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This morning I sat down to write this mid-year goals update. I went into 2018 incredibly optimistic about how much we could achieve and I felt pressure about getting a lot of life sorted out since we had baby Henry on the way. I wrote out our goals and shared them here to keep myself accountable and to hopefully encourage others to make their own.
But recently I’ve been dreading looking at the goals I set at the beginning of this year.
I didn’t think I had done anything noteworthy toward our goals. It’s been hard to move forward on some things and I’ve found myself getting increasingly frustrated as the days tick by and I don’t get much done. I sound completely naive, but I really underestimated how difficult it would be for me to do work while having a new baby. I don’t know how people do it!
Just as I was taking stock of my lack of progress here, Henry woke up early from his nap (again). Rather than sit in my house and continue to get frustrated, I decided to take him and my dog Hattie out on a walk in the countryside.
I was pushing him along while simultaneously trying to dictate ideas for an article into my phone when I saw a white hat bobbing in the long grass up ahead. Rather than take my usual route home, I decided to walk forward and see what it was.
As I got closer I realized it was an older man who had fallen in the thick, 18” tall grass. He had seen me coming up the path and was waving his hat trying to get my attention. It’s a very hot day (for England) and I have no idea how long he was laying there, but he wasn’t able to stand on his own.
He asked me not to call his wife or an ambulance, so over the next hour and a half me, and some very kind people that I recruited, helped him home in a wheelbarrow.
During that hour and a half, we chatted about his life (he’s 95!), his wife, and how much he loves his daily walks.
As I left his house, Henry started crying. And so did I. Maybe I haven’t done all I’ve wanted to in the last 6 months. Maybe we haven’t hit our savings goals or our portfolio hasn’t performed as well as we’d hoped. Maybe I won’t get another client this week or this month.
But tonight when Henry wakes up at 4 am and needs me, it’s ok. When I don’t finish getting through my to-do list tonight because I spent over an hour of my afternoon helping this man get home, that’s ok.
I’ve been frustrated by my lack of progress toward these specific goals and at the end of each day, I feel like I haven’t done anything important. But what I see after my walk today is that everything I do each day is important, even if it wasn’t the main priority on my to-do list. I’ll continue to set goals, but give myself a little more grace if I end up falling short.
After that incredibly long intro, if you’re still with me, thank you. Here are the goals I set out in January, my mid-year update, and what’s changing for the rest of the year.
We wanted to save enough money to build a tiny home on our lot in the San Francisco Bay Area, we wanted to get Henry’s 529 off to a great start, and we wanted to beef up our freedom fund.
I was also very eager to make more money and build my business so that we could handle the increased costs of a baby (including childcare) and so that I could ensure that my freelance marketing and writing remains a viable business for us when we move back to the US.
Life is expensive. We’ve taken some real hits, the biggest being from our rental property. The amazing tenants that we had for nearly four years moved out and we had to find new tenants. The timing here was difficult. If this had happened last year I would have flown home for a few weeks and rented the property out myself. Henry adds in a little more complexity so we ended up having to hire a property manager.
This meant we lost a month of rent while the house sat vacant and we paid a property manager for a month’s rent to find us new tenants. Plus, there were around $1,000 in administrative setup fees that they charged us. We’re spending a lot on this property manager and I’m not thrilled with the results.
The situation would have been even worse as we were quoted over $2,500 in repair work that needed to be done before the new tenants moved in. Jordan’s parents were beyond nice and spent a long weekend doing the repairs for us. We are so lucky to have this support.
Luckily we have a savings account for the house that we were able to take money from, but this was a reminder that we need to make sure we keep that savings account healthy.
After waiting for his social security number, Henry’s 529 is now finally set up. We had made a big contribution to kick it off and after he was born, some very generous friends and family gifted money for this account as well. What we haven’t done yet is actually set up the monthly recurring deposit.
Our freedom fund is right on track and I can’t wait for us to reach our savings goal here at the end of the year. It will feel like a huge weight has lifted off our shoulders.
Our saving for the tiny home is still on track, but surprise! We don’t want the tiny home anymore. We’ve decided that putting the home on our lot wasn’t going to be worth the time or the cost. We are still aggressively saving to someday build a larger home on the lot. But our timeline for that house is very far in the future.
With my business, I’ll be totally honest and say that I don’t have as many clients as I want. I haven’t done a good job of pitching for more work. At the same time, I’ve passed on a couple of jobs that weren’t a fit for the type of work I want to do moving forward. It was hard to say no, but I want to stay focused on the work that I really want to do.
Jordan and I still regularly sit down to look at net worth in Personal Capital and see how we’re performing against our goals. We’ve been lucky so far: the market has continued to do well (with a few hiccups along the way) and our house has appreciated (according to Zillow estimates). We had hoped we’d be further along at this point in the year, but we are still moving in the right direction! We definitely don’t obsess over these numbers, but it’s fun to look at. Here’s a snapshot of how our net worth has trended this year:
Any changes for the rest of the year?
Jordan’s job is a huge unknown for us this year. He’ll have a job through the end of this year, but after that, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. The freedom fund has never been more important. We are going to focus on making sure we save as much as we possibly can so we have choices about what’s next.
The rest of the year my financial focus is going to be on getting new work and new clients. I tend to get so consumed doing the work that’s in front of me, I forget that I need to continue filling my pipeline with work. I finally put up a hire me page and a page for our marketing business and I’m ready to spend a few days a month networking and pitching.
Our goal was simple: spend on the things that made us happy. Each month we were going to sit down and reflect on our purchases to make sure that we’re only spending in line with happiness.
This one has been easy. Once Henry was born we realized that we needed to be extra vigilant with how we spend our time and our money. The consistent theme each month is that we spend a lot on childcare and we are very happy about that.
I did go through a period while I was up with him in the middle of the night and I would shop on my phone finding so many “deals”. But when boxes started showing up with my 2 am impulse purchases that I didn’t seem to remember, I realized I had a problem. Since then, I’ve managed to stay off my phone during those very early mornings.
Any changes for the rest of the year?
Keep spending on childcare! This is the one area where both Jordan and I feel like we get so much value. It helps me get my work done and it helps us both be saner and more present when we have time with him. We have a nanny who comes 12 hours per week and I’ve asked her to see if she can squeeze in a few more hours for us going forward. Hopefully, by September we’ll be able to have her 15+ hours each week. Ideally, I’d love to have her start coming 20 hours per week, but she’s in demand and can’t spend that much time with us yet.
I considered just finding a new nanny that could work more hours, but as Jordan and I quickly realized finding someone that you trust with your tiny little baby is no easy feat. She’s been with us since Henry was 3 weeks old (we don’t have any family nearby to help), and he absolutely adores her. So we’re working with the time she can give us!
Living bigger goals:
We both wanted to prioritize our health by working out or doing yoga 5x’s per week. I can be a complete stress ball and physical activity is the only thing that really helps me feel sane sometimes.
Because this is likely the last year of our five-year European adventure, we want to be sure to visit a few more places on our travel bucket list. Honestly, we’ve been so thankful to have the opportunity to spend so much time traveling. While there are still dozens of places we’d like to go, we narrowed it down to our top few knowing that a baby would make things a little more difficult. Our goal was to visit Amsterdam, Stockholm, and a beach destination.
I’ve completely fallen off the working out or yoga thing. I blamed it on the baby, but really it is 100% because I’m not prioritizing it. Jordan, on the other hand, has been absolutely crushing it in this category. He spent weeks building a pull-up bar in the backyard and gets up at 4:30 am to work out. Yes, you read that right. 4:30. In the morning.
The past two weeks I’ve made physical activity a bit more of a priority and I’ve worked out 3x a week at lunch when our nanny is here. My workouts are only 20 minutes, but it’s a start! Even from this small change my mood and general outlook on life are so much more positive.
We made it to Amsterdam and we’ve booked a beach trip back to our favorite city in the world, San Sebastian, Spain! I underestimated how nervous I’d be about traveling with a baby so I’m beyond happy that we made travel a goal and booked these trips.
We actually booked them early and got great deals on our tickets and airbnbs. We’ve also booked a trip back to California this fall so Henry can meet friends and family.
Any changes for the rest of the year?
My goal for the remainder of the year is to take 30 minutes for myself every day. I’m not at the place yet where I can commit to working out so that 30 minutes is going to be flexible. It might be taking a walk, working out in the gym Jordan built, taking a bath, or giving meditation another try. I want to make sure that I prioritize myself every day to recharge my batteries.
Also, I’m incredibly excited to have just booked a 4-day yoga retreat for myself in November. It’s with my favorite instructor in an old manor house in the countryside in England. I’ll be living out my Downton Abbey dreams in yoga pants. Thank goodness for my fun money account.
Goals for The Worth Project:
My goal for this site was to continue growing it aggressively. This is my side hustle and I love it – I truly love writing on here each week and getting to decide what I write about, rather than having to get the OK from a client.
While I was taking time off after having Henry I seriously debated whether I wanted to continue writing here. I’m not paid to write on this site. I could (and maybe should?) spend more time writing for other people and make more.
But I’ve never been so personally fulfilled. The community keeps growing and the newsletter open rate is incredibly high. I receive emails daily from readers. Notes to say you like something, notes to say you don’t, or questions. I love the conversations I’ve been able to have with strangers and I feel so fortunate that I’m being let into your inbox each week. I love that I’ve created an open place that we can all talk about money because that conversation can be missing in real life.
Any changes for the rest of the year?
I’m shifting just a little for the remainder of the year. I’m focusing on continuing to create a money newsletter that you actually want to read. Content and updates from me will still be included, but I have a lot of other voices lined up to contribute. The first guest interview comes next week and I’m so excited to share.
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