Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 goals

Over the past week, I finally managed to figure out my goals for the year.  As always, I tried to write them to be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound), and I think I did a little better in that respect than I usually do.  While I have grand intentions of checking in on my progress regularly, I'll probably keep updates here to quarterly (if that).  Here's what 2014 looks like from my perspective:

Buy long-term care insurance
This is by far the most important item on the list.  I held off on doing it last year because I was expecting my employer to bundle a new plan into our annual benefits enrollment, since our prior plan was cancelled after the provider decided to exit the business.  Well, guess what?  Benefits enrollment came, and there were no long-term care insurance options!  The only way this is going to happen is if I do it myself on the open market, so I've been learning as much as I can about long-term insurance and things to consider, as well as scouting out companies and brokers.  I shortlisted four providers, and I've been in contact with two brokers who represent all of them.   I should have proposals coming next week, but I also have a long list of questions based on the research I did.   I have a much better initial impression of one of the two brokers, and his Google footprint indicates that he's been in the business for many years.  That said, this is a decision that's going to cost me upwards of $4000 per year for the rest of my life, so I want to make sure I do plenty of due diligence.

Save $52,000
This is the lowest savings goal I've had in many years.  Four factors are contributing to the big step backwards:  First, with paying for living space in my home state and traveling there more frequently, I'm spending more than I used to, and that's not going to change anytime soon (I hope).  There are other new costs over the past few years, i.e. taking trips with A. and professional athletic coaching, that I'm doing because they're meaningful to me.  I'm not cutting back on those, so my savings goal needs to be a little more realistic.  Second, my raises for the past several years have been lousy.  I'm not expecting that to change anytime soon, either.  Changing employers is still far too expensive to consider doing unless my retirement benefits change for the worse, so I'm staying the course for now.  Third, as I mentioned above, long-term care insurance is going to take a bite out of my savings from this year onward, to the tune of $4000 or more per year.  Fourth, there's a major structural renovation project in my apartment building that is badly needed and long overdue, and all shareholders are paying for our individual portions of cost either up front (the cheapest option) or having it amortized with interest as part of our maintenance over the next five years.  I'm paying up front, and that's going to be around $4000 as well.  I put together a budget (yes, a formal budget!  I haven't used one of those since I paid off my mortgage!) that factors in my normal spending expectations plus all of these items, and I came out with a little under $52,000 as potential savings.  I rounded it up because I think goals are more worthwhile if there's a little bit of additional stretch effort required.

Run three marathons
Three will bring me to twenty total, and that's a bucket list goal.  I'd like to run more after that and in fact I already have a qualification for Boston 2015, but I won't be able to do this forever.  If I get to twenty, I won't feel too bad if it turns out that's the end.

Break 3:30 in the marathon
I came SO close to this a few years ago.  I'm still running near the top of my game, but the window for another all-time best is narrowing.  If it's going to happen, it needs to be in the next year or two.

Core workouts twice weekly (when I'm not traveling)
If I'm pressed for time, this is the first thing I drop when I'm working out.  That's not good:  With a bad disk in my back, a strong core is really important.  Two separate exercises for about 10-12 minutes total is a decent base (although more is better), so that's the minimum I'm looking to achieve.  I don't lift weights when I'm in my home state, so I'll take a break on this during those times as well.

Stretch twice weekly (when I'm not traveling)
I never do this.  I need to; I am horribly stiff and inflexible, and it puts me at risk for running injuries. Twice per week for ten minutes is doable; I just need to do it.  This falls into the category of things I do at the gym, so I think taking a break while I'm traveling is both reasonable and realistic.

Maintain my weight within a five pound range
I'm  very muscular; 140-145 is healthy and realistic for me, and it keeps me at a flat-stomached size 6 on average.  It's ridiculously easy for my weight to blip upwards, especially now that the 2013 sugar challenge is over, so I'm really going to make an effort.  I weighed in at 147 the day I made this decision, so I'm trying to get a few pounds off now.

Play music once weekly (when I'm not traveling)
I used to play music years ago, and once upon a time I was quite good at an amateur level.  I was really fed up with it when I decided to stop music lessons as a teenager, though, and now I haven't touched my instrument in nearly three decades.  It's here with me in New York now and the amount I've forgotten is shocking. but I've spent a few hours thus far reteaching myself the basics, and it's slowly coming back.  I'm still at a very beginner level, but it's a start.  I'm enjoying it very much so far, but there's a more serious reason for doing this:  I've read that actively playing music promotes brain health and might help ward off dementia.  It's not going to hurt and it might actually help in future, so it's worth a shot, especially since it's a lot more fun now than I remember it being years ago.  That said, knowing my schedule, I think committing to more than once a week as a goal is a recipe for failure.

Track savings and spending using my budget
I haven't used a formal budget in about five years, but enough has changed since then in terms of my spending that I think it'll be useful both in terms of spending mindfully, and in being realistic about how much I can save and how I can focus spending to maximize savings.

The last item I have in mind is part of my long-term plan:  I hit a major financial milestone by achieving a million dollars in net worth excluding real estate, and my next major milestone is to double that.  It's likely to take around six years but I think it would be really neat to nail this one before I turn 50, so I'm aiming to hit the two million dollar mark in five years.   I'm not treating this as a goal as such since there are external factors (primarily market performance) that will largely determine my success, but managing the factors I can control (e.g., remaining diligent about savings and investment) will absolutely help.

2014 will be challenging, but so far it's off to a good start.  I think I'll go play some music now.

2 retorts:

mOOm January 11, 2014 at 6:50 PM  

I think the $2 million goal in six years will be tough as it assumes an average investment return of 10% each year (after tax) if you are saving about $50k a year. I guess it is a good goal to have. We are also just at $1 million and the goal would be to get to $2 million in about 5 years. We are saving though around $140k per year. So that implies about an 8% return. Still, I'm not really expecting things to be even that good.

Anonymous,  January 13, 2014 at 1:56 PM  

Thanks you for sharing your goals (& posting more often). You have inspired me to put my 2014 goals into writing. Thank you and I wish you much success on your new goals.

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