Long-term Goals

One of the hallmarks of contemporary society is that we want everything right now. We can communicate 24/7 via text, phone, email, tweets and posts and wouldn’t dream of driving on a long trip without a fully charged phone. Remember when cars used to break down on the side of the road and you had to hoof it to the nearest phone?

We’ve raised children who require immediate satisfaction. We can get TV and movies on demand, and we can even pause our personal televisions and devices for a bathroom break and then start shows and newscasts back up again — whenever we demand.

But some things are better achieved by waiting. For example, you can lose weight with a surgical procedure, or you can embark on a long-term program of nutritional eating and exercise; many people view the latter as more preferable. We tend to forget that the long-term process can be more fulfilling, such as growing your own vegetables instead of buying them at the grocer or reading the book instead of — or at least before — you watch the movie.

The beginning of a new calendar year may be a good time to reassess what we want to accomplish and, perhaps more importantly, how we want to accomplish it.

Recently, Mercer published findings of a study on the potential for offering shareholder loyalty rewards. The research was conducted to find ways to entice public corporations to follow more long-term strategies rather than hit short-term earnings goals at the behest of shareholders. If shareholders were more incented to invest for the long haul, perhaps companies could do the same. But as it turns out, the idea of granting extra dividends, warrants or additional voting rights to investors who hold shares for a long term, such as a minimum of three years, was not well received for a variety of reasons.

[CLICK HERE to read the news release, “Mercer ‘Loyalty Shares’ Research Indicates Consensus on Negative Impact of Short-Termism,” at Mercer.com, Dec. 18, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the report, “Building a Long-Term Shareholder Base: Assessing the Potential of Loyalty-Driven Securities,” at Mercer.com, Dec. 18, 2013.]

However, the long-term approach does often present rewards, as billionaire investor Warren Buffett will attest. Over the last 10 years, Berkshire’s stock has gained 111.16 percent, significantly outperforming the 66.23 percent return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over the same timeframe.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Buffett Beats S&P for Second Straight Year,” at CNBC.com, Dec. 31, 2013.]

One of your long-term goals may be paying off debt, which one young couple did with very strict discipline and by, interestingly enough, learning carpentry and gardening skills. Working low-paying jobs during the economic downturn, they managed to pay down about $116,000 in student loans and $2,000 in car payments while also starting a family and saving for a down payment to buy a home.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How One Family Paid off Almost $118,000 in Debt,” at Yahoo.com, Jan. 2, 2014.]

But alas, one of the tougher things to achieve is long-term happiness. A night out with friends, a memorable vacation and even a bowl of ice cream can provide short-term bliss. However, sustaining happiness over a lifetime requires some real effort. A 75-year survey, known as the Harvard Grant Study, provides some insights on how it can be accomplished.

“The conclusion of the study, not in a medical but in a psychological sense, is that connection is the whole shooting match,” observed George Vaillant, Harvard psychiatrist and director of the study from 1972 to 2004.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The 75-Year Study that Found the Secrets to a Fulfilling Life,” at HuffingtonPost.com, Aug. 11, 2013.]

No doubt, considering the world as it is today with the ease of technology and convenience of fast food, it’s tempting to take the most expedient route to satisfaction. But like a long, sudsy bath or a hike in the woods, some things are better enjoyed by taking your time.

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