Last week I posted a yearly review and reflection about 2019. Now we are starting to look at 2020 and I thought I would share some of our goals for this year. This post is actually a lot of copying and pasting from running minutes I took while discussing this in one of our family meetings. This is a process that we normally do a little bit sooner, either right before 2020 starts, or just shortly after, but this year we are a few weeks behind. We have been passing around an awful cold in our house since the beginning of the year, so we are a little bit behind on a lot of things, but that is ok. In the end a lot of our goals for 2020 look very similar to 2019, and we think that is probably a good thing. It means that a lot of the decisions and goals we are setting continue to push us further in the direction we want to go. I imagine that next year this may change significantly as we get closer and closer to our financial independence goal. So after a thorough discussion here are the goals we have set for 2020…
Saving – We plan to save $50,000 this year. This is the same amount we set for 2019. At the time it was a stretch goal that we just barely made in the last few weeks of December. This year we feel a little more confident that we will be able to hit this goal, and possibly a little sooner. The reality of our financial situation is that we could probably save an additional $10,000 – $15,000 above that amount, but then we would have to give up our travel plans or something else. We always balance our present with our future. Sure it would be nice to hit our goals and milestones early, but not if we have to sacrifice now for a potential later.
Income – Income is a funny one for us because we do have a little bit of control over how much we make each year. My income is fairly fixed with the exception of taking on additional work during the summer for my university, but even that is capped. My spouse however is able to have more control over her income based on the amount of time and clients she takes on in a year. In 2019 she feels like she found the right balance between the amount of work she was willing to take on and the amount of money she made. We certainly talked about the fact she has more upside income potential, but with that comes a cost (less travel, less time with kids, etc.). So we are pretty happy with our decisions. We anticipate a pre-tax income this year somewhere in the range of $130,000 – $150,000. This still seems amazing when I type it out!
Spending – We completed a full year budget for 2020 (subject to revision) and have planned to spend approximately $73,800 for the year. This is pretty close to last year, with expenses expected to remain fairly similar. If our income ends up in the higher range, our spending may increase in addition to maybe a little bit more saving. Some of the larger expenses categories we have planned for this year are:
- Pre-school – $9,000. This will be our youngest daughter’s last year of preschool. After 2020, this spending will be freed up for other things, or additional saving.
- Travel – ~$12,000. This is the initial amount we are budgeting for our travel plans (see below).
- Housing – $23,136. This includes mortgage payments, all utilities, and money set aside for maintenance and home improvement.
- Food – $11,400. I know this is a large amount, but we are trying to be realistic based on previous spending in the past several years. This includes all groceries and some meals out.
Really not a lot has changed specifically related to our activities and goals as a family. The kids are continuing to grow up and will turn 7 and 4 years old later in the year! We feel like we do a great job with the amount of time, interaction, love, and support we provide to our kids and want to simply continue that in 2020. We have discussed and set a goal to spend more time with each other occasionally without our kids. We do a lot with the whole family, but sometimes it has been hard to set aside time for just us, so that is one of our main personal goals for 2020, and because of our personality type, we are have already made a schedule for some of this…
I recently wrote an article about our love to travel and how and why we make it a priority. In 2019 we traveled as a family for 102 days to six different countries, a few Caribbean islands, seven different states in the US, and took two Disney Cruises. We expect this level of travel to continue in 2020 and so far have planned or at least thought about the following:
- England and the UK- Already planned and booked. We still had a lot of things left on our list from last year’s trip to England, so this year we are going to spend two week there to give us more time.
- California – Two trips planned and booked. One is tagged on the end of a work trip (academic conference), the other is planned for after a personal conference (FinCon).
- Azores, Portugal, Spain, France by way of a transatlantic cruise – Planned and booked. Still a few final details to work out regarding the return, but everything else is set. Honestly, if you have the time a repositioning cruise is a fantastic and fairly cheap way to travel to Europe. I am going to write a longer article about this in the future, but this will be the second time we have traveled this way, and we loved it! Once we get there we plan to spend an additional 7-10 days, mostly in France.
- Hawaii – Set, mostly planned and booked. This is one of our favorite places to visit and travel. We have been fortunate to be able to make this trip several times, usually every couple of years. This trip is completely booked on points and rewards (flights and hotels). We anticipate staying between 25-30 days across two of the islands. I still need to book the return flights, but I am waiting to accumulate a few more points to finish the final airline booking to return home.
- South America -Tentative. This is still in the early stages of planning, but we are looking at possibly traveling to South America in December of 2020.
- Florida – As always since moving to North Carolina we will probably make a minimum of 5-6 trips back to Florida.
- New York – Highly probable short trip with kids to NY.
We have a few other travel destinations we are looking at as possibilities, but it may be several months before we settle on whether we can do them or not. We also always leave a little room for spontaneous travel if the right opportunity presents itself.
Personal Goals and other Goals
We have a bunch of smaller personal and individual goals we set, but these are fairly limited and mostly individual. We tend to avoid the New Years Resolution trap and focus more on larger and attainable goals. I won’t bother to list some of my personal goals in this post (maybe later), but I will post one area that we have both agreed to work on throughout this year, mostly in the first few months… decluttering
Physical Decluttering – In 2016 before we knew we were moving we went through a huge decluttering process that was fantastic. The amount of clothing and items that we had acquired and allowed to accumulate over the years prior to getting married, and many things after was staggering. We followed a systematic method that worked well, and reached a far more reasonable, although not quite minimalistic state. Unfortunately in the years since then, especially since adding a second child to our family, we are back to a state of far too much clutter. Some of this is from the amount of things received as gifts to our kids from family members (even though we tell them not to bring them), others are just from us losing our focus on trying to minimize possessions. If I had to identify the two different areas that are the worst it would be paper related items, and child related items. The first is going to take a lot of work, the latter maybe not as much as we donate and give away items to friends or those in need. We both also need to go through our personal closets once again and see what clothing can be donated away. This will take a little bit of time, but we already have a systematic plan in place that is also going to involve the kids deciding on some things to keep and some things to give away. I will continue to post updates on our success or failure at this goal.
Digital Decluttering – One of my personal goals that I started last year and will continue into this year is to continue to declutter my digital life. This is not simply about the digital artifacts (papers, documents, etc.) I have accumulated on my computers, but the amount of digital technology that has permeated my life over many years. Most have already realized that I limit the time I spend on social media, but I can still do a lot better. I use personal social media a lot less than in the past, and typically only when I am traveling. Even though I try to be more purposeful about this, I still find myself on my phone more often than I want to be, and research has started to show that this is simply not healthy. So, I am working to remove a lot more of my phone use and to the extent possible computer use from my life. The absolute worst for me, and I imagine for many is email. Unfortunately with my job, email is not something I can simply stop reading and using, but there is nothing I despise more than email, especially all of the non-essential emails from work. Last year I started to put systems and policies in place that make it more manageable. For example I refuse to even check my work email on weekends and holidays, and I have started to limit my time during the week by scheduling only two small blocks a day that I will read and respond to email of any type (work or personal). A really good book that helped me think through this process was Cal Newport’s book Deep Work.
I think setting yearly goals are important, but as you can see from this post I don’t think they have to be overly complicated or endlessly extensive. Almost all of the goals we set are part of a collaborative process that is helping push us toward our financial independence goal and helping us maintain a focused life starting now in the present and moving forward. I am sure we will approach these goal setting sessions in a completely different way once we reach our larger goal of financial independence in a little over two years, but for now this works. I hope everyone else is off to a good start in 2020!