So How Am I Doing? Reviewing Our 2018 Financial Resolutions
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch famously asked his constituents, “How am I doing?” on a regular basis.
A year ago, I posted nine financial resolutions for the new year, that I believed if followed could keep the ROMT family moving forward on our path towards early retirement and financial independence.
With 2018 now complete, it seems like a good time to ask myself the same question Ed Koch asked New Yorkers decades ago. Without further delay, let’s take a look at how we did on our financial resolutions in 2018!
Max out our 401(k) contribution
Now that our family is on sounder financial footing than when I was in my 20s and 30s, we have been able to max out our 401(k) contribution in recent years. We were able to do the same thing last year, which was a big step in ensuring that our net worth at the end of 2018 was larger than it was at the beginning of the year, despite the weak stock market.
Complete several home improvement projects
I outlined several home improvement projects we hoped to complete in 2018. We were able to knock a few of them off of our list, although a few more projects have, of course, popped up along the way! Some of the projects cost more in money, some cost more in time, but we made decent progress in taking care of the home that we own.
Make sure our money is working as hard as we are
Rising interest rates enabled us to roll over several online certificates of deposit (CDs) at higher annual percentage yields last year, which helped increase our passive income. We also continued investing excess funds into stocks, bonds, and ETFs. We even finally purchased stock in Amazon.com! Although the market has turned against us over the past few months, we own more assets than we did a year ago, which should help us achieve our long term goals.
Contribute enough to our children’s 529 plans to maximize state tax benefits
The funding of our children’s 529 education accounts is one of the three key metrics we are tracking to determine when we can declare ourselves financially independent. We once again contributed enough to the 529 accounts to maximize the state tax credits we can claim when we file our 2018 taxes.
Follow the markets closely – but not obsessively
When markets are volatile, as they were in 2018, it can be very tempting to check the prices of the stocks, bonds, and mutual funds we own on a daily basis. While it’s good to know what’s happening with our investments, we are for the most part long-term buy-and-hold investors, and obsessing over and trading because of day-to-day price movement can be a costly strategy over the long run. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping up with what was happening in the market, without letting wild swings in the Dow Jones Industrial Average or S&P 500 Index derail our overall strategy.
Blog more consistently at Retiring On My Terms
Blogging is more work than I anticipated, and sometimes tough to balance with work and family life. Consequently, my performance has been inconsistent since starting ROMT in May 2017, and that inconsistency continued last year. My goal with this resolution was to write a minimum of four posts every month, and at least 60 posts overall in 2018. I posted just 38 times last year, and I posted four or more times in a month only four times in 2018 (and not since July). While I give myself some credit for keeping ROMT alive, as many blogs don’t even make it to their first anniversary, it is certainly not thriving. Hopefully I can improve upon that in 2019!
Continue increasing our passive income
Building up enough passive income to support our lifestyle is our “stretch goal” on our path to FIRE. By the end of September, we were generating enough annualized passive income to finance 33.0% of our anticipated early retirement lifestyle, up from 27.3% at the beginning of the year. While I’m reasonably pleased with the progress, our passive income has taken a hit over the past couple months. It will be interesting to see how our updated passive income looks when we post our Quarterly Financial Scorecard for year-end 2018 next week.
Don’t “invest” in Bitcoin
I admitted a year ago that while I had some understanding of the potential value of Blockchain technology, I would not be investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. I based that decision on several reasons, most importantly that I had no idea which of the many cryptocurrencies dominating the news might eventually be successful. The value of Bitcoin plunged by more than 73% last year, and sadly, that performance was actually better than those of many competing cryptocurrencies. Best of luck to readers who are still putting their hard-earned dollars into cryptocurrencies, but I am glad I stayed away.
Proactively cut unnecessary expenditures
I wrote in 2017 about how much money can be saved by making a few simple phone calls, which has proven to be one of this site’s most popular posts. Last year, I was somewhat less proactive in cutting unnecessary expenditures. We finally gave up our Costco membership in 2018, and I also cancelled a subscription to ESPN.com’s Insider service. But besides that, I didn’t attack expenses as aggressively as I did the year before. Part of that is because I think I have already trimmed a lot of the fat, but being perfectly honest, I haven’t put a lot of effort into looking for more fat. Which reminds me: the price of my SiriusXM subscription just went up after a promotional rate I received a little over a year ago expired – I need to call them to fix that!
Overall Grade on Our 2018 Financial Resolutions: B
How did you do handling your finances last year? What changes do you anticipate making in 2019?