Turning Long-Term Goals Into Short-Term Goals (and Not Getting Fat Along the Way)

Longtime readers may remember a few things about me:

  • At various times, I've studied to be a priest, a doctor, a teacher, and a financial advisor (though I was only two of those).
  • My posts can get so technical (okay, boring) that J.D. has to enliven them with cat pictures.
  • I've tried to lose weight over the past couple of years, and have concluded that reducing heft is very similar to building wealth.

Regarding the latter, I reported in January that I was down about 25 pounds in 18 months. Not bad — at least good enough to get me on public radio's Marketplace (in case you're dying to hear my nasally voice). Managing your cash and managing your flesh both start with giving up short-term pleasure for long-term gain.

This occurred to me again as I met earlier this summer with Ben Sterling, my office's resident Wellness Fool. His scale told us that I had gained back almost seven of the pounds I had lost. I had still been exercising, but not as much and not as intensely, and I didn't pay any attention to what I ate. Ben, in his wisdom, knew he had to give me more motivation — and given my financial background, he knew that motivator was money (though for me it's the preservation of it, not the making gobs of it). So we made a bet: I would lose six percentage points of body fat by mid-September or I'd pay him $200 (which would go toward buying exercise equipment for the Fool office).

It got me motivated, but not quite enough — especially when it came to food. After all, it's summer, a time of cookouts, gatherings, and vacations (and hot dogs, chips, ice cream, and fast food during road trips). Plus, I had three months; why rush things?

But then we did a check-in at the one-month mark, and my body fat percentage had actually gone up! So now I am trying to play catch-up. I exercise once or twice a day, attending cross-fit classes, watching P90X videos, riding my bike to work, dousing the gym rowing machine with sweat, and attending a weekly Kazaxe hour (sorta like Zumba) with these folks. I also have cut out just about any food that isn't P&P: produce and protein.


via icanhascheezburger.com, where you can see more Lolcats and funny pictures

As I flagellated myself for slacking that first month, I thought about how having three months for the goal didn't create enough urgency. And then I thought: This is why people don't save for retirement: There's not enough urgency. But it's even worse for retirement, because once people feel that urgency, it's often too late.

This past weekend, the New York Times published an article by economist Theresa Gharducci, which claimed that “Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.” In esoteric financial terms, most of these people are screwed. Yes, some have sizeable, secure pensions, but not most of them. And yes, some will just have to work well into their 70s, which isn't the worse thing in the world. However, that only works if you're physically able to work, and many senior citizens aren't. (I am compelled to point out that many of these health problems are due to poor health decisions compounded over decades, which is yet another way weight and wealth are related.)

If I had trouble with a goal that was a whopping three months away, is it any surprise that people lollygag about something that is three decades away?

Fear and Greed, Bit by Bit
Despite my midsection deflation procrastination, I have been saving for retirement since age 25, and that's when I was a teacher, so I wasn't exactly rolling in the boodle. What got me to save back then for a goal four decades hence? A fear of financial privation and loss of control. You don't want to hear my family history — and my family doesn't want me to tell you — but suffice it to say that I had a front-row seat to visits from sheriffs, property repossessions, and debt collectors when I was a young-ish fellow.

Fear might not be the kick in the rear you need; perhaps salivating over future wealth inspires you to forgo some current spending. Whatever it is, finding what motivates you is the first step.

Then, as much as possible, break a long-term goal into short-term chunks. The sooner the goal, the easier this will be. If you want to pay off a credit card or buy a car in five years, it's relatively easy — perhaps using an online savings calculator — to figure out an annual or semiannual goal. For retirement, it's more complicated. I've written before about how to use a calculator to estimate whether you're saving enough for retirement. While I think such a process is useful for everyone — and crucial for anyone at least in their early 50s — the truth is that the ability of a calculator to estimate your retirement needs declines the farther you are from retirement.

I have a colleague here at The Motley Fool who is in his early 40s and who has taken a different approach. He has three primary goals:

  1. Remain debt-free, except for a mortgage
  2. Pay off that mortgage in 15 years or sooner
  3. Invest a specific amount each month

He has a spreadsheet that tracks his goals. What's most interesting to me is #3. Retirement calculators assume you need a specific amount by a certain age to cover a certain retirement income. But the truth is, if you're a couple of decades from retirement, you don't really know what your investments will be worth, what your income needs will be, and how much money you'll need to cover that income (especially given that no one really knows what Social Security and Medicare will look like in the 2030s or beyond).

As he told me:

It would be silly for me to guess what my $5,000 Roth contribution will be worth in 20 years. I can't control what it will be worth, but I can make sure I have no debt, a paid-for condo, and consistent monthly paid-in capital [i.e., money that has been socked away, which in his case will be at least a few hundred thousand dollars absent any growth whatsoever].

No Potential Pain, No Aspirational Gain
The final component is accountability, which for my health goal is that $200 bet with someone who will hold me to it. After this challenge is over, I plan to keep making bets with Ben — such as I can't permit my body fat percentage to increase more than two percentage points or I owe him $200, with monthly check-ins. Otherwise, I fear it will be too easy to slide back. If you don't have a fitness expert to make you put money on the waistline, make bets with your friends or use a site like Fatbet.net.

I suppose the same type of bet could be made about a financial goal, but for some reason, it seems counterproductive to make someone pay money if they're already having trouble accumulating it. One option is determining an annual savings goal, which likely also entails an annual spending limit, so you could target either one — and make bets with friends that would involve you doing something embarrassing or repulsive to you (e.g., if you're a Democrat, you put a Romney bumper sticker on your car; the Republicans get an Obama sticker; independents like me get both). Or use a site like TweetWhatYouSpend.com.

Or perhaps every six months, you sit down in a quiet space, and spend 10 minutes imagining — in explicit detail — what it must be like to be in your 60s with less than $30,000. That is motivation enough for me.

More about...Health & Fitness, Planning, Retirement

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Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
7 years ago

Sounds like a great way to get you to lose the weight. As far as financial goals paying someone would be counter productive but doing something that you’d find repulsive would be a great motivator. I know a bunch of people that I went to college with that would die if they had to put a Romney sticker on their car. Sounds like a great motivational tool to me!

A
A
7 years ago

“have concluded that reducing heft is very similar to building wealth.”

You mean, it has a 95% failure rate? You mean, all studies have shown that within 2-5 years you’ll be back where you started? I do agree that there’s all kinds of social stigma for being poor as well as for being fat.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  A

Of course he doesn’t mean that.

He means the process that has to be undertaken is very similar for both weight and wealth, which is obvious except to those who want to think they are doomed to fail anyway so why try.

KevinM
KevinM
7 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

@chacha1

I think you may need to tune your sarcasm filter. 🙂

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  KevinM

Futile nerd-word note: in spite of current language fads, irony is when you say the opposite of what you mean (for humor or whatever purpose), sarcasm is when you use irony in order to insult someone.

Obsessive, I know, and one crazy alone can’t buck a social trend, but I had to say it or my head would have exploded– apologies!

imelda
imelda
7 years ago
Reply to  A

You know, that is really incredible to me. Weight-loss has a 95% failure rate? (I’m guessing that’s not an exact statistic, but is probably something pretty similar) And yet, people still make comments like Brokamp did in this article, i.e.: “I am compelled to point out that many of these health problems are due to poor health decisions compounded over decades” Why can we not accept that human beings are…human? When you have such a huge portion of people who are all responding to today’s culture in exactly the same way (i.e. growing fat), how can we continue to claim… Read more »

A
A
7 years ago
Reply to  imelda

It actually is a pretty accurate statistic. There is a collection of links to studies here (not my blog). Scroll down a little or search for “Here is the research, including quotes from each piece:” to find links and quotes for 6 studies that suggest dieting not only doesn’t cause long-term weight loss but may contribute to weight-gain and 5 studies that indicate weight is not correlated with health. Here are some excerpts, each from a different study: “You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back.… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

I think Robert’s colleague and I would get along well! I do the same thing — track goals in a spreadsheet. Retirement is hard to save for, but I when I break it down from year to month to pay cheque, it’s not so bad. (I know I need to save x amount from each pay cheque to meet my goal.) I love updating my spreadsheet once a month to make it official. I also like his “I can’t predict the future, but I can do the best I can right now” attitude. That feels more motivating to me than… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago

Don’t forget Stickk.com for donating to those opposing political campaigns if you miss your goalpost. Here’s some psychology theory on goal-setting: http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/goal-setting-io-theory/ Motivation is a very interesting topic. Btw, reading Willpower, they make a distinction between weight-loss and finances. It’s easier to get your finances in order than it is to lose weight because your body is stacked against losing weight in terms of Willpower. Energy helps willpower, starving yourself decreases willpower increasing your chance of giving up and binging. On top of that, the body can go into starvation mode and keep more of the calories you take in.… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

This is a great post and very timely for me since I am saving for retirement as well as trying to lose those past twn pregnancy pounds! Thank you for the motivation!

Marisa
Marisa
7 years ago

I’m in my 20’s and retirement seems so, so far away that it sometimes feels like it can be pointless to start saving for it, especially because between now and then my life will change so much (salary fluctuations, marriage, house, kids, etc). I do contribute the max to both my employer retirement plan and a Roth IRA, but for right now I just try not to think about it and make everything as automatic as possible. That last small paragraph kills me though, and motivates me like almost nothing else could.

amber
amber
7 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

Marisa those life changes are the reason I save so much for retirement now. I know if I ever have kids my savings will go down, but if I can put away the max now it won’t hurt so much later.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

@Marissa: I’m in my 30s and life has thrown a few curve balls my way 🙂 One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t go wrong “making hay while the sun shines”

I firmly believe it’s easier to establish good savings habits early on — as you clearly are (kudos!) When kids, marriage, house come along, you already have the mindset that saving for the future is important and you can make decisions accordingly.

The Bazinga Ninja
The Bazinga Ninja
7 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

Not to mention letting time go to work for your money. Even if you stopped contributing until you’re 35, you’re still light years ahead with the way compounding works.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

True! I feel like the recession changed all that and I’ve missed out on all those crucial early-in years that are so important to compounding. Right now it’s really hard to see how (if!) my investments are going to grow in the future.

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago
Reply to  Marisa

Marisa, you are already doing GREAT! In your twenties and already maxing out your Roth IRA AND your employer retirement fund? You’re going to be fine.

Increase your contributions as you can, but you should feel great about starting out early with maxing out the two accounts.

Marisa
Marisa
7 years ago
Reply to  Jamie

Wow you guys are making me feel so much better. Thank you! Now I just need to work on patience, and remind myself that 2050 (the year I’m “supposed” to retire, according to TIAA-CREF) will come sooner than I think.

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

From one Rob to another, excellent piece! I’m in the transition of switching from short to long term goals and it is tough going from a sprint (getting out of debt) to a marathon (wealth building), thanks again and I look forward to reading more articles from you!

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
7 years ago

About a year ago the WSJ had a piece that showed young people (college age) who were shown age advanced avatars of themselves when they were deciding what to save saved 30% more than those who didn’t. Seeing themselves at 60 no doubt made them feel like the time was coming up a lot faster so they felt they couldn’t procrastinate on it, and that long term goal suddenly feel a lot shorter term.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

For Robert, written in a hurry (it’s a busy morning!): Summer time may have cookouts and things of that sort but it’s a great season to lose weight. First of all, *it’s hot* and your body needs less calories, so you can eat less and not shiver in the cold. The cold makes you hungry. Turn off the AC and skip the potatoes. Second, again because of the heat you might crave cooling foods: more fresh fruits and veggies and less mashed potatoes and chili beans. These refreshing things like cucumbers and watermelons tend to be low in calories. Third,… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

My weight doesn’t fluctuate more than 5 pounds but I do weigh less in summer than in winter for these reasons, mostly out and about more.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Great advice – but I will have to challenge the bit about barbecues being “all good”. Not really, not if I’m skipping the bread, the beer, the starches, and the the sweets. And even the salad dressing!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Ha ha, I warned you I was writing in a hurry! What I mean is that meat, in general, meat may have calories and fat and things deemed “fattening”, but it’s not going to puff you up like starches and sugars and their insulin rollercoaster. Have a steak, have some sausages, grilled veggies, burgers, seafood– all good (unless suffering from some medical condition)! Salad dressing is fine too– olive oil and vinegar or lemon and herbs are fine, but it’s the sugar from the supermarket dressings that will kill people who are prone to putting on weight. I should know,… Read more »

Paularado
Paularado
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

You already stated the answer to beer vs wine. It’s carbs and insulin.

Beer has a lot more carbs.

Kelly
Kelly
7 years ago

Great, great post. Practical, motivational, and honest without being judgmental. Thanks, Robert.

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago

I do wonder sometimes what will happen with the super-savers vs. those that didn’t (yes that might be *couldn’t* but still didn’t) save – means testing, higher taxes, clawbacks, etc.

I’d want to help other people not as fortunate of course, but it still feels like a punishment for LBYM-ing when sometimes it would be nice to be the grasshopper and not the ant.

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

Personally I’d rather be the one living next to the beach on the West Coast eating fancy cheeses rather than the one who can’t afford to eat catfood. The subsistence level that gov’t will keep former grasshoppers at is not anywhere near what I want to be consuming. I’m perfectly happy spending extra in taxes later on if it means I don’t have to walk on the corpses of the poor out in the street.

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Later on? Why wait until then? It seems the US economy is pretty bad now – there’s always voluntary taxation…
http://www.nationalpost.com/Voluntary+donations+debt+relief/5228876/story.html

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

You said “higher taxes” which will be happening later on. Voluntary taxation doesn’t work because of the free-rider problem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_rider_problem That’s why Warren Buffet wants the Koch brothers to pay their fair share. There’s no reason for him to donate directly to the US gov’t if the Koch brothers are going to use their billions to prevent social change from occurring by buying professorships for partisan Ayn Rand supporters and contributing anonymously to Super-pacs. The Fox News propaganda is appealing on the surface, but, in the end, absurd. My comparatively small income isn’t going to do a whole lot of… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I think not qualifying for means-tested benefits because I had too much retirement income would be a nice problem to have 😉 In the meantime, I hope to take advantage savings/investing vehicles like my tax-free savings account to save for retirement. For now, at least, TFSAs aren’t part of means-testing for benefits like OAS while RRSPs are. I think that’s one of the reasons more of us Canucks are using TFSAs as part of their retirement plan. (“Savings account” is a misnomer — there are investment vehicles too.) My biggest fear is being a burden to my loved ones. I… Read more »

Smart Military Money
Smart Military Money
7 years ago

Robert,
Procrastination is a difficult habit to eliminate. But kudos to you for finding a way to whip your body and pocketbook into shape.

Your post reminded me of all the times I put off reading 10 to 20 pages of a book that I knew I had to finish for a course in college. I’d have eight to 16 weeks to finish the book, but instead of reading in small chunks, I put it off until the last week and had hundreds of pages to read.

Urgency is an odd feeling, eh?

-Christian L.

Quest
Quest
7 years ago

Excellent post. You’ve got me thinking about my own problems with weight and asking myself, am I doing everything I can to turn the situation around? For me personally, being overweight means that I am spending too much money at the grocery store. Still.

RJB
RJB
7 years ago

I’d have enjoyed this article even without the cat picture! Very good insights. Thanks!

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago

OMG that cat is HUGE!!!!!!!!! Don’t worry – I did read the rest of the post 😉 I like your friend’s approach to retirement savings. I have been frustrated that during a down market the retirement calculator will tell me I’m not saving enough because my retirement funds aren’t worth as much as they during an up market. But, I’ve maxed out my 401(k) and I’m pre-paying on my mortgage to pay it down in 20 years or less. Plus, I’ve got a decent emergency fund with an eye to increasing it. In short, I’m doing the best I can.… Read more »

Elyssa
Elyssa
7 years ago

That’s absolutely true! I’ve been trying to lose weight (down almost 15 lbs now) and I keep seeing my credit card bills go up. I just don’t have enough self-control to both restrict calories and restrict impulse buys. Once I reach my target weight, then I’ll have to transition back to counting pennies.

Thanks for this article!

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

I do the same thing as the coworker, I set my savings rates and then I don’t worry much about it. I put in 5% to get 401k matching, I max out the Roth IRA each year, and then I save $500 per month in a taxable account for more short term expenses. (new cars, major home repairs, etc.) When I am reaching my savings goals I can do whatever I want with the rest of my money and not worry much about it.

Kiernan
Kiernan
7 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Me too. I like the Balanced Money Formula in theory but find even that is too complicated for my situation (I’m in the debt-free, wealth-building stage). As long as I’m not overextended and I’m hitting my savings targets, what I do with the rest doesn’t matter very much.

Chris Tamme
Chris Tamme
7 years ago

Losing weight doesn’t have to be difficult. More exercise and less food is not the solution long term. If you can’t sustain it without pain then you are doing it wrong. Get off the hamster wheel and wuit eating things that come in a package. Get rid of processed oils, sugar, and grains. Eat whole foods that don’t have an ingredient list on them.

I have been through the same struggle and have been able to keep 100lbs off for over 2 years. It doesn’t have to suck.

Amy
Amy
7 years ago

“…spend 10 minutes imagining – in explicit detail – what it must be like to be in your 60s with less than $30,000.”

It’s pretty easy for me to imagine – my grandparents are living off social security. Their weekly “treat” is one taco each at Taco Bell. I sure as heck don’t want to live like that when I get old.

Amy

imelda
imelda
7 years ago
Reply to  Amy

And they have social security!

Imagine if the anti-government folks in our country get their way and manage to disable that program….

Ms. Rants
Ms. Rants
7 years ago
Reply to  Amy

The same method can be used for weight loss. Imagine being 50 and unable to work or do fun activities due to poor health. Really picture it in detail. Last year I was living a basic middle class (maybe lower middle class) lifestyle. I had a decent job. I maxed out my Roth, put extra into a taxable account (no access to a 401k), had a fully funded emergency fund, and enjoyed little luxuries like some new clothes or an occasional meal out. Now, due to health problems, I can not work, I’ve applied for Medicaid and Social Security, and… Read more »

Andrea
Andrea
7 years ago

I’ve been doing something similar with consequences tied to my weightloss efforts. I’ve had touble committing to my eating plan, so now I have to give my husband $20 from my “me” money if I cheat during the week. I’ve also got a 3 week goal that if I stick to plan with no cheats I can buy tickets to a show I’ve been really wanting to see. One cheat meal, and the opportunity is gone. This has been a great motivator, and breaking down the longer process into smaller, immediate bites has helped.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

I have four years’ worth of data about my spending and debt payoff, but this really motivated me to track my health as well. I weigh myself EVERY MORNING, but where does the data go? Right now, nowhere! I am making a spreadsheet immediately.

akajb
akajb
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

Beeminder is an awesome website for tracking goals. It’s kind of like Stickk.com, but it’s between you and the website, and will likely not cost you a single cent. I really like it for weight tracking, because of the extra information they provide, which gives you a more accurate idea of what your weight is. It’s not as simple as reading a number on a scale, because that number is constantly changing because of a lot of factors. I’ve also been using it for productivity. I’m a grad student, and so staying productive can be hard when you don’t always… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

My parents used to have a chart on their fridge for the daily weigh-ins 🙂

Hmmm. I should give that a try. I might opt for a spreadsheet so I can track waist to hip ratio too.

Megan E.
Megan E.
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Myfitnesspal.com is great for tracking too – and you can put in other measurements (hips, waist, neck, etc) to track as well. You can also track what you eat, which helps keep one accountable (a la a checkbook for money).

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan E.

Thanks for the link 🙂 I read recently that keeping a food dairy is one of the top success strategies for losing weight. I think it’s kind of like tracking one’s spending — it keeps you accountable, and helps you see where you can cut back.

Jenzer
Jenzer
7 years ago

Your colleague’s approach to saving for retirement sounds analogous to the Health at Every Size movement for wellness. In a nutshell, HAES promotes the establishment of healthy behavior habits: eating food that is nourishing for your body, doing movement you enjoy, taking care of yourself mentally and emotionally. By doing so, your weight may or may not change, but your body’s other indicators of health likely will, e.g. resting heart rate, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, blood cholesterol. (here’s a starting point for learning more about HAES: http://www.lindabacon.org/index.html ) What’s central to HAES is the formation and reinforcement of healthy… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago

The thing that I hold onto with weight control and wealth building is that HABITS trump intentions. If my HABIT is to bring oatmeal for breakfast, have a small sandwich and some fruit for lunch, and have a high-protein, produce-based dinner, weight management is a lot easier than if I just have the intention of “watching my calories.” Likewise, if my HABIT is to pay bills immediately upon receipt, then put 30% of my remaining paycheck in savings, building wealth is a lot easier than if I just have the intention of “saving more money.” I come from a family… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

THIS. This is exactly my approach to money and my weight. It’s not diet, it’s a lifetime eating style. Diet implies an endpoint, and there isn’t one (until you are dead). Same with money.

Becky
Becky
7 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Great comment!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

Where people fail is in thinking that either weight loss or wealth building can be “accomplished.” Neither goal has an endpoint … they are *lifestyle.*

THIS!

Excellent comment. Thank you.

Additionally, I’d like to offer a quote from a pastry chef (watch “Kings of Pastry”, it’s on Netflix online) that relates to something you said about being able to eat anything you want. The pastry chef says that the secret in France is to eat delicious things every day, to keep the brain happy, but in a very small amount. In France–he continues saying–there is no “all you can eat.”

Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
7 years ago

I like this post, except the last line — you’re much better served to imagine what you want your retirement to look like than to spend any mental energy imagining what a broke retirement is.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

I think it depends upon your personality. For me, fear of poverty is a much better incentive than imagining a life of comfortable leisure.

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Me too. Fear is a MUCH bigger motivator for me. Probably has to do with whether you have more of an optimism bias or more of a pessimism bias.

KP
KP
7 years ago

This article is a good explanation of why Simple does not equal Easy!

Alice
Alice
7 years ago

“reduce heft”

Those words make this one of the best blog posts ever.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

I like this because its one of the only articles I’ve ever read that concedes that young people have no idea how much they’ll need for retirement. You often hear “you’ll need 80% of your pre-retirement income after you retire”. I’ve only recently realized that what people mean by “pre-retirement income” is “income the day before you retire” and not “income that you have right now”. This leaves me wondering, “How am I supposed to know what that is going to be?” I completely expect *not* to need 80% of my current salary post-retirement, because I shouldn’t have a mortgage… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

Your product rules, best wishes with it!

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago

We all die. Generally, we die either of carelessness in traumatic unwanted events that we are partly responsible for, or of something genetic that gets us in the end. The magical thinking that eating the “perfect foods” will keep us healthy until the day we drop dead is very dangerous. (And we will drop dead. Every single one of us.) For one thing, it makes many people decide that sick people have only themselves to blame. And that leads to all sorts of really bad things, like deciding the people who are heavy are not worthy of treatment. The irony… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

I’m not disagreeing, but I’m wondering to whom you are referring. Are people attacking people for being ill in this forum?

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

It has happened.

JamesS
JamesS
7 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Also not trying to be disagreeable; however the day I weighed in at 330lbs 2 1/2 years ago, I was on blood pressure meds and approaching adult onset diabetes. I took the plunge to save my life. Cutting carbs, increasing proteins, increasing veggies. Eight months later I was down 103lbs to 227. As a 6’1″ male that works for me. I am off all meds and had a complete blood workup w/lipids. All within normal range for the first time in 20 yrs. BP 120/80. Hip problem gone. I have felt good enough for the past year and a half… Read more »

EMH
EMH
7 years ago

I love Marketplace! I am 36 and I have similar goals as your colleague. The hardest part for me is the feeling I could/should do more but how much do you sacrifice? I don’t have any debt besides our mortgage. We have a large sum in our savings account, almost six figures, because we keep hoping to have a child and want to have the finances in place for child care. I put 15% in my 401k and I also have a ROTH. I do everything “right” but when I look at the retirement calculators, I am always behind what… Read more »

Mark
Mark
7 years ago
Reply to  EMH

If you have almost six figures saved up, that is plenty for a kid. You are fine so just go for it.

As for retirement, if you are saving 15% and maxing out your ROTH, then you really don’t need to worry about retirement either, just make sure you keep it up and don’t do stupid things with your investments.

Alea
Alea
7 years ago

Great article. Good luck with the weight loss, it’s hard. While discussing retirement at the office, I get the usual “why sock away so much? what if you die before you retire?” (I fully fund my ROTH, and I am about a year away of fully funding my 401 (k), payraises go directly to my 401 (k)) To which I answer, “I’ll be dead, so I DON’T CARE”, but if I do live, this is how I picture my first morning of retirement – I get up, no alarm clock, make myself a fancy breakfast, pour OJ in my best… Read more »

Becky
Becky
7 years ago

One thing I’ve recently started to wonder with retirement calculators is whether or not we should be basing our projected expenses on a percentage of our current expenses as opposed to our current income? I’ve always lived very frugally and this year was lucky enough to get a significant raise. Since I’m happy with my current lifestyle, I just upped my savings and did not change my budget/expenses by more than $50 a month. However, when I put my new numbers into one of the financial calculators, it actually came out that I either need to wait longer to retire… Read more »

Jamie
Jamie
7 years ago
Reply to  Becky

Great question, Becky! I’ve read up on that a bit, and here is what I’ve figured out: You are determining how much you’ll spend monthly after you retire, and there are are two (overly) simple differences in how you’ll spend then versus now… 1) There are certain things that your money is going towards now, but that you won’t need when you are retired (i.e., saving for retirement, maybe your mortgage?). 2) There are certain things that your money will be going towards then, that is not needed now (i.e., different health insurance, inflated prices). It’s too bad that retirement… Read more »

Christine, Random Hangers blog
Christine, Random Hangers blog
7 years ago
Reply to  Becky

I can’t answer your question, in large part because I’ve given up on retirement calculators. There are far too many variables. How do I know exactly when I will retire? How much I’ll be making on that day? How well the stock market will do? How much inflation will fluctuate? When I will die?? My best hope, as I think Tyler said above, is to sock away as much as I can, for as long as I can. Many of my co-workers/peers aren’t even doing that, so I’d like to think I’m a bit ahead of the curve, even if… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Becky

I wonder if calculators rely on percentages too much? Just because you earn more, doesn’t mean you want a bigger home, for instance (even though the amount you can get for a mortgage goes up because of the math.) Perhaps the math assumes we’ll give in to lifestyle inflation?

Edward
Edward
7 years ago

Great article!! One of my faves in a long time. I think people have to NOT see saving money, eating healthy, or quitting smoking as denying yourself something. I don’t think charts and special mealplans work because then you end up thibking about everything you eat all the time. One of the goals is to just eat LESS. I am currently quitting/cutting back smoking, and Iif I had signs everywhere reminding me about it, I’d go mental. You don’t need a reward at the end of something, just frame the entire concept in such as way that it doesn’t invlove… Read more »

Susan
Susan
7 years ago

I have stopped trying to predict the correct amount. There are far too many unknowns that can happen. Health problems, being forced to retire earlier than planned, inflation increasing higher than expected, investment returns greater or less than expected….the list goes on. All I concentrate on now is to increase my net worth as much as possible. The most access to funds when the need arises the more options that are available to deal with challenges in life. I concentrate on saving 20% or more if possible, and tracking the gains in net worth on Mint. I celebrate the milestones… Read more »

Diane
Diane
7 years ago

Your friend’s plan is very similar to my own. I’m tired of worrying about money all the time, so I decided I’d be happy if I could stay debt free, buy a home and pay it off early (not sure I can make it in 15 years, maybe 20?) and max my Roth plus get the max match from my 403. Not going to push further than that because it’ll cause more stress over things I have no control of. I have a lot of health issues so the chances of me working till my 60s are slim to none,… Read more »

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
7 years ago

I totally agree with your last point, just imagine. To me, the fear of being old and needing money, yet being unable to earn it, is a very strong motivator to save. Which in turn is a reason to focus on being healthy enough to make money, along with actually focusing on one’s career. Can’t save and invest without successfully making it in the first place!

Jen
Jen
7 years ago

“and consistent monthly paid-in capital [i.e., money that has been socked away, which in his case will be at least a few hundred thousand dollars absent any growth whatsoever].” THIS is my big question! For those of us who have met these conditions, that is no debt other than a mortgage that will be paid off in a few years (early 50s in age), and have saved since our mid-twenties and have saved for college and then laid out for the kids what we can pay, what money their g’parents have saved, and what they can get through high test… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

A really simple answer is a Vanguard Target-Date retirement fund for the date at which you think you’ll retire. Pick one number and it will take care of diversification and balancing at a very low cost to you. If you were well-diversified and didn’t leave the market, your stocks that were wiped out in the recession should have come back and then some by now. There was some really rapid growth. Our stocks (100% in broad-based index funds) have almost doubled since the recession’s low point and are up past their previous high prior to the recession (admittedly, not as… Read more »

Jen
Jen
7 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yes, we’re not actually down, and were back up again — you know until the most recent downturn!

The Vanguard 529s have worked beautifully for us. Oldest went off to school in fall 2009 with an account that only grew — much more slowly at the end, but still no loss.

Marien
Marien
7 years ago

Yes, making a bet is a good way to make us follow through on our goals. As a life and career coach, I know this is the most difficult part for most, including me! Another method to follow through is to do “good before bad”. For example, you may really want to reach out for that cookie. But you tell yourself you will get the cookie once you’ve eaten an apple. What happens most times is that eating the apple makes you feel satisfied and good about yourself, so you don’t have the cookie. Or you have one rather than… Read more »

Teinegurl
Teinegurl
7 years ago

i’m not sure if it was this site or not but i remember reading about Meals for Wheels for someone volunteer to elderly servingn the meals on wheels because most could not afford food and they said they only want to get a tv dinner by choice and not because you have to. Fear is a big motivator for me and retirement. I’ve seen my mom struggle with money for years , and she has 0 retirement savings. She believes that i will “take care of her” in her later years even though i’m a single mom with 2 kids.… Read more »

Nancy
Nancy
7 years ago

Specifically about losing weight: read “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” by Gary Taubes. Interesting read, very informative and a contrary point of view to what we all have been taught. I haven’t read all the replies, pardon me if someone already mentioned this.

Mike Jutan
Mike Jutan
7 years ago

FANTASTIC ARTICLE!!!!!!! I completely agree that weight management and financial management are basically the same exact skills 🙂 I’ve been working very hard at saving and doing a fantastic job over the past several years since I finished college, but weight has been an issue of mine for years. I finally had a mental change-of-course about 10 months ago and decided to finally do something about it. (My “Health and Fitness” blog posts and weight loss progress posts here for anyone who needs a shot of motivation: http://jutanclan.blogspot.com/search/label/Healthy%20Living%20and%20Fitness) I found that the same kind of consistent, continuous, dedicated focus was… Read more »

Krishanu
Krishanu
7 years ago

Great, great, great article! Mr. Brokamp, this was awesome!

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