What are your financial goals?

If you are like most people, you may have a general idea of what you'd like to achieve financially in life, but you haven't taken the time to map a plan to achieve it. If you don't have specific goals, it's going to be quite difficult.

Here are several steps to putting in motion a sound financial plan:

1. Write it down: The first step is to identify and write down your financial goals so you know exactly what they are. Here are some examples of possible goals:

  • Eliminate credit card debt.
  • Pay off student loans.
  • Build a college education fund for your child.
  • Purchase a house.
  • Build a retirement fund.
  • Create $1 million net worth.
  • 2. Set parameters: Once you have identified and written down your financial goals, you need to define a time frame in which to achieve each one. By setting times, you put in place a motivating factor to move toward each goal at a set pace and avoid delays. For example, if one of your financial goals is to eliminate credit card debt, you might strive to pay it off over three years. In addition, you need to define the specific monetary amount for each goal. In the case of credit card debt, it is not simply the existing balance. You must also factor in interest that will accumulate until the debt can be paid off.

    3. Write a detailed plan: Now that you have specific goals and defined parameters, the next step is to make a step-by-step map of how you're going to reach those goals.

    For your credit card debt, you can choose one of two snowball debt reduction methods . Once you have the plan in place, you'll also need to figure out how you are going to pay down the debt. If you have $5,000 in credit card debt that you want to pay off in three years, you must set aside just over $4.50 a day. Add in the interest payments and you might need $5 a day to reach this goal.

    Breaking it down in this way makes the goal more manageable. Reaching it can be achieved through more recognizable terms, such as bringing your own lunch to work instead of eating out, buying one less piece of clothing each week or negotiating a better deal on the services you are already paying for.

    4. Set up reminders: Place your goals in a spot where you see them every single day. This could be above your computer, on the mirror in the bathroom or any other place you will see it a number of times each day. This is a reminder of what you need to do so you don't get lazy or accidentally forget. By putting your goals someplace front and center where you can see them on a daily basis, you will be motivated to reach them.

    5. Regularly review your progress: Just because you have set goals and mapped out a plan doesn't mean it will always work out like you drew it up. You should review your progress on a weekly or monthly basis and make adjustments to keep your goals realistic and to make sure that you don't get so far behind that you give up. Small changes can help you continue to strive toward your financial goal.

    6. Shout it from the rooftops: As a bonus step, you could tell everyone you know about your financial goals. When you let them be known to the people around you, it is much harder to abandon your goals than if you keep them a secret. When other people know, they will help you keep striving for the goals by asking about your progress. Shout it out to the world to help yourself stick to your plan.

    Reaching your financial goals is much like finding a specific place a hundred miles away. If you start heading in the general direction, there is a chance that you'll eventually reach where you want to go, but if you have a detailed map to show you how to get there, you're much more likely to succeed, and in a lot less time. The more detailed the map, the better the chance of reaching your destination.
    Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.