$1 Million by 2017. What’s Your Financial Goal?

Before I started this blog, I did not really have a good financial goal. Actually, my financial goal was similar to 99.9% of other Americans…I wanted to be rich. But what is rich? In Are you wealthy? Here’s a test, I defined wealthy as: “…when income from my assets can cover all my family living expenses and a few luxuries“. That was a good start, but now I want to put together a specific and achievable goal and plan.

Goal: Build a $1 million investment portfolio by 2017 (excluding home equity)

10 years may not sound very sexy, but I don’t know any get rich quick scheme that works. So, I have to work within my capability and 10% should be achievable. I am currently at 23% of my goal. In fact, I consider myself lucky to have accumulated this much wealth without any financial goal or plan for the past 10 years.

So how did I get to $230,000?

Actually, it was at $250,000 a few days ago before the stock market went south. Anyway, I started working in 1996 with about $20,000 in debt (mostly student loans and some credit card debt). I was able to save a large portion of my income each year, thanks to my Asian culture where it is typical for the oldest son to live with his parents. This really helped me get an early start on my financial situation.

I also started to invest in the stock market soon after my first paycheck. This turned out to be another good thing for my finances. Sure, I made a few errors along the way, but it was a small price to pay for what learned. In 1998, with considerable help from my parents, I bought a house. Although I went from paying almost no living expenses to paying for everything but food, it was another good financial move in my favor.

Overall, I did well for someone with no financial goal. If I had been more serious about personal finance, I think I could have done much better.

So $1 million by 2017 is the goal, here is the plan…

My plan is simple, but will be challenging to execute. To get to $1 million, I will attempt to grow my investment by 10% a year and add about $20,000 more to the portfolio each year. Here is a rough map (updated 1/1/2008):

$1 million goal

Reaching this goal may not make me wealthy by my own definition, but I now have a road map that I can measure my progress on a regular basis. Setting a SMART goal is the key to success:

  • Specific – knowing exactly what I want – i.e., $1 million investment portfolio
  • Measurable – having the ability to track progress – i.e., I can come back to the spreadsheet above and see how well I am doing
  • Actionable – knowing the steps needed to achieve the goal – i.e., by saving $20,000 per year and investing that money
  • Realistic – being in the realm of possibility – i.e., investing for a 10% annualized return is possible
  • Timely – knowing when the goal will be achieved – i.e., 2017

What is your goal?

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42 thoughts on “$1 Million by 2017. What’s Your Financial Goal?”

  1. I have more modest goals, mainly to have the debt paid off in 2 years, own a home in 3-4 years, and have 2-4 children by 2012

  2. Mark – thank you for sharing your goals. These are all good goals. Wow, 2-4 children, that’s a lot of kids.

    The point is to think about what you want, make sure they are realistic, have a timeframe for each, and write them down!

    The $1 million is just one goal. I also have to save for my baby college fund, have another baby (??), buy a bigger home (??), etc.

  3. Do you have an account on NetworthIQ? Or, perhaps, does one of your other articles tell a little more about you, and how you got to this point?

  4. No NetworthIQ account — I will have to check it out. I think this is the most revealing post so far. The biggest contributors for accumulating $230k are: (1) always pay off my credit cards (never pay late or finance charge since 1991), (2) max my 401k since 1999, (3) max my IRA since 1996, (4) learn to invest, and (5) be frugal.

  5. Hi Pinyo,

    I’ve found your blog through blogcatalog, and it’s really nice to know that you have written out your financial goals so clearly.

    For a while I have been pondering whether if would be considered obscene to write about their wealth, which I’m glad that you did.

    It is inspiring to read about your goals, which I have written a bit about mine as well: http://blog.vinceliu.com/2007/.....-life.html. It’ll be nice if I can get some feedback!

    Another thing, is if I may link you up to my blog if like? I do enjoy the the topics and the way you write approach financial management, straightforward and down to earth. 🙂


  6. Vincent – welcome to Moolanomy. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I was and still am struggling with the decision to share my net worth. However, if I was able to inspire one person to secure a better financial future, I think I made the right choice.

    I took a look at your site and it seems like you got a good head start being under 30 and all.

  7. Pinyo,

    Thanks for the feedback, really appreciated you giving me a review. Likewise, I’m also struggling with my own decision to be open about my wealth, but I agree that you have made the right choice, for there is no shame in showcasing the fruits of your hard work and financial prudence.

    Will keep reading your blog, and thanks for being an inspiration!

  8. What you are doing is awesome and you are inspiring a lot of people. There are many ways to reach the same destination and you are doing it in a way that you are passionate about.

    You are also showing people the enormous value in long term perspective. Way to go!

    Live Your Dreams,

    Founder and CEO, GoalGuru.com

  9. I really admire you for telling us about what appears to me to be a very ambitious but achievable goal. I haven’t read through your entire site yet, but I’m curious and interested to see if you are changing things in your life, and what those things are, in order to help you save 20,000 a year. I’m making some of those changes in my life now and it’s been an interesting and eye-opening experience.

  10. Eric – thank you! It is ambitious, but if the stock market historical growth rate of 12.5% is still achievable, I should be safe with my 10% target.

    My saving method is to pay myself first. Historically, I have been able to fully contribute to my 401k and IRA, although it is increasing harder to do so. Anyway, I believe I can manage $20,000 a year which is still a lot of money.

    I think once you have a goal and put together a plan, you can achieve make your dream comes true also. Good luck. I look forward to read about your goal too.

  11. Great way to lay out your goal. When you write it down like this it increases the chances that you will make your goal by many times!

    So happy million!

  12. You have hit the nail on the head:

    1> Have a written plan (share with others)
    2> Long Term Perspective
    3> Stay focused
    4> Pay yourself first

    Well done on the article and good luck.

  13. Inspiring most definitely – Save as much as possible and invest in the market and let compound interest do its magic. Time is definitely our friend!

  14. It’s great to read your chart. I have a similar one. My goal is to have $400,000 by age 42 so that I can “retire” (which might mean work part-time on and off).

    I’m 35. $400,000=$16,000 a year at 4% withdrawal rate, and currently my spending is a little less than that. So far I am at $160,000, not including my house, and I invest ~$30k a year, which is about 1/2 my salary. I can do this because I pay myself first and more important have followed the principle of not changing my lifestyle as my income increased–although I have, but not as much as most people.

    I used to have 3 roommates, now I have one; I used to not have a car, now I share one with my roommate and bicycle to work; I used to live without health insurance, now I have it through my job. I don’t know if my plan will work, especially due to health care costs, but then I don’t want to sit around after age 42, I just want to have more flexibility to work part time and in the nonprofit sector, etc. I don’t have any dependents, which helps, but if I did I don’t think it would be very different–my parents brought me up in a frugal way and it just seemed natural to me to wear hand-me-downs and drink powdered milk and work my way through college.

    Now I enjoy being creative and frugal because I know it’s helping me toward my goal. I’ve never felt deprived; but then I also happen to enjoy things that are free anyway, like nature and reading and drawing. I feel very normal, but when I look around it seems that I’m not. Maybe if people had goals they believed in they would have an easier time making choices that are healthier for them. Or maybe having free time is just more important to me than it is to other people.

    Thanks for having a place where I can write this. One of the hardest things about being a saver is that you can’t talk about it–it’s more okay to tell someone you got laid last weekend than that you’ve broken the $150k mark 3 months early. Why is that?

  15. @Raymond – yes, compounding is great.

    @Ruth – welcome to Moolanomy. I really enjoyed reading your comment, so if you ever feel the urge to write about your finances and frugality, I would welcome you as a guest writer.

    Living off $16,000 per year and saving $30,000 is an incredible feat, and your plan is so well thought out that I am sure it can be done. I would certainly love to hear about how you manage to do these things in more detail.

    By the way, I would prefer living frugally and retire at 42, than having to work the rest of my life for all the goodies.

  16. Thanks–and I’m flattered! I would be happy to be a guest writer sometime if I can find a way to be honest without revealing too much about myself. One problem with my plan is that if my employer found out that I’m itchin’ to leave it would cause a lot of bad feelings. You’d think people would be happy for you . . . and they would be, on the one hand. On the other hand, they’d be sad/hurt. It’s also harder to argue for raises if they know you’re trying to retire early . . . although again it’s your money so it shouldn’t matter. But it does.

    BTW, when I lived on the West Coast in my early 20s I lived on $425 a month, and I was quite happy. So now living on $16k feels luxurious! But it depends on what you’re used to, how you feel about yourself, and even who your friends are. I hope all these PF blogs help “freaks” like me know that we’re not alone, and we’re not crazy!

    Lastly, anyone looking for more inspiration: Thoreau, “The Good Life” by the Nearings, “Your Money or Your Life,” and “A Reasonable Life” all have been very helpful to me.

  17. @Tommy – welcome to Moolanomy. Great to hear. I am sure you can do it, as long as you have a SMART plan.

    @Ruth – You’re welcome. Yeah, leaving a job is always a sweet sorrow, but if you can do it, why not.

    Trust me, you are not a freak — I think PF bloggers cover the whole gamut — rich/poor, spendy/frugal, in debt/financially free, etc.

    I read Your Money or Your Life. I will have to take a look at others. My reading list is quite long.

  18. Good Luck to you in your journey. I have similar goals. I am a few years younger and have a little bit more saved, but hope to get to a million in relatively short order. I plan to get there like you, saving diligently and investing wisely. For a little fun however, I took some money aside and am going to “try and get rich quick”. I’m talking about it on my blog. We will see how that goes.

  19. I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but 10% is pretty optimistic. I think you should up your contributions each year as well. Maybe by say 3%, the going rate of inflation, otherwise I think it might be hard to hit 1Mill in 2017. I hope ur a good investor! gl

  20. @Double Journey – Thank you. Good luck to you as well.

    @David – Not at all. The 10% was based on historical performance of S&P500. It might be a little optimistic considering the weakness that started since year 2000. If I miss my target at the end of 2008, I will most likely revise my plan to reach the $1 million mark.

    Good idea about adjusting contribution up each year.

  21. I am tired of thinking it is time to do “thinkers think and doers do. but if thinkers dont do and doers dont think then its just something else talkers talk about.” it has never been more clearer I am a smart man but growing up i never had someone to guide me i have had a rough life. I will be going back to school, but have been so afraid because i have a bad criminal background and when i am done with school who would trust me. I will be taking business managment. My entrepneur spirit has been tugging at my mind and heart for sometime now. I thank you so much for showing me your journey i will take everything you have said into account. Honest opinion: Do you think a Person with my background and my debt can get out and become successful and provide all i never had for my 2 wonderful boys and wife? regardless i am embarking on this journey regardless of my situations and outcomes just would like some assurence. thank you

    • @Jill – This probably won’t happen as planned — I am about 2 years behind schedule. About 3.5 months ago, I got a job offer in Virginia and moved from NY. However, I am still paying all of NY house expenses for my parents who stayed behind. In the mean time, my wife and I bought a house in VA. So the money that normally go toward investments are now going toward house payments.

      Also, not to mention that we have not average 10% gain in the stock market for the past few years. If anything, we went backward.

      • Great! Definitely enjoy reading your site, thanks for creating it. We’re new and would like to know if there are specific things (actions) that you’ve taken since 2010 that have improved your ability to reach early retirement?


      • @IPPO – I had a few good income years between 2010 and 2013, and I put the bulk of the income into retirement savings and real estate.

      • Thank you Pinyo. Do you mind sharing what type of retirement investments? We are avid Vanguard users (VTSAX, VGHAX, VWINX), how about you? We are reading your investments articles and would appreciate it if you share any more information. Thanks.

        By the way, have you read Jim Collins, Jacob’s Early Retirement Extreme and Mr. Money Mustache’s blogs? These are great resources.

      • @IPPO – Most of my investments are in Vanguard funds and ETFs as well. It has a Target Retirement Fund as the core and I added specific funds (e.g., European, Asian, Bond, Foreign, Small Cap, etc.) to get the diversification I want.

        I am familiar with the names you mentioned, but I haven’t been reading as much as I should.

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