We’ve got less than 12 hours left in the decade. I bet most of you will be reading this next decade. This is perhaps the last best chance to review the last 12 months, before looking forward to the 2020s.
2019 Goals and plans
Back in late February, I created my 2019 goals and plans. I’m terrible with creating goals and worse in following through with them. Hey, life gets busy and honestly, most of the time I was just treading water with a 5 and a 6 year old. If I can stay one step ahead of them, I’m winning the game.
I divided those goals and plans into a few separat areas:
In reality, I executed the Pomodoro technique on a handful of days… and when I did they went very well. The rest of the time, I was executing short-term errands and mini-emergencies. I didn’t get to any of the other stuff.
In 2020, I’ll need to do better by tracking and grading myself on these and perhaps putting up visual reminders in the house. I will not be making a dream board though. (Or maybe I should?)
In 2019, I went from being the ultimate helicopter parent to the anti-helicopter parent. I still have an eye on the boys at all times, but now I let them make their own mistakes and learn from them. The 7 year old is probably more functional than anyone else I know (including myself), so it’s easy to just say, “You can do it. I believe in you.” We’re not there with the 6 year old, but he’s made great progress.
Readers who follows my alternative income streams updates, can see that we’ve been on a lot of adventures from Disney World, New York City (twice!), Hershey Park, and Aruba, to many local events that happen every week. We were everywhere, doing everything. Many times it was something as simple as going to weekly chess club or a 5-minute drive to the beach.
The oldest has joined the Cub Scouts and is doing well with that. We went on a couple of overnights and it’s a good way to learn and reinforce “life skills.” The youngest took a second season of soccer, but the mid-week practice started to get too much for him. They both tried piano, guitar, and ukulele, but it was a better fit for the oldest for now. Five years old might have been too early for the youngest to try music. We often experience a trickle-down effect where the oldest will teach his younger brother, so maybe that will happen with music.
Academically, the boys continue to grow. We continue to invest in private school and it seems to be paying off. If anything, the school is too easy and boring for them. That’s a good problem to have I suppose. They are still obsessed with Pokemon, so I have used that to teach them all kinds of math and science. Someday, I’ll have to write an epic article on the topic. (It may just be epic to me because I didn’t know what a Pokemon was 18 months ago.)
My biggest concern going into 2020 is that they kids are becoming too spoiled. We’ve done so much and I think they may take it for granted that it’s just “normal”. Newport, RI is not the real world. It’s a weird bubble that is unlike most of America. And their school is a weird bubble inside of that bubble. I’m not sure how to balance the realities of the world (as I see them) with the endless possibilities of a world where “everything is awesome.” Whoa, I got a little deep there, let’s reel this back.
We made very average progress with cleaning and organizing. The basement got a 50% cleaning and the garage about a 25% cleaning. We were able to sell some things through a church yard sale. We still have a lot more to sell. Most of the postings don’t get responses unless we put it on Freecycle, where things move quickly. Sometimes I think it would be a great challenge to just live off of Freecycle stuff for a year. This would be a great reality television show.
We recently bought an Ikea Kura loft bed for our youngest son’s room. That’s created a lot of space underneath for storage and play. It’s pushed us to redesign his room as well. This has helped with the cleaning and organizing, because now the kids use both their rooms instead of always the same room. We can now disperse throughout both rooms.
We also did an extensive residing and painting of the house. It didn’t reduce the clutter inside the house, of course, but it certainly improved the overall appearance. We have a few more smaller projects like these to tackle in 2020.
The most important thing is that we reduced the clutter enough to invite people over. Of course, whenever we did that we found that as we reduced the visible primary clutter the secondary clutter would become more visible. In short, the more we cleaned the more the unorganized places stood out like a sore thumb.
I detailed the vacations in the “Everything Kids” section above. We did more than we thought we would. Someday I’d like to go on more educational vacations (especially Europe!), but for now roller coasters and water parks suit us well.
Most of our net worth is in stocks and real estate. We naturally tend to invest in those two areas… and they have compounded extremely well over the years. At this point, the compound interest river might as well be white water rapids. We just want to make sure that we steer clear of a crash. At the same time, we might be on this river for another 40 years (or more!) so it doesn’t make sense to get conservative with our investments.
At the start of the year, the market had a quick collapse and was getting back up to speed. In many ways, we were starting at a dip. However, the stock market, rigged with corporate tax cuts and stock buy-backs, just took off. By most measures, it’s up anywhere from 25-30%.
Our real estate holdings have lagged the market “only” returning 20%. That “only” is a joke, because that’s obviously a great return on real estate in a year. Of course that also includes us paying off mortgages, so it’s not an exact mathematical return. That 20% represents just the growth in equity we’ve seen.
We won’t have our December numbers finalized for another week, but our net worth was up 31% through early December. It’s been a great December, so it may fall in at an even 1/3rd (well as “even” as an odd number with an infinitely repeating decimal can be).
After focusing on personal finance for decades now, it’s very unusual to see these kinds of gains at this stage. At the end of the year, I did a little portfolio rebalancing to increase our bond holdings.
My 2019 goals hoped for a net worth return of 20%, so 33% was above and beyond what we reasonably could have hoped for. I wasn’t expecting much from the stock market, but I was very, very wrong.
For me, “passivish” income is equity and real estate income. If I had some royalties that would qualify as well. In February, we were averaging around $39,000 based on the equity in our rental properties and what our dividends could be (if we invested with that goal). My goal was to get that up to $45,000 a year, which typically requires a lot of growth. We found a great investment opportunity and we earned an annualized $57,500 as of November. We couldn’t have asked for better. The only downside is that much of this is accounts we can’t touch (retirement) or equity in real estate.
Work on Energi Gal’s Retirement Plans
This past year my wife qualified for her 20-year military pension. That pension is worth a lot of money over a lot of years. If we had access to the passive income above, we’d be in a good position to retire without my own self-employment income (see below).
In the February update I explained that we have the kids at a tremendous private school with a huge active duty discount. If my wife retires we may lose that discount at the school (that we value greatly). That would make the cost rise tens of thousands of dollars at the same time that the main family income stream drops 60%. One goal was to talk to the school about what kind of deal we could work out, but it didn’t happen. My wife has gone back and forth on retirement so I’m letting her direct the action on this one.
I’d like to see her create a plan of what she’d be retiring to. From personal experience, I can say this is very important. I don’t think she has a plan at this time. I think it’s something we can work on in 2020, but it really has to come from her.
Make $75,000 in Self-Employment Income
One of my income streams largely dried up in 2019. I came about 10-20% short of this goal. Considering that was a stretch goal, I won’t beat myself up about it too much. Earning income isn’t my number one priority and I think many, many people would be very happy with this kind of income while trying to manage a household and kids.
I’ve spent some of my time shopping smart and being frugal. That leads me to save a lot of money on food costs. These kinds of Aldi chicken deals happen regularly. This is just one example of how measuring income is different than measuring value.
I also set a few health goals:
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
One of my goals was to eat more fruits and vegetables. I was able to keep that habit for about 3 months, but after a two-week vacation in Florida, I fell back into old habits. I’ve since gotten a little better, but it is still too inconsistent. On the plus side, even 3 months of eating fruits and vegetables is better than zero months.
Exercise With My Wife and Do a 5K
I’m combining these two. I didn’t end up going to the gym with my wife a single time. She really embraced running and went from doing a couple of 5Ks to doing a 10K earlier this month. Though I didn’t get to the gym with her, I did run with her a bit and I’ve been able to manage to do some combination of running/walking 2 miles in 22 minutes. I need to work more on distance, breathing, and pacing, but a 5K this year should be possible. My wife booked a 10-miler for May. I got my work cut out for me to keep up with her.
Overall, I didn’t well with my health goals. I’m sure many of you may feel the same way. That’s why so many New Year Resolutions are about losing weight and getting healthier.
I didn’t learn to fly or sign up for a Masterclass. However, I did complete more than 200 consecutive days of Japanese on Duolingo. It’s not something that I’m excited about learning, but I’m excited about learning something. Somehow Duolingo keeps me on track and this has become a good habit.
It’s a good time to reiterate my final thoughts when creating my 2019 goals:
I feel that this post may be a microcosm of how 2019 is shaping up for me. I think I rushed through it. It’s almost as if I’m reacting to the hectic pace of life around me rather than planning and methodically moving towards the goal.
On the other hand, publishing imperfect content and feelings is what I have always loved about blogging. There should be an expectation that things are a little rough around the edges.
That sums up everything very well. I’m constantly rushed to get the next thing done and feel like I’m trying to just get to “good enough.” Some of that is poor time management. A lot of it just trying to squeeze every event possible in. In some ways they seem to go hand-in-hand. Since we’re rushing around so much to squeeze everything in, the rest of the time I want to relax. This doesn’t leave a lot of leftover focus for long-term yearly goals.