Visionboard 2018: Making Progress in the New Year
2018 will be a year of progress. I’ll put into action the plans I crafted in 2017 and kick start my journey to financial independence (FI). My 2018 visionboard tells the story of my goals: a new job, savings, investment, debt pay down, side hustle, and house hacking.
Working 9 – 5
I’ve come to accept that having a regular W-2 paycheck will be integral to achieving FI. I’ve been disillusioned with 9-5 work for awhile. I think mostly because I was working without purpose; climbing the ladder because that’s what I was supposed to do to be “successful.” But with each ascent I was left unfulfilled. Ultimately, buying into “success” and the cult of materialism (new car, new house, luxury vacations, etc..) as my 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, drift pass, is not appealing to me. I’m so grateful for the time I’ve spent working here in Korea as it’s given me the mental space to think through what I really want out of my life. I want the ability to choose to work before I hit traditional retirement age, to not be forced to work to keep up with a certain lifestyle. I now see a W-2 job as simply one of many tools I’ll use to achieve this ultimate goal. In 2018 I will secure a position in a non-profit organization that will pay at least $50,000 plus benefits.
Living on less than I earn will be crucial for reaching and staying in FI. A hallmark of those who have reached financial independence, retire early (FIRE) is their ability to keep expenses low while living frugally. Millionaire Educator is a perfect example. My life in Korea has given me good frugality training. I’ve been able to live on $400-$600 a month out of my $1,700 monthly salary. I haven’t found it too constricting or difficult to make the type of choices necessary to save 50% of my income. When I move back to the States, I do expect my level of expenses to raise (along with my income). But, I’ve done some preliminary budgeting and planning on how I’ll keep my expenses low. In 2018 I’ll continue to keep my expenses at no more than 55% of my gross income and save the remaining amount.
I recently contacted some real estate agents for their analysis of my home’s market value. Their suggestions were lower than I’d expected. I’m going to schedule a home appraisal for a third and final opinion. If the appraisal is similar to the agents’ analysis, than I’ll net less than I’d planned. Those extra dollars are what I’d expected to use to build a starting reserve. Real estate investing can be a risky venture – having a reserve (set aside money) for unforeseen challenges or mistakes (I’m bound to make) will help lessen that risk. I’m not moving forward in purchasing rental properties without it. So, I’m prepared to push my house hack to 2019 and use my savings from 2018 to build up my reserve. I’ll live with my mom in the interim to help keep my housing expenses low. In 2018, I’ll sell my home. I’ll save approximately 50% of my take home pay each month and use these combined funds to create a real estate investing reserve.
I’ve come to realize the benefits of having a retirement account. I used to look at 401ks as a waste of money – a deduction of my take home pay that I couldn’t afford. I had better things to do with that money like eating out – smdh. Reading through blogs like JL Collins Stock Series and listening to ChooseFI has me now on a completely different train of thought.
I now understand that by contributing to a 401k I’m not giving up money– I’m gaining compounded savings – especially if my employer provides a match (which is now a prerequisite for any position I accept). By contributing to a 401k I’m decreasing my taxable income, reducing the taxes I’m required to pay, while stocking away money that will grow through the miracle of compounded interest/returns. My employer match is literally free money which sweetens the pot. In addition, I recently learned about a strategy called the Roth Conversion Ladder which may allow me to pull out funds saved through 401k investments prior to age 59 1/2, penalty free. Using this strategy, funds from my retirement accounts plus the income I’ll generate from my rental investments are what will help me reach FI. For 2018, I’ll began contributing to a 401k account with a contribution goal of $12,000 for the year.
I’m starting 2018 with a little over $13,000 in consumer debt (credit cards and personal loans) and $130,000 in student loans. My credit card (CC) debt stems from my use of CCs as emergency funding….baaad, I know. I’ve had periods where I’ve been able to pay off these balances but I slacked off majorly in the last 4 years. During that time, I received raises at my last job but as my income increased so did my expenses. I contributed only tiny sums to my savings account so too often I had too little to cover last minute/unplanned expenses. As a result, I’ve continue to carry this debt, transferring balances as a way (I initially thought) of reducing my interest burden. So, I find myself with 4 credit cards (3 carrying balances) and 1 personal loan. In 2018, I will make extra payments of at least $1100 per month using the debt snowball method to completely pay of this debt within one year. Essentially this means I will make a payment of $1100 per month on one credit card while paying the minimum on the remaining cards. Once that initial card is paid off, I’ll start making payments on the second credit card ($1100 + the minimum payment I was making on the second card). Once the second card is paid I’ll tackle the third ( $1100+minimum payment of 2nd card + minimum payment of 3rd card), etc. I figure it should take me less than 1 year to wipe out this debt. For my student loans – I’ll get serious about paying them off within ten years under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) – as long as Trump and his administration don’t do away with it. In order to accomplish this, in 2018 I will stay enrolled in a Income Based Repayment plan, certify my non-profit employer and make at least 12 monthly payments.
I’ll need to get a side hustle in order to make the $1100 monthly payments on my credit card. I’ve thought about a couple different side gigs, including bartending and virtual assisting, but have settled on teaching English online and possibly Lyft driving. Because I have a degree, teaching experience and a teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate I can find a job with a few different online teaching companies. From what I understand teaching with these companies (most based in China) is pretty straightforward as they provide the curriculum – you just have to be available during peak hours/times. On average, I can get at minimum 7 hours/week or more depending on how available I make myself. Driving for Lyft will help ensure I hit my monthly goal. So, for 2018 I will secure an online teaching position making at least $14 hr working 20 hours per week ($1100-$1200/month). If I’m unable to secure 20 hours in a given week, I’ll drive for Lyft to make up the difference.
What are your NY 2018 goals?
Motivating Mantra: “Progress is motivating”
My visionboard will help me stay focused on my 2018 goals. I’ll make my vision a reality by taking actionable steps. Progress is motivating. At the end of 2018, I look forward to coming back to this post to see how well I did. If at that time I’m where I plan to be, I’ll:
- have a non-profit job making at least $50,000.
- have at least $12,000 in a 401k.
- have $0 consumer debt.
- have made 12 out of 120 student loan payments (PSLF cap).
- have enough savings to build a reserve, purchase, rehab and rent a multifamily property in 2019.
2018 Starting Net Worth as of 12/2017: -$110,700
2018 Ending Net Worth (estimate): -$89,900