Stop and Smell the Roses – Celebrate Every Time You Reach Your Financial Goals

by David Ning · 15 comments

My wife used to compliment me whenever I communicated in Mandarin. She doesn’t anymore.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that though, because I couldn’t speak it back then and I could now carry a decent conversion using the language. In a short few years, she got used to hearing me speak in Mandarin (or at least my version of it).

It’s interesting isn’t it – How our perception changes our reaction to the same facts. Me being able to learn a language I wasn’t born with should be remarkable. Yet, at some point or another, everyone who knows me will get used to it.

I was thinking just now whether there’s an amount of wealth we could deem it enough to live off of. A million dollars? Ten? If I ask you now, you could probably give me a number, but would you still think it’s enough by the time you actually have that much money?

My Own Story

Then, I remembered my own perception of money and how it changed over the years. Back when I was a kid, I remember getting $40 a month and asking my mom why I had to do all those chores and homework assignments while my grandfather just seemed to sign a few pieces of paper and get $4,000 a month. In reality, I had no idea how much money my grandfather made but $4,000 just sounded like an incredibly high number and appropriate for me to pose the question.

Set concrete goals, then celebrate

Then when I got out of college, I was making a couple thousand dollars a month. I was the happiest person. I was spending and there didn’t seem like much I couldn’t really buy. As I got older, the amount on my paycheck grew, but I never got HAPPIER because of it. I got used to the increases. I expected it.

Everyone around me was the same. No matter how much wealth they’ve amassed, they shrugged it off as if none of it mattered. You would think that it’s appropriate for many of them to celebrate, but they have already set their sights on the next goal. If they thought $1 million was enough, only $5 million would do now.

Our Mind Evolves

Our expectations change constantly, so how could we possibly be content with what we have? $50k a year might be your annual income goal when you were in college, but you’re already thinking about $60k or $70k by the time you are making $48,000 a year. When you make $90k, you probably wanted $120k.

The answer is actually quite simple. Set concrete goals (write them down if you have to), then celebrate whenever you reach them. This is extremely straightforward, but it works. Make a conscious effort to stop raising the bar until you reach each one.

Question for You

Did you set yourself a financial goal but already made another one by the time you were close to reaching the first? If so, slow down my friend. Give yourself time to be happy by stopping to smell the roses. Otherwise, you might unknowingly drive over all those beautiful gardens as you zoom past everything.

You don’t want to look back at your life and see a big pile of smoke.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig November 12, 2009 at 8:40 am

You are allowed to sit back and enjoy the goals you reached. When you set goals, you motivate yourself to accomplish them. So when you do, enjoy it.

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Sandy November 12, 2009 at 9:39 am

This is so true. I always speed pass my goals and never stop to give myself a chance to catch my breath and be happy about it.

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Daniel November 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

I disagree a little. Since we know when it’s coming, there’s a little bit that gets lost. There’s not as much excitement. It’s like winning a blowout game. We saw it coming the whole time. Setting new goals keeps us motivated. Instead of congratulating ourselves too much, congratulations should be built in to our budgets and we should give ourselves small rewards so we will keep up the good work. Celebrations can wait until until we get something unexpected – a promotion of a walk-off win.

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MoneyNing November 12, 2009 at 10:36 am

The expectation of winning the blowout game is exactly what I’m referring to in this article. It’s unfortunately that we are wired this way, but perhaps it’s easier to be happy when you look back at the whole season and realize that winning the championship is still a major feat, whether you won every game without much contest or not. We should celebrate the result in an absolute scale, and not ignore a major accomplishment just because it is already within reach.

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Financial Samurai November 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

Good perceptions David and I experienced it as well. I thought $30k/yr was a lot during college, but how that quickly changed once I started working.

I tell you one thing, it’s all about a STEP LADDER. The difference between $100-150,000/yr is no big deal as that’s $30,000 after taxes. You have to STEP UP to $250,000 or so until it feels a little different.

Then, from $250-$350,000, there’s no difference until you get to $500,000-$750,000 and so forth.

Frankly, anything over $150,000 in my eyes is just gravy. One doesn’t need much more than that a year to live a very comfortable life.

FS

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MoneyNing November 12, 2009 at 5:00 pm

From some of your previous comments, I see that you are pretty fixated at the $150,000 a year number. Is there a reason to that? I mean, you can live happily in any city with $80,000 I’m sure as long as you are responsible with your spending. Of course, if you are irresponsible, even $350,000 a year can be blow away pretty quickly.

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Lee November 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Oh my. You just saved me with this post.

My goal in January 2009 was to be debt free by New Years Day 2010. In August, I was already preparing to amass a down-payment on a house as a new goal once debt free. I’ve been revising the budget on a weekly basis ever since. Perhaps, as I approach debt freedom some 2 months early (woohoo. A few days to go.), I was getting even worse with it.

If I had not read your post, I’d have driven straight over the first goal as merely one step to getting on with the second (and no doubt third, and fourth and fifth….) goal in my life without even noticing.

Thank you. I will step back on that day and take a moment to celebrate my achievement. :)

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MoneyNing November 12, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I’m glad this helped. Being debt free is no easy feat, and you should take time to pat yourself on the back for a job well down, as I’m sure reaching the goal came with much sacrifice.

Then, you will be in the same situation as me. Debt free but about to go into huge debt (a.k.a buy a house) :)

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marci November 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Samurai – anything over $18,000 is gravy in my book :) One doesn’t even need that much to lead a very comfortable life, especially if one is debt free :) Just a different perspective and opinion.

I found the opposite reaction to goals – reevaluated…… headed back down the ladder – on purpose. Once I reached $32,000, I quit looking for a new goal, and instead said, I don’t need this much… and started cutting back on work and doing more things for myself, and found more enjoyable work. Now I have scaled back to under $20,000/yr and have plenty of money and plenty of time to enjoy life :)

Learning that one doesn’t need so much – and being debt free – are real wake up calls that lessen the need to earn ‘the big bucks’…. much less stress down here on the lower levels :) Very happy. Very content. Very well off :)

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MoneyNing November 12, 2009 at 5:05 pm

You are always inspirational. Reading your life story and comments should be mandatory.

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marci November 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

LOL. :)

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Josie August 29, 2013 at 8:32 am

Love this!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about just enjoying the milestones I have reached and take a break from trying harder, optimizing and get more.
I tend to feel guilty about stopping the climb but then I I start thinking about what’s more important to me…a contempt and happy life which I already have :)

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Senan November 12, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I would think it’s a well enough understood phenomenon among psychologists as to why we look past the immediate goal and look to the next. I see the argument that it creates stress and causes problems with enjoying success, but I guess it’s human nature…

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CD Phi November 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Great article. I guess once you make money and continue to get raises, you kind of lose sight of how far you’ve progressed because you do indeed constantly expect more and it is isn’t until you see those who are out of work do you appreciate the amount of money that you make or even the fact that you still have a job during these tough times. I will definitely stop every once in awhile to smell the roses. Keep the articles coming.

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Georgina Goosen August 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Thank you very much for the reminders. I shall be remembering this post on the first of December 2013 when I shall be debt free.

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