2023 Financial Samurai Year In Review: More Fails Than Wins

I've been writing year-in-review posts for over a decade now. It's a rewarding way to document what went well and where I can improve. While 2023 brought more failures than wins, being alive and healthy fills me with gratitude.

My theme for 2023 was “Back To Easy Living.” After an exhausting pandemic period, I aimed to relax more this year. However, especially in the last quarter, 2023 was anything but calm. I felt more stressed than I would have preferred.

For the first time since 2011, it seems like I aged twice as fast. The skin on my face feels like it’s running away.

Let’s break the details down into my annual categories – Health, Wealth, Family, Financial Samurai, and X-Factor. I hope you will share some of your wins and losses for the year as well.

2023 Year In Review: Health

I'll highlight my 2023 goals and put them in quotes, for clarity. Then I'll comment on what happened.

Even though I'm just quoting myself, I don't want to be accused of plagiarism like a certain Ivy League president. As a Financial Samurai, I want to uphold the highest standards. If I don't, I may bring dishonor to my family.

1) Stay the same weight

“I will stay the same weight of between 167-168 pounds all of 2023. The ideal weight chart says I should be between 151 – 163 pounds at 5'10”. But screw that! I'm not a teenager any longer.”

2023 result: I gained about four pounds up to 172 pounds, then went back down to 167-168 pounds after deciding to eat less in 3Q. Now I'm back to about 170 pounds. Therefore, I failed my goal. For reference, I'm 5′ 10″ tall.

I blame my failure on my decumulation experiment with food! For three months, I was a glutton. Then I got sick of eating calorie-dense foods so I went the other way. But then the holidays got to me.

Although I can no longer grace the cover of Men's Fitness magazine with my shirt off, at least I haven't gained too much weight from 2022. Nothing like a good sweat and long bathroom session can’t fix.

2) Stay injury-free

“At 45, my mind is often stronger than my body. I think I can play five days a week but I really can't without pain or a heightened risk of injury. Everything from my heels to my hips to my shoulders aches after playing sports.

I will stretch for five minutes before and after every match. A foam roller will be my new best friend. Every off day I will soak in the hot tub. Finally, I will use elastic bands to strengthen my shoulders four times a week.

Getting injured would also prevent me from playing with my children and I can't let that happen at their current ages of 3 and 5.”

2023 result: I injured my back twice. As a result, I failed.

The first time was when I was sitting cross-legged on the floor signing books for over an hour. For my newsletter, I did a 280-book Buy This Not That fundraiser for the residents of the devastating Maui fire. I signed and mailed a book to every subscriber who donated $65 or more to the Maui Strong Fund or a similar charity. Overall, we raised over $46,000. Great job y’all!

After an hour, my lower back just gave out and I could not get up. I had to call my wife to carry me to the couch. I attribute this freak accident to the tremendous sadness I felt for the fire victims while I wrote little notes and signed each book.

The second time I injured my back was at 8:15 pm on a cold night playing pickleball. On the very first point, I ran forward to get a dink and jammed a nerve between my lower vertebrae. I couldn't walk the very next day. Warming up is important! I have not been consistently stretching or using my foam roller at all.

2023 Year In Review: Wealth

1) Follow the first rule of financial independence: never lose money

“I think we'll be lucky (~40% chance) if the S&P 500 closes the year in the 4,000 – 4,250 range. With ~30% of my net worth in public equities, a 10% decline will drag down my net worth by 3%.

I expect the national median home price to decline by about 8% in 2023. This will result in a 4% drag on my net worth given real estate counts for about 50% of my net worth. However, I've already priced my real estate portfolio about 10% below market prices.

Based on the above expectations, my realistic downside scenario is a 7% decline in net worth.

A realistic upside scenario is that stocks close up 10% to 4,235, resulting in a net worth increase of 3%. Meanwhile, I think the realistic best-case scenario is for housing prices to stay flat. As a result, my best-case realistic upside scenario is a 3% increase in net worth.

2023 result: Surpassed expectations. The real estate that I own is likely down around 5% in 2023, dragging down my net worth by about 2.5%. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up over 24%, which pulls my net worth up by about 7%, for a net gain of 4.5%. Add on savings from active and passive income sources, and my net worth is up around 8.5% after a flat 2022.

Given I was expecting my net worth to be down 3% in 2023, I feel like a 8.5% gain is a big win. I'm just glad we didn't go down the abyss once SVB and First Republic started going under in March 2023. That time period reminded me of when Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, and Salomon Brothers went under in 2008. That was traumatic!

My goal after fake retiring in 2012 has been to increase my net worth by 5% – 10% a year with minimal volatility. Therefore, I'm within the target for 2023.

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2) Increase passive income by 5% to $400,000

“I expect CPI to go below 5% by year-end, if not by July. Hence, my real passive income goal is to beat the average inflation rate for 2023.

The rise in interest rates helped boost our passive income by 10% to ~$380,000 in 2022. As interest rates come down and my Treasury bonds mature in 2023, I'll need to find new ways to generate more passive income.

My hope is that by mid-2023, there will be more private real estate deals at lower valuations and higher yields. If so, I will roll hundreds of thousands of dollars into private real estate funds and deals from my expiring short-term Treasury bonds.

In addition to boosting investment yields through real estate, my plan is to reinvest 80%+ of all online income into stocks, real estate, and private investments.”

2023: Fail. Things were going in the right direction, especially thanks to higher Treasury bond yields. I kept dollar-cost averaging into private real estate funds and public real state ETFs like VNQ.

However, I decided to buy a forever home in 4Q 2023, which used up a lot of my capital. As a result, I've lost years of passive income progress. I'll write about this situation in more detail in an upcoming post.

3) Boost spending by 20%

“We spent about $240,000 a year after taxes in 2022, which is equivalent to about $320,000 a year in gross passive income. Therefore, we plan to boost spending by $48,000 to $288,000. $288,000 equals $384,000 in gross passive income. In other words, we plan to spend all of our annual passive income in 2023.

Although we are happy with our current spending, I've started my decumulation phase given I'll be 46 in mid-2023. Losing lots of money in the stock market in 2022 has made spending more money in 2023 easier. Given I expect another difficult year, I'd much rather spend my money than lose it.”

2023 result: Fail. I spent about $18,000 more, compared to my target of $48,000. I've found it very difficult to spend more money than I'm used to. For example, I tried my best to spend more money on food, but only ended up spending about $3,000 more compared to the $12,000 target. We also haven't taken family vacations that required spending $12,000 more. I kept up my donations at a similar rate.

4) Beat back real estate FOMO

‘If my expectations are correct, there will be more housing deals by mid-2023. By then, prices could be down 10% and mortgage rates could be back down to 5% for the average 30-year fixed. The temptation to upgrade to a nicer home will be great!

But just like how eating a fifth slice of key lime pie is bad for your physique, buying a fifth property in San Francisco is bad for my sanity. Being a landlord decreases the quality of my life. Something always comes up. Plus, my wife doesn't want to move and I need to appreciate what we have.”

2023 result: Fail. My expectations were indeed correct for home price declines, not so much the mortgage rate. A dream property I had been eyeing in May 2022 came back off market at a lower price. The agent just contacted me directly. After months of negotiations and 75 days in escrow, I finally closed in 4Q2023. I feel good knowing that at least we lived in our other property for 18 more months.

Ever since I was in middle school in Kuala Lumpur, visiting a rich friend with a mansion in the hills, I've loved real estate. To be able to live well and provide for my family are two of my favorite things. Alas, now I'm paying the price with more expenses.

2023 Year In Review: Family

1) Give as much attention to my daughter as I did to my son

“My intensity towards childcare has waned. Part of the reason is that I've already read all the books, watched all the videos, and know what to expect. Another reason is due to an increase in laziness after being a stay-at-home dad for five and a half years already.

Now that our daughter is three, it's time to focus again! Her memories will form and I've noticed, just like our son, she now wants to spend more time with me. As a result, I'm going to do just that.

To be specific, my goal is to spend two hours in the morning with her, two hours in the afternoon, and 30 minutes in the evening. She will be attending preschool two days a week.”

2023 result: Success! I stepped up caring for my daughter to the point where I no longer feel any dad guilt.

One of my wins was convincing my wife it was time for our daughter to learn how to swim. Given her sensitivity to chlorine, prior trips to the pool would result in her waking up itchy with rashes in the middle of the night, disrupting everyone's sleep. We took a break for many months and then decided to try again using Aquafor, an ointment-like substance, beforehand as a barrier to protect her skin.

Other frequent trips with my daughter included taking her to the carousel in Golden Gate Park, Stowe Lake hikes, endless playground, the zoo to ride the steam train, acrobatics, beach on warm days, and painting. Every trip was between 2-4.5 hours long, which gave my wife much needed time to do her own thing.

2) See my parents twice

“It sounds kind of sad to have a goal of seeing my parents only twice a year. But they live in Honolulu and I live in San Francisco. They made a big effort to visit us in 2022. I hope to convince them to visit for a week again in 2023.

I will also fly out to visit them for a week at least once this year, either by myself or with family. We still haven't taken the kids on an airplane yet. But maybe we will this summer!”

2023 result: Semi-fail. I flew my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend out in June. However, I could not convince my parents to fly out again. When I asked if I could come visit them in Hawaii, they declined. How sad.

At least I regularly call and e-mail my dad about four times a week on average. I'm not sure how to convince my parents to see their grandkids and me more. But I'll keep trying. I never thought this would be one of the toughest challenges.

3) Teach my boy how to swim.

“I looked into private lessons and they cost $80 for 20 minutes! WTF. The swim school said it will take a child roughly 24-48, 20-minute lessons to learn how to swim. Hence, we're talking $1,920 to $3,840. Actually, adding up the total cost doesn't sound as bad as the 20-minute rate.

Given we don't have a pool and I can't seem to ever get a spot at the much cheaper group lessons, I may have to go this expensive route. Regardless, I will definitely give my boy lessons when we go up to Lake Tahoe.”

2023 result: Success! I skipped private lessons and taught my boy myself over multiple 1-2-hour sessions.

While in Lake Tahoe in June, my boy finally got the courage to take off his floaty. When we got back to San Francisco, I was determined to get him to swim, so I signed us up for weekly one-hour rec swim sessions at the Pomeroy Center. We went every week and on July 14, 2024, I finally let go and let him swim to me. We've been swimming three times a month on average for an hour each time since.

2023 Financial Samurai year in review - taught my bow how to swim
A month after he learned how to swim, he mustered up the courage to dive 10 feet down to grab some plastic octopuses at a friend’s vacation property

Emboldened by my son's ability to swim and my teaching results, I decided to make it a goal to teach my 3.5-year-old daughter how to swim by year end too. She’s swimming now but still needs to learn how to come up for air.

4) Be better aligned on parenting styles.

“Although I think I'm nice, I'm sure my wife would say I have a more “tough love” type of parenting style. She, on the other hand, has a more gentle parenting style. I'd like for us to narrow the gap.

One of my greatest fears is raising soft kids who cannot launch as adults. If we coddle our children too much, they may become weak. If a perpetual safety net removes their fear of failure, they might end up always being dependent on us.”

2023 Result: Work in progress. I still think we're still too soft on our kids. They have too many toys, eat too much good food, and are not as appreciative as I would like them to be. But our daughter just turned 4 and our son is 6.5, so there's still time.

I made both of them work for two weeks with me on a laborious landscaping project. I also got both of them to help paint an outdoor hand railing, a deck, and the walls of a garage at our previous home. Hopefully, they will remember this manual labor, realize that nothing lasts, and better respect property.

2023 Year In Review Financial Samurai - Teaching daughter to paint outdoor hand railing black
Got my daughter to help me clean, sand, and paint an outdoor handrail

2023 Year In Review: Financial Samurai

1) Publish three times a week on average, not four times

“I said I've published three times a week on average since 2009. But in reality, I've averaged closer to four times a week due to my free weekly newsletter.

My newsletter usually comes out on Sunday morning, which means I often spend Friday night, Saturday morning, or Sunday morning writing it. This also means I can never fully take the weekend off. This will change in 2023.

I will either publish two posts a week and one newsletter or publish a bi-weekly newsletter going forward. I also need to update ~200 posts, so I will republish them over the years as well.

For my 14th year operating Financial Samurai, I need to take things down to rejuvenate the mind. My eyes are also getting more easily fatigued, which means less screen time.”

2023 result: Fail. I kept my three-times-a-week publishing cadence plus wrote one newsletter a week for 52 weeks in a row. Sadly, there were many days when I didn't want to write. This is a sign that my enthusiasm for writing is fading. The decline also has to do with increased eye fatigue.

Here are my best posts and podcasts for 2023. Overall, I wrote 156 posts and updated 400+. I also updated the design of the site and the internal guts for more reliability. That cost me $2,000.

2) Write 25% shorter posts

“Thanks to social media, fewer people read great personal finance books and long-form content online. Hence, as a writer, I should evolve with the times if I want to attract a younger audience.

Writing shorter posts also reduces my workload, as well as my father's and wife's workloads as editors. I will get to the point quicker.”

2023 result: Fail. I didn't shorten my posts, which probably lost readers who are accustomed to sound bites, only reading titles, and watching TikTok videos. When I write, I feel bad not going deep into financial and life topics because they are so important. I've also got too much money at stake to not be thorough.

3) Record at least 30 more podcast episodes

“In December 2022, I came up with the practice of recording podcast episodes in my car after dropping off my son at school. The acoustics are good enough and my thoughts are fresh. I also wanted to be productive before playing sports.

Releasing podcasts is a fun way to connect with readers and share nuanced thoughts about my latest posts. I often incorporate reader feedback, which comes in the comments section after posts are published.”

2023 result: Success! I'm proud to have recorded 64 episodes, more than double my goal. In addition, I finally figured out how to use recording software to interview other people. You can subscribe and review my podcast on Apple or Spotify. Your reviews are appreciated.

X-Factor Goals For 2023

An X-factor is something out of the ordinary that can bring you joy, meaning, and/or income.

1) Become a 4.5-level pickleball player

“I'm addicted to pickleball. It is a sport I see myself playing through my 70s, if I live that long. After several winning years at 4.0 tennis, I got bumped up to 4.5. Then at the age of 39, I got bumped up to 5.0 and stayed there for five years until 2022. The progress was exhilarating! I’d like to do the same with pickleball by playing a tournament and getting to 4.5.

2023 result. Fail. After picking up pickleball in October 2022, my enthusiasm for the sport waned by June 2023. The public courts got too crowded and the private courts became very cliquey. I'm probably about a 4.25-level player.

When I was younger, I found satisfaction in winning league titles and tournaments. Now I find satisfaction in just knowing I've achieved a high-enough level to beat most players I think I should beat. My main goal is to have fun, get some exercise in, and not get injured.

2) Write another book

“Although writing a traditionally published book is extremely hard, I'd like to do it again. My first book, an ebook entitled, How To Engineer Your Layoff, has helped thousands of people negotiate a severance. Being able to walk away from a job you no longer like with money in your pocket feels like winning the lottery.

My second book, a traditionally published book entitled, Buy This, Not That, went on to become a Wall Street Journal bestseller. I think it has a good chance to become a classic personal finance book that will stand the test of time.

Publishing a physical book with a reputable publisher has given me a tremendous amount of unanticipated satisfaction. My children are proud to see my work. I realized having some status is nicer than being a nobody. Helping readers gain financial courage is gratifying. Finally, it's always wonderful to create something from nothing.

Now I just need to hammer out a new book deal.”

2023 result: 60% of the way done. In March 2023, I ended up hammering out a two-book deal with Penguin Random House. I did my best to negotiate a good deal without an agent, but I fell 10% short of my ideal amount. Perhaps the end amount I receive will be the same since agents earn a 15% fee.

It is partially due to the responsibility of writing a second traditional book that I couldn't relax as much as I wanted in 2023. Some people write books full-time for a living. With childcare responsibilities and writing and podcasting on FS, I'm busy enough.

Buy This Not That Book Reviews

3) Make one good new friend

“Making friends seems to get harder as an adult. However, I'd like to make at least one good new friend from my son's school or through sports.

Pre-pandemic, I used to go to a lot of fintech and startup meetups. Pre-kids, I used to go to conferences domestically and internationally. I'm not lonely, but I would like a better social life to make up for 2020-2021.

2023 result: Semi-fail. I've met plenty of new friends through pickleball, probably around 15 total. However, none of them became good friends. It takes a lot of effort to create deep bonds.

Despite a lack of deep friendship, I'm happy I can go to four different pickleball locations in the city and know someone. It's more fun playing with people you know and of a similar skill level.

4) Maybe get a job again

“Another X-factor for 2023 is getting a full-time job again. My daughter is going to school three days a week and I have more time. It's really hard to stay retired once you retire early!”

2023 result: Fail and I'm glad! If I found a full-time job, I wouldn't have been able to fulfill my goal of spending as much time with my daughter as I did with my son. A rebound in the stock market also decreased my anxiety about returning to work.

I tried looking for a full-time job in 2H 2023, but I couldn't find one so I put my search on pause after a month. It's been harder to find a new job that pays well than I had expected. For those who are thinking about retiring early, I highly recommend keeping your skills and network fresh. You never know when you'll want or need to go back to work.

2023 Was Better Than Expected

I started writing this post feeling a bit disappointed reflecting on 2023. However, reviewing my photo journal and remembering everything that transpired this year filled me with gratitude.

The stock market performed better than expected, giving my family more quality time together. We also moved into our forever home in the fourth quarter.

Most of all, I feel thankful that my closest family members remain alive and healthy. I cherish and appreciate life more with each passing year.

I experienced more stress this year than I would have liked due to taking on new projects – writing another book, learning podcast interviews, and buying a home. These opportunities caused me to invest more time, make more mistakes, and feel more pressure.

My tendency is to take on even more whenever opportunities arise because I dislike feeling regret. However, I'm pleased with living another year with focused intention.

Next up: Goals for 2024!

Here's a podcast version of my 2023 year in review with different nuances.

Reader Questions

How did your 2023 go? What were some of your successes and failures? Did anything surprise you positive or negatively this year?

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

44 thoughts on “2023 Financial Samurai Year In Review: More Fails Than Wins”

  1. Will from Buffalo

    To ease your “WTF” moment on the cost of teaching your kids to swim….I spend way more to do it myself. We bought a home we loved in 2018 but one thing we didn’t love was the inground pool. We thought, how hard could it be, how expensive could it be.


    It is about $1500-$2000 a year PLUS 40-60 hours of JUST my time. My kids are now 6.5 and 4…so every year of the last 5 years my wife would watch the kids and I would toil away with the pool.

    5 years of pool ownership has been $7500-$10000 between chemicals, water, electric, pool toys and replacing things that breaks. Plus 300 hours of MY time. Not including the time in the pool actually teaching. And last year, we only used the pool 4 or 5 times because the kids are not old enough to use it by themselves and we traveled during the hottest weeks of the summer.

    $3800 to teach a kid a life saving skill….seems like a BARGAIN.

    1. You’re right! When you put it in those terms, $3,800 does seem like a bargain. But hopefully y’all have enjoyed the bonding and all the extra swimming you guys got! :)

  2. bluegreenguitar

    Thanks for sharing, Sam, and best wishes to you and everyone here at FS for 2024!

    I’m around the same age as you (my main sport is soccer) and have definitely had to spend a lot more time just maintaining mobility, etc. I’m still working on it, but some things that have helped me (in moderation): rehab, hot yoga, massages, foam rollers, massage guns, theracup, bike rides, “Built from Broken”, Knees Over Toes Guy, epsom salt baths, taking time to warm up and cool down, many more things I’ll remember later. I still had a couple of pulls and sprains this year, but things seem to be on the up and up – we’ll see. If I play my cards right, I’ll probably be able to play fairly serious pickup soccer 1-2x/week with about a day or 2 or recovery time, but that’s good enough for me!

    Also, in terms of eye fatigue, maybe switch to writing on paper or ePaper, etc? And then getting a secretary to type it up for you? I don’t know a good answer but this seems like there might be a good solution out there.

    In any case, best wishes with everything! Thanks!

      1. bluegreenguitar

        Ya – the World Cup was awesome! It came at a great time for me, too – definitely added extra inspiration to up my game – though my ankles are saying take a break now :) Thank goodness for all the artificial grass fields – I think they’ve allowed me to keep playing (in general) more often! Best wishes!

  3. Thank you Sam for sharing your ups and downs in 2023. For us 2023 was in a win column. This is the first year my wife and I are not working yet clocked retirement income around $450K and stock market gains well into 7 digits. The downside were couple of health scares which resulted with bogus bills and multiple made up charges $30 here $80 there from drs offices and insurers for things that were never done, or never happened, while those that did happen and were legit insurance in some cases failed to pay in breach of their contract. My sense of pride is to be able to pay for anything we buy (a car, a house, 1000s shares of TSLA) in full with pleasure that our financial freedom allows. But paying for what I can prove I don’t owe, appealing phantom charges even if they are less than $500 total, and arguing with people whose only answer is “our record shows” spoiled the good stuff.

    Wishing you and all the readers happy and productive 2024.

    1. Nice! What is the source of the $450K in retirement income and how old are you guys?

      Curious, with such a high net worth, do $30 and $80 bother you enough? I’m not sure I would notice or care at that level.

      1. 72 and 69. For the last year: SS 70K, income from selling business 292K (240K/year for next 4 yrs), taxable dividends 30K, non taxable 58K, tax free annuity 6K, interest 25K, misc. 26K = 507K. We live off 75K + pay 85K in estimated taxes and reinvest the rest in growth stocks and ETFs so taxable distributions are small. This year, I will have to take RMDs around 55K. When royalties end in 5 yrs my wife may start taking her 100K in RMDs plus another 100K/year in inherited IRA. By that time our stream of dividends will perhaps exceed 150K.

        Yes, I could afford to pay these bogus bills except I should not be receiving them in the first place. When I go to ER and my Medicare Advantage PPO plan (the largest in the country) says my max out of pocket is $150 (if not admitted) I should not be receiving a bill for $294. When I see a doctor and copay is $20 I should not be paying $145. Most seniors can’t afford this kind of ripoff.

        1. Gotcha, thanks for the color. Sounds like spreading out the income from selling your business might lower your overall taxes?

          Do you find at 72/69, you have more than enough money to spend? I’m trying to figure out my consumption smoothing at 76, and I felt it was time to start spending down starting at age 45. So I did with a new house at 46. But now I feel I need to build back liquidity to feel secure again, so I’m looking for perspective on how you think about spending money as one gets older.

          I hear you on not wanting to get ripped off.


  4. We’ve been more than fortunate to have maintained a very comfortable lifestyle for many years, yet the big shock this year was losing so many close friends. In fact around the immediate table of 10 for NYE dinner all had lost at least someone in the 50’s-70’s age group. The interesting fact was so many had passed without completing any estate planning to avoid probate, the taxable passing of assets, transfer on death bank/business accounts & ways to avoid the necessary taxes on IRA’s/401(k)’s etc.
    We have had such a stringent plan in place now for several years so our only concern now is maintaining our health.
    Again many we know are succumbing to the ravages of poor health with the respective copays for medications exceeding the 7-10k p.a. Poor lifestyle decisions do catch up.

  5. GREAT post, Sam. I admire your transparency, your planning, your organizational skills, your accomplishments, etc. etc.
    Your post arrived in my inbox just after completing my financial analysis for 2023, so decided to share those results which I have NEVER done before.
    The professional financial advisor who manages 3 IRA accounts for my wife and I grew those accounts by ~$130K or 15%. Since we are both in our 80’s, they are instructed to invest in conservative investments. I manage my Roth IRA and grew it by ~$460K or 33% using alternative investments, primarily trading commodities and private lending. I’m guessing our Net Worth will be up ~12 to 15% in 2023 when I finally get around to calculating that.

    We are NOT wealthy, but VERY comfortable. Without going into details, the advice from this OLD codger is to spend some of that money along the way as you can’t take it with you. Travel, or whatever you do that brings you enjoyment.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing Wayne! I hope you two well do well to spend down and enjoy some of your big gains for 2023.

      I would say having a net worth of close to $5 million at your age is very wealth. Enjoy!

  6. We feel very blessed and 2023 was a solid growth year financially. Investible assets were up about 20%, home value was up about 10% and net worth was up almost 19%. We did have a tumultuous year in my wife’s job as her boss decided to go after her and try and fire her. We hired an attorney and pushed the company into an independent investigation and all signs point to things working out in my wife’s favor. We are strong in our faith and God blessed and protected us from those seeking to do us harm.

    Excited for 2024 in that it will be the last year of our mortgage on our home and we will have paid it off in 20 years.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Congrats! Sounds like a home run for 2023. Perhaps the gains are more than enough to make up for your wife job loss? Hope it all works out in the end.

      You won’t regret paying off your mortgage. Get that reconveyance letter when you do!

      1. Paper Tiger

        The good news is I believe she will wind up keeping her job if the results come out as we think. I appreciate the reminder about the reconveyance letter and will definitely ask for it when the time comes. HNY!

  7. Hi Sam – Loved your post, and how you keep yourself accountable for your goals.

    2023 turned out better than expected/feared. I travelled abroad three times, including to two new countries and to visit extended family in Hong Kong (one of my life goals is to visit or work in 100 countries and I’m at 77), and I also took several domestic girls’ trips. My elderly parents came to stay in LA twice, for a month each time, including their first Xmas holidays.

    I FIRE’d from corporate America a few years ago at the age of 49 and currently earn 6-figures in annual passive income (rents, dividends, interest). In 2023, our household net worth increased by 7-figures (from vested RSU and ISOs, our stock and retirement portfolios, and real estate gains). We moved to a newly-built home in Q4 2022 and finally got our solar panels approved. My husband and I celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii in August. He recently pulled the trigger on his dream car (paid in cash) when the MSRP price declined by $49k (2023 Model X Plaid). We both came from humble beginnings and are thankful for our luck and the support of family and wonderful friends. In 2024 I need to focus on finally losing those pandemic pounds. :(

    1. Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing! The 15-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii sounds amazing. I plan to do the same!

      Looks like those Teslas really have come down in price yeah? My new house has a Tesla charger, so it might finally be time to get an EV in 2025, when my car turns 10 years old.

      I hear you on losing those pandemic pounds!

  8. Great post Sam! I enjoy the depth of writing you provide, agree with other posters of not shortening your content. I do notice that my attention span has worsened these past few years, maybe partly due to social media, aging, or just being tired with two toddlers.

    Here’s my brief recap of 2023.
    Health – Had a major health scare Q3, hospitalized, lost a bunch of weight in a short amount of time. I rebounded back to my steady weight Q4 with holiday eating, and back to a normal healthy exercise routine. As I age, I notice that it’s harder to recover from injury. Tweaked my ankle and it’s taking weeks to recover from.

    Wealth – About 19.5% increase in net worth in 2023, a health bounce up from a – 2% decrease in 2022. The majority of my holdings is in US equities. Decided to be involved with the startup ecosystem of SV and jumped into angel investing/VC land, knowing quite well I may be flushing money down the toilet.

    Family – Spent more time with family, traveled more this year, looking forward to our first international travel in 2024 since 2019. Difficult to find childcare/time for date nights, but we will take it when we can

    Work – Worked too much in 2023, trying to dial it back in 2024. Though I like being busy and productive.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing and I’m glad your health has rebounded.

      It’ll be interesting to see how VC shakes out in 2024 and beyond. A lot of new VCs were buying near the top of private company valuations in 2021-2022. With holdings down a lot, there will be little-to-no big exits with positive IRRs in those vintages.

      1. Agreed with the 2021 and 2022 vintages. Too many companies who should have failed earlier limped on by with VCs throwing money at the wall. The current environment I think is a good opportunity, with companies doing more with less and being lean, and managers & partners having more diligence on allocating capital. We’ll see what plays out in the next 5 to 7 years.

  9. Excellent post. You include dimensions I don’t even consider. For me, I’m in my head more. But our net worth increased a lot. Primary house conservatively jumped 8% due to several new build comps in the neighborhood. Ours was new in 2022. Stock market net worth soared—as about 60% net worth is invested in etfs across various accounts. And since cash and safe treasuries performed well so formerly idle rainy day safety funds performed. We’re up 17% when you include the new money (principle) added to savings over the course of the year.

    I applied for a new job and failed, but it was the first time I tried in years and I will probably keep trying assuming a good opportunity presents itself.

    I keep trying to beat my goals for parenting. Being more present. Doing activities that the kids enjoy (not just ones I enjoy). I coached one of my kid’s teams and turned them from the worst team to the second best in their division.

    I don’t always succeed at being a better partner, but I try to find the patience and understanding to support my wife who has the more stressful job and a demanding career.

    I lost 7 lbs and kept the weight off. I got a squat rack and a stationary bike and have added both to my routines. I played pickleball more. I am trying to make new friendships; I definitely need more. I renewed a sports photography hobby by shooting my kid’s sports for their teams. We traveled more—but not as much as I’d like.

    Next year I need to read more long form to improve my attention span. I’d like to achieve similar net worth success as I am really tired of working my 9-5 and my employer has mandated even more time in the office butt in chair—so backwards. I don’t know how many more years my wife and I can grind. I’d like to continue to make cosmetic improvements to our primary home. I want to increase my fitness level again with a goal to be more fit at 50 than 40. More time with friends. More special time with spouse. Better interactions with kids and novel travel round out my goals.

    1. Financial Samurai

      Wonderful goals Justin, thanks for sharing!

      “I coached one of my kid’s teams and turned them from the worst team to the second best in their division.” This must have felt so fulfilling. I knew when we won the tennis Northern California Champion title for the first time in school history, it was one of the best feelings ever.

      Losing 7 pounds is great. I need to follow suit!

  10. Hi Sam, interesting blog as always. I’m curious, if you’ve entered the decumulate phase and are already having a hard time ramping up spending — why seek full time employment which would make spending even more challenging? There seems to be a disconnect even though you ultimately did not secure W2 employment I’m puzzled – why even consider working for someone else given your passive income streams and net worth growth? I do understand the desire to stay productive, but why not volunteer for a charitible cause you are passionate about or go back to coaching tennis which I’m sure quite rewarding along with writing and publishing.

    1. It’s the desire to do something new and stay productive in a fast-paced city. You can only volunteer and coach so much tennis. SF is the startup capital of the world, and given I’ll be here for the foreseeable future, that’s the plan to get involved.

      In addition, my passive income took a big hit after buying my new house with cash. I need to replenish it.

      How about you? What’s your situation and how was your 2023? I’d love to get more readers share their situations. Thx

  11. Matthew Drybred

    Soooo….it sounds like you had an amazing and productive 2023!

    The world of finance seems so unreal when compared to being involved in the world of our friends and family.

    Thanks, as always, for your content and efforts.

  12. After about a 16K drop in net worth in ‘22, saw a 236K net worth increase in ‘23 after paying cash for two vehicles and a major home remodel. Can’t complain. Probably went overboard on the materials for the remodel in terms of ever making it a rental property. Getting antsy with primary residence though after 17 years. Feel like we are staying too long which feels suboptimal from a wealth building perspective. Two years and <70K left until primary is paid off. Essentially paying no interest on the loan at this stage so no hurry to pay it off. Intrigued by upgrading the primary residence. Would have to be okay with going over 2M though to do so in expensive CA.

    With 11 years until retirement it seems that it makes more sense to just keep adding to tax deferred accounts (403b + SEP/Solo) to save on taxes now vs allocating to after tax accounts at this stage (early 50s).

    1. That’s a huge swing! Congrats. What were the drivers of the net worth increase?

      If you upgrade your primary, will it just be you or family living with you?

      My main problem was waiting long enough to have the money to upgrade homes, but by the time I did, my kids would all be out of the house, making upgrading less meaningful.

      1. About 209K of the 236K was seen in tax deferred accounts. The rest along with the ability to pay cash for the remodel and vehicles was due to increased income (raises and increase in side gig revenue). We very much feel like HENRYs.

        If we upgrade the primary it will be for my wife and me and our 19-year old son. My daughter is out of the house but I would have no problem with her moving back while she saves for a home. Son will likely live with us through grad school, so at least five more years. I totally hear you about waiting to have the money to upgrade. Would likely have to sell primary and take out a sizable loan. It’s just always been something. Great Recession leading to a reduction in desirable inventory and then right as inventory was seemingly catching up, COVID hit (ultimately leading to increased interest rates). So, it’s been more about lack of desirable upgrade options since we bought back in ‘06. That said, income has also grown significantly in the last six years or so.

      1. Sam, if it makes you feel better…This summer I flew across country with my little kids to visit my parents without informing them of the plan. Who doesn’t love surprises, right?! Well when my parents answered the door after I rung the bell, my mother stood there like a statue and could not even feign a smile. She was upset that the house was messy and not prepared for guests. The need for control and appearances ruined any enjoyment she could have had in the moment. Meanwhile, my father who is developing dementia, stared at me with a quizzical look like he was trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle until his memory slowly returned and he realized I was his son along with his grandchildren. Fun stuff!

        1. Oh man, thanks for sharing. Yes, my mom feels like she needs to clean the entire house through and through before we visit, which puts tremendous stress on her.

          I’m glad you surprised your parents. Eventually, everybody will look back and appreciate the time they had with their family.

  13. Sam, you are hilarious and your posts always inspire me. I admire that you had so many goals and were able to hit so many of them. On my end, I think I am more reactive and spontaneous. I am grateful my mom moved to the Bay Area about 3 years ago – it makes spending time with her easier and I need to be more proactive about it. I also blog 1x per week and wish I did more, but not sure I want to commit to doubling my output. I can only write short posts because my background is in newspaper writing and so many years of writing 500 word posts makes me think that way… I admire you write such long ones and you’re so prolific! How do you remember all of your goals – do you post them on the wall, etc?

    1. Thanks! I don’t remember them all. I actually forgot I had a goal of only publishing three times a week this year instead of four. I revisited my goals only once this year. So that clearly needs to change her next year where I revisit them every month or every quarter at least to stay on track.

      It’s nice your mom moved closer to you! I wish my parents would want to spend more time with us. I wonder if I will change as I get older and not want to spend too much time with my adult kids either. I doubt it, but you never know.

      Human psychology, inertia, and viewpoints over time are fascinating. We are also different. Maybe the reason why I want to have more kids it’s because I want to have more people to love now and when I’m older.

      1. Smart to revisit your goals on a regular basis! I really only have 3 goals for next year – 1) Journal (Artists pages) every morning 2) Grow my happiness newsletter readership 3) Have more fun ;) I need to get more concrete about how to have fun. We’re about the same age and I think what I really want is to enjoy life and the fruits of all of our decades of hard work!

        Yes I am so grateful my mom moved near us. People at her church basically told her to move near her kids… she was living without much support on the East Coast (no family except my dad who’s older). Supporting aging parents is tough and I don’t think my mom really wants to travel any more (she’s in her early 80s). I think travel gets harder as you age and the flight from HI to CA is not easy. My mom likes to sleep in her own bed, she doesn’t even want to sleep over our house anymore.

        You want more kids?! We are so tired ;)

      2. Also, I’m so sorry your parents didn’t want you to visit. My mom is also quite busy for someone who’s retired… I think she’s used to being productive and it’s hard for her to rest. Asian immigrant thing. I saw your mom likes to clean the house before you all come – have you ever tried an airbnb or hotel? We started getting hotels sometimes when visiting family – so much less stress on everyone…! I hope you’re able to see them soon. Time is so precious with our parents.

        1. Yes, we will likely have to spend a lot of money on a hotel or house rental instead of staying with my parents and save.

          It’s a shame bc it is a 5 bedroom house and the money we spend on house rental can pay for house cleaning for their house for 2 years!

          Oh well. I think I will always be welcoming to my kids as they get older and want to visit. But who knows. Maybe something happens as we age that I’m not aware of.

          1. Hi Sam and Happy Asian Woman, We are 70 & 67, never stay at family houses since 1979 marriage. Why because we also need a vacation. Our technique is to stay at hotel, eat, do an activity and visit in afternoon/evening or meet up somewhere for an activity.
            My Dad would say during family gatherings “nice to see you all now leave” and “3 days fish and family”. My parents would visit once a year 2 days at each son’s house. Recently my Brother and SIL make visiting overnight easy and enjoyable at Lake Anna house setup for visiting 2 nights maximum.
            Now my in-laws (ILS) are a different story. ILS would visit my sister in law in Northern Va. from thanksgiving to new years go to Florida then return at Easter for another month. My ILS retired to sister in laws for a short stay and never left. MIL is still kicking at 96, now 12 years. My wonderful Father in Law lasted 3 years missed the family home in WNY. Fun fact even now nice hotels are cheap in NVA on weekends.
            We visit Big Island for scuba 2 to 3 months each year since retirement in 2016. We invite family ( limit 2 or 3 ) to Hawaii in 2 br/2 bath condo at Waikoloa Beach.
            Keep Smiling

  14. Jonathan Heagle

    This is your best post in a while! I disagree with the desire to shorten your posts. Be true to yourself and your style. Why try and be like every other boring FinTwit poster…

    1. I 100% agree with this! I love your longer more in depth posts. Your recap was eye opening to reflect on some the goals I set this year as well. But overall I think it was a good year of progress in the direction I want my life to be going.

  15. I can’t believe the year is coming to a close. I’m not ready! But at least I still have four more days to get some more things done.

    Even though you calculated you had more fails than wins this year, you had some huge wins. Expecting -3% and ending +8.5% on your net worth is HUGE! Definitely worth celebrating and highlighting that.

    And sounds like you got to spend a lot of meaningful and fun time with your family. You can’t get much better than that. I bet if you go back through your photo reel from the year you’ll be beaming with so many great memories. Teaching your kids how to swim is huge as well. Neither of my parents taught me. I don’t really remember learning until I had swim class at school which was around age 10. Sure I was in a pool since age 3 or something but was only in a floatie and couldn’t actually get anywhere until I had lessons at school.

    And I think it’s wonderful that you’re getting your kids involved with home maintenance from such a young age. So many adults don’t even know how to do those things you taught them. I think that’s largely due to a lack of exposure. I have a lot of friends who are homeowners but can’t even do the most simple tasks because they have a mental block that it’s too hard because they’ve never tried.

    And lastly, congrats on blowing your podcast goal out of the water!! You’ve had some huge guests and I love to listen to your dialogues and monologues as well. The podcast is such a great addition to your blog. Rock on Sam! Happy new year!

    1. Thank you! The photo archives are such a great way to help you remember what happened and appreciate all the good times.

      Having modest expectations really helps with life satisfaction and happiness.

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