Another year flew by, and I am glad it is almost behind us. 2020 was a difficult year for most of us and the whole world.
As the new year approaches, I like to look back at all things that happened in the last year. I get to see what I did, and what I did not do. I like to take count of the goals I accomplished. And If I failed to follow through on all my goals, I know I have another chance to make them happen in the new year.
I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but since starting the blog, I like to reflect on my previous year and see what I would like to accomplish next.
So, I am happy to present my 2020 year-end in review.
My 2020 Year in Review:
Financial goals review:
1. Credit cards and banking
I want us to be debt-free as we are getting closer to retirement. In the past few years, Roman and I have accumulated $5,400 in medical debt. We transferred this money to 2 credit cards with 0 percent interest and finished paying off our debt in September. With this strategy, we would not dip into our savings.
We funnel all our regular purchases onto a couple of different rewards credit cards to earn points on our everyday spending.
Our go-to card is a PayPal credit card with 2 percent cash back on everything. Our secondary card is the American Express Blue credit card which we use at supermarkets with 3 percent cash back.
However, we also opened the Citi Dividend Platinum to take advantage of the 3-month promotion that gave 5 percent cash back at supermarkets.
Finally, we use the Bank of America credit card to pay for gas with 3 percent cash back. All these credit cards require no membership fee.
We have a combined no-fee checking account at Winchester Savings Bank which we use for bill payments, our mortgage, and money transfers.
We have 3 savings accounts. One savings account is a combined account at Winchester Savings Bank. The interest rate is very low, so we do not stash our savings there.
Capital One 360 is our primary savings account, which has no monthly fees and offers decent returns. We use the American Express High Yield Savings account for our emergency and travel funds.
2. Retirement accounts
I have several retirement accounts – 401(k), Roth 401(k), IRA, and Roth IRA. Each month I contribute roughly 12 percent of my salary to 401(k) and Roth 401(k), and my employer matches 3 percent. My strategy is to increase the contributions by 1 percent each year.
Unfortunately, that did not happen in 2020 because it was a difficult year and I was concerned about keeping my job, as we all saw so many people around us losing their employment. Luckily, my company managed through this year and worked hard to keep everyone employed. They even distributed bonuses to reward people for their efforts throughout the difficult year.
When COVID-19 entered our lives and the stock market fell drastically, I had a few sleepless nights as all our retirement and investment portfolios plummeted. We lost roughly 10 percent of our investments.
Luckily, it was a short-lived market downturn, and in April we already saw positive signs of market recovery. We are actually now in a better spot than before. Even though we lost a lot of money at the beginning of 2020, we gained it back through the year. Overall, our retirement and investment portfolios 2020 return was 9 percent.
I was planning to add $3,500 to my Roth IRA account in April, but again it did not happen because of the ‘gloom and doom’ news around us.
3. Emergency fund and other savings
We were able to increase our savings despite all the chaos and uncertainty we experienced in the first half of 2020. It was easy to cut unnecessary expenses and find more ways to save money with both of us working from home since the middle of March.
Working from home helped us to save a lot of money on gas, parking, lunches, business clothes, dining out, etc. I am happy to report that we managed to meet our goal and increased our emergency fund up to $30,000. From now on, we want to use this money only for emergencies.
In 2019, we opened a separate savings account and called it “travel”. Roman and I like to travel and often pay for our travels with emergency fund money. I wanted that practice to stop and find other ways to pay for our travels.
In 2020, we made some adjustments to our budget and were able to save $3,000 in our “travel” fund.
4. Home mortgage
We bought our house in 2002 and did various big and small renovation projects that increased the value of our house. Right now, we are trying to stay away from any additional upgrades or renovations and just focus on paying off the mortgage.
In 2020, we brought our mortgage balance down from $241,000 to $230,000.
Blogging goals review:
2020 was a year when I challenged myself and pushed harder to improve my blogging skills.
I did not know about all the additional work that would be required when I launched the Save, Invest & Retire Blog in 2019. The blogosphere changed so dramatically over the years. According to the stats, there are 500 million blogs in the world today. That is a lot of competition to deal with for a new blogger.
In 2020, I became more knowledgeable about the blogging world and set up new goals for blog content, email marketing, traffic building, and a social media strategy to grow Save, Invest & Retire.
Not everything worked out the way I wanted it but setting up the goals and working towards them helped me to stay motivated.
Travel goals review:
2020 started well enough with plans to travel to Greece in May and Lithuania in September. But then… well everyone’s life changed.
We had to cancel both of our trips. We were lucky to get refunds on both of our trips, including Lufthansa airline tickets, hotels, and a full refund on the canceled Greek Islands cruise.
Final Thoughts on My Year-End Goals
Reviewing my 2020 goals was a painful exercise. I did achieve a good portion of my goals but not all of them. I think it is important to remind ourselves that missing a few goals is perfectly human and there is always the opportunity to try harder in the following year.
I will continue to try my best and improve on my successes from 2020 in 2021.
My New Year 2021 Goals:
While 2020 was full of unexpected challenges, I am grateful I can still focus on my 2021 goals. First time I published my goals on this blog was in 2019.
I believe that sharing my goals on the blog is a great way to hold myself accountable. It helps me stay the course when life unavoidably gets in the way.
1. Contribute to retirement accounts
In 2021, we will continue investing in our retirement savings.
I will continue contributing to my traditional 401(k) and after-tax Roth 401(k) so I will have another $15,000 stashed in my retirement accounts. Right now, I am saving 23 percent of my salary for retirement.
The ultimate goal is to max it out to $26,000. Unfortunately, this may be a difficult goal to reach in the upcoming year, but I will keep it as a goal to keep myself motivated.
The 2021 combined contribution limit for traditional IRA and after-tax Roth IRA is $7,000 for individuals age 50 and older. We plan to contribute $3,500 each to our Roth IRA accounts.
2. Increase savings
We have increased our savings significantly in 2020. We paid off our daughter’s student loan (2018), a car loan (2017), last construction loan (2015), and medical debt (2020).
Currently, we have no desire to buy a new vehicle, renovate our home, or make any large purchases that would require us to take on any new debt. No new debt means we will be able to save more money in 2021.
3. Pay off debt
Unfortunately, we had to take on a new loan to replace our broken boiler. The cost of replacing an old boiler, new water heater, and required new chimney lining was $13,800. We were able to secure a 0 percent interest rate 7 years loan with the Mass Save program.
The goal is to pay off the loan in 4.5 years.
4. Continue to pay off our home mortgage
We are slowly paying off our 3.5 percent interest mortgage. Last year we were able to reduce the balance to $230,000. As we are getting closer to retirement, I want to have our home free and clear of any debt.
In 2021 we are planning to refinance our mortgage to a lower interest rate, so we can speed up the process of reducing our debt.
- Continue with retirement planning content for new posts.
- Add a new page with content on health and wellness.
- Collaborate with other bloggers for guest posts.
- Keep creating and publishing new posts every 2 weeks. I need to get at least 3 new posts ahead on Save, Invest & Retire, so I will have enough time to edit and add graphics before publishing them.
- Start a content calendar.
- Create a landing page to promote the resource library.
- Update an old opt-in and make it work with the Mailchimp platform better to collect new subscribers.
- Create a new resource library with at least 5 printables for retirement planning and retirement budget.
- Start working on an e-book.
- Stay active on Pinterest and Facebook.
- Use Pinterest to drive traffic to my blog.
- Learn how to automate social media.
Like everyone, we had a few trips planned for 2020 but had to postpone our international travels hoping it will be safer to travel in 2021.
Currently, we do not have any concrete travel plans. We hope for normal life to resume with the approval of the COVID-19 vaccines. While clinical trials show the vaccines are effective at preventing illness, it is not clear if they prevent the spread of the virus.
2021 will be another year when Roman and I will be trying to achieve all the goals we set up for ourselves. We will focus on accelerating our financial goals so it will bring us closer to the day we can retire.
What goals or changes you will be making in 2021? Share your thoughts in comments.