Every year, I like to pause and reflect on what my wife and I have accomplished over the previous year, as well as where we fell short of our goals and see room for improvement. Kind of sounds like a performance review at work, doesn’t it? The big difference between the two is that a voluntary self-review can produce honest feedback that you might actually find helpful! 😉
I kid (sort of), but seriously, it can be hard to see and appreciate longer-term accomplishments when you are mired in your day-to-day. And it can also be difficult to see where things went wrong. Reflecting is eye opening and then sharing with the entire world for accountability can be incredibly motivating. So, I’ll share my big wins and losses and set some financial resolutions (I prefer “goals”) for 2015. And I hope you will do the same.
- I was able to make the maximum 401K contribution and pair it with an employer 401K match of 50% of my contribution.
- Meanwhile, my wife was also able to max out her 401K contribution for the first time ever. Unfortunately, she only gets about $1,500 in matching from her employer for her efforts – but that’s still better than a kick in the pants, I suppose. 😉
- We continued my employer-sponsored high deductible health plan (HDHP), which gave us a $1,600 employer contribution to an HSA, along with $400 in HSA bonus incentives for going to annual preventative visits. We spent $1,097 of the funds, which was a bit more than we had in previous years. With premium costs, we didn’t net positive with the employer contribution (a rare feat we had accomplished the previous 2 years), but we still came out quite a bit ahead of where we did with the PPO. Meanwhile, I made the maximum HSA contribution, because the perks of HSA’s are freaking outstanding. This also has the benefit of lowering my taxable income. The best part? With $1,100 in investment returns in our HSA, our account earned more than we spent!
- I have been wanting to give my retirement savings an additional boost (and trim my tax obligation), so after years of procrastination, I finally researched the various self-employment retirement account options that are available and decided to open a SEP IRA and contribute 20% of my self-employment income. My only regret here is that I had not done this sooner. I expect that I will be in a higher tax bracket right now than in retirement, so I had hurt myself in delaying this.
- We carried zero credit card balance and earned about $700 in cash back from our army of rewards cards.
- We took on two of the larger DIY projects we have ever done (eclipsed by only a complete roof tear-off and replacement when we moved in to our home) – our cheap kitchen renovation and a garage renovation. The total net cost of both combined came in at just about $3,500. In the process, we’ve made our home much more enjoyable and functional, while elevating our property’s market value by at least as much as we put in to the projects, if we were to sell in the next decade or so.
- We had some fairly large expenses this year, led by our kitchen renovation, a bitter cold Michigan winter (driving up heating costs), increasing auto/home insurance bills, higher property taxes, a new mattress, a new hot water heater, and more. Despite all of that, we will have kept our total expenses comfortably below $30,000 again. Our personal savings rate remains incredibly high.
- We decluttered and donated a lot more stuff from our house. Much more exited than came in last year.
- I thought that 2013 income levels were going to be hard to match, but we did (and then some). In 2015, I am definitely expecting a pullback.
- We got lax on investing our assets again. I did increase our percentage of invested assets, however, a lot of funds are still in cash or not rebalanced as they should be. This has been a continuing issue for me. All assets have been moved in to the appropriate Vanguard and Ally Invest investment accounts – now I just need to fully invest and stay on top of them.
- I did not appeal my property tax rates, as I had promised I would. However, I now believe that my home is rather accurately valued after further research and am removing this from my to-do list. Kind of a bummer, but I am fine with it now.
- Our home and auto insurance keep climbing. I don’t understand why our auto insurance rates would go up 10% or so each of the last few years while the value of the vehicle has declined. However, I never found a good time to comparison shop around and see if I still have the best rates I could get.
- We have both been fairly dissatisfied at work. My wife has been looking for an alternative employment opportunity due to a difficult environment and long commute, but is having a hard time getting a look. She did get one look at another employer, but prior to interviewing, the interviewer asked for a reference of her current supervisor. Not cool or fair, so she withdrew herself from consideration. We’re finding that even with experience, a bachelor’s degree has become the desired minimum education level in the nursing field (to our surprise). Meanwhile, after 5 years in the same role, I too have started looking at alternative options and ended up taking a rotational role until I figure it out. The lack of positive challenge in the prior role and current uncertainty about what’s next has been quite stressful.
Focus for 2015:
- First and foremost, I’d really like to see us both find work roles that we are happy with in 2015. We’ve been top performers in our roles, but all else can seem rather meaningless if you can’t get personal satisfaction from what you are doing for the majority of your waking hours.
- I’d like to see a continuation of many of our 2014 accomplishments, namely: both maxing out our 401K’s, maxing out our HSA, and another SEP IRA contribution. This will be no easy feat, with the uncertainty of #1, and the certainty that our income will likely decline if I depart my prior role (which I was making bank on from strong performance).
- I truly, truly, truly need to get over my investing hesitations and continually manage/rebalance my portfolio. Update: Just last Friday, I cranked up our investment-asset ratio to about 90%.
- I need to review my auto and home insurance rates and shop out my business to see if I’m still getting the best deal.
Outside of finances, I want to learn and practice meditation, stretching, and exercise more in 2015. I have this nagging lower back/glute tightness and pain (probably from sitting most of the day) that just won’t go away!
What about you? Time to brag, beat yourself up, and hold yourself accountable for the coming year:
- What were your biggest financial and personal wins and losses in 2015?
- What are your biggest focus areas for 2015 (financial or otherwise)?
- What has you most excited?