Each and every year, I like to reflect and give a self-assessment for how I performed against the goals I set out to achieve for the year. It gives you a window into the personal side of my finances (this is a personal finance blog, after all) and beyond – and it is a very public way to hold myself accountable to my goals for the upcoming year.
I find this process to be an absolute necessity in order to keep myself grounded, focused, and moving in the right direction. I suggest you also give it a try.
My big focus areas heading in to 2017 were:
- Career Moves: I was looking to make one.
- Passion Over Income: tied in to #1, at this stage in my career, income is truly secondary to doing things that I’m passionate about or can learn/grow from. I’m going to use this to help navigate my decisions.
- Maintain savings/exercise levels: 2016 was a banner year for savings and exercise. I wanted to simply maintain in those categories in 2017.
- Travel: at least 1 out-of-state and 3 total trips.
- Declutter: take this to the next level.
- Relationships: maintain and grow relationships with family and friends.
The results, per usual, were a mixed bag. Here’s a full review.
What went well last year:
1. Career: Mrs. 20SF was able to leverage her new Bachelor’s degree in nursing and impeccable record to get a promotion, which turned out to be quite an arduous process as a unionized nurse. Long-time readers might remember that a few years ago, she had decided to make a career change to nursing from landscape architecture. She started with an Associate’s degree, turned that in to a Bachelor’s, and is doing very well in her new career. It has been a great transition for her.
2. Travel: We set the goal of 1 out of state and 3 trips total. We took just 2 longer trips, but one of them was an epic out-of-state backpacking trip in Colorado – mostly paid for by travel rewards points – so I’m chalking this up as a win. We tackled the 4-pass loop, just outside of Aspen and fought through altitude sickness to ascend four 12,000+ feet peaks, 12,000+ feet of total elevation gain, and 28 miles over 4 days. Definitely the most challenging and rewarding hike we’ve completed to date, and it has inspired us to up our game and go on similar adventures.
3. Income: I won’t tally the final numbers until I complete our tax return, but I’m fairly certain that this will either be the #1 or #2 year for us, in total household income. Very happy with that.
4. Savings: an outstanding year in the savings department:
- I made the maximum 401K contribution of $18,000 and paired it with an employer 401K match of 50% ($9,000). Meanwhile, Mrs. 20SF maxed out her 403B (the non-profit version of a 401K), at $18,000.
- Mrs. 20SF also maxed out her 457B account, which provides another $18,000 of tax-sheltered retirement savings for us.
- We continued my employer-sponsored high deductible health plan (HDHP), which gave us a $2,000 employer contribution to our HSA.
- I made the maximum HSA contribution of $6,750 ($2,000 in employer HDHP/HSA incentives + a $4,750 personal contribution).
- I contributed the maximum 20% of pre-tax self-employment income (earnings generated from this website and elsewhere) to my SEP IRA (a retirement account for self-employed income earners).
- We carried no credit card balances and banked some solid travel card rewards.
5. Declutter: in anticipation of the charitable donation crash that will be prompted by the recently passed tax plan, we were able to go through most of our belongings and donate a few carloads of goods in recent weeks.
6. Exercise: I stayed committed to routinely working out 3 times per week (I’m a big fan of the 7-minute workout and strength training with my low-cost home gym), biking long distances 1-2 times per week, biking to work, and walking the dog daily. And our 2 trips included 60 miles of biking and 28 miles of hiking!
What didn’t go so well last year:
1. Career: I wasn’t as successful in this category as Mrs. 20SF, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. I work in an extremely competitive company with limited opportunities in my geography. The rare positions posted garner dozens, if not hundreds of highly skilled internal applicants, making it very difficult to transfer to a new role. I was able to get a number of interviews, but shifting career focus (my goal) has made those interviews an uphill battle.
2. Passion Over Income: I exited the year with the same job I started the year with, so I have to chalk this one up as a fail.
3. Health: totally out of my control, but still noteworthy in that 2017 was a catastrophically bad year for health among family and friends (multiple cancer diagnoses, a Parkinson’s diagnoses, and death) and I’ve personally been dealing with a few health issues. Everything else seems small in comparison. I’m hoping for a much better 2018.
Focus for 2018:
1. Career Move/Passion Over Income: lumping these together. This is the year, and I’m holding myself to it. I will NOT finish the year with the same job I presently have. What’s next? Stay tuned.
2. Reduced Media Consumption: I’ve allowed myself to stack my political and financial news and social media consumption to a level that is not sustainable or healthy. I hope to find ways to cut this back dramatically to free up time and focus.
3. Relationships: This was a goal for 2017 and I couldn’t really chalk it up as a pass or fail. I developed a few new friendships and maintained otherwise. The goal for next year is to grow.
What About You?
Please brag and hold yourself accountable for the past year and set some goals for 2018 in the comments.
- What were your biggest financial and personal wins and losses in 2017?
- What are your biggest focus areas for 2018 (financial or otherwise)?
- What are you most excited about?