Pop Quiz: Are you financially better off *today* than you were at the start of the year?

by J. Money -

money pop quiz

Came across this test by WorkableWealth.com and thought it was a great exercise to do today :)

Are you better off right now than you were when the year started?

Answer these 6 questions:

  1. Did you increase your net worth?
  2. Did you reduce your debt?
  3. Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget?
  4. Did you reach a savings goal?
  5. Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket?
  6. Do you have the right insurance policies in place?

I scored positively in two of these, mildly on another two of them, and then negatively in the remaining two areas, haha… Mainly due to “owning” another house again, as well as the fact I prefer now to mainly only track our net worth over a budget :) But since our net worth went up pretty substantially this year, it’s safe to say we came out ahead overall so I’ll give ourselves an A+ here on this test.

How about you? Feeling good about how the year has gone so far? Anything surprising come up when answering these questions?

A good one to assess each and every year actually, as we close them out and get ready for fresh new starts :)

Here are my answers more fully if they help anyone:

  1. Did you increase your net worth? Yup! Started the year at $848,665.47 and at last report it was now $1,131,601.03… Almost went and divulged the most CURRENT numbers there, and then realized at the last second I wasn’t allowed to anymore! Haha… Almost got me there! ;)
  2. Did you reduce your debt? Nope. In fact, we increased it!! Went from being completely debt free for the first time in my life EVER, all the way up to $260,000+ indebted now due to our recent home buying decision (!!!). Which I know isn’t the worst type of debt to have, but it’s still very much *debt* and not that fun to carry around.
  3. Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Nope. We used to when we first started our journey and it helped out immensely!!, but now we mainly focus on our net worth tracking as I find it holds us much more accountable (AND takes up only 1/10th of the time ;)). Of course, we pay a nice convenience fee for that since it also means we’re probably spending more than we’d like as we’re not fully paying attention to it all, but for now it’s a fee we’re comfortable with paying while we wrangle other important things – like all our kids, haha… (and a dog this past weekend too!! Which my wife is now salivating over after watching my mom’s for a bit!!)
  4. Did you reach a savings goal? Kinda? My goal is to always max out our retirement accounts every year, but we don’t do it until after the year ends to make sure we’re *allowed* to, so it hasn’t happened yet. Even though we have the money earmarked for it. And honestly that one move alone every year has transformed our savings! Because even if you spend every other dollar that comes in, the amount you’ve amassed over time just keeps compounding like crazy and there’s no way NOT to hit FI eventually doing that year over year!
  5. Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? Yup! Ironically enough, I actually get paid more than I did when I owned this blog, due to a stable “salary” as well as the extra consulting work I’m now freed up to do. So not too bad in that department! (Though no benefits like health insurance or 401k matching/etc since I’m a contractor and not an employee of anyone’s)
  6. Do you have the right insurance policies in place? I think so? I haven’t changed anything this year, but our $350k term life insurance policies for both my wife and I would still do the trick in the event either of us pass sooner than expected (which is to have the house fully paid off, giving the remaining spouse complete peace of mind). We also rock a sizeable umbrella policy to help fill out the other gaps in coverage which also helps us sleep better at night, though admittedly I haven’t paid much attention to it since the day we signed up for it 5 years ago, haha…

Back tomorrow with more financial nuggets!

Thx for the great questions, Mary Beth!

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erik @10YearTarget December 5, 2019 at 6:49 am

Yes – My net worth is up 26% so far this year
Yes – I pay my debt at a normal pace but choose to not pay more than I need and invest instead
Yes – My spending is steady and I automate my savings so my budget is solid
Yes – I reached NOK 2m ($218,570), great milestone for me
Yes – Did not increase this year. But I was just promoted, will lead to pay increase next year
Yes – I’m as much insured as I need to. And also live in a country with reasonable health care (Norway).

Reply

2 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:31 am

Yeah Norway! Represent!

Reply

3 Chadnudj December 5, 2019 at 7:19 am

1. Yes, my net worth is up nearly 25% this year.
2. Yes, paid down over $23k in debt (mortgage, student loans, car loans) this year.
3. No. And, frankly, 2020’s goal is to tighten some of the budget categories and get a handle on spending.
4. I’m going to say kind of for 3 reasons – first, I don’t really have a savings goal. Second, our liquid/non-retirement funds decreased this year (primarily due to being in a new house that needed some new things, plus finally moving to max out 401ks meant a slight shift of money from taxable accounts to retirement accounts). But third, we did get to maxing out our 401ks, which is the key.
5. Didn’t increase my pay this year, but my wife’s did. About to hit 5 years at my firm, so I’m hoping to set a meeting to discuss the future/pay around that anniversary.
6. Didn’t change insurance, but feel we’re insured at the right level.

Reply

4 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:35 am

Yup!! No matter what you do after Maxing out that 401k you’re gonna be fine!! That alone amplifies stuff so much!! (Especially if you get any type of match, which is only icing on the money cake)

Reply

5 Slackerjo December 5, 2019 at 7:24 am

I am better off financially because of all the forced overtime thrust upon me. Taking advantage of my health benefits before the company pulls the plug on our slowly dying department and we get laid off.

The over time $ is going to be spent on RRSP contributions to avoid having to owe the gov’t at tax time.

I work at a gadget company and the only positive thing is that when you spend all day calming down people who are freaking out over their gadget you:
a) are too exhausted and have to any energy to spend $
b) hate gadgets so you aren’t tempted to buy one

Reply

6 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:37 am

Haha… I know I shouldn’t laugh at that, but those really are two great con-perks! ;)

Reply

7 EMW December 5, 2019 at 8:08 am

What a hard question to answer! It should have been a resounding Yes – we got rid of our mortgage by downsizing to a mobile home after my husband retired, and I was on track to work 7 more years at my comfortable and fulfilling office job, then retire, live for 2 years or so off my 401K and husband’s Social Security, then file for maxi-max Social Security benefits when I turned 70.

All that went out the window 1 month after moving to this nice new place. I got laid off. Severance will end in February. Meanwhile, no mortgage, but I still have the lot rent and of course, I have to pay for my own health insurance, which is substantial. I have gotten a freelance gig, but beyond that, it’s all been applications, waiting, and interviews. Mostly waiting. I have one this morning, so wish me luck. I do NOT want to have to claim Social Security at age 62, even though it will be much higher than anything my husband could get after his years as a restaurant server.

Reply

8 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:40 am

AHHHH good luck!!!

Maybe you can get some good leads off your blog even? Have you already shared or not comfortable doing? What are you really good at/passionate at? Maybe if someone sees it here they’d be interested in chatting with you? :)

(and imagine if you HADN’T downsized prior to this!! smart move!! can never go wrong w/ no mortgage!!)

Reply

9 Jacq December 5, 2019 at 8:23 am

1. Per Personal Capital, yes my net worth has increased this year.
2. I’m a ‘stuff is only on the credit card for the current month’ kind of person – so debt is in check.
3. Yeah, a budget is a loose idea. It’s not worth it to feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ if I end up spending more in one area, despite spending less in others (ex: meals out with friends & being social but not much in the way of shoes& clothes) and saving a bunch each paycheck. I had to talk myself into spending the extra $0.20 one week to get the red onion over the white, because I really do prefer it, and gosh darn it I can afford it. So it’s more of a practice of balance and enjoying stuff too.
4. I saved more than I thought, so despite not having a specific goal, we’ll go with yes. I was able to afford a trip with mom too.
5. I did get a pay increase! More money to save! Hooray! Also feeling like I can afford it meant getting (adopting) a pair of kittens.
6. Insurance should be good.

Reply

10 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:54 am

You have me lol’ing at that 20 cent part, haha…

I do stuff like that too and then have to slap myself out of it :)

It’s old habits!! Or rather – the habits that GOT US HERE!

Reply

11 Slackerjo December 5, 2019 at 1:22 pm

I love red onions! Money well spent.

Reply

12 Gene Roberts December 5, 2019 at 8:34 am

Did you increase your net worth? Yup, up $106,600 so far (almost 12%)
Did you reduce your debt? Yup, Credit cards paid off every month, But I’ve hacked off 10G’s from my mortgage.
Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Not to the penny, but yup on both.
Did you reach a savings goal? Not QUITE. This month’s NW= $999,255. The last three months have been like an ice cream headache waiting for that second comma. :)
Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? Yup, small increase. But I increased my savings by more than my increase.
Do you have the right insurance policies in place? Largely. I do need to go through them, but I know that there is enough to make my mom a millionaire should I shuffle off. And also like a ton of other ones.

Reply

13 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 11:57 am

YOU’RE SO CLOSE!!!

One minor shift in the market and you’ll get that double comma!! Haha….

Email me next month when it happens, please? :)

Reply

14 Gene Roberts December 5, 2019 at 7:16 pm

Of course!

Reply

15 Moneybee December 5, 2019 at 8:34 am

1) Increased by more than $20,000 and I’m very, very close to positive. (And shortly after that, my lifetime high.)
2) Yep! By about $10,000 total, I think.
3) Yes. I started tracking my spending this year and I love being able to look at how much I’ve spent on different things (yay pivot tables!). I loosely budget, earmarking money for bills and any known expenses, then the rest of it is ‘spendable’ to be used for anything else.
4) Yes. I completed a three-month emergency fund.
5) Does 401(k) count as benefits and ‘money in my pocket’? I’m getting over $30 more total per paycheck since I started contributing (as soon as I was eligible).
6) Working on it! I’m just about to turn 26 (tomorrow!) so I need to figure out what health insurance to get.

Reply

16 Gene Roberts December 5, 2019 at 8:54 am

If you are in reasonably good health and have the ability to contribute to a Health Savings Account, I would HIGHLY consider educating yourself on the High Deductible Health Plan.
At your age, if you contribute the max and invest over the years (while spending as little as possible from your contributions) you would likely be able to cover the entire cost of your medical care when you retire.
I’ve only had access to a HDHP where I work for around 10 years, but I have been able to save/accumulate $75,000 in my HSA so far. I hope to have over $150K for healthcare expenses when I retire in 6 or 7yrs (at age 55).
If you did the same starting at 26, I think you would have your medical care pretty much paid for. And triple tax-protected. I encourage you to look into it! :)

Reply

17 Moneybee December 5, 2019 at 9:04 am

Thanks for the vote of confidence, I’ve certainly been leaning that way. The deductible is a couple thousand, the premium is like $10 a paycheck, and the out of pocket max is only about half my emergency fund. I don’t think I can max a HSA at this time (not without putting my debt-free date in jeopardy, and that date is a deadline for a reason), but I can get 3/4 of the way there.

Reply

18 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:04 pm

You’re doing so SO good over there for someone in their 20’s – much better than me at that age!! You’re gonna be just fine as the time goes on :)

(And thanks for chiming in with that, Gene. Here’s an article I pass people whenever they’re interested in learning about HSA’s – it’s from the Mad Fientist: https://www.madfientist.com/ultimate-retirement-account/ )

Reply

19 Jennifer December 5, 2019 at 10:29 am

Gene – I understand your plan, and follow the same. My concern is HSA dollars cannot be used for health insurance premiums. When i began the journey, my idea was to retire early and pay health insurance premiums with HSA dollars, but that appears not possible. I do think Medicare premiums can be paid via HSA, but those are deducted directly from social security funds. Do you plan to write a check to yourself for reimbursement? Is your plan to not carry a supplement and pay the uncovered portion with HSA dollars?
I guess my biggest question in paying for health insurance between ages 62 (my planned retirement) and Medicare age. Am I resigned to going to the Affordable Care exchange?

Reply

20 Gene Roberts December 6, 2019 at 6:42 pm

True, you can’t generally use HSA funds for Insurance plan premiums. Specifically, you COULD use it to pay for COBRA continuing coverage after leaving work. But I’ve never seen COBRA premiums that made it worth looking at. And COBRA only gets you 18 months.
Here, I can cheat a bit because I will have a Sheltered Employee Retirement Medical Account (SERMA) when I retire. Although new employees don’t get the benefit and mine won’t accrue any more after 2020, I will have $34,500 that CAN be used to pay the insurance premiums. I figure this should be good for about 4 years or so of premiums. The deductible $ can of course come from the HSA since that is what it was designed for.
Unless they come up with a better alternative, I’m planning on joining you on the Affordable Care exchange.
All of the Medicare premiums except Medi-Gap can be reimbursed from your HSA, you do just cut yourself a check. :)
I also plan on staying with an HDHP all the way to 65 (and Medicare) so I can continue to contribute to the HSA with money from my 401k (after age 55). That’ll be an additional tax-free conversion of $4,000 to $5,000 per year.

Reply

21 Sam December 5, 2019 at 9:02 am

Did you increase your net worth? Yes! Started the year with a net worth of ~27K and currently have a net worth of 38K.

Did you reduce your debt? Nope, I actually bought a new-to-me car this year and took out a loan for about 10K! I have been paying into it as much as possible and have it down to 3K now.

Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Yes!

Did you reach a savings goal? Yes, my emergency fund has 3 months expenses. Next goal is 6.

Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? Yes, I got a raise from 45 to 50k and I also signed up for the HDHP instead of the PPO style health plan so that I could take advantage of and max out an HSA.

Do you have the right insurance policies in place? I believe so? I don’t currently have anyone dependent on me for income as my boyfriend is a fairly high earner. I do have a 50k life insurance policy through my job that would cover my end of life expenses if anything were to happen. I will likely get a more robust life insurance policy if we ever have kids.

Reply

22 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Sitting pretty over there! Congrats on the raise!

Reply

23 Megan December 5, 2019 at 9:03 am

Did you increase your net worth? Yes! Though I don’t have exact numbers since I haven’t entered my husband’s retirement accounts into Personal Capital yet.
Did you reduce your debt? Yes! $2,767.82 in interest & $7,542.15 of student loan principal paid off to date this year! Our mortgage balance is under $50k as well
Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Loosely, I need to do a better job of keeping my spreadsheet updated.
Did you reach a savings goal? Yes! Got our emergency fund to where we want it and started a few sinking funds.
Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? No, but the library where I work doesn’t really do merit-based raises. My husband and I will be on the same health insurance next year which will allow us to save a bit in premiums.
Do you have the right insurance policies in place? Mostly, need to get another life insurance policy for my husband with an aviation rider since he flies occasionally.

Reply

24 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:10 pm

I love you approximately 18x more now that I know you’re a librarian :) Thank you for your service!!

Reply

25 Megan December 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

Aww, thank you! I love my job, although the pay can be frustratingly low at times.

Reply

26 J. Money December 9, 2019 at 11:00 am

I also recently heard that libraries are the top places to go when your kids are off from school when sick – ick!!

Reply

27 Adam December 5, 2019 at 9:40 am

H*ck yes all around, somehow! In 2016 I made projections for FIRE in 2030 based on 7% annual market return and investing $30k each year; we’ve since put away significantly more than that, so we’ve already blown past our 1/1/2021 target. And we’re down below eleven years on the mortgage… two and a half years to only five figures of debt. It’s exciting.

Reply

28 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Time for you to start YOUR money blog now :)

Reply

29 COD December 5, 2019 at 9:44 am

Did you increase your net worth? Yup – 20% or so.
Did you reduce your debt? Owe about $5K on a car which I could pay off tomorrow, but the loan is at 1.9% so I’d rather have the money in savings.
Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Yes – spending about 48% on needs, 25% on fun, and saving 27%.
Did you reach a savings goal? Finally got short term savings back to 6 months living expenses after wife’s cancer broke us 3 years ago.
Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? I kicked my adult kids off my insurance, saving over $500 a month. Does that count?
Do you have the right insurance policies in place? Empty nesters, so I let the umbrella policy lapse. Term life is all we really need I think.

Reply

30 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Yes, that counts with kicking the kids off haha… Though sorry to hear about the cancer – I didn’t know that :(

Reply

31 Pat December 5, 2019 at 11:08 am

We’re 50/50 on these questions. It’s been a year for sure and by grace, grit, and gumption we’ve kept up. I’m setting my sights on getting a job so that will make a big positive impact on our family. :)

Reply

32 J. Money December 5, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Sending positive vibes over to you!!

Reply

33 Pat December 11, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Much appreciated!

Reply

34 J December 5, 2019 at 1:03 pm

Did you increase your net worth? – YES! Net worth increased by over $100K this year between paying off our house, my husband nearly doubling his 403b contributions, market appreciation, me increasing my 401k contributions to max out my 401k this year, an increased pace of paying off husband’s student loan, and redirection of cash flow previously spent on mortgage payoff back into other savings avenues. This year’s increase was about 25% of our net worth.
Did you reduce your debt? YES! Between house and student loan. We don’t keep credit card balances and both cars were purchased in cash a LONG time ago.
Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget? Yes, although I have allowed myself to increase my spending the last half of this year.
Did you reach a savings goal? YES! Oh so many.
Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket? YES! I was promoted at my previous job and received a large increase and then I changed jobs and scored another increase with company that has a better work environment. Some benefits are less, but there are many other fringe benefits at the new job that are really starting to add up. My husband also had his most significant increase in income this year as his role changes.
Do you have the right insurance policies in place? Mostly – We had an interesting situation with the home insurance. While it did increase this year, we kept it from hemorrhaging with a ton of legwork. It only increased $150 and we got a policy that didn’t have a high separate deductible for hail/wind damage.
This was definitely a great year for our finances as many of our decisions from years ago are starting to bear fruit at the same time that we have continued to up our games.

Reply

35 J. Money December 6, 2019 at 6:38 am

Love to hear it :) And proof that it all adds up over time too! We just have to be patient – and diligent – enough in order for it to get there! So well done to the both of you! 25% increase across the board is incredible!

Reply

36 steveark December 5, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Not all that applies to an already slightly early retired guy but in spite of only earning a fraction of what I did at my old 9 to 5 our net worth still went up by $253K this year so far. No debt of any kind but also no pay raises or savings goals, we are way past needing pay or hitting our number. We did redo our estate plan and our insurance is optimized so I feel pretty good after the quiz.

Reply

37 J. Money December 6, 2019 at 6:35 am

A great place to be in, my friend :) And glad you’re still blogging strong to help preach the good word to others too!

Reply

38 Francis December 5, 2019 at 10:12 pm

Yep on all fronts.
Like stevark, increased YTD (11/30) net worth in a similar fashion. Started moving investments to safety to reduce exposure when things on Wall Street go on sale.
The work optional W-2 is working too,

One item to add to your checklist:

We will have a look at our Wills and Power of Attorney docs in January. We have not updated them since 2012.

Reply

39 J. Money December 6, 2019 at 6:33 am

Hey – at least you HAVE wills and the powers!! We’ve been trying to lock ours up for *months* now and just waiting on one more tweaking by our attorney and should finally be good to go for the first time in our lives. So we’d def. fail on that one presently, just like 90% of the rest of the country :(

Btw, when you say you sarted moving investments to safety, what is “safety” for you? Cash? Bonds?

Reply

40 Francis December 6, 2019 at 6:36 pm

The 401k monies have been going into the fidelity diversified bond funds that are offered in my plan. I have a total of 25% exposure in some tax deferred and brokerage accounts.

I believe you once wrote: why keep playing the game once you’ve won.
With that, I started taking money off the table and stashing cash and bonds.
I keep 4 years of annual budget spend cash in a “high yield” accounts in both Money Markets and CDs.

Reply

41 J. Money December 9, 2019 at 11:01 am

Love it :)

So right on once you win the game…

Reply

42 Grettman December 6, 2019 at 4:49 am

NW up 20% YTD, but that includes my contributions.

I maxed all tax advantaged accounts.

But spent more than I wanted to…

ZERO consumer debt.

paid down about 60,000 on mortgage.

Reply

43 J. Money December 6, 2019 at 6:30 am

Hot damn!!

Reply

44 JoeHx December 6, 2019 at 11:06 am

1. Did you increase your net worth?

Yes – by about $100k.

2. Did you reduce your debt?

Yep – even though we bought a new car a few years ago.

3. Are you tracking your spending and keeping a budget?

Mint & Excel spreadsheets for the win!

4. Did you reach a savings goal?

I guess? 401k match + max out Roth IRAs and HSA

5. Did you ask for and/or receive a pay increase, or take advantage of your company benefits in a way that allowed you to keep more money in your pocket?

I guess I received a pay increase, but I need to do better in this regard.

6. Do you have the right insurance policies in place?

Mostly, I guess? I’m not 100% sure what I should have, though.

Reply

45 J. Money December 6, 2019 at 1:50 pm

$100k increase ain’t too shabby, sir! Do that for 10 years straight and you’ve got a cool Milly :)

Reply

46 [email protected] January 3, 2020 at 5:25 pm

LUV this! These are great questions. This post inspired me to use these questions to write a post about our first year on our journey to Financial Independence. Thanks for sharing this J$!

https://theusefulroot.com/our-first-year-on-our-journey-to-financial-independence-how-did-we-do/

Reply

47 J. Money January 6, 2020 at 8:31 am

Heyyyy very cool!!

Much more fun to read with all the pretty pics and gifs too :)

Congrats on killing it last year!

Reply

48 Amelia @ TheUsefulRoot January 6, 2020 at 11:43 am

Thanks J$! Thanks for helping to keep me inspired with your thoughtful and fun posts. Wishing you health and wealth in 2020!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: