Understand Your Finances
When it comes to financial goals, shoot for the stars
A year of saving teaches two bloggers the value of unrealistic goals
This is part of Savings Diaries, an original series in which people share how they try to reach key savings goals during 2018. It is part of a broader Chase initiative to encourage more Americans to save money.
What a year! It's hard to believe it's been 12 months since we started our Savings Diary. We set some lofty goals for ourselves and—while we didn't hit all of them—we still ended the year far better off than when we started. It was like philanthropist W. Clement Stone's quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
Going into 2018, we had a goal to save $30,000—$10,000 for a month-long trip to Ireland and Spain and $10,000 for each of our retirement accounts. This aligned with our priorities: we both value traveling and saving for retirement. By connecting our goals to our values, we paved the way for improving our financial situation—and keeping our spirits high along the way.
Here is what we accomplished, what we didn't accomplish and what we hope you learn from our experience.
What we accomplished
After choosing the retirement account that best suited our needs, we opened one for each of us and deposited $2,000 into each account. Since then, we've contributed another $2,000 into each account, for a total of $4,000 apiece. While we fell short of our goal by $6,000 apiece—or $12,000 total—we still saved a lot.
The reason for our shortfall was fear: by April, neither of us was working as a salaried employee, which changed the way we related to money. Working for ourselves, our income was irregular and our healthcare was expensive, so when we had extra money to put into our retirement accounts, we either set it aside, invested it back into the business or put it toward other expenses.
The lesson was clear: we need to stick with our goals, even when circumstances change. In the future, we'll put our retirement money into a temporary account until we're ready to commit it to our long-term retirement accounts. This way, it'll be out of sight, yet accessible if we need it. We'll also commit to doing whatever it takes to increase our business and personal incomes, so we're not walking a tightrope between our financial responsibilities and our long-term goals.
Committing to living
On the bright side, we also accomplished our trip to Ireland and Spain—and it was amazing! Because we saved nearly $10,000 for the trip, we had the time of our lives and returned with no debt. In the past, we often went on vacation with little or no money saved, so we had to weigh every purchase against how much debt we were willing to assume. This time, we didn't focus on whether we could afford a purchase, but rather on how much it mattered to us. It was a slight difference, but a powerful one.
Sticking with our plan to take this vacation was difficult: as financial professionals, we were tempted to cancel the trip and focus on building our retirement accounts. The thing is, we've been growing our business for nearly five years, working early mornings, late nights, holidays and weekends, often between our full-time jobs. We knew that the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 was going to be jam-packed with work, and realized that we needed to relax and unwind if we hoped to have the energy to start the new year off with a bang. Our hope—our expectation—is that being reinvigorated by our trip will help us grow our business and quickly make up for the missed $12,000 in retirement savings.
What we learned
Our biggest lesson was that accountability matters. Every month, we made ourselves accountable to you, our readers, which encouraged us to make smarter decisions. For example, when we discovered that the type of retirement accounts we originally planned to open were inappropriate for our circumstances, we quickly opened accounts that were right for us. Without the accountability of our Savings Diaries, we might've postponed opening the correct accounts until the end of the year when we had a deadline imposed on us by the IRS.
Because of this experience, we're encouraging you to find an accountability partner with whom to share financial challenges and goals. Checking in with other people helps us stay on track with our money goals, whether it's paying off debt, building an emergency savings account or saving for college.
What we hope you learned
We hope you were inspired to pursue your financial goals, whatever they may be. We don't all have the same goals or financial conditions, but we all share the desire to be better off tomorrow than we are today. We hope our story provides motivation for that progress.
We also hope that you learned from our successes, but—even more—that you learned from the challenges we faced. We're refraining from using the word "failure": when it comes to our finances, we're either winning or learning—and if other people learn from our challenges, then we win even more.
We also hope our diary was an inspiration to our LGBTQ readers. As we hope we've shown, pursuing our own dreams and living our truths is gratifying and can be financially rewarding. We hope that our experience inspires more LGBTQ people to start their own businesses—and contribute to the financial security and success of our community.
Ultimately, we hope all of you are motivated to dream big, plan well, share your goals and pursue them tirelessly. Even if you don't reach your specific goals, you'll be better off then when your goals were only dreams!
John Schneider and David Auten are Chase News contributors. Their work has appeared in Business Insider and Forbes. They own and manage the blog Debt Free Guys.