Happy 2018 Everyone! Here is my 2017 year in review.
Since the year doesn't really start until the second week of January, I've decided to spend more time reflecting. Hopefully you will too on a tropical island somewhere.
Before 2017, the best year of my life was when I got married on a cozy beach in Oahu. It was a simple wedding with only 16 family members in attendance. There was a gentle breeze that rustled the palm leaves while a ukulele player played Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The ceremony was simple, yet so beautiful.
No moment ever topped that day until our son was born last Spring. The birth went smoothly and I could finally breathe a sigh of relief both mama and baby were safe and healthy. We feel so blessed to have him in our lives.
Despite all my preparation, I still underestimated how difficult it would be to work 15 hours every day for months on end. I worked in banking where 15 hour days were the norm. But even in banking, we got at least one day off a week. Further, nobody works every single minute they’re at work. With parenthood, one look away could spell disaster.
Constant sleep deprivation killed my mood. No longer did I have the desire or creativity to spend several hours writing a post. No longer did I have the patience to deal with annoying people. Yet we had to forge on like all newborn parents do to make sure our baby was properly cared for.
If it wasn't for my wife, we wouldn't have a precious son. And if it wasn't for my wife, there would be no Financial Samurai because she started taking over the entire night after he was three months old. Therefore, I thank my wife for everything she has done and apologize for all the times I was unpleasant. She is the sweetest, loveliest, kindest person I know who deserves a partner who always treats her well. I will do better. I promise!
Financial Samurai 2017 Year In Review
When I re-read my goals for 2017 post with the theme, “Always Be Grinding,” I was surprised to read how enthusiastic I was, yet I didn't take any outsized investment risk. In fact, I took risk exposure down by 17.5% after selling a rental house. It was the classic believing in one thing, but taking no corresponding action.
Here's what I wrote in the beginning of 2017:
“I haven’t been this excited since I first got a job out of college when the sky was the limit. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been questioning what’s the point of working so hard if the government is just going to take more from us than what we’re able to keep. To finally get some potential tax relief is thrilling!“
Despite my excitement, I didn't pile into stocks because I'm always skeptical of what politicians can accomplish. Instead, I invested $250,000 in real estate crowdsourcing because I believed the Red States would benefit from a Trump presidency and invested just $41,000 in stocks for 1Q2017 out of $611,000 total.
But what I did do right was focus on my largest asset, which is now my online business. I upped production in the first quarter and saw a 48% rise in revenue and an even larger increase in operating profits due to the beauty of fixed costs. Operational leverage truly is one of the best reasons for running an online business.
Despite only seeing a 15.87% return on my public investments for 2017, my online business more than made up for the slack. If you can consistently grow your most valuable asset at a faster pace than every other asset class over the long term, I dare say you will one day do your family proud.
Here's a review of the specific goals I made in 2017 and my year in review.
Business Goals Year In Review
1) Focus on growth by broadening the audience. I've received plenty of feedback that I need to write more for the mass market. Even though my advice holds true whether you have $1,000,000 to invest or $10,000 to invest, readers have told me they can't get their heads around larger numbers.
Failed. I tried my best to write more about budgeting and savings, but I only ended up writing five new posts on this topic out of 175. Two of the posts probably don't even count: Stop Frugality From Leading To Lifestyle Deflation and Millennial Avocado Toast Analysis. The only post I feel can help the mass market is: Housing Expense Guideline For Financial Independence. I doubt my audience broadened very much, but at least traffic grew by 20%.
2) Publish a new ebook by July 18, 2017. Despite the rise in interest rates, it still takes a gargantuan amount of money to generate $1,000 a month in passive income – we're talking $300,000 in capital at a 4% gross yield.
Failed. I worked with several folks to put together a Financial Samurai real estate book in the first half of the year, but lost steam once my baby was born. It's still a no-brainer to produce online products once you've developed a brand and a following, but time is at a premium.
3) Focus on three business partnerships. I've got about 10 business partnerships with Financial Samurai right now. As the main writer and business development guy, it's very easy to get spread too thin. So I need to focus.
Failed. I worked on developing a better relationship with two business partners, but not three. I'm not sure what the right business partnership is for my new category: family finances. If there are any businesses out there who want to make me a pitch, I'm all ears. My goal is for each product to provide maximum value at minimal to no cost, just like this site.
4) Send two to four e-mails a month. I've been paying $150 a month to send out only one newsletter a month for the past couple of years. What an underutilization of resources. I plan to write shorter, punchier e-mails to connect with all my newsletter subscribers.
Passed. I averaged sending 2.5 newsletters a month for the year. I've done a poor job growing my e-mail subscriber list compared to the amount of traffic I get for this site. It's probably because I just don't care for selling anything to anybody.
Personal Financial Goals Year In Review
5) Create a million bucks of wealth. My goal in 2016 was to grow my net worth by $500,000 because I had a neutral outlook. Given I'm now bullish on my business, it's only logical to shoot higher.
Passed. With the way most asset classes have performed this year, it wasn't hard to generate a lot of wealth, especially if you've spent 20 years accumulating a financial nut large enough to retire on back in 2012. I received some interesting offers for this site for multiple millions of dollar, but I turned them all down. You should only buy, never sell a high margin, cash flow positive business that can be done anywhere in the world with minimal maintenance.
6) Invest at least $20,000 a month without fail. The $20,000 a month doesn't have to be in the stock market. It can be in bonds, real estate crowdsourcing, private equity, private debt, or paying down a mortgage.
Passed. I ended up investing $39,609 of new money on average a month for a total of $475,319. At the same time, I was able to strengthen my balance sheet by adding around $450,000 in cash and paying off $916,000 in mortgage debt due to the sale of my rental home.
7) Start earning $20,000 a month in passive/semi-passive income by year end. My passive income is currently averaging about $17,600 a month over the past six months. To increase my passive income by $2,400 a month, I've got to publish my real estate book by year end, market it well and update my severance negotiation book.
Failed. Since I didn't publish a new book, I didn't receive new passive income. In fact, my passive income dropped because I sold my rental home that was generating over $60,000 a year net (rental property #3) and one of my CDs came due. With $800,000 invested in equity real estate crowdfunded projects, there is the potential to earn a 8% – 15% IRR in 4-5 years. With $600,000 invested in municipal bonds, I should earn $15,000 – $20,000 in after tax income a year. I'll be updating my passive income numbers for 2018.
8) Spend like I'll be dead within 10 years. I've been frugal my whole life. It's one of the main reasons why I was able to hit the eject button at 34. But, I'll be 40 in 2017 so it's time to live it up for the second half of my life. You don't have to be as stealth in middle age because people are more accepting of those who've spent 20+ years working.
Passed. I bought two big ticket items in 2017: 1) a $16,000 hot tub, and 2) a $58,000 vehicle in cash to keep the family safe with zero regrets. I don't miss my Honda Fit, especially since it began having starter problems towards the end. Further, there is no way I would feel safe driving Baby Samurai in a hatchback. The hot tub is the best lifestyle investment ever. I average five hours a week soaking after tennis and softball. I can't wait for the entire family to have fun talking story in the hot tub one day.
9) Don't chase the stock market. Although I'm bullish on my business, I'm lukewarm on the stock market and the economy due to valuations, political uncertainty, and the prospect of higher interest rates squeezing consumption.
Failed. I chased the stock market because I didn't invest enough during the first half of the year. This was the first time in history the S&P 500 didn't have a down month. At the end of the day, my public investments returned 15.87%, so the chasing wasn't that bad. If I didn't have a huge influx of cash during the summer after the home sale, my investments would look more balanced. Thankfully, real estate and my business grew faster and my overall net worth is up greater than the S&P 500 based on my Personal Capital net worth tracker app.
10) Scare myself out of my comfort zone. I haven't been personally challenged in a long time. With a portfolio of over 1,300 posts on Financial Samurai, I know with decent confidence that if I write 152 new posts a year, I should be able to grow traffic and revenue by ~10% a year if I do nothing else. But writing 2-4X a week is an easy goal to achieve.
Passed. I finally started the Financial Samurai iTunes channel, whoo hoo! Too bad it only works on mobile and tablets, and not on the desk top for some reason. In the future, I hope to have my wife join me on the podcast and interview other people as well. It's hard for me to speak eloquently, but I know after one year of practice I will get better.
11) Really make a difference in 12 people's lives. At the end of the day, the best feeling in the world is when a reader sends a private e-mail or writes a comment that says how much a particular article or the site in general has helped them achieve their dreams.
Passed. I've received over 70 e-mails and comments from readers this year who said something nice about how a particular FS article helped them get their finances in order or improve their lives for the better. These are truly the most gratifying and motivating reasons why I continue to write so much.
I also spent three months coaching high school kids tennis, which was awesome. We got to the district finals and achieved the best record in the school's long history! The best moment was when a senior, who had never won a big match before, won a huge rubber match in front of his mom and he ran to give me a hug afterward.
Finally, I finally became a foster kid mentor. It took about eight hours of training and testing, which is probably one of the reasons why more people don't do it. But the training is important given how precarious and important the situation is to take care of innocent kids who find themselves in a suboptimal situation. I've seen my foster kid five times now, and taught him how to ride his bike with no hands. So priceless! I can't share details, but he's a wonderful boy who wants to be a YouTube Gamer. It's awesome that he already knows that creating content is much better than consuming content!
12) Start a family. My wife and I feel we've done everything we've wanted to do as adults. We've both engineered our layoffs. We don't have the itch to travel much anymore. We have no desire to climb anybody else's corporate ladder. After two years, our house is finally remodeled to the way we want. We have a digital business that allows us to be present for our child. Finally, we've developed a steady stream of passive income that should support a family of up to four.
Passed. I already knew my wife was pregnant when I wrote my 2017 goals, but you just never know until the baby is delivered. Based on research, speaking to hundreds of other couples, and personal experience, there are often complications that occur during pregnancy. If you've decided you want to start a family and have your finances in order, do not wait another day.
Thanks Again For A Great 2017!
Despite all the craziness that went on in 2017, the one thing I will always clearly remember is the birth of our son just like how all I remember during the financial crisis was our quaint wedding.
It was hard to not only keep up the posting frequency on Financial Samurai, but to actually double production in order to buy more time in the future. This is where I really messed up because I didn't maximize the purpose of our lifestyle business: to provide for a better life.
Instead of being so focused about protecting my family's future by working so much, I should have spent more time enjoying the present. Life speed accelerates. Some changes will be made! Stay tuned for my 2018 goals and outlook post.
Readers, how was your 2017? What were your hits and misses? 2017 Year in review is a FS original post. Intro graphic by https://ckongsavage.com