Mid Year 2021 Goals Review and Update

colourful wooden cubes with GOALS

Ah, It’s that time of year again.

July. Winter. Cold. Miserable.

No … July is the NEW January! I heard this recently and I LOVE it.

In the past, July is my ‘recharge the battery’ time and I’d head overseas for a holiday and catch up with family in Europe.

But alas, it has not been possible two years in a row.

However, even though an overseas holiday right now is out of the question, it is still my time to take stock of the previous six months and enter the second half of the year strong.

It’s a kind of … ok, never mind if you haven’t started any of your goals you set in January, let alone achieved them … you have another six months up your sleeve … chop, chop now.

So, how was my fist six months of the year?

Let’s dive in.

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Goal 1: Create another income stream

This one threw me out of my comfort zone BIG time.

In all my life, I’ve relied on my full time job to survive. And I’ve done all right with it – bought and fully paid off a house, saved a little in retirement account, gone on numerous overseas holidays etc.

But I can see how the pandemic has affected my workplace and how hard we try to keep afloat. It becomes increasingly important to me to develop some additional income streams.

Just in case.

I can always look for extra weekend shifts elsewhere but doing what I do professionally doesn’t bring me joy anymore.

So the goal was to earn some income from the blog where I was spending the majority of my free time anyway. I’m not looking for profit right now but just enough to break even with my expenses will be very exciting.

Gosh, the steep learning curve combined with impostor syndrome, procrastination and perfectionism nearly did me in!

There was so much to wrap my head around – the technical issues with various platforms, design and marketing, just to name a few. I didn’t know how to do any of this six months ago.

I’m not a technical person by any stretch of the imagination so I really struggled with all of that.

BUT you know what, I felt so accomplished when the emails went out as scheduled after I changed email provider; when I received my first payments for the Late Starter to Fire Action Plan – the payment system that I finished setting up at 4am actually worked! Woohoo!

Whenever I bemoan the fact that I am too old to learn all these new systems, my blogging buddy reminds me that my whole online persona is about starting late … and she is right. And I get on with it.

As a result, I have learned so, so much and gained new skills I never dreamed I would need but best of all, I’ve learned a lot about myself.

I’ve never tracked my blog expenses in the past. But since I decided to try and earn an income, I started tracking for the first time. So far, in the last six months, my expenses are more than double my revenue so definitely a long road ahead yet 🙂

Besides the blog, I’m answering surveys with Octopus Group and have managed to earn a few hundred dollars this way.

 

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Goal 2: Invest $30k in shares portfolio outside superannuation

I reduced my salary sacrificing into superannuation (super), my retirement account in January. I’d calculated that I would probably reach Coast FI soon and therefore even if I stopped contributing extra into super, the amount currently in super would grow to the figure I need when I can finally access it at 60 years old.

I reached Coast FI in mid April, yay!

So the extra funds are now diverted to my shares portfolio outside of super. This is my ‘bridge the gap’ fund – to support me between 55 and 60.

After some fits and starts, I finally settled into a system to invest $3000 every 5 weeks.

I chose to set up auto invest function with Pearler (affiliate link), a new broker dedicated to long term investment and achieving financial independence. Their ethos totally fit in with my investment strategy. The problem is that I found their platform a bit glitchy.

I was used to investing with CommSec which was fast and seamless – once you link an account with your brokerage account, it’s really easy. But it was also $10 more expensive per trade compared to Pearler.

And I love Pearler’s autoinvest feature despite its initial glitchiness.

So I persisted with Pearler. And to give them their credit, they have listened and are trialling a new faster way to accept deposits and buy shares. So, all good.

I’m tracking well here – so far in the first six months, I’ve invested $15900.

Goal 3: Lose 10kg

As I wrote earlier, menopause and pandemic eating is not a good combination!

Even before the pandemic, I’d wanted to lose some weight – the kilograms just creep up and up.

But I never had a plan besides to eat less and exercise more.

In February, I read Michael Moseley’s books The 5:2 Diet and The Fast 800 Diet. In the past, I thought these diets were fads and didn’t try them.

I started with the 5:2 diet after reading this book first and then swapped to intermittent fasting after reading the second book. It was a game changer!

I now try to eat between 12pm and 8pm but will have a cup of coffee at around 8am. I just cannot function without my cuppa in the morning!

So far, I’ve lost 6kg. I’m struggling to lose the next 1kg since the end of May but I am persisting. Ever since April, when chocolates reentered my life after Easter, I’ve been losing the battle with chocolates.

My friend and I are still trying to walk after work. But are easily derailed when either of us has a valid excuse not to walk eg I have to stay back late at work or she has to leave work early to take her mother to a dental appointment.

But the important thing here is we are still persisting.

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Goal 4: Be semi self sufficient in vegetables

I had increased my capacity by another 3 wicking bed boxes in December 2020. Because they are situated in a shadier part of the garden, I’m struggling to find the appropriate vegetables to plant.

So far, bok choy, cos lettuce, chillies and eggplants have survived quite well.

The boxes at the front of the house would be more productive except for the snails and slugs. I wasn’t as vigilant and they decimated my brussel sprouts. I hope the Chinese broccoli fare better as I’ve scattered broken egg shells around them in an attempt to repel the snails. The snow peas are doing well, as are the garlic.

The summer was productive in basil, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums. As an experiment, I dug up a few capsicums and eggplants and plonk them in pots in the greenhouse. Not sure if they’ll survive the winter. My plan is to take them out in late Autumn.

The wonderful thing about growing your own vegetables is that it is all a big experiment. And when something works, you have to remember how to replicate it. Conversely, if something doesn’t work out, it can be maddening trying to work out why.

I will continue to experiment.

 

Decade goals

At the start of 2020, I narrowed down to 3 goals to achieve in this decade. They are, in no particular order – visiting Antarctica, running a marathon and retiring at 55.

I thought the Antarctica goal would be knocked off at the end of this year. But after putting down a deposit with a tour company with Frogdancer Jones, I pulled out. The situation with Covid 19 was just too uncertain for me. It was stressful planning for all the uncertainty.

Will borders (Australia and Argentina and any other countries we may visit) open in time for us to get there before the cruise sails from Ushuaia? Will we have to quarantine in South America? How about when we return?

I wasn’t keen on quarantining anywhere as it would take precious time away from seeing a new city and country. And I definitely wasn’t keen on hotel quarantine back in Australia – neither the cost of it – approx $3000 for 2 weeks nor the fact that I live alone and can therefore quarantine at home quite comfortably.

For a period of 2 weeks or so, when I was considering the possibility and doing preliminary research – you know the bit where you are researching all the things to do and eat in a place to determine how long you should stay – it was so exciting. I clearly miss the thrill of planning a holiday. Never mind, Easter Island … we’ll get there some day.

Running a marathon – no progress here at all. But I figure the less weight I carry, the easier it would be to run so maybe I’m making progress in a different way 🙂

Retiring at 55 – this seems possible but scarier as the time nears. I do really want to retire fully at 55 but am open to working a shift or two in the evenings with good penalty rates.

Hitting the Coast FI milestone did make me wonder if I could afford to work 4 days a week. The choice is to continue working full time for five more years (if my job survives that long) and definitely retire at 55 OR work 4 days a week and take longer to retire. For the moment, I’ve decided to just look at one year at a time.

Other news

It’s been an expensive six months, the culprits being medical expenses and home maintenance. I have already spent two thirds of what I spent in 2020.

I am very thankful for Australia’s Medicare system and that I can afford additional private health insurance to assist with costs not covered by Medicare.

It was interesting navigating the healthcare system from a patient’s perspective. I’d always been relatively healthy and never needed anything more than a GP consultation and blood tests.

During a 3 month period this year, I had numberous GP visits, specialist consultations, an ultrasound, culminating in a day surgical procedure at a private hospital.

Between Medicare and my private health fund, I was out of pocket by just over $1000 ($750 excess and out of pocket fee from my anesthetist) for the day procedure.

BUT luckily, around the same time, I also received my tax refund (from last financial year) to nearly the same amount, so I was covered.

And yes, I know I should do my taxes the second the end of the financial year (June 30) rolls around, but I’m always late and until my accountant tells me I will be charged a late fee …. (sorry, that Obliger in me again … only responding to external deadlines!)

Oh, and all the tests came back negative, thankfully! That peace of mind is priceless 🙂

My smooth and shiny floor

Home maintenance

One day in early December, I’d left the house with the dishwasher running. When I returned 8 hours later, water was gushing out of a broken pipe under my sink.
 
Sometime in January, my dishwasher (which I suspect was the original culprit that somehow caused the pipe to burst?) finally died. Then the washing machine died the following month.
 
These were anticipated as they were both very old. The dishwasher came with the house and I bought my washing machine when I first moved in 18, 19 years ago. I did start a home maintenance sinking fund but it wasn’t quite enough and I had to raid the emergency fund.
 
In the meantime, I lodged a claim with my home and contents insurance. Things moved at a glacial pace. Because of our long lockdown in July last year, a lot of building or renovation work was delayed and builders are still catching up. So it took ages for a builder to assess the floor. When he finally came, he pointed out the damage to the timber floor and skirting boards. And the claim was accepted by my insurance company.
 
Then Melbourne went into lockdown in mid February which delayed the floorer coming out to assess the floor. He disagreed with the builder on one aspect. I had an open plan set up and while the water washed over two thirds of the floor, his opinion was we couldn’t fix two thirds of it and try to match the existing varnish. We have to do the whole floor.
 
So it went back to the insurance company and deafening silence ensued. One day, many months later in May, I received a call from the insurance company. They are happy to pay out a revised claim but only for doing two thirds of the floor and it was up to me to find someone to do the whole floor.
 
So I did. After another lockdown. And another delay when the floorer’s staff had to self isolate.
 
The insurance pay out included two weeks of alternative accommodation as the smell of the varnish was too strong for anyone to remain in the house. I saved this and moved back in with my parents for a few days. The money saved replenished my emergency fund.
 
Sometime in the middle of the floor saga, I had insulation installed in my ceiling. This was something I wanted to do last year after a home audit found there was negligible insulation in the ceiling – an R1 rating whereas the standard these days is an R5 rating.
 
This should help to reduce the cost of heating and cooling my house. I am particularly keen to reduce my gas bills. Cooling the house isn’t so bad with my solar panels. My electricity bill is very low compared to the cost before the panels were installed.

Final thoughts

It’s been an intense and expensive first six months of the year for me.

It’s kept me on my toes, with so many new experiences – navigating the healthcare system, argy bargy with the insurance company, organising the floor project, trying to earn an income from the blog ….

In terms of achieving my 2021 goals, I am on track and progressing.

Phew! May the second half of 2021 be just as exciting and filled with more new experiences. Bring it on!

 

How was your first half of 2021?

How being accountable to others can help you on the path to FIRE

The Silhouette of two man with success gesture standing on the top of mountain

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Are you an Obliger?

Gretchen Rubin in her book “The Four Tendencies” uses how we respond to outer and inner expectations to divide all of humanity into four distinct groups or tendencies.

Outer expectations are expectations others place on us eg our family expects us to make dinner for them.

Inner expectations are expectations we place on ourselves eg we want to lose 10kg this year.

In a nutshell, Rubin identified the four tendencies as:

(1) Upholder – you respond well to both outer and inner expectations

(2) Rebel – you resist all expectations, outer or inner

(3) Questioner – you question all expectations and only respond if they meet your inner expectations

(4) Obliger – you respond well to outer expectations but struggle with inner expectations

Interestingly, according to Rubin’s research, Obligers form the biggest category with 41%. Questioners are next at 24% while Upholders are 19% and Rebels are the smallest group at 17%.

Which tendency am I?

I am an Obliger, through and through.

Let me demonstrate.

I know how important exercise is, being a health professional. But I cannot for the life of me, exercise on my own. I just lose motivation very quickly and give up.

It doesn’t matter whether I have a goal in mind, for example participating in a 10km fun run. Umm … I have been known to drive to the gym, sit in my car and then turn around and go home. I also struggle with going for a walk by myself, just for the sake of exercise.

Until I read Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, I always assumed I was an ultra weak person who could not stick with any schedule or project.

My life is littered with numerous craft projects that I started but never finished. I may have once donated a half finished knitting project, complete with knitting needles, wool and pattern.

Yet, I could always finish school or work projects. I love having deadlines and that last minute adrenaline rush that force me to complete my work on time. So it’s obvious that I work well under other people’s deadlines, just not my own.

What is the solution?

Rubin’s solution for Obligers is to create outer accountability, to be accountable to other people in order to help us be accountable to ourselves.

Being accountable is being responsible for one’s actions and answerable to someone, be that an external person, organisation or internal ie to yourself.

These days, I share a personal trainer with a friend. It is much easier for me to turn up to a training session knowing I can’t let my trainer or friend down ie they expect me to show up. I feel bad if I don’t show up, my friend will have to pay the full price of the training instead of half.

If I need a short walk after being cooped up inside, I will happily walk to the supermarket, telling myself I need to buy ingredients to cook for my elderly parents.

So my own experience bears out Rubin’s solution.

I can exercise if I do it with others or if there is another purpose that benefits others. I can complete projects if I have to answer to my teachers or colleagues or employer.

 

What has this to do with staying on the path to FIRE?

Depending on where you are at in managing your finances at the time you discovered FIRE, it may take many years to achieve financial independence and then retire early.

Even though the concept is simple enough – spend less than you earn; increase the gap between your expenses and income; invest this gap wisely to grow your wealth – continuously taking action is not easy.

Results are not instant. It’s a long game. It takes time for compound interest to kick in and do its thing. It takes time to change your behaviour and habits that have been ingrained for years up to this point. Unless you are a high income earner and spend well below your income, of course. But many of us are not in this fortunate position.

It is exciting at the beginning of your FIRE journey – you are filled with enthusiasm and rush to implement everything you’ve read and learnt.

But as time goes on, it is also easy to be discouraged and become impatient to get to your end destination.

Wanting to be financially independent is an inner expectation. No one is forcing you to start your FIRE journey and stay on track. How do you stay on track? Are you an Obliger like me and struggle with being accountable to myself?

On a side note, if your life partner is not on board, knowing their tendency will help you convey your goals in a way they can understand and support.

Focus on your Key Goals and Stay on Track to FIRE

Use this FREE FIRE Goals Plan every month to set & achieve your goals

My experience

I hadn’t read Rubin’s book when I discovered FIRE in my late 40s and therefore didn’t know I was an Obliger. But I knew myself pretty well to know that I would give up at the first sign of a road block. Especially because there was no one in my real life to share the journey with.

My solution?

I started a blog.

I know, right?! Pretty extreme.

Especially considering that I hadn’t read any blogs before reading FIRE and personal finance blogs when I stumbled on the FIRE community. I had looked up recipes on the internet before but that’s about it.

But it was ultra important to me that I stay on the path to FIRE. It was the only way I could see that would accelerate my retirement savings and enable me to retire at all, let alone retire comfortably. After all, I was already a late starter and I really didn’t have any time to lose.

I knew it necessitated behavioural changes especially in the way I spend money.

So I was nervous about relying on myself sticking to my own ‘rules’ – I can foresee failure from a mile away.

But, as I reasoned to myself – if I have to report my spending or saving rates on the blog to you, even though you are all originally strangers on the internet, I have to track my spending. And if I overspend, I will have to explain why.

So far, I am happy to report – being accountable to you has kept me focused and not stray too far from the path. I am very grateful to all of you ❤️

What if you don't want to start a blog?

I hear you. Blogging can be quite hard work, especially when you already have a full time job or are not very techy (sorry, my excuses!)

I encourage you to find others on the same path, be that in an online community or in real life. Sometimes, simply connecting with people on the same path online is enough to bolster your conviction and help you along the difficult times.

Even if you are uncomfortable disclosing your pursuit of FIRE to your friends and family, you can tell them you are saving hard for XYZ and ask them to keep you accountable by not spending money on takeaway or whatever your weak point is in spending habits.

There are also online accountability apps such as StickK that you can sign a ‘commitment contract’ with – up to you to define your goals and add a (dis)incentive such as donating to a charity or political party you don’t like if you don’t achieve your goals.

But if you are an Obliger, you may also need an accountability partner.
That can be your spouse or partner in life or even someone else
entirely, online or in real life.

This person must be encouraging and supportive but also ready to  administer some tough love ie not let you off the hook too easily. They don’t even have to share your goals. But both of you need to commit to the number of check ins over a defined time frame.

It is the act of checking in that is crucial – you give an account (or report) of your actions. In return, you receive encouragement and support. This makes you feel good that you’ve achieved what you said you would and you want to do it again.

How do I know all this? Because I have real life accountability partners for blogging. Ok, this is going to sound complicated …. blogging about my FIRE journey keeps me accountable to you about my financial goals and progress – that works for my FIRE journey.

But I struggle with the act of blogging sometimes. So even if I set a deadline to publish every week on say, Friday, I DON’T. I let myself off the hook all the time because all deadlines are self imposed.

And this is where my blogging buddies come into the picture. I tell them my goal and we check in weekly. Of course there are times when we grant ourselves some grace when life is ultra busy, but we work out ways to help each other achieve our goals.

 

Final thoughts

Reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies helped me understand myself better. Knowing that my tendency is an Obliger, I can come up with ways to be accountable to myself by being accountable to others.

This has helped me tremendously on my own path to FIRE.

I encourage you to find ways to be accountable on your journey to FIRE. If you are an Obliger like me, it’s so helpful to have others to be accountable to.

How are you accountable on your FIRE journey? Do you have someone besides yourself that you are accountable to?