2019 is halfway over already, and I can’t decide if it’s been THISQUICK or i n c r e d i b l y s l o w.
It’s been a big year already for me, so this will hopefully be a fun recap, but I don’t plan to sugarcoat anything, either.
My biggest hobby lately has been travel, and there’s been plenty of it, both personal and work travel.
- In January, I attended my first CampFI outside of Gainesville, Florida. It was really remote, but was a great place to get away with a bunch of like-minded people. Several existing friendships were rekindled and even more new friendships were made!
- In the middle of February, I took advantage of the President’s Day long weekend to do a road-trip around the Southeastern US. Stops included Helen GA, Clemson SC, and Charleston SC. I also made quick detours to Kiawah Island GA, Savannah GA, Jekyll Island GA, Jacksonville FL
- February trip to Indianapolis to watch my high school’s girls basketball team play in the State Championship game. February in Indiana is typically cold and snowy, but it wasn’t cold enough for that this year. Instead there was some cold, cold rain on Saturday and then a crazy wind storm that was strong enough to blow over this 6’5”, 350+ lb blogger if I hadn’t been extra careful.
- On Cinco de Mayo, I drove to Tampa to meet up with other FI bloggers around Florida. RoseColoredWater drove in from Pensacola, I drove up from Fort Myers, Seonwoo Lee flew in from Atlanta, and we met up with locals MK Williams and her husband Jason, Kristine from Frugally Reckless and her husband Michael, and FromOneGeektoAnother from just outside Tampa.
- On May 30, I flew to San Diego CA to attend the premiere of the Playing with FIRE documentary in the city where the Rieckens’ story began. It was a great chance to meet them, see the movie with friends, and hang out in great company. I also took a tour of the USS Midway with Military Dollar and FrugalToFI.
- On the last weekend of June, I drove to Atlanta to catch the Playing with FIRE film with FI friends from around the Southeast. Rich & Regular hosted and Scott and Taylor Rieckens flew in for Q&A, and we had a full house! It was fun to re-connect with friends from the CampFI back in January, and to see Scott and Taylor again.
As for work trips, there were several, as well:
- February required two one-night trips to Orlando. The first one was for a Strategic Visioning meeting with other members of the Florida Floodplain Managers Association (FFMA) Board of Directors. The second trip was a Community Flood Risk Workshop hosted on the UCF campus.
- In March, the FFMA annual conference was held in Daytona Beach, FL. The conference hotel was right on the beach, but I was so busy with conference activities that I didn’t even step foot onto the sand until the final afternoon. But we did get a private tour of the Daytona International Speedway and met with the stormwater engineer and emergency management director, so that was a cool inside look behind the scenes of what makes that massive facility work.
- In April, I was asked to attend the first annual FFMA Legislative Day at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Our Executive Director, Associate Legislative Director (also my boss at work), and I met with 3 legislative aides and had the chance to take a picture with one State Senator who agreed to speak about Flood Insurance at our next conference in Orlando in 2020.
- Not to be outdone, May included a trip to West Palm Beach for the ESRI Southeast User Conference for 2 nights. A few weeks later, I traveled to Cleveland OH for the Association of State Floodplain Managers annual conference, along with my aforementioned boss and the Building Official (also my boss).
- I made sure that my FI friends in Northeast Ohio knew that I would be in Cleveland for a week, so Deanna from Ms Fiology set up a meetup before my conference started so I could hang out and meet FI folks in Cleveland area. Then, after the conference ended, Amanda Page came up from Columbus OH to meet me and we spent the afternoon together, having been friends for 4-5(?) years but never having met.
I would say that 12 trips in 6 months qualifies as A LOT 😊
On a financial front, the year started out pretty expensive with my DIY Master Bathroom remodel, but I was very fortunate to have the help of my handy dad. But let’s be honest, he did most of the work. The total cost came to around $2,600, but I was able to cash-flow the improvements as they dragged out over 4 weeks. I also had previously purchased Lowe’s gift cards last year, in anticipation of this project, and I strategically asked for cash for my birthday and Christmas in 2018 (only 1 day apart), so that I would have extra cash set-aside for the project.
After the bathroom project was in my rear-view mirror, I was more comfortable allocating some of the extra cash I had saved, so I put the full $6,000 maximum into my Traditional IRA in March. At work, March was a 3-paycheck month, and I also got my 2018 tax refund, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to put the $6,000 into Vanguard all at once.
I haven’t opened new credit cards or bank accounts in 2019, but I did receive two bonuses. One was a 70,000-mile bonus from the Citi Business version of the American Airlines card. The second was a $191 bonus from opening an Ally account last October.
I left Verizon after 20+ years with them and joined Google FI. With them, I only pay for the amount of data I use, so it’s been cheaper than my portion of the bill with my old Family Plan on VZW.
I also re-joined Tradeline Supply company’s list of tradelines providers. This step earned me $150 in commissions in the first half of 2019, since I only provided 2 cards to their inventory.
I’m still done with Uber, but I have provided 5 cash rides for a total of $235.
My personal savings rate for the first half of 2019 came to 59.14%, with regular contributions on pace to max out my 457b, already maxed-out Traditional IRA, principal payments to my mortgage, plus money into my high-yield online savings account and taxable brokerage account.
In the first half of the year, I provided scholarships to courses/conferences for 6 individuals, meanwhile helping 3 friends with their businesses. Through my scholarship to Dumpster Doggy’s Invested Development course, other benefactors were inspired to provide an additional 7 scholarships, and DD herself gave 1 spot away. But when the scholarship applications came in, a handful of applicants seemed to need more financial coaching and personal assistance, so I sponsored 4 women to meet one-on-one with Tori Dunlap at HerFirst100k.
Later on, I was challenged by Emily Guy Birken to provide some financial assistance to the first-ever Elevate Influencer conference, and I was happy to be able provide a scholarship to that event in NYC.
I’m still not trying to take my blog seriously, but I do appreciate the growth it has seen this year, and the many times my posts have been featured!
On March 20th, my first-ever Guest Post went live on GetRichSlowly, thanks to a chance encounter at FinCon last year in September. JD Roth asked me what my blog covered, and when I told him about my 3-part series on driving Uber, he offered to let me guest post about it on his site, since it was something he had never wrote about before.
Shortly thereafter, on April 10th, my post covering the Lifetime Wealth Ratio was a featured post on RockstarFinance.com. I had my highest all-time pageviews that day, with 1,799. That’s over 12.75% of my total pageviews from the past 18 months this blog has been live.
In February, I finally sat down to write my Comprehensive guide to Beginner Travel Cards post, and that has been a popular post on organic searches. I’ve also been able to share that post in many instances where people have been curious about getting started, but didn’t know where to begin. I’ve been at this hobby for 3.5 years so far, and the post will hopefully help people avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, like opening a Delta Gold card for 30,000 miles, just to help my employer avoid a $50 bag fee. (That card routinely has a 60,000-mile bonus and can be earned well after more lucrative sign-up bonuses from Chase).
In June, I received a shout-out on the ChooseFI podcast during the Hot Seat portion of their interview with Lisa Duke. She answered that my post on “Drank the Emergency Fund” was her favorite article of all-time, which led a lot of traffic my way.
I also had short segments recorded for the FireDrill Podcast and Marriage, Kids & Money podcast. It was pretty cool to hear myself on those popular, successful podcasts, but I definitely need to work on my interview and public speaking skills, so I recently started attending Toastmasters meetings at work.
On January 1, Miss Mazuma requested for others to join her in a 10k/day or 70k/week step challenge, to last all year long. I was ashamed to look back at my December step logs on Fitbit to see that I had exactly ZERO days of 10,000 steps in all of December 2018. I joined immediately, knowing that it was going to be a tough challenge for me to keep up with. But the community aspect of the challenge, along with the financial penalty of $5 per week that a participant falls short of 70k steps would help keep me motivated.
But, as it turns out, it isn’t the financial incentive that keeps me motivated. It is definitely the people, my Accountabilibuddies, that keep me motivated, and I try to return the favor. We have a group chat DM on Twitter, and people can post their status for the day or week, or chime in when they’re struggling. Invariably, someone shares some motivation and encouragement to get to the goal.
The power of making tiny changes to my habits has been incredible. After successfully keeping up a 10k/day average for 5 months, I increased my personal goal to 12k/day or 84k/week. I’m still in the middle of the pack, currently #5 out of the remaining 9 challengers, but I’m building up my endurance and tolerance for spending hours at a time on a walk. I’m writing this on July 14th, and yesterday I took a 3.5 hour walk on the beach, totaling 10.25 miles and 22k steps, all before 10:30AM.
The leaderboard is also encouraging, since I can see my weekly gains adding up to over 2,000,000 steps so far this year. And as of this month, we have a smaller group of 4 of us who have raised the goal to 80k/week or pay $5 into the collective pot. The money will be split between the highest step count and the person who misses the mark the fewest times (0 so far for me, so I am in the running for that slice of the pie).
The rest of 2019
So what does the rest of the year look like for me? More of the same, of course!
I just returned from a trip home to Indiana for the July 4th 4-day weekend, where I spent a lot of time with family and friends in the pool. I would wake up early and get my steps in for the day, then relax most of the day while catching up with folks I only get to see a couple times a year.
Next week is a trip to Richmond, VA to hang out with the ChooseFI guys and watch the screening of Playing with FIRE film with ~600 other people, the largest such screening to date.
I’m really excited about the end of August, when I’ll join my walking/blogging buddy Bianca at her Caboose in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The lake is ~23 miles around, and we will walk around the whole thing over the course of 2 days, along with have some FI meetups for members of the ChooseFI Chicago and Wisconsin groups, plus anyone else within driving (or flying) distance who wants to attend! 😊
A week later, I’m off to Washington DC for FinCon 2019! I’m flying up a couple days early to hang out with Military Dollar, Abigail from ipickuppennies, James and Emily from Rethink the Rat Race, and others who want to explore DC before the conference starts! Dillon from DollarRevolution is going to be my roommate for the week, and I’m going to be on staff this year as the Volunteer Coordinator. In about a week, I’m having a coordination call with Jessica from the FinCon team to get the volunteering situation worked out, so it’s getting really close to happening, friends!
In mid-October, I am flying to Kalispell, Montana to attend the very first Adventures to FI retreat, hosted by Jillian Johnsrud from Montana Money Adventures! I was able to book flights for only 12.5k AAdvantage miles each way, for a whopping 8 CENTS PER MILE valuation! Here’s the link for more info, and tickets are going fast: Adventures to FI Retreat
Those are the planned trips so far, but there’s still 2 more months of the year to try and fit in a long weekend trip somewhere. I’m contemplating making a return trip to NYC on Veteran’s Day weekend, like I did last year. My friend Dumpster Doggy just recently moved there, and I didn’t get a chance to meet up with her when we were both there last November.
Or maybe some of y’all will come visit Florida and I can host or hang out. It’s a good place to sneak away to during those cold winter months up North.
My savings goals are still on autopilot, with regular 457b contributions coming out of my paycheck automatically every 2 weeks. August is a 3-pay month, so I’m looking forward to throwing some extra cash into my brokerage.
I’m working on a refinance of my 30-year Adjustable Rate Mortgage into a 15-year fixed. This will not only cut ~2 years off the term of the loan, but will lock in a rate of 3.125% for the next decade and a half. I’m also cashing out a tiny bit of equity, so ~$4,000 will be going into my brokerage to grow towards my future at a rate exceeding that tiny little mortgage interest rate.
And I will continue to find ways to contribute monetarily to this community. This week, I bought a ticket to Cents Positive retreat in Seattle for a deserving member of our personal finance community. She has inspired me to not put up with bullshit that pops up sometimes at work, and encouraged so many of us with her entrepreneurial efforts and debt pay-down story. I was delighted to be able to do that for a friend, to hang out with so many of our shared friends in Seattle, and support this great event by Tanja Hester.
I have also been recently purchasing books by some of my friends in this community, and have read or will be reading soon:
Work Optional by Tanja Hester
Broke Millennial Takes on Investing by Erin Lowry
Playing with FIRE by Scott Rieckens
Choose FI: Your Blueprint for Financial Independence by Chris Mamula, Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa
Set for Life by Scott Trench
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Feminist Financial Handbook by Brynne Conroy
Retire Early with Real Estate by Coach Chad Carson
Get Money by Kristin Wong
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
Quit Like a Millionaire by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung
I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi,
Along with re-reading old classics such as:
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley
What do you have planned for the rest of 2019? Any books I should add to my reading list?