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Whether you’re planning for a short-term goal (e.g., emergency fund, home project) or a long-term goal (retirement), planning can help you succeed. 

Step One: Make SMART Goals

A SMART goal can help you make a plan you can achieve. It can help you focus on what it will take to reach your goal and make a plan that’s doable. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. So, whether you’re saving for a new phone or a down payment on a house, make your goal specific, set a deadline, decide what it will take to reach it and then make sure it’s realistic. Here’s an example of how it works:

  • Specific: Let’s say you want to save for a future trip. You figure out you’ll need to save $1,200. Your specific goal is to save $1,200.
  • Measurable: If you want to take the trip a year from now, you may decide to save about $100 a month for 12 months.
  • Attainable: Is $100 a month realistic for you? Do you have room in your budget? If not, maybe you can put off the trip a little and save $80 a month for 15 months.
  • Relevant: Now it’s time to think about how saving for this trip will impact your other goals. Is this trip worth saving and spending $1,200? The idea is not to make your whole life about this one goal, without any room for anything else.
  • Timely: Since you’ll probably need the money well before the day you leave, set a deadline for when you’ll have all the money together. Plan for when you’ll check your progress to make sure you’re on track. For example, if you’re working on a 12-month plan, you may check your progress every 3 months to see how things stand. Are you on track, ahead or behind?

Step Two: Find Ways to Make Small Changes

The next step in your plan should be to look at how much you can afford to save and if there are expenses you might be able to cut. If you make small changes gradually, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan. Here are some thoughts.

  • Are there subscriptions or streaming services you don’t use or don’t use often?
  • Could you eat out less often?
  • Are there less expensive alternatives?
  • Can you ask insurers, services (like internet or phone providers) or others for a discount or a reduced plan?

Keep in mind, cutting back on certain expenses doesn’t have to be forever—you can choose some for a temporary break.

If keeping track of all the subscriptions is a challenge, Navy Federal’s Card on File tool makes it easy to manage your card information all in one place. You'll be able to see at a glance which payments you might be able to cut.

Step Three: Separate and Automate Your Savings

It can be easier to see your progress if you set up two accounts (a checking account for regular bills like rent, student loans and car payments and another account for what’s left over). Navy Federal has accounts and tools tailored to help you meet your goals.

Then, name your accounts (e.g., “Bills” and “Vacation”). The reason behind this is so you’ll be less tempted to use the money for other things or accidentally mix up the funds. It’s also a good reminder about why you’re saving. At Navy Federal, it’s easy to set up more than one account. Just sign in to our mobile app* or online banking.

Once you’ve reviewed your budget and decided what you can afford to save, consider setting up an automatic transfer. You’ll only have to do it once and then your savings will grow—automatically.

Step Four: Earn More on Your Money

If you’re looking at short-term savings goals (e.g., a dream vacation), you might want to consider putting your money in a certificate account. In general, certificates typically earn higher dividends than regular savings accounts, so you may reach your goal even sooner than you expected.

Is one of your long-term goals to start saving for retirement? Consider opening an IRA. They’re easy to open, and you may enjoy tax benefits not available with other types of savings accounts.

Want help in planning for retirement and choosing an account that’s right for you? You can schedule a no-cost call with one of our professional financial advisors by calling 1-877-221-8108 or checking our advisor locator page to find one in your area.

Start Saving for Your Goals—Today!

The best time to start building your future is now. Navy Federal offers a number of options that can help you earn more on your money. Saving for a short-term goal? You can open an EasyStartSM Certificate with as little as $50. Want to make sure you’ll have what you need when you retire? We offer more than one plan.


This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.