It’s that time of year! The nights are cold and dark, there are lights up everywhere, and we’re almost at the end of another year. Despite the cold and darkness it’s one of my favourite periods, not simply because of the festivities and presents, but because it is a time of reflection for me. I love looking back at everything that has happened in the last twelve months; how my life has changed, the fun experiences and interesting relationships I’ve had, and progress made towards my various goals in life. It also offers an opportunity to look forwards to another year, another three hundred and sixty five days of opportunities!
In this post, I want to reflect on some of my past and future goals, what progress I’ve made (or haven’t) and why it is important to set yourself challenges.
I have been a very intermittent journal-keeper for the last few years. There have been some periods where I’ve made daily entries for months, and gaps of six months or more without a single word. This time of year however, I make an effort to review the year and my goals, and make new ones for the coming year. A bit of digging found a collection of goals I devised this time last year, so I present them now and examine how well I’ve done on each.
- Setting up the basis for financial independence – a very vague goal, but I made several concrete steps this year. I bought my first house and got a lodger, so I now pay the same for housing and bills as I did when living in a run-down five person house-share. I did commit a cardinal sin of raiding my investment portfolio for the deposit, but have restarted investing at a 50% higher rate than before. SUCCESS
- Double my net worth again – By the end of the year, I expect to be 90% of the way to completing this goal. I’ve included house equity in my net worth, a somewhat controversial move but I track my net worth and portfolio value separately, and this goal was for net worth. If I’d carried on renting I’d have hit this goal (no survey or solicitor fees), but I’m expecting to see the benefits in the longer term.
(ALMOST) SUCCESSUPDATE – on review after the New Year, the index I use for an ongoing estimate of my house value had nudged upwards by about 2%, so I actually did make this goal! SUCCESS
Activity and Fitness
- Improving strength, fitness and body definition – I’ve been a regular gym rat this year, and have made visible and numerical progress in strength training. My weight (which was already fine) has stayed the same but I’ve redistributed it to a more favourable arrangement (more muscle, less fat), and I’ve recently started doing Parkrun [LINK] and swimming again, with a few personal bests in the last couple of months. SUCCESS
- Go on an expedition abroad – I love hiking and camping and wanted to arrange a trip abroad to do this, but the goal fell by the wayside this year. I’ve managed three camping trips and a few more day hikes this year though, so I’m still getting outside and doing what I love. FAIL
- Learn French or Spanish – Yeah, this one just didn’t happen. I speak German and rudimentary French, but wanted to develop my language skills to facilitate working/volunteering abroad in the future. Maybe some other time. FAIL
- Pass a specific license exam – Simple, I took the test and passed! I needed it for work, so good job it worked out! SUCCESS
- Developing specialty-specific and professional knowledge and skills to facilitate a bad-ass career! – Another nebulous goal that is hard to objectively measure, but I have been striving towards continuing professional development this year and I am absolutely better at my job, both in subject knowledge and skills, and general professional abilities, than this time last year. SUCCESS
Four successes, almost a fifthFive successes
- Two fails
There are a number of reasons why I didn’t hit all of my goals this year. Firstly, most of these were not set as SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-oriented) goals, meaning that their vague nature causes them to be hard to make actionable and measurable progress towards, or know when you’ve actually achieved it. That’s something I want to do differently this time, so I can hold myself accountable in twelve months’ time and hopefully will have completed even more of them!
Overall, it has been a great year! I’ve had fantastic experiences, learned lots, and started this blog in the process. All of those goals are ones I can build on further in the future
Looking ahead to 2018
Now for the exciting part, where I get to set new goals for the next year! Learning from my mistakes, I want 2018’s goals to be SMARTer, meaning they concrete goals that are achievable within the year and have a definite point of completion. Often, goals like these don’t sound nearly as exciting as more typical nebulous aspirations, but if I can complete them by the end of 2018 I’ll be fitter, more financially secure, better at my job, and have a growing side hustle. I’ll take these goals any day of the year!
Without further ado, please welcome TFE’s 2018 goals! (Time frame for completion is by the end of the year)
- Investment portfolio at £10,000 – this should be easily achievable with my current investment rate, barring any major market downturns. If the market drops in the meantime, I’ll just buy index shares on sale!
- Six months of expenses in my emergency fund – I currently have around three months’ worth, but want to give myself a larger buffer, at which point I’ll look to invest more. Scheduled payments should take care of this goal for me, as long as I keep my expenses in check.
- Monthly spend rate below 50% average – over the last six months I’ve averaged a bit over 60% spending of my net income with new home expenses, but it should be doable to bring this back down below 50%. My monthly spend rate (plus six month average) is calculated automatically during my monthly financial reviews, so this will provide the target number for the end of the year.
- Attend at least two professional development courses – I’ve already applied for a five day course in the new year, which will give me a head start if I get accepted.
- Enter and complete one sporting event – I have a couple of ideas for this one. My exercise routine is much better when I have an event to work towards.
- 2k followers on Twitter – this is the biggest sources of traffic to my site, so I would hope to make enough quality content on a regular basis that more people decide to follow me.
- Have website generate enough income to cover its costs – I really only pay for hosting at present, but it would be nice for the website to generate even enough to cover those costs as a starter.
Overall I have a bit of a spread of goals, mutually exclusive of one another (with the exception of my portfolio and emergency fund goals, as I could easily achieve one at the expense of the other). This year I am aiming to make big strides in building up my FIRE Engine because thanks to the magic of compounding, getting the basics right in the early years can have an enormous positive effect further down the road.
Now, that’s enough about me! What are your goals for the year ahead? Let me know in the comments below or @TheFIREEng on Twitter!