McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 9, 2014

OSU Extension Service

Saving for long-term goals

By LaDell Emmons
Special Correspondent

McALESTER — Thinking about buying a car or starting a college fund for the kids? Dreaming of owning a home or putting aside something for retirement? Setting your sights on long-term financial goals is a good thing, but finding ways to save enough to make them a reality can be overwhelming.

But, it does not have to be that way.

Start with a clear goal.

Spend some time figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish, how much you will need to save and in what timeframe. Also, make sure everyone in the family is in agreement on the goal.

Once the goal is firmly established, move on to creating a strategy for achieving it.

The strategy should include identifying what you and other family members are willing to give up in order to reach the goal.

You’re going to have to change something. Maybe it’s eating out one less time a week or going with a less expensive cable package.

Your strategy also should incorporate ways to save and make extra money.

For instance, if you have been planning to clear out the basement and host a yard sale, now might be the right time.

Counting on windfalls as a source of added revenue, however, is risky, except possibly at tax time.

People generally spend tax windfalls well before they receive them, so the planning and decision-making around those funds has to be firm. Also, underestimate, rather than overestimate, how much you may get back.

As you begin making progress on your savings goal, set up a separate account to collect the funds instead of pressing your checking account into extra duty. Going that route will help you avoid the temptation of spending the money on something other than the intended purpose.

Consistently monitoring your progress will keep you on track. Sharing with a friend or family member that you are saving for a long-term goal will help, too. People who are held accountable by reporting to someone else tend to be more successful than ones who either just decide to do it or even write down their goal. So it could be to your advantage to let someone know you’re saving for something.

Finally, do not get discouraged in the event of a setback. It is all part of the process. Part of setting a goal is monitoring to see what kinds of issues you have and making adjustments to your strategy so you continue to see progress.

For more information about setting and reaching long-term financial goals or other financial related topics, contact the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, Pittsburg County, at 918-423-4120 or log onto www.oces.okstate.edu/pittsburg.  

LaDell Emmons is the family and consumer science Extension educator for Pittsburg County. Contact her at ladell.emmons@okstate.edu or 918-423-4120.