Goal Setting in January is common.  

For some, it is as simple as a New Year’s Resolution, such as going to the gym 5 days a week.  For others, it is financial, such as investing a certain amount of dollars or growing the portfolio to a certain level by certain dates over the next year.

Goals give us something to work toward and make us stronger.  Better than we were last year.

But for many people, they just don’t work.  Something was missing.

Setting goals without knowing your “why” is like Forest Gump when he started to run.  When asked by a reporter why he was running, he simply stated, “I just felt like running.”

We need goals, and a plan to get there.

We also need to know our “why?”.  What motivates us?  The “why” needs to be stronger than the pain or work it takes to get there.

Why are gyms packed the second week of January?  And why is it easier to get in the gym two months later?  Everyone who started out knew it was a good habit.  But for many, they found it harder and harder to make the time to go.  Something else got in the way. 

When we know our “why”, and remind ourselves frequently, then it makes it easier to prioritize when other things pop up.

Knowing our “why” helps us set goals that enable each of us to become the person we want to be.

Earlier this year it was suggested that my wife and I write down what our ideal life would look like.  It needed to include our dreams of what we wanted to do, have and accomplish.  The list is long.  This list would become our “whys”.


Financial independence comes to mind for many people.  They want to have more than enough money coming in than what is needed to cover expenses.  But that is putting the goal before the why.

For most people, the top three reasons people want financial independence are, in no particular order:

·      Spend time with family and friends

·      Travel

·      Contribute to charitable causes

These are the whys.

So before setting goals for next year, I want to consider what my dreams are for each of these areas.  Then write them down, along with any other dreams that I have just for fun.  My wife gets to do the same, then we put our lists together and prioritize for the next year.

Knowing these whys helps provide the foundation for setting our financial goals.


There is nothing like spending time with the family during holidays.  If we don’t have family nearby then we try to spend the time with friends.

Family vacations are also something to look forward to.  Sometimes it would be just us and our kids.  Sometimes it is a larger family reunion.

It’s also more than just vacations.  When our kids were in high school we wanted to be at their band performances.  When my son wanted to join the Boy Scouts it was time for me to join as an adult leader.  We wanted to be involved with their choices and encourage their success.

Now that our kids are launched and married we spend less time with them.  But we find time.  Sometimes it’s for something special they want to do.  Like, go to a nice restaurant.  Or a Christmas light show at the zoo.  Or go on a cruise.

One of the best times this year was decorating a Christmas tree with our 3-year old granddaughter.  She was excited to hang the ornaments.  Then the train track was assembled at the base of the tree.  And she learned how to turn on the train.  It was a joy to see her excited.

What are some of the things that you want to do with your family and friends?


This may be the longest part of our list.  There are many places we want to go.   And there are many friends who we want to go there with.

Traveling is also good for stirring up our creativity.  It gets us out of our everyday surroundings and environment.

We enjoy seeing the national parks.  Not only for their natural beauty, but we enjoy short hikes to get the most out of the experiences.  And the walks are good exercise.  One of our goals is to hike all of the national parks.  So we bought a book to track which ones we have been to.  Part of our adventure at each park is to get the book stamped with the date we were there.

Traveling can also help us learn about other cultures.  For example, it’s fascinating to learn how different islands in the Caribbean were populated by people from different cultures.  When people came to the New World they brought their customs and favorite cuisines with them.

At other times we may simply want to go spend a few days at a beach or in the mountains.

What places are on your bucket list to visit?  Is there a special reason that you want to visit some of these?  Maybe to see a country where your ancestors came from?


Some of the happiest people that I know are also some of the most generous.  I’m not talking about just money, but also their time.  They like to support and help out at a favorite local organization.

Some people in our neighborhood like to volunteer at the local animal shelter.  Other friends like to go on mission trips to other countries and deliver wheelchairs to people who cannot afford them.  

Other people are driven to start a new organization.  One couple we know started a food pantry in a nearby community.  

Many people have a few favorite charities and organizations that they want to support.  What are yours?


What is your vision?  Where do you want to be five years from now?  Or this time next year?

Write it down.

Forest Gump was right.  “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.”  

Our dreams can change.  Our why changes.  But if we are prepared, then we can easily shift course to pursue our new dreams.

In 1995 we bought a new red Acura Integra.  It was the first and only new car we have owned together.  My wife had seen the car and loved it.  I also drove one and agreed we could get it provided it had the 5-speed with a VTEC engine.  It was quick and fun to drive.  It really was a blast.

We had the car for ten years.  Then things started to change.  As our son grew up he no longer fit in the back seat very well.  When he was 14 we sold the car because we did not want him driving it alone when he turned 16.

Our situation had changed.  And our priorities.  We wanted to have cars to drive that our kids would be less inclined to get themselves into serious trouble with.

What does your vision look like?

What is your “why”?


We would love to hear from you.  What are you doing to define your “why” and financial plans for retirement?  Are you already implementing some of the strategies above?  Or something else?

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