Your Goals Are Stupid

I wanted to get this post out before you go ahead and mess up your 2014 Resolutions before the year even starts.

It needs to be said: your goals are stupid.

I mean that. You want stupid things and you’re going about it in a stupid way. I can say this because I’ve been there. I have an extraordinary list of stupid goals I’ve made in the past, and when I look it over, I can’t even decide if I feel more stupid about the ones I failed to accomplish or the ones I actually did.

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You Financial Goals Are Stupid If…

your savings target is more than you’ve ever grossed in a year in income. This is actual insanity, but I see it fairly often. “I’m going to save $75,000 this year!” No you’re not, you’ve only ever made $25,000/year in your whole life, what are you thinking? I get it, saving $75K or $100K or whatever sounds amazing so you want to do it, and it’s so awesome you insist you’ll stop at nothing to accomplish your goal because you’re a very ambitious person and you’re putting all this good out into the universe so it will absolutely come back to you tenfold but, no. It won’t. Be rational, please. If you’re new to saving, aim for 10% of your gross income. If you’re a seasoned saver, you should be banking 30%+ of your gross.

your income goal depends on a job you don’t have yet. It’s way too often I see or hear people say, “well, I’m going to move to {insert City/Province here} and earn {insert phenomenal amount of money}”. No, you’re not. Never make plans on a salary you don’t actually have. This is extraordinarily idiotic but it’s a practice we all engage in because it makes us feel better about our current situation. Nothing takes the pain out of under-earning like convincing yourself the situation is temporary. I don’t care how dutifully you’ve looked up the average salary of whatever position in whatever town you’re going to set yourself up in, if you haven’t signed an employment contract, it’s not real. This is particularly bad if you’re only a year or two into your university career and imagining job prospects at graduation. Truthfully, you might have to spend months looking for a job after graduation, and it might not even be in your field which makes all those averages you looked up completely useless.

your debt repayment goal doesn’t account for changing interest rates. I see this most often with students who graduate owing money on a line of credit and then blissfully assume the super-low interest rate they enjoyed while in school will remain constant until they pay off their debt. No. One of the first things that happens after you finish school is the bank will convert your “student line of credit” into a “regular line of credit” and double the interest rate. Sometimes this takes six months to kick in, but it always happens. Don’t make a debt repayment plan that’s all rosy and good at an interest rate of 3% if you’re going to be paying 6.5% before the year is up.

you think you will be able to save money and pay off debt at the same rate at all times of the year. Ha! This is just silly. This usually works out well at the beginning of a new year when your will is strong and it’s too cold to go outside and do anything fun, but come warmer months when you start to battle debt fatigue and would actually like to get out and do things, your budget will become pretty tight pretty fast. The best example of this, however, is Christmas. Undoubtedly you spend a lot of money on gifts in November and December of each year, so why would you keep your savings and debt payments high during those months? My advice: kick debt’s ass and create a huge buffer in your savings account early in the year so you can cut your contributions guilt-free when next Christmas rolls around.

you made a chart or a list or a folder of charts and lists to make your stupid goals seem like good ideas. This is actually relatively harmless, it’s just a complete waste of time. Often it seems like most people feel planning your goals is the same as actually doing something to accomplish them. It’s not. Despite the impression and comfort a colourful excel spreadsheet gives you, calculating your daily interest to the nearest penny does not actually bring you a single step closer to accomplishing your goal. Make one table that captures both your goal and your progress and then stop. More is not better. More is stupid.

you have more goals than really makes sense. I used to be a huge advocate of the DayZero Project until I realized that about 1/4 of my goals were all intertwined with each other: “save $1,000!” then “save $2,000!” and finally “save $5,000″! No. These are not many goals, this is a to-do list. Set one goal (ie. save $5,000) and by all means, track your progress, but don’t pat yourself on the back for accomplishing “mini-goals” on the way there. This is more or less giving yourself a participation ribbon, which if you went through elementary school in the early 2000’s I’m sure is all too familiar to you, but coddling millennials is a practice we all need to abandon, especially when it comes to ourselves. Set 3 goals for 2014 and be done with it. Like my previous point: more is not better, more is stupid.

So seriously, stop being stupid. Good luck!

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Comments

  1. Haha, I love it! I’ve set stupid goals in the past and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Our biggest issue is we have no idea what our income will be from one month to the next (BOTH on irregular incomes!) so goal setting is hard. I’m stealing your “increase net worth by $25k” and calling it a day! That will cover some debt payoff and some saving but allows for flexibility.

  2. I don’t really like to make too many goals for the new year. Its good to shoot for something but I find that life likes to laugh in the face of your goals so you should try being more flexible than anything. I always want to improve myself and become more financially dependent which I am on the path of anyways.

  3. Whoops. I’ve definitely been playing with the second one a lot lately because my new job is.so.close! The only goal that will have a hindrance on will be my Retirement savings goal – my debt repayment stuff will still go on as planned, even if that doesn’t materialize. I could probably summarize my debt repayment goals down to one massive one, but I like the idea of clearing separate creditors. But that’s just me.

  4. Love it! These are all so true. The only thing I disagree with is the mini goals thing. I do think that setting one big goal is important, but I disagree that celebrating the small wins is dumb. Keeping track of how much I paid off is what kept me motivated with my debt repayment.

    I haven’t layer out my 2014 goals yet, but I’m pretty sure that they will all conform to these rules.

  5. I’ve been a proponent of no goals altogether. Do you really need to write down “Save $5,000″ in order to do it?

  6. Haha, the chart or list point reminds me of dream boards! I get that people are all into the “speak into success or reality” or whatever the stupid expression is…but throwing pictures and glitter on a piece of cardboard accomplish NOTHING! Get off your tush and put that time into getting to work.

  7. “you think you will be able to save money and pay off debt at the same rate at all times of the year.”

    This. Life happens, and you need to build in a HUGE buffer to allow for that.

  8. I have this issue when deciding if I want to make a goal for side income in 2014. I already made the commitment that I won’t take any freelance writing work until I finish my master’s degree (which won’t be done until Dec. 2014). So unless my blog blows up and I start getting crazy affiliate income, I really don’t have a good source for side income. Which makes the goal doomed to fail or potentially sets me up to do side work I don’t want to do just to meet some arbitrary figure.

  9. Ugh… the Day Zero project. Love the concept, but now that I’m nearing the end of my second try, I’ll be lucky to be 25% done the list. And a lot of things I don’t even care about doing anymore.

    I’m not one to make new years resolutions because I agree with you – they are stupid!

    • that’s exactly it! One of my DayZero goals was “buy a mini cooper” and I don’t even LIKE mini coopers anymore!

      I still got through over 50% of my list, but like you said, there’s a lot of “goals” I don’t care about anymore.

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