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Goals and Resolutions for 2011

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Every new year provides an opportunity for self-renewal. The relatively arbitrary custom of recycling the dates on the calendar is like having a second (or a third, or fourth, etc.) chance to change the world. Although its history is a bit murky, the tradition of new years’ resolutions probably stemmed from this feeling. It took me a while to be comfortable with the ideas of making resolutions. I believed for a long time that it was pointless, since people overall tend to fail to keep their resolutions into the new year. Eventually, scientific studies confirmed what I already believed to be true.

Nevertheless, through Consumerism Commentary, I began to create resolutions and goals at the beginning of each year. The financial goals have proved to be easy; at least, I’ve been able to meet almost all of them for the past few years, possibly indicating I’m being too conservative in my planning.

It has been the non-financial resolutions which have been more difficult to stick with, mirroring the experience of most Americans. For example, while I’ve lost some weight in accordance with part of my resolutions for 2010, I don’t consider myself to be in shape. While I resolved to keep my home in presentable condition at any time, I failed in 2010 to make that a reality. That’s the most common failed resolution, and I don’t like being typical.

I don’t want to feel like a statistic in representation of the “average American male,” so my resolution for 2011 is to go beyond what has been comfortable for me. My non-financial goals will be more specific this year, as specific as I have been with my financial goals.

2011 is when everything changes.

NewYearsResolution1915FirstPostcardI’ll share my financial goals first, followed by the non-financial goals that pertain mainly to my quality of life and self-improvement. These are all short-term goals that are tied into my life-long personal missions.

1. Income

My single income goal for 2011 is to replace the income provided by my former employment and benefits. To make this easy to track, I’ll just use the figure of $100,000, which more or less represents the value of my former salary and benefits.

I will consider the year successful if I increase my income from my projects by $100,000. While I haven’t looked at my finalized 2010 income yet, I expect it will be well into six digits. I evaluate my income on a monthly basis, and if the current trend continues, I should reach this goal easily. I am every concerned with the volatile nature of the income, however, so I stay prepared for the worst-case scenario.

2. Net worth

I didn’t set a net worth goal in 2010 because it’s too difficult to predict. With a significant portion of my net worth invested in the stock market, this is a variable that is more or less out of my control. That’s an arguable point; I could keep my money in less risky investments and better predict my end-of-year balances, but that defeats the purpose of investing in the stock market for the long term.

I could set a net worth goal for my cash holdings, but I can affect that easily by moving cash in and out of investments. This is why I believe income goals are more relevant than net worth goals. However, I’d be comfortable setting a net worth goal in the form of a range, with the realization there are no consequences for not meeting this goal if the “failure” is due to the stock market. My goal is to increase my net worth by at least $275,000 in 2011.

3. Investments

Without an active investment in an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan, I need to change my approach to retirement investing. Thankfully, I shouldn’t have to change it by much. I’ve already researched my retirement investing options while self-employed and when the calendar changes I’ll open up some new accounts. I will invest one tenth of my gross income for retirement.

Why such a low percentage? As I’m now working for myself, I’m starting to reconsider the need to abide by the traditional retirement paradigm. If I’m getting paid for activities that I enjoy, I may not want to pick a specific age and stop. I want to be able to spend the time I want now doing a variety of activities that make my life interesting, so locking all of my money away is not my biggest priority. I consider myself lucky to have some flexibility now, and I do want to take advantage of that flexibility.

My other investing plans depend on my savings need, though if I buy a house (to live in, not as an investment) and therefore release myself from holding as much in savings as I am now, I will have a better idea of what I have available to invest with a time horizon of five to ten years.

4. Savings

People often ask me why I’m still renting an apartment. Even with real estate prices down, friends point out to me that I could have purchased something when I left college more than a decade ago and come out ahead. I then remind them that I had no money when I graduated college and had I purchased a house then, at the time I was working for a non-profit organization earning little money, I would have been in debt over my head for most of the last decade. I will buy a house, though, when I’m ready to settle down somewhere for thirty years and start a family.

When I do, assuming I’d be fully responsible for the finances (which I may not be), I want to have a sizable down payment ready to go. I’m not sure paying for a house fully in cash is the best financial move from a leverage standpoint, though it would be great not to have any debt obligations. I may compromise by offering a down payment of 30 to 40 percent. There are many variables at play in this decision beyond the finances, so I must take care of those first before considering buying a house. I will be forever slow to move on the “important” decisions.

5. Charity

I’ve been taking a multi-pronged approach to charity. First, I have a donor-advised charitable fund housed at Fidelity. I now contribute automatically to this account on a monthly basis. With the account, I can recommend grants to charities and non-profit organizations that match my interests. For example, I’ve given to specific programs offered by my undergraduate university as well as to the non-profit organization where I worked after college. For the past couple of years, I’ve offered to match readers’ charitable contribution with my own to a different organization each year. In 2011, I’ll continue the Thanksgiving charity challenge and grant an additional $1,000 through the donor-advised fund to another organization.

6. Photography

Over the past few years, I’ve grown more interested in photography. Now that I’m not spending eight or more hours a day wasting my time in a cubicle, I have more flexibility to explore this and my other interests. I still plan to spend the bulk of my reclaimed time working on Consumerism Commentary and other related projects, I will set aside some time to practice photography as well. I plan to have two photo shoots a month. This could include walking around the local university town for some street or architecture photography, hiking with my camera equipment for some nature shots, or a portrait session.

I’d like to book three or four paying photography sessions in 2011, as well. I don’t plan on advertising my photography services as a business and expect to book these through friends. I don’t yet have a portfolio to share, but perhaps by the end of the year I will be ready for that step. It’s more important for me to learn more about the art and craft of photography first through practice as well as at least one additional class.

7. Personal health

In the past I’ve made vague statements about my desire to improve my health and get in shape. I’m serious about improving my physical appearance, and I am going to make that happen this year. While I’ve already changed some of my dietary habits and have managed to lose some weight, I haven’t achieved a point of physical activity that satisfies me. My plan for this year is to develop a system of rewards that is tied to my physical activity.

By the end of January, I’d like to be in the habit of getting 30 minutes of strenuous physical activity (running, doing push-ups, riding a bicycle, etc.) three days a week, rewarding myself for each successful day. By the end of the next month, I’d like the number of days per week to be extended to five. By the end of 2011, I want to have lost at least 15 pounds through more exercise and better nutrition. Now that I’m making my own schedule, I can set aside time during the day for exercise. With my freedom this year, I can make this happen.

Having seven different goals seems like it could be too much for one person. I don’t believe that I’m biting off more than I can chew. For the most part, since I’ve become somewhat disciplined (but not cheap) with money management, just taking care of my income should be enough for the other financial goals to fall into place. My struggle has been only with the non-financial goals, and I do believe that I have the capacity to focus on and reach these targets if I stay disciplined with them and dedicate myself to them, similar to the way I dedicated myself to getting myself out of a financial mess almost ten years ago.

Updated January 16, 2018 and originally published December 28, 2010.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Best of luck with your 2011 goals. You can accomplish the non-financial goals too, you just need to give yourself motivation along the way the same you do financially. Keep a ledger of your progress, kind of like a bank balance statement and it will help you keep the end in mind.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes

Those are great ideas. I do plan to keep records of trackable things, like how much activity I manage to get each day.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

Great list of goals. It’s inspiring me to set my own. Regarding Goal #2: I’m glad to see you set a goal but the thought process seems flawed. Your investments are not entirely “out of your control.” I’m guessing you bought them for a reason and can sell anytime you want. Think about why you bought the investments and what your expectations are for their growth. You can probably quantify a range that would be fairly accurate.
Think about it this way – if you have no expectations for your investments, how do you know when to get out of them? I bet you have exit plans for all of them, so it’s just a matter of writing it all down. Like you said, there’s no major impact of not hitting your net worth goal – but we all need goals, so why not do it right! :)

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avatar 4 Luke Landes

Joe: I addressed your point about investments in the third sentence in the first paragraph under net worth. “I could sell my investments [to retain some control over short-term net worth] but that defeats the purpose of investing in the stock market for the long term.” And I did quantify a range for an end-of-year net worth. Unless there’s a massive systemic collapse, I’m not selling my broadly diversified investment in equities. That’s not the case for individual investments, like my small holdings in a few companies, but that that’s such a small portion of my net worth that it has a negligible effect on goals. Take a look at last quarter’s investment report to get an idea of where I’m invested.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I find that having a significant other or good friend keeping you honest helps with the non-financial goals like fitness, weight loss, health, organization, etc. Don’t know if that applies for you, but just a thought.

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avatar 6 Luke Landes

Sure. I’d like to convince my girlfriend to join me, but I may have to just settle with asking her for moral support.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

That’s a lot of goals! I wouldn’t be able to keep that many — it’s too much to keep track of. Good luck!

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avatar 8 Luke Landes

For me, the financial tracking is a part of my life as it is. I have tried tracking some of the other things and I haven’t kept it up, so my challenge will be coming up with a way that works for me.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Good luck with your 2011 goals! Hope you keep us all posted on your progress! (And that you share some of your photography!)

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I’ve been a desk jockey my entire working career and went about 15 years essentially getting no exercise. One thing that finally worked for me was to start riding my bicycle as transportation. I don’t ride it to work but pretty much when I’m going somewhere near my house I ride my bicycle if it’s at all feasible and I find I actually enjoy it and it doesn’t seem as much like exercise because I have a goal of where I’m going. That got me about 3 days worth of exercise. I got up to 6 days when I made a bet with one of my friends that I had to ride my bicycle 6 days a week. It sucks sometimes when I have to drag myself out of the house to go ride it but I haven’t missed a day yet. The bet isn’t even for very much (a case of beer if I miss a day), but just the fact that the bet is there makes me go do it.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

Good luck with your 2011 goals Flexo. I am really interested in how your goals to generate more income this year work out, hopefully you fill us in on all of the details!! I need to do the same this year. The working for myself idea is a upcoming goal for myself within the next few years. I gotta kick myself in the butt.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Great goals: Good luck and I hope you accomplish them all. I will, however, add just two thoughts. The 10% retirement goal seems low. I understand the “I love my work” bit but stuff happens and you might not be in the same position later in life. There are also many many factors that can affect the R-decision. Also, be careful not to let lifestyle-creep (even though you’ve earned it) dilute the savings goals – as moderation is always the best choice. Keep up the good work.

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avatar 13 Anonymous

I agree should be at least 20% IMHO.

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avatar 14 Luke Landes

SteveDH and IJ: The first draft of this article actually had 20% rather than 10%. Maybe I’ll split the difference. I understand your point though; I may not want to do this forever.

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avatar 15 eric

Make more money, save more money, have better health, and maybe even have some fun! I’m all aboard too :)

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avatar 16 20andengaged

Great goals Flexo! One day I’ll be able to accomplish the same things. I can, but on a smaller scale.

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avatar 17 TakeitEZ

Good luck in achieving those goals. I am sure you will be successful at obtaining them. I am working on financial as well as physical health goals as well. Physical health is my top priority this year.

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avatar 18 Anonymous

Great goal exercise Flexo. It has inspired me to adjust my own goals. Your Net Worth goal seems a bit high. When I look at your 2009 year-end balance sheet it looks like your net worth will increase by about $220K-$240K in 2010 so a $275K increase in 2011 without the income from your day job seems hard to achieve. I guess it’s better to overestimate a bit than to set easy to reach goals.

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avatar 19 Luke Landes

It’s high, but I am looking at my income trend for the past six months. If that remains consistent I should meet the goal, but that’s a big “if.”

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avatar 20 Anonymous

Nice! Go Flexo! I love #7, of course. :) Leading a healthy lifestyle is also very important to me and your goal sounds totally doable. Isn’t the start of a new year so refreshing? ;)

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avatar 21 Anonymous

Flexo, I share your goals of increased exercise and weight loss. Money can’t buy health, so we need to do our best to keep it. Good luck on this SMART list of goals.

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avatar 22 KNS Financial

I hate the idea of resolutions as well, so I never set them. I just have rolling goals. However, I’m glad that you put your goals down on “paper” for us to see – it gives me something to push for if I am able to accomplish the small goals ahead of me!

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avatar 23 Anonymous

Back when I was temporarily blogging full-time (read: unemployed) I exercised at least an hour a day and tended to eat much healthier. It’s sooooooo much easier to eat right when you’re a few steps from the kitchen and don’t have to be back at the office by any particular time.

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avatar 24 Luke Landes

That would depend on having healthy food in the kitchen. I’ve improved in that area of the past year, but I’m just not into cooking.

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avatar 25 Anonymous

Like the goals. I also agree that, as you stated up front, most people give up on their goals pretty quickly. I guess thats partially why I’ve not yet set mine. Might do so at the end of the month and see how they go from there.

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avatar 26 rewards

Best thing I ever did to stick with my exercise goals was to set a fixed time in the morning for exercise. It makes sure that you don’t put it off because something else has your attention, and it also starts the day off right.

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