The changing from one year to the next is always when we look to evaluate our past year and dream of what the new year will bring. While I'm not a huge fan of new year's resolutions, I do believe in setting SMART goals to achieve the results you want. Whether it's in your personal life, your career, your business, or your personal finances, you should have a goal to go after.
But what if you don't know what goal you'd like to set? To help, I asked 10 financial experts to share their own financial success stories from 2016. With a great variety of personal successes here, I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your own situation and inspires you to set a goal to improve your finances in 2017.
Make more money
My biggest financial success in 2016 was increasing my income by 24%. Sometimes when we think about personal finance strategies, we think about watching our spending, reducing debt or saving more. While all of these strategies are solid personal finance strategies, they become easier if we could make more money. For me, I always try to focus some of my time, attention and efforts on the income side of personal finance. I am self-employed which allows me to focus my energy on income producing options but I would argue that everyone has some opportunities to increase income.
– Jim Yih, Retire Happy
Experiences are better than things
My biggest financial success this year relates to my kids. I’m trying to raise children that place more emphasis on experience than stuff. They had over the top, awesome birthday parties. But I didn’t get them a present. They played sports, enjoyed activities, but heard no more often than not when they wanted a new toy from the store. We went to Cuba and had a great family vacation, but brought home more shells and memories than souvenirs. And it culminated in their Christmas list – short and sweet. I don’t want my kids to be materialistic. And thankfully, they don’t seem to care much for material things either.
– Jason Heath, Objective Financial Partners
Become debt free!
My biggest financial success this year was becoming mortgage free (January) and debt free (November). It's been a long journey of cost cutting and frugal living and it was totally worth it. This is the first time in my adult life where I'm not making payments, and the feeling is quite surreal. If you are thinking about going for debt freedom I encourage you to do it. Make a plan and get started!
– Andrew Daniels, Family Money Plan
Buying your first house
Hands down, my biggest financial and life success of 2016 has been becoming a homeowner. I am absolutely a renting advocate, and will continue to be, if you can’t yet afford to buy your own home. However, after years of saving and researching, this year my husband and I finally found a place within our price range and desired neighbourhood that we successfully bought. The best thing is because we were very strategic in our house hunt, our mortgage is the same cost as our rent. So not only are we building equity, our cost of living hasn’t changed that much so we can continue to save for future financial goals and aren’t house-poor by any means.
– Jessica Moorhouse
Improve your mind and body, get more done
My biggest financial success this year is related to following my passion for yoga, and taking time to nurture myself. I decided to take a month off from work, and I spent it at an ashram in Nassau, where I completed my Yoga Teacher Training. It was a month of deep reflection, and connecting mind, body and spirit. The experience was priceless, and one I will never forget. I have found that I now have better focus at work, and as result I am more productive.
– Brenda Hiscock, Objective Financial Partners
Reduce fees with robo-advisors
My biggest financial success of 2016 was finally taking full control of my investments. I sold my remaining high-MER Investors Group mutual funds and invested in low-MER exchange-traded funds through Wealthsimple. Don't let deferred sales charges keep you in a prison of high fees! Sometimes it's worth it to pay the penalties to regain your freedom. Everyone should review their investments annually to make sure they are comfortable with the fees they are paying.
– Beau Humphreys, Invest Wisely
Set your goals and stick to them
Our biggest financial success in 2016 was hitting all our financial goals. We maxed out our Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs), we doubled-up our mortgage payment throughout the year, and we managed to save $5,000 for another international trip. It was great we were able to do a little bit of everything – save for the future, slay mortgage debt and have some fun for today.
– Mark Seed, My Own Advisor
Pay yourself first
If I have to pick one thing, it would have to be more than maxing out our retirement savings accounts (both RRSPs and TFSAs). It’s something we’ve been focusing on yearly and the feeling we get never gets old. I guess you could say we focus on ‘paying our future selves first’.
– Hélène Massicotte, Free To Pursue
Saving with young children
I had a few financial successes in 2016. My wife and I maximized both our RRSP and TFSA. We also received more than $12,500 from various blue-chip dividend paying companies for doing absolutely nothing. We managed to save a higher percentage of income compared to 2015. The biggest success however is the birth of our daughter back in March. With one boy and one girl, we feel our family is now complete.
– Bob Lai, Tawcan
Helping others with their finances
My biggest accomplishment in 2016 was all about people. More than ever, I have witnessed increased anxiety from my clients regarding their financial futures. This is true of those with more than enough as well as those facing retirement shortfalls. It's been a real pleasure empowering clients to take control of their financial lives which has in turn reduced anxiety and provided a greater sense of direction and clarity. The positive feedback I've received in the way of testimonials and client surveys tells me that my efforts are appreciated, which brings me great satisfaction. Looking forward to 2017!
– Nancy Grouni, Objective Financial Partners
Set your own goal for the new year
No matter where you're at in your personal finance journey, one of these success stories should certainly be able to inspire you to set your own goal for 2017. Make sure it's specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and has a timeframe to be accomplished by. Even better, take your big goal for 2017 and break it down into smaller milestones to help keep you on track. My goal for 2017 is to increase my income by 50%, mainly through my online ventures.
What's your goal for the new year?