2018 will go down as one of the most memorable years for me and my family. It has definitely been a year of new beginnings. We entered the year a family of three and are heading into 2019 a family of four. A couple weeks ago our baby started crawling. It’s crazy how fast they grow in the first year.
The year began with a bang as I started a new position at my job. The position is at the same organization but in a different role. With a baby on the way, I was unsure if I’d have time to really learn the role before our baby was born in March. Of course, the stressing was all for nothing as everything worked out just fine.
2018 has also been memorable in other ways. After our baby girl was born in March we decided that my wife would take a few years off from her teaching job to stay home with the kids (we also have a 4 year old boy). While we knew this was a potential option heading into the year, it wasn’t until our baby was born that we knew for sure that it was the right decision.
As we approach the end of 2018 it’s nice to take a step back and reflect on the year. One of the best parts of setting goals is looking back on the good and not so good at the end of the year. We can get so caught up in the daily grind that it’s important to step back and appreciate all that went well and try to improve on anything that didn’t. 2018 was one of our best years yet and I’m really excited about what lies ahead for me and my family in 2019.
Goal 1: Pay off the Mortgage on Our Personal Residence
WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEEEE
Typing that out doesn’t feel nearly as good as yelling but it’s still a great feeling. We started the year with a mortgage balance of $31,000 and made our final payment on August 3rd. In the home stretch we were making payments of about $4,000 per month (half our take home pay) to kick the debt. Once we got the balance under $10,000 we pulled money from our emergency fund (since we wouldn’t need as much without a mortgage) to pay it off.
The fact that we are completely debt free hasn’t really set in yet. Regardless, we are so excited about our possibilities going forward as we move from paying down debt aggressively to saving aggressively to invest.
Goal 2: Fix up Our Personal Residence
After living in our personal residence for 10 years we finally took the plunge to upgrade our kitchen. As I’m typing this we should be in the final week of the remodel. As you can imagine, there have been several unexpected surprises along the way.
There will be a blog post coming with the results and lessons learned. When we started the remodel I wrote a post about how we were doing this kitchen remodel on a budget. I won’t spill all of the details but let’s just say that we are going to end up at about double the estimated budget. All I can do is shake my head while reading through that blog post and think about how naive I was going into the remodel. Live and learn, I guess.
Goal 3: Increase Charitable Contributions to 10 Percent
Last week I wrote a post about the lack of coverage around generosity in the personal finance community. From my experience there are many extremely generous people in the community, yet their generosity flies under the radar. In my opinion, generosity doesn’t get attention for a couple reasons. First, generosity is difficult to write about without coming across as bragging or self serving. Second, generosity doesn’t get the clicks that other topics in the personal finance community receive.
If you look at our total take home pay for the year we didn’t quite achieve a 10 percent giving rate. However, after paying off the mortgage and moving from two incomes to one, our monthly giving rate since August has been right at 10 percent. We plan to continue giving to important causes in 2019 and achieve a charitable donation rate of 10 percent of take home pay for the full year. I would love it if eventually we could give 10 percent of our gross pay or even more. Giving more is one of the most exciting parts of being financially secure.
Goal 4: Max 401(k) Contributions
Status: Not Complete
As we inched closer to paying off our mortgage I increased my 401(k) contributions at work from 6 percent to 13 percent. This isn’t going to allow us to max out our 401(k) this year but will put on a path to do it next year. With moving to one income and the expenses associated with a new baby, we stretched this about as far as we could. We are planning to contribute the maximum amount to my 401(Ik) in 2019. A stretch goal may be to also find a way to max our personal IRAs.
Goal 5: Read 20 Books
Status: Not complete
I really don’t have any excuses for not completing this one. I’m weird when it comes to reading books. Sometimes I’ll get on a streak and finish 3 books in a month and will then go 3 months without reading a book at all. Usually I read more when traveling or on vacation from work.
Anyway, below is my list of books read for 2018. You’ll notice a diverse mix of personal finance, fiction, and sports. A City of Thieves was my favorite book of the year. I usually read non-fiction but have been trying to work in more fiction. Below is my 2018 book list.
- A City of Thieves – David Benioff
- The Effective Manager – Mark Horstman
- Help, Thanks, Wow – Anne Lamott
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown (Did Not Finish)
- Lifeonaire – Steve Cook and Shaun McClosky (One of my favorite books – I read this almost every year)
- Happiest Baby on the Block – Harvey Karp
- The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
- Broke Millennial – Erin Lowry
- Everything Happens for a Reason – Kate Bowler
- Ninety Percent Mental – Bob Tewksbury
- Prisoner B-3087 – Alan Gratz
- Filthy Rich – James Patterson (Did Not Finish – This was my first James Patterson book and it was terrible.)
- 13 Hours in Benghazi – Mitchell Zuuckoff (Did Not Finish)
- Retire Early with Real Estate – Chad Carson
- Astroball – Ben Reiter
- The Opposite of Spoiled – Ron Lieber (in progress)
Goal 6: Write 30 Blog Posts
The only goal I set for the blog this year was to write 30 posts. Being my first year of blogging, I most wanted to prove that I could stay committed and see if I really enjoyed it. This is post number 31 for the year, so I’m proud to say that I hit this softball of a goal.
After more than a full year of blogging I plan to set more tangible blogging goals for 2019. There continues to be positive momentum in SEO growth for this blog so that is where I plan to focus my attention. I also recently signed up for Blogger U which is a series of courses on a variety of different blogging topics. So far I am really impressed with the content and the engagement from the community and instructor. Kudos to Pete McPherson for a job well done.
Goal 7: Achieve Positive Performance Review at Work
The beginning of the year I transitioned into a new role at my day job. It’s the same organization and same division but in a different area. I was stressed heading into the year about the unknowns associated with this new position. There are opportunities for a lot of exposure which can either be really good or really bad. I also wondered if I’d be able to learn the role while being out for an extra six weeks after our daughter was born. (Yes, I’m lucky to work for an organization that provides six weeks of paternity leave.)
All in all the year went really well and I received a positive review at the end of the year. I have enjoyed this position more than my last few so I’m excited where this role will take me. I will also be receiving a decent raise heading into next year which will help contribute to many of our 2019 goals.
One random highlight for the year. My organization has a public blog where employees can contribute. Participating is completely optional. I volunteered to submit a post on the power of compound interest and it ended up being their best performing post on Facebook since they had started measuring three years ago. It was a strangely proud moment even though many of my co-workers didn’t seem to care much. Just goes to show the level of interest in personal finance related topics.
Goal 8: Seek Volunteer Opportunities in Personal Finance Space
This fall I had the opportunity to help lead a Financial Peace University (FPU) class. My family mostly followed the Dave Ramsey plan to get out of debt and it was exciting to help others learn about these concepts. There were about a dozen individuals who joined the class and most were regular attendees. One of the coolest parts was the mom who asked her daughter and fiancé to join the class. She said that they didn’t have to go through formal marriage counseling but she was making them take the class. The mother had taken the class earlier in the year and it must have made a real impact. To learn more about FPU and our experience going through the class as a participant, check out my review of FPU.
In addition I also signed up to participate on the accounting team at my church. While this isn’t necessarily personal finance, my goal is to eventually get involved in the care center which provides financial counseling to families in need. I will continue to seek opportunities to help individuals directly with their personal finances outside of this blog.
Goal 9: Win Championship for Men’s Baseball Team
Status: Not Complete
This is the goal I know nobody cares about, yet it’s important to me. For the last 15 years I’ve played on a competitive men’s baseball team. It’s somewhere between a semi-pro and beer league team. Most everyone in the league plays or played in college, so it’s quality baseball. I now manage the team which has surprisingly been a great personal development opportunity.
This was a really fun season overall. We came so close to achieving this goal, but it ended up being the year of second place finishes. We finished second in the division, second in the playoffs, and second in a mid-season tournament. There were many exciting games throughout the year filled with wall off home runs, extra inning games, and a dramatic ending to the championship series. I’ll spare you the details though you are more than welcome to reach out directly and I’ll tell you all about it!
We have an amazing group of guys on this team. Everyone gets along, plays hard, and there is no drama. I love the game of baseball and am lucky to still be around the game. The best part is how much my 4-year-old loves it as well.
Goal 10: Purchase Rental Property or Live-in Flip
Status: Not Complete
This was by far our biggest stretch goal for this year, even before we went from two incomes to one. After paying off the mortgage and fixing up our kitchen it is going to take some time to build up enough savings to purchase a rental property. Given that we have increased charitable donations, 401(k) contributions, moved to a single income, and remodeled our kitchen it will be a stretch to save up enough even next year. After a fall and winter with a lot of spending, we’re looking forward to get back on track with our savings in 2019. I expect this will be a stretch goal in 2019 as well.
The Year of New Beginnings
Today is my last day of work until the new year and I’m looking forward to unwinding and spending time with family. This has been an amazing year overall and I’m so excited to see what’s in store for our family next year. After paying off the mortgage we spent time taking a few small vacations and fixing up our kitchen. Next year will be all about moving from aggressively paying down debt to aggressively saving to purchase a rental property.
Thank you to all who have read this blog this year. I appreciate each and every view. If you enjoy this content I would encourage you to subscribe either by following on WordPress or by sharing your email address using the subscribe link in the header.
Mark is the founder of Financial Pilgrimage, a blog dedicated to helping young families pay down debt and live financially free. Mark has a Bachelor’s degree in financial management and a Master’s degree in economics and finance. He is a husband of one and father of two and calls St. Louis, MO, home. He also loves playing in old man baseball leagues, working out, and being anywhere near the water. Mark has been featured in Yahoo! Finance, NerdWallet, and the Plutus Awards Showcase.