SMART Financial Tips

by MaryAnn Koslowski

Managing personal finances can be a daunting task, especially for high school seniors such as myself, embarking on college. While reaching the legal age of adulthood seems exciting at first, the reality is quite different. The process of educating oneself about loans, debt, taxes, and credit scores can be overwhelming. Achieving financial independence is a milestone that requires careful planning, especially when factoring in costs of post-secondary school.

Fortunately for me, I had an amazing economics teacher at Stillwater Area High School who taught us basic financial management strategies to help us get ahead of the game. These SMART financial goal tips can help anyone, no matter your age, make financially sound decisions.

Particularly as young adults, we tend to think short-term before long-term. I don’t think I know anyone who would receive $100 as a 16-year-old and put it in an investment bond to double by their 20’s. Most would spend it all in a week going out with friends. By remembering SMART goal tips, however, you can better manage your money and stay on track to achieve your financial goals. 

SMART financial tips life directional signs

SMART stands for: 


For instance, if your goal is to buy a new apartment, you might approach it from this perspective:

  • Specific: I plan to save a downpayment for a new apartment.
  • Measurable: I plan to save $5000 for a new apartment.
  • Attainable: I plan to save $5000 for a new apartment by saving $250 from every paycheck. 
  • Realistic: It is realistic to save $250 from every paycheck because I usually spend that much on miscellaneous things I do not need. 
  • Time: I plan to save $5000 for a new apartment by saving $250 from every paycheck for the next year.

Being SMART with your money and setting personal goals is
a great way to wade into the pool of personal finance management, especially for young adults just learning to manage high amounts  

Lastly, always remember to pay yourself first! Living paycheck to paycheck is challenging and makes you feel like you will never get ahead, financially, in life. Even saving a smaller amount, such as $25-$50, from every paycheck to place in a separate savings account is a great start. Saving for a rainy day fund to better manage unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, is a smart financial tip. And don’t forget to save for some guilt-free fun money to spend on a spa day, a vacation, or on must-have concert tickets! Just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun!

Think of these SMART tips and a budget like a responsible friend who always helps to keep you on track. With them, you can build towards your future and also reward yourself along the way for achieving your goals.  

SMART financial tips planner