Every year, I attempt to make and keep resolutions. Grandiose goals like losing weight or running more (it’s not hard to run more since I run never, and yet I still manage to fail this yearly) that are not in line with my personality, character, habits, and lifestyle. So this year, I’m focusing on five financial resolutions that I can easily follow in 2018. That should be doable, right?
My Five Financial Resolutions for 2018
1. Put a price tag on my goals.
“The first step toward turning your financial dreams into achievable goals is calculating the dollar value of your dreams.”
I have these vague dreams of buying property and retiring part-time and traveling the world. But I have never stopped and thought out the concrete details. And without concrete plans, I will continue circling around those dreams instead of taking deliberate steps towards them. This is advice we often hear regarding goals in other aspects of life, so it should definitely be applied to our finances as well.
I’m aiming for around $750,000; 20% down means I’ll need $150,000. I don’t have a timeline for buying, but hopefully sooner rather than later. If sooner means within three years, that’s $50,000 per year, about $4,200 per month (I’m blowing my savings on business school, so I’ll have to start from scratch for this). I’m planning to buy investment property in order to retire early and travel the world; ideally, rent income would cover the mortgage payments.
For traveling the world: I would like to earn $4,500 per month in passive income in order to travel with peace of mind. I’m at heart a budget traveler; I spent a month in London, Paris, and Rome for a little over $3,000. $4,500 should cover any travel expenses and give me enough of a savings buffer for emergency funds and unanticipated expenses. I haven’t decided if I want to travel continuously or return home in between trips, but that should only be a minor adjustment in my numbers.
2. Learn more about real estate investment.
I had always thought I was going to buy a single-family home, or a condo in downtown. The last couple of years though, I’ve come around to the idea that having tenants might not be so bad. Their rent payments can help with the mortgage, and give me a more or less a steady stream of passive income. But this means I have to learn about renters’ rights and the tax laws regarding investment property, in addition to the usual home buyers stuff Kobliner mentions: what lenders look for (your credit record, your job history, your ability to pay/income/debt-to-income ratio), types of mortgages (fixed v. adjustable, 15-year v. 30-year), the less obvious costs of home ownership (property taxes, home insurance, HOA/co-op fees). This research would greatly inform my decision, whether to buy rental property or a home.
3. Maximize my tax breaks
I hate taxes. I hate doing my taxes (even though it’s actually not that difficult), and I even hate thinking about taxes. Which means I haven’t been taking advantage of all the tax deductions and credits available to me, mainly because I don’t know them. I didn’t even know the federal government uses a graduated tax system. Kobliner explains that your tax bracket is actually your marginal tax rate (your total income is not taxed at the same rate: for single taxpayers, the first $9,325 you make is taxed at 10%, from $9,325-$37,950 at 15%, $37,950-$91,900 at 25%, and so forth). I’ve also had some changes in situation this past year, so it’s doubly important for me to figure this out.
4. Monitor my investments.
I’m very much a buy-and-hold investor, to the extent where I’ve become buy-and-forget. While that was great when I first started out, it’s been years since I’ve looked at my investments or made any adjustments to them. I need to take a more proactive role in monitoring my portfolio and keeping track of growth. At the moment, I couldn’t even tell you the total value of my portfolio. Ideally, I would like to do monthly or even biweekly reviews on where I’m at and if I’m on track to reach where I want to be (spoiler alert: I’m not). She also mentions socially responsible investing (picking companies that align with your values, be they environmental concerns, civil activism, or animal rights), which I hadn’t really considered before but would like to learn more about.
5. Stay on top of my student loans.
For the first time in my life, I am carrying debt. I’m a little late to the game, waiting until grad school to take out my first student loan. Kobliner talks about getting your loans together; I didn’t know that each semester is a new loan, and not just tacked on to the original one (WHY? It’s like they’re deliberately trying to make things harder for us). And since the government isn’t paying the interest on my loans, I have to make sure I pay that timely. I also need to look into getting lower interest rates and figure out how early repayment works. The ideal situation is to pay off all my current and future student loans before I take out a mortgage.
Get a Financial Life is a good place to start if you know nothing about personal finance. Kobliner is pretty thorough with topics covered in the book. I think it’s better to read the chapters that are relevant to your current situation, and do a quick overview of the other chapters. There are many things that are common sense, but we all know sense is not that common. And oftentimes it’s good to be reminded of things we take for granted. She is also rather conservative and risk-averse in her advice. Aren’t people in their 20s and 30s supposed to take more risks with their investments, while they’re still young enough to take the losses? While it’s better for a beginner to play it safe until they know more, I feel like she’s a little too conservative for the age range she’s talking to, even though she does mention the traditional recommendations about 80% in stocks and 20% in bonds and gradually shifting those percentages as you get older. But, since this book is about getting your shit together rather than making money, I suppose it makes sense to be more conservative.
Get your copy here:
What do you think? What financial goals do you have for 2018?