Thursday, January 19, 2017

Looking ahead to 2017

I enjoy my tradition of reflecting each year on my goals and expectations for the year ahead. Usually I focus mostly on goals, but this year I want to devote more space to expectations in general. I am less optimistic about 2017 than I have been...maybe ever. I am deeply concerned about Trump becoming president tomorrow and I honestly expect the world and its people to be in worse shape at the end of 2017 than now. I expect my family (immediate and extended) to weather this year due to our position of privilege (employed, mostly urban, socially connected, highly educated, white), but even still I expect our lives to be diminished. Republicans in congress, Trump, and his political appointees intend to seriously mess with many things that are personally and professionally important to me (e.g. the Endangered Species Act, everything related to climate change being a real and present danger upon which we should act, protected lands), not to mention their intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But I'm not about to let these things happen easily, so part of my goals are related to civic activism. For starters, I'm attending a Women's March this weekend.

Help Jon get a new, full-time job with benefits
Applying for jobs sucks. remember. It was super discouraging. I am doing what I can do support Jon in his career-change job search. This is the most important thing that needs to happen this year and it will make all of the financial goals below much easier!

Get Adele a passport and renew mine
This is among the more paranoid goals that I've ever had, but I want us to be able to leave the country if necessary. My passport expires next year and I have a lull in international travel for the next couple of months, so I need to take this opportunity to renew it. We already filed the paperwork for Adele. Jon's is good for about 5 more years. It would also be great if we could go visit my family in Canada sometime soon.

Clear my inbox every month
I granted myself email amnesty at the beginning of the year and I think I need to do it on a regular basis. I need to let go of more things that I'd like to do but just can't find the time. I can hardly find the time to do the other important things I want to need to do. I need more ruthless prioritization.

Celebrate my blogiversary (10 years!)
I've been blogging for almost a decade! WHAT. My blogging frequency has radically changed over the last few years, but I still enjoy the focus and outlet this platform offers. I want to do something special to celebrate...maybe get this printed as a book!

Read four books
Let's see if I can meet this modest goal this year!

Pay off our car
We are one small payment away from this! So. close.

Pay off all of Jon's course/credit card debt
We've been making steady progress, but we need to step it up to pay them off before our 0% interest period expires. This is the #1 priority when Jon gets a new job. We should be able to do this.

Shorten the repayment term on my student loans
Once we're sure we have the credit card debt paid for, then we can shorten the repayment term for my student loans to pay it down aggressively (Navient sucks, so apparently that's the best way to automatically increase your monthly payment). Oddly, our car loan has a lower interest rate so ideally, we would have been paying less on that loan and more on the student loan, but the terms aren't flexible like that, so we're waiting to be able to pay down the student loans.

Carbon offsets
In the face of Republican governance that does not believe in climate change, I think this is more important than ever. The easiest way to do this is probably by estimating our emissions and spreading it out over monthly payments.

Switch to electricity from renewable sources
The Republican love affair with fossil fuels makes me concerned about renewable energy, so I want to commit us to buying our electricity from renewable sources. This will take a big of research, which is the biggest hurdle.

Organizations we'll newly support with monthly contributions:
-wikipedia (we have given to them in the past, but lapsed)
-Pro-Publica (nonprofit investigative journalism)
-An organization that very efficiently transfers donations to extremely poor people (I believe that wealth inequality is a huge problem)
-Southern Poverty Law Center

Looking at these all, they are pretty boring. If this year is boring, I'll be satisfied. This year is not about being wildly aspirational—it's about modest changes to try and protect us (in the immediate and broader sense) in uncertain times. There's a chance that I will change jobs this year, but I suspect not. There's a small chance that we could end the year debt-free, but I suspect not.

Let's do this, 2017. More than ever before, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world and stand up for what is just. All of us. Every day.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Looking back on 2016

Overall, 2016 was an exciting year for our family. The good outweighed the bad for us, but I know many people rightfully had very different experiences of 2016. Each year in January I like to set a few goals and in December I like to review the year so here's a look back.

Here were my goals and expectations for 2016:

Read at least 4 books
I read 3, one of which was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. One was about a fruit (took me all year to finish—not exactly a riveting page turner but I wanted to finish it), and the other was an odd aforementioned field biologist memoir. As in 2015, I also read a lot of online news (print media to a lesser extent), but that doesn't offer the satisfaction of completing a book. I still have an ever-growing stack I want to read.

Make our backyard more playable.
Yes! We got it fenced and erected a makeshift play structure. Much improved!

Make peace with having one child.
Last year I wrote, "By the end of this year I'd like to confidently and happily say we're "one and done" if anyone asks." It took me most of the year, but I'm there. I might elaborate on this in a later post.


Get another job offer.
I got four offers, including my first choice! It was hard to leave my great boss and interesting workplace, but this new position is a great opportunity for professional growth. It was also a raise!

Fix up my website
I hardly did anything beyond the bare minimum, and thankfully it wasn't necessary. But in 2017 I think it needs attention again in preparation for another career move.


Get more life insurance
Didn't do this and didn't really investigate it. Probably should go on the list for 2017.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
We made progress on the Roth IRA investments but not the HSA. We moved all of my IRA out of  Pax World and into a lower-fee socially responsible index fund with some in another low-fee index fund.

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Due to other things that happened this year (see below), it didn't make sense to work aggressively on paying down my loans yet but I think we will be able to in 2017.

What else did I think would happen in 2016? 
-Adele is going to start preschool somewhere, hopefully at a Montessori school. 
Yes! She is at a wonderful Montessori school that we love, and it is mercifully costing us less than her daycare.

-Jon has been working on some long-term projects that will hopefully start earning more money this year. 
Yes! He's published now, but we're still waiting on the first royalty check and it's really more a labor of love than a money maker. Another project that took a lot of time and energy this year should be much smoother sailing next year and more profitable too.

-We're planning a fun trip this summer with my parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. 
We did this and it was wonderful. We explored a different part of the country and it worked well for the five of us to travel together.

-There's a chance I might get to travel somewhere exciting for work for a few days, which I would welcome.
Oh boy did I ever. I way underestimated this one. I went on TWO exciting trips before I left my old job and I've been on 3 trips to 3 different countries since I started in September. The recent travel has been a bit too much and I am looking forward to less travel in the immediate future, but I'm sure there will be at least 2 more work-related trips in the first half of 2017.

-If I do travel for more than a few days in a row this year, I think Adele will probably wean. 
Even with all of my traveling, she hasn't weaned. I'm fine with that.

-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 knew there were decent odds that I might change jobs this past year, but when I wrote my goals we hadn't anticipated Jon make a big career change. We basically sent him back to school for a semester and took on debt to do it. Since we had excellent credit, we put the tuition on credit cards with 0% interest for 15-18 months. It was definitely a gamble, but the whole reason for sending him was so that he will be well-trained for jobs with much higher starting salaries. We put a couple of other big expenses on the 0% cards, including the aforementioned vacation with my parents. We unquestionably lived beyond our means this year, albeit in (mostly) calculated ways. 2017 should be the year of setting the balance straight (more on that in another post).

The last noteworthy thing to happen in 2016 was that my grandmother passed away on New Year's Eve. It was not unexpected and she had been mentally ready to go for a long time, but it is still a big change for my family, especially my parents.

I hope all of my readers are ready for a new chapter in your own lives in 2017. I am thinking about my goals and expectations and will post them soon. Cheers!