How to Set Long-Term Financial Goals

Like a football team that drives 80 yards for a touchdown, reaching long-term financial goals requires planning and perseverance.

Saving for a down payment on a house, your child’s education, or your retirement? Whether football season is right around the corner, or months away, these winning strategies will help you move the ball toward the end zone.

Set a Game Plan

An offense doesn’t take the field without a strategy to get past the defense. Because long-term financial goals can be hard to keep in perspective, a savings plan will let you focus on the present and call the right plays on the field.

Start by researching your goal. Determine how much money you’ll need and how much time you have until you’ll need it. You can use our Savings Toward a Goal calculator to see how much you need to put away each month to reach your goal. Then draw up a budget that will let you save enough each month to reach your goal before the clock runs out.

Focus on Teamwork

You’ve seen the confusion on the field when a player misses a call. It’s the same with household budgets. Spouses should manage their finances together in order to track and meet their savings goals as a team. Kids who play a role in saving for college learn the importance of hard work and sacrifice. When everyone knows the score and has a stake in the outcome, forgoing dinner out in order to stay on budget becomes a team effort.

Stay Flexible and Mix Things Up

Teams that vary their pass and run game keep the defense guessing and give their players time to rest. If your savings plan is too restrictive or rigid, you may lose steam and get frustrated when life doesn’t conform to your expectations. Belt-tightening is one way to save money, but look for ways to increase earnings by working a second job, selling unused household items, or renting out a room or parking space.

Once you’ve made forward progress, look for ways to supplement retirement savings accounts with less-restrictive investment assets. This will allow you to periodically rebalance your investment portfolio to reflect changing risk environments and free up capital when new opportunities arise. Staying light on your feet will let you take advantage of the openings when you see them.

Choose the Right Play for Your Field Position

With the ball on his team’s 20-yard line, a quarterback has the entire playbook at his disposal. When a savings goal is on the distant horizon, you have more flexibility in how you save for it.

For instance, if you’re saving for retirement in your 20s or 30s, you might go for higher-risk investments, such as stocks and growth funds, which may get you ahead faster. As you near your end zone, you might be limited to shorter-range plays. The consequences of a fumble are much higher in the “red zone,” so as you approach retirement you might consider moving your assets to lower-risk holdings, such as bonds and index funds.

Prepare for Blitzes

Offensive lines prepare for an unexpected rush on the passer by putting extra blockers in place and reading the defense. Use these tactics to guard against emergency expenses that might set you back.

Set up a rainy day fund before you begin saving for the long term. Stay on top of home maintenance and service your car regularly to avoid getting sacked with bigger repair bills down the line. If you wind up facedown on the turf, don’t waste time worrying about the loss of yardage. Just pick yourself up and focus on regaining your ground.

The end zone may seem a long way off, but reaching a long-term savings goal is a game than can be won 10 yards at time.

Use our Long-Term Financial Goals Checklist to help you reach your savings goals.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.