Help your kids set SMART financial goals

Canada Life - Nov 14, 2023
Using the SMART goal framework to set financial goals can help your kids set and achieve their goals
The mother is instructing her daughter on saving money, gesturing towards the laptop.

Unless they’re saving for something specific, your kids might struggle to see the point of saving their money instead of spending it right away. Teaching your kids how to set financial goals will help them understand the value of saving their money. It will also help them build important money management skills they can use later in life. 

What’s SMART goal setting? 

While there are plenty of ways to set goals, using the SMART goal framework helps kids think through all the steps of goal setting. A SMART goal is: 

  • Specific 
  • Measurable 
  • Attainable and action-oriented 
  • Realistic  
  • Time-bound 

Where to start 

Ask your kids to identify what’s most important to them and how that influences what they’d like to achieve. For instance, do they value having experiences, like going to a concert, more than having the trendiest fashion? Is there something big, like a school trip or new laptop, they want? What would they like to accomplish over the next six months, year or in the future?

Be sure to share your goals with your kids too. For example, if you’re planning a family vacation, talk to your kids about how you arrived at that goal and how you’re working towards it. Show them how you budget for a trip and the milestones you need to meet, like deposits for bookings or purchasing tickets in advance, along the way. 

Example of a SMART goal 

Let’s say your child says their goal is travel after they graduate high school. How would that translate into a SMART financial goal? 


Simply saying they want to save up for travel is too vague. Instead, your child should have a goal such as “I want to save $5000 for a backpacking trip across Europe.”  


Having a set amount of money to save is measurable. But your child could also set milestones for their goal, such as “At the end of this year, I want to have set aside 25% of what I need for my trip.” 

Attainable and action-oriented 

What can your child do to earn and save the money for their trip? Ask them to think about what steps they need to take. For example, they could get a part-time job to start earning money. They could ask relatives to add to their travel fund rather than giving them birthday gifts. As well, they could make a budget, not only for their travel, but for their day-to-day expenses to ensure they’re setting aside enough to reach their goal. 


Is your child’s goal realistic? Given how much money they’re able to earn and save, will they be able to put aside enough to fund their travel? Has your child considered all the expenses involved in their plan? Can they stick to their budget, or will it be too difficult? They may need to alter their plans to make their goal more achievable. They may even consider breaking their goal into smaller goals. 


Goals with no end date are very difficult to meet. You’ll just keep moving it down your priority list. Let’s say your child is fifteen years old when they decide they want to travel after graduation. This means they have two to three years to save for their trip. Setting a time limit for a goal will also help your child decide if it’s realistic, which steps they need to take and give them measurable milestones to meet. 

Next steps 

I have resources like a budget worksheet and a SMART goal worksheet you can use with your child. I’m also available to help you if you need support in starting the goal-setting conversation with your kids. Contact me today.