My Personal Finance Review of Last Year and Goals for 2017

In my previous post, I shared my highlights from the blog over the last year.

This week, it’s time to dive in to the personal stuff.

Every year, I like to reflect and recap 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 it is a very public way to hold myself accountable to my goals. We all live very busy lives, and 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 for 2016 were:

  1. 2017 goalsMake big career decisions and moves
  2. Investment improvements
  3. Insurance review
  4. Maintain saving levels and modest income increase
  5. Simplifying
  6. More exercise
  7. More travel

The results were a mixed bag. There’s a lot to be grateful for, but there’s also a lot to improve on. Here’s a full review.

What went well last year:

1. Career: my wife finished her Bachelor’s degree in nursing just a few weeks ago. Long-time readers might remember that a few years ago, she had decided to make a career change to nursing from landscape architecture. She did so by getting an accelerated Associate’s degree in nursing, which got her in the door to the profession. The Bachelor’s is a way to improve her prospects of getting hired (some employers have quotas for a certain percentage of their nurse staff to have Bachelor’s). It has no short or long-term impact on her role or salary, sadly, so the decision to finish the Bachelor’s was really all about improving future employment prospects versus seeking a return on investment. Thankfully, 75% of tuition was covered by her current employer (the part we were paying is now off the books, which is great!).

Now that the degree is complete, she’ll have a lot more time on her hands to explore hobbies and passions.

2. Income: in 2015, I saw my first-ever year-over-year decline in income (and it was a fairly big drop at 20%) as I moved from a heavily weighted bonus performance-based role to a more salary-based role. The move back to the bonus-heavy role in 2016 allowed me to increase income and claw back half of last year’s income loss. Not a banner year, but I’ll take it!

3. 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, my wife maxed out her 403B (the non-profit version of a 401K), at $18,000.
  • Wife also maxed out her 457B account, which provides another $18,000 of tax-sheltered retirement savings for us.
  • 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 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 our annual preventative visits.
  • I made the maximum HSA contribution of $6,750 ($2,000 in employer HDHP/HSA incentives + a $4,750 personal contribution).
  • We carried no credit card balances and made about $5,000 in cash back from our rewards cards – mostly from bonus sign-up incentives. Yep, it was a lot of new cards.
  • Our spend level increased a bit due to an increased school-load for my wife and a teeny bit of splurging. I’m still adding it all up, however, I’m sure we will still comfortably be below $30,000 in annual spend.

4. Insurance: after many years and cleaning up my CLUE report, I finally made a switch and ended up saving over 30% across home, auto, and umbrella. Not bad for one call!

5. Exercise: I increased the frequency of my workout (7X every 2 weeks) and added a pull-up bar routine to the mix. I also spent more time on bikes than I have in any prior year, which is a good thing. As a result, I’ve added about 10 lbs. of (mostly) muscle. Depends on what time of day I look in the mirror. 😉

What didn’t go so well last year:

1. Career: mixed thoughts here. I finished my rotational role back in March and returned to my old role (the one I’ve been doing for 5+ years). I’ve been able to jump right back into things and perform very well. While income increased over the prior year, I’ve been feeling a growing itch to permanently move into something different. And at this point, I have no idea what that might be. That will be a big focus in 2017.

All was good for my wife in her job, but she’s also starting to get a bit of an itch to move to a different type of floor (with a different nursing specialty).

2. Investing: I’ve fallen back into old bad habits and struggled to keep myself fully engaged and invested. I chalk it up to procrastination and general market uncertainty due to the political climate. On the plus side, all invested assets are in index funds and ETF’s – I’ve moved 100% out of individual stocks.

3. Travel: we took 2 decent sized trips for fun, but I think we fell short of what we hoped for here, as we didn’t leave the state of Michigan for personal travel. With my switching of jobs back to a role that requires me being almost constantly plugged in, I wimped out.

4. Family Tragedy: this is VERY fresh, and I’m still wrapping my head around what just happened. I’ll be able to speak to this more at some point.

Focus for 2017:

1. Career Moves: repeat appearance. Living in a mid-sized midwest city, career options can be limiting. And any move requires a lot of time and effort. But change would be healthy.

2. 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.

3. Maintain savings/exercise levels: last year was a banner year for savings and exercise. I’d like to simply maintain in those categories.

4. Travel: OK, I need to put some goals to this in 2017. At least 1 out-of-state trip and 3 total. We’ve got some miles and points built up – time to use some.

5. Declutter: time for another huge round of everyone’s favorite game: sell/donate/recycle. Already gotten a good start on this at the time of writing this post, but I want to take it to the next level.

6. Relationships: the family tragedy that I spoke of earlier has reinforced the importance of maintaining and growing relationships with family and friends. This is my #1 goal for 2017 and beyond.

What About You?

Now is your chance to brag and hold yourself accountable for the past year and set some goals for 2017 in the comments.

  • What were your biggest financial and personal wins and losses in 2016?
  • What are your biggest focus areas for 2017 (financial or otherwise)?
  • What are you most excited about?


  1. Warren
  2. Sanjib Kumar Saha
  3. AJ
  4. Dani
  5. Amanda M

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