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Jul 2, 2019

The Power Of Financial Goal-Setting

by Kelley Keehn

Kelley KeehnIf you get a knot in the pit of your stomach when you think about your finances, you’re certainly not alone. According to a recent survey by FP Canada, Canadians cite money worries as their greatest source of stress. That anxiety is driving Canadians to lose sleep, reconsider past financial decisions, argue with partners and lie to family and friends. The survey also found that 51 per cent are embarrassed about a lack of control over their financial situation.


Health And Money Woes

“That emotional stress is bad for Canadians’ physical and mental health,” says Dr. Moira Somers, a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in mental and financial well-being.

The financial industry is also concerned about the state of confidence or apathy Canadians feel regarding their money. They know more are leaning toward the latter. But when it comes to building a solid financial footing, it can all seem too overwhelming. So where does one start? By clearly defining and then chunking out all the steps to achieve your goal.

You may have seen the TV commercials recently that Manulife has launched, highlighting the “power of little” in hopes that individuals can realise the impact that small, regular behaviours have and, can lead to big successes.

The Power Of Little

“Our research shows one-third of Canadians are financially unwell and more than half feel that debt is holding them back. A big driver of this is that many Canadians don’t feel confident about managing their money and because of that, they don’t actively engage in managing their money. At Manulife we believe that with the right tools, advice and support, everyone can make their money do more for them. We want to help Canadians harness the power of little changes to create good money habits that add up to a lot over time,” says Stacey Grant-Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer, Canadian Division for Manulife.

What Are The First Steps In Setting A Goal?

Dr. Lisa Belanger, CEO and Behaviour Change Expert at ConsciousWorks and author of Inspire Me Well: Finding Motivation to Take Control of Your Health, also believes goal attainment starts with breaking down the fundamental components: “When thinking about your goal, ensure the reason you want to accomplish it is because it’s meaningful and specific. It’s also helpful if there is an emotional connection to your ‘why’. Instead of I want to save money for a new car, perhaps something along the lines of, I want to save for a car so I can decrease my commute time to work and spend more time with my family/pursuing my passion. Whatever means something to you.”

Why Is It So Hard To Drill Down On A Goal?

According to Dr. Belanger, “Many people know what they want, or even the direction they want to go but may not know what is possible, reasonable, attainable. This is often where seeking a content expert can help. For example, you know you want to contribute to your retirement fund or save for a car to increase your employment opportunities but what should come first? Or can you do both at once? A Certified Financial Planner can help sort through these dilemmas and assist you in solidifying your goal.”

Why Is Creating A New Behaviour So Hard?

“We are creatures of habits and enjoy the path of least resistance”, says Dr. Belanger. “In short, we often do what we are rewarded for and enjoy immediate feedback. Many goals we set for finances for example don’t have immediate rewards. There is no one there giving you a high five or those delicious endorphins that purchasing that new (name the desired) item. It is up to you to develop a reward plan for those small steps (and some big ones) that get you closer to that goal.”

What Mistakes Do People Often Make?

According to Dr. Belanger, the number one rule of behaviour change is only to change one behaviour at a time. “The most common mistake people make when setting a goal is that they try to change too many things at once. If you focus on just one behaviour to begin with you will increase your chance of success. It will often aid in other supportive behaviours and allows you to practice the skills to change a behaviour. Then, when your first behaviour becomes a habit, you can start instilling other behaviours you desire.”

What Can A Few Dollars A Day Do To Help You Achieve Your Goals?

Back to the power of little, let’s see what a small amount of money saved or earned can do if you use it to pay down debt or invest.

Little Debt Repayment Steps:

If you had $10,000 of credit card debt at 18:5% interest and paid only the minimum amount, it would take you more than 30 years to pay it off (assuming you never put one new dollar of spending on that card), and it would cost you $26,356 (monthly payment of $250). – Scenario #1

  • Senario #2: If you found an extra $1.67 per day to pay down on that debt, you’d save $5,641 and be rid of that debt around 9 years sooner.
  • Scenario #3: If you found an extra $3.33 per day to pay down on that debt, you’d save $8,380 and be rid of that debt 13 years and 2 months sooner.
  • Scenario #4: If you found an extra $5 per day to pay down on that debt, you’d save $9,999 and be rid of that debt over 16 years sooner.
  • Scenario #5: If you found an extra $10 per day to pay down on that debt, you’d save $12,402 and be rid of that debt nearly 21 years sooner.

Little Investment Steps: (Starting With $1,000)

  • Scenario #1: Save $3.33 per day @ 4% over 10 years = $16,464.
  • Scenario #2: Save $3.33 per day @ 4% over 15 years = $26,790.
  • Scenario #3: Save $3.33 per day @ 4% over 20 years = $39,354.
  • Scenario #4: Save $10 per day @ 4% over 10 years = $46,431.
  • Scenario #5: Save $10 per day @ 4% over 15 years = $76,769.
  • Scenario #6: Save $10 per day @ 4% over 20 years = $113,680.

What If You Saved $10 Per Day But Earned Just 1% More?

  • Scenario #7: Save $10 per day @ 5% over 10 years = $49,174.
  • Scenario #8: Save $10 per day @ 5% over 15 years = $83,646.
  • Scenario #8: Save $10 per day @ 5% over 20 years = $127,643.

If you could find just $10 a day eliminating small wastages from your spending, and earned just 1% more than scenario #6, you’d have close to $128,000. That’s an increase of nearly $14,000 by just paying attention to where and how your money is invested.

When you crunch the numbers and see the impact that a few dollars a day can make, it can inspire and motivate you and your family to act. Set aside some time this week to jot down your own financial goals, break out their smallest components and tick something prosperous off your next to do list!


Kelley Keehn is an award-winning author, personal finance educator and is the Consumer Advocate for the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC). She has written nine books on personal finance including Protecting You and Your Money; A Guide to Avoiding Identity Theft and Fraud and A Canadian’s Guide to Money Smart Living. Kelley is the Marilyn Denis show’s personal finance expert, was the host of the W Network’s Burn My Mortgage, sat on the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy, currently serves on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, the Ontario Securities Commissions’ Seniors Expert Advisory Committee, and is a member of the OECD’s International Network on Financial Education.



  1. FP Canada Financial Stress Survey,
  2. Credit card debt repayment calculator:

Savings calculator: