The pros and cons of sharing your money goals

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After Matthew Robinson heard about Linkagoal, a social networking site for people who want to share their goals, he decided to join. He posted that he wanted to start a clothing brand, and soon afterward, heard from a friend on the site​ who said he could help him with that. He began sharing more goals, from taking his dad to a San Francisco Giants game to getting an A on a final exam, and felt motivated by the encouragement from others on the platform.

"I feel like it helps create more ambitious people by giving them something to write their goals down on," says the 23-year-old San Jose, California-based​ college student. Writing down goals also helps him stay focused on them, he adds, and he'll often log into the platform to review what he's written down.

Robinson's results reflect findings by academics on goal-setting and achieving. "Research has consistently shown that making public statements about your goals is an excellent 'commitment strategy,'" says Christine Whelan,​ a consumer science faculty member and director of the Money, Relationship and Equality initiative at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Human Ecology. In other words, she says, people are more likely to follow through on something if they tell others about their intentions.

Social media platforms can help people reach like-minded users and share progress toward goals. "If you can team up with others who are facing similar challenges, next steps or financial goals, they can be the biggest help," Whelan says. To find a group that offers support, she suggests starting a private Facebook group with a few friends. You could invite your larger network through a public post like "Who wants to join me in paying off $1,000 worth of credit card debt in the next three months?" she says.

Financial goals, such as saving $1 million​ or paying off credit card debt, are popular on Linkagoal. Users can also add smaller steps below each goal to help them break down what they need to do. ​"Our mission is to improve people's lives across the globe by having them achieve their goals," says founder and CEO Mohsin Shafique​. Since launching last year, Linkagoal has accumulated 875,000 users and recently became available in app form. Like Twitter, you can follow others using the app or Web-based platform, and they can follow you.​ Shafique's Linkagoal profile is filled with 44​ goals ranging from learning code to meeting up with school friends, and he says the support of other users has helped him achieve many of those goals, including quitting smoking.

"Most of us try to go solo and don't know where to start," Shafique says. Social networking can help people form supportive connections around topics of mutual interest and figure out the next steps they need to take to meet their goals, he adds. A Linkagoal survey of 1,171 U.S. adults earlier this year found that 3 in 4 people who set goals in the previous year failed to meet them. One reason was they didn't know where to start; a bigger reason was a lack of motivation.

Paula Pant,​ contributor to the U.S. News Frugal Shopper blog and founder of AffordAnything.com, says she often shares her money goals online through her blog or social media accounts. "When I publicly commit to a goal, I know that I'll face the embarrassment that comes from not sticking to what I stated – and that knowledge forces me to stick to my original goal," she says.

A few years ago, after Pant and her partner decided to live on one income and invest the other, she wrote about their plans on her blog and followed up with frequent updates. After a few people left comments suggesting there was no way she could reach her goal, she felt extra motivated to follow through with it. "It felt great to prove them wrong," she says.

Still, social media and goal-setting experts urge people to show some measure of restraint when sharing personal ambitions with strangers online. "Use a 'gut check,'" Pant suggests. "If you feel queasy about your best friend or neighbor knowing some fact about you, then don't reveal it online. I have no problem detailing my investment returns or revealing how much my home and car cost, but I'm never going to admit my weight."

Pant is also careful to avoid revealing her home address, mother's maiden name and last four digits of her Social Security number online. She suggests that anyone concerned about identity theft should remove their date of birth from their Facebook profile as well.

Shafique has built in some privacy measures to the Linkagoal platform by offering the option to keep goals private or shared only among a small group of friends. "The platform understands that there are some personal things you don't want to share, but you still want to write it down," he says.

For users who share their goals publicly using their full names, their Linkagoal accounts can come up for anyone who runs a Web search on their name – something hiring managers are likely to do. When Robinson graduates and starts job hunting, his future boss might learn about his ambition for saving money and getting good grades. As long as he's posting professional goals that aren't embarrassing, his public profile probably doesn't pose much of a risk. If he changes his mind, though, he can always opt for greater degree of privacy.

Whelan suggests that before anyone sets a goal, they ask themselves why they want to achieve it. "Beginning with your larger purpose helps keep you on track for success and makes accomplishing the goal more meaningful," she says. "For a financial goal, what does it mean to you to pay off your debts? ... Those bigger purpose-based questions are what will keep you going as you work toward your goal."

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report


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