2017: A Year In Review (And 2018 Goals)

New Years brings new 2018 goals

Oh boy. I’d planned on writing this to be posted on Monday, just in case anything crazy happened on NYE (spoiler: it didn’t). Alas, laziness got the best of me and Kristin last weekend, and we enjoyed our time off doing absolutely nothing.

And with good reason. 2017 was a killer year for us. It had plenty of ups and downs, and saw two families come together as one.

We actually didn’t write down any goals for 2017 – we wanted to not go into debt for our wedding, and wanted to build our house. Aside from that, we had no concrete goals.

So instead of goals, I’ll just provide some of the highlights of 2017. Then I’ll outline some goals and ideas of what 2018 may bring for the Married with Money household.

The Old Job

What a mess 2017 started out as. Four and a half weeks into the year – just a few months from our wedding date – I got news that I was being laid off.

It caught us off guard, and without a great plan. We’d already committed to our home being built, and had just barely saved up enough money for the rest of our wedding expenses.

I went into a bit of a funk after getting laid off. It’s tough when you really want something to succeed and be a part of it to have that ripped out from under you.

Truth be told, though, it was a good thing in retrospect. I wasn’t strictly unhappy at my previous job, but the good ol’ days of Summer 2016 were gone. That summer was filled with some great memories, lots of hard work, and really running the show how I wanted.

Then in late summer, people had been brought on board and with them, conflicting ideas on the direction of the company. It made for a relatively confrontational and chaotic work environment that was slowly and surely driving me crazy.

Consensus: Neutral

The New Job

Thankfully I landed on my feet about six weeks after a layoff. We dipped into the emergency fund just a tiny bit, but honestly the layoff came at a decent time.

It allowed me plenty of time to find a new job before having to take time off for our wedding. Getting laid off is almost never ideal, but the timing could have been worse.

While we still needed to save more, we had all the barebones expenses accounted for, for both our wedding and our house. We’d feel a pinch in our savings that took a while to bounce back from, but that’s okay.

The best thing about being laid off is that my new job has a much better work-life balance.

The new gig is much more relaxed. I actually thought when I started here that they were too nice for me. True story.

In addition to a slight pay bump (woo!), I’m working fewer hours and can work remotely on Fridays. I’m happier, and even though my commute sucks when I do have to go into the office, I’m going the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic.

Consensus: Neutral to Good

The Marriage Thing

On the personal front, 2017 was awesome. We got married in June! Our wedding was THE BOMB DOT COM you guys – anybody who went can attest to that.

The venue turned out amazing, the food and drinks were good, and everybody had a great time. I’m a little biased but I’m going to say it was the best wedding I’ve been to.

It was nice to get away for a little bit after the wedding, too. We’d flown out to California earlier in the week, and then spent some time up in Seattle on a “minimoon“.

Unfortunately, since we had so much else lined up financially for the rest of 2017 we haven’t gone on a real honeymoon. I was looking a few weeks ago at going back to Hawaii where we’d stayed in 2016, and there’s just no way. Rooms are about $800/night now compared to the $200 for the same time-frame as in 2016. Insane.

While our honeymoon plans are a bit of a bust, we’re planning on a big trip in 2019 and some smaller ones in 2018 to help make up for it. Other than that, everything’s awesome.

Consensus: Amazing

Home

Late last year, Kristin and I decided to build a home. We’d toyed with the idea of home ownership, but neither of us were too keen on renovations. It’d be our first house, but we also knew what we wanted.

After living on our own and with each other for several years, we had a checklist of things we wanted in the home. It made the most sense for us to get what we want, to build new instead of buying a fixer upper or an older home with hopes of selling later.

In early December 2016 we signed a contract to build, and in the spring of 2017 they finally broke ground on the house.

Over the next several months we’d get text messages from our soon-to-be neighbors with pictures of our lot and the frame of the house going up.

In October, we finally closed. It was awesome to move out of our temporary apartment and finally have a real kitchen again, and a dedicated office.

We couldn’t be happier in our new house. We hosted Christmas this year with my parents and Kristin’s family and had an absolute blast. I’m pretty sure all of us were in tears playing Cards Against Humanity.

Part of what we’re excited for with this house is hosting events and having family and friends over. We’re both looking forward to making great memories and slowly decorating our home over the years.

Consensus: Amazing

Spending

Okay, onto the lessย than good.

You guys this is legitimately embarrassing. As a personal finance blogger, I’m a bit ashamed of how much money we spent in 2017. I’m not going to share numbers but let’s just say I’m confident that, barring any sort of insane disaster, we’ll never spend as much as we did in 2017.

Yet at the same time, I’m proud. We knew what our big expenses were going to be, and we saved for them. One-time wedding or moving expenses amounted for nearly 60% of our annual spending.

All of our other categories of spending aligned pretty well with what I’d planned on. Overall we probably spent too much money on coffee and avocado toast, but life’s too short to not enjoy the small things every now and then.

Getting laid off was honestly a good wake-up call financially for us. I call it my ‘oh shit‘ moment when I realized that we didn’t have it as together as we thought. It was the catalyst for me deciding to start a blog and get more serious about managing our finances in a more proactive way.

Consensus: Embarrassingly bad

Saving

With such an expensive year, it’s not unsurprising that our savings in 2017 was also pretty meh. We whittled down some stock I’d had from a previous job. Some of that money was used to help fund our wedding/down payment on our home.

Being laid off also meant I couldn’t make 401(k) contributions for about half of the year. Ouch.

Since it was such an expense-heavy year, we weren’t able to increase our 401(k) contributions as much as we wanted.

The one good thing we did do was sell some ESPP shares and open a Roth IRA for Kristin.

Things definitely could have been better on this front.

Consensus: Bad

Blog

I started this blog in April, and have with relative consistency posted three times a week. There have been a few hiccups, like when we got married, or last week.

For the most part, though, I’ve pretty consistently put out three posts each week. Unfortunately the ideation process for me is incredibly difficult. We’re just not in a very exciting time financially to have a ton to talk about.

Still, I’m happy that I’ve stuck with it for as long as I have. It’s been a good creative outlet for me. The best part of it, though, is getting an email or Facebook message from an old friend – or a random reader – who tells me how they’ve gotten their financial lives together after reading.

That’s what it’s all about, and it’s why I started blogging in the first place.

Still, there is a ton of stuff I could have done on the blog that I didn’t do. Lots of ideas I have, but I either don’t have the desire or expertise to execute on them by myself.

While readership has grown, it’s been a bit disappointing at times to see other bloggers who started around the same time bring in a lot more traffic. I try to not let it get to me, but it does sometimes.

In the end I know that the only person to blame is me. If I really dedicated myself to it, that could change and my traffic would for sure grow.

Consensus: Good

2018: A Look Forward

After a bit of a whirlwind last year, we’re expectingย a tame 2018. We don’t have any more big life milestones to hit for a while. 2017 got all those big ones out of the way.

It sounds a little bit lame, but we’re both actually looking forward to a quiet 2018. The idea is to basically live how we will until retirement.

Realistically we’ve still got things to figure out and stuff to do, and I’m sure our plans will change a million times. For now, here’s what we’ve got lined up.

Travel

2017 was filled with some travel, but all of it was wedding-related. In 2018 we want to take a few smaller weekend trips, and also get back to California without having wedding stuff to take care of.

We enjoy traveling, but we’re also homebodies. There’s something refreshing about getting away for a period of time, but coming back to our home is a great feeling.

If I’m footing the bill, I like to keep my work separate from my travel. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t be a digital nomad.

Overall, some more weekend getaways would be nice. Our 2018 travel will be pretty tame to account for some stellar 2019 plans.

Goals:

  • Travel to our short list of destinations including:
    • Maryland
    • Chicago
    • Portland
    • California
    • Florida (Tampa, and then FinCon)
  • Save money for 2019 travel.

Saving

Even though 2017 was insane on the spending side, it wasn’t nearly as bad on the savings side of things. We ended up selling some stock earlier in the year, which helped.

Thankfully we never wavered on Kristin’s 401(k) contributions, and we managed to open (and max) an IRA for Kristin also.

2018 will be more expensive for our housing costs, but we should be able to save quite a bit of money this year. We admittedly haven’t maxed out 401(k)’s before, but it’s on our list now.

It’s a little tricky with my work situation, though. I’m a (W2) consultant and my contract won’t last forever. That means I may be out of work at some point this year – or maybe not. I don’t know yet.

Ideally we would be able to max out both of our 401(k)’s but if my contract doesn’t get extended, I may be out of work for a period of time.

While I am working, my goal is to contribute each month into my 401(k) as if I will have my contract extended. This will mean I max it if I’m employed the entire year, but may come in short if I’m not. We’ll take this one month by month.

On top of that, I’ve got an HSA, and I’d like to max out both of our Roth IRA’s for 2018.

Cars

Our car situation remains up in the air. Some weeks are better than others, but at some point we’ll need a second car or the Sonata will need to be replaced. I’d like to save at least $1000 toward a new car.

Finally, our house. Since we built, our property taxes are negligible this year, which means our total housing payment is the lowest it’ll be until we pay the mortgage off. We’re taking advantage of that and paying more toward paying down our house.

I know the math says investing’s better. I don’t care. We’ve arrived at a balance we’re both comfortable with. Our goal is to go into early retirement without a mortgage payment.

The last item is just finishing up some administrative work: I’ve got an old 401(k) I want to roll over. I’ve started the process but need to get it finalized. Should be able to finish it up this week and get everything ironed out.

Goals:

  • Max out Kristin’s 401(k).
  • Attempt to max Dave’s 401(k).
  • Max out Roth IRA’s for 2018 (already done for one for 2017, the other will be done in March).
  • Max out my HSA (only individual).
  • Start saving for a new car.
  • Pay down $17k in principal on our mortgage.
  • Finalize the rollover of my old 401(k).

Professional

On the professional side of things, I have a confession. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

It sounds strange when I put it like that, but honestly this is one of the things I waffle on quite a bit. I could take a couple different directions in my career, and each has its own set of pros and cons.

On one hand, I love consulting and could see myself doing it long-term. The money’s decent, and the prospect of working with multiple clients is tantalizing. I like solving problems, and consulting is a great way to continue to do that with new problems. It also gets me exposure to other industries I’m not familiar with, which I find fascinating.

On the other hand, part of me wants to take it easy in 2018. 2017 had a lot of change, and since I don’t know really what I want, it seems like a good time to figure that out. I enjoy what I’m doing now, and don’t see a reason to leave just for the sake of it.

A third part of me wants to leave the corporate world altogether. I would love to write full-time (though I’m nowhere near making money on this blog yet) but don’t think that’s realistic for this year.

My plan for right now is to figure out with more confidence what I want out of my career. A large portion of this will be determined by if my contract is extended or not.

Goals:

  • Determine what I want to do longer term in my career.
  • Renew my CSPO certification.

Blogging

While 2017 was a good start to blogging, I didn’t have a plan when I started. I wanted to talk about money and our journey with it, but didn’t want to share specifics and numbers.

Going into 2018, honestly, I’m still the same way. The general ideas are there (most of the time) but nothing is solidified. As far as blogging goes, I’m struggling a bit with an identity crisis. If I’m being honest, we’re just not that exciting.

We don’t side hustle. We aren’t in huge amounts of debt. Both of our jobs pay decently, we’ve been very fortunate, and by most outside appearances we’re doing everything right. There have been no big obstacles for us to overcome.

When you’re doing things right and haven’t screwed up much, your story gets a bit boring.

The Future of MwM

So what do I want the blog to turn into? Where do I take it in 2018??

I’ve thought a little bit about talking more on here about our decision to be child-free. I’m not sure if that’s the direction I want to take the blog, but that post was – by a huge (6x) margin – the most popular post on the blog. It’s at least something to think about, but I feel like that’d potentially alienate a significant portion of my (limited) readership which I’m not keen on doing.

My goal when I started the blog was simple: help people become a bit more financially literate and serious about managing their money. Particularly couples, but honestly everyone.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world on this stuff, and I don’t have any killer HSA posts or Traditional vs Roth IRA comparisons. I intentionally don’t go into great detail with numbers – there are better people to turn to for that.

But then I ask myself: If I’m not going into those details, and I’m not sharing some exciting journey…what am I doing?

I don’t know.

For now, while I don’t have a good idea on the direction of the blog, I think I am going to stick with it. I’ll take it day by day for now and see how things progress. If nothing else, I’ve committed to going to FinCon in September. Hopefully I’ll have it figured out by then!

I do want to explore freelancing in some degree, with a goal to earn at least $500/month consistently extra by the end of the year. A steep goal considering I’ve made like $20 so far, but one worth pursuing.

Goals:

  • Be more deliberate on my topic selection.
  • Grow readership to 20k views/month by December 2018.
  • Convert Financial Fridays posts into a freebie opt-in email course.
  • Attend FinCon and other local meetups, hopefully for some inspiration.
  • Guest post once every other month.
  • Generate income of $500/mo through blogging and other freelancing, etc.

Health

I’m thankful to have been in good health for my entire life. Admittedly I take it for granted – but that’s ending in 2018.

I want to shed some of the holiday pounds, like basically everyone. This one shouldn’t be difficult – our meal planning last year helped us lose weight pretty easily.

The big thing for me though is to cut my alcohol intake. In addition to costing us over $600 last year (not counting drinking at restaurants and such), limiting my alcohol intake will help a lot with dropping some of that extra weight.

The big, challenging one for me is actually exercising. I used to be able to walk to and from work. Now that my job is 26 miles away, it’s a bit less realistic. My goal is to exercise in some way – even if it’s just going for a walk around the neighborhood – three times a week.

As a non-gym-goer, this one will definitely be my most difficult goal of 2018. Sad but true.

Goals:

  • Maintain my goal weight of 150lbs +/- 5lbs.
  • Limit alcohol intake to 1 day a week. Exceptions allowed for vacations.
  • Limit myself to two drinks if drinking out at a bar or restaurant. Exceptions allowed for vacations.
  • Exercise 3x/week.

Recap

Phew! What a list.

2017 was awesome. Tons of great memories were made, and I’m extremely happy with how the year went, despite some temporary setbacks.

I’m really looking forward to a slightly more relaxed 2018. I’ve been wanting to make better financial progress for a long time, but always had an excuse. That’s ending in 2018 and it’ll be exciting to see what that means for our financial journey.

I’m hoping to figure out what I want our future to look like – both professionally and with the blog. This year will be one of a bit of self-discovery and growth. Ultimately, it’ll be a bit more relaxed than 2017 was.

I’m looking forward to things being a little less hectic and figuring out what we want the future to hold.

Question:

What are your big 2018 goals?

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18 Comments

  1. Cards against humanity, wedding, new house…now thatโ€™s a busy year! Iโ€™ve blogged about medicine for years, and now more recently about FI. I think sometimes you have to accept readership for what it is, and focus on writing and saying what you want to say. It can help clarify your ideas, hopes, and goals regardless of who reads!

    1. Yeah it was busy for sure! Exhausting but a lot of fun.

      I definitely think I need to just say what I want to say and see what sticks. ๐Ÿ™‚ After all, it’s not like I need approval to write about anything on here! Haha

  2. Good and honest post Dave. That’s why I enjoy following younger bloggers. It allows me a reference point as an “old head”. I remember you mentioning in one of your posts that you beat out the middle aged guy for a job, even though on paper he might have had more experience. The interesting challenge will be when you turn into that middle aged guy. The chickens are going to come home to roost for a LOT of people when AI and automation really kick in. That’s why it’s really great to probe the questions, “what does money or wealth mean to me.” It’s changed quite radically for me. I think you have a nice head start and usually write on interesting topics even if it doesn’t detail the numbers. I also enjoy your “best of blogs” summary, which saves me some time by curating that stuff.

    1. I’m glad you enjoy what I write!

      I definitely think that it’ll be interesting when I turn into that middle aged guy. My goal is, once the house is paid off, consult part-time and coast. If we do it right and as long as the market doesn’t tank for an incredibly long time or we have some sort of hyper-inflation or catastrophic war, we should be able to coast to full retirement once the house is paid. I’ve got to keep building connections in my younger working years to make sure I’ve got some sort of clientele to tap when I want to make that transition. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The goal, though, is to not have to worry about being that middle aged guy. Hopefully we’re done before I become irrelevant!

      AI will definitely be a wake-up call in the next 15-20 years I think. I’m following some of the UBI experiments with a lot of curiosity to see how it pans out. Definitely will be some shifts in an unprecedented way.

  3. Wow what a summary! New job, wedding, new house…anything but boring as far as I can tell:) On the blogging side, just like everything else, there will always be somebody who will do better than you, but lots who will do worse (just think of all the bloggers who quit). As long as you still enjoy it, then keep at it.
    Hope you have a wonderful year.

    1. 2017 wasn’t boring, but 2018 probably will be haha.

      And yeah that’s true there are always people who quit. Makes me sad when it’s a blog I read, but I get it – blogging’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you have a great year too, Caroline!

  4. 2017 was kind of a money crapfest all around, I guess. We also had a few expensive one-time costs: the wedding, honeymoon, plus I broke my finger which set me back, too. Also, dying to know how bad this spending was…It can’t be more than what we spend, heh!

    My 2018 goals are more like to-do lists: we want to cut cable, reduce our food spending, etc.

    1. I guess I should probably caveat the house spending with – at least the majority of it was a down payment so we’ve got equity. There are definitely worse ways to part with that cash I suppose.

      Sometimes having some To Do list type things can be nice and easy though! And who knows maybe it’ll prompt something else that you haven’t even thought of yet!

  5. Busy year but sounds like a good one. You said that you don’t side hustle, but then you said your goal is to bring in income from the blog and freelancing. Sounds like you might have a direction to go ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Yeah, I don’t currently side hustle. I’m always torn on if I really want to – but I want to at least give it a shot. If I abandon the goal, at least it’d be after trying it a bit more aggressively. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thankfully an awesome reader sent me some good tips so I think I’m going to run with that.

  6. Hey man. Been there done that with the layoff thing. It does suck. No other way around it. But it’s how you recover from it that counts. I took the year off after mine to finish my MBA, learn how to cook, and do a little traveling. Lemonade!
    Congrats on finishing 2017 strong with your wedding and landing a better gig. Looking forward to more of MWM in 2018! (and if you’re in the Twin Cities area – maybe we need a meetup?)

  7. This is a massive review and goals post!! You spent a lot in 2017 because you bought a house and got married-those are both huge milestones! These are very detailed and SMART goals ๐Ÿ™‚ which are your top 2 priority?

    1. Yeah, if we consider the housing equity an investment instead of an expense then it looks better. Though to be fair we won’t be selling our house in the foreseeable future, at least that’s the plan right now, so idk if that’s the right way to think about it. But it makes me feel better! Hahah

      I think the biggest ones are to grow the blog, and the 401(k) goals combined.

      Kristin’s top ones, financially, are the house (she’s much more debt averse than I am, this is an area we’ve compromised on) and then the 401(k) or saving for a car since she really wants to have her own car to drive.

  8. How has nobody else mentioned the drinking only 1 day per week? I think that would be the hardest goal to fulfill for me!

    I hate running and get easily bored with the gym. I picked up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a few years ago to get back into shape. Hardest workouts ever but fun and the tight-nit community keeps you accountable to showing up. It’s not for everybody but you could look for something similar where a group can help keep you motivated.

    1. I hate the gym, so I need to find stuff to do that’s outside or at home. One of my things I need to look out for also is I’ve got really bad knees thanks to my mom, and they need strengthening. Thankfully it’s been a few years since I’ve dislocated anything…I probably should see a physical therapist or a trainer for help with it before I start anything semi-serious so that I don’t injure myself.

      And yeah I almost slipped on the drinking one until I re-read this comment haha! I have a feeling I’ll have to rethink that goal ๐Ÿ™‚

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