One suggestion I frequently give to readers who write in unsure what to do with their money is to plot out some long term goals. The big question I usually ask them to think about is where would you like to be in five years?
Over the last few months, my wife and I have done some soul-searching with regards to that very question in our own lives. We’ve come up with a small handful of five year goals for us. To put it simply, we’re shooting for 2015 with these items.
We will be living in a more rural area.
When we first moved to our current house, there was a cornfield directly behind it. In the ensuing three years, the space behind our house has been purchased for development and a few houses have gone up. While I can still see the cornfield several hundred feet away, the house has gone from being almost in the country to being part of an oncoming property development. That’s not really what my wife or I really want.
That means that, eventually, we will be moving on. We would like to own property in the actual country – an area where we have some wooded land to ourselves and there aren’t many other houses in sight. We’re still debating as to exactly where that land will be, as we have four different general areas that have logical benefits for moving there (one is close to our current social network, one is close to my extended family, one is close to her extended family (and is very beautiful in terms of geography), and one is close to her sister (and is the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen in terms of geography). Thankfully, my work can easily move with me and my wife, as a teacher, can find work with relative ease anywhere.
In the next few years, before our children become too entrenched in their current social networks, we will be making one of the above moves. The longer we stay in this area, the more likely it is that we will just find land nearby and live there.
I will have published multiple works of fiction.
I write fiction all the time. I spend several hours each week working purely on fiction, mostly writing short stories, but also tinkering with a long-existing novel called Rings of Saturn (it’s got some light sci-fi elements, but it’s mostly a story about sibling rivalry).
I don’t feel that any of it is good enough to publish yet. However, I do feel that it’s getting better all the time. My skills with the written word are growing and the stuff I produce is just simply better in every dimension than the stuff I was churning out several years ago. I often attempted to get those things published and all I did was rack up a big pile of rejection letters. At this point, I understand why they were all rejected – they simply aren’t very good.
At some point in the next two years (I have a firm deadline of New Year’s Day 2012), I’m going to submit a few of my best short stories for publication. From there, I would love to build things into actually publishing a novel, but I do fully intend to at least have a decent number of my best short stories published by 2015.
We will be finished having children of our own.
My wife and I do not want to be raising young children in our late forties or fifties. Our goal, by the time we’re fifty-five, is to have all of our children out of the home and on some sort of path towards successful adulthood. If you assume that our children will be primarily out of the home by age twenty, that means we have to cease having children at age thirty-five. That means once 2015 rolls around, we’ll be done having children.
We currently have two children and a third child is just about to arrive. Will this be enough for us? We haven’t really decided yet; we want to see how our family fits together with two adults and three children first. If we decide to try again, though, it will be sooner rather than later. We also want a situation where our children have siblings close enough to their age that they view them at least somewhat as peers and equal playmates, which we’ve accomplished with our first two children.
The only debt we will hold will be a mortgage on our primary residence.
This should be easy to accomplish, as the only debts we have right now is the remainder of my final student loan and the remainder of a car loan, both of which we could easily pay off if the money were not locked into CDs earning a better return than we would get from paying the debt off early. These CDs will mature over the next few years, making wiping that remaining debt out quite easy.
Of course, doing this also means that we have to stick to the mantra of “spending less than we earn,” but that’s basically the normal standard of our life at this point. It’s just how we live, and I can’t see anything that would change that.
My primary writing effort will be in some form other than The Simple Dollar.
Will it be fiction? Will it be another blog? Will it be a series of books? I don’t know for sure. I do know that I love taking on new challenges in my life. I also know that I won’t switch gears unless I believe what I’m producing is a net benefit for others, as good writing can be.
Of course, this means I’m going to be pushing myself to explore new avenues. As I mentioned above, fiction is one of those avenues. As time goes on, I may try other avenues of online writing. I’ve experimented in some other avenues lately without connecting them to The Simple Dollar at all (think politics) with some degree of success.
If I do not try new things, how can I ever grow?