Do You Have A Five Year Plan?

Sharing advice on dreams and goals.

This morning we talked about what happens when you throw the five-year plan out the window and learn to trust your gut. Combined with yesterday’s post from Rachel about the sometimes terrifying act of settling down, and Monday’s piece on getting hitched and then setting off on worldwide (solo) travel, this week has me thinking a lot about what it means to plan for the future. I used to live for my five-year plan. That is, until my early twenties showed me that a) a lot more can happen in five years than I ever anticipated, and b) the universe doesn’t particularly care about my five-year plan. The good news is that the older and more established I get, the less dedicated to a five-year plan I become (though, if I could fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming Tina Fey before I’m thirty, I’ll be okay with that).

That said, while my plans are constantly changing and evolving, I find it very empowering to say my long-term goals out loud (a farm somewhere with a herd of cattle and a photography studio, please). By putting it out there, I add a layer of accountability to my wildest dreams that doesn’t exist when they live isolated inside my brain (like that time a few years ago I emailed Meg telling her I wanted to start a photography business and then suddenly felt like I had to do it because now she was counting on me).

So today I want to open this thread to your dreams and goals. What does your five-year plan look like? Are you in the middle of it and need help figuring out what comes next? Feeling conflicted about a big decision you’ve made or are about to make? My favorite open threads are the ones where we come together to support and help each other into the next stages of whatever we’re planning. So let’s see what happens when we put our heads together on the really big things.

Photo: Corey Torpie Photography

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  • Jennifer Cary Diers

    Over the next five years I hope to accomplish five (big) things:

    1) Graduate with my Masters Degree. I am in my final semester.

    2) Buy a home at the right price. For us, this would mean that our mortgage and taxes wouldn’t equal more than our current rent.

    3) Get my first novel accepted for publication, with an advance large enough that I do not need to take a “day job” if I don’t want to.

    4) Transition my husband into work he truly enjoys, as opposed to one he doesn’t hate which pays our bills. Of course, this is mostly up to him. I’m just moral support.

    5) Start my (happy and healthy) daughter in a bi-lingual preschool. I can’t believe she’ll be old enough for school!

    Looking forward to hearing other people’s big plans!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never made a five year plan. Or even a one year plan. I think things through but I never plot out stuff I guess. In fact I just told my panicking husband the other day that now that we’re married, I’m pretty sure the only thing we have left to do is live. So we get to chill out because we now have the rest of our lives to figure out stuff and get stuff done.

    All this five year plan talk is making me wonder if I should do a five year plan or if this is something that only works for certain people?

    • Lindsey

      I’ve never made one either. I’m pretty much a go-with-the-flow type. I think the only thing I want to do in the next five years is have a kid. I’m sure that will be enough to handle without making any other plans.

      • Anonymous

        Since I’m probably the opposite of “go with the flow” I’ve been trying to figure out why I don’t make plans. I think in part life has always felt like a putting out fires kind of thing – like what’s the emergency now. Now that life is so much easier and simpler, maybe I should make a five year plan. I’m pretty sure the only reason I finished my novel was because I took a novel writing class and told myself I had to finish by the last day. I guess goals and deadlines are a good thing.

    • Same here, though I have started keeping a Life List, which prompts me to look for opportunities and take them.

      I have always been so far from where I thought I’d be in 5 years every time, the world likes to come along and change your plans and even your goals.

      5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever be living away from my city and now I’m prepping to move next year.

      Before that I wouldn’t have imagined losing my NPO dream job.

      Before that I wouldn’t have imagine having my NPO dream job.

      Before that I wouldn’t have imagined teaching.

      Before that, I wouldn’t have imagined a life without my (mentally abusive) ex.

      Before that…

      • It doesn’t mean I don’t make plans, but they are more immediate and/or flexible.

    • Hintzy

      I am by nature a very nebulous thinking person… and I don’t like to put time limits on myself, especially for things that require a lot of other components to coalesce

      In the past I had set goals for myself like (post college graduation) establish some more reliable living space arrangements – specifically not in either of my parent’s houses; upgrade my dying car; and maintain a full time job.

      currently it’s buy a house (check) get married (workin’ on it) work on improving my job and begin to think about having kids. The specific details and timing relies much more on narrower contexts to I don’t feel comfortable committing to the idea of a “five year” or whatever year plan.

  • Laura C

    I had a lifetime plan when I graduated from high school, and it held pretty much through the first year out of grad school — at any point in there, my five-year plan would have been pretty consistent with the one from high school. Then I abandoned it and have been happier since, so no more long-term plans for me. I have a job I love and reasonable confidence that if I had to leave this job, I’d find another I at least liked. I’ll have to move a couple times for my fiance’s job over the next few years, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. All things being equal I’d rather have gotten married a year or so earlier than I will be, but it’s not a big thing.

    My fiance always has a five-year plan, and I’m like “if you say so…”

  • K

    Build a business with my husband. We’re working on one right now, but not sure if it will make enough money for him to quit his day job. Save up enough money so that he can quit his job and try working together for a year. And maybe have another baby somewhere in there.

  • My 5 year plan is

    By the end of 2013; be engaged, have started degree

    end of 2014; be married, be happy with almost all of our home decoration, and have good supportive friends

    end of 2015; begun trying for a child, begun building our house in Canada. Get some small revenue from my blog

    end of 2016; graduate, have child. Emigrate to Canada? Or work part time for a while- if it makes financial sense.

    So…. no big plans ! ! ! Who knows what will really happen- such is life. Could never predicted just 2 years ago that I’d be making these plans, for a start. I’ve already said that. Oh well.

    • That’s also only 3.5 year plan. But I suppose, for those things to have been accomplished within the 5 years would also be so perfect..

  • MarieKD

    I feel like I’m always in the middle of my ‘five-year plan’, it’s constantly being updated. Just this week I took a postdoc position with 2.5 years of funding, so I guess I have half of the next 5 years somewhat planned! After that, it gets a little hazy and vague. Here’s what I want to happen: after 2.5 years in this position, both my husband and I will find positions in our fields doing the work we want. We’ll move out of the Bay Area to a less densely populated place, buy a home with some land, and start our family. The jobs and the place are undefined at this point.

    • Carolyn

      Are you me? You are me. Minus the west coast bit.

  • Jade


    1) Start and finish (maybe 5.5 years) grad school.

    2) Get finish wedding planning and get married

    3) Be awesome! (as a person/big sister/wife-life-partner thing/scientist)

    • Jade


      2) Finish wedding planning and get married.

      • Another Annie

        LOL, you made me giggle!

  • Emmy

    I’ve also learned to be more flexible about my five-year plan. I still find it useful to have a plan, more of a vague sketch really, because I like having goals to work toward. But I accept that it will probably change.

    Right now, for example, my five-year plan is pretty much up in the air because my right-now plan is to get married (16 days!!) and get pregnant. I’m trying to remain open to the ways that having a baby will change our lives.

    But roughly speaking, I’m hoping to continue advancing in my career. My fiancé would like to move onto the management track at his work. We’d like to move our jobs closer to each other (they’re currently 50 miles apart). I hope to get better at living a simple life. We might buy a house. We might move out of state. We might have a second baby, or end up adopting, or something.

    Our long-term goals are to have a happy, rewarding marriage; to have a supportive, loving community; to have a family that feels complete; and to feel fulfilled by our work.

  • Five year goal: Establish Alpine Tour Co. as a money making business in it’s own building (with our apartment upstairs). Become an integral part of the Ridgway community.

    Bam. (Holy cow is it terrifying and amazing all at the same time.)

    • Cool. Get it done in three years so my partner and I can be customers while we’re still living in NE? Please? Sounds awesome.

  • Alexa

    I’m also not super big on long-term planning. We want to have a kid in 3-4 years, and by that point I’d like to have a job that’s flexible so that I can mostly work from home.

    I work at a school and took a more admin-related position this year; I hope to increase in my ability to influence decisions and make things work smoothly and efficiently (both in terms of position and knowledge/wisdom).

    I take trapeze classes in my free time and want to continue improving, possibly doing some more non-professional shows or even teaching introductory level classes.

    I recently started doing some writing in my free time, and I would like to continue to build on that for both fiction and non-fiction.

    I want to nurture strong relationships with my husband, family, and friends both new and old.

    I know that for short-term goals detail increases your chances of getting them done, but I feel like with long-term goals they tend to set you up for disappointment because they’re so influenced by the unexpected, so I prefer to keep them pretty vague.

    • A-L

      20 gazillion cool points for the fact that you take trapeze classes (and that you could TEACH trapeze classes). Big fist bump.

  • caroline

    My five year plan just got thrown out the window, and not by my own doing. I’ve trying to stay positive and focus on a new one, but thinking

    an occasional world traveller, who finally sees Asia
    a present mother, who knows how to have fun and doesn’t sweat the small stuff
    an appreciative wife and partner, who is a helpmeet in my husband’s dream
    a writer
    a (insert fulfilling day job here)
    an active member of my community, wherever that ends up being
    a good friend

    that’s about as much as I can hope for at the moment!

  • Oh, I live for plans! I make plans about making plans! (I may have a problem, haha.) However, I learned in 2008-2009 that sometimes, life vomits all over your 5 year plan. In 2008, I was in med school (which was not only part of the 5 year plan, but the LIFE LONG GOAL plan) and for a variety of health reasons, I had to leave in the middle of the second semester of my first year. I was devastated and I was convinced that my life was OVER because now my plans had suddenly evaporated.


    I (eventually) picked myself up, started working, went back to school to get my MPH, started dating my now-husband, and learned a ton about myself. I made a new five year plan. No more med school!


    Now I’m reapplying because I realized that there is nothing I would rather do in life than be a physician. And so the revised-revised-revised 5 year plan currently stands as:

    – Go back to med school
    – Have our first baby
    – Possibly start looking into buying a house

    I’m definitely nervous about all of those things, especially because having a baby and being a newly-minted physician aren’t usually viewed as compatible life choices. I feel a lot of pressure to “do one or the other” or at least “resign myself to not doing either of them well” but I think that’s kind of crap.

    Has anyone else had their “5 year plan” met with complete and utter disdain by society/people you love and care about?

    • Heather

      I just looked at your blog. Can we be friends? Please. Pretty please.

      • Absolutely! I love new friends!

    • LikelyLaura

      My best friend is in residency and just had a baby. She’s back at work, and she says sometimes it’s hard. But hey, at least you’d get all your years of horrible sleep schedules over at one time! A couple of her other doctor friends had babies in med school or residency, too. I’m sure it’s not the easiest thing, but hey, doctors are tough!

      Good luck! It sounds like you have some awesome adventures in your future!

      • I work at a children’s hospital right now and my favorite attending (who just had her second baby) basically told to me to not have one first year of residency or first year of fellowship, but other than that, they’re all equally good/bad times to have a baby, haha. Her husband is also a doctor, so that definitely complicated things, but mine is a teacher and is more than excited about taking care of babies. It will definitely be adventure, that’s for sure…

    • Amanda

      I work with not one, but THREE guys whose wives had a baby (or babies) while either in med school, right before med school, or early in their residency. It used to be four guys, but one moved so his wife could do her residency in a different city. I’m absolutely certain it’s not an easy career/life path, but it can be done. And done well! Good for you.

      • I am hearing stories like this more and more, which definitely makes me happy. I think a lot of it depends on the partnership and organizing life priorities, haha. There will be babies. And doctoring. Simultaneously! (Somehow!)

        • MDBethann

          A couple from my old church have 3 kids all while she was going to med school as an Air Force officer, no less. He was a teacher and with all the military moving they ended up doing once she finished med school, I think he ended up being a full-time dad because the AF had them moving so much. But from the FB pics, their family looks healthy and happy & their kids are adorable!

    • CoastalCreature

      I’m such a “making plans to make plans” kind of person too! And I plan for things, rush into them because I want them to happen so badly, and then realize that I should have been patient and let things happen naturally. Blargh. Life lesson learned.

      My several-times-revised-five-year-plan is to keep my current job through the whole engagement and wedding planning process because it is such a flexible job, do the wedding thing in 1-2 years (with current wonderful partner), transition into a position I love a lot more than my current one, think about having kids by the end of the next five years.

      The kids thing seems so overwhelming right now. You’d think at 28 I’d feel mature and whatnot but really I feel overwhelmed with the adult stuff sometimes (but not the fun adult stuff like daydreaming about a wedding…).

      • Alison

        28, too.

        Like, can my partner and I just figure out a reasonable grocery shopping and cooking routine.

        Fun adult stuff like feeding yourself, ugh. Making progress at least…

        Though, at least I would have a built-in feeding system for the baby for the first little while (universe willing).

      • Maddie

        I almost wrote in my intro that the scariest thing about our five year plan right now is that this is the time we thought, five years ago, that we’d start thinking about kids. Meanwhile, today my roommate thought I had special plans because I was showered before 11AM. So ditto to what Alison said about feeding yourself. I feel like my five year plan involves learning to sleep eight hours a night and figuring out how to properly cook meat. #Adulthood

        • Maddie

          P.S. I’d just like to add that I’m normally working early, I just wear a lot of sweats in my office.

        • meg

          I mean… you might as well not bother to learn how to sleep eight hours a night BEFORE you have a kid, right? I’m just throwing that out there…

    • Alison

      Another one-L, what’s up.

      As others said, it’s definitely possible, and almost definitely there are trade-offs. Trade-offs do not mean you can’t do both things “well” (mighty subjective judgment, anyway), but they do mean that you may not find the arrangement ideal (or close to it, depending on what your ideal is). How many arrangements in life are? In short, think about your own values, and do your research. Depends a lot on how you want to raise your kid(s), how your co-parent will contribute, your financial circumstances, etc.

      I’m sure you have your own perspective given that you were in med school, but having accompanied my partner and several friends through med school and being in the process of researching residencies with him, my own understanding is that IF you want to spend a lot of time with your infant, you’re best off having it while in school (years 1 or 2, in particular–two women in his class have done so) rather than residency, unless you find a residency with generous maternity leave. My partner was home nearly all the time during years 1 and 2 (not sure what your experience was) because, as at many med schools now, you can watch recorded lectures and your main job is to sit around and memorize stuff. :-) Meanwhile, many residencies have no paid maternity leave and list their unpaid leave as “negotiable”, so it’s hard to know how accommodating they would be. In my research I saw that the psych residency at UCLA indicates 2 weeks of maternity leave. I can’t imagine a world in which I could go back to full-time work away from my newborn that soon, but many people do it, and it might work just fine for you!

  • Alyssa

    A ranch on the Marin coast where we keep goats and make goat cheese, rotating with chickens, fed with the spent grain from hubby’s brewery, and I’ll put my wildlife bio degree to use managing the wild lands. And a dog.

    If that doesn’t work, hubby and I having jobs we love in a beautiful place where I can trail run daily with our awesome dog.

    • Breck

      My 10-year plan includes goats on a Nor Cal farm… but my dude and I don’t like cheese, so we’ll be making goats’ milk yogurt. Perhaps our goats can be friends/neighbors?

      • Alyssa

        Definitely! I’ll taste test yogurt anytime :)

    • LikelyLaura

      So, can I have your plan, but minus the raising goats part? Basically, I’d like to live there, drink beer and eat cheese. Sounds reasonable, right?! :)

      • Alyssa

        That’s pretty much my plan…once we become extraordinarily wealthy off of our obviously profitable venture, we’ll hire help and eat cheese all day long.

        • Kira

          I will be your help!

    • Ooh, you’re wildlife biologist? So cool! That was my major freshman year. . .until I realized how much lab science was involved.

      Still, A. wildlife biology is cool. B. Female wildlife biologists are cooler.

      And could you open a B&B on the ranch, so I can come stay? And make work-stays available, so I can help milk goats and brew beer while there? KThanks!

      • Alyssa

        Most definitely…a B&B is in the 15 year plan!

        And for me, getting through the horrible lab classes was totally worth getting paid (kinda) to work outside with stuff I love…but I’m kinda a science geek, so that helped. Except for ochem…thank goodness for curves.

  • Kate

    In five years I should be finishing law school. My guy and I will probably be married or at least engaged. He’s going back to school this fall and as his ambitions and educational goals grow by the hour (so heart-warming, y’all) we’ve started discussing how to sync up our higher education and career plans. He’s looking at finishing his BA, getting a teaching credential, and is even considering graduate school. Any suggestions regarding finances or logistics? Or just words of wisdom?

    • Rebecca

      Random thoughts as someone who just finished grad school with a working partner (so mostly grad school perspective):

      Put savings in (tax protected) retirement plans where it won’t count towards FAFSA assets. If you’re really focused on the financial side, it might not make sense to be married while he’s in school if you’re making money, as it will reduce his eligibility for aid. On the other hand, federal financial aid for grad students gets suckier by the year, so it may not matter that much.

      Grad school is a full time job, even if it’s not on a 9-5 schedule. Divide household chores accordingly. My partner actually took on the majority of the household chores during the school year, since he worked from home and I was working 80 hour weeks for school. It helped a lot.

      Try to treat grad school like a 9-5 job. Eat dinner together, if you can- it helps. I also tried to schedule one non-school day a week- it didn’t happen all the time, but it helped when it did.

      I can check with my husband and see if he has any ideas from the other side…

      • Kate

        This is some amazing advice! Thank you so much, I’d love to hear your husband’s thoughts on it.

  • It seems fitting that almost a year into being married both of us finally figure out some version of a 5 year plan. In the next 5 years I want to:

    1) Get a teaching job where I feel useful and excited to work (I turned down a teaching job because I wasn’t excited about it and now I’m struggling to get interviews for grades I am excited about. Thankful for a husband who supports me doing what makes me happy, not just what gives me a paycheck)
    2) Get a masters in museum studies
    3) Move out of our college town to a new state
    4) Buy a house where we want to have our family
    5) Have a kid

    Rationally, I know that this could take way longer than 5 years since he’s got a job in the aerospace sector which is all up in the air. What it boils down to for us is having adventures together and with our new kitty!

  • Stuff I/We want in the next 5 years:

    1. Be published comic creators, and published with one of the big name companies (Image, Vertico, Dark Horse, etc.)

    2. (Him) Make a full time living as a writer

    3. (Me) Make a full time living as a wedding photographer

    4. Move out of NYC, and live in/near a cool city that has: an arts culture, a film culture, the kind of work that comes w/ being a media hub, pretty places for people to elope, and laws that let them, homes you can buy without being millionaires with outdoor space for frolicking.

    5. Adopt/have a child.

    • After discovering Penny Arcade’s Strip Search show, I have been eating up info on comic artists. So cool! I’ve been listening to the podcast Webcomics Weekly and it’s amazing to me how many issues artists of all varieties have in common. They could easily be talking about novel writing too!

    • A-L

      You might want to think about New Orleans. It’s far more affordable than most places on the east coast (or California). The film industry is really getting going down here (largely due to our state’s tax credits). There’s a good arts scene. It’s got lots of beautiful scenery. Just a plug for my favorite city in the U.S. (and possibly the world).

  • Ariel

    1. Finish grad school (by the end of 2013, please)
    2. Plan this wedding and marry my man
    3. Buy a house
    4. Have a baby
    5. Kick more ass and take more names at work
    6. Run a competitive race longer than a 5k
    7. Finish the quilt I started over a year ago

  • Anon

    I’m not a 5-year-planner either (I don’t even like new years resolutions!) but it’d probably be good for me.

    -Buy a house and make it awesome. (Hopefully I will check this one off within the next year!)
    -Make more friends and host amazing parties in said house.
    -Have a kid.
    -Go to grad school. (Maybe after having the kid?)
    -Find a job that interests me and is fulfilling but allows a decent work/life balance.

    • kate

      I like this one a lot.

    • Liz

      Are you me from a year ago? We have a house but have yet to make it as awesome as it is in my head. Everything else is basically my 5 year plan too. Although grad school could also be “get teaching certificate.” Oh, and two more – get married (3 months!) and get a dog!

  • Minister of Ducks

    Is it bad that our five year plan sometimes gives me minor panic attacks? Also, for the more practical folks here… are these goals at all reasonable? Is grad school and kid the worst idea ever? Or the best way to get more time at home while not leaving a HUGE gap on my resume?

    The plan, it goes a little something like this:

    Fall 2013- start trying to conceive
    Winter 2013- apply for grad school
    Summer 2014 – Baby/Quit job (that is dead end, but My oh My does it pay well)
    Fall 2014- Grad school in field I love while simultaneously caring for baby (in-laws will provide part time care so that I can go to class/study)
    Summer 2015- Graduate
    Fall 2015- Very tentative… Move abroad (whoever gets a job that can support the whole family first gets to pick from a list of pre-approved countries… the other partner will apply for jobs/volunteer opps depending on money wherever we land) I’ve lived in developing countries before, but clearly never with a child, so this one should be interesting.
    Sometime in 2016/2017/2018- move back to the states and have kid #2, at which point Mr. Minister of Ducks will quite likely take some time either part-time consulting or off completely to try being a SAHD.

    Granted, this all depends on a number of variables… we are late 20’s and would be the first of our friends to have a child, and I’m the last in the group to go to grad school, so it is all very scary. We can afford the extra debt on his very stable job… but still.

    Also, I seem inordinately fond of ellipses today.

    • Kat

      Sounds exciting!
      With regards to grad school and kids, I say go for it! It will take longer than without kids, but (depending on field of course) it’s probably a time where you have more flexibility than usual with your schedule (at least that was my experience (without the kids)).

      At a postgrad seminar I went to while studying a highly successful researcher said she thought before/during postgrad was the best time for kids.

  • Heather

    Oh. and 5 year plan.

    1. Graduate. PLEASE for the love of God, let this be done by 5 years from now. I will actually cry.
    2. Think about having babies. Not have them, but think about it.
    3. Complete a bad ass triathlon – half-Ironman, maybe?

    I feel like I should have more goals/plans, but really it’s all just dependent on the f-ing wily ducks right now. Does anyone offer classes in herding?

    • I think APW IS a class in duck herding. The lesson material just never looks how I’d like it to.

      If the next post could be “Dear Sara, please complete the next three items on your Road to Adulthood list. . .” that would be great.

      • Heather

        Ha. Yes. While you’re right, I really would like a checklist.

        Side note: You are so right. All of the freaking out in my life (by myself and others) – IT’S TOTALLY ALL ABOUT ADULTHOOD. I realized this yesterday. Ugh.

        • I don’t think we can talk enough about growing into adulthood beyond teenage years. Just sharing and acknowledging that it sucks and its hard, and it’s not like you’re given an automatic pass at HS/college graduation that claims “I got this adult life thing down!”

          Kirsty said something on her blog somewhere like: nothing like figuring out how to live with the pressure of “this is the precedent for the rest of your life forever amen!”

  • I’m just working through my One Year Plan right now. Once I get this year out of the way I’ll be able to get a better sense of the plan for 5. Maybe.

    1) Brad finishes school
    2) Brad gets a teaching job
    3) I quit my job
    4) I get pregnant
    5) I start the premium offerings on my blog
    6) I get to 25,000 pageviews a month on my blog
    7) I publish five books through my publishing company
    8) I finish writing the four books I currently have planned.

    Yeah, it’s going to be a busy year.

    • Ashleyn

      You have a publishing company? That’s awesome! What kind of books are you looking to publish?

  • “Working on my 5-year plan just need to choose a font,” from the pilot episode of “Chuck” is one of our favorite quotes.

    My 5-year plan includes raising my little girl to 5-years old, finishing the quilts I’ve started hand quilting, and writing a memoir.

    • And qualify for and run the Boston Marathon.

    • Breck

      “Working on my 5-year plan, just need to choose a font.”

      Gah! This! The details always trip up the obsessive, perfectionist aspect of my brain. I need to just get over it and do the damn thing.

      Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  • My life has worked out pretty much how I thought it would. I graduated from college. I got the internship I wanted, which turned into the job I still have. While it has had its ups and downs, I generally like what I do and the people I work with.

    However, my fiance has experienced been unemployed several times. About a year ago, he finally got a stable job he likes that also has health insurance. While it’s not in the field he wanted, it is a good job.

    Ever since we graduated in 2008, I’ve been trying to create a 5-year plan for my soon-to-be husband. I’m a planner, and since our futures are tied together I tried to plan his.

    This year we made a conscious decision to stop worrying about the future and just be happy because it has been the first time things were stable in our lives. It has been really nice, and I wonder if we will ever go back into the let’s figure out how to get my fiance a job in his field mode. (Which would probably involve moving away from the city we love).

    However, I still worry that deep-down he will always be a little sad that things didn’t work out the way he thought they would. Isn’t that the story of our generation? We were taught to dream big, then came out of college in one of the worst economies since the great depression. Still, I think he will always be hard on himself for not fulfilling his potential.

    • Wow, I can totally resonate with this.

      I graduated in 2009 and ever since I have really just struggled to finish a 1 year plan, let along feel stable enough to create a 5 year plan. My fiance went to school alongside me, but due to changing school requirements, crappy administration, and impacted classes, he ended up dropping out instead of graduating with me. It made my graduation incredibly bittersweet…

      I know it has been really hard on him to kind of give up his dreams that he started school for and take a retail job while he figures out what to do. I am always worried that deep down he will be sad that things didn’t work out that way.

      It really was just the worst time to come fresh out of college into an economy that was laying off seasoned veterans in the workforce and basically collapsing all around us. I’ve struggled myself, even with my degree and it is only more than 4 years later that we are finally getting out feet under us…

      So I guess my five year plan from here on out would be to have a better next five years than the last five… Get a sweet job that has benefits that I feel is making a difference in the world (however one defines that). Rock my art skills in my local community. And help my partner find something that makes him happy where he can make a difference too, and maybe find a way to develop his passions into a hobby.

      Thats not very detailed… and sometimes that a little scary… but I guess it is the best we’ve got at the moment… lol. And I’ll take that. ^_^

    • Cathy

      I am such a planner…or was. I had always thought I would
      Get a degree in engineering
      Get a graduate job in engineering and earn good money
      Get married and have babies
      All by age 28.

      Reality bit in 2006 when I realised that I didn’t actually want to sit in front of a computer all day drawing on CAD, so I didn’t stay on to do my masters. I still feel a little sad about not doing what I set out to do, but right at this moment I am glad I took that decision.

      It’s hard dealing with ‘what if’ but it’s harder living a life that isn’t what you want.

      • Cathy

        With health issues being a big part of my life, my current 5 year plan is:
        Enjoy married life
        Stay healthy and happy by avoiding stress, exercising and doing things I love. (Including making time for friends!)
        And hopefully within the next 1-3years, instigate project baby. Fingers crossed!

  • Stalking Sarah

    I would like us to have:
    2 kids (or 1 + 1 en route) – current: zero
    2 jobs we both love – current: 1.5
    a home that has access to green space, is in a progressive neighborhood, has good schools, can host guests periodically, and that we can afford – current: 3/5 criteria
    4 parents all in good health – current: 4

  • A few months ago, I was going through an old journal that included a long-forgotten “five year plan” I had written out over five years ago. I was very much surprised to find that I had accomplished every single item on the list, including my seemingly spontaneous home purchase (oh, quarter life crisis) and the sabbatical pipe dream. It still amazes me that 22-year-old me knew my future self so well.

    So for the next five years?

    Finish graduate school
    Land a job that justifies taking a two-year break from my career
    Have a kid or two
    Finish the currently-in-progress projects around the house, including the bathroom reno we’ve been working on for the last two years.
    And the pipe dream: Return to Thailand with kid(s) in tow for an extended (1 year+) stay. Though this might be creeping into “ten year plan” territory.

  • I am finding this question a bit difficult at the moment. I figured I was about halfway through a 5 year plan that included getting engaged and married to my boyfriend.

    We got almost up to the point of being engaged (I think) and had to call it off. Again.

    This time I’m the one who balked, since he’s clearly depressed and needs to get help for that. It doesn’t much feel like he wants to get engaged right now, so I told him not to ask.

    I’m having a lot of feels about this, all of them bad. I feel like a sucker for even planning. And now I don’t know when we’re getting married. Or if we’re getting married.

    I’m thinking I shouldn’t be planning much of anything for awhile.

    • LikelyLaura

      That sounds really hard. I hope you can work in a feeling of pride into your mix of emotions. You made a tough decision for the benefit of you and your boyfriend that I’m not sure many people would be clear-headed enough to make. FWIW, I’m impressed.

      • Thanks. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

      • Kristen

        I heart that you said this because it’s both completely true and so helpful to hear these kinds of things when times are tough.

  • kate

    I’m loving reading everyone’s plans so I’ll contribute a rough one of my own.

    After our wedding in October (two months and four days!) Matt and I will sit down a really think about a few big pieces of this

    1. Make a five and ten-year plan for the effort to start our own restaurant with Matt as cook.
    a. a financial plan for the cost to start a restaurant.*
    b. *business planning classes and such
    c. a financial plan for Matt to quit his current job and work some as cook in local restaurants (chain and hopefully not)
    d. a timeline that we can stay close to while knowing that it’ll be a bit wily with money and jobs and life.

    2. Figure out what/if I want to do for a career beyond secretary and further my education, if need be, to pursue that.

    2a. Is there a career in answering emails? I’m the best at that. People hate it – seems like there’d be a market!

    2b. Is there a career in a “seamless/grubhub” like delivery business in a small/medium sized area? You order your food online or over the phone, we place a take out order with the restaurant (because no-one around here delivers, except pizza), we deliver to you.

    3. Make couple friends to have sweet dinner parties with.

    4. Make girlfriends to hang out with (occasional dinners, movies, mani/pedis?!)

    5. Consider having/adopting a baby and maybe act on that.

    6. Travel somewhere significant. (Maybe more than one place.)

    • There’s definitely a place for delivery businesses. All the cities I’ve lived in (three, all small to mid sized) have had at least one delivery service like you describe. So it’s definitely possible.


      Another Oct 12 wedding here with future plans to start a restaurant! (Although I’m thinking after I retire…) Good luck – sounds like fun.

  • Not Sarah

    I just turned 25 last month. I am single and I don’t know if I want kids. I bought a condo last year and I have a good, stable career.

    My plan for the next 5 years is basically to live the f*ck out of my twenties. I didn’t do a very good job of that in the first 5 years, so I’m making more of a conscious effort to do so in the next 5 years. So far, so good.

    I have some more specific financial goals as part of my 5 year plan, but life-wise? I don’t know if I want kids. I don’t know if I want to get married.

    I joked to a friend that my plan is to stay single for the next 5 years and then marry one of my good guy friends. He agreed that he had a similar 5 year plan.

    I used to be a planner, but post-college, it’s kind of hard. I hit my 5 year post-high school plan wonderfully: 1) go to university to be a software developer, 2) get good co-op terms, 3) graduate with said degree, 4) get a good job post-college, and 5) move back to the west coast. Check, check, check, check, and check. I hit my university plans of checking off all the requirements for both of my majors. Instead of feeling “Now what?” I’m sticking to my plan of living the f*ck out of my twenties for the next 5 years. Enjoying where I am.

    • Anon

      Oh I so feel you on this. Perhaps it’s because we had demanding majors (chemical engineer) and then started working right out of school, but I too feel like I didn’t do a good job of really living in my early 20s. I’m now 26 and in a totally different place than I was a year ago. I’ve finally started living. And it’s awesome.

      One of my friends recently asked me where I see myself in 5 years and I said “Hopefully not married.” HA! That was the only thing that came to mind.

      So I feel you on this. Right now, I’m just living. No plans. Just living. Virtual fist bump to you.

      • Not Sarah

        It’s great to hear someone else feel the same way! Virtual fist bump right back atcha :)

      • Cathy

        Totally agree! I may notnhave done chemical myself, but I can vouch for how immersive the engineering univwrsity experience is!

        It’s like the world is in colour now!

  • I have these life markers that I want… to finish my phd, to have a little, to move back to Texas. And for me, those are the things that will happen, in one way or the other.

    When I listen to my heart, all that I hear calling back from me is the desire to form friendships with women who are fantastic. I actually would really love to create a group like the lovebomb ( or the tribe ( So, I suppose that’s the general focus of my five-year-plan.

  • deva

    I struggle with the five-year plan, if only because in the past when I’ve set goals in that large of a block of time life vomits on me and I end up with a whole new plan.

    Had you asked me five years ago where I would be today, I would say that Allen and I would have been married a lot longer than two months, and that we would be living in a house in the suburbs. As it turned out, we are living in a house in an urban area, married 2.5 months, with a lot more cats than we thought we would ever have (which isOK with both of us).

    Right now, the five-year plan for me is to work on establishing myself as a freelance writer and photographer and hopefully to figure out some social marketing aspects of my career. To actually work toward my annual verbs and to create and grow – create the life I want to live with my husband, grow as a person and as a couple. In five years we hope to have one child, but also to have traveled to San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, and Nashville.

  • Oh gosh, my 5 year plan is… touch and go…

    – buy a car (probably in about 6 months)
    – finish my BA (like, 9 years after I started…I seriously have 1 class left…)
    – get an MPA and MPP (because we don’t have any joint programs here…)
    – hopefully meet someone (again) and get married (again), because in 5 years I will be 31, and I really would like to have at least 1 baby…

    • DC

      I have an MPP and have never felt like I needed an MPA. They are basically interchangeable as degrees (for example at my university the only way they decide whether you are accepted to an MPA vs an MPP is the number of years of work experience/prior degrees you have). So I’d consider looking in to whether you really need both.

  • First of all, this community is amazing! What smart and talented people! Simply incredible.

    I’ve never done a 5 year plan or list or anything like that before. It’s always been about keeping my head above water and being hyper-focused with the tasks at hand.

    But… It’s be cool to:

    1. Give a proper tribute to my late poetry professor <— making this happen this weekend!
    2. Get the boy all the way to 2nd grade with the proper skills to succeed (like knowing how to pick up the ladies)
    3. Foster a sense of community in my family and our neighborhood
    4. Figure out how to get an agent, write a book proposal, etc. I just do not understand!
    5. Finish my social media / search marketing certificate
    6. Landscape my backyard
    7. Take a family vacation. Twice!
    8. Go on a honeymoon. Without my son. Which may actually take me more than 5 years to be able to do.
    9. Get in another roller derby vacation – I'm lookin' at you Prague City Roller Derby
    10. Curse less. Or not.

    Whew! That was hard.

  • Caroline

    We were just talking about our 5 year plan/dreams/hopes/expectations as part of our homework from the rabbi who is marrying us.
    Personally, my five-year-plan includes:
    1) Get married. (next summer)
    2) Graduate with my bachelors
    3) Get an interesting job that pays enough in the Bay Area where I can maintain a good work/life balance.
    4) Make progress on my goal of being a thought leader. (Sort of… regularly writing op-eds, speaking in the media, being a recognized and respected part of public dialogue.) I think in 5 years this looks like having published multiple articles and having been asked to speak 3 times whether on radio, in person, on tv, or whatever.
    5) Travel
    6) Save for a house (probably not buy one in 5 years)
    7) Baby????? Maybe.

    Our together 5 year plan also includes him graduating and getting a nice job (same qualifications as mine, really).

    • Wow, your #4 has been in my brain for a long time, too, but I never phrased it as “thought leader,” and I really like that. Really.

      In my vision, it involves a lot of writing for local outlets and volunteering/being involved in community events. Meet back here in 5 years and see how it went?

      • Caroline

        Sounds good. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but I took a day-long seminar run by the op-ed project which was really cool. It gave me a lot of courage and feeling like submitting op-eds was something I could do. Have I done it yet? No, but I’m much closer (Courage wise, and also op-ed-in-revision-sitting-on-my-desk-wise.) They also have really useful information on their website. (Like how to submit an op-ed to various papers.)

        Do you want to be writing accountability buddies?
        ctaymor at gmail dot come

        • Caroline

          obviously, dot com not dot come. oops

        • Sounds good to me. I have very little patience with myself in terms of writing things that aren’t good enough or don’t have an audience. I want to be good at it, NOW. So I have to remind myself of Ira Glass’ advice about allowing your skill to catch up with your taste.

          • Caroline

            That’s a helpful way of thinking of it. I too struggle with giving my skill time to catch up to my taste.

        • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

          The Op-Ed project makes me so happy! I like the idea of multiple publications and interview requests as a goal. Not quite to the point of prioritizing that goal for myself yet, but it’s on my mid-distance plan.

  • Catherine McK

    Oh these are so fun!
    I’ll play, but I’ll start my 5 year clock on 6/1/13:
    – Get married – Check
    – Have a kid – in progress!!
    – Go to grad school – application 90% complete
    – Keep traveling with family, make it to all 50 states, get little a passport and add stamps
    – Find a home we love, can afford, and will grow with us. Not too big, with some yard, good schools, and friendly neighbors.
    – Figure out this career path stuff
    – Support husband as he gets his MBA
    – Have another kid?
    – Raise interesting, smart, and kind children
    – TBD

  • Lan

    1) Pay off student loans
    2) Be above water on the mortgage
    3) Babies if it happens. If not, travel the world.

    All achievable.

  • Ann

    In three weeks, I start my PhD. That right there is a five (or six!) year plan. I’m hoping to have a first baby sometime in year 3 or 4–which I’ve heard is very doable from other grad students in the department (a natural sciences department! That supports its grad students who take maternity/paternity leave! So much so that my soon to be adviser had me talk to a current 5th year student with a 1 year old).

    But I don’t know what the next 5 years holds for my husband. He’s languishing in his PhD program now, wanting to quit after this next semester so he can move to be with me. If his research magically starts going better, he could work remotely. But hopefully he can find a job in the greater Boston area that he either loves and works hard at or tolerates with sufficient time to enjoy life.

    Ultimately, I want us to be happy. That will involve some therapy for him. It might involve one or both of us not finishing our PhDs. It might involve moving to the other side of the world (the hardest thing about that idea is that we probably couldn’t bring our cat!). All I want is for us to be happy. Everything else doesn’t matter.

    • Caroline

      I know! I want to travel lots, and I’d love to travel for a month or two, or even live somewhere else for a year, but I can’t bear the idea of giving our cat away, and couldn’t afford to board him for a month (nor would he be happy).

  • If you had asked me just over a month ago, I would have been able to list some goals. But. My life and future dissolved before my eyes about a month ago when my husband (100% unexpectedly) came home from a business trip and announced he had fallen in love with another woman and was leaving me.


    It feels like my world stopped. I have found myself trying to wrap my head around the broken dreams and expectations I had for our marriage and life. I am now forced to stare at a wide-open future that I did not want. I have to start over, and do it on my own. And I am in a country that is not my own. But I think I will keep building my life here. It’s what feels like the most right option in a very wrong-feeling nightmare.

    And I will come up with a plan. But not today. For now my only plans are to survive day to day, and even hour by hour or minute by minute. But yes….someday I will be able to dream again, to carve out my own path into the future.

    • Catherine McK

      Ooof, internet hugs lady. And internet whiskey. Here’s to slogging through and brighter days ahead.

    • Hugs, lady. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

    • Breck

      Oh god, Jenny. My heart goes out to you. I’ve been lurking around your blog a bit, and I was wondering what had happened. I am so, so sorry.

      For now, getting through each day is more than enough. Eventually, you’ll have a little pile of days that you’ve survived, and then you’ll realize you can do a little more than that.

      Sending the biggest, fluffiest internet hug your way.

    • Thank you….

  • So seeing everyone who said they didn’t have plans made me feel better about the uncertainty in my life. My partner has 3 years left to complete grad school (maybe 4? if necessary), so we can’t really plan beyond concretely right now. But in the next three years, I’d like to:

    1. Kick ass as a dance instructor, including:
    a. Recruiting same-sex couples to the studio (boss is super-friendly about it, can’t wait)
    b. Become a better and better instructor, so I’m requested as a teacher
    c. Compete in swing-dancing (this one’s been on my list for years)
    d. Learn as much as I can- by example and counter-example on how to run a studio

    2. Become a certified yoga instructor (have nearly all the $$ saved for training this fall)
    a. Use knowledge to increase my own mental/physical health and make our home healthier

    3. Marry my man (we’re finally talking timelines. he’s a dreamer, so I have to remind him that far-off things need concrete present steps)

    4. Continue pursuing volunteer work in the community, possible places if schedule allows:
    a. Train as a Master Gardener
    b. Train as a mediator
    c. Serve on the local utility board

    5. Travel through more of the West/Midwest while we’re here
    a. take long weekend trips through NE and neighboring states
    b. Visit San Francisco (hopefully next August, when partner has a conference!)

    And then for our next move, I’d really like to live in one more place. As in, I’d like to live in one other region of the US that I haven’t yet, maybe West Coast or Northeast, before (possibly, if that’s what we want) moving back to PA. But that’s pretty nebulous and heaven only knows what jobs/parents’ health will bring.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      Plug for Custer State Park when you do a long weekend trip in South Dakota. If you can manage the Buffalo Round-up weekend all the better.

  • Despite that I love to plan, I love lists, and I love love love goals, the 5 Year Plan terrifies me. My sister, very much an idealist, had a 5 year plan and as things go less and less according to plan (though she has a very lovely life IF SHE COULD ONLY SEE THE FOREST FOR THE EFFIN’ TREES… ahem, excuse me. There’s some tension…) she falls further and further from living her real life and sitting around waiting for her dream life to start happening. She wants work to be different, but won’t apply for anything else. She wants a child so badly that she cannot have a conversation without mentioning it (for the last 18 months, at least) and does not find any joy in anything that is not figuring out why she isn’t pregnant and what she can do to ‘fix’ the problem.

    Maybe I wouldn’t react as she does if I had my own 5 year plan, but I am not really willing to risk it.

    • Rebekah


      My sister and I aren’t terribly close due to just generally not being the kinds of people who are best friends, so I have my own (sometimes tension-filled) views on her future plans and how she could do/deserves better. So I feel ya here. Hugs.

      Would you be willing to talk to your sister about setting one or two matching 5-year goals (more like a bucket list item) and then doing them together? Perhaps tending a garden or learning to skydive or putting together family genealogy.

      I hope no matter what that you are able to be loving and emotionally supportive of your sister even when you don’t get what is going on in her brain.

  • april

    Year 1: Get married (in a month!) then try to stop hemmoraging money
    Year 2: Save money, travel, husband applies for phd programs
    Year 3: Move wherever the husband goes for grad school — preferrably the West coast!; quit amazing job that I’ll be very sad to leave, but compensate by finding a new job that lets me do more ocean policy work
    Year 4: Save money, travel
    Year 5: Save money, travel, start thinking about the whole baby thing ….

    Yeah — so my 5 year plan is kind of unexciting. Five years from now I basically just want to be in a good place (professionally, financially, physically, mentally) to start thinking about buying a house and starting a family.

  • CeeBeeUK

    Yikes, terrifying but a good helpful point for discussion (should probably wait for post-fieldwork, we can’t see beyond me coming home at this point).

    Autumn 2014: Get married
    Spring 2015: Start the visa process to establish residency
    Autumn 2015: Finish the PhD
    Winter 2015: Find a job (hopefully to coincide with the end of the PhD, the only thing worse than a dissertating CeeBee is a CeeBee with too much time on her hands)
    Work, work, work
    Start thinking about making fat little babies! (maybe 4 years out?)

  • I tend to not make huge long-term plans because I’ve found that things don’t always (or even generally) work out the way they are planned. For example, my five-year plan starting undergrad would have ended with ‘get a full-time job with benefits as a researcher and live far away from my family of origin.’ In reality I graduated in the middle of a recession and could find anything better than temp or retail work, and was forced to move back in with my (extremely toxic) family. It sounds pessimistic, but I’ve found that being flexible and adaptable is generally more useful than having a plan.

    Really at this point my plans are:

    -Finish my PhD
    -Try to find a job I enjoy most of the time that also pays me a living wage and provides benefits
    -Move away from Texas

    and possibly
    -Get a dog
    -Travel, if I can spare the money

  • I love love love plans. For short-term plans, like a year or less, I’m all about SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-oriented. Or better, SMARTER with Evaluate and Reevaluate tacked on the end.) But for long-term, five year style plans, I’m much more into getting really detailed about how I want to feel, and staying super, super open to any possible ways of getting to that feeling. Basically I keep asking myself “Why do I want that?” until I feel really confident I’ve gotten to the bottom of my motivations.

    So, in 5 years:

    1) I want to feel financially secure. To me this means meeting monthly obligations like utilities and mortgage, having an “emergency fund” that would cover the most likely emergencies (car or major appliance breakdown, 3-6 months of unemployment, emergency health issue), actively contributing to retirement fund, being able to pay for top-priority luxuries (plane tickets to visit family), and being able to choose at least one mid-priority luxury on a regular basis (activities for child, continuing education, nice clothes, major but not required household projects).
    2) I want to have a hobby. I want to feel like I’m growing and learning in an area that is neither job nor family related.
    3) I want to continue to have a great relationship with my husband. I’m having a hard time pinpointing this one, but it’s a specific feeling I have that I would like to continue having… I think it boils down to regularly expressing appreciation and gratitude.
    4) I want to feel satisfied with the size of my family. Right now that looks like having at least one more kid, but could change to be anywhere from being pregnant with my 4th at that point to feeling content with having an only child.

    I think that’s it. I’ve got a lot of more specific ideas, but they’re not really plans. I intend to try them out and see if they actually fit the 4 things I listed, and if they don’t I have no problem dumping them and trying something different.

    • I like this strategy on focusing on the way you want to feel. I’ve done exercises before where you describe an ideal day at some point (3-5 years) in the future, and describe it in as much detail as possible. What does it smell like? Who are you with? What are you actually doing throughout the day? It brings together the super specific (‘Be successful” can mean anything) while also focusing on the feelings (security, excitement, whatever) so you can see how you get to that end goal already.

      The frustrating part for me is/was when I know how I want to feel but don’t know how to get there. Or I change my mind about getting there every other month.

      • Honestly, if there’s anything I’ve learned during young adulthood, it’s that getting to the places I want usually happens in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined or planned for. Keeping my ultimate goal in mind allows me to evaluate and reevaluate things as they come up. Does this option make me feel closer to my goal? If no, then no matter how interesting it sounds, I can take a pass on it. (Or reevaluate my goal, if it’s that important.) If yes, it’s probably worth doing, even if it doesn’t seem like something I “should” do.

        My relationship with my husband is probably my best ever example. Literally the day before I first got together with him, I was thinking about a recently ended relationship and wrote in my journal that I wanted to love someone like I loved the sunrise–without needing or being needed, just because it’s beautiful. I totally expected my husband to be a weekend fling, he wasn’t anything I thought I was looking for in a long term partner, but went for it because I didn’t need him and he didn’t need me but we both clearly thought the other person was awesome, and that fit my overarching love goal. 12 years later, here we are…

      • I once did an exercise of describing outloud to a group an ideal moment in the future…in the present tense, ie., “I am….”

        It was SUPER helpful to articulate it in such a specific way, as if I was living it. I still think back to that, and it is still my goal. Like, it is a reason I am staying in the country I am in and trying to rebuild here. I believe what I articulated in that moment in 2006 is more possible here than anywhere else I could (re)build my life. So I choose to keep working towards that dream here where I currently live. But yeah….excellent exercise. I think your comment made me want to elaborate on that exercise for where I am now in life. I have my professional, artistic moment in the future. But maybe I should articulate a personal one. Perhaps something for the journal today? Thanks for the idea.

        • Jenny- I did that exercise once, too. I remember the scene so vividly-

          Me, short hair, yellow blouse, toddler in my arms in a big, window-y apartment in the Bay Area. Happy. Really happy.

          Thanks for reminding me about that!

    • Caroline

      Feeling financially secure is a BIG 5 year goal of mine also. I don’t really think it’s going to happen until 5 years (due to my sweetie heading back to school and me still in school), but definitely, 5 years from now, I want to feel financially secure.

  • Laura Lee

    Some of the stuff on my checklist for the next 5 years:
    1. Babies! Our current timeline would bring 2 tiny people into our family in the next 5 years.
    2. Fulfilling career! I’ve started taking baby steps to finding what that might be and then figuring out how to get there.
    3. Travel to exciting places with my husband before we start the babies thing. I know life doesn’t end when you have kids, but we’d like to really take time to appreciate our time as just the two of us and take advantage of it by traveling.

    Other than that, I’m pretty much keeping it open :)

    • Laura Lee

      Oh, and a more immediate goal: get those damn thank you notes written and sent! This Saturday will be 6 weeks since the wedding and I haven’t even started… oops. I think as long as I don’t go past 2 months I’ll feel ok about it.

  • Pamela

    My five year plan (in no particular order):

    1. help my husband to find a job he likes in a better field
    2. buy a house (we know what we can afford, we have the loan pre-approval…but the CA housing market is soooo wonky that we can’t buy anything right now because inventory is so low)
    3. get a dog (once we have a house/yard for it – dogs aren’t allowed in our apartment)
    4. have a baby or two (we’re still negotiating this one)
    5. have my car paid off (will happen later this year! Woot!) and then have a healthy chunk saved up for my husband’s next car
    6. keep progressing in my career

  • Mariah

    At my wedding, when asked by my mother about kids, I said that they’re somewhere in the 5-year plan. She replied “5-year plan?! What is this, Leninist Russia?”

  • My 5 Year Plan (not complete)

    Own a successful business and move to California or Washington D.C for at least a couple of years. It’s time for a little change in scenery!

  • rachel

    this is a really fun open thread! lots of big, amazing goals listed by everyone!

    my plan (ish) —
    2013: Get engaged, apply to and start a part-time online grad program, finish a big project at work, get certified in my field, get a raise, and set an OFFICIAL wedding date (first 2 out of 7 done so far). Save $$!

    2014: Find a new rental place because our landlords are selling the house, plan the wedding, balance part-time grad school with full-time work, take on another big project at work, get promoted, and take an exotic vacation (galapagos? costa rica?). Save $$!

    2015: Get married! and honeymoon! And continue grad school work. maybe relocate with husband for new adventures/jobs. Maybe buy a house?

    2016: Hopefully finish grad school, or get pregnant, or both. Buy a house this year or next if we haven’t yet.

    2017: Spend some time at home with a baby or two. Hoping to work part-time from home for a while if possible. Soak up the joy of life and family!


  • Carolyn

    In a lot of ways he and I are still adjusting to exiting our last five year plan (get married, graduate x2, find post-docs in the same city) It’s a bit of a hazy gray area where the plan is sort of “generally be happy and appreciative that we made it here,” which we very much are. But since post-docs are finite, and I’m a planner by nature, I’ll forge into the next 5:
    – put down roots
    — get one (hopefully two) tenure-track positions
    — make more of us
    — house maybe?
    – take one or two big trips (short list: china, iceland, russia, south pacific)
    – prioritize spending time with friends and family

  • I have so many plans…too many. The dream five year plan is:

    1. Launch a successful commercial/editorial food and fashion photography business.
    2. Have a baby and still be able to work flexibly.
    3. Buy a house in the Bay Area.
    4. Help my husband to launch his dream startup.
    5. Successfully launch said startup, have financial freedom.

    May as well aim high, ‘aight?

  • Jess

    I’ve never been a 5 year plan sort…I have a hard time looking to the future. But man, what Maddie said about more happening in five years then she could have imagined….I am right there with her. But I’m more shocked by how much can happen in one year. Seriously.

    A year ago, I was 6 months broken up with my previous long term boyfriend and casually dating an old friend from work. Now I’m planning a wedding, living in a *beautiful* new apartment, a month away from starting grad school in a totally kick ass field, and about 10 days away from being a puppy mommy.

    Those were all things that maybe could have happened in 5 years. Sure, maybe I’d get married…someday. I dreamed of having a dog, but that was at least a few years away, right? And grad school? No thanks. Love my freelance animation career.

    I think it was my partner….having him meant I could do all the crazy things, have all the crazy dreams, and still have someone safe to come home to. I can’t believe how quickly things changed once he came into my life.

    And I’m still not sure what my mom is more shocked by….that I got engaged to the friend I had been dating for 9 months, or that I’m getting a masters. Pretty sure its the grad school. :)

  • Susanna

    Hmmm, I’ve actually never sat down and clearly defined my goals like this.
    1) Start fostering, potentially adopt.
    2) Ascertain whether or not I can be fulfilled in my career without a graduate degree.
    3) Possibly (probably) get my MSW.
    4) Move somewhere semi-permanent.
    5) Buy a home, or begin making steps to buy a home.
    6) Go back to Uganda at least once, this time with my husband.

  • Kate

    How timely. My husband and I JUST TODAY came up with a 3 year 10 month plan to eliminate my student loans. That’s kind of like a 5 year plan!

    I graduated from law school in 2009. I have been paying diligently, but I still have $118,869 in student debt. All semi-private (through my state, but still not eligible for any cool federal repayment programs). I am incredibly fortunate in that I can afford the monthly payments, and I like my job, and I like being a lawyer… but I still feel trapped by the principal of the thing. What if I wanted to stop lawyering? or take a public interest job? If I pay as I have been, it’ll be 16 years before I can do any of that. Much less afford day-care for a wee one.

    So we talked about it. We have a savings buffer. We have a stable place to live (we rent). We’re in our late 20s. We’re going to cut our personal savings way down (still contribute to retirement, but not actively save for a house like we have been) and triple the monthly payments that I’ve been making. IF we do that, the monstrous debt will be paid off in 3 years, 10 months.

    I know it isn’t always the smartest move, financially, to throw all your money at student loans. But personally this is the right decision, and I’m really eager to tackle it head on. In the meantime, I’ll just take deep breaths.

    • Breck

      That is awesome! Congrats on figuring that out!

      By the end of the year, I’ll have my credit card and my one private student loan (with like $26k of federal loans left, haha) paid off, and I am SO EXCITED.

    • Joy

      I feel you on this. We’ve got a monstrous amount of student loan debt from my partner’s time in med school and a wee sum compared to his from my undergrad days. We’re not even paying on his loans right now because it just is not doable on our salaries. So we’re waiting on residency to be over, but watching that interest add up hurts! We recently paid off two small balance credit cards and it felt so wonderful! I CANNOT WAIT to pay off those med school loans. Anyway, how the hell are you supposed to save for house/kids/retirement/travel and pay off those monsters? And I’ve been considering going back to school. Blarg.

    • brenda

      Do it!
      I took out $140k for my college degree and graduate degree…smart I know. I held my breath and planned to have it paid off in five years. Five years later I have $25k left (missed a year of extra payments because of unemployment) and I can breath again. If I hadn’t paid it off I would be looking at $1000 a month payment and an additional $100k of interest payments over 20 years. I think paying off student loans quickly is a smart financial move!

  • Another Annie

    Hmm, I’ll give it a shot! I’ll start with time-specific goals:

    -Move cities and move in with my partner
    -Start my new job
    -Begin a raw food diet for the cats
    -Begin exercising 30 minutes 3x per week (or equivalent)

    -Finish my AS degree
    -Apply and get accepted to university
    -Get promoted again
    -Complete my BPM certification
    -Partner gets promoted

    -Celebrate 5 years at my company!
    -Get promoted again (this one will be a promotion to exempt status aka salaried)

    -Finish my BS degree
    -Partner finishes his AS degree in engineering
    -Partner gets promotion
    -DEBT FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    -No plans yet!

    -Partner finishes his BS degree in engineering
    -Partner gets an engineering job, preferably in another city
    -We move to this new city and buy a house!

    Non-time specific goals include:
    -Visit Vermont (my obsession) several times
    -Get engaged and married
    -Save 20% of a reasonably-priced home
    -Lose a sufficient amount of weight that my health is not in danger & back pain is reduced
    -Learn to dress better (and more professionally)
    -After we are out of debt, begin maxing out our retirement accounts

  • I don’t think I’ve ever had a 5 year plan and, looking back on what was 5 years ago, I would never have guessed my life would end up this way.

    If I were to make a 5 year plan now it would probably look something along the lines of:

    1. Get my health under control. Even if it’s still going to deteriorate, a treatment plan and diagnosis would be great.
    2. Be in school or be working – full or part time. Whatever I can handle.
    3. Have babies. Adopt babies. Just…babies.
    4. Be happy. Be happy now and not just for what might happen.

    Boom. Now I have a 5 year plan.

  • Remy

    5 years ago, I would never have been able to come up with a 5-year plan. Outwardly, I scoffed at the idea; inwardly I was terrified of it. But life has stabilized! More or less.* I think I’m in the second year of a plan that I have jokingly titled “my invisible calendar” — although, once we entered the engagement phase, these things were discussed so frequently and intensely that it’s not really invisible anymore.

    -get married (Done)
    –finish grad school (Done)
    -pay off student loans (Done)
    -get a new job (preferably in the new industry, but I’d make exceptions for awesomeness)
    -start adoption paperwork
    -move to a new location with more garden space (possibly buying instead of renting)
    -match with a child and biofamily / adoptive placement / adoption finalized
    -depending on how that goes and how long it takes, start the process for a second adoption

    The timeline for FINISHING these steps is rather fuzzy; from everything I’ve heard and read, adoption ducks are super wily. But that’s what things look like from now until 2016ish.

    *Except that it’s almost certain that my wife will unexpectedly be attending a small private liberal arts college nearby… in three weeks. So add “get wife through rest of bachelor’s + Master’s/teaching certification”. SURPRISE!

  • Ali S

    I don’t even think I can count the number of times my five year plan has been uprooted in the past five years!! So for now, I’m sticking with two years. Within the next two years, I will:
    1. Get married (9 months from now whattt)
    2. Figure out what I want to do with my life, and do it.
    3. Buy a house
    4. Get a dog (which would be sooner in my eyes, but the fiance won’t let me until we own the place with puppy messes all over it).

    What a fun open thread, I’m wishing everyone luck on their own 5-year plans! (or no plans, I like that too!!)

  • Joy

    In the next five years, I hope to settle on a career, even if it means coming to terms with not wanting one that badly. If I want one, this probably includes grad school, which makes me anxious because I’m 29 and haven’t figured this crap out, yet. My partner and I want to move to the pacific northwest once he’s done with residency in three years (or at least some place with mountains). We want to start paying off those med school loans and save for a house at the same time (eek) and start trying to have babies in four or five years. Oh, and travel as much as we can!

  • Libby

    Woof okay!

    -Partner gets new position that leaves him feeling more fulfilled and valued (in progress!)
    -Finish my hours, study and take LCSW exam
    -Pass and become a Licensed Clinical Social worker
    -Get married! (July 2014)
    -Law school for partner, hopefully back home close to family
    -Build life and marriage back home with extended family, start to really settle in and put roots down.
    -Build career in new area, move into supervisory position/program management
    -Somewhere near the end of 5 years, thoughts about buying a home and a baby!

    • Libby

      Trying for a baby, not buying one… woops! :)

      • Argh! I reported instead of replied!

      • What I was going to say is that I frequently discuss babies in terms of ‘make or buy’ (ie – conceive or adopt), so buying is not totally beyond the pale.

  • R

    So, the five year plan has some gaps (will we buy a house? will we move to yet another state? who knows?), but it goes something like this:

    Move back across the country in two months. Find a new job in the city I had a job in before I moved across the country to go to grad school.
    Become an architect (grad school + 1 exam down, 1300 more hours of internship and 6 more exams to go)
    Get my black belt in judo (step one: start going to the dojo again)
    Babies! Probably raised in rental housing (see house?)

    I also have an extensive list of places I want to travel, but I treat that as more of a lifetime list thing…

  • catherine

    Hmm.. Love reading these!! Love this thread!! Well, I like to plan, I like to dream, I like envisioning things…is my life where I thought it would be at this time? Not exactly/partially.

    Rough five year plan:

    1.Get married next summer.
    2. Get great talent representation
    3. Financial security
    4. freeze partner’s eggs!!!!!!!
    5. possibly have baby, start making one, whatever we need to do!
    6. get undergrad degree in psychology???? (!!!!!)
    7. Travel
    8. Get a great place with a yard for puppydoodle
    9. Figure out a way for my partner to have more time for herself/ more life/work balance

    • catherine

      OH and forgot to add- also work through my anxiety and fears – WORK ON MY FEAR OF FLYING. Because I want to travel sooooooo badly, but I’m SOOOOOO terrified of flying!!!!!

  • Hypothetical Sarah

    I keep a sticky note on my desktop that says “Plans are worthless but planning is everything. No plan survives contact with the enemy but the exercise of going through all the thinkings and mulling over is the real value.”

    We’re in an transitory phase for the next few years. I’m good with short-term plans (start postdoc next month) and 4-5 years-from-now plans (move back to US; find fulfilling jobs near family on the East coast; baby?–timing dependent on jobs and life). The 2-4 year range looks more like a flow chart (“if A, then…; if B, then…; if C, then…”) since there are so many variables at play.

  • Emmers

    5 year plan

    1) get married

    2) pay down debt

    3) maybe have kids?

    4) save for and maybe buy a house?

    So scary and exciting at the same time!

  • I am loving reading all of these comments. What a powerful group of ladies.

    For me?

    – a happy home life. find a supportive, loving and trusting partner. share values, visions & projects.
    – an active place in a community of warm, welcoming, creative friends
    – a thriving career in food & portrait photography. working on stories and with people that excite me and make me laugh.
    – a strong and healthy body. the same for my folks and my brother.
    – frequent collaborations with non-profits and NGOs, helping to tell their stories in visually compelling ways
    – more time spent in Rwanda
    – financial security
    – a good dog

  • Kat

    Lots of amazing plans here!

    • Kat

      Oops, posted that too fast…

      My 5 year plan in mid 2008 included:
      Get married (we got engaged Feb 08).
      Finish my PhD.
      Get a job and save money (for travel).
      Travel to Europe for at least 3 months (maybe move there and work?).
      Move to a new city.
      Get a job in new city.

      The only one that didn’t happen was moving to a new city (and the job there). We drove around Europe in a (tiny) campervan for three months (late 2012) and planned to come home, save some money then move. But husband got a new position with his company and wanted to stay for a few years to get the most out of it. So we’re still here…

      So new plan –
      Have baby (this is underway, only 3 months to go!)
      Take parental leave for 7 months (or not, see how that goes)
      Go back to work part time (or not, see how that goes)
      Move to a new city.
      Buy house? Or be get into a financial position to buy house.

      • AVA

        Omg Kat! I have the same 5 year plan as your 2008 plan…

        I’m so glad to hear it worked out!!

        (I’ve been struggling to figure out whether have a baby should also go in the plan or wait for the next 5).

  • lady brett

    you guys and your ridiculous timeliness. i have never had a plan before in my life. or a goal, really. i’ve always just kind of done things when they seem right.

    i failed an art assignment in high school to “draw yourself in five years” because i couldn’t think of *anything*. turned in a blank page. true story. so the fact that we now have a fairly concrete 6-year plan is boggling to me. but the plan itself makes me giddy:

    it kind of starts in year 3 with:
    1. graduate the wife from college in a degree (finally) that she loves and is perfect for her. this involves secondary steps of keep working (and reminding yourself that it’ll be worth it in the long run), repair and sell house.

    2. get the wife a job and move to another state (still in the south, or at least arguably the south, but with better weather).

    3. be a housewife! (probably still work part-time for a while, because why not? – and we’ll be renting for a while, which limits the amount i can do around the house.)

    4. get the wife a dream job if job 1 was a “we need to make money” starter job. should be easy to do given the field and the fact that my wife is *killer* at what she does.

    4. build our small, low-impact, low-footprint dream house (which i am currently designing and is the highlight of my life) on 2ish lots somewhere still in the city: garden, workshop, chickens.

    • catherine

      Awww you’re in the south! Yay! Ok, I know that’s no big deal, but I’m from North Carolina and I just got excited reading that – I live in California now, but I’ve got a wife-to-be and love hearing about same sex womenn couples in the south :)

      • lady brett

        ooh! NC is where we’re moving (i think)!

  • My post-college 5 year plan did not at ALL happen. I thought I’d go to med school, got burnt out on the idea of that many more years of school and stressful time-consuming training. Moved to Ohio with then boyfriend, now husband instead, thought about pharmacy school and where else we could move in a few years.

    But THEN! I’d say once I got settled, and grew to LOVE our city, the last 5 years have worked out pretty much as planned: get married, finish grad school, sell condo/buy house, have kids.

    Minus the kids part because we’ve decided not to have them after all. New 5 year plan that is forming because of that choice:

    1) Leave the suburbs and buy house in a more urban neighborhood to better fit the lifestyle we want

    2) Continue to plan budget around being able to travel a lot, including 1 big vacation and a few smaller trips per year, with every other year involving out-of-the-country travel

    3) I have a fairly flexible job that provides for great work/life balance that I’ve decided to stay at regardless of the boredom factor, and just have creative hobbies (cooking, photography, a tiny little blog, lots of home DIYing). So a possible goal is to maybe think more about creative pursuits on the side.

  • grace b

    Since leaving college two years ago I’ve become relaxed in a way that I didn’t even think was possible. Like I just don’t stress about things as much. Meeting my boyfriend has been a huge part of that.

    But at the end of the day the both of us are Geminis, oldest in our families and WE LIKE STRUCTURE, dammit. Took a while to verablize that one.

    Next week I will be starting a year long AmeriCorps national program here in Austin. I’ll be doing work that I feel really invested in and excited about — adult literacy, outreach, tutoring, etc. I’m really using this year to get my head straight about how much I want to be in the non-profit world in the future and hopefully get my head on straight when it comes to kicking ass in my (tiny) office.

    And my boyfriend is going to start an 18-month night school program to become an auto mechanic soon. It’s the first thing in his life that he’s done with himself in mind and I am so so proud of him. He also has a background in sewing, working with kids and liturgical art so he’s trying to do those things on the side. Basically he can make us just about anything with a sewing machine, which I love.

    So I guess we have the next year and a half planned? We know we want to get married we just don’t know when yet. And we’ve talked about moving to land some day but I love living in Austin so much that I don’t know if we’ll ever leave!

    Fun to read what everyone else is thinking…

  • I’m leery of 5 year plans, because 5 years ago, I would not have thought I would be where I am. But sure, I’ll bite.

    1. Finish grad school. Fancy degree, bitches.
    2. BABIES! babies babies babies babies.
    3. Don’t kill the dog, even if she does bark all the god damn time.
    4. Finish the house renovations. Pretty please?
    5. Plant a garden.
    6. Find a job that doesn’t make you die inside every day.
    7. Be a better employee who doesn’t spend half her day on APW (what? no. no. surely not me).
    8. Continue to create real and substantive savings.
    9. Blow that substantive savings on international travel. Make someone else take the baby and the dog while you do that, because your friends are suckers.
    10. Make more friends and spend more time with those you have because you are going to die alone in your apartment otherwise.
    11. Feel healthy in your body no matter what size on the label, though if we could go back down to wedding weight, that would be AWESOME but let’s not yo yo because that’s unhealthy. Ahem.
    12. Continue being a motherfucking rockstar who does silly dances and sings made up songs in public because y’all know that shit is the best. (Also, when the BABIES are 12, I will do this in front of them ALL THE TIME because I will be the WORST MOM EVER, OH MY GAWD)
    13. Drive a car for more than 10 minutes without flipping the fuck out because OMG vehicle.
    14. Bike to work. (it’s 7 miles each way)
    15. Get back to running once my body stops trying to implode. Do a half marathon.

    • Remy

      2. BABIES! babies babies babies babies.

      Yes. This is where I am.

    • catherine

      I love this list!!

      And, sorry if this is too personal, but aren’t you in a same sex relationship? (Do I sound like a textbook there?) I just know you from your comments on here! But was just curious about how you guys are going about the baby thing. My partner and I are getting married next summer, and she’s a bit older than me so we’d like to create a baby within the next five years – ideally, we want to freeze her eggs (I’ll carry them, and we would both love to have babies made with each of our eggs) – that whole process is so expensive!!! ugh!! And she’s worried about the quality of her eggs, she’s 37 now. How are you guys doing it??

      • Christina McPants

        We’re both in our early 30s and have explored the donor or adoption… And ultimately, insemination is way cheaper. We’re going with insemination from an anonymous donor, either in a doctors office or at home.

    • MDBethann

      I already have #5, and my #3 would have a cat instead of a dog (because our Siamese can be really, really annoying sometimes), but yes to your whole list except #14 (I live to far from work) and #15 b/c I’ve never liked running.

      • I never liked running either, until I got into about week 4 of a couch to 5K program and realized that I could run for more than 5 minutes at a time. I swear, it’s like the Chariots of Fire song kicked in and I went crazy for running. I don’t like how I seem to have constant running-related issues (shin splints, foot problems, etc…), but that’s partially due to a lack of strength training.

  • With the husband in graduate school (a joint JD/MPP) and graduating in 2.3 years, our plans beyond that time are fuzzy. I just finished my last grad program and am starting a new job in a couple of weeks, so my definite 2.3 year plan is this:

    – Keep a happy home
    – Serve well in our church
    – Support the hard-studying husband
    – Rock the new job
    – Pursue the hobbies I had to put aside while in grad school myself (gives me something to do when the husband has to study)
    – Exercise
    – Stay on top/ahead on finances
    – Be a better friend to those outside my marriage (I neglected a lot in the last year I feel – thanks to grad school and wedding)

    Sometime within 5 years, I anticipate we’ll find Mr. Stretch a rockin’ lawyer job and start having kids. Other than that, we’ll see!

  • Claire

    I’m so late to this conversation but it’s my birthday today so this post is very timely.

    In five years time
    – live in a bigger place with space for the kids, and a kitten, and chickens
    – have jobs that we like, preferably permanent
    – get married, have a party
    – have an overseas holiday, anywhere
    – have no debt, or at least no old debt
    – have babies, ideally healthy and happy
    – be happy, enjoy the ride

  • Sara

    Year 1: Get out of credit card debt, upgrade my old beater truck, get married (wee!)

    Year 2, 3, maybe also 4: Save save save dem monies so we can buy our first investment property (probably an owner-occupied four-plex), try to be good workers, find or create fulfilling work for ourselves, focus on really getting our careers founded

    Year 5: buy said four-plex, move in and find out if we’re cut out to be landlords! Probably start talking about babies.

    Year 6 – Infinity: Take over the world.

  • MDBethann

    Our 5-year plan is to continue on our current path for the next 5 years and then, when I reach my 15-years of gov’t service, re-evaluate things, primarily from the standpoint of my career – do I still like my job? Am I still willing to do the 2 hr round trip commute with children (?) in school? Do I want to do something else closer to home?

    In the mean time, we want to:
    (1) Put an office over the garage for my teleworking hubby & in the process replace the siding, A/C, and roof of our home
    (2) have a child or two. We’re a year in and no luck yet so fingers crossed on this one. Adoption is an option too
    (3) Travel overseas as much as we can, both before and after children (Germany & a trip along the Rhine this winter; maybe Scotland next year)
    (4) Get more involved in volunteer activities
    (5) Finish making curtains for our bedrooms.

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  • Mari

    As a 20 year old, I can really only see into the next year and a half. But here’s the plan:

    2014: He graduates, we get married, he goes to grad school, I graduate
    2015: I move to wherever he’s going to school, get a job at my dream radio station, be financially struggling newlyweds exploring marriage together
    2016-on: Pay off student loans and my car, save up for our first home/owned apartment in whichever metropolitan city we end up living in, be happy, travel, and have as much fun as we can before babies come into the picture.

    Basically, we’re winging it.

    • Mari

      I know there’s a lot of hardships that could be avoided in this plan, but the thing is, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m looking forward to it all.