2018… Bye, Felicia.
I’m anxious to put this one in the past. And anxious is the key word. Anyone else a little stressed these days? I’m not sure if it’s just me paying closer attention to the news than I used to, but yikes… on a broad scale, 2018 was a cluster.
A short list includes mass corruption and scandal in Congress and the White House, the wildfires in California, the hurricanes on the east coast, the award-winning melodrama that was the Brett Kavanaugh hearings (at least PJ, Squee, “I like beer”, and boofing entered our lexicon), family separation and the demonization of asylum seekers, Brexit foolishness, the trade war and its impact on consumer prices and markets, rollbacks of critically important environmental regulations, the wars and famines in Yemen and Syria, the absolute economic dud that was the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, a rapidly ballooning national deficit during a time of economic expansion, the Mattis resignation (yikes), the government shutdown over “steel slats”, and the stock markets in a savage free fall this month. Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?
That which does not kill us, I suppose?
2018 did have a few high marks:
- The election: it was really encouraging to see a strong voter turnout and a lot of firsts. With a 49.3% turnout, 2018 saw the highest turnout for a midterm election since 1914. There is more room for improvement, but compared to 2014’s 36.7%, this was a voting earthquake. More voters = more accountability for elected officials. And having a bi-partisan Congress moving forward will bring even more accountability. Millennials – at a much lower 31% turnout – can and must do much better in future elections, as I pleaded back in November.
- Positive developments for investors: Vanguard and Fidelity are in a race to the bottom on pricing, and we’re the winners. Fidelity and Lively launched a few of the best HSA accounts we’ve seen to date.
- Bi-partisan criminal justice reform: more needs to be done here, but this was a step in the right direction. And better is good when you have a polarized and mostly ineffective Congress.
- Unemployment numbers: We’re not seeing the wage growth that 4% unemployment would historically drive, but 4% unemployment is a good thing. Let’s hope it stays this way.
But enough about us…
20somethingfinance is celebrating its 11th anniversary this week. This site saw a record-breaking 4.7 million visits, an all-time high in subscribers and social followers, and 53 published posts were added to the archives this year (mostly brand new, with a few major re-writes worked in). I will be giving a self-assessment of 2018 and set some goals for 2019 within the next week.
As a note to newcomers, this site is still an independent, 1-person show and has been since day 1 (with the support of wonderful friends, family, subscribers, and readers/commenters, of course!). All of the articles here are written by me – no ghost writers, no fillers, no guest blogger pandering, no sponsored post garbage, etc. I write about the stuff that I find interesting and think most of us can benefit from knowing. Hopefully, some of it resonates, inspires, entertains, or educates.
As always, feedback is welcome. What has stuck with you? What influenced positive change? Are there any particular topics that you’d like me to explore, re-explore, or dig deeper on? Please share your feedback and requests in the comment section.
Here are my and your picks for the top posts of 2018:
- How to Get your Sam’s Club Membership Fee Refund (& Switch to Costco): Sam’s Club is on the ropes, and Costco is not.
- Stocks are NOT On Sale Right Now: in hindsight: nailed it. And I still think they are not “on sale”.
- The House Burning Down Exercise: a perspective refresher on what is truly important.
- The U.S. Personal Savings Rate is Plummeting. But Yours Should be Rising.: consumers be consuming. You should be saving.
- How About that Tax “Cut”?: early results: not good.
- Environmentally Friendly Products that Actually Save you Money: some of my top recommendations for environmentally friendly products that I’ve used over the years.
- My Xfinity Mobile Review: Mrs. 20sf made the switch – and this is our early review.
- The Cheapest & Best Tax Software Prep: a Comparison of 6 Programs: a comparison of the top tax software programs available.
- Save for a Home or Retirement? A Look at First-Time Homebuyer Retirement Plan Distribution Rules: a potential solution to the age-old “do I save for retirement or a home?” question.
- Lifestyle Creep Defined, its Calculated Impact, & How to Beat it: I put some actual math to “lifestyle creep”, and the results should be motivating.
- Why Immigration is Good for your Finances (and the Country): the numbers are hard to ignore. As population growth grinds to a halt – our economy needs new contributors who want to be here and contribute.
- The “Sale” = “Saving Money” Fallacy (i.e. Amazon Prime Day): how sales play mental tricks on us.
- Money & Happiness: The Psychology of Intrinsic Vs Extrinsic Goals: one of the more important articles I’ve written.
- Warning: Avoid Health Care Sharing Ministries & Association Health Plans (AHP’s): there are a bunch of junk plans now entering the market. Buyer beware.
- Vanguard’s Commission-Free ETF List Expansion is About to Blow Up the Investment World: alluded to this earlier, but this is one of the big wins of the year for investors.
- The Millennial Retirement Enthusiasm and Reality Gap: if you only re-read one article, it should be this.
- Using the Power of Re-framing & Ingenuity to Cut Expenses: sometimes saving takes Jedi mind tricks.
- “The Mexican Fisherman” Parable: my take on a classic personal finance lesson.
- Tax Reform Wage Gain Failure & the 20% Passthrough Deduction Mess: more hot takes on this massively disappointing piece of legislation.
- Fidelity Launches Two Zero-Cost Index Funds & Slashes Fees to Beat Vanguard & Schwab: another investor big win this year.
- 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Every Purchase: bookmark it.
- Free Credit Freezes are Here. Here’s How to Use Them.: you’ll want to refer back to this when your identity is stolen.
- Can we Kill Home Ownership as the “American Dream”?: let this dream die.
- How to Replace your ISP’s Modem with your Own (& Get Rid of the Rental Fee): this one tip should save most readers $120+ per year.
- Where Should I Invest Short-Term Savings?: my response to a very popular question.
- Fidelity HSA Accounts Are Live. Here Are the Enticing Details.: yet another big win for investors in 2018.
- Is Costco Executive Membership Worth it? Is Any? I Run the Numbers.: if you have or will have a Costco membership – I break down the numbers on whether you should “upgrade” your Costco membership, as well as give my take on ANY membership at Costco is worth the cost.