2020 goals – with an eye on the decade ahead

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Much has been written everywhere about the decade that was and the decade  ahead. Ten years seem such a long time to wrap my head around, let alone plan for.

Maybe that is why I am having so much trouble deciding what to focus for this year 2020 only, when this whole decade seems to loom large ahead.

Thinking too far ahead causes me anxiety. I am paralysed instead of energised by all the possibilities. As a result, I tend to avoid thinking really long term as much as possible. I don’t want to set myself up to fail.

Except now that I have discovered FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early) concepts, I do think long term about my financial goals. My age has caught up with me anyway. In my late forties, retirement is only years away, not ages and ages away. I really have no choice but to think a bit long term financially.

I hope to transfer this financial long term planning to other areas of my life. And so I decide I should have goals for 2020, but with an eye on the decade ahead as well.

Goals for the decade

I am binge listening to Jillian Johnsrud on her new podcast Everyday Courage. In episode 4, she talks about how we don’t give ourselves enough time to achieve our goals, that we get disappointed and throw in the towel because we did not achieve them in a year. That is me!

She shares a quote attributed to Bill Gates – “People overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in 10 years.”

So for the first time ever, instead of having vague goals for the future, I will nail down three big dreams that excite me.

Drumroll please! My 3 goals for the decade are:

(1) Retire (end of 2026 or mid 2027 ie before I turn 56)

(2) Visit Antartica

(3) Run a marathon

Retire at 55

You will notice that only retiring has a timeline – that is because I already have a plan in place to retire at 55. It is so much easier to automate weekly deductions into retirement accounts than it is to automate daily exercise! 

Knowing that this next decade will signal retirement makes me feel excited and apprehensive at the same time.

Excited? Because I will have free time all the time when I retire, yay! All that sleeping in without any regard for alarm clocks. Staying up late just because I can – no need to get to bed earlyish so I can get up earlyish. Now that is heaven to me 🙂

Apprehensive? It is a HUGE change in lifestyle. What if I can’t get there in the time frame I want (ie within the next 7 years)? What if having all that free time is a drag?


Visiting Antartica has been a dream for a long time. There is something about the starkness of the environment, the remoteness, the cold and the wildlife – penguins, in particular, that just ignite my imagination.

It cost A LOT though, so I need to budget for it within my retirement figures. Or visit within the next 7 years while I am still working. Saving up for this expense will give me time to research alternative methods of getting there, if there are any.

Run a marathon

Out of the above 3 goals, running a marathon will be the hardest. Why? Because I don’t like exercising.

But I need to exercise for my health – my cholesterol was the highest it had ever been last year. I have run 10km fun runs before. Running a marathon will be a massive personal challenge. I want a big goal to aim for and get excited about, when I am struggling to get out of bed to run in the mornings.

I also admire the grit and sheer mental strength it takes to complete a marathon.

This is definitely a stretch goal, haha.

So what about 2020?

In episode 9* of Everyday Courage, Jillian chats to David Cain from raptitude.com  They discuss David’s post ‘Go Deeper, Not Wider’ that he wrote in December 2017 (which received 58 000 shares!). It is about a ‘Depth’ year – a year where you don’t start anything new but explore more deeply the stuff you already have.

“No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started. You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.”

This really speaks to me. I am someone for whom the thrills of something new always appeals. These days, it may not be new physical stuff but I am endlessly attracted to new ways of thinking, productivity hacks, how to be more efficient etc.  What can I say? I just have a short attention span and get bored easily.

So with Jillian’s and David’s combined wisdom, I want to do my own version of deeper, not wider in 2020.

How will I achieve my goals?

My favourite book of 2019 was James Clear’s Atomic Habits  (affiliate link) – I even wrote a review of it.

Habits is my word for 2020. And this is why – as articulated by James Clear on Twitter:

In 2020, I will build good habits in the areas I want to focus on, to take me through the decade ahead. I want to focus on consistency, not intensity. And I am done with motivation and will power (or lack thereof). I want to embrace the process, not focus on outcomes. In other words, I want to focus on the journey, not the destination.

So what are my 2020 goals?

(1) Exercise and stretch daily

Health is everything. And I would argue, perhaps more important than wealth. Without my health, I will not be able to enjoy my wealth to the fullest. I want to be able to use all that moolah!

My goal is to be consistent this year – run and/or walk everyday and stretch daily. I am notoriously bad at stretching. As a result, I see the osteopath for regular tune ups every 2-3 months. I can save this money if I make the effort to stretch my muscles daily.

I haven’t been motivated to run ever since I completed last year’s Run for the Kids fun run. There is just enough time to start training for this year’s event. The goal is to continue running after the event, through winter. Yuck!

This is where I need to create a new habit … or tell myself I am a runner, therefore I run.

(2) Journal daily

I started this well last year as I desperately needed to find clarity – writing helps me sort through my jumbled thoughts.

But I wasn’t very consistent.

So once again, I will use the lessons learnt in Atomic Habits to be consistent and incorporate it into my morning and night routines.

This is still a goal as living an intentional life is a perpetual goal and I need to be in touch with me to do that. For too many years, I lived a stress filled life and just survived day to day. I never want to go back to that way of life.

(3) Read more

This is not a new hobby.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed reading fiction. Since discovering FIRE, I have read mainly personal finance blogs and books.

During my time off after my extended family had gone home on New Year’s Day, I read (and listened) to 6 books, 2 of which were related to personal finance. I was astounded. I have got my reading mojo back!

My goal is to read 20 books this year.

(4) Be more sustainable

I installed solar panels at the end of 2018 and as a consequence, reduced my electricity bill significantly. I paid less than $150 in total in 2019. Some of my colleagues who installed their panels (albeit with slightly larger systems than mine) managed to pay nothing at all ie they produced more electricity than they needed.  So I can still improve in this area.

What I desperately need now is to reduce my water and gas consumption. While this will be good for the planet, it will have financial benefits too. Gas prices have doubled in the last 5 years.

And I will look at reducing my use of plastic, just starting small. For example, not buying any fresh fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic and use a shampoo bar instead of shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles.

(5) Declutter

This has defeated me every year. For many years.

Marie Kondo, Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist) etc – I just read, agree and then not take any action!

I considered not putting this as my goal this year but I decided that in this year of diving deeper, I will tackle it again. It ties in well with reducing plastic, having less stuff generally. I am pretty good about not introducing new stuff into my house but I can’t seem to part with the stuff I do have which I don’t use.

I will start small just by keeping my kitchen bench clutter free – this will be a huge effort as it is my ‘dumping ground’, haha.

This may be the year to learn how to sell stuff online. Or just donate them.

(6) Financial goals

My main goal is to retire at 55 – I have a 7 year timeline.

In order to achieve this goal, I need to:

(a) Invest $25000 annually into my shares portfolio 

This is a challenge this year as my salary is now reduced due to transitioning to a lower stress role since July 2019.

My focus is to find every bit of extra cash and throw at it. This is important because the majority of my net worth is tied up in my house and superannuation, neither of which I can use to sustain me from 55 to 60.

(b) Maintain salary sacrificing into superannuation (retirement account) until end of financial year in June then reduce the amount

My rationale is that based on existing fund balance, it will grow to the desired amount by the time I can access it at 60 years old, if the fund can maintain a growth rate of 7%. 2019 was an amazing year – not sure 2020 will come anywhere close. So I will review the balance at at the end of June and decide. I do need every spare cent to increase my shares portfolio.

(c) Aim for a savings rate of 50%

My overall savings rate was 40% (based on after tax pay) in 2019. I did not feel deprived in any way so I think I can still do better. And that was with 2 overseas trips.

This year, I will have one trip only –  to visit family in  London and attend a wedding Toronto. My challenge is to find less expensive accommodation especially in London. House sitting is not a good fit personally as I am not great with animals. I use my Qantas points for airfares so airfares will not blow the budget.

I am also hoping my utility bills should reduce as a result of reducing my water and gas consumption. This is part of my overall plan to reduce recurring costs such as home insurance and private health insurance.

I started a vegetable garden last year. The benefits were more than financial – the well being and relaxation from pottering around and watching plants grow then eating the fruits of your labour cannot be overstated. I will attempt to reduce costs this year by learning how to plant with seeds instead of buying seedlings.

And I have started to compost this year – this is an attempt to reduce my waste going to landfill plus I should save some money from not buying as much proprietary potting mixes, organic compost and the like.

And if I am successful in decluttering and learn how to sell stuff online, I just may be able to reach my aim of 50% savings rate. We’ll see.

Final thoughts

Phew! We come to the end, at last.

I will not be tackling the above goals with the same intensity all at once. Instead this year, I will ‘lean in’ to 3 goals every 3 months and as I develop the habits I need to succeed, I will move on to the next 3 goals. Thanks, Jillian – episode 10* of Everyday Courage.

So until the end of March, I will focus on exercising and stretching daily, journaling daily and becoming more sustainable. I will keep you up to date with my progress – it will give me an incentive to track my progress which I wasn’t so good at last year. So you can keep me accountable.

Deciding what to focus on in 2020 has taken most of my January! I am really looking forward to diving deeper into my 2020 with no new hobbies or philosophy.

How about you? Have you set goals for the decade ahead in addition to 2020? 


*A note on Everyday Courage podcast – a new episode is released every Monday and at the time of publishing this post, episodes 9 and 10 have not been released. I signed up to get the whole season plus a workbook so I could work through them  over 10 days or so.

Growing my money – is it too late to start investing in my 40s?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Disclosure: Please note that I may benefit from purchases made through some of the links below, at no cost to you. 


The word brings chills down my spine.

It is a world of unknowns, a mysterious realm.

Especially when you don’t work in the finance industry or has had any education about the finance world.

When your financial literacy is gleaned from your mother’s teachings based on her mother’s experiences.

Recently, I read an article which struck a chord with me – “Why is it important for women to invest and not just save?”  from Women Who Money

This was my instinctive reply on Twitter –

What if you start investing late in life?

It’s such a conundrum – you don’t earn very much when you start working. So you don’t think you have enough money left over from daily living expenses to invest in anything. Then when you do start earning more money, you succumb to lifestyle creep and you still don’t have spare money to invest.

Because I am starting late in my 40s, I constantly feel I am behind. I am anxious that I will not have enough for my retirement, traditional or otherwise.

This anxiety makes me want to rush in and buy into anything that will give me a great return.

But the same principles still apply. Whether you are investing in your 20s or your 40s.

Know thyself

I need to know myself – what sort of risk can I tolerate? In investment language, the higher the returns the higher the risk. Will I sleep at night if my share portfolio is not doing well?

How worried am I that I will lose the money? Is it a justified worry? How will I mitigate these risks? My mother always advises me not to put all my eggs in one basket. So is there a way for me to spread the risk?

How much time do I have for this investment? What is the recommended time frame? When do I want to use the money invested?

Do I understand the investment vehicle? If I cannot explain it to a friend over a cup of coffee, then I will not invest in it. (That is my my very basic yardstick!)

I understand that compound interest works best when you are young and have many years ahead. But it sill works in your 40s if you can leave your money to grow into your 60s and beyond.

Yes, you do have a shorter timeline when investing in your 40s and time is not on your side to correct any wild swings or ride out the turbulence.

But it is not a good excuse to do nothing either. Unless you are sure of winning the lottery or have an inheritance coming.

So … what is investing?

Is it the same as saving?

To me, in a nutshell, saving is not spending money. Every dollar you save is one you did not spend.

And every dollar saved is a dollar that can be directed towards a goal.

Such as paying off debt – house mortgage, student loans, car, credit cards.

Or for spending later such as travel, a deposit for a house, wedding, children’s education, house renovation, retirement – there are endless ways you can spend the money you saved.

Or you can invest your savings. To me, investing is about building wealth, about growing your money. It is using your money like employees to work for you, to make more money for you. Eventually, you may spend the money invested but it is a long term, ten years or more scenario.

And it should not be at the bottom of the priority list.

Why should I invest?


The number one reason I invest is that I want my nest egg to beat inflation. One dollar does not buy the same things today as it did twenty years ago. And that one dollar will not buy the same things twenty, fifty years from now.

Australia enjoys a relatively low rate of inflation – currently at 1.3%. That is no guarantee that it will stay the same in the future.

So the money I save now must grow at a higher rate than 1.3%. Otherwise, I will not be able to afford the same or similar lifestyle in twenty years, as my money will have less purchasing power.

So why did I not invest earlier?


Of losing my hard earned money.

Of doing the wrong thing, making a gigantic mistake that I cannot recover from.

Investing also implies you have money in the first place – how can you invest without money? It implies not just money but LOTS of money. And I certainly never see myself as having that kind of money.

I used to think only smart people know how to invest and that you need to know complicated investment strategies. Or that you need a financial planner or advisor.

But my biggest mistakes were inertia and contentment. Besides buying a house, I did nothing. I was happy after buying my house and did not bother with other investment opportunities.

I shoved investing into the too hard basket. And because I was time poor, I never made an effort to learn or engage a financial advisor.

How do I invest now?

When I discovered FIRE (Financially independent, retire early) blogs and podcasts, I realised there was a whole community who DIY their investment. It was empowering – it meant that I too could learn how to invest.

Now, I just keep it simple. Well, as simple as my insecurity will allow.

I automate my savings and pay myself first from every pay cheque. My system is not perfect – I will tweak dollar amounts every now and then. Once my investment account hits a certain number, I transfer it to my brokerage account to purchase shares in the stock market. More on that later.

What do I invest in?

My investment strategy encompasses three assets broadly – cash, real estate and stocks. It is not written in stone – that is I will pivot and change if needed, if for example, more evidence comes to light in regards to certain investment vehicles. Or my circumstances change.

(a) Cash

It has the lowest return on investment but I will not lose the capital, my original investment sum.

My emergency fund is in cash, in an online high interest savings account earning 2.5% currently – if I fulfill the conditions of depositing $300 per month and do not withdraw any money at all. If I break these conditions, the interest rate reverts to 1%.

I like this account because if I have to withdraw any funds, I still get 1% interest which is 10x higher than some of the accounts out there paying a 0.1% interest if I break their conditions. This cash is still readily available – I can access it from any ATM in the country.

I plan to hold my emergency fund at 6 months of living expenses – I am 85% there. Once I have reached this milestone, I will continue depositing the minimum $300 per month and build up to 1 year of living expenses, at which point I will open a term deposit account for 6 months’ of living expenses. Provided I can find a better rate.

My plan is to save 2 years of living expenses in cash. It will be my FU money. And it will guard against sequence of return risk. I will use this cash instead of selling my shares in the case that the stock market is experiencing a downturn when I finally retire.

Yes, I understand that there is opportunity costs here. I can invest this money in the stock market for a theoretical greater return on investment. But I know myself – I will sleep better at night with my strategy, knowing that I have a cash back up if the stock market crashes right at the time I retire, or just before or just after.

(b) Real estate

It was drummed into me that you must have your own home for security reasons. Especially by my mum. She grew up in rental homes and always credited her mum for having the foresight to buy a shophouse for their retirement. While my grandparents have long departed this world, that shophouse is still in the family.

A company house came with my parents’ work when I was growing up. I never lived in our own home until I was an adult after our move to Australia. So owning a home was an important goal for me. Plus I wanted to be independent  and have an asset to call my own.

Many years later, I now own my home after paying off my mortgage. Now, some of you will argue that my home is not an investment, that only rental properties ie properties that generate an income should be considered an investment. Or if I have housemates paying me rent.

However, I do consider my home to be an investment because of its value to me. From now on, I live ‘rent free’ or technically ‘mortgage free’. Worrying about whether or not my rent will increase because my landlord can’t get any tax deductions or if there is a shortage of rental homes, is absent from my life. I need not be anxious that my landlord wishes to sell the property and I have to look for another roof over my head.

I absolutely acknowledge that I was fortunate and bought at a time when property prices were high but not crazy.

And yes, there are ongoing costs to owning a home – insurance, maintenance, council rates, to name a few.  But my home’s value has also more than doubled since I purchased it 16 years ago. Its financial value will be actualised when I sell it to fund my move into an aged care facility or if I geo arbitrage or if I want to downsize to a smaller home. Fingers crossed, it will continue to hold its monetary value.

I list my home here only to demonstrate I have some exposure to this asset class. All money spent on the house are really just living expenses.

(c) Stock market

I invest in the stock market inside and outside my Superannuation, my retirement account.

Inside Superannuation

There are many funds within your Superannuation to choose from – the default is the Balanced fund, in most cases. This was my option ever since I started working 20 odd years ago because I never cared about retirement funds in my 20s and 30s. Now that traditional retirement is looming, never mind wanting to retire early if at all possible, I care! Very much!

My superannuation funds are now invested in low cost index funds –

Current asset allocation in my Superannuation fund


My plan is to continue salary sacrificing into my superannuation ie supplementing my employer’s compulsory contribution. I will not be able to access these funds until I turn 60. If possible, I would like to delay accessing my superannuation until I am 65 or 70 to give it the best possible chance to grow.

Outside superannuation

My portfolio of shares in the stockmarket outside superannuation reflects who I am – I like variety in my daily life so I am very much into diversification. And also – remember, not all eggs in one basket? I know the stock market is one basket – but I can have different eggs just in case some of them don’t hatch. Or they can hatch at different times. (Hmmm … not sure if this analogy works!)

Nevertheless, my basket currently looks like this:

Individual shares – 44%

Listed investment companies (LICs) – 27%

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) – 29%

Individual shares

Initially, I invested in a portfolio of individual shares – 10 companies from the top 200 of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX 200), one company in each sector. I wanted to spread my risk across all sectors so if one sector isn’t doing too well, perhaps another sector will pick up the slack. The only sector I don’t have any exposure in currently is information technology, after I sold Afterpay.

My plan is to keep these shares and participate in all their Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRP) to very slowly build up their value. But I will not be investing new money into expanding this portfolio. Frankly, I don’t have the time to monitor each holding or research new companies to add. I am not selling any in this portfolio though as the costs of selling them and the capital gain is not advantageous to me at the moment.

Listed Investment Companies 

I first learned about Listed Investment Companies (LICs) from the Barefoot Investor  (affiliate link) and later from Peter Thornhill and Strong Money Australia.

These are companies that invest in other companies. And thus you are exposed to lots of companies simply by buying one share. So diversification is effectively achieved by owning one LIC.

Each LIC has its own focus eg one may own shares in the ASX200 only; another may not own any shares in the mining industry and so on.

Another thing I like about LICs is that they pay dividends. And historically, they have paid dividends even in the bad times, for example during the Global Financial Crisis. They don’t have to pay out all the dividends they receive from the companies they own all at once. And can therefore smooth out the ride in lean times.

There are currently four LICs in my portfolio. As each LIC is managed by a team who decides which company to buy and in what quantity (according to their focus), I am spreading my risk with the four LICs in the event that someone makes a less than stellar decision. I am insecure, can you tell?

Exchange Traded Funds (ETF)

An exchange traded fund is an investment fund that can be traded ie bought and sold on the stock market.  They track a certain index eg the ASX200 – they are passive investments and don’t try to outperform the index it is tracking, just mimicking it. So the returns are closely tied with the index it is tracking.

For me this is the most economical way to own low cost index funds. And the best way for me to diversify my assets.

As my LICs are heavily weighted towards the ASX200, I have not bought any ETFs that track the ASX200. Instead I have one that track smaller companies (the 100 companies after the ASX200),  two that track overseas markets, another that tracks Australian property trusts and a final one that tracks fixed income.

So I am quite diversified not just in the different sectors of the Australian stock exchange, but also in the different asset classes with some exposure to overseas markets. After all, Australia makes up only 2% of the global market.

I will decide each quarter which LIC or ETF to invest in, moving forward.

Final thoughts

It has taken me  a while to write this post – but it has been really helpful in crystallising my thoughts on my investment strategy. I confess it sounds complicated. That is due to my insecurity and needing to diversify greatly.

I am not sure if this need for diversification is a result of my investing late in my 40s or that this insecurity is inherent in my personality and upbringing.

Please don’t let that deter you. Your strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need one that works for you and allows you to sleep peacefully at night.

I am not a numbers person – I have tried to show the thinking behind my strategy – I apologise if I have confused you instead!

But I absolutely believe it is not too late to start investing in my 40s. I really don’t have any choice, with no expectation of winning any lotteries or coming into any inheritance.

Disclaimer: Nothing I write here should be considered as financial advice – these are my opinions only. How I personally manage my money may be vastly different to how you manage yours. Please seek professional financial advice should you need it. 

What is your investment strategy? If you are in your 40s, how has your strategy changed? Am I needlessly diversified? Hit me with your comments below! Thank you in advance 😉


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