Let’s be honest. Staying motivated for 30 years is hard.
When you’re getting out of debt, you know you’re making progress toward your goal. You get to say goodbye to student loans, car payments, and credit card debt. You feel the relief as the weight of debt lightens and you can breathe again. Those feelings provide the motivation you need to keep going.
But once you’re out of debt, you’re ready to tackle some long-term goals: paying off your mortgage, building wealth for your future, saving for kids’ college. Reaching those milestones doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, they take years and even decades to reach.
It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged by the slow progress. I get it. But that kind of endurance is necessary for building wealth.
The big question is: How do I stay motivated and focused on long-term goals? Here are a few tips you can use:
Tip #1: Visualize the Results Regularly
Visualization sounds like a tough practice, but it’s really easy. It’s just a mental picture of a future event or place. For example, think about what you want to do when you don’t have to work anymore. Close your eyes (well, not now, because you’re reading this). Ask yourself, What do I see myself doing in retirement? Get a super clear, HD picture of that activity or place or thing in your mind. Picture yourself with those grandkids. Imagine playing golf whenever you want. Smell the sea salt and hear the waves crashing on a beach. To keep motivated for the long term, you need to visualize those goals on a regular basis.
Tip #2: Break Down Goals
Long-term goals can feel overwhelming and impossible when you think about how long it will take to achieve them. To make the goals more reachable, break them down into smaller chunks. Let’s say you have $150,000 left on your mortgage and you want to pay it off in five years. Don’t look at that huge number. Break it down.
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How much would you need to pay each year to reach your goal in five years? About $30,000. Then divide that number by 12 so you know how much you need to pay each month, or roughly $2,700 (when you calculate interest). Which is easier to work toward—$150,000 or $2,700 a month? Of course! The smaller amount feels more reachable. Those intermediate goals give you quicker wins—and that’s crucial for staying motivated over the long-term.
The same applies to investing. Let’s say you’re 35 with no retirement savings but want to reach $1 million by the time you reach 55. Go online, find an investment calculator, and put your numbers in. Most of these will allow you to adjust the rate of return to suit your preferences. For this example, you’d need to save $1,325 a month for 20 years to reach $1 million by age 55.
Tip #3: Track Your Progress
You won’t know if you are getting closer to your goal unless you keep up with the progress. Some people keep a journal. Others use a more visual approach. For example, you might create a chart that marks your progress by dollar amount. Others might get more creative.
One client I know was trying to pay off their home early. The couple created a simple diagram of the layout of their house. They then assigned a certain dollar amount to each room—say $20,000. Once they paid off that amount, they would color in a room. It took some time, but eventually the whole house was colored in—their mortgage was paid off!
Tip #4: Reward Yourself
Even though you’re tracking your progress, you need to celebrate when you reach the smaller intermediate goals. You get to decide what those milestones are. Maybe you’ve reaching $25,000 in investment funds. Or you set a milestone at every $50,000. When you hit those numbers, celebrate! Give yourself a little reward—a night out or a night away, a trip to the lake, a vacation. Just make sure the reward doesn’t derail your progress toward your goal.
Tip #5: Get Encouragement
Let’s face it, folks: Living debt-free and saving for the future is not the norm in our culture. You may feel like everybody else is getting to do all the fun stuff while you’re stuck at home instead of living it up. That’s why you need to spend time with like-minded people who will encourage you and give you that extra push you need to keep going. Look for others in your church, at work, or even online who share your values and commitment. Talk to them regularly. Share your successes and talk about your struggles. Don’t try to go it alone!
Tip #6: Learn from Winners
Seeing others win with money is motivational. Read books and articles that highlight how everyday people were able to build wealth on a modest salary. Listen to success stories on the radio, online, and on podcasts. You can learn tips and tools for making the most of your money.
Be sure you’re working with an investing professional to help you reach your goals.