Setting Goals for the Long Road Ahead


In a few short days, I will complete my big primary goal to fill my Emergency Fund to 100%.

I will, of course, post when it happens but with the end of that goal approaching, it has occurred to me that even though this is only one of three major and ongoing goals, there's something missing.

After much thinking, I believe that missing thing is the finite number attached to this goal. For some reason, without that number my mind starts to sort of go fuzzy. And knowing myself, that usually means a loss of interest which will mean the next goal goes up in smoke.

Maintaining That Hustle

This realization, along with a conversation I had with a friend of mine earlier today, got me to thinking about the reason why I have dropped the ball on some things in the past, despite promising starts.

Part of it definitely has to do with being too quick to share my early successes. It is easy for me to feel that sense of completion and fulfillment out of something without having actually seen the thing to completion. That's a problem.

Another part of it is that I often start things for the thrill of just starting. Starting new things does feel good. Even finishing them feels great. It's that boring middle ground where there are few successes to share and all the work to do in order to push a thing along.

That's where things often fall out of order.

Don't get me wrong -- I do finish many of the things I start, but those things are typically important to other people. It's the things I start on my own that get the least love. So I've spent some time contemplating why I'm putting other people before me when it hit me.

I put priority on completing things for other people because they demand progress. There's no one demanding progress from me for the stuff I want to do.

So the way I see it, I've got to trick myself into the same kind of accountability.

Setting Mini Goals

A thing I've often read about tackling big tasks or projects is that you should break them into smaller tasks. The same can be said for big goals. My next goal, for instance, is to start investing in general.

Could that goal be any more scary and vague? Probably not.

So the logical next thing to do is to break the menacing goal into little ones. For general investing, that's easier said than done. At least for me.

First of all, I have some questions to answer. Like where I'll invest, whether it's taxable and then how much in each.

Last month, I would have answered each of these questions differently. However, now that I have some rough seas ahead of me, things have changed. As a recap, my primary three goals are:

  • Fill my Emergency Fund to $50k

  • Fill my IRA to at least $5500 every year (diversified and rebalanced often)

  • Begin non tax-advantaged investing

So by July, goals one and two will have been completed actually. And for those of you who are paying close attention, you probably noticed I said "at least $5500," and that's because I have the current benefit of having a SEP IRA which allows me to contribute up to 25% of my income or $53,000, whichever is the lesser. However, not being an expert on tax law, I don't know how much longer I'll have the benefit of adding to that fund.

And there we have it. My first goal is to figure out when I have to stop contributing to my SEP IRA based on my transition from a self-employed freelancer into a salaried employee. And on top of that, I have to figure out whether I can even keep my SEP IRA or if I have to change it into some other investment vehicle.

Now, depending on the answer to that, I either have to stop putting money into my IRA immediately or I still have some time left to put up to about $45,000 into the account before I have to roll it into (most likely) a Roth IRA.

If I do have to stop, now I have the option to start a brokerage account or wait 90 days to begin investing in my 401k (with 5% matching, I might add).

At this point, my decision tree is getting a little bit complex. I could either plan for all of these scenarios or just get started on goal number one and, once I figure that out, establish the second mini goal.

I think I'll do just that.

Keep On Keeping On

For me, the most important thing is to keep moving and stay positive. Every step on this long journey counts, no matter if they were at a racing pace like they've been for the past year or at light jog, like they're about to be.

It's that forward movement that matters.

After all, it could be worse, right? There are so many positives in my life that, even when the wind gets knocked out of me, it's not hard for me to get back up knowing I have so much to be thankful for. I've got my family. We've all got our health. I'm still gainfully employed. I've got a new community of like-minded people that I love catching up with on a daily basis, who often do the same for me.

Life is good.

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