The Swan’s Financial Goals: 2nd Qtr 2017

Financial Goals

Hello $wanigans! Thanks for visiting today. We outlined our 2017 goals for the Swans at the end of December and today is our second update to hold ourselves accountable. So without further ado, here is our update on the swans’ 2017 goals through the second 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 strong stock market so far this year. I occasionally think to myself if I should maybe divert new contributions to paying down our mortgage or something else just in case a downturn may be in the offing…but then I snap out of it.

Yes, the stock market has had a great run since the Great Recession of 2008, but who is to say it won’t go up another 10% or more this year and buoy along for a couple more years even? 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.

There have been stock market jolts recently, think about the Brexit vote. Do you know who came out ahead when it was all said and done? The long term investor who did nothing but hold steady.

I’m not going to risk any upside in fear of the downside.

We started the year with just over $1 million in invested assets. With solid contributions through the first half of the year (see below…) and good performance in the stock market, we are currently sitting at about $1,208,000. Yes…we’ve reached our goal already! Hopefully we can finish as strong as we started!

We track and monitor our investments using Personal Capital, it’s free and easy to get started. Click Here to Join Personal Capital Now!

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

To date, we have contributed $113K 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 skewed. 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’ve bumped this goal up to $130K.

To provide a little more granularity, I contributed $86.5K in the first quarter of 2017 and an additional $26.5K in the second quarter. The way things are going so far, I may even over-shoot my revised goal which is great! But we’ll have to wait and see how the year shakes out.

Additional Notes

  • The H.S.A. account is maxed out now. As I discussed last quarter, my wife is not on my high deductible plan which is tied to the account so our contributions are limited. This year she has her own health insurance plan through her employer which has a lower deductible (albeit high premiums) but was more advantageous since we knew we were expecting.
  • If you follow The Green Swan closely, you know I’ll be retiring early. So you may be wondering how I plan on accessing these retirement accounts when there are age limits on qualified withdrawals. Well wonder no more, I not only plan on accessing them penalty free, but also tax free.
  • A few months ago we reassessed our plan to fund college education for our kids. We went in depth on our thoughts while also asking for reader feedback on our 529 plans, and followed it up with a post on our 529 plan conclusions. At this point, no additional contributions are contemplated.

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 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.

Taking the stairs was tough initially, but I must say I am rocking it now. Even after taking three weeks off in April since I was home on paternity leave with the newborn, coming back and getting right back at it has paid dividends. I am now two-stepping my way to floor 14!

Has anyone else taken up the challenge of taking the stairs to work everyday? I’d love to hear your story and how much easier it has gotten over the months. And if you don’t take the stairs, I’d definitely challenge you to start.

I’m firmly in Mr. Money Mustaches’ camp of taking the stairs whenever you can! Here is my updated monthly tracker:

Financial Goals

  1. Bike or do Insanity videos 3 days a week

Not surprisingly, but Lucy and I both fell off the rails on this one. The baby came and our life has definitely been flipped upside down. While Cygnet #2 is a great baby and a pure joy, we’ve emphasized organizing our home life and sleep schedules as we try and adapt to life with two boys.

April and May came and went with not much exercise. Well that isn’t totally true I guess…I’ll let Lucy update you on her progress below…but there haven’t been any formal workouts for me.

Lucy returned to work on 6/12 though and we’ve been reinvigorated to start workouts again. Since then we’ve done alright and are back on track with our 3 workouts per week. No point in showing a chart like we did last quarter though since it’ll be mostly empty and depressing…

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

Time to let this goal go to the way-side and I’m ok with that. While it isn’t great for calories or expense, I do enjoy having a cold one on occasion even during the workweek.

A question for the crowd though, has having kids changed your consumption of beer or wine? With two little ones, I wonder if I should empty the liquor cabinet and fridge as a means of being a better role model especially as they age above 10 and into high school. Telling them not to drink, smoke or do drugs may go a little further if I’m not telling them that as I have a cold one myself…

I have time to think about this more, but would love to hear your feedback.

Professionally

  1. Push boundaries and get outside my comfort zone.

As I outlined a few weeks ago, a move to London is now off the table. The announced reorg of our international operations has had quite a toll on this possibility. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking and thinking of what might be next for me as I continue to find a way to push boundaries.

  1. Improve The Green Swan blog performance.

I’ll let you be the judge in the comments below!

I’ve certainly tried so far this year. Although I recognize there is still room to grow and improve site performance, after all I’m just a one man shop here.

So far this year I changed up the look of the blog with a new premium ($$$) theme that has helped 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.

Back in the first quarter 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

I also hired some outside IT help ($$$) and was able to identify a number of other ways to improve site speed and responsiveness.

So far, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made 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… and although JW made it sound depressing in his section about working out, I’m happy to say I was fairly active during my maternity leave. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t get out and run 3 miles a week after having a baby. I gave my body time to recover and didn’t over do it at all. I was lucky enough to have both boys in the month of April. That meant both maternity leaves matched up with nice weather and opportunities to get outside and walk. That’s exactly what I did, about 3 times per week for maybe half my leave. I even downloaded a special app, Map My Walk, and tracked my progress, distance and time. Add in a couple great podcasts, a sleeping baby and you got yourself an enjoyable workout. I would get out for anywhere from 30-60 minutes, sometimes walking upwards of 4 miles at one time. It felt great and helped me get back to fitting my work clothes, aka no need to invest in a new wardrobe.

  1. Try 2 new recipes a month

I’ve pretty much touched on this goal in each of my Swan Life posts so if you’re a regular reader of this blog you probably already know. We’ve had lots of fun this past quarter trying new vegan recipes and really getting outside our comfort zone… aka tons of veggies. The real test here has been keeping up with this after I returned to work. Chopping, dicing and roasting veggies takes some time and with both of us working 50+ hours, washing bottles and feeding two little ones before bedtime we don’t find much time for veggie prepping in our weekly routine. We’ve found ways to make large batch meals on the weekend and reheat during the week. So far so good!

Wrap-Up

That is it in a nutshell. To wrap, we’ve done good on the financial objectives, but lagged on the health & fitness goals in the 2nd quarter (for good reason…). Still some TBD’s on the personal front with getting outside our comfort zone and with trying new recipes. Not a bad quarter and first half of the year though. Here is to a great and improving third quarter!

Thanks for taking a look!

The Green Swan

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27 Comments

  1. Great goals, y’all! I love how badass your wealth-building strategies are. 🙂 I’m also trying to exercise each morning, although that’s been a toughie lately (oops!). It’s all about establishing discipline with your daily routine.

    1. Yes exactly! And getting knocked off routine can happen so easily with trips, visitors, kids… So it’s important to reestablish routines asap.

      Thanks Mrs Picky Pincher!

  2. I like they way you mix personal and $ goals. You’re making me consider the stairs, though it’s 18 flights to my office, and I really hate stairs. I’m going to give it a go when I’m back in the office this Wed.

    And, your site has improved dramatically- especially with that one particular FIRE-side chat with a certain retirement blogger…

    Great job raising the goslings. Interesting question on the liquor cabinet. I’d vote for emptying it from age 10-18.

    1. Good for you Fritz! It was hard at first but it’s gotten easier with time. Hope you stick with it!

      Haha yes that one FIRE-Side has made a remarkable difference! 🙂

      Thanks for your vote. I think being a positive role model can make a difference. We’ll be doing it with diet and exercise so why not drinking too (either no drinking or certainly drinking responsibly).

  3. Announcing your goals publicly really helps keep you honest with yourself on them. Nice job on hitting the money and investment goals. We’ll let the exercise goal slide since you do have a new little one :D.

    What has been the biggest lesson for you on your blog this year that we could all learn from?

    1. Haha thanks! The important part is getting back on that exercise routine which we’ve started to do.

      Regarding the blog, there’s a number of little IT things that make a difference which is why the hired help was worth it, but setting up a CDN (Cloudflare is free) helped a lot as did getting rid of slow ad providers and installing a better performing theme. Feel free to reach out if I can help in any other way.

      Thanks for the comment, Chris.

  4. Solid progress on different fronts. Nicely done.

    As for kids and alcohol:they learn by looking around and imitation. When you want them Not to do something, then do not do it yourself.

    It came very clear the day our oldest took her fake phone out of her pocket while I was talking and she said to me: sorry dad, I have an email…

    Ouch…

    1. Thanks for the advice, ATL! Those lessons can be painful… I’ve often been amazed just how much they are always paying attention and absorbing things (good and bad).

  5. I have 5 kids of my own, and I don’t mind having a drink (even in front of my 12 and 13 year olds). They aren’t old enough to drive a car yet, but I’m not going to stop driving because they can’t do it.

    I think it’s ok for them to see that I have one on a hot day and then I stop. I feel like if I never had a drink, it would seem more exotic and forbidden…and that makes teens even more tempted to do it.

    Fantastic job on your investments! I can’t wait to get out of debt and start treating money like a grown up. 😉

    1. Hi Jamie, completely agree with those thoughts. For folks wanting to enjoy an adult beverage occasionally, doing so responsibly can be a good message to the kiddos too. I think it comes down to what we individually want to do and “spinning” it to be a positive lesson.

      Thanks for sharing your view!

  6. Looks like you guys are doing great! Congrats! I am also in the camp of saving up at the end of the year and maxing out the IRA ASAP the next year. I switched my tracking to count it as savings when I set it aside rather than when I invest it, but it really makes no difference, especially when you do it every year.

  7. Excellent work, JW! To your question on alcohol, I found it difficult to drink when our daughter was first born. Even a can of Miller Lite made it exponentially more difficult to get up at night. Now that I am used to getting less sleep, my wife and I often have a glass of wine or beer during the week. On the weekends we may have a few more!

    I don’t think consuming alcohol in moderation will be a bad example for your children. Showing them that you drink responsibly may even be better than not drinking at all. But, I am from WI so take that with a grain of salt. Based on your financial status, which is quite impressive, I’m sure you deserve/need a drink after a long day of work.

    1. Ha good for you guys! I tend to agree with you, I think that can teach responsible drinking. Then of course I could see how my kiddos react to it and change course if need be.

      And yes, everyone deserves a cold one after a long day… Which may very well be everyday! 🙂

  8. I remember summer nights, dad chilling on the screened in porch, with the little black and white tv watching the baseball game, having a beer. Just in the summer. Family parties, the guys had beer & the ladies pina coladas. All things in moderation.
    We don’t have an elevator at work, so I always do the stairs. It’s an interesting split level office building, and there are ramps outside, which must cover the ada.
    Sounds like most of the goals are going well.
    I got out for a few walks this weekend, I should just do it more consistently at home.

    1. Ha fun memory. I remember my parents having beers but really only fitting family get togethers also. Moderation is a good rule to live by! Thanks for your thoughts on that.

      Hmm interesting about the stairs and no elevator. If ever remodeled I wonder if more would need to be done for ADA on the inside. Nice how that forces you to use the stairs though.

      Thanks for the comment, Jacq!

  9. I love these “mid year report card” kind of posts. I find them good to see how I’m doing and compare against my report card.

    I’m very glad I found your blog a month ago!

  10. Great contributions to your investment accounts for the first 6 months of the year!

    In regards to the alcohol question, here is my take. We have 18 and 19 year old sons. We didn’t stop occasionally (sometimes regularly) having a beer or wine at appropriate times. We felt like modeling responsible behavior was important.

    On the exercise front, I always take the stairs… but I don’t have many stairs at work. I have ramped up my marathon training. Ran 42 miles and biked to work (20 miles round trip) last week. My legs are tired!

    Also, how is the transition to vegan going?

    1. Thanks N2S!

      And thanks for your input in the drinking question. That’s the way we’re leaning as well.

      Wow that’s impressive exercise in the week! Someday I’d love to get back into that… I’ve done a half marathon but never a marathon yet. Do you have a marathon scheduled or just getting into that shape for the summer :)?

      Being vegan is going great. We’ve jumped into it completely and there is no turning back. Wish we made the decision years ago but we’re excited to raise our kids vegan. Over the last couple months we’ve turned from vegan curious to full on advocates. Lucy published her monthly piece today with an update too.

      Thanks for the great comments!

      1. I have a marathon this fall. I try to do one every other year – it’s a big time commitment, not too mention wear and tear on the body.

        I’m not sure if I would every go vegan, but I am trying to have no-meat days more often.

        1. That’s a good start by going meat-less more often. And if you do end up deciding to go vegan it’ll be pretty easy to eliminate those other days.

          That is a heck of a commitment. I’d like to do one for the experience and that would probably be good.

  11. “Do you know who came out ahead when it was all said and done? The long term investor who did nothing but hold steady.” It’s true always! I recently read that Fidelity did a study about their accounts, and that they two categories of investor that did the best over the last 10 years 1) Had forgotten about the account, and 2) Were dead. Great reminder!

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