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The Importance of Mid-Term Goals

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The Importance of Mid-term GoalsWhat are mid-term goals and why is it so important to define them? We all have short term and long term goals, but many of us neglect the crucial mid-term goals. We need to set mid-term goals because focusing on those long term goals can be extremely difficult. It’s hard to stay motivated when the payoff is so far off. Here is how I define these different types of goals.

Short term goals are things you can accomplish in less than one year. These are the type of goals I set every New Year. Short term goals should be achievable, measurable, and you should make progress on them every month.

Long term goals are things that take 10+ years to accomplish and we won’t see much progress from year to year. These are things like saving for retirement or being completely debt free. We don’t make quick progress on these goals and it’s easy to get discouraged. For example, it’s practically impossible to focus on saving for retirement when you’re 25. You have so much time left until retirement and you won’t see the end result for decades. Also, long term goals usually are moving goals. We don’t know how much money we need for retirement until we get closer to retirement. That’s why we need mid-term goals to bridge the gap between short term and long term goals.

Mid-term goals are things that you can accomplish in 3 to 5 years. Everyone has these mid-term goals but most of us don’t keep track of them. That’s a mistake because they usually get derailed if we don’t pay attention to them. Here are some examples of mid-term goals at various stages of life.

  • Graduate from college
  • Pay off the auto loan
  • Buy a house
  • Have a baby
  • Become a VP in your organization
  • Make it in the music/acting/art scene
  • Become a millionaire or accumulate whatever amount that fits your current financial situation.

You should be able to make noticeable progress on these goals every few months or so. That makes them much easier to track than long term goals. Also, your mid-term goals should align with your long term goals. Every time you accomplish a mid-term goal, you should be one step closer to your long term goals and it’s an occasion to celebrate.

Set Big Mid-term Goals

Personally, I like to set just one big mid-term goal so I can focus on it. When I started Retire by 40 in 2010, my big mid-term goal was to retire from working full time in 5 years. The stars lined up and I was able to accomplish that a little earlier than I expected. It’s important to note that we had been saving and investing for a long time before I made that mid-term goal. We were almost there and just needed the final push to get over the finish line. If I just started saving for retirement in 2010, then it would have taken much longer to retire early.

Our next big mid-term goal is for Mrs. RB40 to retire by the end of 2020. It will be more difficult this time around because we don’t have as much income and the stock market seems to be taking a dive. We probably will need the full 5 years to accomplish this.

Recently, I’ve been dreaming a bit and I’m making this goal more complicated. We’ll focus on Mrs. RB40’s early retirement first, but 2020 is also a good time to get some other things done.

  • Take a year off to travel. RB40Jr will finish 4th grade in 2021 and I’m thinking about taking a year off to travel. We could home/road school him for 5th grade. Then enroll him in middle school in 2022. It seems like perfect timing to me. He’s going to change schools anyway so let’s take advantage of it. It will get more and more difficult to home/road school as he gets older. This might be the only chance we get to travel extensively before he graduates high school.
  • Simplify our real estate holding. We’re planning to move into our rental home, but that’s getting complicated by the school boundary redistricting. At this point, it would be best to stay put in our condo until he finishes grade school. We could sell off everything in 2021 and then move into our rental home when we get back. Not being a landlord would simplify my life quite a bit.
  • Refocus blog. I think it would be great to take this blog on the road for a year. We could explore some retirement destinations and see if any of them is a good fit for us. By 2021, I probably would need a little time off from blogging about personal finance.

What do you think about my mid-term goal? This goal is very motivating for us and we’re working hard to accomplish it. I would love to travel for a year and see the world. We will still be in our 40s and should be able to rough it a little bit. Travel gets more difficult as you get older so I really don’t want to wait until we’re in our 60s. Also, I’d love to see if we can maintain our cost of living budget while traveling. It might even be cheaper to travel than to live in Portland. I guess it depends on how you travel. In any case, it would be a very interesting experiment to share with everyone.

To wrap it up, I think mid-term goals are very important. They are big goals that can change your life. That’s why everyone should set some big mid-term goals and work hard on them.

Do you set mid-term goals? Can you share some of your mid-term goals with us? 

Image by Adam Kubalica

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{ 26 comments… add one }

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes February 10, 2016, 1:38 am

    Hi Joe. I like the idea of you taking the blog on the road for awhile. Getting to see possible retirement locations and discussing the pros and cons would be really useful. Put down my vote for that. 😉

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 10:58 am

      I think it will be a very good change of pace. I’d probably have to cut down on the frequency of posting, though.

  • Dividend Freedom February 10, 2016, 3:55 am

    Without goals/dreams, it is hard to measure your progress in life. Having those goals on the paper is even better as it all of a sudden begins to be tangible.

    I love your blog!
    Dividend Freedom

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 10:59 am

      Thank you for your compliment. Setting goals down on paper really helps. If you don’t write it down, your goals will keep changing. It’s hard to hit a moving target.

  • Money Beagle February 10, 2016, 5:18 am

    Yes, a good blend of goals is key to a successful financial (and personal) life. You can really equate it to a company. The best run companies not only deliver results in the short term but also work to make sure that their long term future is set.

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 10:59 am

      Yeap! I agree completely.

  • Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life February 10, 2016, 5:28 am

    Well I’ve never really thought about this. I set goals for the year that I see obvious monthly progress on, but I don’t have any clear mid term goals. We do want to buy a lake house by our 10 year anniversary which is coming up in 4.5 years, so that counts. But we really haven’t done much to work towards it. We should really get on that and make sure we’re seeing progress towards it every few months.

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 10:59 am

      You should check on it every quarter. At least set up a down payment fund account. 🙂 Good luck!

  • Mike Drak February 10, 2016, 5:45 am

    I’ve been concerned about my health and lack of a regular exercise routine. I eat too much red meat I’ve never seen a steak that I did not like and I’m about 48 lbs overweight. Since i still have a long way to go (hopefully) I’ve decided to challenge myself and do an Ironman in 4 years when I turn 65. I know it is a crazy goal but I think we all need to do some crazy things once in a while to keep things interesting. If I make the finish line what a way to celebrate my 65th and I will be getting fit at the same time. Not a bad deal!

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 11:01 am

      Wow, the Ironman is a huge challenge. Keep working on it. You need to stay healthy for your family. Have you changed your diet and eating habit?

      • Mike Drak February 10, 2016, 12:19 pm

        I’ve started changing my eating habits but it is a work in progress. Currently working on cutting down on the volume that I eat, a smaller portion of meat, more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water and serving food on smaller plates. It will be a challenge to get to the start line but i plan on taking it slow but look at the shape I will be in after I finish. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

        • retirebyforty February 11, 2016, 9:30 am

          I know it is really difficult to change eating habits. I have been trying to eat healthier and it’s just tough. I need the people around me to commit to it too. Good luck and keep at it.

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline February 10, 2016, 6:04 am

    Here are a couple of my mid-term goals: saving a one-year emergency fund, renovate my basement to rent on Airbnb, continue building my freelance business, and losing 20 pounds. I completely agree that mid-term goals are often overlooked.

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 11:02 am

      Those are great goals. Good luck with them. You should be able to accomplish some of these in a year or two. Keep at it!

  • Jeremy February 10, 2016, 7:12 am

    I love it! Traveling is one of my biggest upcoming goals. I’ll be semi-retiring next year, and would love to immerse myself in a foreign culture for a while. The spouse and I will be applying to Peace Corps and can’t wait to have an experience that won’t be focused on making money.

    • retirebyforty February 10, 2016, 11:04 am

      That’s great! Applying to the Peace Corps is one of our long term goals. It should be very challenging. Our timeline for this challenge is in our 50s so hopefully we’ll be healthy enough to do it then. Good luck!

  • freebird February 10, 2016, 8:17 am

    In your mid-term goals list the only one I did was graduate from college, and for me that was an inherited goal. Where I work promotions are typically spaced years apart and it’s a few steps up to VP, so reaching VP in 3 to 5 years isn’t realistic. Also the first million took me more than 3-5 years to accumulate, and I think it would be rare to reach that level in your mid 20s.

    Perhaps my lack of mid-term goals keeps me from retiring? I haven’t yet found any inspiring ideas, I’ve always left it up to my employer to keep me moving. Maybe I’m not a goal-setting kind of person? In retrospect climbing the learning curve on new technology is a 3-5 year process, and I’ve done it a few times, but I never consciously pursued it, I think it was a consequence of many short term assignments in the same general area that brought me there. Come to think of it most of my patent portfolio was written up after the fact when we eventually understood and resolved new problems that showed up unexpectedly– none of this work was planned in advance.

    So I guess my advice to other ‘floaters through life’ would be you can still accomplish things without setting goals if you surround yourself with people who believe in you, and if you take advantage of your innate flexibility to pursue opportunities that the master-planners and control-freaks won’t touch.

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2016, 9:27 am

      It sounds like you’re doing very wellwith your approach. I think that’s okay. Everyone has to find their own path. I think setting goals give you a little more direction.

  • Maria February 10, 2016, 11:26 am

    Mid term goals:
    Travel in an RV to see most of the US
    Yoga practice twice a week
    Pay off our auto
    Teach my grandson Spanish
    Start a book club
    Meal plan to save on groceries

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2016, 9:28 am

      The RV trip sounds like a lot of fun. I would move the Yoga and meal plan to your short term goal list. Good luck!

  • SavvyFinancialLatina February 10, 2016, 12:44 pm

    I love goals. I have annual, mid term, and long term goals. For mid term goals, the best time frame is five year goals.

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2016, 9:31 am

      5 years is perfect for midterm goals. It’s just enough time to accomplish something significant.

  • Tracy @ financial nirvana mama February 10, 2016, 4:18 pm

    I love planning. Mid term goals are much more achievable! To make it A lot less overwhelming, Build tiny goals every day (baby steps) used as a litmus test to see if it gets you closer to your longer term goals is much more motivating… Does that work for anyone else?

    • retirebyforty February 11, 2016, 9:32 am

      For me, tiny steps work with short term goals. It takes a little more time to see progress on the midterm goals.

  • Dannielle February 10, 2016, 4:26 pm

    Everyone focuses on the short term and the long term goals, but not the mid term goals. I think it’s great to make some mid term goals that are an extension of the short goals that possibly lead into the long term goals. I wish that I could take a year off to travel. That sounds like a great way to simply enjoy life.

  • amber tree February 11, 2016, 12:53 am

    There are indeed 3 types of goals. The mid term goals are an import part indeed. To be honest, I mainly have short term goals and long term goals, not enough explicitly in between.

    Some mid term goals
    Show europe to our kids before they go to high school.
    Save enough in our travel fund to show the world the years after that

    The approach you take with your mid term goals makes a lot of sense. They allow you to have some concrete action points and by doing so, you actual prepare the long term goals.

    Thx to get my thinking started on this

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