Big arrows pointing up

Revisiting Our Goals for 2017

Goals serve two primary functions: They act as maps, saying something about where we want to end up at a particular point in time. And, more importantly, they give us the required information to create our itineraries and evaluate our progress compared to the plan as we go along.

While setting objectively good goals is important, creating goals only to see if you reached them at the specified time is akin to travelling blindfolded. Sure, it is possible to end up where you want to go, but it is much harder than it would if you just removed the blindfold. And when it comes to our personal goals, we rid ourselves of the blindfold by regularly measuring how we are progressing compared to the plan.

As we are heading into the Easter weekend, I find it is a perfect time to take advantage of the peace and quiet that usually accompanies the holidays to reflect on how I am doing so far concerning my goals for the year. It is barely a couple of weeks since we closed the door on the first quarter of the year, and I find evaluating your progress quarterly a fine way of balancing the lackadaisical forgetfulness of my personal goals even existing against the compulsive thinking about them far too often.

In the post Better Goals for A Better Year I outlined my personal goals for 2017, and I will go through them one by one, and share my thoughts on how I have been progressing through the first quarter of the year.

Personal

Read at least 20 books from cover to cover: I barely read at all through January and February, but thankfully I was able to get back into the habit in March. According to Goodreads I am more or less on track to meet my goal after completing five books so far.

Write at least 50 posts for Abovare: I published ten new articles in the first quarter of 2017, putting me on track to publish only 40 posts throughout the year. Here, I am quite clearly lagging behind if I still aim to reach my goal. Given that I want to spend more time marketing and promoting the site over the summer, as well as exploring other ideas for the site in addition to just content production, I need to act. I will be using the next couple of months to build a reserve of finished, but not published posts. Doing this will allow me to spend time elsewhere later on, but still publish new posts according to my set schedule of about once every week.

Practice the guitar four days of the week: I failed. Miserably. Not much more to say about this one, other than that I have had to come to terms with the fact that I just haven’t been willing to prioritise putting the required work in to become a better guitarist. I consider this goal more or less on hold at the moment, and I will at some point reevaluate whether I truly want to pursue this further, or instead just want to pick up the guitar whenever I feel like it.

Health and Fitness

Complete at least 120 workout-sessions: Throughout the first three months of 2017 I completed no less than 37 training sessions, putting me on track for nearly 150 sessions in 2017, and well ahead of schedule. The vast majority of these sessions were running, and I have been thoroughly enjoying measuring the progress I have been making and feeling my capacity increase from week to week. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do as many strength sessions as I wanted, and with the cross country-skiing season coming to an end, I can only admit that it was a paltry season for me this time around.

Run at least 1,000 kilometres: Strava tells me I am no less than 137 kilometres ahead of pace already, so barring any unforeseen events, I am confident of reaching this goal.

Blue skies and ground with snow
Running during winter, even in nature and on trails, is easy in conditions like these.

10K and Half-Marathon Race Goals: I am hoping to complete a 10K in less than 40 minutes, and a half-marathon in less than 1 hour and 40 minutes. Currently, I am pretty certain that I will be able to reach the latter goal, whereas the former will require some more specific pace-focused training.

Finances

Increase year-over-year net worth growth with 50%: This goal is a bit of a dark spot, because, as I’ve mentioned several times before, our family is extending come summer, and I am not entirely certain how that will affect my financial situation. Overall, I would consider myself well on track to reach the goal after the first quarter of the year, but I suppose I will only know towards the end of the third quarter how I am really doing, and what the effect of having a child has on my finances.

Invest 10% of my take-home pay in the stock market: Because of the family expansion taking place this summer, I have been hoarding up on cash with reckless abandon, investing the bare minimum every month. Whether or not I can realise this goal very much depends on the unknowns listed in the above point, but as it stands right now, I am planning to invest significant portions of my cash reserves towards the end of the year. Does that count as being on track?

Establish a concrete plan for building a new source of income: This goal was set from a long-term point of view, and I am grateful to myself for that. I keep working away at Abovare, without having any concrete plans on monetizing the site through ads or otherwise at the moment, but towards the end of the year, I should be able to formulate a coherent plan for turning using it as a springboard for a new income stream.

Those were my goals and a status report on how I’ve progressed throughout the first three months of the year. All in all, I am giving myself a job pretty well done so far. I have been enjoying the start of the year, and if I can continue the year in the same trajectory with regards to goals, 2017 should end up being a good year. And I have a feeling that the birth of our firstborn child will add to that as well!

How have you been doing so far in 2017? Are you meeting your goals for the most part, or have you identified that you are way off track and need to take corrective action? Be sure to join the discussion by leaving a comment below.

Title photo by Qubed Steak.

Football goal covered in snow

Better Goals for A Better Year

It is the season for setting goals, and if you frequent the various corners of the online personal finance community, you should be well aware. While it is important to evaluate your goals, and performance, continually, a new year is a good an opportunity as any to assess and reset your goals. Circumstances or preferences may have changed to the extent that you need to revise all your personal goals.

But, before you finalise your goals, have you thought about whether your goals are good? An often overlooked fact, is that all goals are not equal. Some will help you improve, by motivating you, while others will steal away any inspiration before it even reaches your mind. So, if you haven’t set your goals for the coming year just yet, make sure to read on for some valuable advice. And, if you already formulated goals, well, there is no reason not to refine and improve them.

The Characteristics of Good Goals

There have been quite a few profiled writers, especially within what could be characterised as the “self-help” scene, that have focused on goals in recent years. James Clear famously tells you to ditch goals for what he calls systems. However, if we boil it all down, this is just a roundabout way of saying that you shouldn’t set goals without having a clear idea of how you are going to achieve them. It seems entirely evident on contemplation, yet so many fall into the trap of setting vague goals without any thought to how they will realise the goals.

Consider the following goals, of which I am certain you have seen examples in the recent weeks:

  • “In 2017 I am going to save money.”
  • “Next year I am going to get into shape.”
  • “I will spend more time with my family the coming year.”

All of these are terrible goals for a multitude of reasons, and will in all likelihood serve to make you feel worse about yourself regardless of what you achieve in the coming year. And, as mentioned, goals of this variety are often set without any regard for how they will be realised. Approaching goals without considering the how is particularly destructive because it reduces setting goals to a vague state similar to dreaming. In fact, while goals have other advantages, the planning and contemplation associated with defining the goals are perhaps the most critical values of all goals.

With that in mind, as well as the aspect covered in the previous post, Start With The Why , which is highly relevant to goal-setting, you already have a good framework for setting goals that are helpful. Be clear about why you want to achieve something, and give proper thought to the how. In fact, you should document both of these aspects in written form.

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By making sure your goals are SMART, you can optimise your chances of actually realising them

We can use the “SMART” acronym to validate further that the goals we have set for the coming year are good enough. Each letter signifies a property our goal should have:

  • Specific: Our goals should be specific, and describe a particular future state, as opposed to vague depictions that have more in common with dreams than well-formulated goals.
  • Measurable: If you cannot measure whether or not you have reached your goal, and quantify your progress, you need to rephrase it. Instead of saying that you will save money next year, state exactly how much money you want to save.
  • Ambitious: While reaching your goals is good, there is little value in getting there without adversity and sacrifice. Make sure that your goals are ambitious enough that getting there actually contributes to your why. If you wish to reduce mindless consumption and increase your freedom by saving money, setting aside a couple of percentage points of your salary probably won’t contribute.
  • Realistic: Conversely, setting a goal that is beyond your reach is a sure-fire way of making sure that you will lose motivation before long. Aiming to save a million dollars is good and well, but having that as a goal unless you have a real chance of reaching it will only be detrimental with regards to your why.
  • Time-specified: Actually, pretty much everyone can save a million dollars with a conscious approach to how they manage their finances. So if that’s what you want to achieve, consider how you are going to do it, and set a deadline for when you want it done.

My Personal Goals for 2017

The overarching theme of what I want to change in 2017 is to be more conscious about how I spend my time and my money, which can be summed up as read more, write more, play more, and save more. While I am financially far more responsible than I was just a couple of years back, I have yet to reach that same consciousness with regards to how I spend my time. I spend far too much time loitering around on the web without any purpose, and I probably still watch a bit too much TV.

I have decided to split my goals into three categories: Personal, health and fitness, and finances. Before I present my goals, it feels important to throw in an apropos: These goals are set from the perspective of my life as it is today. If all goes as planned, however, a tiny human will be joining our household the coming summer. My experience with tiny humans is very limited currently, but I do have a hunch that the arrival of one might spell some changes in my life. We will see, come the end of the year.

Personal

When it comes to personal goals, it is all about expanding my horizons, acquiring new knowledge, and expressing my goals. I want to live life fully, but on my personal terms. What those terms are, however, should always be questioned, examined and put to the test. I value freedom and the ability to choose how I wish to spend my life, but those things have little meaning at all unless I am exploring the world as well as the insides of my own mind.

Read at least 20 books from cover to cover: I never read as many books as I’d like. While I read a lot, especially online, both long and short form articles, tweets, comments and what not, books offer a coherence and immersion that you simply don’t get from anything else. That is why I want to switch out some of my randomly-surfing-the-web time for reading books and increase my total books read to at least 20 during 2017, up from a measly 12 in 2016.

Write at least 50 new posts for Abovare: If reading takes you inside new and strange worlds, writing is a way of sharing the world inside your head with the other people. It improves communication, language skills and understanding, and writing, sharing and, in turn, teaching is probably the ultimate step in increasing your knowledge of a particular subject. By writing here at Abovare, I hope to make new connections and share my expertise, but, ultimately, it is a learning process for me as well: I want to master the field of personal finance, and everything that surrounds it. And what better way to do that than putting my knowledge to the scariest test of all, that is sharing it?

Practice the guitar four days of the week: Music is an important aspect of my life, and I spend a lot of time listening to music. While I believe we have the ability to express ourselves creatively through everything we do, playing the guitar is perhaps my most important creative outlet. My skill set is just not good enough to do all that I want to do, and that is something I strive to improve. Formulating a decent goal in this regard is difficult, which is part of the problem I suppose, but as it stands the aim is to practice on the guitar at least four days of the week.

Health and Fitness

Knowing what you want, and having the financial means to do it, means nothing if you lack the health to do it. I like to stay in shape by running and, during winters, going cross-country-skiing. There is simply little that compares to pushing your body to your limits, outside and as a part of nature. To properly govern my health, I need to exercise and improve my body strength in addition to doing cardiovascular exercise, so that is something I must look to incorporate into my training program for 2017.

Complete at least 120 workout-sessions: I was right on track to achieve my goal of 100 sessions in 2016, but falling ill for the two final weeks of the year made me come up just short. For the coming year, the goal is to increase the number of sessions slightly, as I will try to incorporate body strength sessions, as mentioned, in addition to the running and skiing.

Run at least 1000 kilometres: The exact distance I ran in 2016 is a bit unclear, as the tracking software I used doesn’t differentiate very well between running and other activities. 1000 kilometres is a reasonable goal, however, as it is both a step up from last year but at the same time entirely achievable within my current workout programme.

Bonus goals: Finish a 10K in less than 40 minutes and finish a half-marathon in less than 1 hour and 40 minutes. These aren’t goals I am working actively towards achieving, but reaching them would be signs that the training I am putting in is yielding results.

Finances

Oddly enough, given that Abovare is a website focused on personal finance, these are the goals that need the least attention. Years of establishing routines, budgeting and tracking incomings and outgoings have given me a reasonable level of control. That said, there are changes on the horizon with a little one on the way, making it more important than ever to maintain control. I have therefore defined goals that I believe will further solidify my financial situation, and increase my freedom and ability to lead the life I want for my family and me.

Increase year-over-year net worth growth with 50%: I am still very much in the accumulation phase when it comes to building wealth, and 2016 was a good year in that regard as I was able to increase my net worth significantly. I hope to expand further that growth in the coming year and have positioned myself to do that by, among other things, starting a new job at the turn of the year. One factor that could affect my ability to reach this goal is the (ridiculous) local real-estate market. As that is entirely outside of my control, and doesn’t change my short to medium term financial outlook, I am excluding the value change of my primary residence when it comes to calculating my performance. (Interjection: Yes, I do include the value of my primary residence when calculating net worth, and I believe it is the only sensible thing to do. I will be writing an article on this subject soon.)

Invest 10% of my take-home pay in the stock market: While 2016 was very much about reaching my minimum liquidity threshold (Unsure what this means, exactly? Just read The Basic Principles of Personal Finance), I need to increase my exposure to the market in 2017. I am not confident enough to direct my entire free cash flow towards investing, but 10% of my take-home for the year should be the absolute minimum.

Establish a concrete plan for building a new source of income: 2017 will be an exciting year, as I am starting a new job, will be sinking some time into Abovare, and am starting a family together with my spouse. Between this, and trying to fulfil my other goals, I don’t foresee having an excess of free time. That is no excuse for not working on one of the staples of financial safety, which is diversifying your cash flow. I am currently painfully dependent on that one job that brings in the money necessary to live the life I have constructed, and that is not a very safe position to be in. It is, therefore, imperative that I start building other streams of income as well, and the goal for 2017 is to lay out a concrete plan for establishing another revenue stream in 2018. Landlording, Amazon affiliate sales through niche websites, or trying to get in near the top of the next MLM-pyramid? That is for me to decide during 2017, and 2018 will be the year of execution.

Those are my goals for the coming year. Have you formulated yours yet, or are you still working on them? Feel free to share your goals in the comments below, or join the discussion by tweeting @Abovare, or leaving a comment on the Facebook page.

Header photo by Thomas Leth-Olsen.

The word why pictured in handwritten text

Start With The Why

I thought it only fitting to open Abovare with an article focusing on what you should be thinking about as you embark on your journey towards better control over your finances and in turn more freedom to lead the life you want. The ability to exert control over your finances and the variables that influence them correlates strongly with your mental strength and overall steadfastness and ability to follow through on your plans. Therefore, it stands to reason that utilising some simple tricks that are shown to improve the chances of follow-through will help you us on our to better financial control.

One of these tricks is ages old and propagated in recent years by authors such as Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and more recently the high-profile TED-talker Simon Sinek’s aptly titled Start With Why. Following the advice is as simple as having a clear picture of what it is you want to achieve before you start something; what the why? Far too often we start something without a clear end goal in mind, which makes it almost impossible to achieve anything of note.

Consider the anecdote of going on a trip. Sure, travelling is nice, but setting out willy-nilly without any plan of where you want to go, you are likely to abandon travelling before reaching the place you want to go. Instead of going off on a whim, use the planning stages of your expedition to sort out where you want to go, and why you want to go there. Preparation will give purpose to your travels, increase your chances of follow through, and increase the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the end.

When it comes controlling your personal finances, not drawing a clear picture of what it is you want to achieve is simply too big of a risk to assume, regardless of your particular tolerance for risk. Consider the consequences of failing to identify your why, and as a result relaxing a bit and slowly letting go of the control over your finances. You don’t have to be in possession of a particularly vivid imagination to get an accurate idea of what the outcome is likely to be. The Internet is full of stories telling us exactly what happens.

I do have good news for you, however. The mere fact that you are reading this sets you apart and indicates that you are on the right path, away from the ruin of debt. Instead, you are actively looking to educate yourself and through the power of knowledge take control of your finances. To make sure that you build on that momentum, and maximise the chances of success and avoid the pitfalls of losing motivation because of a lack of end goals, it is important to stop and take a moment to reflect.

For many people, money becomes an end in and of itself. If you stick around to read coming content here at Abovare, which you can, for instance, do by subscribing to our mailing list, you will quickly and often notice that my philosophy is that money has no intrinsic value. Money only means something as long as we can use it as leverage to achieve the things that matter in life. And what are those things? The true is the beauty of it is that no one else can tell you what is important to you. Some people work to accumulate money to retire from the rat race, while others want to buy a new car. And if one of those things truly makes you happy, then that is fine, nobody can object.

Part of defining your mission statement, and formulating why handling your finances matters to you, is examining the depths of your psyche and discovering your core values. While nobody can tell you that there is something wrong with wanting to buy a fancy car, as stated above, it is important to be conscious about what you define as your why. Much of what will be written here at Abovare in the future will be about trying to hammer this point home, and in turn dissuade unconscious consumption. So many of the situations where people find themselves between a financial rock and a hard place is avoidable simply by adopting a more conscious approach to what money is spent on, and why.

If you are already familiar with your why, and utilise a conscious approach to what you spend your hard earned money on, that’s great. But do not worry, there is plenty of content coming for you as well here at Abovare. The why behind Abovare is to educate and share actionable tips and tools for improving your personal finances, and that will include in-depth looks at topics such as budgeting, saving and investing, in addition to many other related topics.

And, if you are among the many people who have not yet given careful consideration to their why when it comes to accumulating assets, I suggest that you spend some time with yourself. Reflect on what you wish to achieve in life, and what part money plays in getting you there. When the why is sorted out, you are ready to start your journey, and the place to start is by reading The Basic Principles of Personal Finance. This is the first of Abovare’s Guides to Building Wealth, and it introduces some of the most fundamental concepts of personal finance.

Finally, make sure that you never miss new content from Abovare by either signing up for our mailing list. You can also stay up to date on other interesting articles related to personal finance around the web by following us on Twitter. If you prefer Facebook, we naturally have a profile there as well, so don’t hesitate to hit that like button.

Header photo by Quinn Dombrowski.