Meet FInta Clause. He’s St. Nick’s CFP. While Santa’s busy evaluating the deeds of youngsters, FInta’s on an entirely different mission…to determine if those pursuing Financial Independence (FI) have been naughty or nice this year.
The following is a letter to my children reviewing last year’s financial goals and how we did. As well as many personal financial bloggers that live and breath this stuff.
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He’s making a list …checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice
He sees you when you’re spending
He knows if you’re a saver
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be frugal for goodness sake, Oh….
You better watch out, you better not cry
Better not pout, I’m telling you why
FInta Claus is comin’ to town
Did We Achieve Our Financial Goals
A couple years ago, your Mom and I discovered the concept of FI and have made great strides toward early retirement. I’m pleased that we started this journey nearly 2 years ago, but we haven’t quite attained the financial goals I set back in January.
I’m also not sure how well I conveyed the message to you. Are these stories, letters, and examples helping you understand the value of financial freedom and some methods to achieve it? Let’s look back over the past year and have FInta Clause be the judge.
Are we Naughty or Nice?
- Partnered with Mom to achieve a 35% savings rate and customized our early retirement plan.
- Started thefiway.com to provide you children with some basic financial literacy.
- Tracked cash flow and investments for a full year with Personal Capital.
- Maxed out all tax advantage retirement accounts.
- Conducted a thorough evaluation of our investment portfolio and optimized for tax efficiency.
- Organized family vacation through travel hacking and optimizing our chase rewards.
- Reduced cell phone bill by using a sweet company offer.
- Found an excellent deal on a $5,000 camper for only 3K during the off season.
- Becoming a bargain shopper extraordinaire.
- Maxed out all tax advantage retirement accounts.
- Found creative ways to save on pool costs.
- Achieved an A+ in Math, that’ll sure help you in finance later on.
- Had your first paying gig by Babysitting your special needs Aunt.
- Watching over your younger sister allowing the family to save on day care costs.
- Passed with flying colors our RoosterMoney experiment.
- Held your first stock purchased even though it lost value. It’s now up and earning you dividends all the time.
- Focus on creative gift giving rather than purchases.
- Upgraded from a 1997 Popup Camper to a 2001 hardshell.
- Eat out for lunch too often and need to start focusing on bringing food to work.
- Talked way too much about money around the family which provides diminishing returns.
- Purchased a new Alienware laptop.
- Haven’t quite figured out the balance between happiness and money.
- Christmas gift overload. You’re too generous Milady.
- General household goods and groceries well above the average cost for a family of 4.
- Not the best cook 😉 … so frequently orders in and visits restaurants.
- Spending on fitness apparel, memberships, supplements, and other activities are a little out of control.
- Spent $50 on a nerf gun, used it once, and now sits on the wall gathering dust like many others.
- Obsession with Fortnite and buying Vbuck just to “look cool.” This is a dangerous mindset to carry forward into adulthood.
- Sold your first stock purchase abandoning the learning opportunity.
- Although learning to bake is a good thing, tossing out half your creations puts a damper on the grocery budget.
- Fell into the money pit of creating “Slime”, when it was all the rage.
- Filling up Dad’s Amazon cart with all kinds of Squishies.
Family Verdict: NAUGHTY, but so close
Compared to the average American household, we’re doing damn well. However, we can do better and still not sacrifice much. It’s important to realize that nobody is perfect and you’re still young. There’s plenty of mistakes that all of us will inevitably make. We just need to learn from them, take action, and move on.
How are we going to make the NICE list next year?
Our Financial New Year’s Resolutions should include:
- Reducing our food budget through meal prepping. We tried this once before, but our lives are so busy it was hard to stick to. Let’s give it another go.
- Eliminate spending on items that provide no tangible value…I’m looking at you Fortnite skin collector.
- Increase income or reduce expenses enough to live off one income. This will prevent us from being in a dire situation should your Mom or I lose our job.
- Implement some additional tax savings strategies through SEP-IRAs and Solo 401Ks.
If we can accomplish these 4 things and maintain what we did last year, FInta Clause would be pleased…and so would I.
Want to see how some of my friends did?
Are Personal Finance Bloggers Naughty or Nice?
Even intelligent people who dedicate an extraordinary amount of time researching personal finance and investing have missteps. Since I started writing these letters to you, I’ve made quite a few friends in the financial blogging community.
These folks are far and away much better off than the average person. Just being conscious of consumption tendencies and having the drive to publish experiences and self reflections, guarantee they’re on FInta Clause’ nice list.
However, Finance Bloggers should be held to a higher standard.
Let’s see how my new friends did pursuing their financial goals this year. I’m curious about the wins and losses of those gracious enough to educate others.
Caveat: Please take no offense on the verdict guys and gals, FInta Clause is just having some fun here.
Stephen – theFIRElane.com
- Paid for Christmas with Cash.
- Selling Bitcoin at the very beginning of January at the top of the market.
- Took control of our finances.
- Took profits on some of our NFLX in the high $300s.
- Spent too much on Christmas.
- An inexpensive 2019 vacation became a 2018 spending boondoggle.
- Stopped investing in retirement accounts while we got our spending under control.
- Cashed out Roth IRA principal to pay an emergency debt because our emergency fund was not sufficient.
Michael – yourmoneygeek.com
- Forgot to return book damaged in shipping to Amazon, got double charged for the replacement. I’m upset about the 14 bucks and Mrs. Isn’t to pleased I forgot.
- Bought books without finishing the ones I have, they are stacking up.
- Been skipping the gym, need to get back into it.
Young Millennial Attorney – Ivigilante.com
- Went back to a good job.
- Held a particular weed stock through a short attack, which seems to be a phenomenal choice so far.
- Took first family vacation, the greatest nearly free vacation of all time.
- Left a great job, a $35,000 Mistake.
- Erred from the course of low-cost ETFs to gamble on weed stocks.
- Bought too much whiskey.
Polish Immigrant – timeinthemarket.com
- Got married to an awesome woman.
- Took a chance on a new management role after being bored at work – more money and more enjoyable so far.
- Had an amazing honeymoon in Hawaii giving me a chance to practice travel writing with a dozen posts and more to come.
- Despite some negative months, still managed to max out my retirement accounts and depending on how December goes, might still be able to hit my bronze savings goals!
- Paid off my car loan!
- Had my first negative savings month (-6% in August and -48.6% in September!) due to my wedding.
- Been skipping working out now that it’s cold – need to get back on the rowing machine.
- Spent a bit too much on restaurants especially on my Hawaii honeymoon.
- Spent too much time playing video games and not enough time being creative.
Corporate Finance MBA – fulltimefinance.com
- Stayed the course with our asset allocation and IPS.
- Negotiated a higher then normal yearly pay raise after not receiving one for my recent job change.
- Saving increased despite relatively stagnate year on year income (RSU value decline, tax decreases, and overall less wasteful spending).
Scott – makingmomentum.net
- Blew our travel and vacation budget out of the water thanks to 3 weddings and one spontaneous getaway.
- Didn’t push the boundaries enough on a raise after a recent promotion.
- Still working to improve the balance of spending today vs. saving for tomorrow.
- Drank too much craft beer.
FPG – financialpilgrimage.com
- Paid off our mortgage in August!
- Increased volunteering including leading a Financial Peace University class and other efforts through my work.
- Nearly maxed out 401k for the first time. We are positioned to max out next year.
- Not a financial win, but we had our second baby in March and have been loving every second of it.
- We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen. We are going to be at almost double our original budget.
- Have taken several short vacations the last half of the year. Spent a lot of money but don’t regret it at all.
- Spent way more going out to eat this year. Especially recently without a kitchen.
Enoch – savvynewcanadians.com
- Did not read through my planned list of personal finance books.
- Bought a home gym system I ended up not using…I have been way too busy!
- Did not max out contributions to my registered accounts.
Tim – lifeforthebetter.com
- Max out Thrift Savings Plan (military’s equivalent of 401K).
- Max out Roth IRA.
- Started blogging!
- No car payment!
- Spent too much on IPA’s.
- Traveled across the country 4 times but don’t regret it.
- Read a lot of finance books but forgot to take notes – time to reread.
Tawnya – moneysavedmoneyearned.com
- Started the blog back in March and we’re starting to make a little bit of money.
- Won a scholarship to attend FinCon and came back with tons of knowledge and new friends.
- Began a 403(b) account.
- Paying extra toward my mortgage every month.
- Opened a separate investing account.
- Went out to eat waaaaay too much.
- Haven’t been working out consistently.
- Wasted a lot of my summer off when I could have been hustling and working more on the blog.
Msalada – stashingdollars.com
- Maxed out my 401K.
- Sold my house.
- Started blogging!
- Opened a high interest savings account.
- Went out to eat waaaay to much.
- Procrastinating on starting strength training work out.
- Not putting enough time into my blog (analysis paralysis).
- Still struggling with a healthy money mindset.
Career Educator – principalfi.com
- Filled the emergency fund.
- Maxed out 403b for myself and spouse.
- Discovered and started contributions to 457.
- Started a blog to help other educators on the path to FI.
- Took a trip to Kauai on Spring Break.
- Gambled on the World Cup.
- Lent money to a family member in need (I don’t regret it, just not smart personal finance).
- Purchased a smart trainer instead of just suffering outside on the bike.
Jason – thebutlerjournal.com
- Expanded my eBay side hustle.
- Had my biggest side hustle income year.
- Had two speaking engagements this year.
- Didn’t pay off my debt this year.
- Added $8000 more to it because I had to get a new car.
- Used my credit card twice when I shouldn’t have.
RFG – realfinanceguy.com
- Spent too much on travel this year.
- Spent way too much on food and eating out.
- Didn’t spend as much time as I could have on the blog.
- Should write more about some of my failures.
Former investment banker – millionairemob.com
- Bought my first single family home.
- Sold my condo.
- Created my blog.
- Saved over $27,000 for my dividend portfolio using only side hustle income.
- Spent way too much money at bars.
- Travel hacked my way to 3 different countries and nearly a dozen trips. This resulted in a lot of money spent while I was on vacation.
- Wasn’t aggressive enough with investing my capital, I continue to be pessimistic on a lot of investment opportunities.
LadyFIRE – firebythirtyfive.blogspot.com
- Wrote my first non-goal update blog post in months.
- Got all my medical checks done for the year, and finally saw a GP about my mental health.
- Multiple Black Friday Purchases.
- Too much junk food.
Verdict: Not Enough Information
Nathan – millionairedojo.com
- Learned about financial independence and made the goal to become a millionaire.
- Started my blog to track my progress.
- Started an eBay business that has already profited thousands and is continuing to grow.
- Spent too much on food/restaurants.
- Spent too much on vacation.
- Contributed to my Roth IRA instead of my 401k so I missed out on lowering my taxable income and deferring the taxes on my contributions.
Todd – investedwallet.com
- I actually did start a personal finance website, Invested Wallet.
- I’ve been quoted in Time, HuffPost, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, and others about personal finance.
- Saved almost 60% of my income, which 90% is now invested (Roth and tax-advantage funds in brokerage).
- I spent over $7,000 in travel in 2018. More than I would have liked, but weddings and bachelors parties consumed 2018. Technically, I don’t fully regret it though 🙂
- Skipped working out waay more than I would have liked, need to change that.
- Mexican food has consumed my life and wallet.
Amanda – mylifeiguess.com
- We bought a brand new car.
- Ended up unemployed (through no fault of my own) and collecting employment insurance to get by for nearly 6 months.
Rich – pfgeeks.com
- Made $25,000 in equity right off the bat on the house we bought & renovated.
- Decreased our food spending by 25% using my list of 46 easy meal prep recipes
- Increased our combined income by $10,000 and filled our emergency fund back up!
- Only put 3.5% down on a house that is more than we can afford.
- Stopped tracking our spending and failed to stick to our budget.
Andrew – wealthynickel.com
- Flipped a house and kept growing the rental home portfolio.
- Made almost $100k in extra income outside the day job.
- Started a blog to help others achieve financial independence.
- Spent over $2,000 going out to eat (the naughtiest part is I don’t really regret it).
- Spent too much time re-watching “The Office” on Netflix instead of working on the blog.
- Keep forgetting to cancel my credit cards to avoid the annual fee.
Bernz JP – moneylogue.com
- Switched to Dunkin’ (way cheaper).
- Started cooking more at home.
- Dumped Netflix.
- Found a great tenant for our condo.
- Spending too much at Starbucks and Panera Bread.
- Bought a set of used golf clubs and never use it.
- Wasted money painting our deck 2x ( did not like the first color).
- Bought a pair of golf shoes.
Steven – evenstevenmoney.com
- Relaunched EvenStevenMoney.com and started working as a Money Coach.
- Maxed out 401K, HSA, IRA.
- Sold our home in Chicago and Moved to Miami, debt free.
- Lost over 30 pounds and possibly in the best shape of my life since high school.
- Increased our grocery and restaurant budget, organic food is expensive.
- Added a $149 Crossfit membership to the monthly expenses.
- Purchased a new Washer/Dryer, Couch, Mattress, and Painted the house and updated the kitchen with new counter-tops and sink.
- Made a Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchase because the Rogue Fitness hats were on sale for $5 each.
Belle – budgetwithbelle.com
- Started meal prepping again, and taking walks.
- Started treating my blog as a business and in November had my first 5 figure month.
- Paid off $10,000+ of credit card debt. Half way!
- Brought a new car (but don’t regret it).
- Spent too much “eating out,” & gained weight.
Marc – vitaldollar.com
- Sold a photography blog for $216,000, which put me across the $1 million mark for what started as a photography hobby.
- Contributed $18,500 to my individual 401(k).
- Improved diversification with a few new investments.
- Gave up my primary income by selling a blog.
- Spent $2,000 to repair an oven that involved shipping parts from Germany.
- Paid for a pool membership in the summer and then didn’t use it enough.
Nick – yourmoneyblueprint.co.nz
- Started a personal finance site.
- Started a side business that earns $1,000 per month and growing.
- Got a promotion at my main job.
- Set up a trust account and a legacy binder for the family.
- Lost my wedding ring.
- Bought a new car.
- Had a daughter 😉
Alexander – daytradingz.com
- Perfectly timed the booking of our summer holidays with savings > 35%.
- Restructured and redesigned my finance blog.
- Achieved a better savings rate than ever.
- Finally had time to get more involved with blockchain and its characteristics.
- Bought too many new Apple gadgets.
- The gym didn’t see me often enough.
- Invested too much time in a project just because of idealism.
Gary – supersavingtips.com
- Paid off car loan.
- Increased charitable giving.
- Made thousands in free money from bank account and credit card offers.
- Wasted money gambling on a trip to Atlantic City.
- Had to pay to get rid of my timeshare.
- Spent more than I should helping my adult daughter.
If you were FInta Clause, who would be on your Naughty or Nice List?
How Did You Do with Your Financial Goals?
Tell us in the comments below your wins and losses this year.
Kylven Ross is the owner and primary contributor of theFIway.com. He has been married for 17 years and is father to a son and daughter living in New England. Professional accomplishments include a bachelor’s degree and industry certifications in the cyber sector. He has spent the last 18 years working in the U.S. Defense Industry and as a Military Police Officer.
He discovered the concept of Financial Independence (FI) during a rather stressful year in the compliance space. After fully absorbing the benefits of FI, he has since committed to turning his household’s finances in the right direction. His experiences are documented as a series of letters that are used to educate his children and others about money. He does not want the next generation to make the same mistakes, but rather achieve financial freedom and find happiness.