My Self-Review for the Last Year & Goals for 2021

It’s that time of the year when I give readers a full rundown on personal highlights (and lowlights) for the prior year and set some goals for the coming year. And while 2020 was… 2020, and maybe the most appropriate thing to do would be to scrap this altogether, I’m going to instead trudge through it and not break tradition. “Old normal” is good these days. So let’s jump in.

To summarize, my biggest focus areas at the start of the last year were:

  • Career: figure out my next move on the career front.
  • Exercise: bike over 1,000 miles and maintain exercise regimen. I also wanted to work on improving my flexibility.
  • Other Health: address nagging areas of pain.
  • Cognitive Load Reduction: I’ve written about reducing cognitive load and wanted to make that a focus for the year.
  • Savings: repeat maxing out all tax-advantaged accounts.
  • Travel: I aimed for 2+ out-of-state trips in 2020 (3+ total).
  • DIY: I wanted to re-build our elevated walk-out deck.
  • Pet Health: our dog’s diabetes was not fully regulated, and we hoped to achieve that in 2020.

How did I do against these goals and in other areas?

What Went Well in 2020:

Exercise: Last year, I stated:

While I ended up biking more miles than I ever have this past year, I’ve never gone over 1,000 miles in a year. I want to blow that away in 2020, while also maintaining everything else I did this past year. I also really need to work on my flexibility, as it is comically awful. And maybe even some weightlifting?

Overall, this was a big win for me. I ended up biking 1,350 miles in 2020, and that was with a significant crash that put me out of commission for a few of the best biking weeks during the summer, and I had a late start to the year. I was also able to maintain a body weight/high intensity cardio exercise regimen of ~3X/week as well. I was able to lose about 17 pounds of weight in 2020 – the biggest yearly decline since an awful intestinal parasite in high school (I’ll spare you the details on that one). Bonus: I didn’t eat any less in doing so. I can’t imagine how gloomy I would have been without exercise generating some healthy good endorphins. Failing grade on the flexibility component, but I did at least make feeble stretching attempts .


My goal for 2020 was:

Repeat maxing out all tax-advantaged accounts.

Note quite a 100% score on this one for 2020, but pretty darn close. Despite a significant dip in household income (more on that later), household savings and finances were still strong.

  • I made the maximum 401K contribution of $19,500 and paired it with an employer 401K match of 50% ($9,750). Meanwhile, Mrs. 20SF maxed out her 403B (the non-profit version of a 401K), at $19,500, and received matching funds.
  • Mrs. 20SF came close to, but did not fully max out her 457B account, which provides another $19,500 of tax-sheltered retirement savings for us.
  • While I am no longer on a high deductible health plan (HDHP), I was able to take advantage of a $2,000 employer contribution to our HSA at the start of the year.
  • I made the maximum HSA contribution for the 4 months that we were on our HDHP.
  • I contributed the maximum 20% of pre-tax side income (earnings generated from this website and elsewhere) to my SEP IRA (a retirement account for self-employed income earners) for the prior year, after filing my tax return.
  • We carried no credit card balances by paying in full every month and built up our rewards balances.

Cognitive Load Reduction:

Freeing up 8+ hours per day, 5 days a week (see “career” bullet point) will do this for you. I was also able to sell a lot of clutter around the home, which was some weight off my shoulders. However, I still really need to cut down on my media consumption.

2021 resolutions

What Did Not Go Well in 2020:


I stated:

I just went through a crossroads and now find myself at a new one. While I met my goal of leaving my old job, I am now in uncharted territory. I am entering the new year in a new discipline with a rotational role that ends in April. I basically have that deadline to find a new role or leave the company. And at this point, your guess is as good as mine on what I decide to do next. So, my goal for 2020 is to figure out my next move and be comfortable with whatever decision I make.

Well, a significant change was made. As I’ve detailed in my “FIRE definition & status update” article, a declined forced job relocation followed by a company-wide COVID hiring freeze led to my unemployment. In many ways, unrelated to my career, this was a positive for me. In relation to my career, it was not. At least not yet. The circumstances made the decision for me, and that was not ideal. It’s still very much TBD how this will change the course of my life moving forward and whether it was ultimately a positive or a negative.


I will once again aim to re-build our elevated walk-out deck, which will be a huge undertaking.

We made some progress on planning, but zero physical progress on rebuilding. By the time we narrowed down what we were looking for, it was too late in the year to start the build. This HAS to be done in 2021, or someone is going to get hurt.


I want to make up for the lack of out-of-state travel this past year, and aim for 2+ out-of-state trips in 2020 (3+ total). TBD on locations.

Welp, COVID. Enough said.

Pet Health:

Our dog’s diabetes management has its ups and downs, but is now mostly under control. However, other health issues have popped up. Given his age (14), I don’t expect this to improve, but we’re still giving him a pretty good life. Our first pet together, our beloved cat “Bean”, received a cancer diagnosis around her 16th birthday in November, and her health deteriorated rapidly – we had to put her down within days of a diagnosis, sadly. Pets are family, at least in our house. And nothing really prepares you for saying goodbye to a family member for the last time.

Focus Areas for 2021:

I’m going to go easy on myself for 2021, and I don’t blame anyone else for doing the same. I even debating scrapping goal setting altogether, but decided against it, in order to maintain a sense of normalcy and push myself a little.

  • Physical Health: I’d like to push my bike miles above 1,500. Additionally, I want to focus more on flexibility. And, above all else, keep doing my part to avoid COVID infection.
  • Mental Health: not working while mostly quarantining at home is not a good combo for sustainably good mental health. I know I’m not alone in the struggle of feeling isolation, but my hope is that I can focus on the physical health aspects enough to drive better mental health until we’ve reached a heavy herd immunity through vaccinations. Until then, I want to catch up with as many friends and family members as I can through video chats.
  • Forgiveness: related to the prior point, practicing it for myself and others, especially these days.
  • DIY: once again, I will make re-building our walk out deck a focus for 2021. Gotta hold myself accountable, right?
  • Travel: I’m not sure what COVID will allow here, but it would be great to at least plan our next big trip.

Your Turn:

It’s your turn to brag and/or hold yourself accountable for the past year and set some goals for 2021 in the comments.

  • What were your biggest financial and personal wins and losses in 2020?
  • What are your biggest focus areas for 2021 (financial or otherwise)?
  • What are you most excited about in the year ahead?

Or, just trash 2020 as much as you want.


  1. Juan R.

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