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The Key to Achieving Long Term Goals

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One of my New Year resolutions is to get leaner. Specifically, I’m trying to reduce my body fat percentage from 20% down to 17% by the end of the year. I stopped going to the gym when I quit my job to become a stay at home dad and the long layoff really took a toll on my fitness. I thought I’d be able to stay somewhat fit by walking around and being active with the kid, but that didn’t work. While I’m a lot more active than when I was working a desk job, walking around doesn’t really raise my heart rate enough to burn calories. I also lost some muscle mass because I haven’t been working out with weights.

the key to achieving your long term goals consistency and sustainabiityGet back to the gym

I joined a gym around Thanksgiving so I could try to get back in shape after 18 months away. Of course, the gym membership came with a “complimentary” personal training session. As gym goers know, this is a thinly veiled attempt to sell you a personal training package. So I went to the session and did a light workout with the personal trainer. I told him my goal was to reduce body fat and get back to my previous level of fitness. I want to start with light and make my way back to medium weights (free weights).

After we finished the session, we sat down for the dreaded sale pitch. I told him my workout plan and then he tried to convince me that I won’t be able to make much progress without his help. According to him, my form wasn’t perfect and I was doing the wrong exercises. Specifically he said I shouldn’t do bicep curls. It’s an isolation exercise and I should be doing compound exercise that uses more muscles.

My back workout day

  • 30 minutes of cardio – raise my heart rate to 140-150 beat per minute and keep it there.
  • 3x Pull down machine with light weights.
  • Pull ups. I used to be able to do 3 sets of 8, but now I can only do 1 and a half.
  • Bicep curls with dumb bells.
  • Stretch and some sit ups.

Of course, bicep curls are pretty much worthless. The only thing you use your biceps for is spooning Cheerios into your mouth in the morning. Nobody needs big biceps, but everyone loves to do curls. A pair of firm arms feeds vanity and makes you feel good.

Anyway, the personal trainer denounced bicep curls and I said fine, I’ll replace it with rows. Then he proceeded to try to sell me a package of 6 personal training sessions for $299. This guy had no chance with a cheapo like me. I’m going to do cardio for 30 minutes and then work out with weights for 15-20 minutes. It’s not worth spending 60 bucks to learn how to do basic exercises. I’ve been working out since before this guy was a just a baby. I know how to do big compound exercises. I just don’t want to emphasize them right now. The most important thing right now is to consistently get into the gym 3x per week and I’m more likely to do that if I do exercises that I like.


The key to achieving any long term goal is consistency and sustainability. When I was working, I went to the gym 4-5 times a week at lunch because it was convenient. Now, it’s a pain to get to the gym and I need to get into the habit of going 3 times per week. It doesn’t really matter what I do at the gym as long as I get there. Once I am in the habit of going to the gym, then I can try to optimize my exercises. Oh yeah, I hate having people pushing me to do one more rep. I’m more comfortable going at my own pace even if it’s not optimal.

The same is true for retirement saving and wealth building. My finance goal is to save and invest $50,000 in various tax advantaged accounts this year. The easiest way to do this is to set up automatic deduction and then make do with whatever is left. Here is what we’ve done so far.

  • $17,500 Mrs. RB40 401(k) – Set up auto deduction so she’d max out by the end of the year.
  • $17,500 My individual 401(k) – Can’t do auto deduction so I set up a recurring reminder in Google Calendar to tell me to contribute every month.
  • $4,000 RB40 Jr.’s 529 – Set up $400/month auto deduction.
  • $11,000 Roth IRA for both of us – This one I plan to do manually when we have some extra cash.

As you can see, most of the heavy lifting is already done. If I wait until November, then there is no chance that we’d meet our goal.

Your financial goals are personal and you have to figure out your own way to accomplish them. You might have to try different ways to invest and see what sticks. Some people are good with real estate and some are good with the stock market. The important thing is to keep pushing toward your goals and make forward progress every month/year.

What do you think is the most important factor in getting fit? What about building wealth? 

photo credit: USMC

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{ 39 comments… add one }

  • 101 Centavos January 8, 2014, 3:01 am

    That personal trainer is just trying to make a living. January and February must be his good months. Me, I stick with cinder blocks. And Mrs. 101C barely tolerates them as well.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:48 am

      I know he’s just trying to make a living, but he need to learn to listen. He needs to get some books and learn about sales. His main job is to listen and sell, it’s not really personal training. 🙂
      I admire your home workout routine. You have been doing it for a couple of years now and are sticking with it. I just couldn’t work out at home.

      • Dividend Growth Investor January 8, 2014, 8:21 am

        You might have mentioned this before, but do you have any more detail on the solo 401k plan? Like costs, admin burden, investment options etc?

        • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 9:33 am

          I’ll write about the solo 401k next week. I just finished doing self employment tax and figured out how much I could contribute. I have a plan with Vanguard. It cost $40 per fund per year.

  • Justin @ Decisive Dollar January 8, 2014, 3:36 am

    I agree wholeheartedly that the key to achieving any goal is consistency!To add to that, for any NEW goal, I make sure I take a couple of steps to get the momentum going.

    1. Start very, very small. By starting with little triumphs and building momentum, I find that it’s much easier to form a habit. Too many times I’ve tried to go for broke right away for a goal only to stop completely within a few days or weeks.

    2. Add a brief goal review session to either my morning or evening routine. This helps keep tracking my progress a habit. It also helps me manage what I want to accomplish on a daily basis.

    I like to apply both of these methods to my financial and fitness goals.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:50 am

      Starting small is a good idea. Trying to do too much at the beginning will only discourage you. I just want to ramp up slowly and then get serious later. That’s not what the personal trainer is good for.

  • Matt Becker January 8, 2014, 5:31 am

    I think you’re spot on that consistency is key. I really got out of exercising with our first-born almost 2 years ago because he pretty much never slept and I was constantly sleep-deprived. Then I was just lazy in getting back into a routine. For a little while now I’ve been doing a set of push ups and leg lifts each morning. Nothing big or fancy, but at least it’s something. Lately I’ve been working on adding a short run each day as well, but that’s been less successful. Work in progress…

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:51 am

      It’s hard to do any serious exercise when the kid is around. He demands constant attention. A short run is great. Good luck!

  • Erich January 8, 2014, 5:45 am

    I love your aggressive savings rate. I wish I could get my wife on board for that.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:52 am

      Keep working on her. Increasing a little bit every year and you’ll be able to save more in no time. Good luck!

  • Insourcelife January 8, 2014, 7:11 am

    I’d say consistency is the magic that makes it all happen for me. I have been consistently working out at least 2 days a week since I was 17. Now approaching 40 I am still the same weight and waist size as then. I’ve also been consistently investing since I started my first real job in my early 20s and continued through market ups and downs. There is enough in my retirement portfolio already to stop contributing now, let it compound and have enough to live on when I’m 65. All of it is common sense and relatively easy once the habits are formed.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:53 am

      Wow, that’s great! I gained about 15 lbs since I graduated from college. Hopefully, I can stay at this level.
      Retirement portfolio benefit greatly from starting early and consistently investing. Great job!

  • C. the Romanian January 8, 2014, 7:28 am

    Nice analogy! Indeed, consistency is key to success. I would add “starting early” if you want to make things a lot easier and enjoy the benefits for longer.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:54 am

      Starting early is great for investing. I don’t know if it’s the same for fitness. Most people started out fit, but it’s hard to maintain fitness as you get older.

  • Done by Forty January 8, 2014, 7:33 am

    “I’ve been working out since before this guy was a dream in his daddy’s nut sack.” Too flipping funny, Joe. I hate those pitches, too. I understand they are trying to make a living, but the whole set up bothers me. Especially when the guy seems to be flirting with my wife more than actually trying to sell personal training. We’re just trying to run on the treadmill, buddy. How about you go bother someone else?

    I like the connection to personal finance, too. The plan that you should follow is whatever one works for you. Some people would benefit from a personal trainer or financial advisor, some will do better on a DIY basis. Learn your own style and then execute.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 7:56 am

      Heh heh, just trying for some guys’ humor today. I just work better on my own. Everyone needs to find your own style. Good feed back.

  • Fig @ Figuring Money Out January 8, 2014, 7:57 am

    Consistency – I so agree! I’ve found with any long term goal of mine the real challenge has been to stay consistent. But when I have been consistent I’ve made major progress and achieved my goals.

    Good luck achieving all your long term goals this year! 🙂

  • Mom @ Three is Plenty January 8, 2014, 8:10 am

    Consistency is the best method to working out (and investing!). I started with the goal of just waking up earlier every other day – and of course, once I was awake, I might as well exercise. But my goal was to just get out of bed. Now, my goal is 30 minutes of exercise every other day. Even if your goal doesn’t seem to be very productive, just getting started is all you need.

    • retirebyforty January 8, 2014, 9:30 am

      I agree. Just getting into the habit is difficult. For me, it’s better to start off slow and then ramp up later. Good luck with your goals this year.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor January 8, 2014, 8:13 am

    I think diversity and persistence are both keys to physical and fiscal fitness. Mix up your investments/routine to cut risk and stay engaged, and resolve to stick with it for the long haul. It’s a lifestyle, not a fad!

  • payitoff January 8, 2014, 9:50 am

    yes. CONSISTENCY. definitely. i have been doing yoga 30 minutes every night, and 1 day i stopped not only my body felt different, i also felt guilty., so i got up and forced myself to do it, gave myself at least 10 mins but i ended up doing it 45 minutes that day. it both applied consistency and starting small and build a more aggressive approach later.

    i have to apply this to my financial life too, i get sidetracked a lot!

    question, is it still worth it to prioritize in maxing out your 401k even if you dont get employer match?

    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:04 pm

      I really need to get back into yoga again. Maybe when our kid is older, then we can do yoga together. Right now, it’s hard because he can’t leave me alone for more than 10 minutes or so.
      I think it’s still a good thing to prioritize your 401k. Actually, I’d probably prioritize Roth IRA first, then 401k. You will still get the tax saving from your 401k.

  • krantcents January 8, 2014, 10:11 am

    The biggest impediment to reaching long range goals is getting started. It takes 21 consecutive days to create or break a habit. There are a huge number of excuses to keep us from getting started too. Convenience for working out is real important! That is one of the reasons, I put together a home gym 15 years ago. No excuses! I ride my bike (outside) minimum 2 times a week or use the treadmill. I lift weights at least 2-3 times a week. Last, there is always walking.

    Building wealth is no different, make it easy and automatic. I put in a great deal of effort at the front end and let it ride. You have to be motivated enough to overcome the obstacles in the beginning to get started.

    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:05 pm

      You are right about getting started. That’s why I think it’s better to start off slowly so you can get into the habit. If you start too fast, then it’s too difficult and many people will quit.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules January 8, 2014, 11:17 am

    You’re dead on with the consistency Joe. I think that, taken with simply getting started, and likely the two biggest keys to growing wealth, getting fit, or many other things that are going to take time to reach and accomplish.

    I love your focus on the investing and setting it up on auto. We failed on that last year and are committed to that not being so this year. We’re aiming to max out our SEPs this year and putting in monthly so we’re not scrambling at the end of this year.

    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:07 pm

      Putting in monthly is much easier. It also enable you to take advantage of dollar cost average. If you don’t have to pay a transaction fee, that’s the way to go. Good luck this year!

  • Bryce @ Save and Conquer January 8, 2014, 11:51 am

    As you said, “The key to achieving any long term goal is consistency and sustainability.” Couldn’t have said it any better. Looks like you have set yourself and your wife up to save and invest that way. Good job.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina January 8, 2014, 1:22 pm

    I like going to workout classes. I’m with other people. So you get motivated. I would not pay that much to work out with a personal trainer. It’s outrageous. But I know what I need to do since I was an athlete in school.

    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:09 pm

      I like classes too, but the timing isn’t convenient right now. Once our kid goes to school full time, then I can be more flexible. I agree with you about personal training. It’s too expensive for regular people.

  • Jerred Morris January 8, 2014, 6:34 pm

    The key to achieving your goals is depended upon where your focus lies. Too many people focus on outcomes. You can’t control the an outcome!

    For example, how many people say they want to lose weight (outcome) and how many succeed?

    Focus on the activities that lead to the outcome. Those you can control. I would also find the answer to the “why”. Why do you want to lose weight? To look and feel great, is the generic answer. Find out the real reason and you’ll have more success in meeting your goals.

    This goes for business, personal life, and investing.

  • Dividend Mantra January 8, 2014, 6:54 pm


    Consistency is indeed extremely important. I’ve referred to it as my sole “superpower”.

    Good luck with the fitness goals! I 20 pounds over the course of 2013 and I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I simply stayed consistent at the gym and watched my portions.

    Best wishes!

    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:16 pm

      That’s a great superpower. Congratulation on getting fit. I’ll be there by the end of 2014. 🙂

  • [email protected] January 8, 2014, 8:41 pm

    I do milestones along the way. First $10,000, first time I broke six figures in investments etc. That save X and earn 7% = $600,000+ never works because that is too far away.

  • Jeff January 9, 2014, 12:34 pm

    Joe –
    I hope that you do take his advice because he is on to something. Compound exercises are far better for you,a nd you can work out fewer days per week if you do them.
    Here’s what I do (obviously 3x/wk) and I really like it. Each day takes me about 30-35 min.

    Tuesday: squats, overhead presses, and pull ups
    Thursday: deadlifts, bench presses, body rows
    Saturday: lunges, dips, chin ups


    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing your routine. I need to see what works for me. I am doing mostly compound exercises at this time, but my routine is like this. I’ll try mixing them up more later.
      Mon: cardio, legs
      Wed: cardio, back
      Fri: cardio, shoulder and core

  • Brandt January 9, 2014, 1:25 pm


    Cardio after your workout would be more beneficial for fat loss. Your workout with machines/weights will burn up all of your stored glycogen which results in the cardio burning additional fat. And there’s nothing wrong with bicep curls. It’s your time so train whatever you feel like training!


    • retirebyforty January 9, 2014, 3:20 pm

      Thanks for the tips. I will try that next time. I never liked doing cardio after lifting. I don’t have any energy and I always struggle.

  • Michael January 10, 2014, 9:20 am

    I agree 100% that consistency is key, but its also hard to do at first. I was able to start and stick to a diet/exercise plan in 2013 and for me the key was tracking everything to hold myself accountable. I wrote out my plan, and charted my progress each day. Small, incremental changes helped me develop my new habits. Seeing the success on paper helped a lot too.

    Great post, thanks!

  • Tushar @ Everything Finance January 12, 2014, 8:13 pm

    That’s a great goal – anything to be healthier! Consistency is absolutely key to achieving goals. Making things a habit is a great way to ensure you’re incorporating changes into your long term life.

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