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Goal setting: “aim at nothing, you’ll hit it for sure”

Goal setting: “aim at nothing, you’ll hit it for sure”

by Arnold Machel, CFP®


“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

Do you remember where you were on July 20th, 1969 when Neil Armstrong spoke the sentence (above) from the moon’s surface?

Neil was the first person ever to take that step.  His historic trip was the ultimate result of an announcement made eight years earlier by President John F. Kennedy in which he stated a national goal to put a person safely on the moon’s surface.  At the time, it was an incredibly ambitious goal. Egged on by the space race – Russia was ahead at the time with the first human space flight – the US determined successfully to be the first on the moon.  And because they set a goal (out of reach, but not out of sight and notwithstanding many challenges) they succeeded.

Most of our goals are not nearly as ambitious as JFK’s, but the old adage remains: if you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.  As we pass into yet another year, many of us set goals or resolutions. Goals like making more, saving more, giving more, in addition to our other goals.  It may simply be a matter of semantics, but personally I prefer goal setting over resolution making.  A goal feels like something I can try to achieve during the year, whereas a resolution seems more like an immediate promise to myself to do something… and I know how bad I am at keeping those promises.

I have also found that I get the most out of goal setting when I use the Roles and Goals concepts out of the old self-help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, authored by Stephen Covey back in 1988.  Try it out: consider the various roles that you have in your life.  They’ll be different for you, but for me they are husband, father, believer, financial planner and entrepreneur.  Add “self” to the mix, because your role as you is as important as the other roles you have in your life.  Think about each of those roles separately and about what you want to achieve in each one.

For example, consider your role as a husband or wife.  What do you want your relationship with your spouse to look like a year, 5 years, 15 years from now?  What one or two things can you do to pretty much ensure that you get there?  Maybe one of the high value activities that you’re certain will make a huge difference in your relationship is simply getting out on date nights more frequently.  Then set a goal of at least three date nights per month and schedule them in.  Another old adage: what gets scheduled gets done.

Under the heading of self, what is your retirement goal?  Here’s an example of a well thought out financial independence goal: “I want to be financially independent at age 67.  Financial independence to me means having the ability to retire with no compromise in lifestyle, so I will need to be able to generate at least $70,000 in after-tax income (in today’s dollars) from all my sources of income and in order to do that I will need about $1,000,000 in addition to my pensions.  That means that I will need to save at least $4,000 per month and earn an average of at least 4% each year between then and now.” Change the age and amounts to suit your specific situation and now you have not just a clear goal, but also a realistic plan to get there.

There are a multitude of calculators on the web to help you figure out what your numbers should be and/or any financial planner can help you figure these numbers out for your own situation.  And the clearer the plan, the more motivated you will be to keep up the savings during difficult times.  Step one is setting the goal (have a $1,000,000 set aside to generate $70,000 in after tax income), step two is making the plan (set aside $4,000 per month right away) and the third step is automating it.  By automating it – by setting up a regular systematic payment ($4,000/month or $2,000 semi-monthly or $1,000 per week – whatever works best for you given how you get paid), you will virtually ensure success.

No one else will do it for you.  And if they did, it wouldn’t have anywhere near the impact.

Determine the important roles in your life.  Set long-term and short-term goals for each.  Make plans that will virtually ensure success.  And finally automate those plans.

Arnold Machel, CFP(r) lives, works and worships in the White Rock/South Surrey area.  He attends Gracepoint Community Church where he serves on the Leadership Team.  He is a Certified Financial Planner with IPC Investment Corporation and Visionvest Financial Planning & Services.  Questions and comments can be directed to him at or through his website at Please note that all comments are of a general nature and should not be relied upon as individual advice.  The views and opinions expressed in this commentary may not necessarily reflect those of IPC Investment Corporation.   While every attempt is made to ensure accuracy, facts and figures are not guaranteed.

Arnold is now accepting a limited number of invitations to speak for the 2018 calendar year.  If you are interested in having him speak to your congregation or other group regarding money matters, please contact us at or (604) 542-2818 with your preferred date and time.


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