Sunday, January 24, 2016

Goals for 2016

I'm a little late on this again but I really like setting goals for the year, even if I don't achieve all of them. Since I started doing this in 2008, I think I've gotten better at setting realistic goals and focusing on what's important. I've been thinking about these for a while now and revising the list (that's part of the reason for the delay). So without any more preamble, I present my resolutions for 2016!

Read at least 4 books
I feel like this is kind of a silly goal, but I'm not sure I completed a book at all in 2015. I do a lot of reading online (mostly newsie-ish pieces) but it's been too long since I've read a whole book. I've got a stack of them next to my bed, and I'd like to finish that stack by the end of the year. I'm already almost finished with an odd little memoir of an entomologist that I got for Christmas (have I written before about how field biologist memoirs are my favorite literary genre?).

Make our backyard more playable.
I want our yard to be a fun and inviting play place for Adele. The first crucial step is getting it fully fenced. I wanted to do that in 2015, but the estimate came in a bit higher than I thought. Once we get that done, I can start some landscaping projects to make it more friendly for wildlife, kids, and our dog.

Make peace with having one child.
I wanted two and always imagined two (and so did Jon), but having gone through a frightening birth and a difficult recovery, Jon is set on one and it probably makes much more sense for us for plenty of reasons (especially financially). And honestly the older Adele gets, the less excited I am about returning to pregnancy and baby stages, but it does still make me sad. As most of my friends now are having their second or third, of course I'm excited for them but this jealousy also creeps in and manifests in strange ways. I've been giving away or moving baby stuff to "deep storage" for the next family member and that helps. By the end of this year I'd like to confidently and happily say we're "one and done" if anyone asks.


Get another job offer.
It still feels very possible that I'll lose my job this year. If not, I'm not sure if I'll want to leave it, but I at least need to put some effort into exploring other options. I learned that the crappy circumstances in my workplace were much worse than I realized for much of last year. All of the anxiety I had about not having support for my project was completely justified. I think there are some power struggles happening and I could be a casualty of that. My day-to-day work is fine (as it has been pretty much all along) but these undercurrents of mistrust and insecurity undermine our ability to be effective. I expect that something big will change for my career this year, one way or another.

Fix up my website
I haven't done much with it since I got this job, but if I want to explore other options, it would help to spruce it up. I think I need to move to a whole different platform so it's not just a matter of making some updates to text. It's time for serious changes that might be complicated so I've been putting it off.


There are a few kind of mundane but important things I'd like to do this year for our finances. Honestly the only reason I'm boring the internet with these is so that I've written it down somewhere and will actually feel pressure to get it done.

Get more life insurance
Jon and I both got term life insurance around the time we got married in 2009. We haven't increased it or made any other changes since our daughter was born, but I think it's time to increase it since she would need to be supported too.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
We have our modest retirement savings is in Roth IRAs with Pax World because we don't want to invest in weapons manufacturing, but I think there are other socially responsible options that have lower expense ratios. There's plenty of other things I'd like to exclude (private prisons and fossil fuels being highest on the list) but I need to choose my battles (ha!) or we won't have any retirement savings because I'll be too paralyzed by all of the options. As for Jon's HSA, it's something we opened a few years ago and at the time it was damn near impossible to comparison shop HSAs to find one with low fees, so we're paying $2.50/mo (Elizabeth Warren should add HSAs to a long list of financial products that need greater consumer protections). (As an aside, I think HSAs are total BS with incentives in all of the wrong places and I'd much rather just have single-payer health care).

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Since my loans were in deferment for several years of graduate school, we're still paying off my Bachelor's degree. A few years ago my loans were sold to Sallie Mae (now Navient) and I hate them so much because they make it unnecessarily difficult for me to make extra payments that reduce the loan principal rather than just pushing back the payment date. I recently learned (through some effectively targeted Facebook ads) that I could refinance my student loans. I never even knew that was a possibility. Our car loan has a lower interest rate than my student loans, so I'm going to look into it. In the end, it might be better to just reduce the repayment term on my current loans to pay them off sooner (thus paying less in interest overall). We should be able to pay more towards my student loans now and we're only about a year from paying off the car.

All of these money things are just tedious because they involve some amount of research and form-filing and it's kind of complicated. So, I need to make time to do it. Maybe I could tackle one of these each quarter.

What else do I think will happen in 2016? 
Adele is going to start preschool somewhere, hopefully at a Montessori school. She's so ready; we wish she could start now but no programs start new students mid-year. Jon has been working on some long-term projects that will hopefully start earning more money this year. We're planning a fun trip this summer with my parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. There's a chance I might get to travel somewhere exciting for work for a few days, which I would welcome. After a few years of not wanting to travel much, I'm starting to get the itch again. I'm missing field work. I think it's highly unlikely I'll ever do as much as I did for my dissertation again, but I wouldn't mind leading a short course/trip in the next few years. If I do travel for more than a few days in a row this year, I think Adele will probably wean. I decided 2 years ago that if we were only going to have one child, then she can breastfeed as long as she wants. I'm still in no hurry to wean but I know I don't make much milk anymore. I don't foresee other big events or changes in 2016 right now, but I know that life can throw you a curve ball at any time. I am thankful every day for our health and safety.

May you all try to make our world a better place, however you can! Cheers to 2016!

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