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Setting SMART Goals for 2021

When you think about your New Year’s resolutions (such as paying off debt), it’s important to have an idea of how you are going to achieve them. That’s where SMART goals can be helpful. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. American Consumer Credit Counseling will explain how to set SMART financial goals for 2021:     

Our credit counseling advice is to use SMART goals to pay off debt.

Our credit counseling advice is to use SMART goals to pay off debt.

How to Plan Your SMART Goals

What do you want to achieve financially this year? Think about your savings, debt, and credit. Maybe you eventually want to buy a house, pay off credit card debt, and improve your credit score. These are great starting places, but they aren’t SMART goals by themselves. Here’s how we make them SMART:

Goal 1: Buying a Home

If your dream is to be a homeowner eventually, you can make it a reality by turning it into a SMART goal. First, be specific. There are several things you should specify when buying a home: What neighborhood do you want to live in? You might want to be in a good school district for your kids, an area close to your work, or near extended family. Next, specify how much you can afford for a house and a down payment. This makes your savings a measurable goal. You also want to make sure it’s attainable. Be realistic and honest with yourself about how much you can really afford. Finally, give yourself a timeline. Because buying a home is a major purchase, this is generally considered a long-term goal, which takes five years or more to reach. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to save up for buying a home.

Goal 2: Pay Off Debt

Let’s break down another SMART goal: Paying off debt. Again, we start with “specific.” Most likely, you have many kinds of debt – credit cards, student loans, and maybe an auto loan. Narrow it down to be more specific. Let’s say you want to pay off your credit card debt in the coming year. Determine how much you can pay off every month and factor it into your budget. Is this something that is attainable and realistic for you to do within the next twelve months?

Goal 3: Improve Credit Score

If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be, improving it is a great goal to have! To make it a SMART goal, first figure out how many points you want to improve your credit score by or what your ideal credit score is. An example of a more specific credit score goal would be “I want to improve my credit score by 20 points” or “I want to get my credit score to 750.” This is a measurable goal, as you can check your credit score every month or so to see how close you’re getting. Next, come up with some steps to get there, such as not charging too much on your credit card (ideally under 30% of available credit) and making credit card payments on time and in full.

Where to find help with your SMART goals:

You don’t have to work towards your SMART goals alone! If you’re a first-time home buyer and need help, ACCC offers first-time home buyer classes that can help you get started! For help with paying off credit card debt, you can call one of our certified credit counselors for a credit counseling session to learn about your debt repayment options. Call 800-769-3571 to learn more. 

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today.                   


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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