Meet the Smith Family: BHAG

BHAG. That’s Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. (Or: Big, Hairy-A## Goals, depending on whom you ask. But this is the family-friendly version!)

Anyway, I never heard the term until I read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The idea is that these “stretch” goals inspire us to greater success than less ambitious ones. So, to start our financial makeover, Mr. Smith and I thought about what we want our money to be able to do for us. At this point, we are simply allowing ourselves to dream, saving the “ifs” and the “how?” for later.

Here are our goals, listed in order of when we would like to achieve them:

August 2014: Travel to the East Coast for a family reunion. Estimated cost: $7000.

2015: Replace our minivan with a 4WD vehicle, such as a Suburban. Backpacking is one of Mr. Smith’s great joys in life, and he looks forward to the day when the whole family can join him on these trips. A 4WD vehicle with good clearance is better suited to driving on forest service roads than our aging minivan, and we’ll need to be able to seat seven. We’d like to be able to pay cash for this. Estimated cost: $25,000 used.

Summer 2015: Take a road trip around the western states. Estimated cost: $2500.

September 2016: Relocate to Europe for the school year. This is a stretch goal, for sure!

September 2017: A Smith starts college; Mrs. Smith enrolls in nursing school. We’d like to be able to help A with his expenses (how much is TBD) and pay cash for Mrs. Smith’s tuition (approximately $12,000 for the two year program) and the necessary child care.

3-5 years: Finish home improvements: replace windows, countertops, kitchen and bathroom floors. Install gas fireplace, upgrade insulation, complete misc. electrical work.

Sept. 2019: B Smith starts college. As with A, we’d like to be able to help, but don’t know how much.

7-10 years: Move to a water-view home with a large lot and plenty of guest parking.

2023: Throw an amazing party for our 25th anniversary.

2024-2027: C, D, and E start college. Yikes!

20 years: Convert home to a bed and breakfast.

20+ years: Have the option to retire comfortably at age 60. In all likelihood we will be happy to work longer, but we want the option to retire if our family situation calls for it.

Next Up: Can we do it all?

Meet the Smith Family

Hello, we’re the *Smith family– mom, dad, and five kids– living in the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Smith works in aerospace, and his gross pay is around $100K a year. Mrs. Smith is not employed, but spends her days managing the household and the children, who range in age from toddler to teenager.

We started our married life with frugal habits and a respectable savings rate. However, some major life changes– moving across the country, having a baby, buying a house, having another baby. . . and then another. . . all in the space of five years– threw us into survival mode, and those frugal habits largely fell by the wayside.

Now that our family life has settled down, it is time to take stock of where we are, and start building better habits in order to achieve the life we want for ourselves and our children. That, in a nutshell, is why Mrs. Smith started this blog.

*Not our real name- anonymous financial makeover, remember?

The Completely Anonymous Financial Makeover

Every Sunday morning I dive for the business section of the Seattle Times to see if their monthly financial makeover is there. Many other fine publications– USAA Magazine, the AARP blog, and LearnVest.com are a few that come to mind– feature these stories, and I can’t get enough of them. A big part of it is simply the voyeuristic thrill of peeking into someone else’s finances, and of course, seeing how my own family’s finances measure up.

However, I find these articles unsatisfying for a few reasons. First, they are often short on crucial details– one article might tell how much a couple has in retirement accounts, but not give their income. Another might give their income, but there’s no breakdown of monthly expenses. Second, these articles are usually published before the subject has had time to make meaningful progress toward his or her goals. We don’t find out what’s worked, or how they’ve built on the original recommendations. And, oh yeah, the names and faces of the subjects are published for all the world to see. That’s why you’ll never see this family featured in any of these fine publications.

And so we bring you the Completely Anonymous Financial Makeover. This is a self-guided program in which we start taking better care of our finances. We are not committed to any program in particular, but will pick and choose to create a plan that works best for us and our family situation. We’ll measure our progress toward our goals and share with you what works, and refine or discard what doesn’t.

If you’re looking to trim your own family’s budget but still enjoy the good things in life, keep checking in with us.