2019 Goals – March Check In And Evaluation Of My System

This year I set 12 goals that I could track numerically.  This means that I can track them by percentage complete.  The design of this is that I can track my success with real numbers.  Now that we’re a quarter of the way through the year, I’m seeing drawbacks and benefits.

Benefits of My Numeric Goal Tracking System

  • It’s definitely holding me accountable.
  • I’m keeping more interested on my goals.
  • I prioritize goals that are within reach when I have limited time or motivation.  For example, if I’m just a couple of thousand steps short of my ‘steps’ goal, I’ll go for a short walk or even take some laps around the house.  This is something I probably wouldn’t have done in the past.  I figure that will add up to a significant amount of steps for the entire year.  So, this definitely gives my system purpose.
  • Seeing the percentage complete is pretty cool.

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Aligning Actions And Goals To Drive Success

When you set goals for yourself, you are looking to improve something, right?  Chances are this is the case for most goals.  This can apply to personal goals, financial goals, or any type.  So why is it that so many goals fail?  Surely we have good intentions.  I believe that it’s because we don’t back those goals with actions.  If you spend time aligning actions and goals, I’m convinced you’ll be more successful at reaching said goals.

The Importance Of Goals

I think that having goals is the key to a productive life.  Goals are important in many key areas of your life.

  • Work
  • Home
  • Relationships
  • Family
  • Money

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2019 Goals – February Check In

For 2019,  I set twelve goals that I could track.  This year I set goals that were numbers based.   I can track their completion, and see how I’m trending throughout the year.  With two months in the books, I am happy to say that I’m sticking with my goals.  I’m pretty excited about the progress I’m making.  I know I won’t hit every goal, but it won’t be for a lack of trying.

I think it’s important to hold myself accountable for goals, so here is my monthly check-in.

goal journey

February Around Our Household

  • Snow Days, Snow Days, and More Snow Days.  Our kids school district cancelled school all the time, it seemed.  We had snow.  There was the polar vortex.  Plus, we had ice.  It seemed like they were home more than they were at school.
  • Mini-Vacation.  On top of all the snow days, the kids had their mid-winter break.  We continued our tradition of going to the Great Wolf Lodge water park.  You can read about our experience here.

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2019 Goals – January Check In

This year I set twelve goals that I could track numerically.  Each goal is pretty cut and dry.  I’ll either hit it or I won’t.  Now that January is wrapped up, here is my update for the months.

climb to your goals

January Highlights

  • Sick.  I got a pretty nasty cold that kept me slowed down a bit.  I pushed through it and didn’t miss any work.  Truthfully, I probably should have slowed down physically a bit more than I did.  But, I made it through.
  • Weather.  The weather in Michigan has been pretty crazy.  The first 10 days or so of the month were way above average.  Then, we got stuck with a cold snap.  We had a pretty decent snowfall earlier this week, and we’re now seeing a cold snap on top of the cold snap.  This is bringing record breaking low temperatures.
  • Kids.  My son started basketball practice.  He also placed 5th (out of 19) in his Cub Scout Pack’s Pinewood Derby.  My daughter continued her dance lessons and sold over 100 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies!

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2012 Financial Goals

2012 is here and it’s time to look at our financial goals for the year.

In order of how I have things tracked on our balance sheet:

  1. A modest increase in our home value – I would be happy if our home value increased by 1% over the current value.  Last year was the first year in many that we actually had an uptick in the noted value, so it would be nice to see that continue.
  2. A modest decrease in the value of our automobiles – I’ve budgeted a 13% decrease in the value of our automobiles (and RV)  We have a 2007 Buick Rainier, a 2006 Pontiac G6 and a 2004 Jayco Feather camper.  I use Kelley Blue Book for the car values and I’ve decided to do a straight-line depreciation for the camper.
  3. A 25-30% growth in our investment account – I am bullish on some of the stocks I own.  If even one or two can break out, this could lead to out performance of the market, which would be nice since our holdings under performed the market in 2011.
  4. A 15% increase in our cash holdings – We took a hit in our cash savings when we bought the camper.  This increase would bring us back to where we were, and increase our earmarked allocation for some of the savings goals we have (like a new roof in 2013-14)
  5. A 15-20% increase in our retirement balance – Regular contributions plus a nonimal gain the stock market would allow us to reach this goal.  If the market has a down or flat year, we could potentially miss this goal.
  6. A 5-6% decrease in our mortgage balance.  Regular payments would allow us to make this goal.  Now that we have re-financed into a 3.375% 15-year loan, we are comfortable with making the minimum payments for now, choosing to put extra into cash, investment, or retirement funding.
  7. A 11-12% decrease in our student loan balance – Again, minimum payments will allow us to meet this goal.  With a locked in rate of under 2.5%, and a monthly payment under $100, we are OK with not paying extra on this for now.
  8. An overall net worth increase of 22%.  All of these things together would add up to a 22% increase in net worth value for the year.  We only achieved 10% in 2011, which is pretty good, but below the growth I want to see.

Hopefully market, job, and other conditions go our way to allow us to reach our goals in 2012.  Exceeding them would be even better!

What are your goals for the new year financially?

How Book Endings Are Like Personal Finance Goals

I read a lot of books.  Reading fiction has always been one of my favorite pastimes, both as a kid and now as an adult.  Few things are more relaxing than settling into a good book.

But, as I’ve read more and more books, I’ve realized something.  When I start reading a book, I can usually judge partway through whether it’s good, great, or not worth continuing.  Out of all the books I start reading, very few fall into the ‘Great’ category.  I don’t keep statistics, but say 5%.

That judgment, as I said before, is usually made about halfway through.  But, by the end of the book, that percentage is usually much lower.  By the time I’m done with book, most fall back into the ‘Good’ category.  What knocks them down?

The endings.

For some reason, authors have the hardest time finishing the books.  I was reading a book recently, The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, and I was so engrossed during the first and second half that I was ready to proclaim it one of the best books I’d ever read.  But, alas, by the time I was done, it had fallen off.  I certainly enjoyed it and I would recommend it to anybody, but the ending for me kind of fell apart.

As it often does.

I asked myself why?  I think it’s because, just like when we establish a personal finance goal, we concentrate on the parts leading up to the ending.  An author that comes up with a story can come up with the characters and the problems that make the story interesting.  A lot of thought and effort comes into developing those things, and many halfway great books show the diligence that the author put into them.  But, actually solving the problem is another issue.  I think many times the author has a general idea of how they expect to get the characters stories wrapped up, but forget to put as much time into that part of the story, so many endings feel forced.

In the case of the book above, things seemed rushed.  Several characters did things in the ending that did not match anything they had done in the book.  It just didn’t match.  It was still enjoyable, but not up to the same level as the earlier parts of the book.

I think many of us often fall into the same trap when it comes to personal finance goals.  We set goals to change a behavior.  Either to get out of a bad behavior (e.g. continuing to accumulate debt) or to encourage good behavior (e.g. saving for a house).

Relating that to the book analogy, we are the characters and we identify the situation that we want solved.  But, we don’t spend enough time on the ending.

We say, “I want to get out of debt.”  But, what’s the ending?  Even if we get out of debt, what happens next?  Do we do that so that we can get back into debt again?  So we can retire?  The good goal-setter will say they want to get out of debt and will tell you how they plan on doing so.  The great goal-setter will spend as much time developing what they do after the goal is set as they do on the goal itself.

What’s your personal finance ‘story’?  Are you writing a great one that will fade to good at some point or are you going to  make sure that it’s great, cover to cover?