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Well, this is it – the last post of the year. I hope all of you had a great holiday and are looking forward to the new year! I thought this would be a good time to do a year-end review and look back at what I got accomplished throughout the year (and what I didn’t!).
Let’s start with the 8 Financial Goals we had set at the beginning of the year for ourselves…
1) Build back up our online savings
After the 25% we put down on the duplex we bought at the end of last year, our savings we had was pretty much depleted. We don’t have any consumer debt, so other than contributing to investments, paying regular bills like our mortgage and utilities, and keeping our expenses low, the build-up didn’t go too bad. We have just under $30k in the savings now, which I’m pretty happy about.
However, we’re on the hunt for another duplex!! That means we’ll need another down payment, which will eat a lot of that back up again.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to find a lender that let’s you put down less than 25% for a multifamily property in my area. The good news though is that, just this week, I came across a new connection… a broker who says he can provide lenders that will allow less down (10-15%), albeit for a slight higher interest rate. I’m not going to get my hopes up yet, but that could be a great opportunity for my next couple of rental property investments.
2) Invest more in my HSA
If you’re familiar with a Health Savings Accounts (HSA), you know that these are one of the best deals out there. So, I had decided that I wanted to push more money into my HSA for the year. In the first quarter of the year, I doubled my contribution to my account. I’m still not maxing it out for the year, but I’m getting much closer.
The bigger portion of this goal though was to actually take the money in my HSA and start investing it. Right now, it’s continuing to grow, but will soon be eaten up by inflation. Although, I looked into it, I’ve been hesitant to actually switch things over yet.
This is probably a dumb decision, but I want to wait until the market has a crappy day before I go all-in. Since I’m not ready to take my money out of the market, I actually don’t like how high it’s been throughout the year. I’d rather buy low than high – of course, only time will tell if it’s actually high right now.
Regardless, I still plan to jump in on it with my HSA, but I’m being patient for the time being.
3) Get both sides of our duplex filled
This was an easy one for the most part. I purchased a duplex at the end of last year, got it fixed up, and rented out. Both sides have been full for most of the year now and it’s cash-flowing nicely.
As I mentioned, the exciting part is that we’re already ready to find another one. There are pros and cons to a duplex over a single family, but I think I’m going to stick with buying more multifamily units for the time being. They seem to provide a little more bang for the buck, which is what I’m after.
It’s also very possible that we sell our rental house in the spring and buy a couple more duplexes in a nicer area with the money we make on it. If that looks like it’ll come to fruition, I’ll be sure to post more about it later.
4) Pay down more principal on our home
I don’t mind the loan on my rental properties – Robert Kiyosaki would tell you how this can be considered good debt since it’s used to make you money every month. The thing I don’t like though is the debt on my personal residence – that isn’t making me any money. So obviously I want to get rid of this huge noose hanging around my neck as soon as I can.
I was paying as much as I could to get rid of my mortgage as soon as possible. However, after getting a second opinion and talking to a financial advisor, we decided that I should cut back on paying so much on the loan and build up my savings. The reason for this is that if I’m going to quit my job in a handful of years, I’m going to need to have some more money on-hand for the first five years while my Roth IRA Conversion Plan is doing its thing. We also did the math and realized that not paying so much on my loan would only add a few more months onto my payoff so ultimately it made sense to go this route.
So this was a goal that basically got nixed for the time being.
5) Change our 401(k) investments
I changed all the stupid high-expense ratio funds I had in my 401(k) to be one simple and extremely low-expense ratio Vanguard fund. I’ve slept so much better since I’ve made this change and will likely save over $50,000 in fees alone!!! If you haven’t signed up for a free account at Personal Capital, be sure to do this and do the Fee Analyzer… it’s a complete eye-opener!
I did the same with Mrs. R2R’s 401(k) plan and now I’m now doing more of this with our Roth IRAs as well. I’ve really learned over this past year that the smart move is to focus on index funds and ignore the noise in the stock market.
6) Open up a HELOC
Initially, this goal was to open the Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) just to have as an emergency savings account. I later bailed on this idea because of some of the requirement involved – such as needing to draw from it even if you didn’t need the money.
Later though, I decided to open a HELOC to pay off my high interest rate loan for my rental house. With rates as low as they are and the small amount left of my mortgage for this property, it only made sense to pay it off.
So that’s what I did – I opened up a HELOC through my credit union and paid off the loan. Even as rates start to go up slightly, it would take a long time for them to reach the 5.125% I was paying on the mortgage through the bank.
7) Optimize our taxes
I hired an accountant this past year for the first time in probably 15 years. The firm I used was pretty expensive, but was also a referral from my financial mentor and turned out to be well worth the money. Not only was he able to find some deductions that I was missing that basically paid for his fee, but he gave me a lot of good advice that I needed.
As our net worth is growing, I’ve learned how important it is to build a team to help expand and protect everything we’re doing. A good accountant is one of those team members. I also now have a good real estate agent, broker, estate planning attorney, corporate attorney, and insurance broker.
Although I consider myself a reasonably smart guy when it comes to some of this stuff, I would rather bring in people who are smarter than I am to solidify everything we’re working on building.
8) Further our daughter’s education and financial education
I struggled with half of this goal this year. I wanted to up some of the contributions I make to my daughter’s 529 plan, but that didn’t happen. The good news is that it wasn’t because I was spending it elsewhere – it was because I was increasing contributions to other accounts. She can get loans for school, but I can’t get loans for our retirement.
The other part of this goal though was to increase my daughter’s financial IQ. Obviously, this will be an ongoing process, but for six years old, I’ve got one heckuva smart kid if I do say so myself. I make sure not to lecture her, but I find moments to introduce her to thinking more like a business owner or investor and less like an employee… and she gets it. She asks all the right questions that you could hope your kid would.
Hopefully, that will stick and she’ll make some smart decisions later in life, but I’m very pleased with everything she already knows at such a young age.
Other Year-End Review Items
When doing a year-end review on the financial goals we had set for ourselves, I think we did pretty good. We might not have hit every goal, but we’ve made some good progress. Here are a few other items that transpired over the year…
Maxing out 401(k) Early
I keep my contribution to my 401(k) set as a pretty high percentage rather than a set amount. What’s nice about this is that, as I get salary increases, more money goes into the 401(k) every pay period. It also helps me to max it out sooner. This year, I had maxed it out by early November.
That means that for November and December, I had some extra money in my checks… quite a bit more money. I run a pretty tight ship at our house as far as putting money aside goes and I overdraw my checking (no penalty at my credit union) almost every couple of weeks. This extra money has been pretty good to see right now. I’m using it to build a little buffer into my checking as well as add some more to our savings and investment accounts.
So I received an unexpected year-end bonus. Normally, I would immediately make money like this just disappear into our savings before we could think of other uses for it.
This time though, I’m going to use most of it to go toward our trip to Panama that we’re planning. Since I’m still working on that line between frugality and deprivation, I think that would be a good place for it to go. I’ll talk a little bit more about our Panama trip once we get it booked.
This blog has been a real blessing for me. I like having an outlet for my thoughts and I appreciate all my readers more than you would ever know (thanks for your support!!).
Not only that, but it has made me hold myself to higher standards. I really want to do better, not only for myself, but to help my readers that are early on the path to financial independence know that this is a very possible path to make. You should definitely consider creating your own site if you haven’t yet.
That said, it’s also important that I look at my site as a business. I want to grow what I have with the possibility of some supplemental income when I quit my 9-5 job. That’s where FinCon comes in. FinCon is a conference that’s mostly focused around personal finance bloggers. They provider breakout sessions on creating a better blog and it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers out there. I bought a ticket for this year’s conference.
Although it will likely cost a good buck for everything when all is said and done (admission, flight, hotel, meals, etc.), I’m looking at this as an investment. Hopefully, the return on my cost will be well worth it in the long run.
So, that about sums up my year-end review. It’s been a fun and exciting year for us.
I hope you have a great New Year’s and thanks for reading!!
Have you done a year-end review and have you met all or some of your goals this year?