On December 30, 2006 I officially announced my financial goals for 2007. Before I set new goals for 2008, I should take a look at my progress this year. Below, I’ll cite the goals I set a year ago and evaluate my progress.
Income: Generate $40,000 in revenue outside of my day job. I think this is attainable. My side income has seen fairly consistently growing and as long as I keep working hard, I should be able to reach this amount. One challenge related to the environment becoming increasingly competitive. Stretch goal: $60,000.
Income results: Passed with flying colors. Preliminary numbers show that I significantly exceeded my stretch goal. I’ll still have to make some adjustments as I received income for some other individuals that still needs to be distributed, but I should clear $70,000 in income related to internet publishing. Most of that comes from advertising on Consumerism Commentary, but an increasing portion comes from affiliate sales. While I am grateful for my success thus far, I am still blogging because I enjoy writing and building online communities. The satisfaction in blogging is generated by regular readers, but the income comes generally from passers-by who are generally looking for something else.
Spending: I’ve managed to keep my spending fairly low over the last few years, except for gift season and food expenses, like dining out and groceries. I’m fine with the spending on gifts but my goal for 2007 will be to create a budget for food and stick to it. This will involve buying smarter and healthier groceries, cooking more, and eating out less. If I can stick to $100 a month for groceries and $100 a month for dining out, it would be a big improvement. Stretch goal: $80 and $80.
Spending results: Failed. On average, I spent $117 per month on groceries and $167 per month on dining out. Both numbers are slightly up from last year, probably reflecting a higher cost of food rather than a change in behavior. If anything, I shopped more efficiently and ate out at restaurants less this year. Including both the “dining out” category and “convenience food” category (which includes lunch at work and snacks), I spent $190 per month this year compared with $230 last year.
However, spending in general has increased. Earlier this year, I moved into a new apartment that is larger, more comfortable, and more inviting than my old location. Over the last few months, I’ve purchased some things that make my time in said apartment more enjoyable, including a high-definition television, an HD DVD player, and an XBOX 360 game system. I don’t expect this type of spending to continue, however.
Investing in 401(k): I’m currently investing 12% of my day-job income into the 401(k) my company offers. The only reason I can afford this is through the help of my side business income. My goal for 2007 is to increase this to 15% by July. This should be possible with a little income bump. Stretch goal: max out the 401(k) with an investment of $15,000. That will be a significant stretch.
401(k) results: Exceeded my goal. In May this year, I increased my 401(k) deferral from to 25% after an earlier increase from 12% to 16%. That’s not quite enough to max out the 401(k) in my low-paying job. According to my last pay stub of the year, I contributed about $10,000 to the 401(k). My employer matched some of that contribution, as well. Investing this much for retirement is only possible due to the additional income mentioned above.
Investing in Roth IRA: I already max out my Roth IRA investment. My goal for this is for nothing to change.
Roth IRA results: As expected. It’s no surprise, but I fully contributed to my Roth IRA this year. Doing so may have some unintended consequences, unfortunately. I’ll have to check after preparing my 2007 tax return, but I may have to withdraw a portio of my Roth IRA contributions. For 2007, if modified adjusted gross income exceeds $99,000 then the IRS won’t allow a full contribution to a Roth IRA. With an income above $114,000, the Roth IRA is completely unavailable. At this point, it’s too early for me to tell whether I’ll have to withdraw funds from my 2007 Roth IRA at the last minute.
Saving: The account I have marked for emergencies would cover one month of my current expenses. If I were to be in an emergency situation (i.e., no job) for longer than a month, I still have other cash I could use before resorting to credit, but that would involve borrowing from other savings goals. I’d like to double the size of my emergency fund by the end of the year. I’d also like to double the percentages of my day-job income I devote to long term savings goals, like relocation (a house, hopefully). Stretch goal: triple the percentages.
Saving results: Succeeded. I have doubled the balance in the savings account earmarked for emergencies, which now would last about two months without income from either my day job or my side business. I still have various savings accounts earmarked for other goals that can be tapped if necessary. Unfortunately, with income coming from various sources and going to various accounts, it’s been a bit difficult for me to track the percentages. It’s safe to say that on average throughout the year, I saved or invested a larger percentage of my total income than I spent.
Debt: If I follow my schedule, I will pay off my car loan (at 2% interest from a relative) by September. The interest rate is favorable enough I’d rather keep the money in savings, so I’m not going to speed this up. On the other hand, I have about $18,000 in student loans remaining to be paid. The interest rate isn’t as favorable at 4.25%, but the interest paid is tax-deductible.
Debt results: Achieved the goal ahead of time. I paid the remaining balance of my car loan off in July. While 2% interest wasn’t hurting, and I was earning more from interest in savings than paying in interest on the loan, I still wanted to rid myself of that debt as soon as possible. The money to buy the car was lent to me by a family member, so I felt like the right thing to do was pay it off as soon as possible. He could have been earning higher interest with that money in a savings account.
I still have a balance on student loans, a combination of money used for undergraduate studies and my MBA. My masters degree was 90% paid for by my employer, but I didn’t always use the reimbursements to pay down the loan. When I originally started the MBA, the financial adviser for the university suggested I get a loan anyway and use reimbursements to pay back the loan. Looking back, I probably should have used the reimbursements to pay the school directly, avoiding any involvement of debt.
Charity: The non-profit organizations I’ve worked with in the past appreciate volunteers who give their time, and this is the approach I generally take. I like that 100% of the time I give affects the organization. When you give money, a portion is kept by the organization for administrative expenses and will never make it to the programs sponsored by that organization. While I understand that administrative expenses need to be paid for, I believe I have more of an effect by directly involving myself. Despite this, my goal for 2007 is to select an organization that means something to me, one that I cannot spend time with and one I know the money will be put directly to its purpose, and donate $1,000. Stretch goal: $2,000.
Charity results: Met, with explanation. On my expense sheet, I donated $5,127 to charity this year. This includes an arts organization that supports youth musical education and performance, the pfblogs.org Financial Literacy Challenge at DonorsChoose and a charitable gift fund. Since I did not yet choose a recipient for the $5,000, it’s hard to say that I fully met the goal. I’ve written several times about my difficulty in choosing recipients for charitable giving. I’ll have to perform some deeper research and get involved with something new next year.
Soon I will decide and post my goals for 2008, which is sure to be an exciting year.
Image credit: Daquella manera