Failing upward and looking towards 2018

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” -Norman Vincent Peale, apparently/countless motivational Instagram posts
Aw, isn’t that some sweet inspirational bullshit?” -me from not that many moons ago[*]

I’ve never really been a goals person. My concrete plans ended after graduate high school/go to college/get a job, and I’ve never really known what I want to do with my life. Perhaps there’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation going on here (if I had goals maybe I’d know better what I want to be when I grow up?), but it also always seemed silly to me to make goals. “Figure out your life and get your shit together in this next year” doesn’t really work, you know? (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

And yet.Things changed when I decided I was for sure going to go down the financial independence path. Sure, I don’t have a concrete FI or FIRE number worked out because I’m so far away that it seems laughable, but there’s a larger goal there for once that I’m going to be working toward for the foreseeable future.

A note on numbers

It’s easy to lose sight of what you’re working towards when there’s a long slog like this involved. It’s this realization that’s convinced me that perhaps my cynical view on goals wasn’t the right one, so in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to set some unofficial goals for myself earlier this year.

I don’t remember when I set these and wish I did. I did know at the time that these were going to be stretch goals and probably not achievable, but I was going to try anyway.

Before I get into them, I’ll say I’ve struggled with whether or not to share numbers on here. In some ways, it’s been incredibly motivating and inspiring for me to read the posts where people share real numbers and their net worth. It’s also been incredibly depressing because I’m nowhere near those numbers and can’t even conceivably imagine them in some cases. I feel horribly behind but I also don’t want anyone who’s further behind me to feel discouraged.

My compromise has been that I share the real numbers monthly and haven’t given any indication of my net worth. I’m not going to share actual net worth numbers, but given my 2017 goals, I’m about to share some ballpark figures. The stretch net worth goal seems laughably puny given the net worths other bloggers have shared, but I also recognize that my net worth isn’t nothing. It’s something that’s taken a lot of work and it’s also positive, which is more than many other people can say. And I’m grateful for that.

All of the above is a reminder to myself that comparison is a bitch that tells me I’m not doing so hot when I actually am. Feel free to remind yourselves as well that comparisons are a losing game, and I’m not sharing numbers here for the purpose of having anyone compare themselves to me. (Although if you’ve got a higher net worth than I do, congratulations and I’m jealous 😉 )

2017 goals

My unofficial eh-what-the-hell stretch goals for 2017 looked something like this:

  • Reach a net worth of $50,000
  • Reach $10,000 in my taxable Vanguard account so I could switch from VTSMX to VTSAX (lower fees, yay!)
  • Bonus goal: get to $3,000 in my Roth IRA of rollover fame so I could switch from a targeted fund to VTSMX

Ah Erin, you sweet summer child.

How’d I do? Horribly. Even with ridiculous market gains, I’m nowhere near the net worth goal, and I’m still about $2k short in my taxable account. My Roth IRA did cross the $3,000 threshold but that was literally earlier this week so I don’t feel like that’s a particularly noteworthy achievement. If we’re looking just at the numbers, me going for these goals turned out to be the equivalent of those horribly acted infomercials.

Except. I did accomplish one of those three goals. I started officially keeping track of my net worth at the end of December 2016 and in the year since it’s more than doubled. My taxable account didn’t even exist a year and a half ago and now it’s only $2k shy of my $10k goal.

Perhaps that’s failure on the first two goals, but I’m a hell of a lot further along now than I was a year ago. That’s definitely some failing upward, and I’m much more willing to embrace that as a positive thing than I was even a few months ago.

Looking ahead to 2018

So with that in mind, I’m setting goals for 2018. You’ll notice they’re money-based: I haven’t turned into someone overnight who knows what she wants to be when she grows up, and I still think “get your shit together and figure it all out” is a horrible goal. No more of those New Year’s resolutions for me, thanks.

This year has been a big year for me of growth and change; it’s been so incremental sometimes that I haven’t realized it, but when I look back I can see a difference. That’s working for me now—I have vague general things I’d like to work on but I’m not going to set them as concrete goals. I’m also doing a course next year that I think is going to help me further refine what matters to me and get me closer to living the life I want. I’ve also got various travel dreams and things I want to accomplish personally next year, but I’m going to write about them as they happen instead of setting them out here.

At least for this year, I’m leaving the vague self-improvement goal there and I’ll more tangibly focus on the finances, especially since they’re concretely measurable. So here they are:

Financial goals for 2018

  • Do at least one no-spend month and actually stick with it
  • Pay off all consumer debt by the end of March 2018 (this is on credit cards with intro 0% interest rates so I’m not paying interest. If I were, I would’ve paid this off months ago!)
  • Be completely debt-free by the end of September 2018 (see ya, student loans!)
  • Max out my Roth IRA contribution for the year
  • Reach a net worth of $65,000 (just for fun, since I don’t have control over the markets!)

The first three aren’t terribly hard. I originally was going to say be debt-free by the end of 2018 but I’m already on track to pay off my student loans in December of 2018 so that felt a lot like cheating. I’d like at least a bit of a challenge, so I’m going to have to make some extra payments to make it by September. The no-spend (other than basics like groceries and rent, of course) month is a bit harder, because I can always seem to rationalize a purchase here or there. Nope, not this time.

Barring an economic downturn, $60k might be feasible, so I’ve set it at $65k to give myself something a bit higher to aim for. This feels a bit a lot overly optimistic like $50k was this year, but whatever, I’m sticking with it.

Maxing out my Roth IRA though? The $5,500 limit breaks down to about $450 each month. Y’all have seen my spending reports—most months I’ve got somewhere in the ballpark of an extra $300 left over, and most of the time that’s gone towards debt or towards my emergency fund. I’ve got a second job now that will definitely help increase my 2018 saving rate, and this is an incentive to be debt-free as soon as possible so I can reroute the money currently getting thrown at my credit cards. But it’s still a stretch, especially because maxing out my Roth IRA may be my stated goal, but I have other things I want to save up for next year. Plus I can’t neglect my taxable account and leave it languishing at $8k! This one’s going to be very difficult to accomplish, but I’m going to try anyway. So here’s to more failing upward in 2018.

What about you, friends? How did you do with your 2017 goals and what are you hoping to accomplish in 2018?

[*]Also realtalk, because I know y’all are secretly here for the snarky shit, there isn’t a star between us and the moon (life on earth would probably look very different if the sun was closer). Ergo if you shoot for the moon and fall short, you end up in a dark, freezing vacuum devoid of exploding balls of gas. I’m being pedantic but don’t care—this is a platitude of scientifically inaccurate lies!

20 Replies to “Failing upward and looking towards 2018”

  1. So I’ve got a couple comments on strategy…. 1) I admit I haven’t read everything but do you have access to a 401K at work? If not, then ignore …. 2) Why not a regular IRA instead of a Roth IRA? It will help reduce your taxable income. Reading between the lines, it seems you might have some logic to do the Roth now, but in almost every case, it pays to reduce taxable income today because of time value of money. Again, I might not have all the info. 3) Wouldn’t it make sense to pay off the consumer debt ASAP and simply defer some of your investing activity after that is done? All that being said, you do what feels best, these questions just jumped out at me.

    1. Hi, WishICouldSurf.

      I do have access to a 401(k) at work and I’m putting something like 13% of my paycheck in it at the moment, plus getting an employer match. I’m also weighing the numbers to see if I want to up that contribution significantly next year or just raise it a bit to 15%. So all of these goals are post-tax income goals. As far as the consumer debt, it’s on credit cards at an intro 0% interest rate so it’s not as much of an emergency as it would be if I were paying interest. If I were paying interest, you can bet I would’ve held off on investing until it was all gone!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      1. If I may give some advice (and you certainly don’t have to take it), in both the short and long run, it makes more sense to put more money into your 401K instead of a Roth IRA. I realize the Roth is more flexible for things like first time home purchases, but the 401K is pre-tax money …. Especially now that you have your side hustle. Good on you with the 0% credit card arbitrage. I would take your time paying that off, just like you said. 🙂 Happy to comment, I find your blog entertaining though I’m at a completely different spot in my path and life.

        1. Thank you for your comment and advice. You make a good point about my side hustle increasing my income—I’ll have to definitely sit down and calculate raising my 401(k) contribution!

  2. Hahaha hubs has a “demotivational” posted that says something like that about “shoot for the moon, if you miss your eyeballs will explode in the vacuum of space.” 🙂
    Great job in 2017! You made so much progress, and the only place to go from here is up. No use looking back, or over at others and being jealous. Compare you to you, and Today You is awesome! Tomorrow You looks even better!

    1. Hahaha I love the Demotivational sayings. Thank you, and yes, I look forward to Tomorrow Me being even better than Today Me!

  3. Don’t devalue your goals! $50k is definitely respectable. Just remember that the reason that some people have more because they’re old af (like me), had parental help, etc. Question: did you have specific monthly contributions as part of your plan? If so, did they sometimes not happen because life got in the way, etc.? Or did the markets not do as well as expected?

    This reminds me that I need to do my own ‘why I failed my goals this year’ post, ha!

    1. Oh for sure, people have been in the game longer, gotten help, have higher-paying jobs, focused on their finances earlier. We’re all on different paths and numbers don’t reflect that too well. And I’m absolutely glad I’m working toward $50k, not -$50k!

      Haha oh Luxe, me having a specific monthly contribution set up to help work my way towards $10k/$50k would make way too much sense for someone who was literally like “fuck it, I guess these’ll be my goals this year!” I haven’t taken market values into consideration really, other than a general “it’ll likely go up.” Life’s gotten in the way plenty, plus this year I’ve been actually scrutinizing my spending. Eight months ago I couldn’t tell you what I generally had (or didn’t have) left over at the end of the month. Knowing my spending habits much better plus the extra income from my second job are going to make my life easier next year!

      Looking forward to your goals post!

  4. Ahem. Space nerd entering the forum.

    If you were to shoot for the moon and miss, your inertia would continuing projecting you further and further away from the Earth. The dark, freezing vacuum is in itself insufficient to slow your progress, so per Newton’s First Law of Motion you would continuing moving away from the Earth until acted upon by an unbalanced force. The unbalanced force may turn out to be you running directly into another celestial body (given an infinite universe, you will eventually hit something even if traveling in a straight line). However, more likely you will be acted upon by the unbalanced force of gravity pulling you off your initial path. Most likely, this unbalanced force will be our own Sun (the closest star). If you somehow managed to escape the solar system, you would eventually end up in another solar system, attracted by the gravity of another star.

    It may take millions of years, but you would, indeed, end up not only amongst the stars, but burning into one in a blaze of glory. I mean, you’d definitely be dead by then. But your particles would be there!

    (PS: your net worth is probably higher than mine was at that age, and look where I am now. You got this)

    1. Yessssss this is why we are friends! Although I also think there’s a non-zero chance you’d end up hitting some piece of space junk right off the bat and possibly come floating back towards Earth before you got to the moon 😉

        1. Holy shit, flecks of paint (let alone anything bigger) traveling at 17,500 mph?? No thank you! (I am fascinated by space but also it’s terrifying so that’s just another reason I’m just fine staying on this planet, thank you very much!)

          1. I’m so glad that WordPress reader was spazzing out and I couldn’t comment from there because I would have missed this glorious thread. I’ve actually always loved that quote (and the general idea is what’s behind my stretch goal for 2018). But let’s say land in the stratosphere instead and then we don’t have to worry about space junk or floating endlessly in space.

  5. I think you did awesome on your unofficial goals for 2017. I set myself financial goals for 2017, but I don’t think I’ll actually succeed at most of them. That’s not always the point though, right? So long as we are failing in the right direction. 😉

    Also, I am so guilty of comparisons… I don’t share my net worth numbers on my blog, just the % change, so that theoretically I’m not enabling comparisons, but I compare myself to others all the time and feel bad about how behind I am…

    Anyway, good luck with your 2018 goals! I’m sure that you’ll succeed, or at least fail in the right direction. 🙂

    1. Exactly, I’ll take failing in the right direction over failing in the wrong direction any day! Quitting the comparison game is so frustratingly difficult. Sometimes I feel like I need to tattoo something to that effect on my forehead so I at least see it every day haha!

      Thank you! And good luck with finishing up with your 2017 goals/your future 2018 goals!

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