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That 'Unreachable' Financial Goal? Totally Reachable

You might not make it to millionaire level, but the truth is that many financial goals are totally within reach with the right plan. You've probably heard tales about a couple who lived in a small, tidy home, drove a modest vehicle, and pinched pennies until they ultimately retired as wealthy folks. You can do that, too.

Unreachable goals are sometimes only out of your grasp for lack of a plan. But when you step back, assess what you've got and where you want to be, that's when everything comes into focus. You might be surprised to learn that those dreams can become reality, and all it takes is finding the right path.

Here are 3 tips to get you started:

Make a Rough List of Financial Goals

No two families have identical goals. Your neighbors might be saving to retire by age 55, travel extensively, and send the kids to college debt free. You might be more interested in paying off your home quickly, living modestly, and never financing anything again. Your goals will reflect your ideas of financial security, and those ideas vary.

Start on your path to reaching what seems unattainable by listing all of your goals. You need to do this, whether or not you already have a good idea of what you want. Unless, of course, you have one singular goal, most people have a few with varying degrees of importance.

Assign a Priority to Each Goal

Without winning the lottery or taking on a second or third job, income doesn't change just because you have new goals. Prioritizing all of your goals helps you direct the right amount of money to each of them, including the one that seems so out of reach. CNN Money says there's a way to resolve financial conflicts between goals, which helps you find the money in your existing budget. That's where your list comes in handy.

If you're saving to send the kids to college without any debt, and your unattainable goal is paying off your home, you might be surprised by the idea of placing a lower priority on college. Between the two, your contributions are the only way your home will be paid off sooner than its 15-, 20-, or 30-year note. Your kids can take out student loans. Although not ideal, they will have another option -- you don't.

Consider each of your goals carefully to determine which options you have for each. Tackle the biggest ones first. Your unattainable goal might not have the highest priority, but chances are you can rearrange your current budget to direct money there.

Take the First Steps to Get There

Your unattainable goal will have a different "best way" to get there, depending on what it is. A common goal is getting rid of all unsecured debt, such as credit cards.

Here's a stunner: According to the Bankrate interest calculator, if you've got a credit card with a $2,000 balance, 10% interest, and minimum payments are interest plus 1% of the balance, it will take over 13 years to pay it off. You'll also pay back $3,500 instead of the original $2,000. And that's only if you never use that card again after deciding to pay it off.

But if your unattainable goal is to save a very large sum of money, you'll probably need a different plan. That's where careful investing can help. You can stash away money each month in a traditional savings account, but the returns will be minimal. The longer you have to save, the more risk you can take.

Saving for retirement with plenty of years ahead means you can stash money in an IRA and 401K, and take some risk with the potential for much higher returns in stocks.

Paying off your home early takes another approach. Like with unsecured debt, you'll ultimately pay much more than the original price of the house. Paying more than your monthly payment each month attacks the principal, which is what you want it to do. Just be sure to notify the lender to apply overages to the principal, or they might apply it toward next month's payment. Also be sure there's no prepay penalty, cautions MSN Money. Refinancing for a shorter term is another option.

Unattainable goals don't have to be, even on a modest income. There's no magic formula for reaching a goal, since the best approach varies depending on what you want to achieve. But once you know what you want to do, finding the best path is easier.

Mint.com can help you achieve things you never thought you could. It's all about having a plan and sticking to it, and that's what Mint does best.

Your goals aren't the same as anyone else's, and they don't have to be. The key is identifying what you want, setting priorities, and making a plan. Mint.com lets you rearrange your budget to accommodate new goals any time you want, and you can see real-time progress daily.

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