I’ve talked a bit about my personal finance philosophy in the past, but in summary I think that personal finance is personal and that your money should be spent (or saved or invested) in line with your personal goals, values and priorities. Those goals, values and priorities will surely vary from person to person, and even from time to time within a given person’s life. This means that there really is no right or wrong, just what works best for you.
I’ve also used myself as a test case for a lot of the personal finance topics I’ve discussed (like investing and budgeting). I’ve shared these examples in the absence of the central tenant of my personal finance philosophy: what goals do my financial practices support?
Today, I’ll share what my goals are and how that impacts the way I manage my personal finances.
Use money as a means to an end
My ultimate personal finance goal is to live in a manner that allows me never to worry about money. This may sound ironic coming from someone who clearly spends a lot of time thinking and writing about money. But it’s the truth. In fact, I would argue that part of the reason I think about money so much is so that I don’t have to worry about it. By focusing on saving, living frugally and investing smartly, I know that I have enough money in the bank to meet my wants and needs.
In this regard, money is purely a means to an end, so I don’t think of my goals in terms of attaining a certain net worth. My goals are much more personal, but of course they all require money.
Some of the goals that I am able to recognize now are as follows. I expect that this list will continue to grow and evolve throughout my life, and that’s ok.
- Have a meaningful career through which I make a positive contribution to society. At some point, I may take a pay cut or decide not to work for money at all in pursuit of a more meaningful job. My goal is to save and live frugally so that I can pursue work that interests and excites me, not work that just pays well.
- Travel. I know it’s a cliché, but I want to see the world. I’m OK with travelling on a budget, but travelling, especially internationally, is expensive no matter how you slice it. My goal is to have enough money to be able to travel without guilt or financial hardship.
- Have a family. Kids are not cheap. When I have a family, I want to raise my children with an awareness of money but not a fear of money. My goal is to always have enough, but never spend too much.
- Pay for my children’s education. Goodness knows how much college will cost by time my currently non-existent kids get there, but I will bet that it will be expensive. My goal is to pay for my children’s college and possibly beyond.
- Have flexibility. Maybe when I have kids I’ll want to take a few years off from work. Maybe at some point I’ll want to pack my family up and travel the globe for a few months. I don’t know what I’ll need the flexibility for, but my goal is to have enough money to give me the freedom to make these types of choices.
- Relax. I guess this is what some might call retirement, although more and more I’ve started thinking about it as occasional re-charges throughout my career. I’ve learned during my summer in Europe that a few months away from the grind can do wonders for your happiness, and my goal is to have the financial means to pursue relaxation as needed throughout my life.
I know that most of these goals aren’t terribly concrete. That is both scary and exciting for me. I’m trying to be OK with the unknowns in life (a challenge for a type A personality like me) and make decisions today, financial and otherwise, that will support these goals now and into the future, regardless of how they might evolve.
It is also worth noting that these are my broad strokes, lifestyle goals. These are always in the back of my mind, but I often have short-term goals, like increasing my net worth by 46% this year, that help me work in the right direction.
What are your goals? How does your personal financial strategy support them?