Americans have mixed emotions around financial planning, a new study suggests. But setting specific goals can help you achieve the financial outcomes you want. Forty-eight percent of individuals with specific financial goals say they expect to be in a much better place in the next four years, versus only 12 percent of those without goals.

The study, “2017 Financial Focus: Goals and Reflections of Today’s Consumer,” conducted by Lincoln Financial Group, found that while Americans have a desire to retire comfortably and support loved ones, there is a fear factor involved in actually saving for these financial needs. Staying grounded and focused is a good first step, say experts.

“Those individuals who are progressing with their goals are first and foremost working to ensure they have a solid foundation to build upon,” said Dick Mucci, President of Group Benefits at Lincoln Financial Group. “While it might not be exciting, putting extra money toward things like debt, savings or insurance coverage certainly pays off in the long run, particularly if something unexpected happens.”

The study also looked at progress in achieving New Year’s Resolutions — and 72 percent of Americans are doing pretty well. Those who say they are progressing with their 2017 resolutions in some way are those who are most likely to leverage financial products, such as retirement plans, life insurance and investment accounts. This group also tends to make reducing debt a priority and avoids sacrificing savings when money is tight — instead they sacrifice the extras, such as vacations.

Here are some effective goal-setting strategies to help you plan for your financial future.

• Be specific. When you make vague goals, it can be difficult to measure progress. When goal-setting, get as specific as possible, both with the goals themselves and the steps you will take to succeed.

• Prioritize your goals. Once you set a goal, make it the last thing you compromise in your budget, whether that is paying down debt, saving for a rainy day or retirement planning. Money tight this month? Skip a luxury item that’s not working toward your goals.

• Take a breath. Thinking about your financial situation and potential circumstances that could arise can be emotional. But taking practical steps to improve your situation can offer peace of mind as you face the future. “Putting the right financial plans and protections in place can help alleviate some financial fears,” says Mucci. “An employer-sponsored retirement plan is a great place to build savings, and insurance coverages offered through the workplace can help protect against the financial challenges that could come with an unexpected injury or illness.”

More financial planning tips and information can be found at LincolnFinancial.com.

By setting attainable goals that you can realistically meet, you can get a handle on your finances and better plan for the future.

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