My Goals for 2018: Personal, Financial and PVF Blog

2018 Skywriting

A few days ago I was having a conversation with my wife and the subject of goals came up.  We have a newborn at home, so making it through the day is a goal in and of itself.  It’s hard to think about the future when you have pressing concerns front and center.  But it did get me thinking: when was the last time I really sat down and thought about goals for myself.

I’m hesitant to admit, it’s been a while.  I’ve always had a long-term target of financial independence and getting the most out of life, but in terms of tangible, actionable goals for the upcoming year I was lacking.

In a rare quiet moment I scribbled down some preliminary thoughts, which I then flushed out with more detail later.  I tried to utilize the SMART goal framework as much as possible as well as limit them to really focus my efforts on a few areas.  I picked three big categories (financial, personal, and blog) and limited myself to four for each category.  My hope is that by putting these out there I’ll hold myself more accountable as well.  My plan is to revisit these periodically throughout the year and provide updates where relevant.

Financial

Financial goals are those that will improve our financial picture in 2018.  I’m not trying to shoot for the moon, but would like to leave 2018 in a better position that where we started.  As you’ll see below, my focus is being properly invested, sticking with a budget and marching ever closer to financial independence.

Grow net worth (excl. home value) at least as much as the S&P 500

The S&P 500 was up nearly 19% in 2017, while net worth excluding the value of our home grew 22%.  I want to maintain that that sort of growth in the new year.

Net Worth Growth Chart

If we’re invested appropriately (i.e. maintain our target asset allocation and index fund investments) and continue to save, we should meet the goal.  I think this way is better than static percent growth goal since I can’t control what the stock market will do.

Note: I exclude our home’s value since we just keep it at the lower of our purchase price or market value.  Our home makes up about a third of our net worth, so our total net worth “only” grew by 14%.

Stick to my 2018 budget for spending/saving

I’ve been absolutely horrible at budgeting in the past, mainly due to a lack of discipline.  We earned good incomes, saved automatically for retirement, but the rest seemed to slip away.  Luckily, I had enough discipline to save annual bonuses which is a big source of our accumulated wealth.  Our current jobs don’t have bonuses, so have to make our savings all out of regular paychecks.  We’ve been doing fine so far, just not quite at the level I’d like.

I’ve built a budget for 2018 that has us spending 63% of after-tax earnings and saving 37%.  That’s pretty consistent with our savings rates last year and will allow us to fully fund our 401ks, IRAs and contribute to our kid’s college funds.  I’m more concerned with the spending side and making sure we keep it under control.  We typically do good for a few months, but then start to slip.  I want to keep it front and center.

Saving Spending Pie Graphs

Grow current percent and reduce time to FI

Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate, we’re currently halfway to reaching FI and will take about 9 years to get there based on 2017’s saving and spending.  If I plug in my 2018 budgeted numbers, I get nearly the exact same outputs.  That means if I stick to our budget, any growth in the market will improve our numbers.  Assuming we’re able to meet goals one and two, we should meet goal three.

FI Charts

Maintain current coverage levels for emergency fund, irregular expenses, etc.

I’ve worked very hard to map our financials to make sure we don’t get pinched anywhere.  That means maintaining an emergency fund with at least 6 months’ expenses, having an HSA to cover any high deductible medical expenses and savings for irregular expenses.  We’ve done a good job to date of not raiding the places I squirrel money away, and I intend to do the same next year.

Personal

I could probably sum these up just by saying “be a better human being” but I’m committed to SMART goals, remember?

Leave work at work

Let’s face it, raising kids is tough and stressful.  Having a high paying job is stressful too.  I knew I couldn’t do both, so I chose the former.  I have no regrets, but have felt some non-kid/work-related stress slipping back into my life outside of the 9-5.  Not nearly as bad as before, but I need to keep it at bay post-haste.

Reestablish my weight before we had kids

I’m not in horrible shape, but by no means great shape either.  With the lack of sleep and time to work out that came with kids, I figure I’ve gained about 30 pounds since becoming a dad.  I have a three-fold plan for tacking this one:

  1. Get to bed by 10pm every night (no more late night Twitter or blog post writing).
  2. Wake up early to work out 3 days a week before the kids get up.  Even half an hour will be better than what I’ve been able to do.
  3. Eat more meals at home during the week and keep eating out to the weekends only.

I’m not going for Olympic-level fitness here, but I recognize that continuing to be out of shape as I get deeper into my thirties only puts me at greater risk for long-term health issues.  None have popped up so far, but I don’t want to keep risking it unnecessarily.

Weekends for family time, not catching up on chores

When we have major sleep deficits, it’s really tempting for us to just crash as soon as the kids are down to bed.  That inevitably leaves laundry, cleaning and other household chores deferred to the weekend.  My goal is to keep on top of these on the day of, which will help more easily facilitate the next goal.

Start making some really special memories with my kids

I have a two and a half year old who is just starting to blossom in terms of memory, vocabulary, etc.  Now is the time for us to really start focusing on doing fun things with him.  He may not remember all of them, but they’ll be part of the framework that will build his personality and character.  We’ve already been to a play, the zoo, ice skating (for about 1 min) and lots of other little things.  We’ll continue the little things but I want to do a backyard camping trip, a baseball game and the beach this summer.  The little one will be in tow for it all hopefully as well.

PVF Blog

I started writing this blog late last year mainly as a creative outlet for myself.  I’ve built up a wealth of completely random financial knowledge over the years that I wanted to put to paper.  Publishing for the world to see would help keep me honest with myself and focused too.  I want to make it past the one year mark when most blogs fold just to say I did it.  We’ll see what happens after that.

Write 5 succinct, high-quality posts per month, 10 if I can

This one will be a stretch goal for me for sure.  I have a full time job, two kids at home and just said I wanted to get more sleep to be healthier.  I have a list with two dozen-plus blog posts already outlined, it’s just a matter of finding time to put fingers to keyboard.

I plan to achieve this by focusing on more succinct writing go forward.  I tend to write marathon posts that likely fall victim to the TL;DR phenomenon.  If I can tighten up my writing, it may also allow me to post more output given my time constraints.

Follow a more consistent posting schedule

I try to post on Wednesdays and did a pretty good job of sticking to it.  I slipped towards the end of the year and December was pretty much a non-starter because I was sick.  My goal is to write ahead at least a couple of posts so that I’m not racing to write sub-par content just to meet a self-imposed deadline.

Reach a bigger audience

Writing is only half the battle, getting people to actually read it just as important.  My unique visitors, page views, and followers on Twitter have continued to grow, but not at an inspiring pace.  If I could get 1,000 page views a month and 500 people to follow me on Twitter, I’d be happy.  I just want to have someone, somewhere benefit from my experiences and insight.

Build connections with other bloggers

I read a lot of other personal finance bloggers, follow them on twitter, etc.  What’s obvious on the surface is this is a community of like-minded people in collaboration, not competition.  I feel a bit like an outsider looking in given my tenure and readership, but I aspire to be one of the voices in the choir.

In Conclusion…

So what do you think of the goals I’ve laid out for myself in 2018?  Some are more aspirational than others, but I’m giving all of them a shot.  I’ll provide updates throughout the year as milestones are reached, with bigger reviews halfway through and at the end.

Best of luck to everyone in 2018!

John started Present Value Finance in 2017 to share his experiences and insights on personal finance to help people make better decisions and take control of their financial lives.  

He achieved financial independence in 2016 by walking away from the high stress world of corporate finance to focus on his family. He’s a husband, father, family CFO, and all around finance geek.

9 comments

  1. Some great goals, John. Do you automate your savings? That should help you stick to your budget a bit easier I’d think. Good luck with your goals and may we all strive to “be a better human being”!

    1. Yes, Amy, savings are all automated for the tax advantaged accounts. The budget says I should still have some left over each month for taxable savings too. My challenge has been stick to the budget so those can come to pass too.

  2. John,

    Those are wonderful goals, man! I, too, started my blog late last year, November 8th to be exact. So far I have struggled to post consistently because I also do Uber and Lyft on the side. As you know, it is tough monetizing a blog so sometimes I choose instant gratification (Ubering) over completing a blog post. The FI community has welcomed me with open arms, as I am sure they have welcomed you! Keep up the good work!

  3. FYI, the first 6 to 8 months we felt like we were on the outside looking in, too. And we had no RockStar Forum to connect with people so it was one by one, through Twitter and through commenting on other people’s posts.

    Then around the 1 year mark (or so) real friendships began. First with Fritz from Retirement Manifesto whom we reached out to for some specific tips, through a direct message on Twitter, and he immediately offered to talk on the phone.

    Next we got into a group Skype thing with Ms Montana (Jillian) and became friends. We’ve actually visited Fritz in Georgia and met Jillian in Montana (and spent time with her family).

    Don’t be afraid to reach out to connect. Also, another thing I did because it just annoys the heck out of me when we have errors on our posts — if I see something drastically wrong on someone’s post, I’ll email them or send a note through their contact form.

  4. Financial goals look good. Track your calories daily if you want to lose that weight. 80% of weight loss is typically from eating less, which requires you to eat better. Tracking will keep you accountable – just like you track your savings & spending.

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