It’s that time of year again. Time to review our performance against our 2019 goals. Before we get started a reminder, we publicly review our goals at the end of the calendar year. However, we regularly review our goals throughout the year, as you should too. Anyway, let’s get started with our 2019 Goal Wrap-up.
Fostering a Child, Our Non-Financial 2019 Goal Wrap-up
Our main goal for 2019 was to foster a child. As an update, we are on our 3rd placement currently. At the beginning of the year we had yet to have a single placement.
Our first little one stayed for 5 days. The second stayed for 8 weeks. Finally, our current placement is going on 6 months. This kiddo shows no signs of leaving any time soon.
It’s been an interesting year on the foster care front. The question most asked about the experience is “How can you handle the child being removed, sometimes abruptly?”. The answer is every time it is heartbreaking, but the next little one somehow makes it a bit easier. Still, I suspect if our current placement continues for 6 more months if/when she leaves we will not continue. The pain will just be too much.
Income Expectations in 2019
I started our writeup of goals earlier this year by noting we were not sure how our income would fare in 2019. Ultimately our income and other inputs similar to income were statistically similar to 2018. However, our income came in different forms then prior years.
My original fear was that my wife’s income would decline in 2019. It did, down nearly 40% as she shifted focus more to our foster children and her main customer dialed things back a bit.
That 40%, however, was recovered in 2 ways.
The main offset was my W2 income. In addition to the expected pay raise I received at the end of last year, my income was up for other reasons. This included a better than expected cash bonus in 2019 due to improving business performance. It also included improved stock price impacting our RSU values. The bulk of my wife’s income loss was made up by this significant increase in my w-2 income.
Second, the stipend that goes towards our foster children’s expenses were increased significantly mid-year. The state had some increased budgets so the rates increased. Note this is not really “income” but rather money to spend on our little one. Some expenses we pay towards our little ones are shared across our existing family, like a discounted Y membership that we would have been paying full price for otherwise. As such the net impact was a small lowering of our out of pocket expenses.
One final note on income. I had mentioned originally potentially developing alternative forms of income like this blog. This did not occur in 2019. In fact, I actively chose not to further monetize this site. So our blog continued to be a break-even operation.
Saving 2019 Goal Wrap-Up
I set our 2019 savings goals in line with 2018. So essentially the goal was to save 1.8x expenses. This goal was successfully achieved. Ultimately the stipend offset any additional costs for our foster child in check. Meanwhile, inflationary costs were absorbed by some reduction in other areas, notably mortgage interest.
Mortgage Payoff in Mid 2019 Goal Wrap-Up
Which brings us to our original goal in 2019 to pay off our mortgage. This was also achieved, although later than expected. Originally I set this goal to complete mid-year. Ultimately it paid off in November.
The difference in timeline was influenced by our purchase of a new car this year. Yes, a brand new car. The thing is we paid very little actual money for the car since I sold the Corvette and used the proceeds to pay for it. However, in the time gap between purchase and sale I fronted the money. This stopped the advance movement of money into our mortgage in the first half of the year. The remaining cost of the car was absorbed into other cost reductions from year to year.
In the second half of the year I chose not to accelerate the payment of our mortgage. The simple reason being to not create confusion on whom will pay taxes, us or our mortgage company’s escrow. As such I let the mortgage pay off via normal payments, rather than acceleration.
You may recall I’ve always assumed knowing my luck a recession will start right after I pay off my mortgage. So far that prediction has not held water, which is good for all of us.
Major Expense in 2019
Originally we had also discussed buying a travel trailer to tow with our new vehicle. Essentially we wanted to work locationally independent in the summers. This was a significant planned expense.
Unfortunately, we have not yet bought that trailer. The thing with foster care is you need permission to leave the state with the child for any length of time. There are also fairly regular visits with the birth family. These requirements have set a bit of a limiting factor on our ability to travel.
I do not want to buy a trailer just for it to sit. As such I have sat on the purchase plan for now. The other benefit of this is the expectation that if a crash of the economy does occur, having the money to buy then may lead to lower prices. I may not market time investments, but I have no problem market timing expenses.
Continue to Purchase Instruments with Expected Return of 4%
If you recall we planned for our new lower risk investments in 2019 to achieve 4% return. The idea was anything below 4% we would dump into the stock market. Originally this started with treating our mortgage as a bond, so needing a return higher than our mortgage rate plus taxes to be worth investing. The results here were mixed.
The bond market took a nosedive in 2019, most safer investments are returning below 2%. I have managed to keep most of our safer investments above 4%. How?
I did something I never thought financially viable before. I leveraged savings account bonuses to goose our safer investment return on multiple pots of money. Now note, this is a largely psychological move as the amount of new safe investments are relatively small. It is also somewhat in conflict with our goal of keeping the number of accounts we hold low.
I do not expect I will keep this up into next year as the number of accounts involved and the complexities is not worth the effort. But for now I can say that 90% of our new safer return investments are over 4% for the next year.
Credit Card Hacking 2019 Goal Wrap-up
Another big goal for us was travel hack to $0 in travel costs.
So we had two major trips. This was the trip to Fincon and Maine. After initial travel hacking the cost was $1555. If you read that post you will note I spent more then expected since for the first time ever we got separate accommodation on the Maine 1 week family trip (1 week of this 3 week period).
The second was our trip to Costa Brava, which came in at $175 after credit card points.
So, net we spent $1730 on travel. This was reduced further by 100K in Marriott Bonvoy Boundless points as a signup bonus. I estimate this is worth about $625 dollars after accounting for the annual fee of 95 dollars.
After accounting for additional credit card points we spent about $1105 on travel this year. Not bad for having a surprise $1500 rental fee. Every year we have a surprise expenditure that keeps us from getting to 0 in travel costs. Still the goal helps keep some of the expenses under control and is usually driven by surprise expenses that are not based on the hacking or trip itself. As such I don’t feel too bad about missing our goal here.
Donate at Minimum the Equivalent of 5% to Charity
Finally, on the financial side our charity 5% goal. Every year we set this goal given how important it is to our values and place in society. We achieved that goal just as we have done in years past.
Where did we donate? There were many small donations. The larger donations went to Goodwill, the local fire company, a local church, our son’s school, and the local Boy Scouts. As always our donations took many forms as deemed appropriate for the situation. A note we also donated to the Salvation Army through ESI Money’s link. There are still a few more days to get in on his offer if you are interested.
As with all donations where possible we got our work to match our donations, doubling our impact.
What about the Blog?
I set a goal in 2019 to increase blog page views by 20%. I have to be honest we didn’t. This stayed kind of static at 8000-9000 page views a month. Ultimately the root cause is shifting priorities. I still enjoy this hobby immensely but I also now have a family of 5 for which to care.
I just don’t have the time to put into things the way I did earlier on. To avoid burnout I even cut back on our posts to 1 a week in November. That obviously doesn’t help page views either. I am still happy with the community this site reaches, so I can live with the results.
Overall another very successful year. Happy New Year to All. What were your 2019 results?