With the New Year comes new dreams, new objectives, and new plans. In our case, this year is our new baby year, where we will focus all our energy on raising our baby girl, but there will be much, much more to come.
This is all part of our life plan. We do not plan every little bit of our life, we need some spontaneity, but the general outline greatly helps. Planning every day of your life is a bit overboard but having no plan at all might make things worse.
Our plan contains the outline of the next month, year, and few years ahead. Splitting it into categories and time frames makes it easily manageable and easier to track. We never wrote this down but often chatted about our objectives and plans to achieve them. As a couple, communication is key. We often chat about our day, our dreams, our goals, and you should too.
Whether you are a couple or not, take the time to think it over and see where you want to be in the present, future, and over your lifetime. Start by drafting your current situation, and work out your plan from there. Find out what is your ultimate vision for your life and do everything in your power to get there.
Your health and your family’s well-being is not something everyone plans for but the small decisions we all make actually add up to a concise plan.
We discuss our food habits and do most of our grocery shopping together, the dietary choices we make are all part of our long-term strategy to achieve greater well-being. We choose to increase our fruits and vegetable intake and follow a low-meat diet and stay away from overly-process foods.
Another health-conscious choice we made is to keep an active lifestyle, full of activities, sport, and entertainment. For our mental and physical health, we choose to get out of the house and stay active. The main sports we enjoy are outdoor activities like skiing, biking, hiking, and we try to optimize our lifestyle to enjoy these more often.
Finally, the most boring, but still crucial, planning we did in this category was health and life insurance. It is important that you, and your family, are covered in case of an incident. Whether through self-insurance if you can afford it, public insurance if your country offers it, or private insurance. In our case, the public health system in Canada assures us free health care but we also have dental insurance through work. Work also provides us with critical illness, disability, and life insurance.
Going forward, we plan on keeping a healthy diet, share our good habits with our daughter, and maximize our exposer to outdoor sports.
Career / Business
Whether we write it down or not, we all have some sort of career plan. We all have some level of ambition and dreams that drive us. Whether you are thinking of getting a promotion soon and working your networking to get there or are content where you are and started dreaming about retirement in the near future, these plans are all part of your longer-term career goals.
We chose to invest in our education and get professional jobs instead of going into a trade. This got us to the point we are now, with great jobs with good salaries, benefits, and work-life balance.
We chose to take a long parental stay instead of pushing for promotions. We choose to rarely work more than our assigned work-load when others stay over-time because we value our leisure and family time more than the next promotion.
Finally, we chose careers which allow us to save a large part of our income and makes early retirement possible. Having a higher or middle-class salary is not a prerequisite to reach financial freedom, as your savings rate is the main driver in the equation, but it certainly helps. Saving 50% of a $30,000 annual household income is nearly impossible without some major sacrifices, but it is certainly achievable when you earn over $100,000.
Looking ahead, we plan on spending the most time as possible with our daughter and, ultimately, retire early.
You might notice that these plans are all closely related to your finances. Money is a great tool but you still need to plan your finances right to get where you want to be.
Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. -Ayn Rand
Whether your goal is to retire early, or simply to save $100 for the next night out, planning will greatly help you get there. In our case, we have different objectives for different time-frames.
Short-term (this month)
We are planning for a few expenses over the short-term. Our baby girl will not be born yet but we need to prepare for her and make sure we have everything.
We are also traveling a bit this month but most of these expenses were covered with credit card rewards.
Finally, there is always our day-to-day spending to budget and track and we try not to look at our investments too often. Thankfully, there are tools like Mint or Personal Capital to help us do this effortlessly.
Medium-term (this year)
Over the medium-term, we try to have a general idea of where we are heading, what we are looking for in terms of investments risks and returns, and what we aim to spend during the year.
For 2018, we are trying to cut a few expenses that might add up to considerable savings over the year. We are also planning to down-size a bit in the coming year so this would change our housing expenses going forward. However, we mainly look at our spending month-to-month since we have the basics covered. Once you have figured out your fixed costs such as Housing, Transportation, and Food, the rest can be monitored over the short-term.
In terms of investments, we are pretty optimistic about our projected total returns on our investments. We are highly diversified in multiple asset-classes and market capitalization over multiple continents and recently started diversifying into cryptocurrencies too. We do not plan to change anything from our current strategy and plan to continue contributing towards our longer-term goals over the course of 2018. Our savings rate might fall slightly since our income will drop during our parental leave but we do not plan on withdrawing anything.
Long-Term (this decade)
In the next decades, we are planning great success financially. Of course, this will not be concrete until it actually happens but we try to plan ahead and have all the chances on our side.
On the spending side, we aim to keep our expenses low and not give in to the consumerism lifestyle that marketers are constantly selling us. We plan to downsize and keep our housing cost low over the long-run. Minimalism lets us enjoy a life of abundance without abundant expenses.
We are planning to retire early, in the next 10 years, and we are taking the right steps today to reach this massive goal. We have discussed these before but basically, it can be broken down into a few lines:
- Keep our savings rate over 50%
- Keep our main spending categories on track to achieve that said savings rate high (Housing, Transport, and Food, mainly)
- Invest in low-fee, highly diversified, index funds and never panic-sell when equities will fall. Markets will come back up; passive investments are the way to grow wealth.
- Max out our tax-advantaged accounts every year with said investments.
- Always remember to enjoy the journey and keep at it.
Over the long-term, these simple steps will inevitably grow our wealth. We cannot know how long it will take, we cannot predict future returns, but we can know that these are putting all the chances on our side.
Past performance does not predict future returns but it sure looks promising for anyone investing over a lifetime. Our long-term investment strategy can be summarized in one sentence; we invest in low-fee, highly diversified index funds, taking full advantage of registered accounts to grow our wealth until we can sustainably withdraw our living expenses without depleting said wealth.
We are constantly striving to improve ourselves and learn something new every day. We have intellectually-stimulating jobs and enjoy a few hobbies such as writing this blog and reading a book per week to keep our minds fresh.
We also follow basic good health habits to help us stay intellectually sharp. Doing these simple little things can do a tremendous difference over a lifetime.
- Stay physically active
- Get enough sleep
- Not smoke
- Have meaningful social connections
- Limit alcohol to one drink a day
- Eat a balanced diet
Learning new skills and exploring new hobbies is another thing we thrive to do. Recently, we both got into blockchain technology and are doing in-depth research about the possibilities it started to bring to the internet.
Other skills we would like to practice are drawing and painting. We are far from mastering these and do not spend nearly enough time to see any progress but it is something we plan on improving.
We simply try our hardest to be the best persons we can be.
Our travel plans are pretty extensive. This year alone, we plan on traveling to Mexico, the U.S., Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Thailand, and maybe more stops along the way. Globe-trotting is a passion of ours and we dedicate a lot of our time and resources to be able to explore this beautiful planet.
All of this would not be possible without generous credit card bonuses. With the various offers out there, we are able to travel more often and enjoy luxuries we simply could not afford otherwise.
Looking forward, there are still many countries we would like to visit. Although we explored many countries of Central America, we never went to South America. We would love to go to Colombia, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina.
Source: Google Maps
We also visited Europe a lot but still have so much to see. All of Eastern Europe is very affordable and has so much history to offer.
This world is huge and we plan to slowly see more and more of it while discovering the cultures, amazing people, and beautiful landscapes it has to offer.
Here are all the countries we visited so far.
As introverts, our social life has been generally limited to a close-knit group of friends, coworkers, and our family. It is something we are both working on and would like to expand. We try to enlarge our group of friends and partake in more social activities but, just as perfecting anything, it takes time. There is always something new to learn, practice, and master.
We live simply. We try to stay minimalist and prioritize experiences over stuff. That’s why we value travel so much and barely spend any time in malls.
Wealth is the ability to fully experience life. -Henry David Thoreau
Generally, we consider ourselves wealthy. We can enjoy everything we want to enjoy while even having some leftover to save for our future. Traveling the world, eating healthily, and enjoying time off work to raise our baby are all small luxuries we can afford. Life is good.
Deep down, things matter the least. All your belongings are not what makes you a better human being, your experiences and knowledge are. That is why we created a lifestyle that maximizes our personal growth rather than growing the list of things we own. Try to do something new every day. Make more memories and experience the world we live in.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. -Mark Twain
Over the long-term, we plan on optimizing our lifestyle to maximize great experiences. Living closer to the activities we like and living below our means are choices we made. Buying less stuff is a choice we made. Without these choices, we might be living a completely different life right now.
We cannot control our future but with a specific action plan, we can try our best to get where we want to be. The concrete actions you are doing are much more important than the dreaming.
The first step is to know where you currently stand, and then, what are you aiming for. Prioritizes your goals in line with your values and skip the unrealistic goals.
This is like writing down your bucket list; write down what do you want to achieve and when you want to achieve them.
Vague goals only produce vague results so rethink any vague goals into laser specific targets. Keep in mind though that over-tracking your life might get strenuous. We prefer to have a general direction with laser specific steps to get there.
- We want to raise a healthy baby… We will breastfeed our daughter instead of using Formula. Then, raise her with a healthy diet high in vegetables and fruits, low in processed-food.
- We want to run more… Using tracking apps on our phones motivates us to run more.
Career / Business
- We want to enjoy an extended leave from work this year… We stopped trying to rise up the corporate ladder.
- We want to come back from leave in force… We will keep networking and stay in touch even while on leave.
- We want to keep up our savings rate even during our extended leave… We will work on our side hustles to earn more.
- We want to learn new skills this year… Mr. will follow online coding courses and Mrs. will practice speaking more French.
- We want to continue our knowledge search… Mr. will continue reading a book per week and Mrs will join him.
- We want our daughter to see the world and follow us on this journey… We will continue to maximize credit card rewards to be able to travel for free.
- We want to expand our social circle… We will attend more social events and be open to more interactions.
- We want to be happier with less stuff… We will continue to live minimally and raise our daughter with fewer toys and things.
Alright, now it’s your turn. Write down what you want from life and what will you do about it. It is like writing a letter to your future self. Then, you can read it in a few months and see how you are progressing.
Review it frequently and amend when necessary. No plan will be perfect. Life is just not made that way. That is why we constantly need to adapt, learn, and grow.
- Determine your goal
- Take a small step toward it
- Review and learn from it
- Take another step
- Learn from that step
- Repeat until your goal is met
By acting your way into the future you desire, you can reach any target. Depending on how specific you go, these can get down to a daily to-do list. If you really break down your goal into tiny, achievable segments, it will be easier to attain but harder to track.
Apps and online tools make it easier than ever before but it can still get overwhelming. Platforms like Google Calendar or Plan are great and free to use.
You can even break down your targets into different timeframes. For example, one could break down his goal to rise within his company as:
- Five-year goal: Become regional Vice-President at my firm
- One-year goal: Get promoted to director
- Six-month goal: Complete my MBA
- One-month goal: Work my network
- One-week goal: Discuss my career plans with my manager
- Today’s to-do: Book a meeting with my manager
Every day would have another thing to list as you go forward on your path. It will give you something to work on and look forward to on a continual basis.
So get going, it’s 2018! A new year comes with new opportunities.
We wish you great success, Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.