be saving every month, right?

[00:10:28] Tori Dunlap: Or you could do it per week, $10,000 divided by 52, right? That’s the amount of money you need to be saving every. We’re keeping out of the gray area, the most important part of goal setting and the thing everybody misses. Finally, you need to get clear on your why. I’m not just talking about like, I wanna do it because I wanna pay off my debt.

[00:10:51] Tori Dunlap: That’s like super vague. I need you to dig deep, deep down and find your why. For whatever goal you set for yourself, why do you wanna pay? Help you build your credit and open new financial opportunities. Do you wanna save for that vacation you’ve always wanted to take? Do you wanna just have a healthier mindset around finances?

[00:11:12] Tori Dunlap: Do you not want the stress of owing somebody money? I really mean it. Like, this sounds fluffy, but this from a psychology perspective is the make or break for goal setting. This is where people either make your goals and hit them, or they don. Because you have to give your brain a reason to care. My hundred K goal was, yes, I wanted to see a hundred thousand dollars in my bank account, and oh boy, was that thrilling, but that was not enough.

[00:11:44] Tori Dunlap: My hundred K was the permission slip I needed to quit my job. The hundred K was really a safety net, some sort of nest egg that I felt comfortable. So that I could end up quitting my job to run her first hundred K full-time, and I really like waxed poetic with that. What did it feel like to not have to wake up every day and go to work for somebody else?

[00:12:14] Tori Dunlap: To sit in my car on my commute, to be in a desk chair for eight hours regardless of whether I had finished my work in. To make somebody, I didn’t respect Rich to have to navigate office politics to know that I was under somebody’s thum
b all the time. It felt really good to not have to do any of those things.

[00:12:38] Tori Dunlap: And we talked about this with Ramit Sethi in a previous episode that will link down below, and he also talks about it in my book, Financial Feminist. You have to get really clear on why you want this. Saving a thousand dollars this year doesn’t motivate you. But if you’re saving a thousand dollars to go to Italy and eat real authentic pasta for the first time, I think that’s fucking motivation.

[00:13:00] Tori Dunlap: Right? Or if it’s okay, I wanna max out my Roth IRA this year. Why do you wanna take care of grandma? You, grandparent, you do. You wanna make sure that Nana, you can have SAVI on Blanc with lunch, which is again my real life retirement. Taking her much younger Pilates instructor named Luca out to lunch and drinking a bunch of wine.

[00:13:22] Tori Dunlap: That’s the plan. And if 28 year old me doesn’t save some money and invest some money, 65 year old me can’t do that. Give yourself a reason to care. Get as specific and emotionally connected to your why as possible. More examples. Maybe you wanna save for a down payment so you can buy a home and you can settle in your favorite city.

[00:13:42] Tori Dunlap: Maybe you want to save up $10,000 for your emergency funds. You can finally quit your toxic job. Whatever the reason, it should be the motivating factor in your goal. It is so easy to think that just the goal is enough without the why, but when you don’t have the mission behind the goal, it is so easy to just.

[00:14:04] Tori Dunlap: Without your mission, when the first week of frustration comes along, because it will right after you’ve paid off debt for X amount of time, let’s say it’s six months, month, seven’s gonna hit really hard and you’re gonna be like, why the fuck am I continuing to do this? I don’t wanna do this anymore.

[00:14:20] Tori Dunlap: Maybe it’s like week 2nd of January when you’re like, I, I had a lot of new you, new year, new you energy, and now I just don’t have it anymore. The why, the mission is going to keep you focus. , it’s gonna be too easy to just scrap the whole plan. If you don’t have a why connected to your goals, it’s going to keep you motivated.

[00:14:40] Tori Dunlap: And again, progress over perfection. It doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s going to be times where you can’t save money. There’s going to be times where you can’t contribute to your Roth ira. There’s gonna be times when you can’t pay down your debt. We’re not giving up though. 

[00:14:55] Tori Dunlap: We are focused on our mission and on our. Okay. Let’s talk about how we actually make this happen. I’m not the first to tell you to make a dream board and I’m not gonna be the last, so here it goes. Make a dream board , whatever the physical manifestation of your goals looks like.

[00:15:10] Tori Dunlap: You gotta pin those suckers to like a cork board at create a vision board. Uh, we do it ’em in Canva every year as a team. So take all the skills you learned cutting out those magazine photos of Harry Styles or Justin Timberlake or J T T or uh, bisexual queer Icon, Christie Carlson Romano. Shout out whoever put them to work, right.

[00:15:28] Tori Dunlap: We’ve been practicing for this for a long time. Write yourself a check for your savings goals. Print out your credit card statements and write in a zero balance. Put photos of your dream vacation, your dream wedding, your card paid off, your dream house. Whatever it takes. I’m a good like post-it note on my mirror and around my house.

[00:15:46] Tori Dunlap: Girly little reminders on my why’s and my pick me ups to get through tough days. And with my business, we write down every goal. We write down our sales goals, our team member goals, any big news outlets I want to have cover my story. Even write out like dream guests for our podcasts. 

[00:16:04] Tori Dunlap: Finally, my favorite tip. We’ve already started talking about this a little bit, but work backward. Work backwards. So let’s say you’re hoping to pay off $10,000 of debt this year, right? You need to set aside, hold on, I’m gonna do the quick math. Yes, you can keep this. You don’t have to be good with math, y’all.

[00:16:23] Tori Dunlap: This is, I’m a theater major. $10,000 divided by 12. It’s roughly $833.33. So let’s call it $830. You need to put $830 aside every month, right? The formula for this is simple. Divide your goal by how many months or pay periods until the goal, and then factor how much per paycheck or per month you need to set aside Perfect time to ask yourself, wow, is the goal I set?

[00:16:50] Tori Dunlap: Actually realistic? If not, you need to adjust the. If it is too ambitious, if you can’t put aside $833 a month, then $10,000, uh, this year is probably not a good goal for you. Something I like to do when setting a goal is ask if it feels sticky, which means that it should feel a little uncertain. My a hundred K goal was not like a walk in the park by any means, but I could do it right.

[00:17:17] Tori Dunlap: It was like slightly outside of what I was comfortable. The math makes sense, but you’re on the edge of it, right? We don’t wanna set goals we have no way to achieve, but we also don’t wanna set goals that are too easy. And I see this with so many women. My personal definition of goals is I should be a little scared.

[00:17:37] Tori Dunlap: I should be a little terrified that I can’t do it. It’s not, it’s not for me, at least it’s not a goal unless it terrifies me a. Because then it’s just like, yeah, I could do it in my sleep. It’s fine. That’s not a goal. A goal is the thing you’re reaching toward, not the thing that already feels comfortable.

[00:17:54] Tori Dunlap: Oh, sometimes I shock myself. I kind of wanna repeat that. A goal is something you’re reaching toward, not something that already feels comfortable. I’m on my therapist soapbox today. Final step I need you to automate. We spend almost an entire chapter of Financial Feminist talking about automation.

[00:18:14] Tori Dunlap: Automating your savings goals or your debt havens means that you’re not going to give yourself the chance to fall behind you. Set it and forget it. Most major banks let you automate your payments. We have the bank account we recommend Linked Below. You can also set them up so that money comes out of your account.

[00:18:28] Tori Dunlap: As soon as you’re paid, you’ll never miss it. So to get started, list out all of your major bills, all of your debts, and then list out your savings counts. This will take a little bit of time, but go through each and set up automatic. You won’t have to worry about miss payments, and especially with savings, you won’t even miss it because you’re not gonna notice it left.

[00:18:50] Tori Dunlap: It’s not gonna come with a side of guilt, right? You’re not gonna have that moment where you get to the end of the month and you’re like, fuck, I have no
more money to save. Right? You’ve done it first. You’ve paid yourself first. Okay, so right now, if I’ve done my job correctly, you are probably feeling energized and like you could lift a fucking car, and that’s maybe just because I had a Starbucks.

[00:19:09] Tori Dunlap: Yes, I’m drinking iced coffee, um, in December, but there’s gonna come a day, multiple days, periods of time. I don’t know an entire year where you feel like, shit y it’s gonna, it’s gonna happen. When your budget feels tight or your goal is too far away, or you’re like, oh my God, I don’t wanna keep sending Sally Mae money, I’m so fucking over it.

[00:19:32] Tori Dunlap: One, we have an entire chapter of Financial Feminist about how to stay consistent, but really the big thing is consistency. Returning to your why progress over perfection and trusting the plan you created for yourself.

[00:19:46] Tori Dunlap: So one of the things you can do to stay organized and make sure you’re progressing towards your goals is using some tools that you actually want to use to keep your goals throughout the year. So one of the things we have at Her First $100K is a mixture of like free and paid resources.

[00:20:00] Tori Dunlap: We’ll have all of the links down below for all of these resources in the show. But a great starter resource you’ve heard me say it is one the podcast you’re listening to, but also our book, Financial Feminist. We also have several free courses and workshops about a variety of different topics, about making more money, about performing well in a job interview about managing your money in a thoughtful. Again, all of this in the show notes. And if you can’t afford a copy of my book, whether that’s physical book, audiobook, ebook, most of your libraries, probably any local library in a major city will hopefully have a copy of Financial Feminist. So if that is not in your budget right now, no worries. Head your local library.

[00:20:42] Tori Dunlap: Okay. Goal setting is personal. It is so much more than just wishing or wanting or perfection. It is tangible, actionable, and one of the best ways you can actively make a difference in your.

[00:20:56] Tori Dunlap: So again, if you’re that person where you’re like, 20, 23, this is my time, I’m gonna get my financial shit together. The fact that you’re already here and that you are admitting maybe to yourself that something needs to change with your money is huge. We at Her First $100K, we here at the Financial Feminist Podcast and with my book are here to guide you every step of the way.

[00:21:18] Tori Dunlap: We are so excited to guide you through your financial journey in 2023. We have so many incredible resources already produced that you haven’t even seen yet, and so many things on deck, and we hope that 2023 is a year of not only goal setting and progress and all of those good things, but also rest and ease and joy, and just like a year of a nice, warm blanket after a long day.

[00:21:47] Tori Dunlap: Thank you for being here. As always, thank you for being financial feminists, and I’ll see you next week and throughout the rest of this year.

Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an internationally-recognized money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori quit her corporate job in marketing and founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. She has helped over one million women negotiate salary, pay off debt, build savings, and invest.

Tori’s work has been featured on Good Morning America, the New York Times, BBC, TIME, PEOPLE, CNN, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, BuzzFeed, and more.

With a dedicated following of almost 250,000 on Instagram and more than 1.6 million on TikTok —and multiple instances of her story going viral—Tori’s unique take on financial advice has made her the go-to voice for ambitious millennial women. CNBC called Tori “the voice of financial confidence for women.”

An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.

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