Pete the Planner’s Year End Planning Guide

Congrats! You are on the verge of seeing the year 2012. Wow, the excitement is palpable! Nope, never mind. That was the coffee. I’m not one for hyperbolic statements, but what you do in the next 20 days or so could determine whether or not 2012 is a successful year for you. No pressure.

To look forward, we must first look backward. I believe that Fab Five Freddy said that. Maybe not. Anywho. How did this year go for you? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Maybe the better question is: did you set out to do anything? If your goal was simply to “still be breathing” come 2012, then you are just days away. Congrats.But if you didn’t set any financial goals/markers for 2011, then you certainly didn’t accomplish these hypothetical goals/markers. A lack of goals will never be the death of you, but it may the reason that you never do GREAT things.

No matter how smart you are, no matter how much stuff you have, and no matter how high your income is, accidents can only get you so far. You MUST be purposeful with your money. Planning and goal-setting are your ticket to the promise land.


Let’s start with 2011. Answer the following questions. Hell, print this guide out, mark it up, and talk about it with your spouse, co-worker, sibling, sensual masseuse, etc. Just don’t forego this opportunity to improve yourself.

  • What was the biggest waste of your money in 2011? (I swear if you say my book, 60 Days to Change, I’m going to get pissed)
  • What was the smartest thing that you did with your money in 2011?
  • In what situation did you show the most financial restraint?
  • In what area did you show improvement from 2010 (e.g. income, spending, debt reduction, saving, etc)?
  • In what area did you show regression from 2010 (e.g. income, spending, debt reduction, saving, etc)?

My total amount of assets: $_______________

**This includes your: home value, savings and checking accounts, investments, retirement accounts, other real estate values, etc.

My total amount of debt: $________________

**This includes your: mortgage(s), credit cards, student loans, car loans, personal loans, lines of credit, etc.

Total assets – total debt = $_______________

This number is also called your net worth. Your net worth lets you know whether or not you owe more money than you own, or whether you own more money than you owe. What can be gathered from tracking your net worth? Progress or lack thereof. What are some things that can impact your net worth other than taking on more debt, paying off debt and saving money? Market fluctuations. If your home and/or investments go down in value, then you will see this reflected in the annual measure of your net worth. It sucks when this happens. But it happens. Don’t lose sleep over it. One of your goals for 2012 will be to grow (improve) your net worth. How do you grow your net worth? By living a healthy financial life: saving(investing) money, paying off debt, and refusing to take on new debt.

Side note: I only calculate my net worth once per year. And it’s on December 31st. The rest of the year I focus on healthy behavior. Healthy behavior generally begets a healthy net worth. Focusing on your net worth any more than this is a bad idea. It’s just a simple measure. Don’t obsess over it. Identify it, take corrective action towards your habits, and move on.

Every December 31st I ask myself one very simple question: am I proud of my financial progress in the previous 364 days (365 in leap years)? Over the years I have been able to answer “yes” several times, and I have had to answer “no” a few times. But if I never were to ask myself the question, then I might not have the opportunity to correct poor financial behavior. This is why a retrospective is so important. You MUST learn from your past behavior. In fact, I can’t think of anything stupider than ignoring your past behavior. Treat your financial behavior like a neck tattoo. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Own it. You did it to yourself. You might as well own it. Just don’t do it again.


I can’t possibly overemphasize the importance of setting goals. A lack of financial progress is generally due to a lack of goals. It’s not any more complicated than that. Here’s how we’re going to do this: I’ll ask a question, you answer it. Repeat. And at the end you will have goals. It’s easier than raising sea monkeys.

Goal #1 The Short Term Goal

What would you like to accomplish (in regards to your financial life) within the first 30 days of 2012 (e.g. save $300, pay off your Best Buy credit card, buy life insurance, start a college saving plan for your spawn, etc)?

  • Why is that important to you?
  • What would be the result of accomplishing this goal?
  • What would be the result of failing to accomplish this goal?
  • What will it financially take for you to accomplish this goal?

You can have several short-term goals, and you can start one whenever you like. A 30 day duration is perfect. Once you set the goal, track it. If you don’t look at the goal until the 30th day, then you probably won’t accomplish it. Make it the homescreen on your phone, computer, and iPad. Tape a note to your debit/credit card with your goal written on it. Do whatever it takes to constantly look at and focus on this goal. This isn’t silly. It’s effective. Think of it like the breathing exercises that women use during child birth. From a complete outsider’s perspective, it seems silly. But for those in the know, it’s effective. 

Goal #2  The Quarterly Goal

What would you like to accomplish (in regards to your financial life) within the first quarter (90 days) of 2012 (e.g. save $500, pay off your Disney MasterCard, create a will, start an Individual Retirement Account, etc)?

  • Why is that important to you?
  • What would be the result of accomplishing this goal?
  • What would be the result of failing to accomplish this goal?
  • What will it financially take for you to accomplish this goal?

Like I mentioned, once you accomplish these goals within the given time frame, then you can create new goals. Please believe me when I tell you that this isn’t tedious. I like to set a new Short-Term Goal every month, and a new Quarterly Goal every quarter. It becomes habit. A good habit. You need those.

Net worth goal

What do you think is a reasonable goal for your net worth calculation on December 31, 2012? How much do you think you will be able to move the needle? Whether your big focus this year is saving or paying down debt, your net worth WILL improve (market forces willing). So what’s it gonna be?

My net worth goal for December 31st, 2012: $_______________

Oddly enough, setting your net worth goal is a great deal more fun than setting your short-term and quarterly goals. This is where you can really mess things up. Focusing on your net worth on a regular basis is a really bad idea. And by bad idea I mean like “Netflix splitting into two companies sort of bad idea.” Short term goal setting is the key to success. It will take care of the net worth goal.

Budget goal

At some point in your life, it just makes sense to know how much money you spend on a regular basis. When exactly is this time? Oh, I would say from 16 YEARS OLD on. Still buckin’ the trend, are ya? That’s okay. I believe that the Chinese have decided that 2012 is the Year of the Budget Pie-Chart. You NEED to know what percentage of your income goes to each spending category. You just have to. There’s no ifs ands, or buts. Here’s what I recommend, put your spending into a pie-chart at least 4 times per year. Start with the end of January, and then chart the month of April, August, and November. You are looking for trends and future problem areas. Below, you will find the ideal budget percentages. Here is the blog post on how to use this pie chart.


Drawing a blank?

Don’t have any 2012 financial goals? First of all, I don’t believe you. Everybody has something that they need to strive towards. There’s nothing wrong with needing some samples and examples. Try one some of these. If they fit, you can keep them. If they don’t, just leave them in the dressing room.

1. Save $27.33 per day- The result? You will have saved $10,000 in 2012. Given that 2012 is a leap year, 366 days of $27.33 will get you to the $10,000 mark. For the last 4 years, I have done 28 pushups everyday. That way, I do 10,000 pushups per year. This will come in handy if I ever get into a shoving match.

2. Pay off your car- There is something outright depressing about making monthly payments for something that is constantly decreasing in value. You can address this by paying off your car early. Paying off your car loan based on the original loan terms is for suckers. Speed up the loan. You will save interest, and you will free up cash flow sooner.

3. Increase your charitable giving- Will this increase your net worth in 2012? Probably not. But it WILL increase your net awesomeness. No one likes a self-obsessed a-hole, so don’t be one. Recognize the need of others, and give your time and/or money to help improve their lives.

Here’s the plan

I plan on having a great year. And I’d like you to have the same plan. But you can’t send some sort of weird cosmic “I’d like to have a good year” vibe up into the sky, and think that you’ve done your part. You MUST be intentional. You MUST plan, achieve, and repeat. I will gladly be your guide. Feel free to leave your email address below, and you will be on my monthly newsletter list. I publish my best stuff to this list. Good luck, and let me know if you need any help along the way.



***I strongly encourage you to share this post with your significant other. Complete the guide separately, and then together. Compare answers, and arrive at collective household goals for 2012.

4 thoughts on “Pete the Planner’s Year End Planning Guide

  1. The pie chart deals with “after tax” money. Your’re taxes should be paid by the time your money hits your checking account.

  2. We took the liberty of translating this post into Portuguese for our blog (linking to here, of course).
    But taxes are an important issue, as they function differently in Brazil. Usually they’re not paid by the time money hits our accounts, so we will have to think about something else.
    We really like your blog and we have already written about it in our blog. Thank you so much for such valuable advice.

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