The Swans’ Financial Goals and Other Updates: 1st Qtr 2017

2017 Goals

Hello $wanigans! Thanks for visiting today. We outlined our 2017 goals for the Swans at the end of December and today is our first update to hold ourselves accountable. So without further ado, here is our update on the swans’ 2017 goals through the first quarter of 2017.

Financial Goals

  1. Increase our investment portfolio to $1.2 Million

Lucy and I are off to a good start so far thanks to the continued stock market rally. Will it give up eventually? You bet, but when? As a long term investor I ride the roller coaster of ups and downs with the knowledge that over the long run the returns will average out to a solid 7-8% growth.

We started the year with just over $1 million in invested assets. With solid contributions through the first 3 months (see below…) and good performance in the stock market, we are currently sitting at $1,145,000. Hopefully we can finish as strong as we started!

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  1. Contribute $115K $130K to our investments

To date, we have contributed $86.5K to our various investment accounts as outlined in the chart below:

Financial Goals

It has been a solid start to the year on this front, but the first part of the year is always that way. We usually keep a little extra cash at year end to be ready to invest and max out our Roth IRA contributions right away to start the year. So there is $11K invested right off the bat…I know, kind of cheating year end for the benefit of next year, but that’s what we do every year so it evens out.

The first part of the year is also a little front loaded because a decent chunk of my pays comes in the form of my annual bonus. I usually receive my bonus the second week of March which leads to a greater than usual contribution to my 401k and a good chunk also gets funneled immediately to either my taxable brokerage account and / or the 529 plan.

I initially estimated $115K in contributions for the year because I thought my bonus was going to be a little lighter than normal. Turned out that wasn’t the case (hooray!), so I’m bumping this goal up to $130K today.

Our goal was to invest approximately $70K in Jr.’s 529 plan by age 3 which he turns in April 2017. Letting it grow and compound over the years should allow it grow enough to fully fund his college education costs. Coming into 2017 we had invested $50K of this already and so we made it a priority to wrap up in early 2017 with the remaining $20K. Check! That’s done. Just in time to start saving for the next one…!

We regularly contribute to our 401k somewhat evenly throughout the year. We’ve been able to max these out since 2012…except in 2015 when I made one of my investing mistakes and regrets. So far this year Lucy and I have socked away $22.4K in our 401ks.

Lastly, I participate in a high deductible health plan tied to an H.S.A. Lucy is usually on this plan with me but since we knew a baby was coming in 2017 we moved her to a lower deductible (although higher premium) plan that her company offered which made more financial sense. So I will be contributing my max to the H.S.A., a whopping $3,400 including $800 contributed by my employer for completing certain preventative health screens, training sessions, etc. So far, I’ve contributed $3.1K and the remaining was already invested in the first week of April!

For the record, I contribute to this plan for the great tax benefits it offers (pre-tax contributions, earnings on investments are tax free, funds are invested efficiently in a S&P 500 index fund, and withdrawals for health expenses are tax free). This is a great tax efficient investing vehicle to pay for health needs later in life. For any health costs I can swing today out of pocket (including labor and delivery for our newborn) I will in order to preserve this tax efficient investment vehicle.

JW’s Personal Goals

Health and Fitness

  1. Take the steps at least 3 days a every day of the week!

Initially my goal was to simply take the stairs at work (to floor 14!) 3 days a week. What a cop-out huh?! Well Mr. Money Mustache himself gave that goal a swift kick in the rear (literally in my buns and thighs) and challenged me to take the stairs EVERYDAY! I accepted the challenge and glad I did.

Let me tell you, taking the stairs SUCKS! I have plenty excuses to quit and start taking the elevator again…

  • I’m panting at the top (actually I’m panting at around floor 5…) and my heart is beating on overdrive.
  • My right knee feels a shooting pain occasionally (primarily just on the descent, but in general my joints seem to be not in the best shape). While worrisome at first, it hasn’t gotten any worse so I plan on just monitoring it for now.
  • Nobody else takes the stairs!

But what would MMM do…of course he’d tough it out. So I do too. Every day I have gone to work, I climbed the stairs! Persistence pays off. While it has gotten easier over the last three months…I don’t expect climbing that many flights of stairs will ever be easy!

2017 Goals2017 Goals2017 Goals

  1. Bike or do Insanity videos 3 days a week

Not too shabby here. A slow start in January, and brief lapses in mid-February and again in early March haven’t held us up from keeping our goal (thanks to visitors in February that pushed us off schedule a bit and some long work days in March). Lucy and I both worked out over 43% (3 out of 7) of the days in all three months. Now the test will come in the second quarter with birth of our newborn…!

2017 Goals

  1. Keep beer and alcohol consumption to evenings when I don’t work the next day.

I have to say this is one goal I haven’t done so well with. It doesn’t help that shortly after making the goal I saw this post from fellow blogger Early Retirement Now. Turns out a drink a day isn’t necessarily bad for you…so I blame ERN! This is still a goal I’m trying to do better with though as I don’t need the extra calories or expense.

Professionally

  1. Push boundaries and get outside my comfort zone.

I’m working on it! There was a little delay to the potential plan to move to London with the announcement of a reorg of international operations at my company. But Lucy and I both think this is something worth pursuing further so hopefully it will just be a matter of time before it works out. Either way, we’ll need to find a way to push boundaries.

  1. Improve The Green Swan blog performance.

I’ve certainly tried! There is still room to grow here and I’m not done yet. So far this year I changed up the look of the blog with a new premium ($$$) theme that should help with speed and performance.

I also switched up my host provider whose servers are used to store and run the blog. Previously I used Bluehost. They were great to get my blog up and running while in its infancy. But Bluehost is known to be one of the slower hosts out there since they have older servers stocked full of websites and they don’t use solid state drives on their servers. I’m not a “techy” by any means, but I was told this alone can account for a 30% drop in overall site speed.

I switched hosts which thankfully is easy and free. SiteGround came highly recommended and they offer a starting price for $3.95 / month for up to 3 years (compared to their traditional price of $9.95). Can’t beat locking that price in!

Web Hosting

Hiring some outside help ($$$) I was able to identify a certain ad provider as being the cause of some of the slow site responsiveness along with a few other miscellaneous coding related items. I’ve resolved both of these issues and hope it results in better site speed / performance as well.

So far, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in the first quarter having successfully switched themes, hosts, and ads. I’m satisfied with the success to date. There may be a few other things on the to-do list on the site speed front and I will continue to actively work on this to improve the user experience.

Lucy’s Personal Goals

  1. Workout 3 times a week

Lucy here… not much to report out that JW didn’t mention above. We stayed on the same workout schedule so far so see our combined workout chart above. We typically do our workouts in the evening once the little guy goes down. I do have to pat myself on the back (and give a big thank you to JW for encouraging me) for working out during the whole pregnancy. Granted my last few bike sessions were nothing like I would have done prior to having a bun in the oven, it still gets my heart rate up. With the newborn now I anticipate we’ll be on slightly different schedules. If this maternity leave is anything like my last I’ll be out every day going for a walk with the babe. It’s the perfect time of year here in Charlotte to be on leave and get outside.

  1. Try 2 new recipes a month

I crushed this goal in January with some creamy chicken biscuits and our new scone recipe, but fell behind in February a bit when we hosted family a couple weekends. March was a bit of the same as I spent more time prepping the house for baby #2 to join us. Listen to me… excuses, excuses. Does cooking Blue Apron recipes count? We did recreate a Blue Apron recipe in March so maybe that one counts, I just don’t have a link or to prove it. Here is my new goal and promise to you, the readers… while on maternity leave I will spend more time searching for recipes, save them (thank you Pinterest!) and ultimately cook and share with you.

Other Update

One other quick update…I mentioned above that we are ready to start contributing to the 529 plan of our coming newborn. Well, on 4/1/2017 we were blessed with our second boy. And no, this is not an April Fools joke which many of my family members were thinking when I let them know we were on the way to the hospital. Our little nugget was a healthy 6 lbs 13 oz at birth and Mom is doing well with her recovery. The in-laws (reinforcements) arrived on 4/8 so we are hoping to catch up on some rest!

Wrap-Up

That is it in a nutshell. To wrap, we’ve done good on the financial objectives and health & fitness goals. Still some TBD’s on the personal front with getting outside our comfort zone and work in progress on the blog goals and with trying new recipes. Not a bad first quarter. The second quarter will have new challenges with our newborn, but here is to continued momentum!

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

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39 Comments

  1. A great start to the year guys. Yup, that ongoing stock market rally keeps lifting higher and the question is, as you mention, for how long? Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

  2. Congratulations on the new addition! Oh and of course on the fabulous Q1 performance. I’m still waiting to get a few statement in the mail to calculate how I did in Q1, I should be able to this weekend. Great job, and enjoy the little one!

  3. Congrats again on the new baby boy around the house! You guys killed it financially first quarter too! Nice start to the year.

    We’ve had a fair 1st quarter as well. Hope you guys keep on the workout goals with the new one around. It can get really busy really quickly. 🙂

  4. wow! you guys are off to a great start to the year! Gotta love bonus time in March. Thanks for the in depth post.

  5. Congratulations on the little one! It’s great to hear everyone is doing well. 🙂 And way to go on those personal and financial goals. I’ve weenie’d out on my own fitness goals, so this is the nice kick in the pants I need to get back on my elliptical machine lol.

    1. That’s great, best of luck. And you getting on the elliptical and doing well with your fitness goals in 2Q will hopefully be motivation for me if I fall off the boat! I may need the kick in the pants myself. Thanks Mrs. Picky Pincher!

  6. Thanks for the shout-out! Yes, yes, blame ERN for all the bad habits: alcohol. And leverage, too!. 🙂
    Great savings performance! Like you I contribute most savings in Q1 thanks to the finance industry bonus paid out at that time. It feels a little bit like treading water for the other 11 months!
    Good luck with all your ambitious plans and the growing family!

  7. Great job on increasing your net worth. I am kind of surprised, with the massive investment contributions, why aren’t you already early retired?

  8. That is a great start of the year! the numbers add up, personally you get results as well.

    Taking stairs is an easy one as soon as you take the habit. we will be moving from floor 5 to floor 4. Maybe I should walk rather than take the stairs?

    And how does it feel to be one more now? Enjoy it.
    And all the best with the move to London.

    1. I almost missed your last question…! It is quite a change-up having another little one, I can tell you that much for sure. We’ve already found ourselves splitting up, each taking care of one. But we’re loving every minute of it!

      Thanks, I’ll definitely be in touch if we end up heading over to London. It would be great to meet up! Take care, ATL.

      1. The splitting up sounds familiar…! We did and do the same. They sometimes even request private time and private activities with me or my wife alone, so that they have 100pct of the attention for them.

        1. That’s nice! I look forward to one-on-one time in that fashion. I think it would be great to develop that personal connection and relationship. I guess it is starting for us :).

  9. Great opening quarter!

    When I was in real estate, I used SiteGround for my website. It’s way faster than my Bluehost site. I only just started it, but can tell there’s a difference in performance and don’t like all interface. Oh well. Lesson learned.

    I’m looking forward to 2Q2017 update to see how you guys do. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Foxy Dad! Oh nice, so you’ve found a similar experience as I. Always good to have someone corroborate with! I was able to transfer from Bluehost before my first year was up and received a pro rated refund of the costs…something you may want to look into. It was a relief finding out how easy it is to transfer to SiteGround. If I can do it, anyone can!

      Thanks for the comment!

  10. Congratulations on the new addition, and also the healthy bonus! It all helps and by throwing it straight at investments, it really helps avoid the lifestyle inflation as you just dont “see it” – I know my bonus was in my bank account for less than 8 hours 🙂

  11. Congrats on the little one. Also, super impressive to have the first child’s college functionally fully funded before the second arrives. That is ridiculously awesome.

    I am with you on fully funding the Roth IRA at the beginning of the year. I always save up the cash in November and December so that I can put the money in right away. Why miss out on potential market gains?

    1. Thanks Matt. The 529 for Kid#1 was always a priority for us in order to get that money working / compounding early to maximize the tax benefits over the years. It is a nice feeling knowing that he is good to go now, and we’re looking forward to getting Kid#2’s 529 started ASAP.

      Thanks for the comment!

  12. Thanks FiL! Yes, that is exactly what I do with my bonus. I have a plan on investing it before I even receive it. Once it hits the checking account I know exactly where to transfer the money and which investment (index mutual funds) to buy with it. No reason to let it sit around idle…

    Thanks for the comment!

  13. Good luck with everything, Especially with the new baby. I think your site looks great. Interesting on switching server companies. I know so little about all of that. Next year, that might be a goal of mine.

  14. Congrats on son #2! Hopefully a reduction in sleep will not impact your health and fitness goals too much.

    And doesn’t it feel great when you set yourself up for a smaller bonus and it turns out to be larger? I can’t say I’ve had that fortune, but it occasionally happens to Mrs. Need2Save some years.

    1. Thanks N2S! Through week 1 it has definitely impacted our fitness goals, but we’ve tried to maintain our health and diet. It’ll be just a temporary setback, but we’ll get back on the fitness goals soon.

      Yes, definitely better than vic-a-versa on the bonus!

      Thanks for the comment!

  15. Good update GS. So, London not calling yet? Well, all for the good. Let them figure out the Brexit thing properly so things will stabilize by the time you do make the move. Do take that opportunity as I mentioned in the past, you will be better in many ways after the experience.

  16. Way to go, guys. Awesome start to the year. Crushing it on savings and working out (14 flights is pretty damn amazing), and you begin the second quarter with the arrival of “little nugget.” Things are looking pretty groovy in Green Swanville. Enjoy the reinforcements while they last. Toodles.

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