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Home » Personal Asides

Share your Biggest Financial Accomplishment of 2011 & what you’re Excited About for 2012

Last updated by on 28 Comments

When it comes to personal finance resolutions, it’s hard to find a one-size fits all goal for everyone to adopt. To be honest, I have a real hard time with New Year’s resolutions. I get excited about them for a few weeks… then they slowly fade into obscurity.

So for this year, why don’t we focus on what we actually accomplished for the 2011 year and throw out some ideas for 2012.

Looking back on last year, I’m most proud of three accomplishments:

  1. I was able to push my personal savings rate above 85%. It was not a goal that I set out to achieve, rather, it was a product of continuously pushing to lower my expenses and increase my income. I didn’t set out to achieve this, but it happened, due to a lot of hard work and some luck.
  2. The wife and I put ourselves in the position financially that she was able to start attending nursing school without accruing any student loan debt. At the end of 2012, she’ll graduate debt free, will make a higher income, and start a new career with a low unemployment rate that she is excited about. Win, win, win.
  3. The wife and I sold or donated roughly half of our personal belongings. We had been meaning to get rid of clutter for a long time, but this is the year it finally came together. It’s still an ongoing process, but thus far we’ve made roughly $3,000 by selling stuff online (Craigslist, EBay, and Amazon) and through a garage sale we had over the summer. I gave a ton of stuff to charity as well. Although, loosely a financial accomplishment (I did financially benefit), it was the one personal goal that I was most passionate about this past year.

2012 Financial New Years Resolutions

As I look forward to 2012, some areas that I want to focus on include:

  • Having Less of my Savings in Cash: I have too much money in cash, not earning any return, that is eroding due to inflation. I need to change this.
  • Optimize my HSA and HDHP: In the 2011 open enrollment season, I changed my health insurance elective. 2012 will be my first year with an HSA and HDHP. I want to optimize my medical expenses and invest my balance so that I can hit health insurance nirvana with 2 years. And now that I’ve thoroughly jinxed myself, I’ll pray for a little luck on this one.
  • Be Ready if I Need a New Car: My wife and I share a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am. It has 190,000 miles, is burning a quart of oil every 2 weeks, and smells like gas fumes occasionally. I don’t know how much longer the engine will last. It’s on an IV now. I have been researching the cheapest new cars in the event it dies on us.

What About You?

Enough about me, I want to hear about what members of the 20somethingfinance community are proud of accomplishing and excited about looking forward so we can all share, congratulate, brainstorm, and discuss.

  • What are your biggest financial successes in 2011?
  • Did you set out to achieve them or did they just happen as a byproduct?
  • What are your biggest goals/resolutions/focus areas for 2012?
  • What personal goals are you most excited about?

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


28 Comments »
  • Sean says:

    Congratulations on your accomplishments for 2012!

    I think my greatest accomplishment in 2011 was going from a job that was working me 70-80 hours a week (with no extra benefit to me) to a job where I’m making $40,000/year more (six figures! I still almost can’t believe it) and am working LESS hours. After several unsuccessful attempts to change my situation with my previous employer, I saw an excellent quote — “You can steal second base and keep one foot on first.” I started looking, put in some extra work, and a few interviews later I have a much better life situation and trajectory as a result. As a bonus, should this somehow fall through (unlikely), I left in the most professional way possible at my previous employer and am welcome back there as an employee anytime.

    I wish everyone the best of success in 2012! Believe in yourself, work hard, and good things will happen.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      That’s awesome, Sean. Did you stay in the same career field? Would you mind sharing how you were able to pull it off? Others may be able to benefit.

      • Sean says:

        Thanks for the reply, G.E.! I did stay in the same career field (IT) which I think allowed me to make the move in such an economy. I had been the one-man IT Dept. of an IT contractor for the federal government. For two years, I’d done everything from network setup to client work to development to communications, vendor contacts, marketing and proposal work, support, process management, etc. I had been putting in a lot of hours doing 3 different jobs simultaneously, and wasn’t feeling the reciprocity, so I knew I could take the experience elsewhere.

        After looking, I was actually contacted by a contracting company for some client work. I had another stroke of luck, which is that after accepting the first offer, I was contacted out of the blue by a friend who had a better opportunity. I told the first offer that I was sorry but I would have to go with this new opportunity (it would have been foolish to turn it down). They understood, but counter-offered a few weeks later with a much better offer, which I took. It wasn’t my favorite way for the situation to shake out (even though I was completely open and honest with each employer, nobody likes to feel like they’re leading someone on), but the end result left me in circumstances beyond where I ever thought I would be.

        A few takeaways from my experience would be: soak up all the opportunity you can at your employment, even if it feels like a disadvantage to you at the time, as long as you’re expanding your skillset or doing work that could be valuable elsewhere;. Second, don’t be afraid to assess when you’re actually getting a raw deal (it took me too long to do so I think). And thirdly, two offers is always better than one. If a company has already gotten to the stage where they want you, they don’t want to let you get away. Whether intentionally or not, this can be a huge advantage.

        There are many more details to it of course, but I wanted to at least give a summary. Thanks for your interest!

        • G.E. Miller says:

          Very insightful, Sean, thanks for sharing. IT is definitely one of those fields where you can really leverage your knowledge and experience – especially when nobody else is doing what you’re doing. Have no shame in making the most of it!

    • Sean says:

      And just to clarify, my quote is was meant to be “You CAN’T steal second base and keep one foot on first.” Hope that makes more sense. :)

  • KRISTYN says:

    2011 was the year my husband and I set up our Roth IRAs and we were able to fully fund both of them starting in July after I got my promotion. Since our weekly contributions were much higher than they will be going forward during a full calendar year, my hope in 2012 is to now increase contributions to my Roth IRA.

  • HP says:

    Congrats on the success! My biggest accomplishment of 2011 was:
    1. Switching jobs (same type of work, different company) and achieving approx. 40% increase in salary. Which then allowed me to…
    a) Open up a Roth IRA
    b) Increase 401k contributions
    c) Almost double my student loan payments
    d) Lastly (and perhaps most importantly) I was able to meet my savings goal for an engagement ring :D

    For 2012, I’d like to:

    1. Max out my 401k contributions (IRS limit)
    2. Continue saving for a car down payment for when the time comes(I currently don’t own or need one)
    3. Begin graduate school part-time and pay for as much as possible with cash.
    4.Increase cash savings in prep for large future purchases (wedding? house? etc).

    Looking forward to 2012!

    • G.E. Miller says:

      The second example of a huge income increase by switching jobs. It usually is the best way to quickly increase your income when you are young, so kudos.

      Sounds like a great year financially, and you’re thinking about all the right things.

  • rlk says:

    Those are some great accomplishments! 85% savings rate is phenomenal!

    My biggest financial successes in 2011 are:
    1. I got a promotion and 2 raises (one of which I didn’t expect)!
    2. I paid off one student loan in full, and got my total student debt down below $10k.
    3. Fully funded my Roth for the 2nd year in a row.
    4. Started a house savings account.

    I did set out to achieve all of the successes I mentioned above, except for that second raise.

    My financial goals for 2012 are:
    1. Pay off my student loans in full.
    2. Fully fund my Roth.
    3. Contribute more to my house savings.

    As for personal goals, I’d like to run another half marathon this year and expand and hone my cooking/baking skills.

    Here’s to a great new year!

  • Brendon says:

    I was truly blessed in 2011,; my greatest accomplishments were:
    1) increasing my income by 65%
    2) maxing out my Roth IRA
    3) maxing out my 401k (by June)

    • yulacu says:

      Congrats on maxing out your 401k! My employer advises against maxing it out before the end of the year because then you miss out on matching funds. That’s just something for people to keep in mind for 2012. If your employer provides matching funds, it’s better to take the entire year to max out your 401k.

      • Brendon says:

        I’ve never thought maxing it out mid year would affect my employer’s contributions. My employer matches up to 6%. From what you’re saying they won’t match the full amount? I figured my employer would match my contributions regardless of when I reach the 6%, no?

        • Yulacu says:

          My employer matches up to 5% of what we contribute. If we don’t contribute, they don’t match. If we max out our 401k before the end of the year then we’re not contributing anything for the rest of the year for our employer to match, hence no matching contributions. Perhaps yours is different, but it’s something to look into now rather than later.

        • Amanda says:

          Heres a breakdown of how my company does matching: (Note that some companies automatically put in a certain percentage regardless of your contribution, which would be different than this scenario.)
          My contributions are like Yulacu’s:
          Assume that the max contribution is $16,000, and the employer matches at 5% (this match is not included in the max limit). You make $5,000/month.
          If you contribute 26.7%, this will take you to the max in 12 months
          Jan-Dec: Your contribution-$1,333 Employer contribution-$250

          If you contribute 40%, you would max out in 8 months
          Jan-Aug: Your contribution-$2,000 Employer contribution-$250
          Aug-Dec: 0

          There would be 4 months with 0 employer contribution, meaning $1,000 less at the end of the year. If you want to have a little more money in your last paycheck, figure out how much to contribute so that Dec is at least $250 (the last contribution will be automatically cut, or taken out and given back when they realize that it’s too much), or startthe year out with a higher percentage and change towards the end of the year to stretch it out (40% for 6 months and 13% for 6 months).

  • Alex says:

    WOW! I wish I could say that I had an 85% personal savings rate, but… well, it’s just not in the cards. Congratulations on such an accomplishment, though!

    For my first full year after graduating college, I’d say 2011 was a great year for financial success! True, I’m not in a permanent full-time position yet, but it could certainly turn out that way. If nothing else, I’m networking and building a LOT of usable skills, as well as earning a bit of money to start socking away for the important things.

    1. Nabbed a temporary job more in line with my career goals, and then I subsequently received one raise and a Christmas bonus!
    2. Opened a Roth IRA and put in 2.5K for the year
    3. Started investing in mutual funds (This was my biggest success: getting over the fear of the unfamiliar and educating myself to dive in!)
    4. Established an emergency fund
    5. Started saving for a house/condo
    6. Paid off more than 3K in student loan debt!

    I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished in a year. I’ve gone from knowing almost nothing about finances and financial planning to actually having goals in mind and a plan to reach them! I didn’t really plan for most of these. The student loans were a given, but the job situation was a moment in which I thanked the power of networking. As for the rest, I found myself somewhat inspired when my life insurance policy came up for an increase in coverage for a tiny increase in premiums. Thinking that the extra coverage would pay off my student loans and not leave my parents with the burden in the case of my untimely demise, I accepted it. That thought to the future got me thinking to other things, which led to the Roth IRA and then to the emergency fund and so on. Here’s hoping I get even more accomplished next year; I can hardly wait!

    Financial Goals for 2012:

    1. Secure that fulltime job that I’m working on! The phone call should be coming any day now.
    2. Fully fund my Roth IRA for the year.
    3. Continue paying off student loans (pay-off date: October 2015!)
    4. Purchase house/condo if the job situation works out. If not, keep saving!!
    5. Bump my emergency fund savings up to a total 15K
    6. Learn a little more about investing and explore some new avenues

    Happy 2012, everyone!

    • Amanda says:

      You are in the process of building a very strong foundation, and I commend you. You may not have been able to fully fund your Roth IRA before the end of the year, but you have until 4/17/2012 to contribute for 2011. This would give you the opportunity to contribute $7500 this year. This would be especially helpful if you find yourself with higher pay after landing your full time job. Keep building!

  • Ryan says:

    Biggest accomplishment in 2011the was keeping our budget to plan after our daughter’s birth and deciding to live on one income. We’re sacrificing money for the opportunity to spend more time with our baby girl, and we’re very happy with the decision.

    Before we got to this point, we did a lot of planning and saving. For nearly four years, we saved 100% of the income earned by my wife (emergency fund, student loan repayment, retirement savings). It took a lot of discipline to avoid spending this “extra” money on new vehicles, dining out and expensive vacations.

    I encourage anyone reading to set goals each year (and revisit at least quarterly!) to get/keep yourself on track. Our financial advisor was helpful in providing education, counsel, encouragement and accountability which helped us stay on track.

    In 2012, we look to stay the course; I intend to pursue my passion, which will result in a reduced income most likely for year over year. However, the long term income should be rewarding. Plus, I want to be excited for work each day. I look forward to the change, and I know we can handle the income swing.

  • Steve says:

    2011 was both excellent and tough at the same time. I came to a much greater understanding of my families finances. I had my daugther in August, and found out why i had an emergency expense account.
    2011 Major Accomplishments:
    1. Continued to contribute maximum employer match of 4% to my 401K
    2. Opened 529 accounts for all 3 of my children. I have 2 and my wife also has one from previous marriage. This was the biggest step of the year. I have healthy contributions for all three children along with some gifts that has helped establish a nice egg for college.
    3. Had an emergency fund in place to deal with the unexpected death of a vehicle. Was able to purchase a minivan for our family.

    2012 Goals
    1. Replenish Emergency Funds
    2. Get a better understanding of what my personal savings rate is while working everyday to minimize expenses
    3. Open my first Mutual Funds and possibly a separate Roth IRA
    4. Refinance my mortgage to reduce my current interest rate of 6.o

    2011 was great! 2012 will be even better!

  • Eric says:

    My biggest accomplishment this year was stopping to use credit cards… I found Dave Ramsey, and have been (somewhat loosely) following his plans and so far they seem to be working. Had quite a few set backs towards the end of 2011, but 2012 looks promising, my fianc√© should be doubling her income around May. We both are looking to downgrade our cars to get rid of car payments and get rid of collision insurance to save us roughly $500 a month. I am looking forward to being able to throw that extra money towards other debt and working hard to start whittling away the mountain we have made for ourselves through frivolous spending on mostly useless things. We are also selling a rental property we own that through 2011 has been nothing but a hassle, causing most of the above mentioned financial turmoil. We are looking forward to the lower stress levels and a few extra dollars in the bank.

  • Alyssa says:

    Well, I felt like 2011 was a crappy year financially, but looking back I guess it wasn’t so bad.

    1. opened a Roth IRA and funded it up to $3,000
    2. put more in my investments
    3. got a raise (woo!)
    4. topped $7,000 in my various targeted savings accounts by the end of the year

    What’s sucky is that I could have put more in each were it not for my, how shall I put it, unpredictable spending habits. I frequent the save/binge roller coaster, so part of my 2012 goals are to rope that one in. There’s no use crying about it now, so I’m setting SMART goals to fix it in the future. Plus, I’m proud of myself for what I accomplished this past year.

    I have two major trips this year so those keep me focused on saving.

  • jack foley says:

    Whatever we are doing with goals, just remember one saying every day

    “Raise your standards”

    Do this for 30 days and you will be a different person.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    My simple goal for 2012 is to try to spend less. Kind of hard when it seems like everything else is going up (except my salary w/ no COLAs either).

  • Renee says:

    Holy moly. An 85% savings rate is awesome! We were able to save about $5,000 in our retirement accounts. I’d like to see this amount grow by $12,000 in 2012. We very much need to increase our income, decrease our expenses, and declutter in 2012. I’m working on 12 goals for 2012 right now. Some excercise related, some financial, and some personal.

    I’m excited and positive about 2012!

  • Tomas says:

    With the stock market staying flat for the year, I didn’t quite get to the net worth I was shooting for by the end of 2011.

    However, I got to that figure last week, which puts me in a good position towards my goal for 2012: to have my income from investments exceed my expenses.
    Not that I’m planning on quitting my job anytime soon, but just knowing I don’t actually *need* to work should feel pretty good.

  • Leigh says:

    My biggest financial accomplishments in 2011 were:
    1) Improving my investment knowledge and not flinching as the market went up and down throughout the year.
    2) Buying my condo.
    3) Maxing out my 401(k) and Roth IRA.

    My goals for 2012 are pretty similar to my goals for 2011: continuing to invest 20% of my gross income, making all of my mortgage payments on time, and coming up with a plan to pre-pay my mortgage. Despite the increased monthly expenses with buying my condo, I would like to keep my savings rate at 60%.

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