How I Did In On My 2012 New Year’s Resolutions

I find that it is often painful and embarrassing to look back on New Year’s resolutions, but in the name if accountability, here is glance back at 2012:

Money-Related Goals

1) Save 35% of my net income

I will make roughly 55K in gross income this year.  By the time my taxes, pension, union dues, medical, life insurance, and the 1001 other deductions are taken off, I will take home about $2,700 per month.  After I take out my mortgage payment, car payment, utilities, grocery bill, tuition, and gas/car maintenance, I believe I should be able to save 35% of my net income (again, this in addition to my DBP).

For goals one and two, while I didn’t achieve them, I don’t feel right giving them the title of “fail” either.  An online business opportunity came available this year, and the vast majority of the money I had earmarked for savings went into that venture.  The purchase has already paid dividends for us (both literally and metaphorically) and will almost assuredly end up blowing any investment returns I might have gotten in the conventional asset classes out of the water.  I did manage to save 7-8% of my income in my nice little tax-advantaged accounts in addition to that major expenditure.

2) Put my back-pay and tax return towards an early paydown of my mortgage and begin the Smith Manoeuvre

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Our government-negotiated teaching contracts are always way behind (this gets under my skin quickly because they often don’t include any interest on the back pay when it is settled) and I have 17 months’ worth of built-in raises that should be back paid any month now.  Due to our tuition pay back in Manitoba, I also should have a 3-4k tax return coming back to me in the Spring.  I hope to use both of these lump sums to build equity in my house and then begin the Smith Manoeuvre.  I’m fairly happy to be getting a large exposure to equities at this time, even if it isn’t the market lows of 2009.

See Goal #1.

3) Keep investing primarily through ETFs

I hope to keep passively investing through ETFs and enjoying the stress-free long-term returns they will generate.  I’d rather concentrate on improving my income and enjoying my leisure time as opposed to pouring over bank statements trying to gain an edge over other, better-educated investors.

Pass

Even though I chose not to put a high percentage of my net income into bonds or equities this year, the amount I did invest in traditional asset classes was efficiently done through my Questrade  discount brokerage account for very cheap.  My belief in low-cost index investing as the best way for 99.99% of retail investors to go (including myself) has only grown stronger this year.  I’ve also heard from many happy people who’ve downloaded my free eBook on the topic and are now free of investing worries and below-average returns.

Blog-Related Goals

1) Earn $1000 a month online by January 2013

We have been seeing steady gains in our online income over the last few months here at My University Money.  We hope to continue this upward momentum in 2012.  We have some very preliminary plans to look at expanding our “online empire,” and more concretely, I’ve developed several staff writing and ghost writing positions around the web that are generating a nice monthly income right now.  If we experience similar growth in 2012 to what we seen in 2011, I should have no problem meeting this goal.  Several blogs around the PF community are championing the “30K challenge” where the goal obviously is to make $30,000 in 2012 from online activities.  This remains an unreachable goal for us right now in my opinion, but a more reasonable target is to be in a position to make that commitment at this time next year.

Since writing this we have been presented with several very good reasons why we should not reveal our online income.  Suffice to say we are very happy with where we are right now in terms of position our online endeavors (I love sounding like a big shot CEO).

2) Explore the most efficient use of online time

I won’t claim the SMART goal of starting another website because I have to do a cost-benefit breakdown of what would be a better use of my time.  Right now I enjoy the low maintenance of writing for other people and having them do all the formatting and worrying about monetizing sites etc.  The reading I’m doing tells me that is ultimately more profitable to build your own site.  I have to spend a couple evenings making a personal long-term plan for my blogging activities outside of My University Money.

Pass

After experimenting with various types of ways to make money online we’ve become proficient at focusing on what we do best, and finding good help to do the other stuff.  I love doing freelance work, but I’ve had to tone it down a little in order to focus on building our own business from the ground up.  If I didn’t have JB as a partner I’d look at becoming more of a full-time freelancer, but I think ultimately we’ve found a pairing that is much more efficient and profitable for both of us!

3) Finish my eBook and hit the 5000 download mark

Inspired by the dividend investing eBook that The Financial Blogger released earlier this year, I am currently putting the finishing touches on an eBook of my own.  Since it is my first crack at this genre of writing, and I just want to get some widespread feedback, I am going to offer the product for the low, low price of… FREE!  TFB has hit the 15,000 downloads mark, and while I have nowhere near the online chops or properties that he has, I’m hoping that with the help of some of my blogging buddies I can get 5,000 sets of eyeballs on my initial creation.

Mostly Fail

Well, I did finish my free eBook.  It was featured by Rob Carrick on the Globe and Mail website, and we have gotten some really great mail thanking us for the book and the bevy of information for just the right price!  So by some measures the book on passive indexing using ETFs was a success.  In terms of hitting the 5,000 download level I’m said to say that I didn’t even make it halfway to the finish line.  We had right around 2,000 people download our book over the year.  I can’t say it was a complete failure though because we have that quality product forever now, and I’m proud of the quality of the content.

4) Create a second, and maybe even third and fourth eBooks

Depending on my experience with my initial foray into the world of eBooks, I hope to subsequently write stuff that people want to read!  If they want to pay me for it, that would eventually be pretty cool too.

Fail

After the first foray into the world of eBooks I’ve put this goal on hold for the foreseeable future.  Other, more profitable ventures have taken a bigger slice out of my time than I anticipated a year ago, and I’m happy that to pursue those opportunities going forward.

Overall Goals For Life

1) KEEP LEARNING!

Ok, so this is the definition of a goal that is NOT a SMART goal.  I believe it’s an important mindset to re-affirm every year nonetheless.  We often use the term “lifelong learning,” and it has become fairly cliché.  To actually keep an open and inquisitive mind requires some serious effort.  Don’t succumb to the power of bad reality TV and turn your brain off!

Pass

Because this wasn’t a SMART goal it’s tough to say pass/fail to.  I think that I’ve kept a curious mind over 2012 and continue to broaden my horizons.  I’ve kept the TV viewing and gaming to a minimum, and to be honest, with great shows like Mad Men, I’m not even sure I’d consider those “non-educational”.  I certainly don’t feel like I watched them passively or failed to learn anything.

2) Lose 10 pounds

Is there a prize for the least original, most over-used year-end goal ever?  I’m a big guy at about 6’2, 245 pounds.  While I’m pretty active, I also love to eat (I like foods that are good for you, foods that aren’t, pretty much anything that is edible).  There is no question my quality of life would be raised by dropping a little weight.  For those of you wondering, this goal has made my list the last few years and it is definitely an ongoing battle for me.

Mostly Pass

This should be a pretty easy pass or fail fall right?  Well I’m happy to report that as of this typing I’m between 9 and 11 pounds lighter depending on the time of day etc (it does vary this much quite easily for a big guy).  In the spirit of health being more than numbers I have continued both my bad habits (eating too much), and good habits (pretty much everything else).  This will continue to be something  I work on in 2013.

3) Take 9 credit hours towards my Master’s Degree

I wouldn’t put this under my first goal because I often feel like I’m not actually learning all that much in these courses (or at least not learning efficiently).  The bottom line is that this a hoop I have to jump through (it frustrates me how much time we spend jumping through hoops in society, but this is another rant for another time) in order to present myself with some cool career options.  I’d rather get it done sooner-than-later and hopefully I meet some good people and have some positive experiences along the way.

 Fail

While I failed this goal, I did pass six credit hours this year.  I was also published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, so that’s good for the old ego (let’s be honest, vanity is the main reason to do something like that as almost no one will ever read it or benefit from it in anyway).  I’ve got 6-9 more credit hours on the docket for 2013.  I can’t wait until I can call myself a master of something…

How did you all do in 2012?  Do you look back on the resolutions with shock and recoil a little bit at how high your aims were?  Will this impact your goal-setting for 2013?

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