Hello $wanigans! Thanks for visiting today. We outlined our 2017 goals for the Swans at the end of December and today is our third update to hold ourselves accountable. And accountable we are being held…as I’m disappointed to share that we are falling short on a few things here…
So without further ado, here is our update on the swans’ 2017 goals through the third quarter of 2017.
- Increase our investment portfolio to $1.2 Million
This is certainly one that we are not falling short on thanks in large part to the strong stock market performance. At the end of the second quarter we had already surpassed this goal with $1,208,000.
The third quarter was good to us too. The market was pretty choppy in August, but July and September were both good months. This helped us continue the rally!
Why has it gone up so much this year? Can it be sustained? The answer to both is “I don’t care”. I could throw stuff out there and wax poetically to fill the rest of this post, but the bottom line is I’m a long term investor and that isn’t going to change. When I have extra money in my checking account, I write a check to the brokerage and buy more funds (does anyone really write checks anymore…?). When I very first started to invest, I actually did write checks to Vanguard! Now of course, ACH simplifies and speeds up the process. But the point remains…
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 throughout the year (see below…) and good performance in the stock market, we are currently sitting at $1,271,260. Yes…we’ve reached our goal! Now we’re in the 4th quarter, literally, so here is to a strong finish!!
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- Contribute $115K $130K to our investments
To date, we have contributed $125.5K to our various investment accounts as outlined in the chart below.
We are on cruise control with this goal as we’ve all but ensured we’ll reach it with our continued automatic contributions to our 401k plans. And right now we’re sitting on $25K in cash ready to invest as well. We always sit on extra cash at year end so that we can make our Roth IRA contributions right away in the beginning of the year, but we’ve been accruing cash in our savings account right now as a result of the potential small business opportunity.
As you know from my recent post, my siblings and I are in active discussions to buy another small business. If things go according to plan, I will likely withdraw most of my taxable brokerage account investments to contribute to the business along with the cash we’ve been accumulating. The tentative plan is to close on the business acquisition right at the beginning of the year (end of January, 2018).
While I initially estimated $115K in contributions for the year because I thought my bonus was going to be lighter than normal, it turned out that wasn’t the case (hooray!), so I’ve bumped this goal up to $130K. Things are looking good and I’m thinking I may end up being around $135K or $140K depending on how much cash I’m sitting on at the end of the year.
To provide a little more granularity, I contributed $86.5K in the first quarter of 2017, an additional $26.5K in the second quarter and $12.5K in the third quarter. As I mentioned above, contributions in the third quarter were just 401k contributions as I’ve otherwise been accruing cash for the potential small business acquisition. Also, contributions were big in the first quarter as that is when I receive my annual bonus.
- 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. Next year the 529 slice of the pie chart above will be 0% and that will alternatively be funneled into the taxable brokerage account.
JW’s Personal Goals
Health and Fitness
- 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 have been rocking it lately. 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. Before no-time I was two-stepping my way to floor 14!
Then a wild curveball came my way. I pushed the boundaries in my professional life and stepped outside my comfort zone. See below for the details, but in my new position I’m located on the 10th floor in a new building (across the street…). Taking the steps just got a few floors easier! Unfortunately, I realized the entry to the stairs in my new building is goofy. One entrance is from outside the building at street level and is locked from the outside. It’s exit only. So I started searching for the other stairwell. Believe it or not, that entrance is locked at the ground level too! Security is tight in this new building and I may be S.O.L. Hence why my flight counter for September has tailed off…
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.
- Bike or do Insanity videos 3 days a week
As I mentioned last quarter, we were a bit hit or miss with this goal. We crushed it in Q1 though…! Q2 was the birth of our second son that threw this off the rails for April in May, but we got back on the horse in June and most of July. But the second part of July, August and September we’ve been hit or miss again.
There is something to be said about how travel can disrupt the workout routine. Lucy began traveling quite a bit again when she went back to work, and while I didn’t travel much in my old job, the interview process and going forward in my new job has resulted in a few more trips for me.
This is definitely an area for improvement. With travel becoming more routine for me, I need to make sure to pack workout clothes and also not to let it derail me when I’m home. The other struggle has been the times Lucy travels and I’m running solo with the two kids. The evenings and mornings are super busy and by the end of it I’m ready to just rest…maybe running around with the kids counts as workouts :).
I’ll let Lucy update you on her progress below, but kudos to her as she found a new way to incorporate regular workouts…
- Keep beer and alcohol consumption to evenings when I don’t work the next day.
As I mentioned last quarter, it is time to let this goal go to the way-side and I’m ok with that. It actually reminds me of a funny story of my younger brother back when he was in elementary. He was signed up for Pop Warner Football and he came home from practice one day saying how he needs to go on a diet. The league had a weight limit that if crossed you could only play on the offensive and defensive lines. Well my little brother wasn’t an overweight kid, he was just tall for his age and he was dead-set on playing running back. He was very athletic and strong and that was the perfect position for him.
So on the first day of his “diet”, we kept seeing him at the table eating more and more food. Finally someone asked him how his diet was going and he responded something about how he was trying but couldn’t help thinking about food and so it made him just hungrier and hungrier! The first day of his “diet” resulted in him gaining weight :)!
That’s how I feel with my “goal” to reduce beer and alcohol consumption…While it isn’t great for calories or expense, I do enjoy having a cold one on occasion even during the workweek. Ultimately, it isn’t all that unhealthy either since I only have one per night. I recently saw a documentary on Netflix titled “The Truth about Alcohol” and they delve into the healthy habits of alcohol drinking. It was a good documentary and I recommend it. The main takeaway was to limit weekly consumption and to not binge drink on the weekends. Basically, if I have one drink a night I’ll be fine.
So like I said, this goal has gone by the way-side…
- Push boundaries and get outside my comfort zone.
Needless to say, I’ve been pretty active on this front trying to find the next step and challenge in my career. I can now say I’ve made a change professionally! If you’ve been a regular reader of The Green Swan, you’ll know I’ve made a career change for the better and I’m stepping off the ladder.
Lucy and I were both excited for this change. Now that I’ve been in the new gig for over a month, I feel even more comfortable saying it has been a change for the better! There is no looking back for me.
- Improve The Green Swan blog performance.
I spent a lot of time and energy to improve The Green Swan’s site performance and speed in the first and second quarters. It has definitely improved, but I do think there is probably more to be done to optimize the site.
Not much to report on during the third quarter though. Perhaps the fourth quarter I’ll have more time to devote to improving the site.
So far this year though I changed up the look of the blog with a new premium ($$$) theme that has helped with speed and performance.
I also switched up my host provider whose servers are used to store and run the blog. Previously I used Bluehost. They were great to get my blog up and running while in its infancy. But Bluehost is known to be one of the slower hosts out there since they have older servers stocked full of websites and they don’t use solid state drives on their servers. I’m not a “techy” by any means, but I was told this alone can account for a 30% drop in overall site speed.
Back in the first quarter I switched hosts which thankfully is easy and free. SiteGround came highly recommended and they offer a starting price for $3.95 / month for up to 3 years (compared to their traditional price of $9.95). Can’t beat locking that price in!
I also hired some outside IT help ($$$) 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
- Workout 3 times a week
Not to use this as an excuse, but I did return to work and was back to the grind for all of third quarter. Schedules can get out of hand with two young ones to clothe and feed while also working outside the home. Although I still haven’t found my rhythm, I’m trying. I switched gears a bit and have joined with a few coworkers to head to our fitness center at the end of the day for a quick spin class. We figure even though 20 minutes isn’t ideal, it’s something. We work up a sweat and then I take off to pick up the boys. I think I’ve actually made JW a bit jealous with this new workout time, but in my defense, I meant it when I told him he should join us! So I’m sad to say I haven’t been meeting my 3 workouts per week goal, I’m still striving to get a good sweat sesh in when I can.
- Try 2 new recipes a month
I’m happy to say this quarter we’ve done an ok job of trying out some new recipes. We’ve been sticking with the vegan diet and have found a few weekly go-tos for our dinners. I’ll have to start sharing a few more on my Swan Life posts so I can keep up with the meals we enjoy and make over and over.
I did share an easy black bean recipe back in my May Swan Life post, however I have found a new similar recipe that has become a staple in our household. It’s the 30 Minute Black Beans and Lime Rice recipe and you should probably plan on making it this weekend. Seriously we’re all fans of this and it’s super easy to make. First of all you should “invest” in a microwave rice cooker. I use the Pampered Chef Large Micro Cooker and really don’t consider this an investment… the thing costs less than $20. Well worth it and dishwasher safe, bonus! Although it does take 30 minutes to cook brown rice in it, you set it and literally forget it. Wasn’t that an infomercial slogan for something?? Anyways, we’re starting to use this recipe to create fun burrito bowls and we could easily switch up the veggies we add to it. The recipe is so versatile!!
That is it in a nutshell. To wrap up we’ve done good on the financial and professional objectives, but lagged on the health & fitness goals and taking the stairs at work is now out of the cards going forward… Not a bad quarter though with some very exciting developments with the work / life balance for me. Here is to a great and improving fourth quarter!
Thanks for taking a look!
The Green Swan