This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.
Where Do I Want to Go?
Now you have to ask yourself where you want to go. Do you plan to retire in another 30 years? Another 20? Are you planning to get married and have children? How many children do you want to have? Do you want to buy a house or continue to rent? Basically, your task here is to just ask questions of yourself. You want to know what it is you want for yourself out of life. Here is a good place to set all of your goals.
To separate your priorities, you need to write down your goals. But break them into three segments, short-term, medium-term and long-term. Your short-term goals should be things you want within the next year. These may include getting a new television or a few new outfits for work. Your medium-term goals should be the things you will want within the next one to five years such as purchasing a new car or buying a home. Your long-term goals are what you want five or more years into the future. You should include retirement, maybe funding a child’s college education and perhaps purchasing a vacation home. Your goals do not have to be things you will buy. You may simply have the goal of moving to the beach within three years, or starting a family in the next two.
Whatever it is you want to do with your life can be listed as a future goal. Keeping things in this perspective will help you focus as you get out of bed every morning, fight with traffic and wonder why you can’t just go back to college and let your parents send you money.
None of these goals have to be set in stone, but you will at least have an idea of what your priorities are. After you have made your list, go back through and decide if these are really the things that are important to you. If so, then number them in order of importance.
How Do I Want to Get There?
Now that you have an idea of what you want out of life, you have to decide how you want to go about getting there. Are you willing to work longer hours to make more money so you can retire early? Would you prefer to delay all of your goals if you can find a job that does not pay as well, but is exactly the type of work you are looking for? We are so fortunate to have so many choices in life. Unfortunately, it is possible to make the wrong ones. Your best bet is to prioritize your goals and decide what is most important to you. As you go through life you may experience several detours. As long as you always know what it is you want to do and how you want to get there you will be able to adjust to all of these little detours without setting yourself back.
At this point you may want to consider speaking with a financial planner. You will be looking at your retirement plans through work (if you are working) and see if you are currently on pace to meet your goals. Also, using the rest of the information in this book you should be able to look at alternative ways to save money and invest and get out of debt quickly so you can start working towards all of your major life goals.
Hopefully you were able to see where I was going with my analogy of how planning your future is similar to planning a road trip. If you didn’t pick up on it (or you don’t know what an “analogy” is), don’t worry about it because the rest of the book isn’t nearly so deep. Just remember all of the key points about getting organized, and make your list of goals. From there you can decide what changes or sacrifices you are willing to make to reach those goals, or perhaps you may decide some of your goals are not really as important to you after all.
Write down at least three goals for each category, short-term, medium-term and long-term After you have made your list, go back through and decide if these are really the things that are important to you. If so, then number them in order of importance.
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.comor www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.