Future Dreams

While jogging with my wife a few days ago, we had a conversation that we haven’t had in years. We discussed our dreams.

It’s an important conversation for couples to have. What are your hopes? What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in 10 years? In 20? In 50? Planning for the future gives you a map for the present.

My wife and I hadn’t had this conversation in years. A few days ago, we did. Our life-goals are simple and achievable.

I want to leave the corporate world and support my family with writing and the training classes I do. I want a chunk of land outside of any major metropolitan area, but close enough for the entertainment and shopping. I want enough land to expand my classes on my own property, relying on no one.

My wife wants enough land to have some horses. It was unspoken, but I think she wants my goals to take off so they can support her goals, too.

We want a comfortable retirement and we want to help the kids with college.

We’re a bit behind the game for college funding. That’s ok, though. There is nothing wrong with a kid working his way through college and learning those life lessons.

We are also behind on the retirement. But, if I can support us doing the things I love, I don’t need $X million. Retirement isn’t a cessation of activity, it is taking the time to do the things you love on your own schedule. If writing a book while sitting on my private range is enough to fund our life, that’s the perfect retirement.

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How to Have a Perfect Life

A few years ago, my wife and I were discussing life improvement, the options in front of us, and our future goals. She said she felt trapped by the scope of our goals and didn’t know where to start. That led to a discussion on

goal

goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

achieving our goals, which led to this.

Examine your life. Take stock of every aspect of your life. What pleases you? What upsets you? What do you do that adds no value to your life?  Or worse, removes value?  What do you do that adds the most value? What would you like to change? Eliminate? Improve? Count the small things. Nothing is insignificant. Write it all down and be specific.

Analyze your list. Are there any obvious patterns? Is there a single thread that is making you miserable or affecting multiple other items? Would eliminating 1 factor improve 90% of the rest? Is there a bad job or a toxic relationship ruining your happiness? Be honest and be critical.

What are your dreams? Where would you like to be in six months? A year? 5? 10? How would you like to retire? When? Write it all down. This is now your life plan.

Set goals. Set concrete, definable goals. Set goals that have an obvious success point. When you reach your goal, you want to be able to point it out. “Lose weight” is not a goal. “Lose 50 pounds in the next year” is a measurable, definable, concrete goal. Set incremental goals to reach your larger goals and, more importantly, your dreams.

Here’s an example:

Dream: Retire at 50.

  • Incremental Goal: Get a 10% raise within 6 months
  • Incremental Goal: Eliminate debt within 3 years
  • Incremental Goal: Max out 401k contribution
  • Incremental goal: Save 150,000 within 10 years
  • Incremental Goal: Save 45k each year after that.
  • Retire

When you are setting up your goal plan, make sure to include the analyzed items mentioned earlier. These are the things that will make today happier for you.

Now, you have examined your life. You have analyzed the results. You’ve gathered your dreams and compiled a goal plan based on your hopes, dreams, goals and desires. What’s next?

We’re going to take a page from David Allen. It’s time to Get Things Done. What do you have to do next to reach your goals? What is the next step? Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the scope of the entire list. Select one single item from your plan and look for the one single next step to make on the path to that goal.

Going back to the retirement goal plan, the next step towards a 10% raise could be researching salaries for your job description in your area to give you ammunition in the meeting with your boss. It could be updating your resume to hunt for a better paying job, or even just studying up on some resume tips.

If you want to run a marathon next year, the next step is to start walking every day to train your body.

If you want to improve communication with your spouse, the next step is probably to let her know.

If you want to eliminate debt, the next step may be setting up a budget or canceling unnecessary services like cable.

Every goal has a path leading to it. If that’s not true, you haven’t defined a concrete measurable goal.

Examine your life. Analyze your situation. Know WHAT you want. Know what you want to change. Set goals to get there, one step at a time. Take a single step towards your goals.

Then take another.

What are you doing to reach your goals and improve your life?

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5 Reasons to Quit Saving and Start Living

paycheck
Image by owaief89 via Flickr

Life is all about trade-offs.  You trade your time for a paycheck.  Your trade your paycheck for food, rent, and security.  Don’t get so obsessed with saving and security that you forget to live your life.   There are many good reasons to put your savings on hold in order to really live.  Here are five of them:

1.  You have an adequate emergency fund. You will never hear me advise against an emergency fund.  If you don’t have one, stop reading this and get one.  Go.   Without an emergency fund, your budget is a financial crisis waiting to happen.  With an emergency fund, you can weather life’s speed-bumps without watching them become total train-wrecks.

2.  Your retirement is on autopilot. You are not allowed to stop saving and investing for retirement.  Ever.  Assuming you have a traditionally scheduled career that involves you working until you hit 65 and deferring a huge chunk of living until then, your income will cease when you retire.  Do you know how long you will live?  Do you want to spend your retirement broke and bored?  Are you relying on the responsible financial management of the federal government to make sure you will still get your Social Security?  Invest in your retirement and get this investment on autopilot so you can stop worrying about it.

3.  Your income is set. I don’t believe in the fairy tale of a company being loyal to its employees.  The aren’t.  However, if you have a stable-ish job, an in-demand career, and some side-income coming from alternate sources, your emergency fund can be enough to carry you through the low times.  That’s what it’s there for.

4.  You have dreams. If you’ve always wanted to travel the world, follow a band on your, volunteer extensively, or anything else, it’s time to do it.  Don’t postpone your passion.

5.   Deathbed regrets suck. Very few people lie on their deathbed lamenting the things they did.  Regrets tend to be focused on opportunities missed, skipped, or indefinitely postponed.  Do the things that are important to you before it’s too late to do them.  Don’t abandon your future in favor of current pleasures, but don’t forget to live, now.

Do you have any other reasons to stop saving?

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Living the High Life

This post is part of the Yakezie Blog swap. I have swapped this week with Eric at Narrow Bridge Finance. This is a post from Eric discussing the theme: What Motivates You to be Financially Responsible?  Please take a moment to read my post, Monsters, at Eric’s site.

High Life

High Life

Unlike my blogger buddy Jason here at LiveRealNow, I have no family. Quite the opposite in fact, I am loving the single guy life. I don’t have much debt. I love going to the bars and partying on the weekends. I have a good job. I have relatively low expenses. Things are good.

So what is my motivation to be financially responsible? It is two-fold. First, I want to be able to keep doing whatever I want whenever I want without worrying about money. Second, I do want to settle down someday in the not too distant future and make sure I have a good foundation to start the next chapter of my life.

I Want to Do Whatever I Want Whenever I Want

Is that selfish? Probably. But who cares? I don’t have kids, I don’t have a wife. I don’t even have a girlfriend at the moment. I do make an effort to donate to local organizations I believe in and I am happy to have friends over for a pre-game and buy a round of drinks, but that is as far as my obligation to others goes.

Doing whatever I want is not always cheap. I like going to concerts. I enjoy nightclubs. I love traveling and exploring new places. $80 tickets, a $15 cover plus drinks, and a $500 trip are fairly common occurrences in my life.

As you know, money doesn’t grow on trees. I have to work hard to pay for the things I want and the experiences I have. I am totally okay with that. But I have to plan now to be able to do what I want later.

I live in a modest and inexpensive apartment. I try to keep my food budget low. I bought a small car that would be reliable, low maintenance, and fuel efficient.

By cutting out wasteful spending and thinking before I spend, I am able to do pretty much whatever I want. If you have the same goal, dive into the depths of your budget. Dig in deep and see where you are spending money. Not to be cliché, but the ‘latte factor’ is a big deal. Those stops at Starbucks, afternoon snacks, energy drinks, cable bills, and other cash drains might not be worth it. If you don’t really, really enjoy it and get pleasure from it, why would you spend money on it?

My Future – Family, Travel, and Early Retirement

I am 26. I am at that point where I am going on a lot of dates. I am meeting a lot of great girls. One of these days, probably when I least expect it, I will fall madly in love and get married. You know the story.

My short term dream is a life of travel and urban living. My long term dream is to get married to a hot Jewish girl (I am Jewish, so it makes sense to “keep it in the tribe”) and have two or three kids. Once kids are in the picture, we move out from the urban fun areas and settle down in the burbs.

But just because I will give up the party life does not mean I have to give up my passions. I want to show my kids the world, give them amazing life experiences, and help them grow to hopefully be even more awesome than me, which is a hard bar to beat.

To do all of that and reach financial freedom, I have to set my goals and work to achieve them. (In case you were wondering, Jason recently wrote a great post on financial goal setting. If you have not read it yet, you really should.)

To get there, I am already working on saving and investing. I am contributing over 10% of my gross income at work to my retirement plans. I am working hard to pay down my student loans and save up a down payment fund. I am planning ahead and saving for my future goals.

How to Reach Your Goals

You probably have financial and life goals too. What are you doing to get there?

We can always tell people about our dreams. However, unlike when you are two years old and dream of being an astronaut police officer that lives in a toy store with an ice cream machine and a McDonald’s in it, your dreams today can be a reality.

With few exceptions, every person can reach their goals. Do you want to retire at 40? Take steps to save and create residual income streams. Do you want to travel in space? Save up to buy a ticket on Virgin Galactic. Do you not have enough money? Diversify your income streams and make more. Do you feel chained down by your traditional desk job that you hate? Start a business and transition to self employment.

Yes, it is easier said than done. But you will never reach your goals unless you take solid steps to get there. Don’t just dream it, live it.

Please take a moment to head over to Eric’s site, Narrow Bridge Finance.   While you’re there, be sure to subscribe.  You don’t want to miss his posts.

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