When you’re in college, managing your finances can take a back seat to your homework, job, and social life. Due to busy schedules, students are often left wondering where all their money went rather than having an active part in monitoring it. Just as going to class and studying are vital for your success as a student, setting financial goals is crucial to your financial future.
Choosing a financial goal to work towards will allow you to focus your effort and attention on a single, clear task. Read the 10 financial goal examples from students across the United States to give you an idea for a financial goal of your own.
1. Show appreciation to your role model
As you continue to grow, you likely have a role model in your life. This could be a mother, father, teacher, sibling, or another individual you’ve strived to be like. While role models can be called upon in times of struggle, they’ve also experienced their own struggles. A student from Texas Tech University has the financial goal of giving back to his role model:
“Growing up in life I was blessed with an amazing role model of a mother who I strive to be like every day I wake up, but growing up we struggled. No matter the scenario that was thrown at us we knew that we could accomplish it. Which is why my motivation for financial freedom is helping my mom and paying back for all the sacrifices she made for me and setting my future family up for the best path.”
Texas Tech University
2. Grow your financial literacy
Financial literacy is more than creating an emergency fund or saving for retirement. It’s the ability to understand and use personal finance knowledge to effectively manage your money and make sound financial decisions. Information on how to build your credit history and avoid credit card debt is not typically taught in high schools. Therefore, students must learn money advice to know in their early 20s elsewhere. Aiza, a St. George University student, understands this and incorporated honing her financial literacy into her smart goal:
“One of the biggest financial goals that I would like to achieve is to gain more financial literacy. This includes having a better understanding of concepts such as debt, saving, and investing, so that I can secure my financial health and be prepared for any uncertainties that may arise. I hope that by acquiring more knowledge about finances, I will be able to teach these things to my peers and eventually my children, so that they can have an easier time reaching their financial goals as well.”
St. George University
3. Live below your means
When you’re at college, you’re often away from your parents’ financial guidance. Without someone telling you not to make impulse purchases, your savings account could dwindle and you could be left with an abundance of items you don’t actually need. To prevent this, it’s important to live below your means.This goal may start as short-term financial goal, but like an Indiana University student, it may become an integral part of your life:
“As a broad goal, living below my means is the most important thing I can do for my long-term future. And doing that means clearly distinguishing between wants and needs. Then, reducing my wants. As part of my Japanese heritage, I've studied and been exposed to Buddhist ideas all my life. There is a saying in Buddhism: ‘What I have is what I need.’ If you really think you ‘need’ something, ask yourself, ‘How is it that I got by in life without this thing? And why can't I just continue doing that?’ If you can answer these, then you probably don't really need whatever it is you are about to buy… With less focus on my stuff, I’ll be happier. Money can’t buy happiness, but maybe not using money can help.”
4. Start a business in a foreign country
Traveling can open your eyes to a new world of opportunities and ideas, especially if your trip involves visiting a foreign country. Diving into another culture could inspire you to dream big. You may even discover a new passion that could spark a future side hustle or business idea, like Isabella did. She shares her newly discovered passion and how it inspired her financial plan of opening her own coffee shop and cafe in Brazil:
“I realized coffee was a passion of mine about 3 years ago when I started to truly dive into the world of it. I would like to create a multicultural cafe in which I serve coffee beans from around the world. Giving back to those working on farms would be a priority because of the experience I had working on one myself. This showed me just how passionate I am about creating my own business for coffee, whilst ensuring that the community of people who are connected to my potential business would be given the opportunities they deserve.”
5. Purchase a home to call your own
You likely have a form of housing inspiration, whether it’s HGTV, a Pinterest board, or a nice subdivision in your city. However, housing is expensive and may require you to rent for a while before you’re able to afford a down payment. This will require you to plan accordingly so that someday you’ll have the freedoms and security that a house can offer. Hanah’s long term financial goal involves preparing to buy a home:
“There are numerous reasons why I want to own a home, but the two main ones are freedom and equity. As opposed to renting, owning a home would allow me to call it my own. I can decorate it however I want with maximum freedom and little to no restrictions. I can even turn up my music however loud I please. Homeownership would give a sense of freedom as well as stability and security. Another reason I want to buy a home is so I can develop equity, which can increase the value of my property over several years. This can be beneficial if I sell my home down the road or in retirement.”
6. Retire your parent(s)
Your parents have likely worked hard to create a good lifestyle for you and the rest of your family. Some of your best memories may have come from your parents’ sacrifices. Often, they don’t expect anything in return, making it difficult to express your gratitude. One student’s financial goal includes retiring his father and paying off his mortgage:
“The first financial goal I have is to have my father's house paid off and have him retire. My father is an extremely hardworking man that has dedicated a phenomenal amount of time, energy, and money to raising me as well as my siblings. For as long as I've been on this Earth, he has provided me with food, water, education, shelter, and care, as well as the tough love that every son deserves. He is the reason I have become the man I am today, and I am eternally grateful.”
College of Southern Nevada
7. Support a cause that you’re passionate about
Throughout your lifetime, you’ll witness problems you’d like to correct, such as racial discrimination, gender inequality, or another issue that affects you or those close to you. Becoming aware of these issues is important, but it’s also important to try to make a difference through education, volunteering, donations, or leading by example. In the case of Michelle, a Pepperdine University Student, she is choosing to lead by example as an entrepreneur:
“The importance of female representation in leadership and entrepreneurship roles has always been a motivating factor for me. To see women of color break down gender barriers and be prominent and well-respected figures in their fields is an inspiration and reminder that other women of color and I can be leaders and pioneers in our fields as well… I want to create and be a part of a business that seeks to elevate women of color in the workforce, allowing us to have a voice in developing new and more advantageous ideas.”
8. Invest in technology to advance your studies
In elementary school, your school supplies list consisted of pencils, markers, glue, and notebooks. Now that you’re in college, big-ticket items like a laptop and textbooks also make the list. While some students can afford the latest computer, many have to rely on unreliable or hand-me-down tech. Not having access to adequate technology can put a student at a severe disadvantage. MaKayla shares her goal of purchasing a tool that will help her excel in her career:
“Today, laptops are essential to college students, especially for students like me, who plan to major in animation and videography. For those students, a more high-end computer is needed. My goal for the fall is to transfer schools and buy a new laptop that will run more advanced, state-of-the-art programs and not run out of battery life by the first class. Despite the overwhelming price tag, I want to pursue my passion for editing videos, creating animations, and developing stories. The college experience promotes dreaming big and investing in the future. With a new laptop, I plan to do just that.”
University of Wisconsin
9. Become debt-free after college
College is expensive, and each higher degree you choose to pursue only adds to your potential student loan debt. Working during school, applying for many scholarships, and limiting your non-essential purchases can help curb your amount of debt. However, it’s not always feasible to graduate debt-free. In that case, having a plan of how and when you will tackle student loans with high interest rates is the next best option. Read Connor’s mid-term financial goal of paying off his debt in a specific timeline:
“The main financial goal that I have for myself is to be debt-free ten years after I graduate veterinary school. This is a goal that sets the bar extremely high, but I believe that I have the knowledge and support system to be able to achieve it. I want to do this to help my parents, my career, and my mental health.”
Penn State University
10. Gain financial freedom
Achieving the freedom of financial independence may sound unattainable. However, if you begin to save and invest early in your life, it can be possible. You will want to utilize a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or a Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account). This goal will also require a substantial amount of financial discipline, including the ability to forgo unnecessary purchases. Madelyn describes her goal of living life without any financial restraints:
“Financial freedom is my ultimate goal, and this means that I will have enough wealth built up in savings, checking, stocks, and bonds, or other investments so that I do not have to worry about my finances and can live my life the way I have always dreamed. I can work if I want to work and retire if I want to retire or take that trip I have always dreamed about. There are no restraints.”
Receiving an education and beginning a career may be your top priorities in college, but don’t forget to establish money goals as well. Examples of financial goals for students include graduating debt-free, saving money for retirement, or becoming an entrepreneur. If you're intimidated by setting goals, start with an easy financial goal example, and create a budget. As long as you have a clear short-term goal and a solid plan, you can achieve any goal you put your mind to.
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💰Still looking for a financial goal idea for yourself? Check out 10 Financial Goals from Real College Students.