First I would like to share two magical words: AWESOME BREAK!. I was able to completely disconnect myself from not only my full-time job but also this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do for a living and also enjoy sharing ideas and thoughts on this blog but I was very much in need of some alone time with the family during our favorite time of the year.
Now, let’s get back to it. It’ already the 3rd week of January of 2018 and If you haven’t thought about the 1-3 (or more) things you’d like to accomplish in 2018 then what are you waiting for? … No goals no glory right?.
Last night my wife and I sat down to share our personal, family and financial goals and the conversation went better than expected. The reason I say this is because I tend to be the one who’s more passionate about this stuff but this time around I was actually impressed with some ideas my wife brought to the table. So what was different about this year?
Purpose, agenda, and expectations
Nothing shocking about these three words but they happen to be the essential ingredients for increasing the effectiveness of a meeting. So why am I telling you this? well, because that’s actually what we did. I sent a meeting invite to my wife (which she thought was kind of silly) stating the following:
- Purpose: Go through 2017 results and share/agree on goals for 2018
- Value of setting and agreeing on goals
- Share individual goals
- Discuss family goals
- Agree on financial goals
- Document plan
- Expectations: Be engaged, open-minded, listen, provide feedback and have fun.
- Duration: 2 hours
How Did We Do In 2017?
I should start by saying we did not have a conversation about goals at the beginning of 2017. This was a big lesson learned because as a team we need to have open communication and alignment to make sure we’re both headed in the same direction making decisions that are in line with our agreed objectives. The result of not explicitly discussing our goals was not the end of the world; however, it could have helped in terms of leading with intent and providing proper context around decisions that were made throughout the year.
Now let me share how I/we did in 2017:
|1||Spend more time with spouse & son||Needs Improvement|
|2||Do not use laptop, cell phone or iPad until I put my son to bed||Needs Improvement|
|3||Read 2-3 Investing books & 2-3 leadership books||Exceed Expectations|
|4||Maximize 401(k)||Met Expectations|
|5||Maximize HSA||Met Expectations|
|6||Get 2-3 rental properties||Exceed Expectations|
|7||Get umbrella insurance||Met Expectations|
|8||Adjust life insurance||Met Expectations|
|9||Contribute to 529||Met Expectations|
|10||Reduce amount of money spent on restaurants by 10%||Exceed Expectations|
|11||Start a blog||Exceed Expectations|
|12||Monitor & Control our expenses||Met Expectations|
When compared to 2016, we actually did quite well. I pulled my numbers from personal capital and I was happy to see we cut our annual expenses by 25% (not considering mortgage principal payment as an expense). This was primarily driven by the following:
|Category||Reduction (vs. 2016)|
In addition, we realized a big reduction in the home improvement, rent, and automotive category. These three items are not included in the table above because the percentages would be deceiving (too high). For one, 2016 was the year when we moved into our new home (after renting for a while), hence no rent in 2017 and the need for furniture for our new home. Second, the wife got into a car accident in 2015 and with our vehicle getting totaled we had no choice but to get a new (certified pre-owned) car in 2016.
Cable or better said internet service (-4%) did not drop as much as I was expecting. As a result, I decided to get rid of SlingTV and also get a modem/router to stop paying Comcast for the one I’m currently renting from them.
Other categories actually increased. Some of these include cell phone (+20%), groceries (+14%) and gas (+13%). I think our cell phone number would have been lower but in 2017 both our iPhones 5 pretty much collapsed so we ended up upgrading to two iPhone 7. As for groceries and gas no excuse; however, we welcomed a new member to our family so I suspect this may have resulted in additional cost :). Regardless, we’ve taken action by at least maximizing the benefits from these expenses by taking advantage of a few shopping hacks and using the Blue Cash Preferred card by American Express that offers a 6% cash back on groceries and 3% on gas.
When compared to 2016, our income actually went up by 26%. Aside from my regular paycheck which represented ~88% of my income the other three categories responsible for the extra 12% were dividends, rental income and P2P debt repayment (Check out my financial money map for more details).
I’ve never done the math to estimate savings rate so this was a first for me. The math was pretty easy, I basically took our annual income then substracted our annual expenses (did not include our mortgage principal payment as it’s not an actual expense per se) and divided by our annual income. The number you get then is multiplied by 100 and there you go that’s your savings rate.
Savings Rate = [(Annual Income – Annual Expense)/Annual Income]*100
I was a little nervous about finding out how we did; however, I was happy to see our number at 36%. Considering our savings rate in 2016 was at 20% this represents an increase of 82%!
There’s definitely room for improvement but I can’t complain about our performance in 2017 … I’m pretty happy with our results. The one thing I will say is that I feel a little bit burned out and that should not be the case. Not only that, I feel I was so focused on our finances throughout the year and as result, I left little room for personal growth as an individual and as a member of my family.
Right around Thanksgiving, Mrs. Adventure Rich published a post about The #ARStreak challenge. The idea was to find a daily activity or goal one would be willing to commit to and complete starting on Thanksgiving day and ending New Year’s Day. This challenge presented itself as a great opportunity to include some late individual goals before the year came to an end. My initial thought was to focus on eating healthier and being more active with exercising at least 3 times a week.
The first thing I will say is that I failed miserably at keeping up with my ARStreak challenge. No excuse on my part, but man, having relatives around and phenomenal food every single day during the holidays made it pretty much impossible to stay committed. However, I did have another challenge but It was one I was not expecting to tackle.
One day my wife approached me and said she needed to have a conversation. Her tone was unusual so I knew something was up. I’m not gonna go through every detail of our talk but essentially, my wife made me realize I had been focusing way too much on optimizing every aspect of our financial plan at the expense of time with her and our two boys.
A coincidence with me feeling a little burned out? … Absolutely
I’m a big believer in feedback and especially when the intent is for it to be constructive. In spite of feeling like crap when my wife was delivering the message, I was extremely grateful for it.
After our conversation, It was pretty clear that I was and still am in very much need of balance in my life. My ARStreak challenge transition into complete disconnection from my job (once I left on vacation), this blog and social media. I did pretty well, had an awesome break; however, I haven’t even scratched the surface. There’s more to be done in 2018.
What’s In Store for 2018?
Based on the conversation we had this year we plan to do the following:
|1||Spend more time as a family [family]||On-going|
|2||Get the Southwest Companion Pass and plan 1 trip/month to a new destination [family]||On-going|
|3||Eat healthier – lose 30 lbs||On-going|
|4||Discover more places in our hometown (museums, parks, towns) [family]||Not started|
|5||Leave work no later than 5:30pm||On track|
|8||Maximize After-tax contribution||Automated|
|9||Get 1-2 rental properties||Not started|
|10||Keep contributing to 529||Automated|
|11||Open up 529 for new member of the family||Not started|
|12||Reduce grocery spent by 10% (compared to 2017)||On-going|
|13||Reduce eating out spent by 10% (compared to 2017)||On-going|
|14||Buy modem/router to replace Comcast’s||Done|
|14||Bring in at least $5000 (annual) from a side hustle [Couple]||Not started|
|15||One post per month [wife] – Yes, she has her own blog!||Not started|
|16||One youtube video per month [wife]||Not started|
|17||One post per month [me]||On-going|
There are quite a few items on this list but honestly, the ones I intend to focus on are 1-5, everything else goes 2nd or 3rd. Wish me luck and let’s catch up at the begging of January of 2019 to see how well we did.
- If you fail to plan then plan to fail. This has worked well for me not only professionally but personally. I encourage you to think about setting goals not only in the context of your regular job but also around your personal life.
- Be explicit about what you would like to accomplish during the year and have a conversation with your spouse or significant other to make sure you’re both headed in the same direction.
- If something is bothering you then speak up. I’m thankful for the conversation my wife and I had about my lack of attention to our family. This was obviously not my intention but then again remember something … perception is reality.
- Track your expenses and income using a tool like personal capital and then calculate your savings rate. Whether is high or low, who cares just get started.
So got goals for 2018?, I’d love to hear what those are!. Until next time… JJ