My 2019 Year in Review

This was an amazing year! In my first year since leaving my job, I focused on working on creative projects, exploring Utah and eating all the things I could.
Adam

Written by Adam on December 31, 2019. Updated January 17, 2020.
40 min read. Personal. 11 comments.

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This past year has been much different than any other. This was my first full year of FIRE since leaving my job at the end of 2018. In other words, I didn’t work at a job for a single day this year.

The one constant has been waking up every day and figuring out what I want to focus on for that day. Some days I’m more productive while (many more) are relaxing.

Adam and Lily with Cherry Blossoms
Adam and Lily with Cherry Blossoms

My major focuses for the year included working on Minafi, exercising in fun ways, slowing down and spending time with friends.

There were a few themes for my year: experimentation, calmness, and creativity. The schedule was experimental. My mornings and days were calm. I saught out creative projects to work on.

So What’s This All About?

I end every year by doing a recap of everything that’s happened in the past 365 days. This helps me celebrate the successes, evaluate the struggles and pick out some areas to improve during the next year.

One nice part about having these recaps written down is being able to look back and be able to know when I did something years from now. Years quickly blend together and it gets difficult to know “did we travel internationally for the first time in 2012 or 2013?” (answer: it was 2012. I didn’t travel internationally until I was 30!).

I’ve been doing these yearly posts for quite a while. They started before Minafi, but I moved them over here for posterity. You can view any of the past 9 years posts here: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

2018 was my first full year in Salt Lake City, Utah. We moved here from Orlando, FL in December of 2017 to follow both our jobs, explore a new city and try out apartment living. Even though I was working throughout 2018, a lot of the year felt like a vacation. Between exploring a new city, having our honeymoon, no longer being a homeowner, and planning out a life post-work, it wasn’t a bad year. The year since then has been much more mellow in comparison.

So what stands out from 2019? Here are a few of my favorites moments from the year:

  • Having Korean fried chicken and ice cream with Marilyn in Las Vegas while high. We were so hungry and it was so tasty we just ate quietly and loved it.
  • Climbing to the top of Mount Olympus and getting a good view of the valley.
  • Going on my first backpacking trip and camping out with a fire going, enjoying some wine and talking with friends.
  • Completing a half-marathon after 4 months of training.
  • Going to Sleep No More and slowly unraveling the storyline.
  • Seeing hundreds of buffalo run by in the buffalo drive on Antelope Island.
  • Getting a vasectomy and not having it hurt at all.
  • Enjoying Thanksgiving with friends while sitting around talking about what we’re thankful for.

Highlights from 2019

I’ve loved not working. It’s no secret that even a good job is still 8-10 hours a day away from the people and things you love. Having the time to working on personal projects full-time has been great. During my last year or two at my job I was constantly running meetings and then preparing for the next ones – trying to drive what I was working on forward or get buy-in for something new. Being able to just work on whatever projects I wanted was my number one goal for FIRE.

Working on Minafi has been even more fun this year. Writing posts, creating interactive content, rebuilding it to use Ruby on Rails, and creating a video boot camp were all fun challenges. Minafi has turned into a playground for things I want to do online. I have a bunch of projects already lined up that make me so excited to work on that I get butterflies in my stomach just thinkings about them. In all, I wrote about 50 posts (average length of 2,580 words!), had over 170,000 people visit (sessions) for about 15k sessions a month and saw posts featured on a number of sites including Physician on FIRE, The College Investor, Collecting Wisdom, Four Pillar Freedom (double thanks to Zach!), Get Rich Slowly, Wallet Hacks and Apex Money. My biggest traffic day was 4,752 sessions when Google featured an article in Google Discover.

The one downside of having a side project like this is that there’s no “ending” to it. I’ve struggled to set good boundaries for myself which has sometimes left me stressed – feeling like I should be working on something.

Exercising in various fun ways – I started the year skiing a few times a week. After that, I switched to training for a half marathon and hiking mountains. In the last few months, I went back to CrossFit. Rather than focusing on getting down to a specific weight or dieting in an unsustainable way, I loved finding exercises I enjoyed and just doing them while I enjoyed them, then changing things up when I didn’t.

The time between fitness goals was when my weight would jump back up. The time between skiing and hiking, between running and going back to CrossFit and the lack of any fitness activity while traveling all resulted in my overall weight staying consistent, even though I do feel stronger.

Slowing down. Waking up later, cooking more, taking my dog on longer walks, longer transition times between projects. Just being able to spend an hour in the morning drinking coffee and reading has been amazing.

We focused more on road trips than flights for travel. Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Grand Basin, Yellowstone, Las Vegas – all places we drove to for vacations. We’re looking forward to exploring even more of Utah next year!

Travel

One of the biggest dreams for people that retire is to travel more – and I am no different. For this year though, Mrs. Minafi was still working full-time and we have an 11-year old dog that needs quite a bit of attention. We’ve been strategic with our trips, still basing them around weekends and holidays to extend their duration.

  • I spent a week exploring Salt Lake City, Antelope Island and the Bonneville Salt Flats when a friend visited for a week.
  • I went to the Bonneville Salt Flats for some night photography.
  • Drove down to Las Vegas for a fun-filled weekend eating at Sushisamba, Best Friends, Pok Pok, Milk Bar, and delicious buffets.
  • Traveled to Yellowstone in May for my birthday and stayed at the Old Faithful lodge with a view of Old Faithful from our room. Explored the parks, saw lots of geothermal activities and too many bison to count.
  • Went backpacking/camping 3x (Battle Creek 2x, Lake Blanche 1x) with friends and car camping once at Balsam Campground.
  • Flew to New York City to see the premiere of Moulin Rouge on broadway (one of Mrs. Minafi’s favorite movies), Sleep No More, see family and friends (including Luxe and Olivia), cocktails at The Polynesian, watching Women’s World Cup and checking out some tasty food (Emmy Squared anyone?)
  • Visited Moab, UT for Mrs. Minafi’s birthday. Moab is the city on the Colorado River right next to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park. We took a few days to see some of the major sites and eat as much as we could.
  • Flew to Washington, D.C. for FinCon – the annual conference for money geeks. This was my 3rd time attending and every year has been more fun!
  • We had another friend visit for a week where we explored more SLC and saw 700 bison being rounded up.
  • Drove out to Grand Basin National Park in Nevada to explore the Lehman Caves. We had plans to go hiking too but that was interrupted by 2ft snow the night before we got there.

One thing we realized this year: we didn’t pay for a single flight! I also love having people come to visit and being able to be a tourist in our own town. it’s a good excuse to explore.

After flying to Asia in 2018 and 2017, travel this year was relaxing! Being able to go on a road trip and bring our dog along makes everything that much easier (and cheaper too).

I’m not sure the extent of our travels for 2020. We have a few things planned – South Korea, Taiwan, Long Beach (FinCon + Disney!). Maybe more road trips? (Grand Canyon? Denver? Grand Escalante? Yosemite?)

Events and Entertainment

We spent a lot less time going to live events this year.

  • I volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival and saw a bunch of movies! Some of my favorites were Little Monsters, Our for Blood, The Great Hack and Paradise Hills
  • Saw Beatles Love Cirque show in Vegas
  • Saw Michael Jacksons Cirque show in Vegas
  • Saw Gwen Stefani’s show in Vegas, including her singing “Just a Girl” on National Women’s Day
  • Went to Silicon Slopes, Utah’s largest tech conference thanks to a free ticket from a friend (thanks!)
  • Saw Ali Wong’s hilarious standup live
  • Fun Depeche Mode & Smiths Cover band concert with friends.
  • Made some new friends at the SLC Develop Happy Hour
  • Went to an Elizabeth Warren event – she’s an amazing speaker
  • Saw Aladdin live with some great seats
  • Won a raffle for cheap front-row-center seats to see The Book of Mormon – absolutely amazing to see with the SLC crowd
  • I went to trivia at a local bar with friends many times.
  • Watched a lot of Women’s World Cup at home, in NYC, and at local bars
  • Saw the 2nd ever show of Moulin Rouge on broadway (which was amazing by the way)
  • Saw Sleep No More in NYC, then immediately bought a ticket to see it again the next day
  • Went to a Pink Martini concert at the Red Butte Amphitheater
  • Two friends held Hot One’s Challenges – which were fun and scary at the same time
  • Went to a Bees Baseball game
  • Watched a TedX Event live with friends
  • Laughed at The Bee SLC (a storytelling show like The Moth)
  • I went to Rocky Horror Picture Show with a bunch of friends (many first-timers) and dressed up as Riff Raff (Mrs. Minafi was Magenta).
  • Spent most Sunday nights watching Game of Thrones with friends – then later on Watchmen.
  • Read/listened to over 130 books – my favorites being Recursion, Circe, S., Understanding Comics, Renegades, My Friend Anna, and Nausicaa.
  • Played a few video games, but not many to completion.

This list is a lot longer than I thought it would be. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have a lot more energy to go out to events or see friends since leaving my job. I’m less drained at the end of the day and more up for an adventure.

Of all of these – some of my favorites were Sleep No More, watching the US Women’s team win the World Cup this year, volunteering at Sundance (which I’m doing again in 2020) and Watchmen (my favorite new show of the year).

Exercise

At the beginning of the year, I did an exercise that helped me determine what would help me the most from a physical and mental level. On the physical side, I made one rule for myself: exercise at least 3x a week no matter what. This gave me a good kick in the butt to get out of bed at times all I wanted to do was sleep or watch TV.

  • Skiing
    • Brighton
    • Solitude
    • Alta
    • Deer Valley
  • Hiking & Backpacking
    • Grandeur Peak
    • Black Mountain
    • Mt. Olympus
    • Lake Blanche
    • Grove Creek to Battle Creek
    • Donut Falls
    • Thayne Canyon Trail (wasn’t able to finish it in May, but completed it later!)
    • Alta Trail
    • Cataract Gorge Trail
    • Bells Canyon Trail
    • Devils Garden Trail (in Arches)
    • Delicate Arch Trail
    • Adam’s Canyon Trail
    • Too many trails in Yellowstone to list
  • Running
    • From March to July, I trained 4x a week for a half marathon
    • Ran a half marathon on Pioneer Day (it’s a weird Utah Holiday)
    • Ran a total of 377 miles over 72 hours
    • I actually started to enjoy running!
  • CrossFit
    • Took a break from CrossFit from December 2018 – August 2019 (for the above reasons).
    • Rejoined in August going 3x a week again.
    • I tried going at different times – eventually landing on 12 PM as my favorite.
    • I gradually felt stronger throughout the year!
  • Weight
    • Started the year at 158 lbs, got up to 167 lbs, back down to 158 lbs while training for a half marathon then back up to 167 lbs and ending the year around 163 lbs.
    • Didn’t explicitly diet, but did occasionally track calories to eat a deficit using FitBit or MyFitnessPal.
    • I tried to drink less alcohol too, which helped both weight and better sleep.
    • Would still like to lose a few pounds. Mostly to make all fitness activities easier – from pull-ups to hiking to CrossFit to running.

The biggest surprise during the year was that I thought I’d love skiing a lot more than I actually did. I loved being out on the slopes, but I didn’t love waking up early, driving 45 minutes to 2 hours (if there was traffic) in scary conditions and carrying my skis half a mile or more to the slopes. I’d like to give it another shot next year in the 2020-2021 season. This winter though I’m looking forward to taking it easy, and focusing on what I’m currently enjoying.

How much I enjoyed hiking was also surprising to me. After a long winter of snow, being able to get out in the mountains and walk around was a welcomed relief. This was a great chance to put in an audiobook and get exercise while enjoying the fresh mountain air.

Not too long ago I read Born to Run. It’s an in-depth non-fiction book that takes a dive into running culture around the world. The next book I read was Grit, which was honestly the perfect pairing. After that, I started running a little more – even just once a week. After a few months of that, I set a goal to run a half marathon in July! The most helpful tool in this was using Runkeeper’s training program. You set a goal, a date and the number of training sessions you want to do per week and it does the rest. I highly recommend it.

Delicious Meals

Between eating out and making meals at home, there are fewer things I love more. One hard part of staying at home and not working is that you need to eat a LOT more. When I first stopped working, I realized how much time I spent just making lunches.

Before too long I started making food in bulk. When working I’d sometimes do this on Sundays – doing a bit of meal prep for the week. Lately, I’ve tried to make a large meal for dinner on Monday and have the leftovers for lunch throughout the week.

Here are a few of the dishes I’ve focused on this year:

  • Turkey (or bison) chili
  • Ethiopian Doro wat or Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew
  • Korean fried chicken (air fried!)
  • Pad Thai
  • Mapo Tofu
  • Cha siu bao (BBQ Pork Buns)
  • Carbonara
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken
  • Japanese Curry
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Chocolate Souffles

Japanese curry is one of our favorites. It’s also one of the easiest. We just buy a pre-made seasoning, add in some water, veggies, and meat then cook for a while. Super easy.

Making these dishes at home did lead us to realize that some meals are just worth it to eat out. BBQ Pork Buns are the prime example of this. The number of ingredients, marinating and dexterity required to replace a $1 pork bun are just not worth it to me. Also, the ones made by experienced chefs are tastier – and they look less like a bun that’s been left out in the rain.

For other dishes one thing was clear: we were much more likely to make it repeatedly if there was a shortcut. Take pad thai for example. If you make pad thai from scratch with the sauce you may be looking at 20 ingredients. If you buy the sauce and use that you’re down to 5. It’s may not be “authentic” in the same way, but it’s worth the recipe change to keep the recipe simple.

The same can be said for a number of our recipes. For Japanese Curry, we use a box of Japanese curry seasoning. For Okonomiyaki we use okonomiyaki flour. For Ethiopian dishes, we use pre-made niter kibbeh (ghee with a load of flavors. It’s the secret ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine).

In other words, if we’re looking at two paths to make the same dish, one that needs 5 ingredients and while the other uses 1 – we’ll start with the path that uses one ingredient.

Minafi

Since high school, I’ve always had personal projects that I put my time into. My preferred medium is making stuff on the web. Even when these aren’t wild successes (like everything on my failure resume) they’re still fun learning experiences.

Since about 2017, I’ve been trying to focus my attention on just one online project – Minafi! This has been a tremendously fun experience so far and I’m looking forward to doing more.

From January – April, I moved Minafi from WordPress to a custom site using Ruby on Rails. I still write my posts in WordPress, but they’re served from Rails. I did a write up about the tech side of it here, and about some of the newer features here.

During this time I also relaunched the Interactive Guide to Financial Independence and Early Retirement. The content was mostly the same, but the tech side moved from using a framework created by someone else to a custom framework I built. This was a step towards creating more flexible and reusable components that I can use to build out more interactive articles.

For the next few months from May – September, I focused on taking a break and creating some interactive content using this new setup. These included:

I have a bunch more I’ve started but haven’t finished – exploring fees, showing fund performance, which accounts to use and an entire kanban board or others. One thing I’m looking forward to doing more of in 2020 is completing these!

From October – December, I switched my focus to the Minafi Investor Bootcamp! This ended up being a lot more work than I expected. Apparently building out a course platform, billing, creating content, recording and editing videos is a lot. 😅

I considered using an external site like Teachable for course content but decided against it. If this were a startup and I was trying to prioritize monetization I’d go that route. Since Minafi doesn’t need to make money, I wanted to do something that I could have fun with and learn a lot from.

  • Created a course platform that guides people through everything they need to invest using text articles, videos, and activities.
  • Integrated with Stripe for billing, allowing for a lot of flexibility there and lower transaction fees than on another platform.
  • Kept focus on the user experience – one login, one-time fee and from that you get access to everything on Minafi today and later.
  • Outlined all the content in the Bootcamp – all 10 courses (!).
  • Recorded and released the first course – Why Should You Invest In the Stock Market?
  • Learned the minimum amount of video editing needed to do this.
  • Integrated with YouTube for Videos, then threw that all away and went with Vimeo.
  • Soft launched the boot camp – making is 100% free for teachers, students, and the military. There’s a one-time cost for anyone else.

Getting the boot camp to this point was the hardest thing I did all year. There were so many days I didn’t want to work on it. Having this boot camp is part of the vision for what I want Minafi to be, and to get there I have to put in the work.

I still have 8 more courses to create for it as of today. If I can do one course every two weeks then I might be able to wrap these up in the first 3 months of 2020. That’s my current target! I’ll worry about launching, monetizing and making money on it later. Right now I’m just excited to create what I have in my head so I can move on with my life. 😂

Spending & Investing

On the financial side, our expenses were about the same as 2018 – around $90,000. That comes out as:

  • Home – 30%. Our apartment by itself costs us about $2,200/month just to live in after rent, parking, pet rent, utilities, and insurance.
  • Food – 15%. Split to be about 10% groceries, 5% eating out.
  • Travel – 15%. This includes hotels, experiences, food, and alcohol while traveling and anything else spent during that time.
  • Adam’s Expenses – 10%. This includes some household items that I brought into the house like a projector and a Mac Mini, as well as anything else personal to me.
  • Mrs. Minafi’s Expenses – 13%. Similar to Adam’s expenses.
  • Pets, Entertainment, Everything else – 17%. This also includes paying a tax professional, buying umbrella insurance, gifts, charity and way too many streaming services for us to ever say we’re frugal.

There’s a lot to cut in this, but we’re OK for now based on our savings so far. When Mrs. Minafi leaves her job in 2020 we’re going to switch to paying for our own health insurance, which should push these even higher. Our hope is to power some other expenses to balance that out so that we don’t see our expenses grow. If we can keep our total spending under $90k for 2020 I’ll call that a success.

Investments

The investing side of our returns for the year was notoriously difficult to calculate. At the beginning of the year, I started selling a lot of company stock – eventually selling over $500,000 in 2019! This was rolled back into the market, mostly via $VTSAX, $VTIAX, and $VWIUX – the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Admiral Shares (bond fund).

It’s looking like we’ll have about $30,000 in taxable dividends from 2019 just from our $VTSAX and $VTIAX investments. According to Vanguard, 94.85% of $VTSAX is a qualified dividend while 66.87% of the international funds’ dividends are qualified. We’ll need to pay some taxes on these, but luckily they’ll mostly be qualified dividends and be taxed at our capital gains tax rate.

At the beginning of the year it was unclear what the cost basis would be on the company stock I sold this year. It’s such a weird situation. It was ownership in a company that was then acquired, then the company went public, I was granted shares and sold them – mostly within a year of the IPO. What tax do I pay? Short-term capital gains or long-term? What cost basis?

After talking with tax professionals, it’s looking like the cost-basis will be $0, and the date the clock started was when the company was acquired (not the IPO date). So that means this $500,000 in sold stock will be taxed as $500,000 in long-term capital gains.

Because of all the selling of company stock, we’ll be pushed into the higher capital gains bracket for 2019 – meaning some of our qualified dividends/stock sales will be taxed at 20%. For 2019, this means that any amount above $488,851 will be hit with that 20% tax rate.

We’ll also pay a lot to the state of Utah – a flat 5%. If we had stayed in Florida we’d have had an extra ~$50k in our pockets. We didn’t know that was going to happen or we might have done something different. We learned about the company going public about 5 months after we moved, and the last thing we wanted to do was move again.

I started investing with Vanguard a decade ago now. In that time my total returns have been a respectable 8.9%!

8.9% may seem low when you compare it with the S&P 500. If I’d been all in on $VTSAX (effectively the S&P 500), my returns would have been 13.63%.

The 4.7% difference between these is because my 8.9% returns are for a portfolio composed of 45% US, 30% Intl, 20% bonds and 5% REITs (and occasionally up to 5% of some individual stock). This matches what my nifty diversification calculator says would be the returns for this same period. That wouldn’t have been the case if I’d been trying to time the market or speculate.

The US Stock market was the best performing group for the last decade, and having that as my largest holding was a huge advantage.

One piece of advice I hear a lot is to stick more to the US market when you’re just getting started. If you did that this decade then you would’ve done very well! For the 2000s though, you would’ve done better with a diversified portfolio.

Both share the same main idea – investing the US market as a whole, through $VTSAX or another low-fee, diversified index fund – should be the cornerstone of your portfolio. Whether that’s 40% of it or 100% of it depends on your risk tolerance. For me, somewhere around 45%-50% is my target.

Learning New Things

I assumed I’d spend a lot more time learning, improving and seeking out new educational projects. That just wasn’t the case.

One thing I realized in 2019 was that I was trying to do way too much at one time. I learned the most when I focused my attention on learning one thing for an extended period of time – usually at least 6 weeks. For 2020 I’m aiming to focus on one thing at a time.

There were four areas where I did feel like I improved in some form though!

I read a bunch of books on data visualization – pretty much all of them at my local library. This is one thing I’ve seriously enjoyed and want to spend more time doing. The problem I ran into was that I was allocating time to learn it, but not to put that knowledge into practice with projects. I had (have) Minafi projects that will use some of these techniques, but they’re 3rd or 4th in line below some other things. I enjoy learning the most when I have an active project that I’m working towards that I can use what I learn on – something I struggled with for this area.

Focusing on learning how to be a better designer was one I could learn and immediately put into practice. Between reading Refactoring UI, watching non-stop YouTube design videos about Sketch and learning Tailwind.css, I had active projects to work on (Minafi) and new ideas! The result is an all-new site that I’m excited to continue working on.

Learning the kanji for "book" builds on that for "tree".
Learning the kanji for “book” builds on that for “tree”.

Back in 2018, I started learning Japanese through Duolingo. For the first half of 2019, I was doing at least a lesson every day – often 2 or 3. About halfway through the year (after a 180-day streak!) I just stopped. I felt like I wasn’t making progress and looked for something new. Through the LearnJapanese subreddit, I found WaniKani. WaniKani is amazing – and through using Tsurukane on the iPhone it’s made practice super-simple. It’s a spaced repetition app for learning to read Kanji. What I love about it is that it gives mnemonics for every kanji through stories. I’ve been amazed at how helpful these have been for remembering. It’s also made it so much more fun!

An area I was surprised to enjoy was video editing! As part of creating the content for the Minafi Investor Bootcamp, I started recording and editing the videos for it. Since these are short videos, usually under 10 minutes, I thought “how hard can it be?”. I’ve been using ScreenFlow for almost a decade on and off, but only for the absolute basics. While what I created isn’t going to match up with what a pro could do, I enjoyed learning the basics. Here’s a sample of one of the videos from a course to see the result:

2019 Goals Review

At the end of last year, I set out a few goals. Actually, I called them “themes” rather than goals. The idea was that they were areas I wanted to work on rather than goals that had a clear definition.

2019.1) Ease into each day

This one is a freebie. This goal was a reminder to organize my days around enjoying life rather than productivity.

My days started like this:

  • Wake up sometime between around 8 AM and 8:30 AM when Mrs. Minafi goes to work.
  • Have coffee and breakfast in bed while reading or checking social media.
  • By 9:30 AM or so start doing something – anything from playing games to working on Minafi to
  • From 12 PM – 1 PM exercise most days.
  • 1 PM – Do any chores, take a shower, clean anything up.
  • By 2 PM continue working on other projects or spend some time relaxing.

I love throwing myself into a project 100% and making significant progress in it fast. It’s not sustainable long-term though. This goal to ease into each day also helps shift how I think about making progress in other areas. Rather than trying to spend every waking moment working on something, I’ve been happier making slow, steady progress.

Goal rating: A+. I plan to continue doing this one and love making it a part of my lifestyle.

2019.2) Favor habits over goals

After reading Atomic Habits, I went a bit overboard on the habit train. Armed with this new information I switched from setting goals to setting habits.

…. and I failed miserably.

Looking back, the problem is that I need motivation for habits to work. If I’m spending time each day to learn Japanese, doing that without some end goal to motivate me isn’t going to help at all.

I don’t have an answer to this one. For me, habits are important. Goals are important. Making progress is important. Any “personal system” (or whatever you want to call it) that allows me to continue forward momentum and feel good about it is a win.

I have an idea of how I want to do this for 2020 that involves a combination of themes and renewed goals towards completable projects while iterating on habits to get there.

Goal rating: C. Habits are good and all, but I haven’t yet figured out how I’ll focus them to some greater goal.

2019.3) Provide value only I can give

This is one of my favorite resolutions ever. It’s a reminder to look for ways of creating things only you can create, of helping people in ways only you can and just being there for people as only you can.

For Minafi that meant doing things completely different than most people recommend. Rather than posting 3x a week and focusing on SEO, I’ve been creating interactive content and building out a curriculum to learn how to invest!

In my personal life, this has served as a good reminder to help people and be there for friends. We all have a lot we can give, and being there for others in a way only you can is one way.

Goal rating: B. I didn’t volunteer this year like I hoped. I could’ve dug a bit deeper into some conversations with people.

2019.4) Consistently track whatever I want to improve

This one goes hand in hand with habits. It’s about making sure I’m forming a habit rather than just assuming it’s happening.

For a few months, I tracked habits using Todoist – my preferred tracking app.

For a few more months I used Everyday App, a simple way of tracking progress over time. This has been helpful for tracking that work was done – for example, “did I exercise today? yes, no or skip this day?”. It’s simple but does the job

Side note: When I started doing a video course I realized I should do some kind of better skincare routine. Based on Mrs. Minafi’s recommendation I started a wash/cleanse/moisturize routine.

While this was great for simple binary tasks, it wasn’t great for tasks where I wanted to make serious progress. I could “practice Japanese” every day for a year and still not be able to read a restaurant menu or greet someone I meet on the street.

For running, I tracked progress on Runkeeper. This was one of the better ways of tracking progress. At the end of every run, I instantly saw how it compared with past runs.

When I wanted to hike all the major peaks in Salt Lake City, I make a spreadsheet of them and set dates on when to do.

When I wanted to make a new recipe every month I tracked what my “recipe of the month” was for past months and set a goal for new ones.

Tracking what I wanted to improve helped. What it didn’t do was help with incremental progress on large-scale projects. Those projects need their own goals that are worked towards with their own set of criteria to complete.

Rather than “practice Japanese”, a better way of tracking that might have been getting to a 1st grade level of understanding for reading. Then after getting there getting to a 2nd-grade level. I could track the number of kanji I know along the way and know when I got there.

The takeaway here for me is that it’s nice to have a place to track progress across habits, but I need a clearer definition of what “work” looks like on each habit for things that aren’t a single moment.

Goal rating: B+.

2020 Themes

I’m not setting goals for 2020. My 2019 “goals” were actually “themes” and I’ll be doing that again this year.

None of these have a clear “yes”/”no”. My hope is that they help shape my thoughts for the year.

2020.1) Set an intention for every month

In 2017 and 2018 I set a theme for myself every month (and wrote about). In my first year retired, I realized that I really enjoyed having that focus on just that one thing. It helped set the stage for what was most important to spend my time on. When I wasn’t sure if I should do one thing or the other that day, having that focus helped break the tie and decide where my time went.

After taking 2019 off from any kind of monthly theming, I want to start that up again in 2020. I found from my first year, it’s sometimes nice to have that kick in the butt to get out of bed and get something done. Even if it’s not exactly what I’d want to do that day at first, I usually feel so much better when I complete something I’ve set out for myself.

What does success look like?

  • Before the first of the month, I’ve:
    • Decided what I want my intention to be for the next month
    • Written it down and published it on Minafi (on the 1st of the month)
    • Used it as a guide for the following month
  • These are NOT at all related to financial investing, which is a core part of Minafi, but that’s OK
    • “Investing in a like you want” is part of the Minafi mission, which this follows.
  • I don’t set Minafi goals 2 months in a row.
    • I can tend to get obsessive about growth to the point where I feel like I’m never making enough progress.
    • Remind myself that it’s not a race and that it’s OK to sit on goals.
      • I can still work on them months from now.

To kick things off, here’s my theme for January: Focus.

2020.2) Have deeper, meaningful conversations with friends

Learn how to do better at breaking the ice and connecting with people to have heart to heart conversations. Not every conversation needs to go deep, but I want to improve my ability to ask hard questions and approach difficult subjects with good intentions.

What does success look like?

  • I feel more deeply connected with my friends in person.
  • I have more people in my life who I’d take a bullet for (and vice versa).
  • I’ve developed deeper relationships with blogger/online friends.

2020.3) Develop a deep DIY mindset

I tend to eat out often, buy home improvements and quickly call on experts. I’m aiming to change my mindset to first to exhaust all options I can do on my own before buying a solution.

How will I do this?

  • Make even more meals at home. They don’t all have to be complex either! Even getting better at a one-pot chicken and veggies meal would be nice.
  • Mend clothes whenever possible
  • Look for alternatives when gardening
  • If something breaks looks for alternatives to do without with what we have

What does success look like?

  • When something needs to be fixed, my first line of thought it how to develop a solution rather than buy a solution.
  • The problems I do but solutions to are ones that I have tried to solve and been unable to
    • Or the solution isn’t worth the time, energy or cost.

2020.4) Tackle fitness challenges that motivate and inspire me

In order to live a long, active and healthy life, I need to be in great shape. Being healthy and active gives me more energy to go out and explore, travel, spend time with friends and otherwise enjoy life.

In addition, challenging myself with fitness goals is rewarding! When I think back to times I set goals like running a half marathon, completing a CrossFit workout, walking on my hands, doing a muscle-up, running a 5k in under a specific time and so much more.

Being active and healthy in general isn’t negotiable – this is more about finding a way that’ll most motivate me to get out of bed, put on running shoes and get outside on those cold days.

What motivates me most?

  1. Exciting and interesting goals. ex: learn a new skill, run a new distance.
  2. See incremental improvement. ex: Times improving, weight increasing.
  3. Alone-time. ex: Going for a hike and being able to listen to an audiobook or catch up on podcasts.
  4. Working towards a lofty goal. ex: Hiking all the major peaks of SLC, running a marathon.

Observation: None of these motivations are based on achieving a specific body weight.

Why?

  • To live a long, productive life
  • When I’m healthy I have more energy to do other things
  • When I’m in shape I spend less time obsessing about losing/weight
  • More confidence and willingness to do things on camera
  • I tend to be happier when I work out
  • Lot easier to get fit now, compared to if we travel/move and need to get into a routine from scratch

Possible actions:

  • Go to CrossFit or gym 3x-5x a week.
  • Start weight training in addition to CrossFit to help strengthen weak areas.
    • Spend 15 minutes before or after the workout working on weaknesses or strengthening areas.
    • Focus on one movement for a week at a time and work on it MWF.
  • Try rock climbing at a local gym
    • Maybe sign up for Front to be able to do Yoga and other classes there.
  • Continue limiting alcohol
    • Don’t drink 2 days in a row
    • Limit drinking to 2 drinks
    • Drink at most 2x a week
      • Not on days I work out
  • Track calories eaten and weight over time
    • Track calories for the first week of every month. That gives a solid reminder of calories in vs out that helps realign my eating for the rest of the month.
  • Potential Challenges:
    • Run a marathon
    • Get my 5k time down to <25 minutes
    • Get my 10k time down to <50 minutes
    • Run a mile in <6 minutes
    • Learn how to rock climb (at a gym)
    • Practice yoga (potentially at the same climbing gym since they offer yoga)
    • Be able to do a bar and ring muscle-ups consistently in a workout
    • Be able to snatch my body weight.
    • Complete Murph in 2020 in under 50 minutes
    • Be able to do bodyweight x 1.5 clean and jerk (225lb?)

What does success look like?

  • Set a first challenge to work towards and just start!
    • To start easy, I think my first one will be: “Run a 10k in under 1 hour”.
  • Have inspiring goals for each place I’m active (gym, trail, track, etc).
    • It’s OK to have multiple at one time, since I’ll still be focusing on just one at each place.
  • Be active 3+ times a week.
    • 3x is OK for periods when I’m actively working on other projects and need more focus for them.
    • Shoot for more on other weeks.

I’m excited to see what a new year and new decade brings!

How’d your year go? How about your decade? Do you set any goals or themes for the new year? Or did you set any for the past year? I’d love to hear about it!

Adam

About Adam

Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!

11 Comments

Why not add to the conversation below? Your voice is welcome!

good stuff. you’re about six months ahead of me on the journey, so reading this really resonates. I’m definitely more social now, since I’m not drained after working all week, same with cooking more at home because it’s fun and exercising much more.

Awesome Jonathan! It’s crazy how much enjoyable some things are when you’re not rushed to do them. You can finally see which activities you really enjoy and which you don’t – and it’s not just time making you like/not enjoy it.

I love how you keep yourself accountable to your goals. Well done!

Awesome article!

Koichi is one of the smartest and funny people I know of (Tofugu/wanikani), recc the podcasts.

Like the concept of intention month

Ohh nice! I hadn’t heard about the podcast, but I just subscribed. There’s so much to learn that it’ll take a while, but good to know there’s a smart team behind it.

I think you’ll also need to pay the taxman NIIT (3.8% Obamacare tax) on amounts over 250k.

Ah yeah, good point.

Also, you probably should pay estimated tax during the . At least 110% of your prior year tax to avoid estimated tax interest/penalities.

BTW…I believe your LTCG rate is based on income (wages less deductions) and not AGI so you may still be in the LTCG 15% bracket. NIIT however is based on AGI.

Hmm, that’s good to know – I hadn’t looked into the NIIT tax actually. Fun new things coming up this year! -_-

I did have my tax person do my taxes this year due to the sheer amount of it this time around. It wasn’t fun paying over $100,000 in estimated taxes already this year that’s for sure.