Jan 2 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®

How do I set goals for my finances?

It isn't enough to just earn money and pay your regular bills. It's also important to have larger financial goals to work towards. This is especially crucial if you want to lead a meaningful life as a Childfree or permanently childless person. Here's a few considerations – and important questions – to ponder as you set goals for your finances.

Having goals is important

This isn't to say that you must have your goals set in stone, or have your finances set up exactly to achieve them with no room for compromise or change. Life happens, after all. But if you're having trouble with some of the financial basics, like budgeting, getting out of debt, or saving for retirement, it's an indication that you're struggling to set goals for yourself. 

Identify goals that are significant enough to you to make you willing to make positive changes to your finances to achieve them, like traveling the world, buying a home, or retiring early. Having goals makes this easier – if you have no discernible reason not to stop overspending on food delivery or online shopping, you won't.

Starting at the end

While it might seem a bit morbid, it's worth considering the end of your life when you set goals. If you had kids, you might want to leave money and other assets to them, and that also might be the case even if you don't have kids of your own, but nieces and nephews. Or you might want to leave money to a charitable organization that's important to you. You can outline all that in a will, and that's a separate topic. 

But what if you want to die with nothing left to give away, if you can plan your finances in such a way that you don't run out of money with some life left to live? There's a book called Die With Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life, by Bill Perkins. This book takes a mathematical engineering approach to planning finances around this concept. Perkins advocates spending money on experiences and adding to your "experience bank," which is an appealing concept. 

To follow this philosophy, you'd work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to set up for long-term care insurance and put off taking Social Security payments until age 70. But then you're left with a long period of time to fill. For a lot of Childfree people, this is where they encounter the Childfree Midlife Crisis, as we like to call it.

The Childfree Midlife Crisis

When you reach your personal, professional, and financial goals, what do you do now? In the case of Dr. Jay, he reached this stage at age 40, and took on jobs including running a farm, making maple syrup, and selling items on eBay and Amazon. Then he decided to support his wife in her career goals and to help Childfree people reach theirs via financial planning. 
His next big goal is to stop working at age 59 and travel the world on a boat. 

Your own goals can be anything you want. The key is to choose goals that will make future you grateful that past you made that choice. You might want to move to a different part of the world, travel, or start your own business. The choices are endless, and if you're Childfree, they're all your own.

Ask yourself these three questions

So how do you decide? A good place to start is with renowned life planner George Kinder's three questions. If you read Dr. Jay's first book, Portraits of Childfree Wealth, you'll see that he asked his subjects these questions during their interviews. You can journal your answers and use them to set goals for yourself. If you're part of a couple, answer them individually and together. 

1. Imagine you are financially secure, and that you have enough money to take care of your needs now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don't hold back your dreams, but describe a life that is completely and richly yours. 

2. Now, imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you you only have five to 10 years to live. You won't ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What would you do in that time remaining? Would you change your life? And how would you do it? 

3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself, What did you miss? What do you not get to be? What do you not get to do? 

With those three answers in hand, you need to answer the harder question. And that question is, what do you need to change now?
Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr. Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” Dr Jay is the co-host of the Childfree Wealth Podcast. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.

He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications. In 2023, he was named a “Rising Star” by Financial Planning.