The Importance of a Drop Dead Date

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

For better or for worse, I have signed up and paid for the Tough Mudder race taking place north of Toronto on Saturday, August the 18th.  At the time of this post, that gives me 172 days until this run, 18 kilometers up and down Mount St. Louis Moonstone, which includes some pretty interesting and tough obstacles, such as scaling a series of 12 foot walls, running through fire, slogging through mud and running through a “minefield” of live wires – possibly getting shocked with 10,000 volts of electricity.  I’m not really expecting the run to be fun to do, I’m expecting it to be exhausting but also exhilarating to finish.

I chose this run because it provides me some significant incentive to get into and stay in shape over the summer – traditionally the time of year that I work out less, eat more and have probably too many drinks on some of those 30 degree days after a round of golf.  The way I see it, I need to be in the best shape of my life, or I may collapse halfway through this race – which would be both embarrassing, as well as a waste of registration money, neither of which is entirely desirable.

Similarly, setting strict guidelines with money, along with a goal date has helped me significantly in the past.  The car that my wife and I purchased last year was the end result of this type of planning.  It was a relatively short-term goal (we needed $10,000) and a set time that we needed to get it in (my wife was starting a new job and needed a non-manual transmission car to get there).  The result was essentially a date that we continued to look towards.  That date added incentive to us to ensure that the monthly savings were adequate to achieve our goal.

Our retirement goal of 45 works in the same way.  There are times when this goal seems both daunting and maybe a little scary.  By having set this date though, it “forces” us to make the kind of spending decisions that are important to us.  If our goal was instead to be financially independent by “sometime in my 40’s”, we may not be as conscious of our spending choices.

I have gotten better over the last few years at not procrastinating.  For things such as retirement and fitness there is no way to procrastinate.  These kind of goals need time, either to ensure adequate time for compounding and saving for money or for gaining strength or endurance for an 18 kilometer fitness challenge.

How do you make sure you achieve your goals?  Is there a method that has worked (or failed) in the past?

3 thoughts on “The Importance of a Drop Dead Date”

  1. I opted for the Warrior Dash in July. It gives me less time but it is also a easier. So far I have not been as disciplined as I would like. But the deadline is approaching quickly so I won’t be able to laze around forever. Having the date I need to be in shape by is important, but I think it would be even better if there was some tangible goal to work to. If the goal was lose 20 lbs instead of be in shape for a race it would be a more concrete objective to achieve.

    Instead of saying I want to retire in 10 year, I want to have a portfolio that pays $50,000 a year in dividends. That way I can clearly see my progress and the work that remains instead of having any uncertainty.

  2. Someone suggested this yesterday. Choose a date (for me it’s the month & year when I can semi-retire) and use that as your computer password. A daily reminder of freedom.

  3. This morning I posted about our goals for 2012. http://preservingpennies.com/?p=135 I wanted to do this because I feel like making specific goals with a specific end date (dec. 31, 2012) is the only way I can really know what I’m moving towards and measure my progress along the way. I think it will really help us get somewhere rather than just looking at our overall main objectives which are fairly far off and have a lot of variables.

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