How Setting Goals in 2021 Can Help You Understand Your Financial Life

retirement planning, setting goals, Gertsema Wealth Advisors, St Joseph, Missouri

By Mike Gertsema, CEO & Wealth Advisor

I’m a very strong advocate of setting financial and personal goals. When the kids were growing up, I told them all I wanted for Christmas or my January birthday was a list of their goals for the upcoming year.

In my experience, once I wrote my goals down on paper, the odds were that I would somehow accomplish them over the year. All the motivational books, cassette tapes, CDs that I listened to over the last 40+ years reinforced that belief.

The process started off in a simple fashion and has expanded over the years.

I break my goals into different parts of my life, for example:

  • Business/income
  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Spiritual
  • Personal development
  • Health
  • Financial
  • And, home improvement projects

All goals must be SMAC approved:

  • Specific (understandable)
  • Measurable (know when it’s done)
  • Achievable (within capabilities)
  • Compatible (with the goal the objective supports)

Goals Help You Find Balance

Once I completed the goals for the year, I found myself second guessing myself on my priorities because I would have three or four times more business and financial goals than I did for other categories of my life.

It’s a very humbling experience when you see your priorities in life are very out of balance. I knew what was supposed to be my priorities, but I also knew that without a paycheck, goals seemed unattainable.

What destroyed that logic was out of the eight categories, only three are tied to financials – the other five have nothing to do with money.

I started wondering if I’d put as much effort into my other parts of life as I did into business and financial things if it would feel better and I could find more balance.

My Own Goal-Setting Exercise

Here are some examples of some goals:

  • Marriage: Have a weekly date night or go out for dinner (Friday Night)
  • Family: Plan a summer gathering or have special day with each child/grandchild
  • Spiritual: Plan activities within church, a bible study or men’s group
  • Personal Development: Read or listen to a self-improvement book monthly
  • Health: Exercise four days per week and walk the dogs daily
  • Business/Income: Grow the practice to a new level annually
  • Home Improvement Projects: Write a list and have an annual budget
  • Financial: Plan for retirement, have a savings goal, aim for lower expenses, and have a goal charity donation amount

I keep a copy of my goals at home and at work as a reminder and to hold myself accountable.

It serves as a reminder and gives me a feeling of achievement when I complete them. I even wrote my goals for one year, five years, and 10 years. I also like to write the age of myself, Vicki, and each child under each year so I can have a better picture of what life will be like then.

Astronauts and Retirement – What Comes Next?

I’ve noticed over the years that when it comes to financial goals for clients, I’m not only helping them with their portfolios, but with goal-setting and mile-stoning for the rest of life.

We cover everything from savings goals to lowering expenses, tax planning, increasing savings, improving cash flow, planning major family trips, looking ahead to a  comfortable retirement and estate planning.

The planning is very rewarding for both me and our clients because I get to see them work towards their goals and see them increase their confidence. I think it’s very important to understand our client’s goals, but more importantly their dreams.

I heard a speaker talking about the astronauts that went to the moon or flew in outer space, once they achieved that goal they mentally went into a depression because what’s next after going to outer space or landing on the moon, right?

NASA started counseling the astronauts on what’s next after the mission was completed to avoid the inevitable depression. They would get the astronaut to look forward to what they would do when they returned to earth. Buzz Aldrin’s life is a vivid example.

You don’t have to be an astronaut to go through the same type of experiences because a lot of people identify themselves with their careers.

Goals in Retirement

You work almost every day of your life and you get used to being that person for others or completing those tasks and projects. Then, suddenly you’re retired.

People that struggle with retirement often relate their work as a career and it fulfills a lot of their sense of relevance, stimulation and social engagement.

On the other hand, people that relate to their work as a job tend to be ready for the finish line because they have things to do and people to see.

We need to spend more time talking about what retirement is going to be for those that struggle with the thought of retirement because they felt important or needed, had a sense of relevance, enjoyed the social engagement, intellectual stimulation, the growth, the learning, and/or enjoyed the lifestyle because of the income and bonuses.

Just like the astronauts, we have to discuss what the good things will be for them in retirement and help them with setting financial and personal goals with that vision in place.

A Writing Exercise for Goal-Setting

If you are currently young and in the workforce, older working towards retirement, or currently retired, what are your goals? How do you want to design your life?

Write down your goals for all aspects of your life, make them SMAC approved and reflect on your vision and balance. It’s also a good conversation with your spouse, family, and friends because there are resources available to help guide you.

Once you have the courage to write down your goals and look at them daily or weekly you may find yourself with the feeling of success and satisfaction.

After you break down your list into the eight categories, draw three columns on the page like this:


Goal Actions to Achieve the Goal Reward for Achieving the Goal
Family – Spend a day with my grandson Set a time, day and plan for what we’re going to do Create a memory with my grandchild
Personal Development    
Home Improvement Projects    


Retirement planning is not all about money and comparing yourself to a stock index or your neighbor – it’s about life and the lifestyle you want to live. There is not a right or wrong answer because it’s a personal preference on what fulfills you as a person.

  • Do you want to spend more time playing, which could mean travel, leisure, and hobbies?
  • Do you want to spend more time with family and friends?
  • Do you want to spend more time on yourself for mental and physical well-being?
  • Do you want to spend time working in a profession or helping others?

You can do all the above. In retirement, setting financial and personal goals are for you to decide on and create.

Download our free guide “Living in Retirement” to help you continue the conversation.

You Got This!

As we enter a new year, this activity can help you organize your thoughts and wishes, but also help you understand your priorities. Don’t get in your own way of achieving the life you want and let me know if you need any help here.

Get in touch today and let’s talk through how your dreams can become and plan and finally a reality.


Let’s Talk!

Get in Touch

In just minutes we can get to know your situation, then connect you with an advisor committed to helping you pursue true wealth.

Contact Us

Stay Connected

Business professional using his tablet to check his financial numbers

401(k) Calculator

Determine how your retirement account compares to what you may need in retirement.

Get Started