I love a good financial goal.
I love the process of creating the goal using the SMART method and using strategies like sinking funds to accomplish said goal. While those exercises are fun, my absolute my favorite part of any financial goal is accomplishing the goal. Last month, my husband and I accomplished a big financial goal, one that we had been working towards the past 7 years. We are student debt free!
Those of you who are following along on Instagram probably saw my story with clinking champagne glasses at 9pm on a Monday. No, we do not have a drinking issue, we were celebrating this major financial milestone.
Goodbye Student Loans
I haven’t put a spotlight on this particular goal on here for a couple of reasons. The main reason being that they were my husband’s student loans, so it really wasn’t my story to share. NOTE: I did get his permission to write this post.
While they were his loans, the payoff process was a team effort. I know there are different ways to handle one partner bringing debt into a marriage but the way I look at it, the day we got married we became a team and this team was determined to pay off these loans together. This was a question that came up during our pre-marital retreat with other couples and we were the only ones that raised our hands in favor of combined finances.
Our goal was always to be debt free before we turned 30. I am happy to report we crushed this goal, ahead of schedule, and are excited to start tackling the next set of financial goals.
Okay, one more brag.
With our final push to be student debt free, we paid off over $50,000 of student loans in 12 months. I am still in shock as I write this down. I follow a lot of great people in the debt fee community and am in awe of how much these folks can accomplish in a short period of time. I couldn’t understand how they were able to accomplish such a rewarding goal in record time and now I get it. It takes hard work, sacrifice and strategic cash flow planning.
My husband and I love a good money date. The closer we got to paying down the last of our loans, the frequency of our money dates went up. Checking over cashflow to determine how much we could throw at the remainder of the loans (we used the snowball method). During these conversations we started looking to our next set of financial goals using the excitement for the future to push us past the finish line.
Now that we can finally look ahead, we are in the process of actively saving for a second car. While I don’t have all the SMART logistics figured out, I know how much we want to have in savings before we pull the trigger on car number two but we don’t know if we will buy either new or used (another great debate in personal finance world). Rest assured, we will figure that out as we get closer to our purchase and have a better understanding of what’s available. What I do know if that we have a need for a second car now that we aren’t living in the city and that we want a car with lots of room. When you have a 90 lbs. dog that loves car rides there is very little room for anything else in the backseat or trunk. In the meantime, we will be putting money into our High Yield Savings Account as quickly as possible.
Mid-Term and Long-Term
A car is our short-term goal, but we’ve also had many a conversation around mid-term and long-term goals. Like any financial goal, I am writing all these down to memorialize the goal and hold us accountable. In the mid-term (5-7 years), we plan to be more aggressive with our mortgage repayment to build up as much equity, as possible, in our home. The plan is to eventually use that equity plus savings to add onto our home.
If you are scratching your head, yes, we just moved in five months ago and I already have plans to add-on to our home. I promise I’m not crazy, I just watch entirely too much HGTV. Our home is perfect as is, but I am hoping there will be a day that we need extra space and I have already dreamed up designs to add onto our cute village home.
For the longer mid-term, our goal is to own a lake house somewhere in Michigan, our happy place. I have no idea what this will look like but I do recognize that we will need to start saving with a long-term strategy in mind if we want to make that happen in the next 10-20 years. Our goal is to increase our savings and begin investing outside of our retirement accounts and IRAs. To clarify, we are going to keep with our same level of savings into these qualified accounts but plan to save above these levels and add them to our taxable investment account.
Did you think I would forget about retirement?
While the goals listed above are in the mid to longer mid-term range they are in addition to our biggest financial goal of retirement or financial independence in the future. At this time, I don’t have a strong desire to retire at a certain age but I’d like to have the options to cut back on work or slowdown in my early 60s. Our financial plan tells us that in order to hit this milestone, we should be investing at least 15% of our income each year into qualified retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs. A word of caution, just because 15% is our retirement savings target number, it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. Retirement planning is not a one size fits all situation.
While I don’t expect everyone who reads this to have all their financial goals laid out like this personal finance nerd, I hope you have started to formulate what your long-term goals look like and have put some actions into practice that will support those goals. If you need help getting started, I’d encourage you to download my SMART Goal Worksheet.
If you want to talk about it more, you know where to find me!