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#ReachThoseGoals: Defining Your Goals

Welcome to #ReachThoseGoals, a six-part series to help you feel more empowered and in control of your finances through digestible tips, tricks and educational content. There is so much information out there on money and finances: news, ads, experts, random strangers from the internet’s opinions. It can all be … a lot. We know it can feel super overwhelming, but by taking it one step at a time, this series will help you build knowledge and feel more confident on your financial journey. Whatever your goals, wherever you are, you’ve got this. And we’ve got you.

To start, let’s focus on three simple steps.

Step one: Figure out where you are today

First things first, let’s figure out where we’re starting from. One way to simplify things is to use what’s called the Priority Pyramid. Like a food pyramid, but less delicious, and for finances. Designed to help you focus on the one area that is going to make the biggest difference for you and your wallet. When you figure out what level you’re on, you know where to start and what the journey ahead will look like. For example, right now if your main priorities are basic expenses such as food and housing, that means you’re currently at the “cash flow” stage. So, you’ll want to focus on that before moving into “debt”. It’s important not to get overwhelmed by this and just take it one step at a time. Where you’re starting from doesn’t define where you’ll end up. After all, wasn’t there a certain song written by a famous Canadian musician about where they made it to after … starting from the bottom?

An image of six stacked blocks, with the narrowest block on the top and each subsequent block below widening to form a pyramid shape. The blocks are labelled, from top to bottom, optimizing returns, investment performance, taxes, savings, debt and cash flow. An arrow pointing up is to the left of the pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid is text reading “Source: Sellery, Bruce. ‘Moolala: Why smart people do dumb things with their money (and what you can do about it)’ McClelland & Stewart, 2011, pp. 65.

Step two: Give yourself smart goals 

Once you see where you are today, the next question is, where do you want to go? Are you (hypothetically) training for a financial 5K or for a short jog? We all have different goals, and different ways to achieve them. The key to setting goals is to make sure they’re not just smart, but SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Start with just one SMART goal at a time. This will help provide a focus without feeling overwhelmed by it all, so you can have a clear, tangible reference point ahead. For example, “I want to save $500 in six months,” is a stronger goal than “I want to save money.”

Some more tips on how to stick to your SMART goals:

  • Realistic goals: If you’re deep in the red, focus on ending the month with a positive balance. Set attainable goals to keep you moving forward.

  • Regular check-ins: Schedule consistent financial check-ins with yourself to see where you’re at with your progress. If your goal is to save $500 in six months, are you saving at least $85 per month? Create a tracker on Excel or download an app to help you track your progress.

  • Prioritize and plan: Review income vs. spending. Are there any expenses you can cut?

Step three: Know your (net) worth

You know where you are, you’ve got your goals, now how do you know your “why” and make sense of the overall picture? That takes us to our third step: understanding your net worth. Net worth is like the sum of our financial parts, holding the key stats to our collective financial health and getting a sense of the bigger picture. You can calculate your net worth by figuring out your assets (“what you own”) and subtracting your liabilities or debts (“what you owe”) from that.

Net Worth

Net worth is your assets (what you own) minus your debt (what you owe).

Asset Examples

  • • Checking account

    • Savings (savings account, retirement savings in a TFSA, RRSP, kids education)

    • Car

    • House - Estimated value

    Don’t include belongings like jewellery, because it’s hard to calculate.

Debt Examples

  • • Credit card

    • Payday loan

    • Loan from family

    • Car loan

    • Student loan

    • Mortgage

    • Line of credit


A few things to keep in mind:

  • Your income doesn’t factor into your net worth, and neither do your expenses. Leave both of those out.

  • Your net worth can be a positive number or negative number, and on its own, it doesn’t say who you are as a person.

  • Calculating your net worth will help you understand your debts, and help formulate your goals.

Those are the first three steps of #ReachThoseGoals. Figure out where you are today, give yourself SMART goals and know your net worth. We all start somewhere, and wherever you’re starting today, Capital One is by your side to take on tomorrow. You’ve got this. We’ve got you. Now, ready for the next article? Let’s do this.