Stimulus payments provide an opportunity to jump-start your 2021 financial goals. No need to sugar-coat it—we’re all glad to see the end of 2020. Although this year has been difficult for so many of us, 2020 has also given us the opportunity to examine our goals and priorities in ways we haven’t before. Whether you’re recommitted to purchasing your first home, reducing your debt levels, or being more prepared for a financial emergency, most of us will have a chance to get a head start on reaching those objectives.

2021 could be the change you’re looking for

If you tend to ring in the New Year with more debt, less money in the bank—and a few more pounds—than you’d like, this year could provide a refreshing change. Many Americans will receive a second round of COVID-19 recovery funds from the U.S. Treasury in the coming weeks. (Visit our COVID-19 Information Page for details.) It’s tempting to spend the money on something you’ve been wanting. But, if you’re focused on your long-term goals, this unexpected windfall could make a real difference.

Setting SMART goals you can reach

Have you made your 2021 financial goals? To give yourself every chance of success, make sure your goals meet the SMART standard. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Adjustable, Realistic, and Time-Oriented. If you need a refresher, this post from a couple years ago also includes a quick video to get you started.

Or, join us on Thursday, January 28 at 10 a.m. for our free virtual webinar “Reaching Your 2021 Financial Goals.” Presenter Wayne Hanson will help you master goal-setting using the SMART method, and give you some tips for making financial goals that work for you.

So if you have the goal to create an emergency fund of $1,000 by the end of the year, your goal may be to deposit 1/4 of the total by the end of the first quarter. By taking half of your stimulus payment and putting it into savings, you’ve just achieved that goal! Easy, right?

Or, if you want to help your kids to learn good financial habits, perhaps you can start by opening your child a savings account with a portion of the funds. You can talk about the importance of saving, and discuss with your child some ways they can add to their savings this year—or even set a SMART goal of their own!

Maybe you want to buy a home this year. If so, consider your family’s stimulus payment as an opportunity to pay down debts and start improving your credit score before applying for a mortgage pre-approval. By using the tips and recommendations provided as part of Mid Oregon’s free Credit Savvy credit-management tool, you can use those extra funds to make the biggest impact on your credit score.

Keep it in perspective

Lastly, the emergency stimulus payments are just that—something we are receiving because of a crisis. If you need those funds to stay afloat and avoid taking on additional debt, that’s also a great goal. Don’t beat yourself up. Things will get better.

Here’s to a brighter New Year!