You know how it is when you don't start a day with a to-do list? You get buffeted around by whatever comes up. Phone calls, answering emails, chatting with colleagues about favorite childhood candy bars, and whoops--how on earth did it get to be 11:20 already?
Managing your finances without first articulating your near- and long-term goals is pretty similar. The days will go by, and you'll no doubt find plenty of ways to spend your money. But you won't necessarily get to where you really wanted to go. Rather than operating with the amorphous goal of "wealth accumulation," take a step back and articulate the specifics of what you're trying to achieve, when you'll need the money, and how much.
Paying the full freight for college for each of your kids? Retirement while you're still young enough to enjoy it? A move to a bigger house within the next five years? By quantifying each of your financial goals, you may see that it's not going to be possible to achieve them all, but it's better to know that early on so you can prioritize. And each of those goals likely carries its own time horizon, which in turn will dictate what types of investments you hold and where.
Once you've set your baseline goals and quantified how much they'll cost, checking your progress toward them can serve as the ultimate financial checkup; monitoring specific investments is secondary.
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