Every year, I make an effort to look back and take stock of the blessings, challenges, lessons, and accomplishments of the year. Reflection helps me grow. And this year ended with a bang – a fun surprise in late 2017. Also, this year, for the first time, I am committing all of this to writing – and sharing it with you. But also, I will give you a peek at our 2018 goals, and then reveal some exciting news for FWP that will begin in early 2018.
2017: a Year of New Beginnings
For us, 2017 was a challenging year but also a year full of new adventures, new businesses, and new directions. We tried many new things, faced some hardships, and weathered some significant storms.
As of today, we no longer live, work, or play in any of the same places we did last year, and as a result of all of those changes, we’re missing old friends, but making new ones as well.
I enjoy certainty, predictability, and routine. My wife does even more so. But 2017 pushed us to adjust well beyond our comfort levels, meaning we both grew a lot and changed as well. (If I ever write a memoir – which I do not plan to – 2017 will consume a big portion of it. But as this is a blog, we will merely hit the highest points.)
The theme of 2017 appeared to be challenges and changes. To end 2017, God showed his sense of humor when, at Christmas, I poured a nice warm glass of cider in my coziest used-it-since-childhood mug at my family’s home. And…it went straight into my laptop. And I mean into the laptop. I had planned to write you a nice Christmas post from the warmth of a couch sipping cider. Instead, I poured cider out of my laptop, bagged it, waited a few days, removed my files, and shopped for new machines. Thankfully, I secured a new machine, and am now operational again (even though I still need to port a few more things over).
It was not a total loss, though. I recovered my files and abandoned a laptop I didn’t love anyway for this bad boy, which even has a touch screen. So far, I love it! (Thankfully, we budget for such things. I also opted to use some funds saved for another purpose along with some unexpected Christmas cash to buy a better laptop than the lower-end models I usually prefer.)
By the way, it is remarkable how far we come each year in tech. Every time I buy a new computer, I am impressed how far the tech comes. And I say this as a former tech guy. This year, I finally went all in for the Lenovo Yoga with touchscreen and solid-state drive. They are features I have wanted, especially the drive, for a long time but never would buy. I have wanted a solid-state drive and this speed for years. But the lesson for me is: patience pays off.
After 2016, we felt we were entering a new adventure with many possibilities in 2017. But now, we are still doing that – yet in a much stronger position. And ready to face many challenges – having done so this year.
2017 in terms of finances
As this is a finance blog, after all, I must relate that our finances are in better shape rolling into 2018 as well. Despite a number of challenges (mostly non-financial), we ended 2017 up for the year, regardless of investments. Meanwhile, Mr. Market soared upwards and brought us along. Our investments grew even though we did not add as much this year as we would have liked.
I apologize to those who, like me, enjoy seeing charts and graphs of goals, because this is where I would normally drop a nice graph. But I only began tracking our full net worth and various investments sometime mid-year. This year marked the first time I tracked our net worth in that way and our investments instead of just our contributions.
In fact, one victory this year has been simplifying our accounts and investments from the many smaller ones into larger pools. I am still finishing that goal as we head into 2018 and streamlining things further – which remains an ongoing goal. But we ended 2017 more streamlined than when we began.
Finally, we began saving significantly more of our take-home income towards the end of 2017. We now save almost all income above our baseline expenses as well (as our income varies). So every time we earn more, it’s like an extra bonus check for the savings. It is fun watching them pile in, knowing that each one ticks away the days until we will have complete financial freedom.
Given everything that happened, I view our finances this year as an unqualified win. As of today, our savings rate is close to 40% and should be increasing.
But what was our final big surprise of 2017? No, not the laptop. A child. Due summer ’18. That will begin a whole new chapter of adventures, and is already changing our lives. But this year, change is like an old friend stopping by again rather than a tremendous disruption.
2018: In Search of Stability
In 2018, our goal is to obtain even more stability (in many areas of life) and find some new equilibriums as we are still adjusting from the many, many changes of 2017, and preparing for more upon the horizon.
We have a few goals as well, and the most exciting for you (last, of course), deserves its own discussion. For the most part, though, 2018 for us will be about adjusting to changes. Here are my main goals for 2018:
- Max out tax-deductible account. (On track.)
- Find ways to reduce housing costs in future years. (We are fine now, but I would like a longer-term solution to housing costs to prevent them from continued above-inflation increases.)
- Streamline and simplify our finances to the point where even the tracking is a breeze. Reduce our accounts by consolidating to the essentials. (Did I mention: I think paperwork and those endless phone calls to customer service to change some account are a separate level of hell.) We are already well on our way, but I need to tie up some loose ends.
- Navigate the arrival of Baby FWP. That will keep us busy.
- While we are using names: find a new moniker besides “Mr. FWP,” since I would enjoy something more like a real name on here. Suggestions, anyone? Maybe eventually I will share the ones J$ had – that guy (yes, J$ is a person) is an idea machine.
- Finish the major blog changes/redesign pieces, which is almost complete already, and maximize the new time blocks I have to blog in order to maintain the posting schedule. 2017 ended by giving me excellent, routine, scheduled time in which to blog. (I cannot exaggerate how many fun posts I have written, half-written, or at least outlined, including some longer in-depth pieces, that I would love to share once finalized.)
- But there is one last goal that gets its own paragraph . . .
. . . and that is: I am introducing a new regular feature to the blog, along with a new and stunningly-talented co-author! It is an honor that she has decided to join this platform.
Adding A Feature and an Author to the Blog
I will share more details later, but I will tease you because I am excited about it – by letting you know how it happened.
In 2017, I made numerous new relationships throughout the personal finance community – which is its own post, coming next – and through those experiences, I met someone who shares profound insights and changes lives, especially as life relates to finances. She helps people find greater meaning through the financial changes they face. This is someone the world needs to hear from.
I also learned that I personally find fulfillment by contributing in some particular ways to enrich peoples’ financial lives (I can’t give it away yet). And then it hit me: what if we joined forces and brought you a new feature as well as a writer whose talents, experience, and thinking exceed my own?
She agreed, so 2018 will now bring a fresh new face and some exciting new content. This includes a new type of feature that fits perfectly with the mission of FWP – finding fulfillment using your finances. The personal finance community has even requested it. Plus, it will be even more fun, as my new co-host is a woman of significant talents, one of which is wit.
I cannot wait to share more about that soon, especially since we plan to launch it as soon as next month. The first feature is already in the works.
How about you: what are your goals for 2018? And how did 2017 treat you, financially and otherwise? Did you find more fulfillment in 2017?