Perhaps those investors assume that the key to investing success is getting the inside scoop on what’s likely to outperform the rest. And whom better to ask than the head of the company?

In fact, as Mr. McNabb often tells these clients, the first step in achieving investment success is to ask yourself a question that only you can answer: What am I trying to accomplish?

You have to know your goal (or goals) before you can begin to weigh decisions about stocks versus bonds, index funds versus active funds, and which specific funds to choose. With the start of the new year, this is a perfect time to reexamine your investment goals and evaluate whether your portfolio is on the right track.

Investing for multiple goals

Most investors have more than one goal. The biggest and longest-term goal usually is saving for retirement—or managing retirement income if you’re already retired. Other goals may include investing savings for college expenses, building and maintaining an emergency fund, or putting away money toward a wedding, a dream vacation, or a new house.

You’ll want to make sure you’ve set priorities wisely. For most people, saving for retirement would probably come first. The second priority would be to pay off any high-interest debt such as credit card debt, and the third would be to establish an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses. Beyond that, you would address additional financial goals.

As you evaluate your portfolio, revisit each goal to ensure that you are saving enough money and investing appropriately. The time frame is a critical consideration. For example, if your goal is a year away, the savings should be invested conservatively—in a money market fund, say, rather than a riskier stock fund.

Getting advice and guidance

Vanguard can help you with goal-setting and planning, whether you are a do-it-yourselfer who just wants some online guidance or a person who’d like to partner with our expert financial advisors. To explore the options, go to Advice & Guidance on vanguard.com.