2021 Financial Samurai Personal Goals And To-Do List

Now that I've shared my 2020 review and 2021 outlook for stocks and real estate, I'd like to share my personal goals for 2021.

Given the circumstances, we made the most of our time in 2020. However, as each month goes by with no pandemic resolution, I'm slowly getting more frustrated about not being able to live my desired life.

I care about my family and the safety of my fellow citizens. This care is why we haven't traveled or partied with others since March 2020. Even though the chances of getting the virus are low and the survival rate is high, we don't want to contribute to the spread.

At the same time, we know we are in the back of the bus for getting a vaccine. Therefore, our patience must last until July 2021, at the earliest.

The first half of 2021 will be much like the second half of 2020. We must hold on!

Financial Samurai 2021 Personal Goals

Setting specific goals help make each year more meaningful. Without financial goals, it's easy to wake up in 10 years and wonder where all our money went!

Without health goals, it's also easy to find yourself looking and feeling like a completely different person in only one year.

Life is beautiful. But life is also a battle. Here are my 2021 personal goals and to-do list.

1) Guard and optimize my time.

By far, the most valuable asset is our time. The older we get, the more precious time becomes because we have less of it. Here's what I plan to do to optimize my time:

  • Wake up at 5 am 4:30 am and get deep work done before 8 am. 8 am is about when my kids start the day. Have a hard stop at 8:30 am. Last year, I'd often keep writing until 9 am because there was always so much to say. I've updated the time to 30 minutes earlier to increase my chances of not getting interrupted when writing or recording a podcast. After 8:30 am, I will focus on spending time with the kids for two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and one hour in the evening.
  • Stop responding to people who only ask for something and don't bother to make some type of connection. The positive about having Financial Samurai is that I get to help strangers with their personal finances for free. The negative is that I'm constantly being asked to do things for people I do not know. I tried to help as many people individually as possible, but I've run out of energy. Hopefully, more people can utilize the FS Forum to get their questions answered.
  • Match my correspondence time with the other party's correspondence time. For example, if someone takes three days to respond, I'll take three days to respond. If someone takes more than seven days to respond, stop responding. I tend to respond much quicker than average because if I don't, I will forget.
  • Turn off all electronics by 10 pm. Electronics really fries the brain.

2) Take things down a notch once vaccinated or taxes go up.

Because many leisurely options were shut down in 2020, I decided to focus more on Financial Samurai. Unfortunately, if you're following safety guidelines, much of 2021 will be the same as 2020. Therefore, I plan to keep grinding until I either get vaccinated or taxes go up, whichever comes first.

Joe Biden has promised to raise taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year. Since I believe the ideal income for maximum happiness is about $200,000 per person and $350,000 for up to a family of four, it's a waste of time trying to make more.

By the time I get vaccinated, it'll likely be in 2H2021, at the earliest. Therefore, my goal is to make as much money in the first half of 2021 as possible. The more I can make, the more I can boost my passive income. Once I'm vaccinated, most of the world should be vaccinated. Then it's go time for leisure and slow travel.

3) Live in Oahu for at least one month.

If my timeline is correct, I should be able to bring my family out to Oahu by October. We'll rent a house near the beach for at least a month and catch up with my parents.

Given I usually see my parents for 1-2 weeks a year, staying in Oahu for at least one month will be like two years worth of visits.

While in Oahu, I'll also catch up with my extended family. We'll have our annual business board meeting with my dad, wife, and me. I'll also pivot my writing towards more travel, lifestyle, Hawaii-living, and online entrepreneurship.

Financial Samurai 2021 personal Goals
[I will return in 2H2021!]

4) Grow net worth by 20%

Since leaving my job in 2012, I've had a goal of growing my net worth by a modest 10% a year. At the time, my thought process was that any net worth growth beyond what I already had in 2012 is gravy.

However, if I truly believe the good times will continue in 2021, then I should be looking to grow my net worth as much as possible. The good times won't last forever. And I think there's a good chance the good times start fading in 2H2021 once corporations have to prove their earnings are rebounding by 25%+.

With 20% of my net worth in stocks and 40% of my net worth in real estate, I think these two components have a good chance of providing 10% out of the 20% net worth growth target. The remaining 10% will come from active income and luck.

A 40% return on my public investments in 2020 was a fluke. If there wasn't a pandemic, big tech would not have been up so much. Instead, I'm expecting for a more normalized 8% return. For real estate, I expect my holdings to increase from a 3-4% return in 2020 to a 5-6% return in 2021. Due to leverage, the return will be more than double.

At this point in my financial journey, there is little chance of growing my net worth by 10% through active income. One, my wife and I don't have jobs. Two, Financial Samurai is not big enough. But with some unforeseen luck, maybe something good will happen if I keep at it.

To put things in perspective, growing net worth by 20% in 2021 will be like growing net worth by over 110% in 2012. The power of compounding is huge.

5) Make an additional $10,000/month online to pay for living expenses.

Blogging has an active and a passive income component. The passive income component is any residual income that comes after a post is written. Active income comes from new posts and new business partnerships.

Now that I went into debt to buy a new house, I've got a new monthly mortgage to pay. By making an additional $10,000 a month online, I'll be able to pay for my mortgage, new property taxes and health insurance.

I've never been really excited to make lots of money online because it felt too much like work. I'd rather just write about whatever is interesting at the moment and not think about how much an article can make.

By identifying a purpose to make additional online income, it will help me get more motivated. For example, I'll tell myself that if I don't make an additional $2,250 a month to pay for healthcare insurance, we'll have to start working out and eating healthy again!

To put $10,000 a month online into perspective, I have the capacity to make an incremental $25,000 a month online. But I don't want to because doing so would eat into family time. Further, my goal is to really take things down after July 4, 2021.

6) Try to homeschool for one more year.

I used to catch myself regularly praying for patience. After becoming a father, I also started regularly praying that my son grows more calm. It has been hard for me to listen to his crying and whining everyday since early 2017. Hopefully being a threenager does't go much beyond his fourth birthday.

In addition to praying for my son, I also hope our daughter starts sleeping better in 2021. If so, my wife can sleep better at night. With more energy, my wife and I will be better able to homeschool our son, who turns four in the spring.

We don't want to send our son back to preschool if there isn't herd immunity by the fall of 2021. Not only is it nice to save $2,000 a month in tuition, it's also nice to spend more time with him. It's also great not to get sick from him!

Financial Samurai 2021 outlook and goals - Lake Tahoe 2019
[Lake Tahoe, right before the pandemic began]

At the same time, we reapplied to a mandarin immersion school in the fall. We find out if we get in for the August 2021 school year by March 2021. If we do get in, we have to put down a $3,000 non-refundable deposit. Then, my hopes of spending at least one month in Hawaii catching up with my parents fades. I would have to wait until winter break. Therefore, I'm hoping they defer us for one more year. I have a feeling they will.

It may sound obvious, but we've discovered that spending more time with our children is better for them than spending less time. The reason why parents are fine with spending less time with their young children is because taking care of them all day is exhausting. Parents like breaks. Hence, school.

7) Follow the separation of tasks.

When you have the internal mantra, if you can, you must, you risk being constantly stressed out. This mantra makes me want to do everything. It's not healthy sometimes for relationships, work, business, and health.

The most important piece of advice from the book, The Courage To Be Disliked, is to follow the separation of tasks. If you start doing someone else's task too often, you may start to feel miserable.

Because I generally do things faster than my wife, I tend to do more in the same amount of time. I also wake up earlier as well due my conditioning since 1999 of getting up before the markets. After a while, problems can arise.

But if I follow the separation of tasks, I'll feel much better. For example, if I see the dishes are dirty, if this is her task, I need to resist the urge to clean. I need to be OK with dirty dishes piling up over night.

It's important to recognize that everybody has a different motor. So long as the people we care about are trying their best, that's what matters most.

8) Maintain the same body weight.

As I was updating some older posts, I came across this one from 2012 where I complained about the ideal body weight. Then I looked at the picture of my weight in the post and realized I'm basically still the same weight!

After 22 years of being roughly the same weight (+5 lbs since college), I've come to realize that having a weight loss goal is a waste of time. Nothing is really going to change or change for very long.

Therefore, I'm just going to have a goal of not gaining weight. 170 lbs will be my weight cap at 5′ 10.” I'm not ripped, but I feel and look healthy.

In terms of maintaining my mental health, I will achieve this through the separation of tasks, meditation three times a week, playing tennis or softball three times a week, relaxing in the hot tub three times a week, regularly taking naps after lunch, and more accurately estimating our passive income.

Mental health gets beaten up during times of financial insecurity. I know this because I was automatically waking up between 2:30 am – 4 am some mornings during the height of the pandemic. My mind was telling me I had to do more to protect my family. The less one sleeps, the more irritable one becomes. It's a vicious cycle.

Instead, during the worst of the downturn, I should have done a deep dive review of our finances. If I ran through some worst-case scenarios, I would have realized things would be OK.

Volatility really negatively affects my mood. Which is one of the main reasons why I prefer owning real estate over stocks. I also enjoy locking up my money in private investments for many years so I can forget about the money and focus on other things.

9) Make sure my children are financially secure and emotionally safe.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to nurture them until they become independent adults. To do so requires being emotionally present. Once they become adults, I'm sure continued support will be necessary.

Therefore, the obvious first step is to not abandon them before they become adults. Sounds logical. However, if everyone followed this logic there would be no divorces after children. I've also got to maintain my health to increase my chances of being able to stick around.

The second step is to make sure my kids are financially secure in case I were to die prematurely. The pandemic has given us daily reminders that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Therefore, I will re-up my life insurance policy.

If you don't have life insurance or need to re-up your life insurance policy, check out PolicyGenius. It's the easiest way to get free, no-obligation quotes online. Make sure you get a long enough term to cover your kids through college.

The third step is properly manage their 529 plans, Roth IRAs, and custodial investment accounts. These accounts have the potential to grow to significant amounts over the next 20 years.

The final step is to keep Financial Samurai and our rental property portfolio going. Over time, I will teach my kids everything there is to learn about both businesses. These businesses are like insurance policies for a life filled with rejection.

10) Write a new book.

Ever since writing my first book in 2012 about how to negotiate a severance (updated), I've told myself I should write another book. But I keep slacking off because it's much easier for me to write posts.

Since I've already done the self-publishing route, I'm going to try the traditional publishing route. I'd like to know what the experience is like. Who knows, it might even be a profitable endeavor.

20 years from now, it'll be fun to look back at the pandemic and think about our accomplishments, rather than our failures.

11) Maintain my posting cadence

I will continue to publish 3X a week on average as I've done since 2009. I will also send out at least two newsletters a month. Quitting is not an option. Posting regularly is also good for mental health.

In the first half of the year, I'm going to focus on 60% fun / 40% business. Then once the second half rolls around, I'm going to shift the balance to 80% fun / 20% business.

I'm never going to go the 50% business route or greater because then Financial Samurai would feel too much like work. This would entirely defeat the purpose of leaving work behind in 2012!

One of Financial Samurai's value proposition is that everything is written based off firsthand experience. Money is too important to be left up to pontification. I'm writing what I believe in. I'm then mobilizing my capital accordingly. Besides, I want things to be interesting around here.

12) Earn more than $300,000 in passive income

With a ~25% increase in net worth in 2020, I should be able to generate more than $300,000 in passive income in 2021. $300,000 – $350,000 is my ideal income range to take care of a family of four in San Francisco or Honolulu.

To do so will mostly take maintaining existing tenants and allocating new capital in income-producing assets. I cannot control corporate dividend payouts or what happens with my existing private real estate investments. If the economy double dips, then my passive income goal will be in jeopardy.

What I can control are my income, saving rate, and asset allocation. Although I'm still bullish on 2021, I will be focusing more on cash flow rather than capital appreciation.

At the end of the day, my main focus is on building as much passive income as possible so my wife and I can remain full-time parents.

2021 Will Be A Better Year

2020 was a mediocre year due to all the uncertainty. Yes, the financial gains were nice. But I'd much rather have more certainty and freedom.

Given we've gone through the worst of the pandemic, we're now used to the uncertainty. From a lifestyle point of view, there's mostly only upside.

For example, when the NBA started up again, I was thrilled! Being able to see my Warriors play again is a joy. The same thing goes for visiting museums and other things we haven't seen or visited for months.

With more money and incrementally more fun things to do, 2021 could be one of the best years of our lives. But for the first half of the year, I think we should keep our heads down and build as large of a financial buffer as possible.

Let's conquer the first half so that we may better enjoy the second half of the year!

2021 Recap

Here is my 2021 review. Overall, not bad in terms of the money-making front. Saw my parents and also finished my book!

Here are my goals for 2022. I plan to work less and have a lot more fun!

Readers, what are some goals you have for 2021? Do you believe 2021 will be a great year? For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. I help people get rich and live the lifestyles they want. 

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82 thoughts on “2021 Financial Samurai Personal Goals And To-Do List”

  1. Hello Sam,

    I want to thank you for your post and review on Bettermint. Even though I was initially pretty much terrified at the thought of focusing my emergency fund outside of a traditional bank savings, I took the plunge Jan 2020 and moved my money. Since that time I’ve become more comfortable with risk in 2020 and have overcome more mental hurdles: paid off my remaining student loans, developed an organization system and eliminated clutter out of my life, invested in my 401K at just under the maximum (a slight increase from the prior year). The news of 2020 and COVID was discouraging and depressing and I was determined to have a good year despite everything. I’m alive and I don’t have COVID so why miss out on life and dwell on it?

    For 2021 I’m investing in Bettermint, going back to school at night and almost maxing my 401K contribution. I’ve also stopped looking at retirement as this abstract time when I will have more than enough money to do everything I want to do. I started seeing so much more abundance in my current life and in the life I’m building for retirement. I researched a few of my top choice areas and even reviewed the real estate in these areas. I imagined what kind of dwelling would continue the happiness in my retirement. I found good options. This isn’t something I had given thought to and realizing the low cost of my desires made my savings goals more attainable. This also lit a fire under me to organize my current place, as a well organized place reduces time spent on cleaning and looking for items. It also makes it much easier to live and adapt to different home environments and not waste time looking for anything. It has removed so much stress from my life now that it is mostly finished. It did require lots of effort, investment and a stress increase for several months.
    It has also made it much easier to recognize and let go of items that aren’t serving a purpose.

    I started asking myself, why not incorporate some of the enjoyments you are looking forward to into your life now? I take daily walks along a path but since COVID this paved trail has become more like a parking lot and social distancing isn’t respected. I found a series of trails (non paved) which give a much more vigorous workout and are much less populated. I walk to these trails and can do this as often as I please. This was one of my top retirement goals: live near trails that can be visited on a daily basis that I can visit nearly every day because the weather is pleasant. Why wait?

    Today I discovered that being out the door and at the stores by 8 a.m. means very few people and a much lower risk of COVID. I also noticed the few people that are out are more mindful. Typically on the weekends I am awake by 6-7 a.m. anyways, why not take advantage of this?

    Also, I’m not sure by what I read on your blog if you more interested in staying in San Francisco or moving to Oahu. I suggest focusing on the outcome you desire most that will bring you the most happiness and keeping the alternate in your back pocket. Refrain from focusing on the odds and probability. Desire can beat the odds!

  2. FS – Is there a way you can privately share my email address with “Kansas Investor”?

    I’d like to speak with him/her to see if any of my experience can help with their desire to purchase a small business in Kansas.

    I’d rather not respond with my personal email on here publicly.

    If you are able, please share it privately.


  3. Since time is our most precious resource, and becomes even more precious the older we get, have you given consideration to giving your life to Christ – provided you haven’t already.

    Romans 10:9

      1. Check out the book Seven Seasons of the Man in the Mirror. Good place to stay in check as we traverse life – with help from the Big Man upstairs.

  4. Great post, Sam. A lot of food for thought. Love balance of personal/financial ones. Oahu sounds like a dream. Helps us (me) to see the whole picture and learn.

    2020: Resigned job this summer. Spouse losing job in 2 weeks due to bankruptcy. Became active as sole trustee of a real estate portfolio in San Francisco my siblings and I inherited. Bought a 5-unit MF in Dolores Park, which closed October but have been dealing with the headaches of rent reductions and one vacancy as of Dec 31; same happening with couple of units in the legacy properties. Invested inherited cash into equities, but fearful of frothiness and haven’t gone all in. For the first time, tracked net worth, expenses and investments, to map out a plan, helped by friends and blogs such as FS.

    Personal Goals:

    1) Focus on health: Job stress, pandemic eating and daily drinking gave me Type II diabetes for the first time in my life! After weeks of cutting out alcohol, sugar, stress, my blood sugar is back to normal, but A1C is still catching up. No longer feeling as lethargic and moody.

    2) Figure out retirement home: In Asia taking care of elderly dad. Need to sell home/co-op in Manhattan, which can’t be rented out, but don’t want to sell in a down-market. Want to trade for future home, possibly in Europe or CA but fearful of CA state income taxes and general poor management. We have dual EU/US citizenship. Advantage to CA is possibility of taking over one inherited SFH and taking the property tax basis from circa 1979 (Prop 19 passed).

    3) Increase passive income from Real Estate inherited and other sources: Current return low due to rental reductions/vacancies and large renovation that has been slowed by pandemic. Interesting how you’re very bullish about RE.

    4) Commit to finding new job or begin retirement now: get one last job in a field I don’t like anymore or figure out side hustles that track more with my interests/passions. Try not to panic about finances and not having a job/career, even if the numbers on spreadsheet tell me otherwise.

    5) Hopefully, travel more beginning Q3, see friends and family once again, and read at least two books a month. Where I am currently there’s a mandatory 3 week quarantine in a gov’t-designated hotel.

    1. Good goals! May I ask how you discover you got diabetes? Was there some type of feeling that led you to the doc who diagnosed?

      As for retirement, I guess it’s worth trying to see if there’s anything good out there. But if there’s not, the time to live our lives to the maximum is starting in the second half of this year.

      1. I was hiking one weekend and suddenly felt what seemed to be a hypoglycemic episode. Had never had that before. Test 2 days later confirmed blood sugar was through the roof. I had just turned 50.

        The retirement would be harder to do from here in Hong Kong, with the crazy rents, while carrying two homes in NY that are not being used. So I either get a job, eat into savings while I figure out alternate ways of making $, or leave my dad and return to NY and live without the crazy HK rent. Tough choices.

          1. Cut daily 2 gin and tonics “cocktail hours.” Went low-carb (so much rice in Asia), and cut out all comfort food….chocolate croissants, “gluten-free brownies,” etc. Also eating less/more frequently to even out blood sugar. Worked too well — lost 11lbs in 5 weeks, starting to look drawn.

            Selling NY would be into a down market; not sure about +/- 15-20% haircut. Beach house went up +20% of course, but that can be rented out. Hustles i’m interested in don’t translate well in HK — it’s too mercantile. Seeing how virus plays out..leaving less an issue if I can always hop a plane in an emergency, but the 3-week quarantine has meant many families have been separated when health crisis/death/funerals arise…

  5. I’ve always said time is the most valuable asset, but was listening to a podcast with Tim Ferris and Jim Loehr last week and he mentioned energy is your most valuable asset. Interesting spin on it! What do you think?

    Was also listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast a few weeks back and he mentioned publishing a book by combining blog posts. With all your content, I’m sure you could come up with a great book. I know nothing about publishing books, but thought it was relevant to you.

    How do you measure the % fun vs % business? With your schedule it seems like you’re a well oiled machine. I bet those early mornings make you very productive.

    Your continuous drive inspires me, Sam! Looking forward to the 2021 review at year end.

    1. Sure, time and energy. As a parent now, my energy gets exhausted quickly. My stamina for playing tennis also has faded. When I was younger, I could play 2 1/2 to 3 hours a session. Now after two hours, I’m just too exhausted to continue and I ache a lot for the next 24 hours afterward.

      Do you have kids or play sports regularly? How old are you? After age 40, the energy is hard to keep up.

      Fun versus business is just choosing how I spend my hours. Or I can just break up my post types by the percentages.

      1. Aging is just so fun!

        I am 28 and don’t have kids yet. I used to be into men’s league lacrosse, soccer, and racketball, but workouts have now turned into a few mile run daily.

        There is also an interesting line between fun and business, huh? I’m sure having kids and the side sports makes it much easier to separate your priorities. For me, it seems easy to classify your passion (which is your business) as fun. I need to get better at setting aside ‘intangible time’ where I feel okay not working on something productive.

  6. Money Ronin

    You lost me at 4:30 am. Just kidding.

    One of the best things about semi-retirement and school closures has been sleeping in a bit more. I used to wake up at 7 am to get my kids ready for school. Since the lockdowns, my kids cook their own breakfast and start school from home at 8 am. I often sleep until 9 am. I also no longer shuttle them to their various after school activities. Not sure how I’m going to readjust to being their chauffeur again.

    After stelllar 2020 returns, I look forward to reading about how you will spend it. I’ve grown dispassionate about growing wealth without a purpose for said wealth.

    Can you clarify this part of your post? “To put things in perspective, growing net worth by 20% in 2021 will be like growing net worth by over 110% in 2012.”

    1. If only my one-year-old and three-year-old could cook and clean by themselves!

      I had 5 AM, because it is automatic. But I pushed it to 4:30 AM because just yesterday, I was recording my latest podcast at 7:20 AM, and I was interrupted. So, if I start 30 minutes earlier, I can do more uninterrupted work.

      I haven’t slept in until 9 AM since maybe 19 years old! Remind me again, have you retired from the corporate world as well?

      On the percentages, going to leave the math equation like that :)

      1. Money Ronin

        Toddlers are tough on sleep. Right after the age of sleeping through the night, they begin to develop vivid imaginations and start having nightmares. My kids are 10 years older than yours. Sleeping in is a relatively new luxury.

        I left my corporate job in my early 40s to focus on managing my wealth. I try to avoid waking up early and math whenever possible. :)

  7. Hey Sam, great blog thanks for all that you do. Interesting your graph of mortality vs media exposure might also include COVID.

  8. “If you start to do too many of other people’s tasks, you may start to feel miserable”. That’s exactly the kind of feeling everyone has when they work for a company. There’s no way that helping build someone else’s dream can be your passion. That’s a mantra that people need to let sink in before pursuing the financial independence, retire early movement.

  9. I think it’s interesting that you’re still struggling with #1. Having more time was my biggest motivator to change my lifestyle. Now that I’ve achieved that and am three years in, I agree that managing a schedule with no forced structure is really hard. It’s funny but after working so hard to escape a schedule, my top goal for this year is to create a structure that makes sense. Good luck. This is a real challenge IMO.

    1. It’s really the nonstop flood of inquiries asking for help w/out first trying to make a connection. I can only respond or help so many people before tiring out. 2020 was especially hard since we took our boy out of preschool.

  10. Ms.Conviviality

    This will be the year where I test out whether it would be realistic for me to switch my profession. I’ve been an internal auditor for the same organization for the past 16 years and don’t enjoy the work anymore. I’d like to be a
    full time real estate investor. We will see how it goes with our rental properties which should all be cash flowing. The plan is to have one year’s worth of expenses covered as backup. One of the properties is going through major renovations. To keep our goals on track, I’m going to employ the techniques from the book The 12 Week Year. 1st quarter goal: have latest property ready for rental. Pick up and flip 3 properties in each of the next three quarters. Having listened to podcasts on Bigger Pockets and Coach Carson on Real Estate and FI, I realized that there are so many people who have accomplished so much who started off in positions with less money and skills than my husband and I. My husband is a handyman and I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for 6 years as part of the electrical crew which led me to become friends with a girl whom I helped build a house with for two years. There was only 4 of us working on the build so I gained a lot of first hand experience. The fear of failure is what has held me back but at some point, I just need to make the leap. This is THAT year.

    1. Thanks for sharing your goals!

      Perhaps still stick with PT real estate investing? Unless you have unlimited capital or plan to raise a RE and, the deals you can invest in eventually run out given your capital runs out. How about treat your day job as the main capital generator to then invest in real estate as you see fit?

    2. Money Ronin

      I made the transition to full time investor from 2013 to 2016. I’m lucky because my wife continues her salaried job but my last paycheck was in 2013. I’ve been able to grow our net worth far faster than when I was collecting a paycheck.

      1. Ms.Conviviality

        Money Ronin, Thanks for the comment. Accelerating wealth building was one of the main reasons for wanting to devote our full time to it. We’ve been looking at properties on and off for the past 8 years, and saving all along the way. We were somewhat short on the amount needed to purchase a really great fixer upper a couple of months ago so we finally asked friends and family to see if anyone was interested in providing a private loan. We were amazed and surprised by the number of people that wanted to invest with us. I’ve heard so many times that “when you find the right property, the money will come” but it still surprised me nonetheless. Even with having potential lenders available, I’m risk averse so I don’t ever want to be overleveraged. We actually have a back-up plan for our back-up plan.

        May I ask why you only invested for three years? Was it because you met your goal of owning X properties or was there something else about the business that you didn’t enjoy?

        1. I dabbled in small single family homes in 2010/2011 which turned out to be losing investments for me. In 2013, I left my full-time job and did part time consulting while spending more time in real estate investing. By 2016, I felt confident enough in my finances that I ended my consulting business. I’m still an investor and operator but my last acquisition was 2019.

          Here are my strategies/recommendations:
          1. If possible, one spouse should keep his/her day job and healthcare benefits; private insurance is not cheap as Sam will attest to. It also works out wonderfully from a tax perspective if real estate losses can be deducted against W-2 income.
          2. I found better returns on apartments vs. SFHs, so that’s what I buy now. The more doors, the better the ROI. Apartments take more capital and have a completely different set of lending requirements (more favorable in my opinion).
          3. Use professional management. I figure that into my expenses and the deal still needs to pencil. Then manage and learn from the management company.
          4. Higher end properties generate less cash flow. Lower end (working class) properties generate better cash flow but have more problems. I opted for the latter because I was in growth mode. Better cash flowing properties require a smaller a down payment which allows me to buy more property.
          5. Leverage and risk are an integral part of your real estate ROI. Again, I wanted growth, so I went for the maximum leverage that the bank would allow. In my market, that was a 25% to 30% down payment. My wealthy friends who paid for properties in cash have “peace of mind” but far lower returns.
          6. I never sell or trade up. I make improvements, raise rents, increase the valuation. Banks value properties almost entirely based on NOI. I cash out refi the property and buy another one. My goal is appreciation and growth not spectacular cash flow. Lowering cash flow through higher mortgages minimizes taxes.
          7. BTW, I take a similar strategy for my primary residence by borrowing the maximum I can at these ridiculously low rates and invest the cash.
          8. Avoiding selling properties if possible. Enjoy the cash flow. Refi if you need some cash. Hold on to the property until your heirs can inherit it at a stepped up cost basis.

          In 2013 my goal was to diversify my stock portfolio partially into real estate not necessarily to improve returns. I’ve tried to maintain a 50%/50% stock/real estate split and hopefully retire early. By 2016, I had made enough to consider myself financially independent. By 2020, I stopped buying real estate. I’m approaching 50 with more than enough. I’m not sure I want to create more work for myself. It’s much less work to place money in the stock market.

          1. Ms.Conviviality

            Thank you for the thoughtful suggestions. It’s interesting that you mention your preference for investing in apartments and that financing terms are more favorable. I’ll have to research that further.

  11. Excellent list Sam, thanks for sharing. We’re keeping our oldest home as well right now too. She was the most exposed and had to quarantine twice in the fall. We thought if she’s just going to be kept getting sent home, we’ll save the $190/week and keep her here with us.

    I’ve made personal goals for my health and well-being this year.

    Keep the great posts coming sir. Happy New Year!

    1. Yeah, that’s what I was wondering too. The preschool we applied to have several quarantines… 2 weeks each. That lack of consistency and the cost didn’t seem worth it to us.

  12. Great post. I enjoyed reading your goals for 2021. I’m going to stick with a goal of increasing my networth by 10%. As I watch the GA Senate race unfold, I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect of higher taxes and increased regulations.
    Currently, my NW is composed of roughly 63% real estate (mostly passive, income producing rentals) 19% cash, 18% stocks in my Simple IRA. Paying off one additional rental property and increasing my cash position after deploying some savings purchasing a new home a couple of months ago.
    My family goals include enjoying the remaining 4.5 years that my wife and will have children in the home, and helping to steer my daughters through the college selection process and into young adulthood.
    Wish you and your family the best in 2021!

    1. I would say higher taxes are an inevitability… but only for households with more than $400K in income. That’s a high hurdle, and life is pretty good still making up to $400,000. I’m just going to work less and enjoy life more!

      So cool your daughter is going through the college selection process. Hope schools open up so more young adults can enjoy one of th best experiences of our lives!

  13. Thanks for sharing such an interesting list and best of luck in 2021.
    Mine is simple but meaningful:
    1) Keep family healthy
    2) Read 2 books per month
    3) Get USTA certified to start private coaching as side gig
    4) Sustained SR of 35-40%
    5) Increase NW by 25%
    6) Update Family Trust and add 529 as Baby No.3 will arrive in April
    7) Spend more time with parents and grandparents (2H2021)


      1. I moved from Mexico about 15 years ago and have never played USTA in the U.S. During this this, I have played a good amount of 4.5-5.0 and am still undefeated.
        So I guess the first goal in my list should be to get a ranking, lol. Back in the days, while I was in Mexico, I was ranked No.5 in the nation in the U18 but that my friend was a looong time ago. (I am 39 now)

          1. I am well aware of where my limits are at the moment and would like to keep it fun while I recovered from a recent MCL/ACL combo injury in my left knee.
            My plan to stay competitive and continue to learn while having fun is to focus my coaching on a very niche segment of players-high school players wanting to get collage scholarships.

            By the way, I read Gilbert’s book and it was a good one. Levels of the Game by John McPhee is another one worth reading

  14. How about making a link to the FS Forum inside the top navigation menu of the website? I think more people would remember to check it out then.

  15. Great article! Sitting down at the beginning of the year and thinking of what you want to accomplish next year is really smart, and your article has inspired me to do the same.

    I think you are super wise to wait to travel till the late 2nd half of 2021. Returning to travel is my number 1 goal for 2021. Travel was the thing I missed most during the pandemic, and once the vaccine is in my families arms we will be doing several trips. I already have one booked(cruise Xmas 2021), and starting to plan the second trip.

    2nd goal is to pay down the mortgage. We refinanced right before the pandemic and got at the time a great rate 2.88% on 15 year note. Have been paying extra each month, but going to double my efforts to get this mortgage paid off in 6 years. Need the house paid off before I can retire! I am ahead of my goals from a saving standpoint just need the last major monthly expense to be gone.

    Final goal is get some weight off. Was doing really well the 1st 7 months of the pandemic, and was actually dead even. The last 2 months haven’t been as successful, and now up 8 pounds. Would like to lose that 8 and hopeful another 13, to lose 21 pounds in 2021. That amount would put me back to my weight 10 years ago when I was feeling the healthiest.

    Overall I really optimistic about 2021. Life will be back to relative normal I think by late summer. I think the market will be choppy, but up overall by the end of year. I would love a really boring political year to replace 2020, and optimistic we will have one. 2020 was a tough year, but taught me patience and the importance of family.

  16. Great list. Here’s hoping you achieve most of them when you look back in 2022.

    There are two things that resonated with me in this post:

    1) division of duty. I was like you in the sense that I got things done a lot quicker than my wife so I ended up doing most of the house work. It strained our relationship because I always ask her to do more, to help more, etc., but I realized that the answer was to take it down a notch. It’s OK to leave some things undone. It’s OK to take it slower. My wife has her pace. She has her “motor”. I can’t force her to match mine because it’s unfair. Fortunately we found a great balance that works for us. I do my part. She does her part. I take care of her part when she needs it and she does the same. Finding this balance took around 5 years (lol thank goodness my wife is loving/patient) but thank goodness we found it.

    2) weight loss. I’m 5’10”, 170lbs, and have been this weight since high school. Are you me? Lol. I get a lot of flak from people who have gained weight since high school/college about how I’m lucky to have a fast metabolism. It’s mostly banter, but it’s always “man, how come you never gain weight when you eat more than me?!”. It’s actually wonderful to be the same weight. Clothes from 10 years ago still fits me like a glove. I never have to worry about gaining weight. However, my 2021 goal is to trim some body fat and build more muscle. Being unable to hit the gym 2-3x/week since the pandemic made my build slimmer and I honestly don’t like the feeling of my clothes feeling looser due to loss of muscle mass. Calisthenics can only do so much…

    Anyway, HNY and keep up the great work! FS is one of my favorite blogs to read.

    1. It’s funny, but my super skinny friend makes fun of me all the time for my weight. He’s 5’11” and was 145 lbs at one point.

      I I gave it right back to him and he got a trainer and claims to now by 155 lbs, but I donno for sure. I still crush him on the court :)

      Guess it’s all relative!

  17. Wow Sam, That’s quite a list of goals. My goal is to not get angry over petty stuff. That’s it. If I improve my attitude I figure everything else will fall into place.

    1. Several of the items are just a process e.g. wake up by 5am and publish 3X a week. They will happen due to habits. I just want to make sure I don’t lose the habits.

      What are some of the things you got angry over that was petty before?

      The 3 times I got angry in 2020 were due to being exhausted and having to wait more than 15 minutes longer than the telegraphed guidance. After more than 15 minutes of being late, something starts boiling inside me.

      I think I need to slow down and be more greedy of my time by not always being on time.

      1. I am 70 and lost a year. I can’t afford to lose any more years. 2021 must give me my life back. My rate of return (Tesla) was huge last year, but it is depressing.
        A computer screen shows I have this amount of money. I can’t do anything with it
        I want to see more of the world before something happens to me.
        The good news is once I can travel I am spending the money on first class travel. I will convert money into experience.
        I always love seeing my wife’s expression when we check into a magnificent hotel. So there it is. Once I am set free, I will never look at the cost of what I want to do.
        If a first class plane ticket is 3x the cost of coach, I will gladly pay it.
        My goal for 2021 is to spend money. To spend as much as I can to have fun with my wife.

        1. This is unbelievable perspective, thank you for sharing.

          For someone like myself (36 years old, living in a smaller town) the pandemic has not been all that disruptive (just mildly).

          Thanks for the reminder.

        2. Christine Minasian

          SO kind of you to give us your perspective and so true! We’re finding the same thing. We’ve worked so hard for 30 years, sold a business and can’t enjoy it. Things just don’t mean the same as you get older. Stay healthy Charles and may you see the world!

      2. It could be as simple as an employee thinking like an employee and not like me , the owner.” During golf I called the pro shop furious over a group in front of me taking to long to hit their shot. Turned out it was the head pro in front of me working with kids in The First Tee program. That was embarrassing! Like you said, to many dishes in the sink, or getting my order wrong at McDonalds. Petty Stuff.

        I think a lot of it has to do with turning 50. Facing my mortality, questioning my life choices, wondering where I want my future to be, or I could’ve just been an asshole. Either way that’s what I’m gonna work on.

  18. Sam,

    Thank you for all the enlightening articles you’ve written and shared. Your site is one of the few that I check daily for financial tips and advices. With two young kids (2 & 6) on my end, a parent certainly has to navigate through the noise and find quality over quantity in life.

    Great job on getting some deep work in and then doing a hard stop to spend more morning time with the kids. A great book that I still need to finish up is Deep Work (Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World) by Cal Newport. Very interesting deep dive from a professor view and expertise.

    I like your mode switch of giving what you get from readers.

    At the end of the day and life, what do you what people to say at your eulogy? :)

    Keep crushin’ it, fiscally and physically!

      1. Morning Sam,

        Here are some of my 2021 goals and along with continuations of life progress:

        1. Keep my wife and 2 young kids as physically, financially and emotionally as safe a possible. This includes staying in excellent physical shape and continuing to read, listen and learn daily about finances, life wisdoms and new skill sets. The Art of Manliness is a gem of a website that I read and listen to podcasts on with many top notch, high level guest speakers from all walks of life. Check that out man!

        2. Grow our networth by 8-10% through more alternative and also traditional investments. I’m far from a finance pro but never hurts to learn more. A few I’ve invested in the last 1-2 years include…Fundrise and GoSteward, and also a TD portfolio. The eventual goal is to be the millionaire next door within the next 5-10 year. Stealth wealth as you said. It’s not a lot comparatively to the big cities, but it’s a damn good sum for us here in Lexington KY vs when I lived in the SF peninsula (30 years), or my mom living in a 300 sq ft apartment in Hong Kong that’s worth $1 mil.

        3. Maintain my lean 5’8″ 155lb sub 10% bodyfat condition. At 45 with 2 young kids, it’s certainly much harder and energy-zapping to build the muscle I once had. I was a personal trainer for 15 years and started bodybulding in my early teens. As with all fitness journeys, it’s crucial to be able to pivot and change up the mode accordingly to what life throws at you. These days, I bounce between yoga, cycling, TRX suspension training, mobility work, HIIT, boxing, morning walks, meditation, archery, precision rifle shooting and lots of yard work! :)

        4. Continue to live a mostly social media free life to be more present with whoever or whatever I’m doing. Deleted my FB account back in 2018 (not that I used it much) and the only account is IG for occasional fun. I don’t watch TV very much so I don’t hear all the negative chatter in the news and media. A daily briefing from the NY Times is really all I read…good or bad, it’s what it is. We can only process so much info and I don’t care to fry my brain with banter and noise from everywhere. Most of the time, it’s Disney+ that’s playing when the kids are home. For me, it’s mostly Pandora, podcasts or therapy and meditation music via Youtube.

        5. Enjoy the outdoors and fresh air…everyday. It’s 35 degrees, cloudy and breezy today. But it doesn’t matter. I still went out for my 7am one-mile exercise walk. Rain, snow or shine, it’s a great way to jump start the day especially before my kids wake up. When it’s safe to do so, I’ll get some more cycling rides in. And when the weekends allow, hit up the sportsmen’s club to practice marksmanship skills with archery and precision rifle shooting.

        Well, that’s it for now. Keep hammering and stay frosty Sam!

  19. Some of my 2021 goals are to achieve a 7% increase in NW, update our estate plan, continue my workout regiment and meet my weekly goals, increase my volunteer hours, clean out my garage and get out of the storage unit I am paying for, drink more water on a daily basis, and get my daughter graduated and employed after she completes her degree in May.

    I think the first quarter will be dicey from a market standpoint but the total year outlook should be pretty good. I moved some 401K money from equities to bonds in the event we get a correction before the next leg up in this secular bull run so that I have some dry powder available to invest back into equities at lower price points in the likely event this happens.

    1. May I ask what is the effort required of you to get your daughter graduated and employed? Speaking as another father to a daughter.

      I was thinking by the time my kids are 21-22, they’ll have figured out the meaning of life! Too naive?


      1. If I may weigh in:

        At 23 years old, I can tell you I am far from having figured out the meaning of life! I would advise your kids to not rush into a job after graduation, but make a well-thought-out decision on what they want their life to look like, the impact they want to have on the world, and the steps necessary to get there.

        It is far more important to find the right job than it is to quickly settle for a job.

      2. She is a nursing major and is applying for a Pediatric Nursing Residency in Seattle, Nashville, and Washington DC. My goal is to just keep her on track with the application process, interviews, recommendations, etc. At 22, they think they have everything under control so you just have to help them make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks like missing an application deadline. The comment was a bit tongue in cheek but I also want to make sure she is entering the real world taking advantage of her best opportunities.

      3. I’m 36 and I feel that I have just now (sort of) figured things out.

        The pandemic provided some perspective this year. But the big thing was seeing the 30 year old son of a friend die last November. It was enlightening in two ways:

        1. He was near my age. A reminder that it could all end anytime.
        2. Now that I have children, seeing a friend lose a child is crushing. Another reminder of where focus needs to be.

        Thankfully, I was able to execute some huge changes in 2020 despite the pandemic to get aligned with where I need to be.

        1. We moved to a smaller nearby town where we always wanted to live and raise our kids.
        2. I left my job as President of a manufacturing company, I job I have held for 7 years. It was all consuming.
        3. I’m buying a small business that will be fun to run and should be financially rewarding. It is 1 mile from my house, compared to 85 miles for previous job.

  20. #8 Maintain body weight. I gained so much in 2020. My goal for 2021 is to gain not even one ounce more. I agree with setting targets but sometimes I just don’t need even one more bit of stress in my life and pressuring myself to lose weight would probably backfire and I would stress eat.

    Maintaining weight, when you are overweight, does not sound like a sensible goal but it is mine this year. All of my patience and energy is used up telling staff and clients to pull up their masks, when they are near me, in a professional non-aggressive way. I am very envious of people that get to work from home.

    I have set an average monthly dividend target that I plan to achieve by the end of 2021. I have a strategy and a monthly savings goal needed to hit the target. By the end of 2021 I should be earning enough in dividends to pay for all of my basic bills (insurance, property taxes, utilities, communication) if I stick to the plan.

    1. Yes! Maintain is a good goal in itself during these times. Don’t need the added stress of trying to lose weight. You’ll be happier with your more self-accepting self. GL!

  21. Impressive list of goals! Thanks for sharing them all. I like how your list is so well rounded with self improvement, financial, health, family and career.

    I used to come up with huge goals list until I realized that method just made me unable to focus because of too many tasks. I kept my goals simpler this year cuz I want to do well at a few things versus suck at a bunch of things lol.

    We sure gotta hang on indeed. July sounds like forever away, but it’ll be here before we know it. Best of luck to us all! Thanks for writing so much!

  22. Good reading article Sam as feel your writings are getting more “to the point” and a lot easier to understand. People like personal anecdotes as well as failures and successes because it is part of the learning process to get better. You sharing these with us actually helps me personally because most folks won’t be able to garner 300k a year passive income unless shrewd AF in their business choices.
    Thank you as always!

    1. Sorry for not getting to the point earlier! It was my way of telling stories around a point to make things more relatable.

      Also, one of the great things about having kids is that I’ve stopped caring about what people think about my financial goals. My kids will always be first.

      What are some of your goals fo the year? I’m hoping more readers will share.


    Hey Sam –

    Love the post on 2021 goals, especially sleep for your daughter and your wife. I don’t recall your daughter’s age and what is disrupting her sleep, but it’s worth having a chat with her pediatrician. When my daughter was almost 2 years old, she started coming down with ear infections and a cough. That combination kept her awake and me as well. We had tubes put in her ears after ear infection #6 (!) and using Flo-vent at night to open up her airways; those two changes made her sleep more comfortable so that we could sleep.

    Good luck and looking forward to 2021!


  24. You say that you have capacity to add an incremental $25,000 per month in online income, I assume primarily because of the platform and experience you already have (rightfully so).

    What would be a reasonable goal for online income for someone that has never earned money online before? Assume a background of 7 years as a banker, then 7 years as President of a growing manufacturing business (grew from $500k to $10mil over this 7 year period). Also have 10 years experience directly investing in residential and commercial real estate.

    I keep coming back to the idea of trying to make some money online, but I am just not certain what the potential looks like from someone just starting out at this point, and with my background. I really enjoy writing, but I am not sure I could sustain it for years without at least some audience engagement.

    I am most interested in writing about acquiring running small to medium brick and mortar businesses and the challenges and opportunities that come along with this. I feel that so much of online writing is focused on digital businesses (Saas, etc.) and there is not much info on brick and mortar business operations. I am not sure if it because people are not interested in it, or if there is just a lack of product so far.

    Congrats on your success in 2020, and good luck in 2021.

    1. This sounds like a great niche. I think income will start out very low but build exponentially if you work at it. There is also the potential of adding mentoring/ (see ESI blog/mentoring) consulting once you have an online reputation, but I think that would take a while. Maybe you should instead look at consulting as the main business and using an online presence to help get clients?

    2. Sure. Check out this post: https://www.financialsamurai.com/how-much-do-bloggers-make-a-lot-more-than-you-think/

      Here’s what’s possible for ~60% of the population who is willing to publish 3X a week. This means 40% will not get here. But most people don’t stay consistent for years.

      Year 1: $1,000 – $10,000

      Year 2: $10,000 – $30,0000

      Year 3: $30,000 – $50,000

      Year 4: $50,000 – $100,000

      Year 5: $100,000 – $250,000

      Year 6: $150,000 – $350,000

      Year 7: $200,000 – $500,000

      Year 8: $300,000 – $600,000

      Year 9: $400,000 – $800,000

      Year 10: $500,000+

      Read this too: https://www.financialsamurai.com/the-secret-to-your-success-10-years-of-unwavering-commitment/

      1. Admittedly, I am starting with some limiting beliefs on this (the banker in me coming out, bred to be skeptical). But you are saying that you think 60% of people have this potential if they were to get started?

        That seems crazy high to me. I would have guessed that 99.5% of people that start blogs never make any income from them. But then again maybe 99.5% don’t stay consistent?

        So perhaps what you are say is that 60% of the 0.5% that keep going can do this?

        Granted, I am from flyover country (OK) so earning money from the internet is more foreign here compared to the Bay Area where it seems everyone earns money from the internet.

        1. Correct, I believe 60% of the people who commit to posting three times a week without fail will achieve these results. I’m not talking about all people who start.

          What do you believe in?

          1. Well, when it comes to blogging I have no experience or frame of reference, so I don’t have any strongly held beliefs. Although, I have been a reader of yours since the beginning, so I know you are credible. I am just trying to make sure I fully understand your perspective.

            Other than that, I believe strongly in small brick and mortar businesses as a path to wealth. I was a banker for 7 years, then I left to join a customer for the next 7 years running a small manufacturing business for them. Now, I have left and I am going out on my own to purchase a existing small business (closing on it next week).

            I have always loved talking strategy in the context of smaller companies (think family owned type businesses) and I have always loved writing, so that is why I am pondering taking this step.

            I also believe in real estate. I’ve done some residential investments in the past. Now I own 2 self storage facilities, and also some LP investments in some industrial properties.

            I appreciate the back and forth!

            1. “small brick and mortar businesses as a path to wealth”

              Very interesting contrarian viewpoint after the pandemic forced shut so many small brick and mortar businesses.

              Self storage facilities has definitely been a hot commercial real estate segment. The demand should continue to be strong.

              1. When people think of brick and mortar businesses, they tend to think of companies they see driving down a busy road like a bowling alley, a bar, etc. These are certainly brick and mortar, but not the type I am after.

                I am talking about companies that make real products that get used every day. The company I was President of for 7 years made signs and architectural elements. Signs are everywhere, but most people don’t think about “who makes signs”.

                So think of a company that makes parts for cars, parts for airplanes, etc. Things that continue to get used, but companies that you might never think about.

                Facebook, Google, Uber – all these are the “sexy” companies that everyone knows about. But where I am from, almost 100% of the millionaire next door type people mad ether money owning some sort of traditional business.

                That might seem contrarian in the Bay Area, but not here in the middle of the USA.

                Maybe my desire to live in the middle of the USA is the contrarian play?

                1. KansasInvestor

                  Stonewall — I am from KS, your neighbor state. I am interested in picking your brain about owing a smaller business that actually makes good products. I am considering such a purchase locally. Please let me know if you are willing to talk. Thanks.

                2. BTW, one of the biggest negatives is asking someone if you can pick their brain without offering nothing in return. I know we are all selfish about our time. But we need to be more thoughtful about other people’s time too. Work on building a relationship fist before asking. I know it’s hard on the internet, but you gotta try!

      2. I was always under the impression you made the $45k per annum online from your books and that was it for online income. Does the blog make more than that with posts? Cause I see you referring to growing net worth by 10% with active work (and luck) which I assume is blog income excluding the book?

        I’d be very glad to know if active blog income is significant instead of reading so much could FS content and feeling bad you are only making $45k per annum from it =)

        1. Cool. I classify the book as passive income. I try to update the book every 18-24 months when necessary. Blog income is active income b/c these posts don’t write themselves.

          The good thing is, I enjoy writing and don’t find it to be a bore.

          If you’re feeling bad about my income, you can always share my work and encourage people to subscribe to my newsletter!

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