(Image: screenshot of my net worth from May 2014 to January 2, 2018)
December was a pretty good month for me financially, by this year’s standards. For the first time ever, I had to fly for the holidays rather than driving or taking the train. But luckily, due to the academic schedule I didn’t have to fly during Christmas week; I came home December 15 and am going back January 7. Also, my Christmas present from my parents was half the plane fare. And ALSO, I actually paid for it a couple of months ago 🙂 That left present-buying. I did spend $276 (!!) on gifts and donations (I don’t separate those categories out in my budget). But that was offset, again, by spending half of the month at my parents’, which greatly reduced my general spending: I didn’t have to buy food, and didn’t do a lot of entertainment stuff either.
Finally, I usually end up seeing my eye doctor and getting new contact lenses (and occasionally new glasses) at the end of December, always an expensive proposition. If I need glasses it can run over $500 (my eyes are f-ing AWFUL and I need fancy lenses) but my prescription hasn’t changed and even though my frames are slightly bent I think I can get through at least one more year. After insurance, the total was $157 for the exam and 3 months’ worth of contacts. I paid using my HSA debit card — first time! very exciting! — so it didn’t even feel like real money, since I’ve been having it pulled out of my paycheck $50 at a time. I’ve never had access to an FSA or HSA before; I don’t know if it really makes that much of a difference to me at the income level I’m at, but I think I like having the separate account now that I do have access to one.
Cash (including checking account, emergency fund, “life fund,” HSA, and travel savings account): $26527.67
Retirement accounts (including 403(b) with new employer, rollover IRA from old employer, and Roth IRA): $46629.84
Total: $73157.51, up $2508.51 from $70,649 last month.
That’s a good monthly number for me, reflecting the relatively low expenses that went along with being home for half the month.
2017 in review…. Unlike in previous years, I didn’t do a detailed financial report of this year. In fact, I can’t, because I did a fresh start in YNAB in August, didn’t track at all for about three months in the middle of the year, and thus can’t run the kinds of reports I did for 2015 and 2016. However, you can kind of see the overall story in the chart above. My net worth climbed from January through June, though not much. Then it declined during July and August while I was unemployed. In mid-August I started a new job with a considerably higher salary than during the first part of the year; the first paycheck didn’t hit til September though. Also in September, I received all of my unemployment compensation (good thing I had savings to live on during the time I was unemployed!) so that plus my new paychecks accounts for a steep rise. ALSO, I housesat during September and October and, aside from a few random expenses related to that (having the place professionally cleaned when I left, etc) I was able to put away what would have been my rent money. I refilled my savings accounts and started working on my retirement fund again. Now that I’m no longer housesitting, my expenses are much higher in California than they were in Indiana (MUCH higher) which is eating up basically all of the salary difference, but I am saving $1000 a month in cash and about $950 in retirement funds (I put in 10% and my employer is putting in 9.5%, my first ever employer match), plus $100 in my HSA. That’s all really saved savings. Additionally, I’m trying to allocate about $350 a month to sinking funds: travel, clothing, personal/health, repairs/maintenance. That hasn’t gone so great; for much of the year I was overspending my slush budget and pulling money out of those categories instead. But the last couple of months I calmed it down and as of right now I have a little over $1000 in those sinking funds put together. We’ll see how that goes.
I’m on the fence about 2017, from a financial perspective. On the one hand, I did end the year with a net worth increase of $15758, an average of $1313 a month. It could be worse, you know? On the other hand, it was a year when I slipped back into a lot of bad habits: really overspending (especially on food), not tracking. I also gave a lot of money away, which I mostly don’t regret (I want to continually push to up my donations) but I also kind of overdid it on giving presents. Additionally, my retirement accounts were out of the markets for a huge chunk of the year, which I have a lot of mixed emotions about, but regardless of my mixed emotions, certainly means that I missed out on some substantial growth. The upshot of everything, I think, is that in the grand scheme of human behavior it wasn’t a terrible year and I’m not staying up at nights worrying. But it also wasn’t as triumphant, financially, as previous years have been.
What does 2018 look like? I’m not sure. My current contract is for one academic year, meaning it’s up on May 15. Because of the way they structured my pay, if I do leave the university then I’ll get a payout of 3 months’ salary, which would be a huge amount of money at once by my standards — I think about $10000 post-tax? I’m also contracted to teach a summer session class, which will run for six weeks and for which I’ll make about $5500, maybe $4000 or so post-tax. If I put all of that in savings, and get another job, and keep my spending locked down, and the markets keep going up or hold steady then I might just make my $100,000-net-worth-by-40 goal; I need a $27000 increase this year to get there, given my not great performance in 2017.
But it also might not happen. $100,000 net worth by 41 wouldn’t be so bad, I guess.
Anyway, I’m proclaiming 2018 The Year of Financial Retrenching: back to tracking, back to not eating out, back to pennypinching. With so much uncertainty about where I’m living and what I’m doing for work (after June) it’s hard to set specific goals. I’m just going to try hard, and hope for the best.