2023 Goals Review And 16 Months Progress Report

It is the end of April 2024 as I write this – so a review of my 2023 goals is long overdue. Apologies, my friends!

My word in 2023 was Adventure. I wanted to discover new experiences and activities as I prepare for retirement.

Well … there were two new big experiences in 2023.

1. Working a second job or as the young ones call it, a side hustle

2. Having Mum who has dementia in respite care at 2 different aged care facilities

There were also 2 overseas holidays in there somewhere …

1. Working from home

Working a side hustle from home is wonderful. I finally get to experience what working from home feels like and … I love it!

As a healthcare worker through the pandemic, I still went into work every day so I never got to experience the highs and lows of working from home that the majority of workers experienced.

But it is time consuming. I work one full day plus before and after my main job which doesn’t leave me much time to do anything else. There are upcoming changes – I’ll keep you posted when they eventuate later in the year.

2. Mum in aged care

Having Mum in respite care twice in aged care facilities was an adventure I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The emotional toll was horrendous. Watching her not coping in the facilities was very difficult. It will not get any easier as her dementia progresses and Dad needs time off from being her primary carer.

All right, let’s recap on what my goals were in 2023. I had 4 financial and 4 non financial goals. How did I go?

 

Goal 1 - Invest $30k in my shares portfolio

This goal was not accomplished because of Goal 4!

A reminder – my shares portfolio is what I will use to fund the 5 years of living expenses when I retire at 55 as I can’t access my superannuation (retirement account) until aged 60. 

My financial adviser, Deline assured me that I was on track to retire at 55 (HOORAY!!!) and that I could STOP investing in my shares portfolio. At this stage, the balance was not where I wanted it to be but I had to trust the math.

On a side note, the balance as at the end of April 2024 has exceeded that figure in my head – the figure I thought I needed to see before I could stop investing. So I’m very glad I listened to Deline.

I must admit I couldn’t stop cold turkey. I reduced the amount for a couple of months before stopping completely. But when the market was down in October/November, I couldn’t resist and invested some side hustle income.

In the end, I invested about $14k which included cash dividends received.

Goal 2 - Replenish emergency fund

I feel secure having 6 months of living expenses in my Emergency Fund. It was fully fiunded but I raided it to replace major appliances that died in 2021/22.
 
This goal was finally accomplished in May 2023. It’s taken more than a year and accomplishing it felt really good because it was a goal carried forward from 2022.

Goal 3 - Save $5k in home maintenance fund

This goal was accomplished, thanks to my side hustle income.
 

So I decided to aim for $10k.

I always wanted to have $10k in my home maintenance fund but didn’t think I could achieve it in one year so aimed to save $5k instead.
 

Because of this fund, I was able to take advantage of state government rebates and installed an electric heat pump hot water tank.

My original gas hot water tank was 7 years old. I didn’t want it to die in the middle of winter, forcing me to decide quickly to install anything recommended by the plumber. Which was what happened previously.

This is part of my plan to switch to an all electric house ie bye bye gas forever. There is still the central gas heating and stove to go – I’m waiting for more government rebates.
 
By the end of 2023, the Home Maintenance Fund was 90% funded.
 
Since I’ve been regularly contributing to this fund, I haven’t needed to raid my Emergency Fund.

2024 update – the dishwasher’s electronic control panel decided to die out of warranty, of course. So the home maintenance fund came to the rescue again.
 
And in February 2024, the fund is fully funded, YAY!!!

 

 

 

Goal 4 - Engage a fee only financial adviser

Mission accomplished.
 
I didn’t have a good experience at the start of 2018 after I’d pay off my mortgage and was wondering what to do with the ‘excess’ money that would have gone to the mortgage.
 

I had about $10k surplus at the time. I knew I should invest it but didn’t know what to do. No one was interested in talking to me. The guy at the bank said it wasn’t worth my while to engage him.

But thankfully, since then I discovered the FIRE community, educated myself and improved my financial literacy significantly.
 

All the saving and investing I’ve done so far is DIY. So I wanted an expert to cast their eyes over my numbers and tell me categorically if I’m heading in the right direction. I figured there is still time to course correct if I’m not!

I found Deline from Instagram. I had been following her for a while and liked her posts so I felt comfortable reaching out. Knowing that she understood FIRE was also important to me. It saved lots of explaining, haha.

Over the course of a few months and 3 meetings over Zoom, she worked through all my numbers. Based on what I told her I’d like to spend in retirement, she confirmed that I was on the right track. Phew! And could in fact, increase my spending a little. Believe me, hearing that was so comforting!

And as a result of her advice, I started new goals which I’ll detail below.

 

Goal 5 - Declutter

This goal was a massive fail!

I even enrolled in Joshua Becker’s 12 week online course, Uncluttered but didn’t do the work. The timing was unfortunate because the side hustle was starting at the same time. I can access the course at any time but haven’t done so again.

I just work in my cluttered study with towering boxes of stuff around me …

Sigh! I’m thinking this is one of those goals that will be accomplished when I finally retire – surely there’ll be no excuses then!

Goal 6 - Go to bed at 11pm

I would describe this as a semi failed goal. 
 
But I’m not giving up.

I succeed for the most part but get derailed on nights when I don’t have to work the next day.
 
This will be an ongoing goal.

 

Goal 7 - Go outside for 30 minutes every day

This goal can also be described as a semi failed goal.
 
I definitely do not achieve it daily but will try to make up for it on weekends. What having this goal has achieved is to raise my awareness of how little time I spend outdoors. It is much easier to achieve when I’m on holidays and exploring new territory.
 

So once again, this will be an ongoing goal.

 

Goal 8 - Do something new or visit somewhere I've never been before every month

This was definitely much easier when I was on holidays and exploring new places. I found it much harder to do at home though it started off well at the beginning of the year.
 

I visited and joined new libraries. Ok, this may have contributed to the semi failed status of Goal 7. I was able to borrow more books on my Libby app 🙂 And ended up reading 93 books in 2023.

Discovering park runs also contributed to time spent outdoors. I was participating in a 5km park run every week. And even participated in one for 2 weeks in London. But once I came back from my holidays, it was winter and I never went again until March 2024.

 

I visited Sydney, London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong in 2023. There was some work involved in Sydney but overall, I was on holidays.

I certainly enjoyed new experiences in these cities I’ve visited before in the past.

 – pattiserie/cafe crawl and omakase in Sydney
– explored canals in London, West End shows and of course, afternoon teas in various establishments
– visited art galleries, museums in Amsterdam and The Hague; enjoyed learning about windmills in Kinderdijk
– ate my way around and hiked new-to-me trails in Hong Kong. It was also a new experience to win a flight ticket to Hong Kong during their promotion to attract tourists back to the city
 
And now we come to the additional financial goals I set after the consultations with my financial adviser.

 

New goal 1 - Future car fund

I currently drive a work car so will need to purchase a car when I retire. The plan is to buy the car I’m currently driving from my employer.
 
The set amount from my weekly pay that was going to purchase shares was diverted to this fund instead.

It was 74% funded at the end of 2023.
 
2024 update – I am ecstatic to report that it is now 100% funded by the end of April 2024! Vroom vroom!!

 

New goal 2 - 2 years of living expenses cash buffer

The short answer is I did not make a start on this fund in 2023. 
 

At first, my plan was to use the side hustle income to save towards the 3 cash goals – home maintenance fund, future car fund and 2 years of living expenses fund.

In the end, I found it easier to use my side hustle income (which is variable per month) for the home maintenance fund and a regular amount from my main job towards the car. It was driving me insane watching all the funds grow at a snail’s pace.
 

Now that both the smaller funds are fully funded, I will direct everything towards the 2 year living expenses fund. And when this is fully funded, I can retire!

The purpose of this fund is to ensure I have cash on hand in case the market falls which in turn means the value of my share portfolio falls, just when I need to access funds at the beginning of my retirement. I will draw on my cash reserves instead of selling shares in that event.

More progress report …

Annual expenses in 2023

I spent 13% more in 2023 compared to 2022. 
 
The extra expenses were due to general inflation but the main increase was in home maintenance – installing the electric heat pump and fixing the electrical switchboard. I also started having a fortnightly cleaning service from September 2023, fully funded by my side hustle income. My travel expenses were roughly the same as in 2022. Food costs were 1% higher.

My income increased by 25%, thanks to my side hustle.

My savings rate was 42% (based solely on after tax income) which was a small improvement (increased by 3%) compared to 2022.

 

Net worth

My net worth grew by 21% 🙏
 

I have not included my paid off home in this figure. I don’t plan to move and haven’t kept up with the value of similar properties in the area. There is a lot of construction work in my suburb, with old houses replaced by gigantic units.

My net worth therefore consists of the value of superannuation, shares portfolio and cash accounts.
 
There were also 2 exciting milestones reached in the past 16 months.

 

Milestone 1 - $1M invested

My investments totalled $1 million 😮 at the end of 2023!
 
This is purely a combination of my superannuation (retirement account) and the shares portfolio outside of superannuation.
 
It wasn’t something that I was looking out for so it came as a surptise when I calculated my net worth at the end of December 2023 and realised a significant milestone was reached.
 
The predominant feeling I felt was RELIEF. The “end” is truly in sight now.

Milestone 2 - Superannuation balance doubled

My superannuation balance has doubled since 2018, the year I started to pay attention to it. During this period of 6 years, there were only 2 years when I maxed out the contributions.
 
When I reached Coast FI in April 2021, it had increased by 1.5 times. Since reaching Coast FI, I reduced my salary sacrificing drastically and relied mainly on mandatory employer contributions.

I cannot access my superannuation until 2031, when I turn 60 and no longer working. That’s 7 years away. Dare I hope that the market will be kind and another doubling occurs? I’ll update you on the progress 🙂

 

Final Thoughts

Until I sat down to write this post, I had no idea of how much was achieved in 2023!
 

Financial goals are being ticked off and milestones reached that I wasn’t even paying attention to.

And having only one more financial goal to aim for before I can quit work is doable even though the amount I need is quite high. But I still have two and a half years to go.
 
I did not factor in the time required for my side hustle in 2023. I am faster at the work now but the workload has also increased in 2024. But I am most grateful for the income it’s bringing in and the financial goals I’ve been able to tick off, purely because of the extra income. So I’m not complaining.
 

Overall, while my non financial goals were only semi successful, I’m happy to continue trying – I was aiming to enjoy the process and not focus on outcomes so much.

There you are – that’s my 2023 done and dusted. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook if you would like more regular updates or progress reports.

What will the rest of 2024 bring, I wonder?

 

Is it too late to ask ... how was your 2023?

What a Relief 2021 is Finally Over – My End of Year Review

This is very LATE and I was determined to finish my 2021 end of year review before Chinese New Year 🤣 but I just missed it! Happy Lunar New Year, everyone – May you attain greater wealth (Gong Xi Fa Cai!)

This is a privilege of those of us who celebrate two new years! You always get a second chance if you miss the deadline for Jan 1. I’m a late starter in other areas too, sigh!

Let’s recap what my goals were for 2021

1. Create another income stream

2. Invest $30000 into my shares portfolio

3. Lose 10kg

4. Be semi self sufficient in vegetables

And a reminder of what my decade (2020 to 2029) goals are –

1. Retire at 55

2. Visit Antarctica

3. Run a marathon

So, without further ado, what happened in 2021 and what was my progress with these goals?

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Goal 1 - Create another income stream

My reliance on a full time job to provide an income was really highlighted by the pandemic.

I’ve had stressful roles pre pandemic and been burnt out. But now I can experience burn out plus be infected by a deadly virus. Yay!

My healthcare job is 10 times more stressful now than ever before. I don’t have the luxury of working from home. Although our workload has increased dramatically, our revenue hasn’t. So it’s not as if we can ask for a pay rise. There is no extra money for all the extra stress.

This has been going on since 2020 – learning how to keep everyone safe, managing staff and public anxiety, implementing policies on the run, trying to access stock etc. Working was stressful and mentally draining. I slept a lot, read a lot and ate a lot of chips in 2020.

2021 was supposed to be better. It wasn’t. We endured lockdown after lockdown – 4 in total. Work alternated between really quiet (when I’d worry about being laid off) to really hectic (when I’d question if I could last another five years in the job).

We started administering Covid 19 vaccinations in August. The rules changed. All. The. Time. Needless to say, the public was confused with the messaging and what to do. We had to deal with the fall out – which included tears and rants. Some were excited of course but we copped a lot of angry people who were unhappy that they had to be double vaccinated to get a haircut.

Before the pandemic, I never questioned my reliance on my job to provide an income. But now I was nervous.

So I felt the need to create other income streams, just in case I can’t handle the job anymore or I am made redundant because of the reduced revenue.

In 2021, my other income streams are:

1. Dividends

2. Interest

3. Octopus Group Surveys

4. Cashrewards

5. Blog

 

1. Dividends

I had never tracked my dividends before 2021 so I was pleasantly surprised with the result. Now I look forward to charting them every month. Hang out with me on Instagram – I post my dividend income and other progress reports monthly.

The majority of my dividends are automatically reinvested and this is how I grow my portfolio on a set and forget basis, besides investing on a regular basis.

My total dividends in 2021 amounted to $8447 which was a 68% increase on what I received in 2020.

My dividend income is by far the best additional income stream I’ve created. And did I mention that it is truly passive?

 
 

2. Interest

My various sinking funds, in particular my emergency fund and travel fund earned a paltry total of $185 in 2021. I anticipate this stream will dry up in 2022 as I start to use my travel fund and rebuild my emergency fund.

3. Octopus Group Survey

This is an easy activity – I answer questions about anything from experiencing racism to where I buy alcohol, all while watching TV. I wrote a review of Octopus Group Survey in an earlier post.
 
In 2021, I earned $395 – not a lot in the scheme of things but it’s not a lot of effort either. My Antarctica sinking fund appreciated the addition. (Decade goal!)

4. Cashrewards

I use Cashrewards (affiliate link), a cash back site whenever I can. I most certainly do not want to rely on this ‘income stream’ 🤣 as it means I’m spending. But if I HAD to spend money, then I do it via the cash back site if possible and earn some cash.

And 2021 was an epic year of spending which I’ll come to later. Not all my major appliances were bought via the site as I received a better discount by going to the retailer directly in some cases.

I cashed out $95 in 2021. Once again this went to my Antarctica fund.

5. Blog

Spending time on this blog is my major creative outlet. I definitely did not set out to earn money from blogging. 2021 taught me that I can help people and earn some money. The two are not mutually exclusive.

But trying to monetise the blog is a steep learning curve and there is so much I don’t know how to do.

So this year’s expenses also skyrocketed – in purchasing courses, memberships and Masterminds. But I have learned so much in the process – mainly about myself, truth be told – that I can figure things out, that I can be too hard on myself (nothing new here!) and that I love learning new skills, helping others in the same boat and meeting others in the personal finance and blogging space.

In 2021, my blog income covered 21% of my blog expenses. I did not make use of every single course I bought so I may have to be stricter with myself in 2022.

So for the goal of creating extra income streams in 2021, I would say that I am now a lot more aware of increasing income versus decreasing expenses. And really appreciate the passive nature of earning dividends from my shares portfolio.

Goal 2 - Invest $30000 in my shares portfolio

Done and dusted, yay! Achieved this goal on Dec 14, just in the nick of time 🤣

Sometime during the year, I simplified my system and I am so much happier with it. Instead of waiting a few months till I’d saved $5000 to invest, I now invest every 4 weeks. The whole process is automated via Pearler’s (affiliate link) autoinvest function so I don’t have to think about it.

I was predicting that I’d reach Coast FI within the first 6 months of the year so I reduced how much I salary sacrificed into superannuation (retirement account). And used the extra cash after tax to invest in my shares portfolio.

I need this portfolio to fund living expenses for the 5 years (from 55 to 60) before I can access superannuation. That is, when I retire at 55 (decade goal!)

illustration of women's legs standing in front of a scale

Goal 3 - Lose 10kg

My coping mechanism has been eating chips on the couch after work, especially in 2020. This meant I stacked on the weight – menopause and pandemic eating do not go well together!

In my Mid Year Review, I had lost 6kg, mainly by intermittent fasting and trying to stick to 800 calories a day.

Well, by the end of the year, after feasting at Christmas and joining my visiting relatives for daily mini feats in December meant that I’d put on 1kg. So for the record, I lost 5kg in 2021.

This tells me that I can do it but I just need to be more disciplined about portion sizes and snacking. I also need to find another way to de-stress besides eating chips on the couch.

 

Goal 4 - Be semi self sufficient in vegetables

This was a big FAIL.

I wanted to be perfect – and grow my vegetables from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings. It is definitely more frugal and the “correct” way.

But my timing was really off. With all the lockdowns, either the nurseries were not open or they were open at reduced hours and I couldn’t get there during those hours because of my job.

So I was mostly late in planting the seeds and the commitment of caring for them was another story. The birds and snails had a good feast when I finally planted them in the veggie boxes. But because I wasn’t monitoring them religiously, it was too late by the time I realised.

There were some successes but by and large, it was a disappointing year of growing vegetables.

Once the final lockdown was lifted, I paid for a garden consultant to come and look at my garden. So I now have a plan for a productive garden which I’ll implement in 2022.

2021 Annual Expenses

2021 was a whopper of a year in spending!

My annual expenses was 61% more than that in 2020. Yes, you read that right!

2020 was the all time lowest annual expenses since I started tracking my expenses in 2018 while 2021 was the all time high.

So what did I spend my money on?

The top 5 categories make up 73.4% of the expenses and they are:

1. Home maintenance 32.7%

2. Food 11.4%

3. Blog 11.3%

4. Financial 10.1%

5. Medical 7.9%

1. Home maintenance 32.7%

Let’s address home maintenance first as this was one third of my annual expenses.

Because of lockdowns in 2020, the installation of my ceiling insulation was delayed until 2021. I’m fervently hoping that this will reduce my future electricity and gas bills.

In December 2020, a pipe burst under the kitchen sink, resulting in water damage of my timber floor boards. There was a lot of argy bargy with the insurance company, whose own contractors could not agree on how to repair the damage. In the end, they gave me a pay out. I used the payout to find another contractor to repair my floor and saved some money in the process. The savings came in handy later.

While they were repairing the floor, I noticed that my windows were looking derelict which I guess made sense as I hadn’t maintained them for the entire time I’ve lived here. So just before Christmas, I had the outside of all windows and doors repainted.

Nearly every major appliance broke down in 2021 – the dishwasher (which I’m sure caused the burst pipe in the first place), washing machine, microwave and oven. All of them either came with the house or I bought them when I moved in about 20 years ago. I chose to purchase new items as I want them to last for the next twenty years.

I do have a home maintenane sinking fund as I realised in late 2020 that most of my appliances were dying. But in the end, I had to use my emergency fund to pay for some of the expenses.

I’m hoping that 2022 will be kinder in this category.

2. Food 11.4%

Food, glorious food.

What can I say? I enjoy good food. This does include buying food for my parents during some of the lockdowns and entertaining in between lockdowns. It was too hard to categorise them differently so I just lumped it all as food. It doesn’t include takeaways or eating out – that is an additional 1.1%

Fresh food has certainly increased in price during the pandemic. Ginger was at a crazy $69.99 per kilogram recently.

3. Blog 11.3%

As explained earlier, I bought courses, memberships and Masterminds to learn new skills and learn what I need in order to grow this blog. Since I haven’t travelled for two years, I ‘borrowed’ from my Travel sinking fund.

4. Financial 10.1%

This is a mix of insurances for the home as well as fees for professional associations, registrations etc for my work. Until I retire, there is not much I can do about the expenses associated with work.

5. Medical 7.9%

I’ve never spent so much for my health.

I had a medical procedure in a private hospital in May – there was an excess plus other out of pocket costs such as pathology and specialist fees.

My right shoulder has been painful but I ignored it for many months during lockdowns. Now I need regular remedial massages and osteopath treatments to fix it, sigh.

I also had a few sessions with a psychologist – to get over the trauma and stress of working through 2020. I’m so glad I did because she explained about compassion fatigue and how we need to take care of ourselves first before we can help others.

When I add up annual expenses for 2020 and 2021 and divide by 2 – it is still the average of what I think my annual expenses in retirement would be. And that’s what I’ve calculated in my FIRE number.

So I am not too concerned about the extra expenses for now.

Progress towards early retirement

By the end of 2021, my net worth had increased by 26% compared to 2020 so I am progressing very well towards FIRE. I do not include the value of my home in this figure as I don’t plan on selling it. It does include my superannuation balance which I can’t access until I turn 60.

Lessons learnt in 2021 (in no particular order)

The pandemic is not over yet. Everyone predicted that 2021 would be better than 2020. It turned out that we endured more lockdowns and restrictions and still could not travel or see our loved ones for most of the year.

And when we did meet up face to face with friends and family, it was so much more appreciated and precious. The 3 days of enforced isolation with my 6 year old niece in December (visiting from overseas and hadn’t seen face to face for two years) was priceless.

I learned that i was resilient but that I need to look after myself too.

After reading I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I started an ‘Invest in Myself’ sinking fund – guilt free money to spend on living my rich life. Money to spend on books and courses; arts and culture events within my own city. I want to start living my rich life now.

In April I reached my Coast FI milestone, a truly freeing experience. It is such a relief to know that I will reach my FIRE number in 10 years even without adding another cent to my superannuation. I learned that my WHY of FI can change – that fear no longer drives me to attain financial independence.

I learned that I enjoyed doing money savings challenges to help save extra towards my Antarctica sinking fund; that even though I didn’t think I could save any more or automate the savings, somehow I found extra money when it was fun to do so.

I learned not to lament that I don’t have time. Instead, I learned to think that I have some time and that I have the time to do all that I need to.

I learned to focus on one thing if I am overwhelmed with too many things on my agenda. And moving in the right direction in small steps is better than not moving at all.


Final thoughts

2021 was a challenging and expensive year for me, juggling home maintenance issues and the stress of working in healthcare. What a relief that it is finally over!

But it was also a year of continuous learning – of what living my rich life would look like; how important it is to find time for myself; how investing automatically pays dividends (literally 🤣); how fun it can be to save via money savings challenges.

I accomplished one goal and moved ahead in the others even if I didn’t really accomplish them.

And most of all, it was a year of not letting the damn virus beat me.

How was your 2021?

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