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Recently, a coworker and I were talking over lunch at Chipotle. Of course, I chose Chipotle because I’m a shareholder (full disclosure), and my wife had given me a Chipotle gift card from Cardpool for Father’s Day (shameless plug). While we were chatting, he asked me what my biggest financial goals have been over the years.
Related: The Twelve Pillars To Reaching FIRE
In between the savory bites of my chicken burrito, my mind began to wander. I started thinking about the financial goals that I’ve set for myself since graduating from college.
My First Financial Goal: a Job
While in college, like most of my peers, my #1 financial goal was to secure a job before graduation. Graduating during a recession in 2002 was tough. Jobs were scarce, and salaries were low.
I was fortunate to receive not one, but two job offers shortly after I graduated. One job was working for a mortgage broker, which would have used my finance degree. However, the pay was less than $30,000 without any benefits. Of course, I wanted to utilize the degree that I had just paid for. But, the people who ran that company made it sound like a sweatshop, cranking through mortgage documents all day long. I didn’t feel really comfortable with the environment and declined that offer.
It was probably a good thing in hindsight, considering the direction the mortgage industry went during the Great Recession.
The other job offer was working as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. Keep in mind, at the time, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a fender and a quarter panel on a car. However, I took a leap at the insurance job, mostly because of the slightly higher salary and the healthcare benefits.
My Next Financial Goal: Contributions
Once I obtained that job, I shifted my financial goal towards contributing enough to receive a match from my 401(k). Admittedly, that was a bigger struggle than it should have been. But, like most new graduates, the allure of making your own money for the first time and showing it off can be difficult to resist at times.
Related: How Much Should I Have In My 401(k)?
My Next Financial Goal: Buying a Home
Additionally, I was determined to buy a home and move out of my parents’ place. Because of that, I was disciplined. My eyes were on the prize. I got my friends on board with my idea, too. I assured them that if they moved in, we could throw parties at our place instead of going to bars and getting overlooked by women while paying for overpriced beers. It was an easy sell. 🙂
It took a couple of years, but I finally bought a home in 2004, thanks to a shady mortgage company that gave me way too big of a loan. Luckily, I was able to make the payments by collecting rent from the housemates who I crammed into my home.
My Next Financial Goal: Increasing Contributions and Mortgage Payments
As I got older, my financial goals continued to evolve. I started to get more breathing room as my salary slowly rose. I began prioritizing my contributions by putting any excess money towards maxing out my Roth IRA. Then, I started applying the extra money that I made towards my mortgage.
In 2012, I made my last mortgage payment and began to increase my 401(k) until I finally maxed that out in 2013, for the first time.
My Valuable Lesson on Emergency Funds
However, there have been hiccups along the way. I learned an incredibly valuable lesson about needing an emergency fund, when my car died in 2009. At that point, I was scrambling. I had to borrow my sister’s car and then had to borrow money from my dad in order to purchase one.
Related: Why You Need an Emergency Fund
Not one of my finer financial moments in life.
Unsure of What To Do Next
Shortly after I paid off my house and began to max out my 401(k), I felt a bit lost in regards to my next financial move. If you’re like me, being able to set specific goals each year is vital for ensuring that I am staying on track in my financial journey.
However, for some time, I felt anxious because I couldn’t decide what my next financial goal should be. There is some really great advice out there in regards to paying off debt, which accounts to max out, and how much to contribute. However, once you knock those out, you get a mixed bag of advice on what to do next.
Some people say, “Keep doing what you are doing, so you can reach retirement even earlier.” Others say, “Ease off the gas, enjoy life, and spend a little bit of money.”
Our Current Financial Goal: Increased Savings
It took us some time to figure out exactly what to do next. Eventually, my wife and I determined that our new financial goal was to save 70% of our take-home pay.
For those who have been following, we have been able to save 65% of our take-home pay over the last two years. But, we haven’t been able to get over the hump.
Unfortunately, through the first quarter, I still am having trouble reaching that goal. I still have hope that we can reach 70% by the end of the year, but we shall see.
Related: My 2018 Goals: 1st Quarter Recap
While my financial journey has not been linear, it’s been a fun ride so far, and I have learned a lot along the way. I plan to continue to set new financial goals each year and hope to continue growing during each phase.