My Goals for 2015 (and beyond!)

I’ve been trying to write down my goals for 2015 on and off for the last couple of days. At first I thought it’d be easy but then I started thinking more about the subject and changed my approach.

Here’s the first draft, following the SMART goals approach.

Dividend Goals

1. I shall earn total dividend income of 1.5 times my Living Expenses throughout the year.

2. I shall increase my Emergency Fund to a minimum level of 9.5 times my Living Expenses by the year end.

Life Goals

3. I shall improve my body fat % level from 11% down to 10% by a combination of exercise and diet, as measured by my electronic scales.

4. I shall measure my blood pressure every week and take action if the one-month moving average is above 120/80.

5. I shall learn to play Ludovico Einaudi’s Nuvole Bianche by the year’s end and post a video of the result. (I have no musical talent, ability to read music or play the piano; I’m just stubborn)

Did you see what I did there with the play on DividendLife for my goals? 😉

That’s great and all but something’s missing…

The thing is, I write “Requirements” at work and they’re supposed to follow the SMART criteria too. Which I totally get for a technical requirement describing a product that needs to be built and then tested. But for a ‘goal’ it just seems so mechanical and left-brain centered – which is ironic for me as I’m practically a left-brain robot.

The Human Resources department at work loves SMART goals too – I think I have seven of them in my file…”Hello Employee #1452677, I see you’ve met goals 2, 4, 5 & 6. That means you’re in the 50% percentile of your peers and you get 43% of your performance bonus according to policy #45-2″ is how I imagine HR looks at goals.

The goals make me think of a “work-package” or task that’s part of a larger “project”…the question that my initial goals above don’t answer on their own is “What is that larger project?”. Or, why exactly do I want to earn 1.5x of my living expenses from investments?

Perhaps not every objective can be written as a SMART goal – I mean you wouldn’t write a goal to become a better listener as “I’ll spend at least 54% of the time in every conversation listening to the other person speaking and ask them for a monthly grade of my listening skills using a scale of 1-10” would you? SMART goals also weren’t necessary for man to reach the moon – the desire was there, but not the specifics, technology or the time-frame – those came later.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want my main goals to be more about the dream or the desire and that maybe the SMART goals come in as a tangible step to be taken to reach that goal.

Anyway, I’m rambling a little as I’ve got a sugar rush or something from eating too much popcorn, so I’m just going to think bigger and re-write my objectives and maybe come up with a couple of goals along the way.

2015 Goals, Revisited

1. I want to be financially independent and not have to rely on income from an employer for living expenses.

As a step towards this goal in 2015, I shall
1-1. Earn total dividend income greater than 1.5 times my monthly living expenses.
1-2. Increase the size of my Emergency Fund to 9.5 times my living expenses.

2. I want to be healthy and fit.

As a step towards this goal in 2015, I shall
2-1. Exercise regularly.
2-2. Maintain annual vision, doctor and dentist checkups.
2-3. Monitor my blood-pressure regularly and provide data to my doctor.

3. I want to establish some kind of charitable trust or fund in my life

As a step towards this goal in 2015, I shall
3-1. Prioritize specific causes that are important to me.
3-2. Put $1,000 aside in an investment product for future use in this endeavor.

4. I want to continually improve myself and my skills

As a step towards this goal in 2015, I shall
4-1. Learn to play Ludovico Einaudi’s Nuvole Bianche to improve hand-eye coordination, overcome fear and exercise the expressive side of my brain.
4-2. Learn how to create a database to improve the efficiency of the UK Dividend List generation instead of the mother of all Excel files.

5. I want to start some kind of company for side income

As a step towards this goal in 2015, I shall
5-1. Research and create possible business ideas & plans.

Summary

The above goals and sub-goals aren’t set in stone – I intend them as just one step along a journey, and I may need to take a different step if I made a mistake or change my destination. But I’m happy with the results for now. The sub-goals are less concerned about the measurements or completing a checklist and more aligned with long-term goals that I’ve never written down before. This is my life after all, not a series of checklists.

0 thoughts on “My Goals for 2015 (and beyond!)”

  1. Hey man. Love these goals. One way to make them a bit less left-brain is to use the SMARTER technique instead of the SMART one. The E and R stand for Exciting and Recordable. You’ve already got the recordable since they’re recorded online, but perhaps adding an element of excitement into the goals would make them a bit more right-brained?

    By the way, can I help you with 4.2? T is good with databases I think

    1. Hi M,

      Thanks, I’ll take a look at the longer acronym. I’m curious how the Excitement part will work as it relates to a doctor’s visit though! 🙂 I think the biggest help for me was looking at more longer term life-goals which can be hard to quantify and aligning shorter term goals to those.

      Thanks for the offer of help too which is always appreciated! I’ll send over an email soon about the database – I’m trying to think about the schema that should be used and how to structure the data. My excel file currently has over 1500 entries and that only covers 45 companies; I don’t think excel is going to scale very well as I add more companies.

      Cheers!
      – DL

    1. Hi Henry,

      Thanks – I don’t know how hard it is to improve body fat so I went with small numbers to get started! I was initially thinking of weight as a goal but it’s kind of meaningless as I don’t know what a “perfect weight” would be.

      I do like your goal of improving sleep though – I should probably add that as my sleep pattern is really bad.

      Best wishes,
      -DL

    1. Hi DGJ,

      Don’t wait too long! 🙂 I do tend to over-think things to be honest and I have to continually remind myself that “perfect is the enemy of good”.

      Looking forward to reading your goals!

      Best wishes,
      -DL

  2. Wow, I love that song. Did you get the inspiration to want to play it after it was in so many “Derek” episodes?

    Congrats on already, or very soon, meeting financial independence. I’m still about five years away, but steadily trying to get there.

    1. Hi Retire29,

      Hmm…I can’t remember where I first heard the song from but I came upon it last year, bought the sheet music, learned the first few bars and then stopped. I’ve not actually heard of the Derek show before – is it a good series?

      I’m quite a long ways from FI at the moment and I don’t have a specific target year in mind yet. I probably should work one out one of these days.

      This year my annual dividend income should reach a total of 1.5x my monthly expenses (2014 was 1.25x). It needs to be 12x monthly expenses to reach FI, so I’m guessing it’ll take a minimum of 10 years from where I am now. You’ll likely beat me based on your timeline!

      Congrats on starting your blog and taking a step along the path to FI. If your experience is anything like mine, then simply blogging about your journey is a major step to take and incredibly helpful. I wish you every success along the way!

      Best wishes,
      -DL

  3. Hi DL,
    I was going to ask about how you were going to achieve 1.5x of dividend income until you explained it in the previous comment. I was thinking you were setting a bigger goal of having 1.5x dividend income vs. yearly expenses (10,000 x 1.5 = 15,000 dividend income per year). Anyways good luck on the goals. I like to think of the bigger picture goals as my vision of how I want my life to be and then use the SMART goals for something more concrete and attainable for the year. Still have to set mine though. Easy to think about them but harder to write them down.
    DFG

    1. Hi DFG,

      Yes you’re right – I re-read that goal and it’s misleading so I’ll fix that, I meant monthly income as that’s the basis for all my mental accounting. One day I hope to reach 15K from dividend income but sadly not this year!

      I think your approach to goal setting is pretty much where I ended up too – I do find the SMART goals quite mechanical so I think there’s value in what M says about the excitement aspect (hey I even worked her blog name into that statement!).

      Best wishes,
      -DL

  4. Dividendlife,

    Nice write up on your 2015 goals. Are you going to count your blog as starting a company to produce side income?

    What kind of savings rate will you have to maintain throughout 2015 to meet your annual dividend goals?

    1. Hi Mr. Captain Cash,

      I don’t count my blog on its own as meeting that goal right now. I look at this goal as a kind of exploratory step; maybe there’s some kind of work I could do in my spare time like writing and selling an app, Excel consulting, renting a house etc.

      Certainly monetizing the blog more is something to explore but the traffic is fairly low and I’ve yet to receive any ad revenue. I blog mostly for selfish reasons, kind of like a diary, but I hope that my perspective will change as I become more social as well as feel more confident about the content 🙂

      Good question about the savings rate – I have two levers to adjust in meeting the target because of how I defined it. I can spend less and lower my monthly living expenses and I can invest new capital to earn more income. I also put actual earned income, and not projected income, so investments later in the year contribute much less income than at the start due to the shorter duration.

      With the current expenses of $3,900 a month, my target dividend income = 1.5 x 3,900 = $5,850. Last year I earned about $5,000, so that’s an extra $850 of income needed this year. Assuming I’ll get an extra $150 a year just from dividend growth (an average 3% increase over the year), that leaves $700. At a 3.5% yield that would need $20,000 of new capital at the beginning of the year; and more if spread over the year which is what I’ll be doing.

      I plan to invest up to $30,000 this year – $1,200 a month in stock purchases and the rest in VHDYX. I do expect to be able to reduce monthly expenses in the last half or quarter of the year so I’m quietly confident that I can meet the goal.

      Best wishes,
      -DL

  5. DL,

    Man, I almost fell of my chair when I read you were going to try and reach 1.5 times your living expenses in dividends. Then it hit me that you probably meant monthly living expenses because you’d need some serious growth to get to 1.5 times your yearly expense level. 🙂

    Great set of goals! I’m sure you’ll be able to achieve most of them. I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to that video of you playing Nuvole Bianche.

    Good luck for 2015,
    NMW

    1. Hi NMW,

      Yes my bad – that’s monthly expenses, not yearly! One day it’ll be yearly though 🙂

      I’ll see what I can do with the video – I think I can get the first couple of notes at least! I just counted and it’s 100 bars which is…well .. quite a lot really!

      Wishing you a healthy and successful 2015,
      -DL

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