Updated on 04.16.10

My Five Year Goals

Trent Hamm

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?

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  1. Wesley says:

    As a person who grew up in the country, as in more than 1 mile from the nearest other house I will say I wouldn’t trade that upbringing for anything and I hope to give my children the same experience.

    From what I have read here at TSD on how you wish to raise your children, low media consumption a lot of “imagining” and thinking, there is no better place for that than somewhere where children have tons of outside play space where you can literally just open up your door and say “Go Play” without having to worry at all about anything bad happening to them, other than the occasional accident (broke my arm twice trying new things, learned not to do those things pretty quick).

  2. Wesley says:

    Oh my, that was one long run-on sentence…woops.

  3. Matt says:

    You’re quite optimistic, thinking your wife can just pick up a teaching job wherever she goes :)

  4. wanzman says:

    I am constantly thinking about goals for the future, something it seems most people my age don’t really do (I’m 25).

    My 5 year goals are:

    1. Own 5 rental units by 2015 (I currently own one).

    2. Own at least one property free and clear – either my primary residence or a rental unit. Most likely this will be one of my rental units, because money on my primary residence is cheaper.

    3. Our family would like to be in a position where my wife could stop working by age 30 (technically that would be in 2016) without us seeing much drop in family income (rental income is not currently counted, and could replace her job income if she quit eventually).

    4. Solidify myself as one of the top young commercial lenders in my town (becoming a commercial lender was one of my long term goals very recently, and I got a great opportunity to check that one off the list back in November).

    Longer term goals:

    My wife and I would both like to be able to work for ourselves in our rental real estate business by the time I am 35 or 40 years old (10 to 15 years).

  5. Hade says:

    Hey Trent,

    I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, so I thought I’d put the suggestion out here:

    You mention that your novel has some sci-fi elements. Is that true for one or more of the short stories you would like to get published as well?

    If so, maybe you should consider sending it in to the Escape Pod podcast (or, if it’s horror or fantasy you are looking to get out there, its sister Podcasts Pseudopod or Podcastle). They pay authors for the right to produce an audio version of their story, and all other rights remain with the author.

    I realize you may not see this as ‘true’ publication, but if it works out, it gives you the benefit of establishing your name with an existing audience of sci-fi (horror/fantasy) lovers, which in turn may work out in your favor if and when you decide to start trying to get your first novel published.

    I’ve also been told when trying to get stuff published myself that it’s much harder for a beginning fiction writer to break into the market with a bundle of short stories than with an actual novel, so audio may be an ‘easier’ way to take the first step.

    Then again, I suppose you’ve got a loyal audience of your very own here at the Simple Dollar already, and since you’ve published two non-fiction books to date, I would also guess you have some foothold on the publishing world that many other aspiring fiction writers don’t have. Regardless, I thought I’d just mention it — do with it whatever you want.

  6. Lindsay says:

    #2 Wanzman – I understand! Most people I know, I’m 27, are not planning this far ahead.

    Goals for next 5 years by 2015:

    1) All debt paid off. This includes student loans and our mortgage. We have paid off $15000 in credit card debt in last 2 years and are conmitted to living debt free!

    2) Have our house fixed…includes new roof, new porch, reside it, new kitchen. This should be done in 2013, as we are using 1/2 our “extra” money for this and 1/2 for debt repayment. This is not a needless remodel, our house is 100 years old and really needs the work.

    3) Retirement saving! Continue to max out 401K, start IRA in 2011 and max them out each year by 2015.

    4) Go on 2 vacations a year. We are doing this by saving any found money as in extra hours at work, bday gifts, items we sell and such. Vacations are very important to us and we have chosen to do this rather than pay off our student loans and house. We need to enjoy today and tomorrow!

    5)Finish my education! Currently enrolled in bacholors of nursing with planned graduation of May 2011. I will go on for my masters, unsure in what area. Planned finish 2015.

  7. Rachel says:

    I am a teacher and am having extreme difficulty finding a teaching position for next year. I currently work in a military town, and even here, there are no teaching jobs in sight. NO ONE by me is hiring.

  8. JM says:

    I second the ease at which she can pick up a teaching job. Unless your market is drastically different than here in Ohio. I know lots of teachers that can’t find any. Many have years of experience and Master’s degrees. Most schools around here are over crowded and under funded (at least in their view point).

  9. Ellen says:

    My DH and I also set a 5 year goal of relocating to a different area of the country. The problem we have is that he keeps thinking of it as 5 years from now (a rolling 5-year goal) instead of committing to a date and thinking in those terms rather than “in 5 years.” Obviously, situations change & a lot can happen in 5 years, but for us a relocation would be fairly uncomplicated, so in my mind this is the major hold-up. (The move should have been happening this year based on when we made the original decision. Not that much is different than what we’d projected. We’ll be revisiting the topic soon as we set our new budget & I plan to work on getting us both committed to an end-date.)

    Trent – regarding choosing where you move to, keep in mind that as an adult (particularly with a busy family life & given the fact that you work at home), developing new social networks is more complicated & can take quite some time. So if I were working from your options, I might weight retaining the current social network somewhat higher than beauty of the location. On the other hand, if the next move is intended to be a long-term commitment, finding the perfect spot might overrule all else!

  10. John says:

    I hate making long term goals because it reminds me I’m getting older.

    Better than living in denial I suppose.

  11. Crystal says:

    Goals for 2015:

    1. All debts except the mortgage paid off…we’ll still have 2 years left on that.
    2. Be on track for our goal to retire by 2035.
    3. Have at least 10 more awesome big vacation memories and countless happy ones…

  12. Maureen says:

    When you live out in the country, transportation becomes a huge factor in maintaining social networks for ALL of you. Your children will be distant from their friends. It will also make sports, extra-curriculars, part time jobs etc. more difficult as they become teens.

    I agree with Matt (#1). Teaching jobs are very scarce in my neck of the woods. There are a lot of new teachers here that can’t even get supply work. Just something to consider.

  13. matt says:

    In the midwest it is possible to live in the country but still be within commute distance of a major city, I have a feeling you people are thinking country country rather than the farms just outside suburbia. At least here (in Fort wayne Indiana) I could buy a farm plot with all that, and still be within a 30 min commute of my job downtown if I so desired, it would be the same social network, same schools, same jobs etc. You dont have to be in the middle of BFE to be ‘in the country’

  14. Kate says:

    I’m inspired to think about my own five-year goals! Just FYI, there are already two books out there called Rings of Saturn (well, one is In the Rings of Saturn, the other is The Rings of Saturn). I just read Sebald’s travelogue recently, and it’s hard to associate the name with anything else.

  15. Jenny says:

    This is a scary exercise for me. My pay keeps getting cut, and my weekly grocery bill is going the opposite way. It is overwhelming to feel I won’t be able to keep up with food, utility, and health costs. Too scary day to day.

  16. lurker carl says:

    Everyone should make 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 year goals – and even longer term if you’re young enough. It’s impossible to plan ahead if you don’t know where you’re going.

    Bear in mind, these goals should be flexible. Opportunities, unforseen changes, calamities, personal desires and whatnot can make some goals happen sooner or later or not at all. Life happens, work with what you’ve got.

  17. Jeff says:

    How would writing fiction be more benficial to tothers than what you are doing now with “The Simple Dollar”. I may not always agree with what you write, especially the article about making your own goo gone, but you are hands down the most authentic finance expert I have read. This is why I visit the blog every other day to check in and see what tips I could be doing for my own benefit.

    What you are doing now has never been so necessary. America as a whole is changing as a culture from a consumer mentality to a saving mentality. You are helping that cause through your work here. I hope you never stop giving the blog full attention.

  18. Jules says:

    Would living so far away from the rest of the world be good for your kids, though?

    We also want to live on a farm-like piece of land (but this being the Netherlands, you’re never more than a holler away from anybody), but we also want well-adjusted, socially-adept children.

  19. Michael says:

    I’m not sure if you’ve been asked this before, but you should make some of your fiction available to TSD readers.

    I would love to read your short stories, published or not.

  20. WRC says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with reading a couple’s five year goals.

    I love that they are setting goals and looking forward to a happy life.

    I hate that I have never been able to convince my husband that doing this will be of any benefit. We have been married almost 17 years. In our early years I sat us down every January to discuss goals. I dutifully wrote them out and got us back together every so often to discuss them. Eventually I realized that “our” goals were really “my” goals, and that I was doing all the work and dragging my reluctant husband along, while he was doing very little (and deriving quite a bit of benefit). I stopped doing this about six years in, and he’s never asked about them since.

    I’ve wasted enough of my life and would like to develop my own five, ten and 15 year goals. When you’re married though it really limits the kind of personal goals that can be set, both because of your impact on your spouse and because a reluctant spouse can be a sabotaging spouse. Any thoughts on how a married person can have goals without the support of a spouse?

  21. Ryan says:

    This is just a thought I’ve had before: Does anyone think it’s selfish to want to live in the country with a bit of land, all to yourself?

    I’m not saying it is or isn’t…

    While I’m not an environmentalist, it does raise some questions. Living away from cities requires you to drive just about everywhere, using more gas. Homes are usually larger so there’s more energy needed to heat/cool and power.

    Is the above cancelled out if you use your land to grow your own produce and compost waste?

  22. rosa rugosa says:

    @10 Lurker Carl – yeah, if you’re young enough. In 30 years, I plan to be dead :)

  23. Kai says:

    I am with Ryan (#13)
    The way I look at the morality of such things is ‘Would it be beneficial or detrimental if everyone else did it too?’ or sometimes ‘Would it be possible to sustain everyone doing this?’
    When it comes to living on large plots of land that are not being put to good use, I say no. Or massive homes in the city, or city-edge acreages or towns in the middle of the mountains or many other unsustainably impactive settings.
    If you’re going to live out on a large plot of land, you need to be doing something with it. If you become self-sustaining, grow your own food, and make very rare trips away by car, then I think you can justify it. If you want to just live somewhere with a lot of open space around you to look at, I understand the desire, but I don’t think it is necessarily a good thing for the earth.
    I am an environmentalist. Not a crazed one, but one who thinks it is good to look at the impact of decisions and desires. Ryan, are you just then speaking from another possible point of view? Or are you just not willing to admit to being an environmentalist, despite your concerns? :D

    I know that Trent has not asked for my opinion on his choices, and I am not trying to speak directly against him in any way here. That’s not what I would have brought up, and it’s really not why he’s sharing this stuff. So I mean this to be simply a theoretical discussion in response to Ryan’s question.

  24. lurker carl says:

    Rosa Rugosa, 30 year goals aren’t high on my radar either. Most readers here are closer in age to my grandchildren than they are to me.

  25. ChrisB says:

    Trent, I ask this question only because you’ve mentioned your religious persuasion on occasion…

    What role does prayer play in your discernment of your goals? Just curious if and how you incorporate that dimension into your planning.

  26. Laura says:

    Trent, the goals looks good, but they look rather you centered. Two of the five are just about your career. Does your wife have an profession or personal goals as well. It would be interesting to see if you each wrote down 5 goals separately and then compared, and came up with together goals.

  27. Geoff Hart says:

    In terms of writing, one thing I’m finding very effective is doing some of my own literary criticism to see whether it helps me better understand the writing process of other authors and thereby improve my own fiction.

    Since you noted that you’re thinking of writing SF/F, you might be interested in some of my reviews, which are entirely of genre science fiction and fantasy:
    They’re most worth reading if you’ve read the stories, but there’s a bit about the process of writing you might find useful even if you haven’t read the stories.

    I find that the process of thinking through how another author is working (without dissecting the stories to the point where they lose all their entertainment value) is very helpful for understanding the flaws in my own fiction. It also makes me think much harder about the stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them. I’m hoping that the results will improve my own fiction enough to make it worth submitting to the big markets at some point. But if not, it’s still making my writing a much more satisfying process.

  28. boboli says:

    I’m not sure I agree with the living in the country is wasteful argument. I spent my first 18 years living in the country, pretty much twenty miles from anywhere. We spent more time in our cars and used more gas, but probably drove less than most people who live in cities. On the weekends and days off we often didn’t drive anywhere at all. Since it was so far to go for errands and such we didn’t go somewhere to just go, which a lot of us city dwellers do now.

    Most people who live in the country actually maintain a lot of wildnerness and green space, with the majority of the space being wild. I would put good money down that most country dwellers use less fertilizer and lawn chemicals and grow more of their own food than city folk.

  29. Kim says:

    Wow, As a teacher myself, I wish I could count on finding a job easily anwhere! Turn on your TV Trent! Schools everywhere are making massive teacher cuts. Schools are laying off teachers, not hiring them. I’ve been teaching for 28 years and I’ve never seen it like this. Maybe things are much better in Iowa than I thought.

  30. Leslie says:

    Trent, would you consider posting a chapter or parts of Rings of Saturn on your website? I would love to read some of your fiction, as I’m sure many of your other followers would.

  31. deRuiter says:

    I’m with Kim, teaching jobs are scarece as hen’s teeth. Competition for these well paying, benefit laden jobs is fierce in this economy. Trent, you ought to make a few inquiries before you assume that your wife can get a job “anywhere.” She’s lucky to have a job where you live. This remark sounds about as well researched as your “I’m going to plant a maple tree sapling and harvest gallons of pancake syrup.” project. Some times it’s better to research first and write second.

  32. Pat says:

    I agree with #7 & #8. We moved to the country 22 years ago to escape the loud suburban lifestyle. While we love having the open space around us it has filled in quite a bit in the 22 years we have been here. We are the last of large property owners in our area. The ‘new’ people who have moved into our rural area have brought their town-living ideas with them and imposed them on others. They, unfortunately, have also brought all their noisy, garbage-throwing friends with them. They throw loud parties that last way too long for those of us who are quiet people wanting to enjoy the quiet that should be country life. And commuting is a constant when living in the country. You have to drive everywhere. I long for being able to walk to the neighborhood store when I run out of milk as I did growing up in a small town. Yes, my children have had fun living in the country but their friends aren’t here. They live in the small town that is 10 miles away. My kids have to ride the bus (one hour each way) and hate it. You need to REALLY think about what your life would be like living in the country. If you just want more green space perhaps there is a home near a park or something that would better suit you.

  33. Ryan says:

    @ 15, Kai:

    I don’t consider myself an environmentalist mainly because I just don’t think I’m very “green”.

    I’d like to do what I can to not hurt the environment, but it seems that every option has a tradeoff.

    Mainly, I just asked to speak from another point of view.

    I don’t know what the answers are…

  34. okbeagleowner says:

    I created a spreadsheet with a row containing my age and spread the years across the columns. I added rows for my children and parents’s ages. I also put in a row for a future generation of grandchildren.

    On another row I tracked retirement assets.

    This simple spreadsheet helps me put in perspective how precious time is relative to spending time with my loved ones and the reason I work and save.

  35. kristine says:

    Wow- I share 4 of your 5 major goals. Except it will be “done raising children” rather than done having them.

  36. I love hearing other people’s goals. It is so cool to hear what is important to others.

    I also like looking back to see what progress I made from 5 years previous. So much change can happen in 5 years!

    Five years ago I was in a job I hated working 60 hours a week, and had no children.

    Now I have the best job ever, two adorable children, and we are living in the perfect house on 5 acres.

    I’m so excited for the next 5 years.

    It sounds like Trent is too! It makes me think, what will happen to the Simple Dollar though?

  37. Jayne says:

    I love reading your goals and they are very inspirational to me!
    I have to agree with many others, Trent, about your mistaken feeling that your wife, as a teacher, could find a job just about anywhere! I am a National Board Certified teacher with a master’s degree, licensed in 2 areas, 15 years of experience with 15 years of excellent evaluations and I would NEVER assume that I could find a job anywhere these days! I am grateful to have the great job that I do have, with no plans to move or leave it, but I also know that it is tenuous these days. If I keep my current, tenured job I’ll be lucky!! You might want to re-think that part of your moving plan!

  38. J says:

    I will join with the others who advise caution with the construction of Hamm Ranch in the rolling Iowa countryside. My in-laws live in a rural setting that in many ways matches what others have said — it’s within 45 minutes of a decent sized city, they have acreage and they can do things like garden. The houses are spread out pretty far from each other and there are many aspects of it that meet the “rustic country ideal”. There are, however, downsides to the reality of this ideal.

    First is the “right to farm” law. Note that I’m not saying that the law is a bad thing — but people move out to the country and find out that farmers will do things like run equipment at all hours, much of it noisy and powered by diesel. You have no recourse to make them change their habits. I’m 100% fine with it, too — someone’s gotta make the food we eat.

    Second is the lack of zoning. You might invest a lot in your property and it’s upkeep. Your neighbor might decide to live in an abandoned school bus. Or open a business. Or a pig farm, with attached manure pool.

    Third is the commuting. Getting anywhere takes 30 minutes each way for many things. There are some that are close, but there are some things that Just Take Forever to get to and back from.

    Fourth are well water and septic systems. When the water table gets drawn down, well, you’ve got no water. No water means no toilets, no shower, no drinking. Not to mention that septic systems can be giant holes into which money can be put. Sure you may not have a water bill or a sewer bill, but you may have to still pay, all the same. And with five (or more) people pulling off the well, water conservation will be key.

    Fifth is the availability of technology and telecommunications. Since you are inherently tied to the information superhighway, know what kind of high speed connection exists. My in-laws were literally years behind the suburbs in terms of first the availability and now the speed of connection that can be purchased. The telcos don’t get the same ROI in rural areas, so they spend more in the suburbs and the rural areas always lag.

  39. J says:

    Oh, and sixth is that your next door neighbor can sell their land to a developer …. who puts in a neighborhood development full of people who want to “move to the country” :)

  40. Steffie says:

    Cleveland has plans to lay off 650 teachers and school personnel this summer, I don’t think there is any profession that is an absolute lock on a job anywhere now. Even our neighboring ‘country’ school systems are hurting for tax money etc. You could move your dream of rural living to a different country, giving your children an experience of a lifetime, exposing them to a different culture etc.

  41. Kai says:

    @Ryan (#33)
    That’s a fair description. I consider an environmentalist to be someone who considers it valuable, and examines their impact, and tries to make some beneficial actions. It’s not really possible to be perfect on this stuff, so I don’t think you have to be extreme to consider yourself on the same side.

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