financial goals

Tactics, Goals, and Dreams: Knowing The Difference for 2018


Happy New Year! The Lady in the Black had an interesting experience in drafting her financial goals for 2018. It’s not as easy as making a list, is it? 

2018 Financial Goals: Draft 1

A few weeks ago, I was inspired to write down my financial goals for 2018. I took a little time out of my workday and jotted down a page and a half of “to do” items with the big title of 2018 Financial Goals at the top.

This is what I came up with:

  • Achieve positive net worth
  • Save 30% of my income for estimated taxes
  • Start a car savings fund
  • Pay 2017 taxes on time
  • Increase my freelance rate to increase income
  • Increase passive income streams
  • Max out HSA
  • Max out IRA
  • Refinance car loan
  • Re-negotiate my lease
  • Visit Greenville to research retirement potential
  • Take 2 week vacation with daughter
  • Get a reward credit card
  • Keep and improve automation
  • Eat more at home

Sounds pretty great, right? Well, not really.

After I really looked at the list and reviewed it, I realized something pretty damn important.

The list is missing dreams. It’s missing ties to emotions. It’s the “what” not the “why.” In short, it’s missing me. (In my years as a marketing writer, you’d think I’d spot a list of tactics. That’s what that what this list is; tactics not goals.)

Back in April 2016, when I first put a plan together to help solve my ongoing financial woes, I organized a traditional budget spreadsheet by goals. And that list worked like a charm.

Here’s what it looked like.

  • Goal 1: Find and Maintain a Positive, Can-do Attitude About Money
  • Goal 2: Eliminate Crushing Burden of Debt
  • Goal 3: Feel Confident that Life Goals Can Be Achieved Financially
  • Goal 4: Live Comfortably and Happy Everyday
  • Goal 5: Support My Goals Through Work That is Rewarding
  • Goal 6: Allow Wiggle Room to Account for My Mistakes

Do you see the difference in those two lists? I do.

After just under 2 years working diligently on my finances, I can see that I’ve lost my way a bit. Quantitative tactics had somehow displaced qualitative goals. And to me, that’s a big “whoop-see-daisy.”

So, let’s do this. Let’s reset my priorities back to what matters.

2018 Financial Goals: Draft 2

Goal 1: Maintain and Inspire a Positive Attitude About Money

I’m going back to this one since I feel it’s so vitally important…but tweaked it just a tad.

Sometimes I’m shocked about my own positive attitude about my finances. Sure, I still get nervous and/or anxious on occasion especially when I think about the possibility of losing my job. And now, sometimes I’m overly critical for not doing more, being more aggressive and/or diligent.

Yet overall I am transformed. I am empowered to take care of myself and my daughter; emotionally, physically, and fiscally. With 6 months of this blog under my belt, I hope to be able to inspire others that are also struggling to feel that sense of confidence and security.

Some of the tactics I see attaching under this primary goal would be:

  • Keep educating my daughter about personal finances
  • Post at least once a week on The Lady in the Black
  • Talk about money openly and honestly with family and friends
  • Track financial tactics, progress, metrics, etc.
  • Celebrate achievements

Goal 2: Recover Pride of Citizenship

I wouldn’t consider myself overly patriotic but I am aware of how fortunate I am as a white educated female American. And politics aside, I do believe that I have a responsibility to contribute to society. Yes, part of that is becoming a responsible tax payer. (For those that know my story, you understand that taxes aren’t exactly my “jam.”) Yet being a citizen means more than paying timely taxes. It’s a feeling of worth and belonging.

Here’s a few things that can help with this:

  • Save for and pay estimated taxes on time
  • File and pay taxes on time
  • Vote in local elections
  • Identify 2-3 non-profit organizations to contribute to
  • Volunteer 4-6 times over the next year
  • Encourage my daughter’s philanthropic nature

Goal 3: Increase Sense of Self-sufficiency

I’ll let you in on a little secret, I never lived by myself until after my divorce. (Well, there was 6 months in college when I got dumped by my boyfriend whom I was living with but that didn’t really count.) Since my divorce, I’ve successfully supported myself. Yes, I’ll admit to a few major bumps where I need my friends to help support me. All in all, I’m happy to report that I’m 100% self-sufficient….at least financially. (Emotionally maybe not so much but that’s another story for another day.) I hope to expand that sense of self-sufficiency.

A few things I thought of to help include:

  • Triple my current emergency fund (aim for $3,000)
  • Increase my annual income by 10% over 2017 figure
  • Continue to invest at a rate of at least $300/month
  • Improve my professional networking
  • Get 2-3 new freelance gigs
  • Achieve a positive net worth
  • Take care of my health

Goal 4: Envision a “Real” Retirement

I thought I had it all figured out. The lakeside cabin in the woods. Me writing of cheesy romance novels for income. The quirky, love of my life writing away in his study. The wooden boat docked in the boathouse. The snowbird lifestyle; 7 months in upstate NY, 5 months in the desert.

It looked like one great retirement dream.

But turns out the lakeside cabin is too damn expensive and the writer guy isn’t into co-habitation. It also turns out that most of family and friends in NY might not even live there by the time I return to retire. It also turns out it might be good to finish writing one romance novel before relying on that for retirement income.

In short, the reality of my dream was perhaps a bit too dreamy. It’s time to get a bit more practical with my retirement dream.

I can spend a bit more time in 2018:

  • Build a new vision board/vision of the perfect day
  • Max out retirement accounts
  • Visit affordable, temperate areas in mid-Atlantic states
  • Ask friends and family of their retirement dreams/plans
  • Incorporate writing on my novel into my weekly schedule
  • Continue saving for daughter’s college education
  • Invest more quality time with my family and friends
  • Return to dating (cringe)

Goal 5: Live Comfortably Everyday

One thing I’ve discovered is that managing finances isn’t all about denying yourself today in favor of tomorrow. While I plan to prepare and plan for the future, I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of my life today. I live somewhat frugally and that’s OK. I will splurge on occasion and probably spend “too much” on eating out. It’s part of me being authentic, present and grateful in the moment. It’s about living a profitable life.

Things that will help me stay comfortable include:

  • Cooking at home more (and teaching my daughter)
  • Reducing clutter/sorting through excess possessions
  • Exercising/losing weight
  • Having money in the bank
  • Talking to my friends/family more frequently
  • Writing/reading for fun
  • Use credit sparingly and responsibly


So, there you have it. A MUCH better list of goals for 2018. Sure there are a few financial tactics in there but they support larger more emotive goals. There’s talk of dreams but ones based in reality, not fantasy. There’s also only 5 goals to focus on instead of being overwhelmed with a huge list of checklist items.

The Lady in the Black might forget herself sometimes and might confuse tactics and goals but she can take a step back and see the big picture. And for 2018, the big picture is about quality of emotions, not quantity of dollars.

What is your big picture?




  1. Happy new year, Erica!

    Even as a retired person, the vision of what “real retirement” looks like changes. I need to know the why but I also need to allow my dreams to be fluid and not feel required to stick to a blueprint.

    Sometimes it seems like we’re all racing to our goals — but then what? This year it’s going to be important for me to listen a bit more closely to my internal clues. That might mean less time on line, more time reading or meditating. I don’t know yet. But I think you hit the nail on the head by getting rid of the checklist.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Groovy! I love the idea of fluid dreams. I’m so new to looking ahead that it pains me greatly to give up on my dream. But, as you say, perhaps it’s more of guideline than a blueprint. This whole “goal” thing is kinda tricky. You want something to focus on but not so much that you can’t see other opportunities pop up. Thanks for the comment. Happy New Year.

  2. If you are talking about Greenville, SC, I’ve been hearing great things about the area for a long time. I’ve actually lived in the mid-Atlantic for a number of years (Virginia and North Carolina) and there a lot of positives to the region. I’ve also lived in NY, CA, TX, FL, and on and on, and I’m still not sure where I want to retire! I think it can often just be your mindset – once you decide a place is your perfect fit, then it is. Good luck in your search and all the best in 2018!

    1. Thanks. I have one of my best friends moving there this summer. I’ve heard great things as well. Plus, the weather and cost of living is far more attractive than where I planned to retire…although I definitely need to shop around. I’ll keep everyone posted. Happy New Year and thanks for commenting.

  3. I love this list and YES to the focus on emotions and dreams! I tend to forget sometimes that I need to focus on more of the bigger-picture, quality-of-life things. Money’s great and all but I suspect focusing 100% of your energy on cold, hard numbers may lead to a Scrooge McDuck lifestyle. No, thank you!

    Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you! I had to reel it in a bit as I mentioned. It’s super easy to go for the math…but math doesn’t keep you warm at night or keep you smiling! What’s your dream? Mine’s in flux…but it’s still there. I hope that whatever you do you find the dream that makes your soul peaceful and settled. THAT’s how I plan to know it’s the right dream. Tactics are easy to shift around! Thanks for your lovely comment.

    1. Thanks, Jena. There’s talk of a “black dress” party when my net worth hits positive! Everyone’s invited! Start saving up for your own black dress! LOL

        1. Oh, it’s going to be a good one…with black hats, black dresses and tiaras. Can you wear a hat AND a tiara? Huh. I better figure THAT out ASAP.

  4. If you can stand being out of the city, but close, check out surrounding areas. Greenville has gotten pretty hip and may be pricey, comparatively speaking, for the area. Then again it’s a helluva lot cheaper than CA. Greenville is a great city with a beautiful riverwalk and great restaurants. It’s also a wonderful location for taking road trips: Charleston and Savannah are under 4 hours away.

    1. Thanks! Pretty sure most everywhere is cheaper than where I am now! If I relocate there, I’ll want to be “out a bit” from the city. I miss open spaces and land around me. Hopefully, I could get lakefront! That would be a dream come true! It’s still 8-10 years down the road and I’ll still need “gainful employment” so might have to settle for “working in the city” for a bit longer. Who knows! Just bought a Powerball ticket (but only 1 because I’m a cheap-ass!) Thanks for the information!

  5. Wow that was very comprehensive and I dig it better than the objectives of the original one. I never lived on my own before – I hopped from parents to husband without much forethought on how I would function alone. Probably Netflix and a lot of take out boxes, maybe a pet guinea pig. It’s too late to reverse marriage so I’m stuck with him now ;p

    1. Replace guinea pig with 2 cats and yes, that’s about right! LOL Thanks for reading and commenting! I can also count on you, Lily!

    1. It’s a LONG list! HAHA. I printed it out and put in my office and in my bedroom. But, yes. I’m glad I turned it from quantitative to qualitative. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Love your list. I share many of the same goals. I really like the idea of building a vision board though–that is something that I had not thought of. I think that will really help to inspire me and keep me going when times get tough or the journey to financial independence feels really, really, realllllly long. Thank you for the idea!

    1. Thanks! I had a great vision board and then my vision changed. I haven’t built a new one. Thanks for the reminder!

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