Some weeks, it can feel as if time is moving at lightspeed, as the business of life becomes our focus, and hours and days dash before our eyes. Other times — like when we’re on the treadmill at the gym — it can feel unbearably, painfully slow. Even though we know it doesn’t feel like the clock is always ticking at the same pace, we know it’s ticking, and over the course of the next decade, time will march on, whether we’re working towards our bigger goals or not.
We’ve got roughly 75,000 hours between this date in 2021 and Jan. 1, 2030. We think that’s plenty of space for all of us to meet (or even exceed) some of our long-term financial goals. So, where do you want to be over the next decade? Many of us tend to think of our money as either being for “right now,” or “don’t touch till retirement,” but the truth is, it’s good to have smaller (yet still big) goals for us to meet along our financial journey. These types of benchmarks can be tricky to navigate, but they can also be some of the most meaningful since they challenge us to find our ‘why’ and step-by-step give it purpose and meaning, according to women’s wealth advocate and business mentor Merel Kriegsman.
While everyone’s long-term goals will vary, here are some that — with a lot of hard work — can be achievable for most of us over the course of the next decade.
Pay Off Your Mortgage
For homeowners, the largest chunk of their paycheck usually goes toward paying off the roof over their head. While real estate ownership is an important step in the journey to financial independence, it’s also a long-haul goal — it can take 20, 30 or even 40 years to write that final check to the bank. Depending on your income, your home’s location and what your goals are for the future, it could be possible to be mortgage-free within ten years, and put your monthly mortgage payment towards something else, or head into retirement debt-free. As financial consultant Steve Sexton explains, the longer we have a mortgage, the less flexibility we have with other expenses like taking a vacation, sending our kiddos to college or retiring. “If you can eliminate your mortgage as soon as possible, the better your retirement will be. My motto is ‘it is always better to earn interest than pay interest,’” he advises.
There are many ways to speed up the process, if you’re willing to get a little scrappy. First, give your budget a once-over and look for ways you may be able to cut back. (Subscription services and Amazon purchases, we’re looking at you!) Next, take the time to educate yourself on home interest rates to see what’s available and how it compares to your current rate. “Lower interest rates mean lower monthly payments. You could put the extra cash each month towards your mortgage payment or paying down your principal,” Sexton says.
Up Your Retirement Savings
No, this goal isn’t one that’s going to be ‘done’ in ten years, but it is one that should be prioritized, always. As Lauren Silbert, the general manager of The Balance explains, it can be helpful to put a figure on our 10-year retirement savings, since it gives us something solid to work towards. After all, it’s one thing to say ‘I’ll have $2 million in my retirement account at 65’ and another to say ‘I’ll have $300,000 in my retirement account by the time I’m 40.’ “Chunking out your retirement goals makes them seem more attainable and can force you to think about your life in stages,” Silbert continues. “No kids or mortgage yet? This might be the perfect time to get aggressive with your retirement savings since your expenses are the lowest they will be for a while.”
Saving year-by-year also provides the opportunity to test what works for you and what doesn’t. While our friends may benefit from automatic deductions into a savings account, it may not be the way that works for our brains and saving habits. With time comes the opportunity to adjust, without losing steam. “You’ll have a runway of time to figure out what’s working. If you’ve planned properly by the end of 10 years you should be on your way,” Silbert adds.
Save An Additional $100,000 (Or More!)
Yes, that’s a huge chunk of change… but is it an impossible one? Not according to Sexton. The trick is maximizing our 401(k) contributions, or IRA contributions if you don’t have an employer-sponsored plan. “Start with what you can afford to contribute; and when your wages increase or earn a bonus, contribute more until you reach the maximum contribution limit,” he recommends. For those of us who are self-employed, an IRA account is a great solution, and he suggests opening it with $1,000, then adding $574 a month. As long as the market stays steady, this would amount to $100,150.85 in a decade. “The key is to start investing as soon as possible, reinvesting dividends and interest over time buys you more shares in your account, ultimately helping you increase the value of your account,” he adds.
Kick Debt To The Curb
Not owning a penny to anyone, for anything, is not only a liberating feeling — it’s how you’re financially healthiest. Whether you’re looking to pay off credit cards or student loans, consistency will help more than anything — as well as celebrating each step of the process. “The key is breaking debts into smaller attainable goals that aren’t so big and scary. Each month and year should represent a milestone,” she recommends. “You’ll need to check in regularly with your spending, but by the end of 10 years, budgeting should be muscle memory and your debt will be dwindling.”
Transform Your Side Hustle Into A Full-Time Career
Some people are lucky enough to be paid to do what they would do for free … and then there are the rest of us. The idea of being self-employed or starting a business from the ground-up can be terrifying — especially if we have never taken a big ‘ole leap into the unknown. However, over the course of ten years, it’s more than possible, according to co-founder of Facet Wealth, Brent Weiss, CFP. The first step is letting go of the idea that entrepreneurs wake up in their 20s one day, decide to go for it — and the rest is history. In reality, Weiss says most are somewhere in their early to mid-40s before they find success, and they go through many trial and errors before figuring out what works.
The solution is to find what we’re most passionate about, and then educate ourselves on the necessary steps to turn that hobby or thought into a profitable, lucrative endeavor. “These three things might feel overwhelming if you think about doing them all at once… But if you space them out over the next five or ten years, you will create realistic goals that will lead to success and allow you to keep at least some semblance of balance in your life,” he shares.
What helps with all of this? A financial plan that starts NOW. As in, today. “Determine how to gradually create the financial flexibility you may need to either finance the start-up or to give you and your family the cushion you might find necessary in the early days,” he says.