Happy Monday, personal finance nerds!
This week we cross over the halfway mark for the year 2020. Oh man, what a crazy year it’s been so far.
When I sat down and wrote my 2020 money goals back in January, I had no clue about the poopstorm of events we were about to experience …
- One of the biggest stock market crashes in history
- Immediately followed by one of the biggest stock market recoveries in history
- More people out of work than there has ever been
- Governments printed trillions of dollars and handed out money to public companies, small businesses, and citizens in need
- Interest rates dropped to the lowest they’ve ever been
- Toilet paper somehow became worth more than gold
- Impeachment, drone attacks, a global pandemic, bushfires, and a whole bunch of other monumental world issues
And the year is only half over!
Time to review, reset, and pivot our goals!
A friend said to me recently, “This year is a complete write-off. I’m cancelling all my 2020 plans and goals and will just figure stuff out next year.”
While I can see why she feels that way, I disagree. I don’t want to wait until things “normalize” just to start planning my life. Plus, I think it’s important to continue pushing toward your goals no matter what challenges are thrown at you.
I’d rather be a guy with plans that fail than a guy with no plans at all. :)
So it’s time to revisit, revise, and maybe even remove some of my 2020 goals. Here’s a few money-related goals I started 2020 with, and some changes going forward …
*Quick note: Last year my wife and I realized that we had built up too much of an emergency fund. Since we weren’t working for most of 2018 and 2019, we were holding almost two years of living expenses in cash, just to be on the safe side. Going into 2020, we planned on returning to work and thought it’d be safe to move some of our cash savings into new investments and reduce our emergency cash amount.
1) Fund Roth IRAs (DONE in January)
My wife and I both have Roth IRA accounts that we plan to max out each year. Roths are relatively new accounts to us — we opened them in 2016 and have been adding to them for the past four years. This year we added the maximum of $6,000 to each of our accounts back in January.
2) Get a job, you lazy bum! (DONE)
Although this blogging gig is part-time (for now), I’m counting this goal as complete!
3) Set up a “gift to minors” account for my new nephew!
My brother and his wife had another baby! Woo hoo! This is nephew #4 for me :)
For each nephew (all four were born in the past five years), my wife and I have been setting up a Unified Gift to Minor Account with a $2,500 starting balance. This is a gift to each kid, not the parents. I will remain as the custodian of the account until the child turns 18, then it gets converted into a regular brokerage account under the child’s name and control.
My newest nephew was born a few months ago, but we haven’t set up the new gift account yet. If you’re interested in what a UGMA is and how it works, I can write up a future post on it all.
4) Giving stocks instead of birthday & Christmas gifts for 2020
Last year for Christmas I bought my dad some stocks, instead of buying him a physical present. I made it into a fun little game of choice, and J Money shared the story in a post here.
The stocks I bought are performing pretty well, serendipitously. And it’s giving me and my dad something fun to talk about regularly and watch grow over the years.
This got me thinking … Instead of buying birthday gifts for my family this year, I’m going to buy everyone shares in public companies. I’ve got five family members with birthdays between now and the end of the year, and then I’ll probably buy stocks instead of Christmas presents for people as well. I know, it’s kind of boring to get stocks as gifts … but I think my family will thank me later down the road!
5) Make $3k in travel rewards and cash-back programs
I’ve been playing around with travel hacking and testing new bank promotions that offer sign-up bonuses. So far I’ve earned $1,800 this year and hope to make more than $3k before the year is out!
6) Sell one of our cars
With me working from home and my wife biking to work every day, we no longer need two cars. We’ll keep the trusty Prius (good gas mileage for our road trips, etc) and plan to sell our Kia Soul.
This has actually been on our list since last year. But we’ve changed our mind a bunch of times and never made it a priority. Although both our cars are fully paid for, owning two is now pointless and registration/insurance is probably costing us more monthly than the odd Uber trip would cost if we needed to take one in a pinch.
Anyone want to buy a 2013 Kia Soul with ~45k miles?
7) A kid? Or maybe a couple kids?
This feels weird to talk about publicly … But hey, if we can talk about money and share intimate financial details online, we may as well share other life-changing personal events we’re experiencing.
My wife and I have decided to explore fostering, and possibly adopting, children. It’s been an ongoing discussion ever since we got married. We’d make excellent parents, have so much to give, and there are a ton of children out there in need of a loving home.
Because the L.A. family services department is closed to in-personal group meetings, we need to take orientation online and do web-based training courses. More to come on this — my wife and I are still at the beginning of the process. Scary stuff!
Goals we’ve already failed at or decided to give up on for 2020
1) Invest in a new real estate partnership, $25k (FAIL)
In early March, we partnered on a new real estate venture to buy an apartment complex with a bunch of other investors. Our agreed portion of the deal was $25k, which we wired off to escrow after signing all the paperwork.
But, lucky for us, the contract fell through shortly afterward and our money got refunded! This turned out to be a blessing because when the covid news started to roll out in March, we felt much safer having the cash on hand.
In hindsight, I should have moved the money immediately into our joint brokerage account and invested in the stock market during the March/April downturn. Shoulda, woulda, coulda … I was too nervous to make a spur-of-the-moment investment at the time, so this $25k is still sitting in cash waiting to be invested.
I haven’t set a replacement goal yet — input welcome on this!
2) Sell an investment property (Remove)
In January, we listed one of our investment properties for sale. I’ll admit this was more just to test the waters and see if we could get a decent price in a hot market.
We’ve since removed the listing because we realized:
- We don’t have a good plan to reinvest the proceeds. Selling one property only to buy another similar investment seems pointless.
- We only bought the place three years ago and should probably stick to our long-term buy and hold strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
3) Spend “less” on alcohol in 2020 (Remove)
We spent a total of $2,117 on alcohol in 2019 and set a goal to reduce this in 2020. It was a very general goal, no specific $ amount attached.
But, I’m realizing we probably won’t achieve this, and we’re OK with that. As of right now, we’ve spent $1,373 in alcohol so far this year. Oops.
Staying home and not going out to eat has been a big factor in this. We’ve only spent $122 on dining out this year! We’re saving a few dollars in one category and being a little lenient in another.
Plus, beer is fun. 🙂
4) Get health insurance, via work or third party (Remove)
My wife and I were considering getting health insurance this year but have now decided against it. Our original plan was for me to get a job that included health benefits, but this isn’t an option right now.
We’ve been living without insurance for the past two years and have found a bunch of local income-based health providers that offer very affordable care. Last year we had a few doctor visits (and even a small surgery) and paying out of pocket has worked out cheaper than the insurance policies we were quoted.
At this point we are happy remaining self insured and continuing to pay out-of-pocket when health issues arise. We’ll assess again at the end of the year.
How are your 2020 goals coming along? Found any hidden opportunities within the recent havoc?
- Transition to working from home?
- Learning to cook more and eat out less?
- Any newfound hobbies that could turn into side hustles?
- Were you able to invest additional money during the recent stock market dip?
- Have you blown your alcohol budget already too? Ha ha ;)
*Roller coaster pic by Matt Bowden!
Joel is a 35 y/o Aussie living in Los Angeles and the guy behind 5amjoel.com. He loves waking up early, finding ways to be more efficient with time and money, and sharing what he learns with others. Rise Early | Retire Early!