2020 Review and 2021 Preview

2020 was a terrible year for most people and the world in general. For me, it was an okay year.

The year didn’t go as planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I had an around the world trip planned. I was going to spend a week or so in Japan. Then take a business class trip from Japan to Singapore to Thailand. I was going to stay in Thailand for three months and then take an economy flight to Hong Kong for a short visit and take a premium economy flight from Hong Kong to London. I hadn’t yet decided how I was going to get from London to the US when it became clear I wasn’t going to be making any of these trips. I was able to cancel all my flights and I have a bunch of miles to use when I’m able to travel again.

My plan B was to hike the Appalachian Trail since I couldn’t travel to Asia. I figured that hiking in the woods would be pretty safe. The ATC and many state and local governments asked people to not hike the AT so I abandoned plan B also.

I ended up staying in Missouri and buying a house with my Mom. My job went remote which allowed me to work from home in my small town rather than the office in Kansas City. That was a nice benefit from the pandemic. The drawback was that the pandemic also resulted in there being much less work available and I spent more time unemployed than working.

I only set two goals during 2020. The first was to save $10,000 during the first quarter of 2020. I did manage to do that and it was nice having that cushion once my employment became sporadic. My second goal was to lose 10% of my body weight. I did manage to lose about 15 pounds. That is good, but well short of my 10% goal.

Despite being sporadically employed my net worth increased dramatically during the year. The value of my retirement accounts went from being in the $50K range when the stock market crashed to just over $100k at the end of the year. I did keep adding money to my retirement accounts when the market crashed and that worked out well.

At the end of the year I spent 1 month in Cancun so I didn’t get completely shut out from being able to travel internationally.

So 2020 was a mixed bag, but overall it was a decent year for me.

Looking ahead to this year, I have three big things I’d like to do. I want to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain, complete my section hike of the AT, and spend three months in Thailand. I’m unlikely to do all three, but I think doing two of those is possible.

Whether travel restrictions to Europe and Thailand are lifted and how soon they are lifted will affect whether I’m able to do the international trips. I’ll post in more detail about the travel plans once it is more certain I’ll actually be able to do them.

At some point I will make some 2021 goals. One of them will be to lose weight which is seemingly always one of my goals. The other goals will be related to alternative ways of making money.

I plan to quit working my doc review job. Once I finish my current project I most likely won’t accept new projects from my current company. I have already told my previous doc review company I’d work on an upcoming project for them. I’ll do that project if they hire me. After that I plan to make money from various side hustles. I don’t need much money to pay my bills.

There is one caveat. I might buy a new car this year. If I do that, then I’ll work a bit longer at the doc review job so I can pay cash for the car without putting a big dent in my savings. There is also a chance I’ll have to do a hotel quarantine to visit Thailand. That would also require me to save a little more money.

That is all I have planned for the year at this point. How was 2020 for you? Do you have any 2021 plans?

2020 Goal Review and November Goals

Since the year is most of the way over it is a good time to see how I’m doing on my goals for the year. I’ve only set two goals for this year. The first goal was to save $10,000 in the first four months of 2020. I did achieve that goal with most of the savings going to my retirement accounts. I also added some to my cash savings accounts which turned out to be a good thing since my employment has been sporadic since my work office closed in the Spring due to the coronavirus.

My next goal was to lose weight. To help accomplish that goal I joined two Dietbet games. For the first game I needed to lose 4% of my bodyweight (about 9 pounds) in 1 month. I was able to do that fairly easily. I cut back on my junk food intake a little and started walking about 10k steps a day and the weight quickly came off.

The second game required me to lose 10% of my bodyweight (a little over 22 pounds) in 6 months. This goal has been much harder to achieve. My weight loss has been stalled out since late July and I still have almost 5 pounds to lose by 11/18. To do that I’m going to have to be more consistent getting my daily steps in and probably add some other type of exercise on top of that too. More importantly I’ll have to cut way back on my daily calories for the next week.

If I make the 10% goal I will weigh 204 pounds or less. That isn’t far from 200 pounds so I’m making that my stretch goal for the month. If I don’t make it under 200 pounds this month then I’ll make that a goal for December.

For this month, I’m setting a goal to write at least 8 blog posts. I’ve been very lazy about writing blog posts here for the last couple of years and I need to get back in the habit of writing

I’ve not gotten off to a good start on writing posts. This post was supposed to be published on the first of the month and I’m just now getting around to finishing it and posting it. . Most of the posts for the rest of the month will probably be shorter deal type posts. These should be fairly easy to write and since some/most of them will also have the potential to make me money that will provide a little more motivation to write.

I’ll let you know how I did on these goals when I publish a goals post for December.

First 2020 Goal Achieved, Next Goal – Lose Weight

In my December 2019 post about my goals for 2020 I stated that the only goal I was setting at that time was to save $10,000 in the first four months of 2020. A goal that I felt would be difficult, but achievable. I’m happy to say that I was able to achieve that goal.

I surpassed my goal of saving $10,000 and managed to save $12,384 in the first four months of 2020. The savings broke down as follows. I added $4397 of cash to my savings accounts. I added $778 to my doc review job 401k. I added $1217 to my tax job 401k. I added $4000 to my traditional IRA and $1992 to my Roth IRA.

The goal wasn’t as easy to achieve as it may look like from the results. I benefited greatly from two months out of the four months I was saving being months with five paydays. That isn’t usually the case. The $1200 stimulus check also provided a surprise boost to my savings. Without those two unexpected boosts I would have barely been able to save the $10,000. If I hadn’t set a goal of saving $10k in the first four months of the year I doubt I would have saved as much money as I did. This goal was successful in getting me to save more money.

In my previous goals post I stated that sometime in 2020 I’d set goals for losing weight and increasing my blog income. Now is the time that I’m setting my 2020 weight loss goal. The blog income goal will have to wait a little while longer since I think it is best for me to focus on one goal at a time.

Losing weight is a common goal of mine. It occurred to me the other day that I’ve been dealing with my weight for almost 25 years. In 1997 I lost 30 pounds in three months while living in Guatemala. Whenever, I’m living outside of the U.S., I find it easy to lose weight without even trying. The combination of walking more and not having access to all of the junk food and fast food I have in the U.S. leads to weight loss. After returning to the U.S. from Guatemala, I managed to keep the weight off for over six months. Then I started working as a blackjack dealer on the graveyard shift (3am to 11am) and quickly regained all the weight I lost plus some.

I’ve repeated that pattern a few times over the years. I will lose 20-30 pounds and then quickly regain the weight. Usually, when I’m losing weight it is due to special circumstances such as living in another country or hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Once I go back to my normal life I stop losing weight and start gaining weight. I’ve got to stop that cycle and learn how to lose weight and maintain my weight while living my normal life. I’m not sure how to do that yet.

To start on my weight loss goal I’ve made several bets with DietBet. Money has proven to be a motivator for me in the past. I made a Kickstarter bet which requires me to lose 4% of my bodyweight 9 (just under 9 pounds) in 30 days and a Transformer bet that requires me to lose 10% of my bodyweight (a little over 22 pounds) in 6 months.

My current plan for accomplishing these weight loss goals is simply to eat less and exercise more. I’ll refine that plan as I go. I want this change to be a permanent change so I don’t intend to use any weight loss methods that I don’t think I’ll be able to stick to in the long run. If you have any suggestions on what I should do to lose weight and keep it off, I’d be happy to hear them.

January 2020 Goals

These are more actions that I will take rather than goals I will achieve. If following the actions results in me losing weight and saving money I will be happy with those results. I’m not concerned about shooting for a certain number for the month.

This month I will be strict with my intermittent fasting. I’ll do all my eating within an 8 hour window. I’ve had a bad habit the last few months of eating snacks or meals after I’ve finished working for the day. This results in me eating just an hour or two before I go to sleep. That isn’t good for my digestive system and it doesn’t help me lose weight since I’ve generally already had enough to eat for the day when I have my nighttime meal. This month I won’t eat after work. I need to learn to not always give in to my cravings and that it is ok to be a little hungry. Cutting out that meal will save me calories and hopefully lead to me losing weight. It should help me sleep

I’m also going to eat fast food no more than 3 times a week. That might sound like it is still a lot. Last month I had fast food 26 out of 31 days. Cutting back to 3 times a week will be a significant reduction. I’m also going to plan and prepare my food to take to work the night before. If I wait until morning I know I’ll get lazy and just buy fast food rather than taking food from home. This should also help me lose weight.

I’m going to try an experiment this month and do most of my spending with cash. I use my credit cards for almost everything so this will be a pretty big change. I want to see if using cash reduces my spending compared to using credit cards. I’ll still use my credit cards for my recurring online bills. I’ll also use a credit card for gas since that will get me 5% back and I don’t think I’ll buy more gas just because I’m using a credit card. Any other credit card usage must be planned ahead of time and there must be a reason for using the card.

Lastly, I am going to track and share on the blog every single thing I buy this month. I already track my spending down to the penny, but I don’t break down all of my expenditures. For example, if I buy groceries I would just list the expense as groceries in my monthly budget. This month I’m going to detail every single thing I buy. I think that sharing everything I buy will lead to me buying less. This would be due to me not buying something just because I don’t want the hassle of having to blog about it later and also I may not buy something because I’d rather not share it on the blog. For example, I bought a lot of junk food last month- chips, soda, snack cakes, cookies, etc. – and I’d be a little embarrassed to share exactly how much junk food I bought.

Today I spent $450 on rent. I also spent $11.25 to pay my rent with my credit card. I did that to meet a spending requirement to get a 60,000 mile bonus on my Virgin Atlantic card. That will be recorded as a travel expense. My $19.89 Regal Unlimited movie subscription was accounted for today. This allows me to watch as many movies as I want at my local Regal theater. I can’t cancel it until Summer. Lastly, I spent $2.21 to upsize a free small popcorn coupon I had to a large popcorn. This is the drawback to the movie subscription. I watch enough movies for the subscription to be a good value. Unfortunately, I have a hard time resisting the popcorn which is bad for my weight and my wallet. This year I intent to only buy popcorn when I have a free coupon. After today I hope to have a few days with no expenditures at all.

Some Goals for 2020

I only have one definite goal for 2020 at this time. My current goal is to save $2500 a month for the first four months of 2020. That will be a difficult goal to achieve. Working in my favor is the fact that I’ll be working two jobs during that time. I’ll need to work 15 hours a week at my tax job while still getting 40 hours at my document review job. That will be difficult to achieve in January when training at my tax job will be during my doc review job hours. After January I will be able to work Saturdays at the tax job making it easier to get my full hours at the doc review job.

January will also be a 5 payday month with 3 of the paydays being double paydays. That should allow me to get off to a good start at saving money. I will also get my tax refund and sell some things during the first 4 months to help me reach my savings goal. Since I have basically unlimited work hours between the 2 jobs I won’t be spending much, if any, time on trying to make money from side hustles. It makes more sense to focus on the guaranteed income during this time.

Some of these savings will be in my 401ks. Both jobs have 401ks that I participate in. I’m planning on having 100% of my tax job pay directed to my 401k. I’ll also be depositing 20% of doc review income into that 401k. I’ll adjust that as necessary to still be able to pay my bills and meet my other savings goals. I also plan on maxing out my IRA. Once I determine how much I need to contribute to my traditional IRA to get my federal income tax to $0, I’ll contribute the remaining allowable contribution amount to my Roth IRA. Once I’m ready to contribute to the IRAs, I’ll have to dial back the 401k contributions.

After the IRAs are maxed out for 2019 I will start saving in a regular savings account. I plan on traveling several months in 2020 and I will need some savings to live on during that time. I will review how I’m doing at the beginning of April and adjust my retirement savings to ensure that I have enough savings for travel.

Some other goals I plan to make later in 2020 are to lose weight and increase my blogging/online income. I intend to start on my weight loss while I’m still working, but I’m not yet ready to make a concrete goal for the weight loss. Blogging/online income is something I’ll work on this summer. Once I have more free time this summer I might be inspired to pursue more goals. I’m leaving the option for more goals open at this time.

Later this week, I will publish a post with my tentative plans for 2020. What are your goals and plans for 2020?