Investing 101: Setting Investment Goals

Learning how to invest can feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Investing can be more accessible than you think – especially if you start with well-defined goals.  

Setting, articulating, and supporting specific investing goals is crucial to building your financial health and wellness. You may think it’s enough to simply start investing or build up your savings, but it’s having personal, specific, and articulated goals that makes it much easier to stay motivated. 

The Importance of Goals

We’re not the only ones saying this. Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews recently conducted a study delving into the way people achieve their goals. Her team boiled down goal-crushing success into three specific steps:  

  1. Write your goals down. 
  1. Commit to concrete action items supporting those goals. 
  1. Find accountability and support for those actions. 

Her team also noticed that, when compared to goal-setters who didn’t do any of the above, people who completed these three steps were 33% more likely to see success.  

Determining Your Investment Goals

When setting financial goals, start by thinking about your life and how you want to live it. Money should be a tool you can use to accomplish your life goals, aligning your life plan with your financial plan.  

Ask yourself this question: What are my goals in life? Before you start writing down your reflection on that broad question, consider the categories below. Use these categories to organize your thoughts as you reflect on your unique, specific goals.  

  • Short-term goals: This is an upcoming vacation, a house you want to buy next year, an emergency fund, an upcoming wedding, or your Christmas piggy bank. 
  • Medium-term goals: These may be large purchases you’re considering in the next 5-15 years, such as a home down payment, education for kids, vacations, second homes, or a new car.  
  • Long-term goals: The universal goal is often retirement, but you may have others – once-in-a-lifetime trips, for example, or building your dream home to share with your family.  

Organizing your goals into these categories may help you find the best ways to fund these goals in the future. As you start to think about your specific investment goals, see if you can categorize them into these different time-bound terms. We’ll provide questions below to help you determine what your goals may be. Keeping these categories in mind may help.  

Later, after you’ve grouped your goals by time, you’ll be better empowered to determine specific action items (as Matthews noted) that can help you reach those goals. For example, if you’ve determined that you have a large number of medium-term goals, it’ll be important to find an investment product that allows you to grow funds but still access them prior to retirement age. If you have a considerable number of short-term goals, it may make sense to keep a strategic amount of funds readily available.  

Understanding Your Investing Motivation 

Take some time to consider the following questions as you work to understand your unique motivation for investing and articulate your specific goals.  

  • What feelings do I associate with finances and financial planning? These feelings can set the stage for your initial goals; for example, if you’re stressed, working towards goals that create a sense of security can help a lot.  
  • What big-picture dreams are currently sitting on my mental back burner? Maybe you want to travel the world; maybe you want to go back to school; maybe you’re hoping to invest in real estate. Taking time to acknowledge and appreciate these dreams can be powerful (particularly if you haven’t done so in a while!).  
  • Are there any specific causes, people, or communities I wish to support with my finances? If there are, note that down, as well. Then, you may be able to plan effectively to dedicate some financial assets towards your chosen causes – which is excellent for those you support and your own sense of purpose and satisfaction.  
  • What are my professional goals? Do those require further financial planning? Your career trajectory can influence your life and financial plans. If you realize that investing in education and certifications could boost your career, that may be worth considering as an investment goal.  

Don’t Forget the Details

Lastly, here are a few practical matters that may influence your financial goals. 

  • Do I have a rainy-day fund set aside?  
  • Do I have any significant purchases planned within the next five years?  
  • Do I have specific ideas of what aging and retirement may look like for me?  
  • Do I want to build an inheritance or financial legacy to leave my family?  

Take time to sit with these questions; they’re not easy.  

As you reflect on the answers to these prompts, see if you can identify when you’re interested in realizing these goals. A rainy-day fund may be more immediate; a house, or special travel, more medium-term; building a financial legacy, longer-term.  

Clearly, this involves some big-picture thought. This is a dig-down-deep kind of exercise. It may take journaling, sleeping on it, or discussing these topics with your partner to arrive at a conclusion that feels good for now. This brings us to a final point: 

Stay engaged with your goal-setting.  

Your goals can–and should!–change throughout your life.  

After all, goals are deeply personal, and should grow with you over the years. Therefore, checking in on your goals, reassessing their importance, and rerouting as necessary will be essential over the years. 

As Dr. Matthews noted, start today by writing these goals down.  

When you’re ready to continue working towards your goals by committing to concrete action items and seeking accountability, consider partnering with a friendly, empathetic, and knowledgeable financial advisor for the support you need.  

At Commas, we know that taking steps towards your financial goals can be both exhilarating and stressful. We’re ready to meet you with accessible, friendly advice every step of the way. Reach out to our team today to learn more about what we can do for you. 

Commas is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Truepoint Inc., a fee-only Registered Investment Adviser (RIA). Registration as an adviser does not connote a specific level of skill or training. More detail, including forms ADV Part 2A and Form CRS filed with the SEC, can be found at Neither the information, nor any opinion expressed, is to be construed as personalized investment, tax or legal advice.