Regardless of the misconceptions, setting financial goals is an essential part of each individual’s life (whether they know it or not). Financial planning is important and helpful for people in all stages of life. In fact, the sooner one begins understanding their finances and setting goals, the sooner they are to become financially independent.

Although the meaning of financial independence for each person may vary, there are ways that people from all backgrounds can ensure their financial goals become reality. Use these tips to set your personal finance goals.

Find inspiration. As with all things in life, it is easier to follow through with things if you understand why you are doing it and what you expect from it. Finding inspiration and setting goals through that helps create perspective and helps to encourage individuals to stick with it.

Examine the situation. After reflecting on your life and circumstances you may have found that you have many goals or some you can’t put into words, and that is okay. Take a break from your goals and look at your reality: what is your income vs. expenses; what and how is your current budget; what does tax time look like for your bank account; what is your credit score? Honestly answering these questions helps determine an individual’s financial health.

By understanding your financial health, you can prioritize goals that are easily achievable, while also examining the areas that need improvement to reach longer-term goals.

Think SMART: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound. With your inspiration in mind and your financial health determined, it is time to begin determining goals and the steps you’ll need to take to reach them.

For example, let’s say you’ve decided you want a new car, use the SMART tips to help you plan out your road to success. First, you need to make your goal Specific. What kind of car do you want? Do you want new or used? How much do you plan to put down? When do you want to purchase the car? As you answer each question, remember to keep your plans Measurable (how much money should you save per week), Achievable (don’t plan to save more money than you make each week), realistic (don’t plan and save for a corvette if your financial health is poor), and time-bound (saving up takes time – don’t underestimate that).

Write it down. The best way to hold yourself accountable for these goals is to write them down in a clear and organized way. Each week, track your progress for added motivation.

Treat yourself. This is one of the best parts of setting and writing down goals. The only thing that beats rewarding your progress is accomplishing the goal; until then, pat yourself on the back and appreciate the work you’ve already put in.