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Why Setting Financial Goals And Achieving Them Can Still Leave You Unsatisfied!

Have you ever felt this way about your goals?

  • Once I get promoted, I'd feel good about my financial progression. I'd have more control over my work.
  • After I buy my car, I'd be able to show that I'm doing well. I'd feel more respected.
  • When I make more money, I'll be financially secure enough to do things my way. I can pursue more work-life balance.

These are common financial goals. BUT when you attain them, you'd soon realise that

Promotion often means more work... not control over work

Buying a car does not solve any insecurities... people still judge you

Making more money only opens the door to more expectations... not work-life balance

Moreover, the excitement of attaining these financial goals is often fleeting. 

When you don't have it, the goals seems like the real deal.

When you attained it, you'd realise it does not seem like a big matter at all. 

Is this the same feeling you get when you attain financial freedom?

Do you yearn for financial freedom and plan to attain it in the next 10-20years?

If you do, you may have seen some promises on happinesses from articles, videos and advertisements.

Financial freedom is often portrayed as life on the beach or working on your free time... etc.

I've written on this topic myself and you can check on this link below for tips on how you can work towards attaining it for yourself

BUT I've this question for you below...

I realised that few actually speak about it holistically.

IF indeed financial freedom is a financial goal, you will likely experience the same quick loss of excitement when you actually attain it.

Just as any of your previous financial goals, it isn't such a big deal after you have it.

This is the problem of the "Arrival Fallacy"

The "Arrival fallacy" and how it explains the loss of excitement when achieving a financial goal

The "Arrival Fallacy" was introduced by positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar in his book Happier.

In his explanation, in the process of working toward a goal, you come to expect that you will in fact reach it.

Anchoring on a future goal triggers reward centers in your brain that induces a cognitively soothing effect.

It can be a financial goal or it can be a lifestyle goals such as to lose weight.

No matter what, that feeling of accomplishment becomes part of your day-to-day identity. 

However, you readily adjust to this new state of being so much so that actually attaining a goal turns out to be less satisfying than expected.

It's like expecting the holiday brought more happiness than the actual holiday (the goal) itself? 

You'd that feeling before?

Financial satisfaction is fickle

In an office setting, pay is a sensitive information that the Human Resource (HR) holds.

That's because it is hard to keep everyone satisfied.

You'd immediately feel under-paid and unsatisfied if you knew your peer got a better pay raise than you. It did not matter what you where drawing last year.

In a social setting, talk on pay is taboo. So financial status is expressed through where you live (house) and what you drive (car).

This is true story of a private client of mine.

I've known him for years and his financial goal was to buy his own house.

 2 years back, he collected keys to his 3 room HDB flat and there was an excitement to it then.

How to renovate it? Baby's room? The luxury of some privacy?

But when I met up with him recently, he had complains.

Suddenly, the house was too small and it seemed like the excitement of owning his 3 room HDB flat has long gone. 

He was curious about upgrading and I sense he wanted a new house that fits his new pay scale.

Some reflections towards financial satisfaction and chasing financial goals

I wrote this post not out of leisure but of deep reflections.

We've all been trained by the school system to always aim for a bigger goal. Once you get one, move on to a bigger goal.

While setting an objective to work towards is often a powerful motivator that drives you to progress, it could also keep you hooked on this endless game of wanting more.

The truth is there's always someone who has more of what you want.

Got a 5-figure passive income? There are some with a 6-figure or 7-figure passive income.

Bought a HDB house? There're many friends who stay in a condo.

Bought a condominium? There're those who stay in bungalows.


I've a previous post below on how much it takes to own a $5m home below if you are keen.

If you seek goal after goal, hoping that will make you happier, it probably will not.

Instead it could reinforce a cycle of self-doubt and a lousy feeling of adequacy.

Hence, I've the follow suggestions for you...

Suggestion 1: When setting goals, don't assume things are static

If you are aiming to get financial freedom in the next 20year and planning to work towards it, I want you to imagine this first!

How would you feel if.....

When you get there in 20years (to financial freedom), half of your peers have just done the same.

As to the other half?

They are truly wealthy and much more than financially free.

If you recall that 20years ago....

no one was at financial freedom level and you'd be clearly unique if you were financially free.

But today, this attainment of financial freedom seems to be like the minimum among your circle of friends!

Will you really be satisfied then?


Hence, set off your journey with the right assumptions. Your peers are ever progressing also. 

Actually, if you are in a peer group where everyone is disastrous financially, you should really be worried.

Heard of this saying before: "You are the average of the 5 people closest to you!". 

Hence, I've this to share with you below....

Suggestion 2: Remember the reasons why you created the goal

For fellow parents out there, providing for your children is the fundamental goal.

That's why you found work.

Here's what Jack Ma has to say. To watch the video, click here

但是细想一下,我为什么跟李嘉诚比、为什么跟比尔盖茨比,

人家吃过很多苦,我们应该跟隔壁的老王比、小张比,只要比小张做得好我就很高兴,

我并不要让全世界用软件的人很高兴,

只要让我们家的人高兴就好了

The essence of this passage is to say that in the never ending race to achieving goals there will be unhappiness and sacrifices. There is NO end to comparisons.

Manage your expectations and remember that your fundamental goal is always to satisfy your family.

Suggestion 3: Control how you define your goals

Are you happy at what you are working at?

That is important because as cliché as it sounds, the journey towards your financial goals is what truly fulfils you and makes you feel successful.

Your goals are likely to keep changing. So be aware.

Stop focusing how much happier you are going to be in future if you have more. Instead, challenge yourself to be grateful of what you already have.

Start focusing on how happy you are today. 

Also, be aware of this thought "After this busy period, I won’t have to work so much and I can spend more time with my family and do the things I enjoy."

This is a dangerous thought. Have quality time with your family NOW.


PS: Have you prepared adequately for retirement?

If you would like to learn more from Josh Tan ... https://josh-tan.com/top-retirement/]

Last updated on October 15th, 2019 at 12:33 am

Josh Tan Jian Liang (CHFC) Principal Author

REVIEWS: https://www.josh-tan/wall-of-reviews. Practising financial planner with Promiseland Independent Pte Ltd. EXPERIENCE: More than 12years. Josh Tan is a young parent, speaker, author and founder of TheAstuteParent.

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