Setting Goals for 2015

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There's some irony in sitting down to write this article on the morning of January 29th. I had hoped to have it done a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully that's not an indication on how my goals are going to go this year.

I've thought long about how I set goals every year just to find give myself a D+ the following year. The fundamental problem I've been having is to look at things from a year-long perspective. There's always next month to hit revenue goals. I can lose 5 pounds next month. I'm trying to do something a little new and set goals by the month. For example, there's Setting Goals for January 2015.

I'm not going to take this space to set monthly goals though. It doesn't make sense at the financial stage we are at. The closest thing I can think of is building up emergency fund, which we are making great strides in.

There are a couple of things that I want to shot at though:

The Big Net Worth Milestone

One of the biggest goals I have is hitting that big net worth milestone. I'm not saying what that is, but if you read the comments, you should be able to put it together. Much of our net worth is not liquid, tied up in real estate investment properties and retirement brokerage accounts. Unfortunately, I don't control either the stock or real estate markets, so my influence is limited to what I can save. I have to leave the rest up to "the powers that be".

I'm wondering if those "powers that be" are related to low oil prices. Though we probably will see a raise in interest rates this year, the low oil prices should help company's profits. (Perhaps the strong dollar eats into those though.) If consumers save at the pump, they might have more money for rents and houses, driving the theoretical value of our investment properties up. We'll see what happens. At any rate, it will be fun to look back on this paragraph a year from now and see how crazy it was.

This is a terrible goal to set due to the factors outside my control, but I also see it as a can't lose situation. If I don't achieve it, I won't be disappointed because I've managed my expectations to start. If I do achieve, then it's "unicorns, show ponies, 'where's the beef?'!!!".

Business Goals I

I continue to try to keep Lazy Man and Money as a daily money journey diary sharing my favorite tips of what works for me, while looking out for consumers to keep them safe from scams. Currently too much of my income relies on this website. I would like to diversify. It's not just for the purposes of where my income comes from, but to match my interests. There's more to life than money, and I want to write about it.

I realize that not everyone is a fan of reading about MLM scams. They are interesting to me from an intellectual standpoint and the number of comments I get tell me the articles are extremely useful. Overall, I'd say that 95% of the population doesn't care. Of the remaining 5%, I'd say that 99% of those people are wrapped up in the pyramid schemes and not open to me exposing the fraud.

With that I'd like to announce the launch of a new website: Be Better Now. It's a self-improvement site with a few unique twists to set it apart from anything else I think you've seen. I'll go into it in more detail later in a separate post. For now I suggest you go explore, but here's why you'll love Be Better Now.

(Side note: To all those MLMers, who send me death threats or simply try to sue me, your best move is to help me be extremely successful with Be Better Now. Time that I spend there is time that I am not spending exposing your pyramid schemes. Also, you do your "industry" no favors when you attack people who are trying to help others.)

With the two websites combined, I hope to have 800,000 visitors throughout the year. I'll put a huge stretch goal at an even million. Like the net worth goal above, I control some things such as how good the content is. I don't control other things, such as getting people to spread it or search engines to say: "This is really useful!" If I build it, will they come? I guess we'll find out.

Business Goals II

(With the upcoming Super Bowl, I'm in a Roman Numeral mood.)

Aside from the obvious website businesses, I'm still the a full-time family CFO. This means that I'm focused on ways to save money such as shopping for bargains or refinancing mortgages. It even includes our foray into solar power.

There are a lot of these little thing that I do which stretch the money we make further.

The closest thing I have to a goal for this year is to finally sign up as a host at DogVacay and bring in some extra money outside of website stuff. I estimate that I could make about $30 a day or roughly around $2000 a year doing it around once a week. It isn't huge money, but when you already know how to stretch a dollar, $2000 is more than you might think.

Everything Else

I have bunch of tiny goals, but nothing sweeping like the yearly ones. One example might be to drink at least 50% almond milk instead of my current milk. I'd like to investigate all those tiny health choices I can make and really cement them as habits that stick. Most of this is going to be covered at Be Better Now on a monthly basis.

When it comes time to look this over at the end of the year, I'll go and grade those monthly goals and come up with a meta-analysis of how things went.

... And if all this doesn't work, I'll look to improve the process for next year. I view it as an evolutionary process.

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Last updated on October 13, 2015.

Make a New Year’s Resolution for SMARTER Goals This Year

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[Note: Every year, I republish this article around this time as I remind myself what's really important in setting goals for the next year. It's the last of the New Year re-run articles, I swear.]

It's a few days into the new year... how are your New Year's Resolutions coming along? Maybe I'm just Lazy (wait, I am), but I typically start having trouble with mine in the next few days... just as work starts getting really busy again. Right now, I'm enjoying my freshly born son (surprise!), trying to write articles in advance, get a new website off the ground, and hundred other things. That's the problem with New Year's resolutions, you get busy, put it off, and then it gets forgotten. The best way to stop that from happening this year is by being SMART with your goals.

SMART Goals

Many of you have heard about SMART goals in the past. It's common in the realm of project management. SMART is simply an mnemonic device to help you remember the steps necessary to achieve your goals. Though some of the specific terms are debated (more on that later), one interpretation is that stands for:

  • Specific - What is the goal that I want to accomplish? Do I want to get my TPS reports submitted with cover sheets? Do I want to get that T.G.I. Friday's Chotchkie's waitress to go out with me? Or do you want to just want to get your red stapler back? (Note: Those goals won't make sense unless you've seen Office Space)
  • Measurable - How do I measure the goal? Am I successful if I submit my TPS reports with cover sheets 80% of the time? Sounds like a good start. Having I gotten to know what the Chotchkie's waitress likes? Am I successful if I find that she likes kung-fu? Yep.
  • Attainable - Is my goal reasonable? If my goal is learn to fly by flapping my arms, I need to go back to the drawing board. In this case it is possible to achieve the TPS report/coversheet goal... and contrary to what any logic in my head says, I guess it's finding Jennifer Anistons working at Chotchkie's and get them to go out with you is "attainable" (maybe this is where my Office Space analogy breaks down).
  • Relevant - Does the goal matter to you and your life? Do you really care about achieving the 80% TPS report/coversheet goal? No you don't. Does going out with Chotchkie's waitress matter? I'm going to go on a limb and say that in example it's something worth caring about.
  • Time-bound - When do expect to reach this goal? Maybe you want to start out with getting your TPS Reports up to par for just a month... then raise it to a fiscal quarter... then go for the full year... Maybe you want to find out three things that the Chotchkie's waitress likes in the next week.

I mentioned earlier that there are some variations to SMART goals. Some use Appropriate and Realistic instead of Attainable and Relevant. If you think about it, Appropriate is similar enough to Relevant, and Realistic is similar enough to Attainable that it doesn't really matter. As long as you cover the main five concepts you are ready to tackle any goal... or are you?

SMARTER Goals

I've noticed some people are getting a little clever with SMART Goals and trying to make them even SMARTER Goals. They do this by adding a couple more steps such as

  • Exciting - Your goals should exciting you. I think this is captured in Relevant step mentioned above. This could be debated, but in the example above, I think it's safe to say that Peter should be excited about the idea of taking Jennifer Aniston's character on a date.
  • Recorded - You should record your progress at set intervals. I like this one. It's a little like Measurable, but reminds you to go back and look at how you are doing

Another variation is:

  • Evaluate - Same concept as the recorded above - evaluate your goal progress on an on-going basis
  • Re-do - After evaluating your goal's progress, go back and adjust your goal accordingly. Now that you know some things that the waitress likes, ask her to come over and watch the Kung-Fu marathon on channel 39.

SMARTEST Goals

I'm not going to revise the acronym again. Instead I'd like to add a couple of important tips for achieving your goals that I believe get lost in the steps above:

  • Assess Where You Start - Before you create a goal, you should assess where you stand currently. It will help you with various steps in the process.
  • Break them Down - You may need to break big goals into smaller ones. Some goals may seem break the "Attainable" guideline, but in smaller chunks it becomes easier. Paying off $100,000 of debt in a year may not be attainable to some people, but paying off $25,000 may be possible.
  • Get Some Motivating Help - How do I keep up with my goals? Here are some things that I've found helpful:
    • StickK to Your Goals - This website can help make you accountable for not achieving your goals.
    • Buddy System - If your goal is to go to the gym, get a buddy to hold yourself accountable. On days when you don't feel like going, you will be less likely to give up because you don't want to let your buddy down.
    • Reminders - It can be easy to forget your goals. I would recommend setting up regular reminders on a regular basis on Google Calendar. If you are low-tech type, you could put a picture that reminds you of your goal on your bathroom mirror.

If you take just one thing away from this article, I hope it's this: "Lazy Man has seen Office Space far too many times."

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Posted on January 5, 2015.

Reviewing Goals for 2014

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It seems like whenever I have a title with the words "review goals" things get ugly real quick. Unfortunately, I don't think this will be an exception.

On Martin Luther King Day last year, I wrote an article about Setting Goals for 2014. Though it wasn't related to any of my goals, I always like to bring the special day into focus. While it may not have been the most outrageous call of the year, in review of 2014 two sentences really caught my attention:

"I like to think if he was alive today, he'd be pleased at the progress. However, I wonder if he'd be focused on about how much work we still have to do."

Personally 2014, was a year of transition just like 2013. When 2013 started, our first child was 3 month old and we moved from San Francisco to Boston. When 2014 started we had another boy (yes, they are close). So while we didn't relocate, it was a transition to have another boy. I imagine that for the next 18 years (or more) there will be transitions related to their growth and development. The first few months of the year though were dedicated to help the new Mini Man with his transition to the world.

Though it might not seem like it due to my somewhat sporadic writing over the last couple of months, I wrote more in 2014 than I had in some time. I had this crazy theory that if wrote almost every day, the audience would grow and I'd get more income opportunities. It didn't work out that way. Writing more simply lead to... writing more.

That's not to say it didn't have it highlights and lowlights. I wrote about quite a few more MLM companies and put a spotlight on their misinformation and disinformation. I have covered a couple dozen now in fairly extensive detail. I've also received tens of thousands of comments on them, without a single comment making any kind of legitimate case that they are a real business. It should be clear to any objective person that they are financial fraud, plan and simple.

One of lowlights of the year was when I wrote about Beachbody's Shakeology scam after Side Hustle Nation's interviewed a top distributor who claimed it wasn't a pyramid scheme. This was despite admitting that she made much more via recruiting and that selling wasn't viable... and that happens to be the very definition of a pyramid scheme according to the FTC's guidelines. Part of the problem is that there's little unbiased education on these pyramid schemes and people presume that the authorities would shut them down if they were illegal. Unfortunately, law enforcement and the legal process for doing so is too extensive and costly for the regulators' limited time and budgets. It's an ongoing problem. However, it is getting better with the attention that Herbalife has received and the ease of information on the Internet.

The other lowlight was when I received a death threat because of my article exposing a pyramid scheme. It seems clear that it was from one of their distributors as it originated from an IP address that was just outside the location of their Global Convention. You'd think that an American company would be against this kind of terrorism and put some investigation into it, but it didn't happen. Perhaps that mentality is why their stock is in the tank, down 18% this year and 35% over two years.

Getting back my online income, it is very disappointing not to have increased it more. I had set a goal to make 50% more than 2013, noting that 50% of a small number isn't as crazy as it seems. While there are still a few days left in the year, it is looking like I might make only about 5-10% more. I can sugar-coat it by saying that I've learned a lot and doing all the extra writing has helped me improve my skills. It's all true, but the bottom line is that I need to do better.

We'll try something new in 2015, but we'll save that for an article about setting goals for 2015.

Another of my goals was to keep expenses down. In 2013 we put a lot of money into a new fence, a new deck, and central air conditioning in the house. In total that was around $30-40K. We took advantage of 0% interest financing for the central air, the last payment we made a few weeks ago. I'd like to say that we used the year to build up savings, but there were some major renovations to rental properties that made it feel like swimming upstream.

I learned that I need to do a better job of anticipating and amortizing the necessary rental property maintenance. The result of that is an Excel spreadsheet with all major expenses and an anticipated schedule of when they'll likely come due. In addition to this we need to set up two bank accounts (even if virtual): one for rental property maintenance, and one for an emergency fund in the event that we can't find tenants in a timely manner.

Getting back to keeping expenses down, perhaps out biggest move of this year is going solar. It's a move that doesn't pay off for 6-7 years, but after that we'll reduce our necessary expenses by $125 a month on average. It's almost like giving ourselves a $2000 raise every year and keeping $1500 after taxes.

My final goal was to lose two pounds to get under the 25 BMI mark. I had achieved it for most of the year, but there was some Aruba weight that thwarted the goal in late November. While I had a little time to recover, a stomach virus and the holidays made sure that wasn't going to happen. The end result is that I'm now 6 pounds more than I was. Now I need to lose 8 pounds to get to the high end of where I want to be.

If I am being honest with myself, there's a lot of room for improvement, particularly in the exercise area. While walking the dog is better than nothing, it's not nearly enough.

Final Thoughts

On the surface, it feels like 2014 was a complete failure with regard to these goals. However, when I look deeper, I see many more bright spots. There were a lot of quality of life aspects that can't be quantified here. I think we went to a dozen (free) concerts this summer. My wife and I got some kayak time in. There was the aforementioned long vacation in Aruba.

It is impossible to quantify spending this time with family. However, it is time when I'm not actively working to increase income. So what looks like a failure because it is quantifiable may not be so in reality.

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Last updated on October 13, 2015.

Setting Goals for 2014

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Last week, I took a look back to 2013 and this week, I'm taking a look forward to plan for 2014. Typically people set their goals for the year before now, but I needed a little extra time due to the new baby. I'm relieved to be done writing these posts, so I can live in the present.

I wanted to start off by presenting two quotes:

"I have a dream." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline." - Harvey MacKay

Dr. King was great at many things, but his speaking stood out. While he may be most famous for his speech about dreams, there's no doubt that he had a goal. Part of that goal was to get people to think race differently. I like to think if he was alive today, he'd be pleased at the progress. However, I wonder if he'd be focused on about how much work we still have to do.

When I looked back at 2013, it was mostly about transitioning back to the east coast and getting a hang of this father thing. All my financial goals went to the back-burner. When I could do something extremely time-sensitive that would make a great impact like refinance our home, I bumped it up the priority list. It was largely a successful year in terms of everything, except increasing income. In fact, I made less money than I did the previous year and it is far below what I used to make as a software engineer.

So with that in mind, I'm looking forward to my 2014 goals. Since I believe in making SMARTER Goals, I can't add things that aren't measurable like be the most awesome father ever. It's not that I don't have that as one of my goals, I just don't currently know how to measure it.

Website Goal - It's going to require me to boost traffic something like 30-50%, but I'm hoping to get to 4 million lifetime visitors on Lazy Man and Money. I'm almost up to 3.5 million as you can see in the right column. One of the things I saw emphasized at the annual Fincon meeting this past year is that traffic is essentially everything. I don't personally subscribe to that. I'd rather have 15 people who actively comment on articles than 150 people who come by to read and then move on their day. The more engagement the more can learn from each others' experiences.

Earnings Goal - I think you'd get punched in the face if you went around telling everyone that you'd like a 50% raise this year. Well that's what I'm shooting for. Before you get those virtual fists flying though, in 2013, I made less than half than I did in 2011. A 50% raise now only brings me half way to where I once was. Something else to keep in mind... 50% of a small number is a lot easier than 50% of a large number.

Keep Expenses Down - This is one of those goals every year. Last year we did some home renovations and we have already planned for this year. Enough is enough though. I'd much rather redirect this money towards replenishing our cash stores and new investments. Sadly there will be no spa coming to the Lazy Man home this year. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to measure this one. I think it's going to be a combination of using Mint reporting and tracking my necessary spending as I used to in the past.

Lose At Least Two Pounds - That may seem like a funny goal, right? Well, I'm just one pound over the magical 25 Body Mass Index that makes me "overweight." I'd like to lose more to give myself some cushion in the healthy range, but at least two pounds will put me where I was hoping to be.

I've got a couple more goals that I'm going to keep private for now. I hope this list wasn't too boring. If so, bear with me, it will hopefully be more meaningful when I look back on it in early 2015.

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Last updated on December 29, 2014.

2008 Goals: A Look Back

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Yesterday I got a little ahead of myself as I looked at my blogging goals for 2009. I should have realized that with the dwindle hours of 2008, I should be looking back at my goals for 2008, and adjusting from there. I haven't looked at them in a little while - a really bad sign. If I had to guess, Clubber Lang would hit it on nose with his famous line of, "My prediction?... Pain!"

My 2008 goals were complex. I had just left my full-time job in October of 2007 and was unsure if I was going to take another one, or go all out with the idea of earning online income. As fate would have it, I ended up doing a little bit of both. I didn't have a full-time job all year, but I did consult at an hourly wage. This consulting slowed down some of the gains I might have had if I went for all-out online income. At the same time, I definitely spent major hours on earning online income. I'm going to use my goals as if I was going all-out for online income - I had enough time even after my consulting to hit those goals.

Goals for 2008

Financial Goals
Net Worth Alternative Income
2008 Predicted 2008 Actual 2008 Predicted 2008 Actual
$250,000 $143,176 $5,000/mo. $2,235/mo.
Career Goals
Software Development Business Skills
2008 Predicted 2008 Actual 2008 Predicted 2008 Actual
500 hours 0 hours 2 books each category 2 books total
Health
Weight Body Fat
2008 Predicted 2008 Actual 2008 Predicted 2008 Actual
175 lbs. 176 lbs. 17% body fat 19.15% body fat
Websites
Lazy Man and Money Lazy Man and Health
2008 Predicted 2008 Actual 2008 Predicted 2008 Actual
55,000 mo. visitors/4,000 subscribers ~40,000/~3100 20,000/1,000 ~7,000/300

Reviewing the Goals

  • Net Worth - I have to give myself a D- on this one. Why not an F when I was so far off? It's simply that my net worth is largely tied to real estate that I own and stocks that I have invested in for retirement. When 70% of your portfolio loses some 30% of it's value - it's going to be pain. I couldn't have done too much differently other than moving out of stocks to something safer, but I don't believe in timing the market. For the real estate, I could have sold, but I would have locked in big losses. I'll continue to break even on a cash flow basis by renting it out and in a short 26 more years, own it outright ;-). A better goal would have been the income which brings us to...
  • Alternative Income - I thought I'd see a lot more growth the income growth my websites. I have to admit that I didn't do the best to monetize my sites, which is something that I've mentioned in the past. The landscape of monetizing websites has changed dramatically in the last year - some things for the better and some for the worse. For that reason, I would probably give myself a D+. I missed my targets by a lot, but with consulting (which is not alternative income), I probably came close.
  • Software Development - I completely underestimated my lack of desire to ever write software programs again. I used to enjoy the challenge and felt great about solving problems, now I just want the problem solved, so that I can move on to the next thing/goal on my list.
  • Business Skills - I was going to personal MBA, but found that almost none of the books were in my local library. If they were carried at all, they were all checked out far in advance. I got a couple via Paperback Swap, but it took so long to get that I lost interest. Plus I had a pile of personal finance books that people sent me to read. I think I did well by reading a few Malcolm Gladwell books (of which I still need to write reviews for). On the flip side, doing the consulting gave me some hands-on business skill experience.
  • Health - My wife isn't going to believe it, but I'm actually in a little better shape this year using my two metrics. The Wii Fit taunted me last night saying that my BMI was just barely in the "overweight" category. While I didn't reach my health goals, I feel that I had a pretty good exercise regimen for much of the year. It feel apart with a long trip to Australia, but I've since joined a gym and I've seen progress over the last month.
  • Website traffic - I actually passed the 55,000 for Lazy Man and Money a few times. I also got to around the 18,000 for Lazy Man and Health a couple of times. I didn't average those numbers, nor did I finish the year hitting those numbers. (I find December a tough month for Internet traffic with the holidays and people traveling.)

Conclusion: Jimmy Fallon may say that my progress over the last year had something in common with Derek Jeter... I "suck in three very specific ways: so hard, so bad, and wicked bad." I can explain away a lot of the problems that I had, but it doesn't make it better. Perhaps my goal setting was poor to begin with. Perhaps, I should have chosen shorter milestones such as a quarter. In that scenario, I would have at least realized that I wasn't likely to do any software development. There would have also been times when I might have reached my health and website traffic goals. I may have also realized that setting a net worth is extremely difficult when your assets can fluctuate wildly on factors that you can't control.

These are all lessons I have learned for when I make my 2009 goals

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Last updated on December 31, 2008.

Blogging Goals: What You’ll See Here in 2009

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Thanks to Green Panda Treehouse for pointing me to Visionary Blogging's 7 Strategic Blog Improvement Questions. That article serves as an outline for my blogging goals for 2009.

  1. What will I accomplish with my blog in 2009? How will I make my blog more valuable in 2009?
    There are a number of ways to determine the success of a blog. Here are just a few examples, with 2008s numbers and my goals for 2009:

    • Traffic - Last year I averaged 37,794 visitors a month. This may put me in the top 99.9% of blogs or higher, but it's really not where I want or need to be to make Lazy Man and Money truly successful. For 2009, I'd like to average at least 75,000 visitors a month.
    • Earnings - In 2008, I made roughly $30,000 from my websites. I had hoped to make more in 2008, but instead of growing those sites to make more money, I put some into time into consulting making a guaranteed dollar. In 2009, I'm going to aim to make $60,000. Of course aiming to do something is one thing, having a plan in place and executing on it is another thing in it's entirety.
    • Value To Its Readers - I don't know how one would go about quantifying this goal. The closest I can come is noting that I have 3000 readers who subscribe to Lazy Man and Money's RSS feed. If that number grows it tells me that readers like what they are reading and are passing along the information to their friends. That's an indication that my writing provides value to its readers.
    • Value To Myself - One of the reasons why I blog about personal finance is that it really helps me with my own money. As I network with readers and other personal finance bloggers, I learn ways to not only manage my money better, but also find smarter ways to spend it.
  2. How will I increase the authority of my blog in 2009?
    The formula for a successful blog always seems to boil down to two basic ingredients: content and marketing. If you create content that people find valuable and deliver that content to them, you'll find that your blog will be successful. Other than you to sincerely ask readers to send articles that they like to their friends and family, I haven't come up with any new ways to market my blog in 2009. Which brings us to the next question?
  3. How will I make my content more addictive in 2009?
    In 2008, I often wrote and published my articles in the same day, with no proofreading. That's a bad recipe for creating top content. Some may say that they enjoyed my content in 2008. However, if I revamp my process to be ahead of the game, it will give me time to review, improve, and edit the content before you read it.

    In addition to focusing more on writing in advance, I'm going to look to create a new format for 2009. This is subject to getting ahead of the game with my writing. If I can do that expect the following format:

    • Monday - I will focus on frugality and ways to save money. One of the quickest ways to financial freedom is to reduce expenses. I will focus on the value of a dollar spent. Sometimes it's worth paying a little more for quality that you can count on.
    • Tuesday & Thursday - I'd like to cover some of the basics of personal finance. In 2008, I didn't do a lot of research on personal finance topics. I found it easier to write about some financial thought that came into my head. The advantage of this is that my writing comes from my heart - it stresses the "personal" in "personal finance." However, I realize that I need to write about basic topics - ones that can help people in all aspects of their lives. Look for the following topics in 2009: banking, budgeting, career, credit, debt, entrepreneurism, investing, taxes, real estate, insurance, retirement, estate planning, college saving, and more. My biggest challenge will be making these topics interesting and engaging.
    • Wednesday - I plan to use Wednesday to tell some story about my personal financial life, or something that I think you should know. There are the kinds of articles that regular readers will be used to. If you are happy with the way I've been writing in 2008, don't think that I'll this writing only to Wednesdays... If I have something to say, I'll publish it as a second article from Monday-Friday.
    • Friday - I think there's a lot of value to many minds contribute their thoughts. With that in mind, I'm asking readers and/or personal finance bloggers to contact me and submit articles for this Friday slot. I promise submitters of quality content will garner instant fame and fortune. 1. If I can't get enough people to submit content for Friday, I may have to resort to bargains from Amazon's Friday Sale or other lighter content to ease into the weekend.
    • Saturday - Expect me to live up to my name here and take the day off.
    • Sunday - In 2008, I used Sundays to write about something that might not be financial in nature - a small peek into my life. Along with that story, I will include some personal finance links from the last week that I found of interest.

    If you have any feedback on this I would appreciate it.

  4. How will I make my blog design more charming in 2009?
    Readers, I need your help on this one. What design changes would you like to see? In 2008, I went with a new theme that focused on readability and scannability by shortening the column of content. I've heard from some people that the light green outline is a little bright on some monitors. Have you been seeing this? Is it bad? I also went out and had a professionally designed logo, which people seemed to enjoy.
  5. How will I make my blog community funner in 2009?
    It's a good time to remind you that I didn't come up with these questions. Friends say that I'm fairly funny in real life. Either I'm not that funny in writing or it doesn't come through very well with personal finance topics. Perhaps the tax code is only so humorous. If I can succeed in making personal finance more interesting, not only will my blog be more successful, I think readers will look forward to learning together.
  6. How will I melt my blog more fluidly into my business's big picture in 2009?
    I've started down the road with Twitter and I can tell it's going to be a big part of the Lazy Man and Money brand in 2009. I will look into Facebook to see if I can leverage that to grow Lazy Man and Money. My wife has made me some sweet looking business cards. I will use these when I network with financial start-ups in Silicon Valley. Living near these start-ups allow me unique opportunity for "face time", which helps me partner with brands that may become tomorrow leaders.

Those are my goals for 2009. Some may be aggressive, but my limited experience with day camp archery says that you have to aim a little high to hit the bullseye.

Notes
1. Fame in this case is defined by the electronic publishing of the article. I use the Dictionary.com version of "fortune" as "things that happen or are to happen to a person in his or her life", not the one of "wealth or riches.

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Posted on December 29, 2008.

A Look at 2008 Goal Progress

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One of the best ways to accomplish something is to break it down into small, manageable parts. Complete these small parts and soon you'll have your goal accomplished. For 2008, I thought I'd back on what my goals were and how I've done at accomplishing them. Please put on your seat belt, this could get ugly.

At the beginning of the year, I actually set 2 sets of goals, one if I worked full-time and one if I focused on blogging and other online businesses. Since I've been focusing on the other online businesses, I'll ignore the full-time goals here.

  • Net Worth - My goal was to have $250,000 in net worth by the end of the year. At least count, I was at $212,000 - about no gain for the year. There are 3 things that contributed to my lack of growth in this area. My investment property is worth a couple of thousand less than it was at the beginning of the year. I was hoping it would be worth a little more. My stocks and mutual funds have been flat. Lastly, with reduced income, I've been unable to grow this area. It doesn't look like I'll accomplish this goal unless we see some drastic changes.
  • Alternative Income - My goal was to make $5000 in this area. It seemed like a reasonable goal since I would put my full focus on it. For much of the year, I've been unable to significantly grow my alternative income. This month is looking very good, though - and it seems to be somewhat sustainable. I might finish in with a pre-tax of $3000.
  • Software Development Skills - I have not learned any significant skills in this area. Tuning my online projects has required me to dig into a little code, but I haven't picked up Ruby on Rails or CakePHP.
  • Business Skills - I tried to get a personal MBA this year. I got through the first book, Elements of Style, and quickly remembered how much I really dislike reading books vs. web pages. Sadly, I'm no danger of actually completing this goal.
  • Health - I weigh about 3 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the year. My goal was to go from 20% body fat to 17%. I'm at around 19% now. I should probably be in better shape, but I've been very good about eating better and exercising.
  • Websites - I wanted to have 50,000 monthly visitors of this website and 20,000 of Lazy Man and Health. This month, despite the summer slowdown in Internet traffic, looks like it will be just shy of 50,000. If I can keep it up, I should be able to surpass this by a good distance. My health site is starting to gain a little traction, but it's got a tougher road to get 20,000. I'm looking at only 13,000 for this months pace.

Look back, it seems like I'm on track in only two of the six areas. That sounds pretty bad. One of the factors that I didn't put in place is the stealth business I've started with a friend. It's brought in enough cash to cover the start-ups costs, but it hasn't done much more than that. I am learning some business skills along the way. In that sense, real world experience is better than reading the books I intended.

I'll continue to update you along the way, but why not take a few minutes today and review your own goals for the year. Let me know in the comments how you are doing.

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Posted on July 25, 2008.

My 2008 Goals

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In case you missed it, I wrote about my 2007 goals and how I did tackling them.

Without a job that pays me an hourly wage my goals for 2008 are quite complex. It would be unfair of me to set net worth goals as if I were still making a 6 figure salary. On the other hand, it's very possible I will go back to work this next year. If that happens, loftier net worth goals should be back in play. For this reason, I'm going to have to make two sets of goals for 2008 one for Independent Lazy Man (income coming from only my own business and freelancing ability) and one for Corporate Sell-out Lazy Man (I decide to work for XYZ Corporation for a set salary).

Goals for Independent Lazy Man

Financial

  • Net Worth - $250,000. This may seem a little low since it's only $30,000 more than my current $220,000 - especially when you consider that a 10% gain in a lot of my investments would push me to $240,000. However, without a steady income, I could be looking at a year of treading water. Stretch goal: $275,000.
  • Alternative Income - End the year making $5000/mo. Assuming that I don't have to commit 8+ hours a day to a full-time job, I need to grow this. No job and no growth in this area would be a pretty large failure. Stretch goal: $6000/mo.

Career

  • Software Development Skills - Put in 500 hours becoming proficient in a rapid development computer platform like Ruby on Rails on CakePHP. A substitute for the 500 hours would be for me to launch at least one website (in these technologies) that I would feel proud of putting on my resume. Stretch goal: none, this is aggressive enough considering that I'm thinking of ditching of my software development career.
  • Business Skills - Start a personal MBA program. I'm an extremely slow reader and would consider it difficult to read two books from each category. However, that will be my goal. Stretch Goal: Read half of the books.

Health - I weight around 175 lbs. and my body fat measuring devices say I have around 20% body fat. I'm not concerned much about the weight, but I'd like to get to 17% body fat. Stretch goal: 15% body fat.

Websites

  • Lazy Man and Money - I'd like to finish the year with 55,000 monthly visitors and 4,000 subscribers
  • Lazy Man and Health - I'd like to finish the year with 20,000 monthly visitors and 1,000 subscribers.

Goals for Corporate Sell-out Lazy Man

Financial

  • Net Worth - $290,000. Stretch goal: $315,000.
  • Alternative Income - End the year making $3750/mo. Stretch goal: $4500/mo.

Career - As Corporate Sell-out Lazy Man, I'd be happy contributing to that company in every way that I can. As such, I probably wouldn't make much progress on a personal MBA while I work on other side businesses.

Health - I'd like to get to 18.5% body fat. Stretch goal: 17% body fat.

Websites - Same as Independent Lazy Man (see above).

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Last updated on January 2, 2008.

Playing for Perfect Personal Finance

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Like many football fans who grew up around Boston, I am a huge New England Patriots fan. Unless you've been living on Mars, you probably know that this Saturday night the Patriots are trying to become the first football team to finish the regular season with a perfect 16-0 record.

Take everything one game at a time - Winning 16 games is an incredibly daunting goal. If you think about too long it will seem impossible. You never heard the Patriots talk about winning all 16 of their games. Instead they focus on the task at hand - winning just the next game. Many of them preach simply trying to win one game sixteen times.
Apply it to Personal Finance: Excluding the extremely rich, everyone has a daunting financial task ahead of them. For some it's getting out from underneath a huge pile of debt. For others, it's amassing enough wealth to retire. Take this one month to focus on accomplishing your financial goals. After this month is over, do it another eleven more times.

Play a better game this week than last one - The Patriots are relentless in this goal. They can win a game 52-0 and they'd look back at the couple of balls they dropped or the few tackles they missed. They know it may be impossible to make every play perfectly, but it doesn't stop them from trying. In the Patriots way of thinking, wins are just a by-product of learning and executing excellent fundamental football.
Apply it to Personal Finance: Review what you did right and wrong in the last month of focus. If you found that spending a lot of money on DVDs prevented you from meeting your financial goals, that gives you something to practice for this month. It may be impossible to have a perfect financial month, there's usually another dime that could be saved or made. Reaching your financial goals are simply a by-product of learning and executing excellent financial principles.

Talk is Cheap. Action is Key. - One of the members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Anthony Smith, decided he'd guarentee a win against the Patriots(though it was taken a little out of context by the media). When Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady was asked his opinion the comment, he simply said, "Well done is better than well said." The Patriots went out and won the game.
Apply it to Personal Finance: I've been writing this blog for more than 18 months now. That's an awful lot of talk. And though I've taken action in a number of ways, I need to do more. I have an Roth IRA account with E*Trade with $24 that didn't transfer when I made a move to Ameritrade to consolidate accounts years ago. I called E*Trade and began the process of closing the account as I wrote that last sentence. Take all those things that you've been thinking about doing, and get them "done well."

When appropriate, focus on long term priorities - During the football season the Patriots focus on the short-term of winning the next game. However, in the off-season, they focus on other longer-term priorities. This past off-season the Patriots found value where other's did not by acquiring Randy Moss, one of the most talented players in the league. They've also mastered the concept of compound interest in the NFL, by trading an average draft last year for a tremendous draft pick this year.
Apply it to Personal Finance: There's no off-season in personal finance. You have to fit this during the months you are focusing on. Keep your eyes open for tremendous value and when the opportunity knocks be prepared to pounce. Always keep an eye on the future. If someone is willing to give you twice as much value next year for something this year, as long as there aren't any gotchas, seriously consider it.

In the end, you have it easy. In personal finance there are no 350 pound linemen from the other team looking to crush you into the ground. If the Patriots can be this motivated for a 7 pound piece of sterling silver, can't you motivate yourself for a lifetime of financial freedom?

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Posted on December 28, 2007.

A Public Declaration to Become More Organized

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Brip Blap has laid down a challenge... "What one goal have you always had privately that you would be willing to commit to publicly - right now? Post it and give a public commitment to stick to it!" Unfortunately, I have a way of putting a lot of goals out publicly, so trying to find a new private one is difficult. Even worse is sticking to the goal. I could list quite a few that I haven't fallen through with in just the last year. Despite that disappointment I'm doing better than I thought on my most important goals and that is what I continue to focus on.

However, I would like to add one new goal. I'd like to be more organized. I've got a black tie event coming up soon and after spending three hours looking, I've decided that my cuff links are only going to present themselves after the event. This has made me quite unhappy as I've not only wasted time, but now I'm going to have to waste money. In the past, I've said that we are trying to live small, but we are not there yet. I need to get better at throwing my old stuff out, or at least organizing it better.

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Posted on November 9, 2007.

 
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