Most people agree that goals are important to have, as they help us get what we want. But then why is it that we, in general, are not great at identifying goals, working toward them, and reaching them? There are many reasons, but the two main ones are probably that we don’t spend enough time sitting with ourselves (and loved ones) thinking about what we actually want; and that we don’t record and measure our goals. This oversight means that we often go through life without a cohesive, well-defined purpose.
I see this happen in my own life. As a huge fan of goal setting, I’m very good at writing down short-term goals. But I’m not great at writing down long-term goals. So, in an effort to change that, I sat down at the beginning of the year and came up with a list of financial goals. Below, I share how I got my goals from my head onto the page.
Step 1: Contemplate your goals.
Take some real time to think about what you want. Sit in silence and just think. It can be a bit uncomfortable but it’s so important.
Ask yourself questions like, “Where do I want to be in a year? Five years? Ten years?”
Then, reflect on the things that you have accomplished and appreciate them.
If you’re like me, you will also likely find yourself having these thoughts randomly throughout the day. And that’s OK too.
This is not something that will take you 15 minutes to think about. Be patient.
Make sure your goals are actionable. For example, in 2023, one of my goals was to purchase two more investment properties. By doing so, I aimed to increase cash flow while also increasing equity, hedging against inflation, forcing appreciation, and harnessing tax benefits. I knew I could do this because I already owned seven investment properties.
Unfortunately, 2023 was a tough year for real estate, with rising interest rates and stubborn home values. As a result, I ended up only buying one additional property. Still, that brings my total properties to eight. And for next year, I’ll just roll over this year’s goal.
Step 2: Record your goals.
Write your goals down.
Again, I was really good at doing this for short-term things. My spreadsheets are filled with short-term goals and timelines to complete them. These are things like:
- Contribute to backdoor Roth IRA on January 1
- Renew lease for rental property #2 next month
- Budget on first of month
All of these short-term goals add up to long-term goals.
But the truth is that until this year, I never really recorded my long term goals directly. They were floating around my head. I felt that this was good enough. Looking introspectively, I’m not really sure why I didn’t write them down explicitly. It seems second nature now. Regardless, while keeping the long term goals in my head did work well for me, being intentional with my long-term goals has been way more productive.
Step 3: Measure your goals.
If you don’t measure something, you can never really achieve it. Goals are no different. So, once a month, take a look at your written list of long-term goals.
Assess how you are doing. We are never going to be perfect. We won’t always be advancing seamlessly to all of our goals. But by measuring, we can redirect and reorient ourselves.
I keep copies of my written goals for 2023 and beyond all over the place. In my office. At home. In my OR locker.
This helps me to keep these goals in mind and adjust when I need to. That way, my actions can align themselves with my goals as much as possible.
I also write out all my family’s financial goals in my financial plan. These include paying off my private loans and my wife Selenid’s federal loans.
At the beginning of 2023, I had about $80,000 to pay off and Selenid had about $30,000. As of right now, my private loans are down to about $10,000 while Selenid’s are at around $25,000. We ended up contributing to Roth IRAs this year as well as my 457, and as a result paid off less of this debt. This decision is one we made after meeting and reviewing our financial plan together. In the end, that is why you have one!
For the new year, our goal is to get rid of our debt completely, and work toward forgiveness of my federal loans.
When it comes to setting financial goals and achieving them, this is something anyone can do as long as you follow the steps above. Remember, the enemy of good is great. Don’t try to make it perfect. Think about what’s important to you and set meaningful and intentional goals. Then put them in places where you can review and measure them every once in a while.
Do this and I can all but guarantee that your goal-reaching will achieve an all time high!
What are your financial goals for 2024? Share in the comments!
Jordan Frey, MD is a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY at Erie County Medical Center and the University of Buffalo. His clinical focus is on breast reconstruction and complex microsurgery. He is also the founder of The Prudent Plastic Surgeon, one of the fastest growing finance blogs. There, he shares his journey to financial well-being with a goal of helping all physicians reach financial freedom, practicing on their own terms.
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