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As 2016 comes to a close, I've been thinking more and more about what I want to accomplish in 2017. This contemplation has involved considering my strengths and figuring out how to address my weaknesses.
What I've discovered is that while I'm great at a few things (which has helped me tremendously), I need to broaden and update my talents. For example, I often feel like Joel McHale's character in The Great Indoors: I have experience and knowledge that could be helpful and inspiring to others but I'm not adept at reaching people.
Still, I don't want to abandon what I know. Instead, I hope to build upon my background. So, my goals include continuing to improve on my strengths, addressing areas of weakness, and expanding my knowledge.
Here are my goals:
- Increase my cash position. I've been working on this goal for a while with meager results. With a child in college (and one who graduated recently, tapping our reserves), growing my savings account hasn't been a priority. But I plan to double-down on this goal this year.
- Max out my husband's 401(k). We're building a nice Roth balance within the 401(k) as well as creating a diversified portfolio in this account. This process is simple because it's automated. Automation is not overrated. Once I made a decision, automating the process makes it happen.
- Grow my charitable fund. I opened a Schwab Charitable account earlier this year and am excited about its possibilities. Right now, I'm simply using the fund as a way to avoid capital gains taxes on appreciated stock and serve as a conduit for donations. My longer-term goal is to invest funds and grow them in this account, so I can support people and projects in a greater way. This approach seems less sacrificial than giving out of income. But it could be an excellent way to become a better steward.
- Reduce my food bill. I've been working on eating out less and spending less at the grocery store for a while. As I worked my way through the Grocery Budget Makeover course, I realized that one of the reasons my husband and I often defaulted to eating out on certain nights was that I didn't have many “go-to” meals in my rotation. As I've pursued eating more and more healthfully, certain meals have been eliminated. Now that I've added new ones, we're eating at home more and saving on dining-out expenses.
- Practice travel hacking. I would love to take more epic trips (and shorter, more sensible ones) but travel can be expensive. I've begun to learn how to get deals on travel and how to avoid traps (deals that sound good but don't really save much money). This process can be time consuming so I'm also hoping to learn how to travel relatively inexpensively without spending inordinate amounts of time getting a rock-bottom price.
- Invest more in myself. I have a frugal bent and so am often focused on always getting the best deal or finding the least expensive way of doing something. That skill has served me well. But as I pursue new goals, I need to consider paid courses and tools that will allow me to gain the knowledge that I need to increase my capabilities and positively influence people in my community.
This last goal is intentionally broad so that I can be flexible. But my focus is on business development (like getting a professional to design my website) and improving my investing knowledge.
Every year, I hope to accomplish something new and believe setting goals is useful. Some years tend to focus on building capacity and other years on actually producing. So the time I spend just learning a new skill can be followed by producing something worthy. It's not a perfect process but hopefully I'm progressing.
What I've accomplished last year (both financial and non-financial goals)
- Opened and funded a Schwab Charitable Account
- Maxed out 401(k) contributions
- Finished funding my oldest son's college education
- Paid for a couple of semesters for my youngest son's college education
- Finished a half ironman-distance triathlon
- Wrote and published an e-book to learn about the self-publishing process (I'll solicit honest reviews before publishing next time!)
- Started a small group focused on serving meals (once per month) to children attending after-school tutoring sessions at an inner-city ministry
What about you? What did you accomplish last year? What do you hope to accomplish next year?