It seems like whenever I have a title with the words “review goals” things get ugly real quick. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be an exception.
On Martin Luther King Day last year, I wrote an article about Setting Goals for 2014. Though it wasn’t related to any of my goals, I always like to bring the special day into focus. While it may not have been the most outrageous call of the year, in review of 2014 two sentences really caught my attention:
“I like to think if he was alive today, he’d be pleased at the progress. However, I wonder if he’d be focused on about how much work we still have to do.”
Personally 2014, was a year of transition just like 2013. When 2013 started, our first child was 3 month old and we moved from San Francisco to Boston. When 2014 started we had another boy (yes, they are close). So while we didn’t relocate, it was a transition to have another boy. I imagine that for the next 18 years (or more) there will be transitions related to their growth and development. The first few months of the year though were dedicated to help the new Mini Man with his transition to the world.
Though it might not seem like it due to my somewhat sporadic writing over the last couple of months, I wrote more in 2014 than I had in some time. I had this crazy theory that if wrote almost every day, the audience would grow and I’d get more income opportunities. It didn’t work out that way. Writing more simply lead to… writing more.
That’s not to say it didn’t have it highlights and lowlights. I wrote about quite a few more MLM companies and put a spotlight on their misinformation and disinformation. I have covered a couple dozen now in fairly extensive detail. I’ve also received tens of thousands of comments on them, without a single comment making any kind of legitimate case that they are a real business. It should be clear to any objective person that they are financial fraud, plan and simple.
One of lowlights of the year was when I wrote about Beachbody’s Shakeology scam after Side Hustle Nation’s interviewed a top distributor who claimed it wasn’t a pyramid scheme. This was despite admitting that she made much more via recruiting and that selling wasn’t viable… and that happens to be the very definition of a pyramid scheme according to the FTC’s guidelines. Part of the problem is that there’s little unbiased education on these pyramid schemes and people presume that the authorities would shut them down if they were illegal. Unfortunately, law enforcement and the legal process for doing so is too extensive and costly for the regulators’ limited time and budgets. It’s an ongoing problem. However, it is getting better with the attention that Herbalife has received and the ease of information on the Internet.
The other lowlight was when I received a death threat because of my article exposing a pyramid scheme. It seems clear that it was from one of their distributors as it originated from an IP address that was just outside the location of their Global Convention. You’d think that an American company would be against this kind of terrorism and put some investigation into it, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps that mentality is why their stock is in the tank, down 18% this year and 35% over two years.
Getting back my online income, it is very disappointing not to have increased it more. I had set a goal to make 50% more than 2013, noting that 50% of a small number isn’t as crazy as it seems. While there are still a few days left in the year, it is looking like I might make only about 5-10% more. I can sugar-coat it by saying that I’ve learned a lot and doing all the extra writing has helped me improve my skills. It’s all true, but the bottom line is that I need to do better.
We’ll try something new in 2015, but we’ll save that for an article about setting goals for 2015.
Another of my goals was to keep expenses down. In 2013 we put a lot of money into a new fence, a new deck, and central air conditioning in the house. In total that was around $30-40K. We took advantage of 0% interest financing for the central air, the last payment we made a few weeks ago. I’d like to say that we used the year to build up savings, but there were some major renovations to rental properties that made it feel like swimming upstream.
I learned that I need to do a better job of anticipating and amortizing the necessary rental property maintenance. The result of that is an Excel spreadsheet with all major expenses and an anticipated schedule of when they’ll likely come due. In addition to this we need to set up two bank accounts (even if virtual): one for rental property maintenance, and one for an emergency fund in the event that we can’t find tenants in a timely manner.
Getting back to keeping expenses down, perhaps out biggest move of this year is going solar. It’s a move that doesn’t pay off for 6-7 years, but after that we’ll reduce our necessary expenses by $125 a month on average. It’s almost like giving ourselves a $2000 raise every year and keeping $1500 after taxes.
My final goal was to lose two pounds to get under the 25 BMI mark. I had achieved it for most of the year, but there was some Aruba weight that thwarted the goal in late November. While I had a little time to recover, a stomach virus and the holidays made sure that wasn’t going to happen. The end result is that I’m now 6 pounds more than I was. Now I need to lose 8 pounds to get to the high end of where I want to be.
If I am being honest with myself, there’s a lot of room for improvement, particularly in the exercise area. While walking the dog is better than nothing, it’s not nearly enough.
On the surface, it feels like 2014 was a complete failure with regard to these goals. However, when I look deeper, I see many more bright spots. There were a lot of quality of life aspects that can’t be quantified here. I think we went to a dozen (free) concerts this summer. My wife and I got some kayak time in. There was the aforementioned long vacation in Aruba.
It is impossible to quantify spending this time with family. However, it is time when I’m not actively working to increase income. So what looks like a failure because it is quantifiable may not be so in reality.