5 Long-Term Financial Goals and How to Achieve Them

UPDATED: February 13, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 13, 2024
Black couple setting long term financial goals together and smiling

What are long-term financial goals and why are they important?

Long-term financial goals are your money objectives that will take more than a few years to achieve. Your long-term goals are an important aspect of your financial health. These goals provide motivation, direction and discipline when managing your finances.

In this article, we’ll go over examples of some long-term financial goals, as well as some tips to help you get started.

5 Long-term financial goals: Where to start

It can be hard to set the right money goals for your situation. Long-term goals can be especially difficult because your needs can change over time. The good news? The timeline of a long-term goal generally isn’t strict, giving you plenty of time to review and adjust your goals as you go.

Popular examples of long-term financial goals to start saving for your future include:

1. Save for retirement

  • Expected time: 10-35 years
  • Account types: Retirement plans including IRAs, 401(k)s and pensions

Planning for retirement is one of the most common long-term financial goals. Most people enter the workforce with over 30 years until retirement, so the sooner you can start saving, the more wealth you can build. The easiest way to get started is to calculate how much you need in savings to live comfortably in retirement—often between 70% and 90% of your preretirement income.

Once you have a rough estimate of savings needs, you can start putting money toward retirement. A great place to start is by taking advantage of your employer’s 401(k) match, if available. You can also open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which allows you to invest your savings in a multitude of stocks, mutual funds and other investment options.

2. Pay off major debts

  • Expected time: 5+ years
  • Account types: Credit card debt, mortgage, student loans, car loans

Getting out of debt is essential to the success of your other long-term financial goals. When you have debt, especially high-interest debt like credit card balances, you lose a portion of your income that could otherwise go toward savings goals like retirement.

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Try using the debt avalanche method to help you manage your debt and get out of it for good. This method works by listing your debts from highest interest to lowest interest. While still making the minimum payment on all of your debt, focus on paying down high-interest debts first using extra funds in your budget. This accelerated payoff strategy helps lower the total amount you’ll pay in interest throughout paying off your debt.

3. Send your children to college

  • Expected time: 17-25 years
  • Account types: 529 plans, Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), custodial accounts, brokerage accounts, high-yield savings accounts, Certificate of Deposit (CD)

Welcoming a new child into your family is an exciting step, but it can also be expensive. Like retirement savings, the sooner you start saving for college, the more time you have to build interest or investment earnings.

Opening a college savings fund for your child when they’re young can help you save for their future college expenses. In addition to your own contributions, many children receive cash gifts for birthdays or holiday presents over the years. Consider asking friends and family members to contribute to your child’s college fund instead of buying them yet another toy as a gift.

4. Buy a house or investment property

  • Expected time: 5-10 years
  • Account types: High-yield savings, brokerage accounts, CDs

Whether you’re dreaming of first-time homeownership, a vacation home or investment properties, real estate purchases are one of the most popular long-term financial goals. Most people use a mortgage to buy real estate, but many mortgage lenders ask for at least 20% of the purchase price as a down payment.

There are a variety of savings accounts you can use to save for a down payment or cash home purchase, such as a brokerage account or high-yield savings account. However, you should aim to use an account with a fair amount of liquidity so you can access your funds when the right property becomes available.

5. Build generational wealth

  • Expected time: Decades
  • Account types: Life insurance, real estate and property investments, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts

Generational wealth refers to the money and assets you pass on to your descendants, such as children and grandchildren. Building generational wealth for your loved ones helps give them a leg up when you pass away. A robust life insurance plan, for example, can offer your heirs a windfall at your death, which they can use to pay off debt, buy real estate or cover college expenses.

How you build generational wealth depends on your financial situation and those of your heirs. However, most people get started by creating estate planning documents like a will and taking out life insurance policies. Real estate is also considered a good avenue to build generational wealth for your family.

Consider working with a fiduciary

When working toward long-term financial goals, it can be helpful to consult with a professional who has education and experience in things like the stock market, financial account types and long-term planning. If you feel like you’re in over your head when setting up your long-term financial plans, or if you just want to make sure you’re handling your finances as responsibly as possible, you may want to look into working with a fiduciary.

Fiduciary vs. financial adviser

A fiduciary is a type of financial professional who commits—legally—to making decisions with your best interests in mind under fiduciary duty. This means the fiduciary will only recommend investments or other financial products that they believe are the right fit for your needs. In addition, fiduciaries must disclose potential conflicts of interest with their clients.

Is a fiduciary the same as a financial adviser? No, not always. While most fiduciaries work as financial advisers, not all financial advisers are fiduciaries. A financial adviser has to give advice that is “suitable,” or benefits you in some way, but they don’t have to do what they believe is in your best interest. Some financial advisers may factor in their company or commissions when giving you advice.

Tips for reaching long-term financial goals on time

What are long-term financial goals without a plan to reach them? These tips can help you stay on track to make your long-term goals a reality.

  • Make sure your goals are realistic and specific, which helps you stay motivated and track your progress.
  • Automate your savings to ensure you consistently contribute to your goals.
  • Regularly review your goals and adjust them as needed, such as increasing your retirement savings if you get a salary increase.
  • Diversify your investments across multiple accounts and asset classes to lower investment risk and maximize potential returns.
  • Avoid taking on unnecessary debt that could hinder your future plans, especially high-interest debts like credit cards.
  • Set micro goals throughout your long-term goal timeline to keep you on track and motivated.

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