SMART Saving Goals For 2023

What are SMART goals?

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. This strategy can be used for virtually any type of goal but is also relevant when outlining your savings goals. By following the SMART formula, you can save more and take control of your money.

Define the parameters you have in mind, advises, with attainable objectives in a certain time frame. This approach eliminates generalities and guesswork, sets a clear timeline, and makes it easier to track progress and identify missed milestones.

Using this philosophy, the framework for a SMART goal for saving might be:

My goal is to [quantifiable objective] by [timeframe or deadline]. I will accomplish this goal by [what steps you’ll take to achieve the goal]. Accomplishing this goal will [result or benefit].

Consider your needs and then specify your goal, such as:

My goal is to save $1,200 in 12 monthsby December 31, 2023. I will accomplish this goal by having $100 deposited electronically into my Share Account each month. Accomplishing this goal will give me a safety net for emergencies.


My goal is to save $600 by July 1, 2023. I will accomplish this goal by depositing $50 into a Vacation Account bi-weekly. Accomplishing this goal will enable me to take a summer vacation.

Carving Out Your Nest Egg

Once you’ve determined your SMART savings goals, it’s time to get started. And in today’s rising rate environment, our Savings, Certificates, and Money Market rates are all on the upswing. These products offer strong earnings, are federally insured (with no risk), and can be leveraged in several ways.

Points to consider:

  • Establish how much you can save. Consider an amount you can realistically set aside. Even if you have only a modest amount, don’t get disheartened. Many of our savings and CD products offer moderate opening deposits. Set up direct deposit into a share account, even if you’re starting at ground zero. Again, start with manageable goals and ensure you can live without the funds.


  • Determine your goals. This impacts the length of time you can commit your money. For example, a Vacation or Christmas Club are perfect short-term (but consistent) ways to save. Another short-term option is a Money Market Account, which offers accessibility but higher earnings. This account is perfect when saving for a home. Longer-term options, like Certificates of Deposit, are appropriate for long-range plans, like saving for college or retirement.


  • Select a product and term. Once plans are clarified, decide how and when to access the funds. The word “term” typically refers to the length of time for your investment, often in a Certificate of Deposit.


  • Evaluate features. These include rate, term, whether the product is insured, and accessibility to funds (sometimes referred to as “liquidity”). Think about federally insured options (for credit unions, it’s the NCUA) that protect your investment without the risk of loss.


  • Strive for higher earnings. Remember, the longer the term and larger the investment, the higher rate you’ll usually earn.

Investment choices:

  • Certificates of Deposit (CDs) – It’s a solid option that enables you to earn more than a regular savings or money market account. With a CD, you agree to commit your funds for a set period at a fixed rate; terms typically range from 6 to 60 months. You can withdraw your money or roll it into another CD when the period ends. If you need to access your money before the term is done, you are subject to early withdrawal penalties, impacting earnings.


  • Add-On CDs – These have a shorter term, 18 to 24 months, and allow you to add increments to your original deposit. You may prefer this option if you expect to have more money to invest or want to use this as a systematic savings plan.


  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) – Often structured like a CD, an IRA is perfect for your retirement nest egg. Once your term is complete, you’ll need to roll your IRA funds into another IRA. Withdrawals can start without penalty at age 59½.


  • Money Market Accounts – The account offers the perfect combination of higher earnings and the ability to withdraw cash. Money market accounts require a higher minimum balance than a Share Savings Account but give you the flexibility to make withdrawals.

Understanding APR vs. APY

No matter the product you choose, your deposit will earn an APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and APY (Annual Percentage Yield). It’s wise to compare the account’s APY, the amount you can expect to earn on your funds, with the compounding of interest. Early withdrawal penalties will affect earnings, so be sure you can commit the funds before locking in.

Always read the fine print; if unsure, please ask questions. At First United CU, we’re ready to assist!