As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Smithee’s New Long-Term Goals

This article was written by in Family and Life. 9 comments.

My goal was never to have all the money I could get my hands on.

On the other hand, I’ve never solidified my financial goals. Up to now, it’s mostly been about what I don’t want, rather than what I do:

  • I don’t want more rooms in my house than I can use
  • I don’t want to have to hire a security firm
  • I don’t want to go to fundraising dinners for politicians
  • I don’t want people around me who only like me for the luxury I share with them
  • I never want to do any “shmoozing”

It’s things like that which I’ve long associated with wealthy people. Maybe these are stereotypes that only happen in fiction, I couldn’t say. More realistically, I’ve only had one (not)goal for many years: I don’t want to be in danger of being homeless. That’s not a productive goal. I think it’s time I change my thinking.

Flexo has written about different types of goal-setting in the past, which helped me start germinating ideas subconsciously over the past few months. Here’s what I’ve got so far for my long-term goals:

  • I want moderate luxury: a perfect example of this is our living room TV. I bought a used HD projector ($900) and a cheap 92” screen for $75. I hung the screen myself for less than $10, and we’ve had an enormous gorgeous high-def TV for years. I don’t need a separate media room or surround sound. What we’ve got is great.
  • I want to eat breakfast outside: I want enough time in the morning to be able to make myself some eggs and bacon, coffee or tea, and take it to the backyard to enjoy. Usually this is only possible on vacation. I think in order to do this every day, I’d need to work from home.
  • I want my evenings and weekends to myself: I know too many people who think about, and perform, work during non-work hours. I’ve always felt this is indicative of a management flaw. The people at my current business tell me I work faster than anybody else, so that may also have something to do with it.
  • I want lots of open space: I’ve always lived in metropolitan areas, so I probably don’t have it in me to switch instantly to farming, but I like to think that by the time work slows down for us, we’ll at least have a kind of subsistence farm situation.

For many months, excluding one huge setback last fall, my only goal has been “get rid of the credit card debt”. I’m still going to do this, but a recent salary cut decided for me that my plan of paying off $1,000 a month won’t work anymore. After adjusting our budget, instead of $532 leftover per pay period, I have about $228. So, new plan: save the leftover salary money. It’ll either grow in a bank account, or go toward home improvements (including my wife’s increasingly impressive garden), or upcoming vacations. You know, things that improve the quality of life. Things that I’ve been ignoring for far too long.

And I’ll take half of whatever I earn from my freelance work to gradually pay down the pesky credit card. It’ll go a lot more slowly, but hopefully that will encourage me to do more, better work in my spare time. That will hopefully lead to a situation where I can work from home, in a place with lots of open space, and a backyard I can eat breakfast in.

Published or updated April 7, 2009.

Email Email Print Print
About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I think you’ve listed things we’d all like.
However, like anything else, we tend to get spoiled with wealth. I was very surprised, a long time ago, when I read the book “The Millionaire Next Door”. What surprised me was that a) a million dollars was still considered “rich” – it most certainly is NOT and b) how many Millionaires there were and what modest lives they live.

I “became” a millionaire about 10 years ago. That is, the total value of all my assets, savings, and investments totalled over $1mm. Today, I’m still barely clinging to that.

Still, the things you valued are the things I value. I can’t stand politicians (in fact, I spurned the hand of a man who was running for New Jersey Governor, and ultimately won, when meeting him on the train platform), I want people to leave me alone when I choose to live my private life, and I don’t want too much house. I prefer land, but even then I’d prefer less than more (management, you know. I grew up with 7 acres that I was constantly working).

That said, wealth is not synonymous with big living, and certainly not in the US. In fact, Warren Buffet was relatively anonymous as a billionaire for YEARS before the press caught up with him and turned him into an icon. And even now he shows signs of being uncomfortable with that position. He does what he can, when he can, where he can….and tries to pass along sage advice as he travels his road.

Sounds like Smithee and Flexo. Without the cash.

Reply to this comment

avatar 2 Anonymous

I very much agree with your preferences. I prefer small spaces to large, clearance racks to seasonal clothing, a nice beer at happy hour in the mellowest of dive bars to fancy restaurants, and an afternoon nap to a grand vacation. The idea of eating breakfast outside every morning sounds awesome to me!

I do wonder if once I reach my goals of net worth of at least $1 million…if those preferences will change. Of course, I have a lot of work to do to reach this goal considering I just finished business school and those student loans are looming ever so ominously on my balance sheet.

I hope I never loose sight of the little pleasures in life even after I reach my goals.

*Note to self, read The Millionaire Next Door.*

Reply to this comment

avatar 3 Anonymous

Read “The Richest Man in Babylon” first. The millionaire next door is really just a “save your money, scrimp, and don’t waste” book.

Your preferences won’t change once you hit $1mm net value, unless you want them to. I’ve done it, and it’s not changed me a bit. To be honest, though, it’s not all you’d think it is. $1mm, in the NYC area, is middle class, solidly. I’m in a neighborhood that would put me at the LOW end of the local net worth. Still, I once had a boss say to me “if you don’t make $500,000 a year, you can’t live in Manhattan”. It’s idiotic, but I can see the point. You can easily live in Manhattan on $35,000 a year if you:
share a 2 bedroom with 3 other people
cook your own meals and pack your lunch
take subways and shun cabs/cars
don’t go out every Friday or Saturday
enjoy the “free” museums (which still are sort’ve free even after a $5 donation…and they’re magnificent)

Still, it’s better to live in NJ, like I did for most of my single life. I was able to buy a condo there inexpensively in the 80’s…which has really set me on the road up, net value wise. That first purchase is KEY. I was able to get a 2 bedroom, rent one room out to cover most of the mortgage, and then rent it out at a profit once I bought a house. I recommend this to everyone – find an up and coming community and buy there.

One trick, which will be mistakenly construed as some form of discrimination, but isn’t, is to look for stoner neighborhoods. Then, keep an eye on the neighborhood. As artists and homosexuals begin to take over, it’s time to buy.
I’m not sure how and why this works, but I’ve tracked it and it’s worked twice for me, in 2 very different places.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.