What Went Well This Year? What Didn’t?

My favorite parts of the months/years, are the ends. ‘Cuz something in us loves to stop for a few and look back over what just happened, and then look forward to what’s about to come. (Or, what we *hope* is about to come ;)). So when my boy Nate shot me a link over to Chris Guillebeau’s recent article on reviewing 2013, I stopped what I was doing and opened it right up.

And I’m glad I did. Any time something forces you to hit pause and evaluate your life/goals – even for just a few minutes – I’m all about it. The years seem to pass progressively faster and faster than the last one, and if we’re not too careful we’ll end up old and wrinkly with nothing to show for it ;) And it’s interesting to see how others evaluate stuff too – even if just out of curiosity.

Here’s a clip from the article:

To begin the Annual Review, I ask myself two questions and try to come up with at least 6-8 answers to each:

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

For these answers, I’m mostly interested in events I have control over. If something didn’t go well that I couldn’t prevent or control, it doesn’t need to go on the list. (Hint: you have control over most things.)

I love that he threw in stuff that’s “out of our control” – that’s an important thing to decipher. Not that it doesn’t affect our other goals of course – they most always do! – but that it shouldn’t get you down as much as perhaps other things that could have been avoided.

At any rate though, I thought it make for a good exercise today to answer those two questions Chris poses, even if just to yourself (though it would be more fun for the rest of us if you left them in the comments below ;)). And since I hate leaving the bad stuff at the end, I’m going to reverse the questions and start with the bad first. Who wants to be depressed at the end of these things??

Here’s how my year went:.

What did not go well this year?

#1) Overall business income. While we had some major successes this year in selling off a few projects, overall my business income has taken a hit this year. A mixture of changes outside of my control, as well as some things that are in my control but haven’t figured out yet. I haven’t run the numbers yet, but I’d guess we had a 30-40% drop – ouch.

#2) Retirement investments. Since now my main retirement vehicle is tied to business income (my SEP Ira), we’ll be putting in a few thousand dollars less at the end of the year… and more than likely not maxing out both the wife and I’s Roths to preserve cash reserves in the upcoming year. But we’ll see how long I last – I get hard headed when I’m about to break a winning streak ;) (I’ve maxed out my Roth IRA for 5 straight years in a row).

#3) Overall savings. While our reserves are back to the $70kish levels again, half of it was only recently brought back after killing $30k+ on our house updates and move earlier this year. And another $15k+ will be headed to our SEP in the next month or so for our retirement. $50k is nothing to sneeze at, of course, but in comparison to past years it’s not as pretty.

#4) Car troubles. I’ve gotten in two accidents this year (one my fault, and one not), on top of other money-sucking repairs like the brakes going to crap the other month. I’m starting to like the idea more and more of giving it up altogether and becoming a 1-car household ;) Perhaps on the day the next major thing happens?

#5) Stress levels. 2013 was the first year since I can remember feeling stressed. Between businesses nonsense, becoming landlords, baby $$ stuff, and going down to a single income household, I finally know what it’s like to not be in la la land ;) And, to be honest, I kind of appreciate it. I’m hoping 2014 is a LOT better, of course, but it’s good to have a reminder every now and then that shit doesn’t always go your way. And that you can’t be complacent.

What went well this year?

#1) Overall net worth! Despite the major drop in business, our net worth has climbed $100k in one year! WOOHOO! $330k to $440k – not too shabby at all…

#2) Relocation! We finally got off our asses and made our moving wishes come true – after years and years of talking about it :) And so far so great! It’s only been 6 months since being here in Virginia, but we’ve been having a blast and feel like it really is “home” now. And will continue living here until the Mrs. finishes that paper and starts applying to jobs over the Summer… From that point on, who knows where I’ll be blogging from :)

#3) De-cluttering. I no joke have at least 50% less “stuff!” It really was The Year of The Simple, and I busted my ass to clear away as much stuff as possible, knowing we were moving to a smaller house. And I haven’t stopped since! In truth, I’m kinda addicted, haha… Been donating/selling/giving away more and more stuff lately, all of which progressively gets more valuable since I’m done w/ the cheap/trash stuff, haha…

#4) Family growth. See yesterday’s post :)

#5) Mustache growing efforts! I successfully grew a handlebar mustache after years of wondering if I could pull it off, and then – after 4 solid months of rocking it – I shaved the entire thing off. As a birthday gift to the Mrs. :) It was a fun ride to say the least, but now back to my boyish good looks…

How about you?

How did your year go? Did you have more positive or negative things go down? Are you ready to kill it in 2014?? I hope so. And I hope you’ll continue following this blog too so we can learn and grow together. As lame as that just sounded right now ;)

Take a few moments and consider these two questions before you click away today… What went well in your life this year? What didn’t?

We’ll get to the goal-setting stuff later this month around New Year’s… That’s the 2nd key to this puzzle here: setting some realistic (and fantasy?) goals to get you excited for the future. But for now, we enjoy the rest of December :)

Photo cred: fabulousfabs

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  1. a terrible husband... December 18, 2013 at 5:43 AM

    Sounds like a pretty good year overall. You take the good, you take the bad,
    you take them both and there you have… the facts of life… (I get most of my life lessons from theme songs.)

    Similar things this year for me. Career zigged. Family zagged. Working on several projects online. Moved from NJ to MA to be closer with family. Finishing up the Confessions book. It’s coming along awesome. Looking forward to 2014.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Nice man… looking forward to reading my signed copy of it when it comes out ;)

  2. Adam December 18, 2013 at 5:43 AM

    Our net worth increased by $90k this year. We were fortunately enough to sell an investment property which wasn’t performing well, then use the proceeds to short the Australian dollar against the USD just at the right time. Otherwise, our net worth would have been pretty flat. I guess you get lucky sometimes …

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      I have no idea what that means, but good job on being smart!

  3. jane savers @ solving the money puzzle December 18, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    You will continue to have successful years because your net worth has grown so much. I feel that once net worth achieves a certain mass it continues to grow even if you aren’t really actively managing it as long as no one becomes a gambler or a drinker.

    My finances didn’t improve much in 2013 but I think I have escaped the outsourcing cuts at work and will continue to work full time during 2014 and I have an aggressive savings and debt repayment plan ready to roll on January 1.

    1. jane savers @ solving the money puzzle December 18, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      I have been reading some of the other comments and I want everyone to know that I have no complaints. My sons and I are all healthy and happy and we all have jobs. They only work part time but they are both in school full time.

      I am grateful for what I have (no hurricanes or health issues and no big stresses keeping me up at night).

      1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:03 PM

        That’s what’s important!! Being happy, safe, and grateful. I’m glad you’re feeling that way :) And I also agree with your net worth statement in that it’ll keep snowballing as long as we don’t do something stupid. The beauty of hard work early on!

  4. Brian December 18, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    I think most years will look like this you’ll have some wins and losses.

    We were able to pay off over $25K in debt, my wife recovered from a major surgery and returned to work. My job continues to be crazy busy. Stress and 50-60 hours work weeks are the norm.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:04 PM

      Ouch. Good thing you have a sexy/healthy wife and less debt to think about while at work! :)

  5. Mark Ross December 18, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    You look like you had a pretty good year, that net worth increase is such a great achievement. Congrats J!

    As for me, my year went well too. I was able to purchase a new laptop and keep up with my saving goals.

  6. Snarkfinance December 18, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    The net worth accomplishment is nothing to shake a stick at… congrads.

    For me, this year has been mixed. Went well: saved a S-load of money, finalized the life plan for the next ten years which is totally doable and very exciting, optimized the apartment building I own (all the hard work is done), and got married.

    Went not-well: my first crack at a blog failed, but I am trying again once more. I am more stressed now that I have been in a long while. I am convinced I am aging at a accelerated rate.

    A mix bag, perhaps?

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      we gotta figure out how to control those stress levels of ours :( especially now when nothing major is happening that could put it in overdrive!

  7. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel December 18, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    $100k in a year is pretty sexy! :)

  8. charles@gettingarichlife December 18, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    2013 was a financially a great year for us. I got promoted, our net worth increase exceeded our annual income and I made the Budgets Are Sexy blogroll. Thanks for the link!
    On the downside I got sciatic back pain that is slowing me down and the wife got really sick a couple of times this year. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2014 for you and your family.

    1. Brooklyn Money December 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      Back pain is the worst! I just went through my first experience with something that I think was similar to sciatic pain. It made everything (i mean putting on my shoes even!) difficult. And made me appreciate how important health is, something I tend to take for granted.

  9. Jaclyn December 18, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    This year was a bit crazy with us. We finally got back into our house after Hurricane Sandy. Had to buy new furniture but that’s it. Luckily we got a lot of help from FEMA. We paid off $15,000 in credit card debt. Still have about another $10,000 to go. We had 2 twin boys who were born 3 and half months early. Luckily they are doing great and home now. Medicaid helped with the medical bills (They are about $2.5 million in bills LOL), WIC gave us formula, and a foundation gave us financial support. Luckily I’m able to work from home. This year has its up and downs but we are most happy to have our twin boys.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:07 PM

      Holy. Crap. You win the scary-of-the-year award! TWICE! :) I’m so glad your boys are doing well and you’re back in your house! Jeez… puts things in perspective, I’ll tell you what.

  10. Financial Samurai December 18, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Hey J! Congrats on growing the NW despite the income hit. Can you remind us again what the ROTH contribution max is and the income limit one needs to not make over in order to contribute?


    1. writing2reality December 18, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      Hey Sam, got what you need here:

      Roth IRA Max contribution: $5,500 ($6,500 if over 50)
      Income limits:
      Single – Phase out starts at $112,000 and goes to $127,000
      Married filing Joint – Phase out starts at $178,000 and goes to $188,000

  11. John S @ Frugal Rules December 18, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    That looks like a pretty good year overall J, especially the net worth! Our year was fairly good, with the best thing seeing our business and income from it more than double from the previous year which was nice to see. The bad…my “de-crapify 2013” efforts completely fell on their face. I’m definitely changing that soon!

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:08 PM

      Double is good!!! You doubled up and mine doubled down! Haha…

  12. This Life On Purpose December 18, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    I really like the sentiment of this post. I might have to do something similar! Really makes you think and evaluate your progress.

  13. Kathleen December 18, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Good year, sir! So happy to spend time with you in October.

  14. Samantha December 18, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    We had a great year in 2013!
    1) Bought a used car with cash in January that has had zero problems all year!
    2) Found a new church I love, got baptized, and am now fully plugged in volunteering!
    3) Dog, husband, and self very healthy all year.
    4) Graduated from docent program and now a full-fledged tour guide at the art museum.
    5) Took two mini vacations (cash only of course), and met Dave Ramsey!
    6) Went on my first mission trip (to the Caribbean!), paid for through work.
    7) Turned 30 and still no gray hairs! haha.
    8) Paid off over $35k in mortgage debt and on track to have it paid off next December.

    Didn’t go well:
    1) Joined my first research study and promptly realized it was NOT worth the money.
    2) Did not meet any of my fitness goals after July.
    3) Did not stick to the housekeeping plan at all! Clutter is back in a big way.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      YOU MET DAVE RAMSEY???? COOOL!!!!! The other stuff too, yes, but that one def. stands out ;)

  15. MonicaOnMoney December 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Wow, it sounds like you’ve had an amazingly successful 2013! Congrats to you! I love reading articles like this, it’s just so inspiring :)

    My year was success- paid over $10K extra on my mortgage, maxed out my retirement funds, and started my blog!

  16. Broke Millennial December 18, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Sounds like a pretty successful year!

    What didn’t go well: I wanted to make some lifestyle changes (notably exercise consistently) that didn’t happen with success. Had spurts here and there but nothing weekly. Wanted to have an exit strategy for my current work situation — but got too comfortable with all the benefits and health insurance.

    What did go well: Found this awesome PF community! Started a blog that has had moderate success. Expanded my investing efforts by upping my 401(k) contribution and starting a mutual fund. Got a steady freelance side hustle going to pad my savings account. Took improv classes to exercise my acting muscle that I’ve missed using. Made new friends and kept the old. :)

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      Yeah PF Community! We always need more awesome people in it too, so welcome aboard! :)

  17. Steve December 18, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Went Well: Officially crossed the million dollar net worth mark. Had not tracked it prior to a month ago but had significant increase in the value of our house and rental and we put away 20+% of income into stock investments which performed really, really well.

    Not as Well: My golf handicap once again failed to dip into single digits, nagging injuries did not help. Got to play Pebble Beach on my 50th birthday so that soothed some of the sting.

    All in all, a spectacular year.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      Yes, I would say so :)

  18. Joe December 18, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Sorry to hear about the business income. Hopefully next year will be better on that front since so many things depend on it.
    For me, 2013 was a really good year.
    It was the first full year of being a stay at home dad/blogger and it went pretty smoothly.
    Net worth increased over 20% and that was awesome, much better than expected.

    Not well – Just the 4 plex. I need to sit down, but it looks like it’s still about even money. I need income from this thing or else I should just sell it.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      I don’t blame you man – that’s a lot of emotional space it’s taking up too, outside of all the financial stuff :( Seems like they’re supposed to be for the long haul though and some people don’t get real profit till 5, 10, 15 years later? It’ll probably be the latter for us if we don’t sell before hand, haha…

  19. Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) December 18, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    I’m sure your biz income next year will be awesome! I did well with saving this year, but I didn’t do that well with spending. We spent several thousand dollars on plane tickets and travel when my husband went to India, and I went back and forth to Grenada 3x. It ate up a big chunk of our earnings, but I think it was one of our best years so far just because we maxed our our roth for the first time and got some good goals accomplished (getting preggo, hubby finishing the 1st 2 years of med school etc)

  20. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life December 18, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    I get that similar feeling of the years fleeting by faster and faster- which oddly makes me more reflective than ever. I feel like I need a solid few hours to sit down and process the progress and mistakes I made this year and figure out where I can grow from there. Reflection and goals adds some structure to the haze that is the passing of time.

  21. Angella December 18, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    Oh man, 2013 was the worst for us. Stress levels were high, medical debt, and losing my job right around Thanksgiving were the three major “did NOT go well” things this year. I guess the good parts were…staying on budget, steadily paying off debt, and reopening my etsy store in January for extra income basically saved my ass when I lost my job. So yay side hustles! 2014…WILL be great, I’m determined to pay off credit card debt – job or no job!

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:12 PM

      GO GO GO!!! You can doooooo it!! :)

  22. Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life December 18, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Great job on a successful year! Let’s hope that your 2014 is even better for you and your family and all your projects!

    As for me:

    Positives: Found a job and am doing really well in it. It gives me something to do each day and learned a quite a few usable skills along the way. Started repaying back my loans and am making pretty good progress. Really got back into crafting, reading and enjoying life.

    Negatives: Totally did not find a job in my field, which led me to dealing with a roller coaster of emotions at times. Also, overall spent quite a bit of money eating out, which hopefully I can address within the next few weeks. My fitness goals were definitely hit or miss. I would get into it for a month or two and then fall off the wayside.

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      “Really got back into crafting, reading and enjoying life.” – not many people can find the time to do that, so keep soaking it in! :)

  23. Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild December 18, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Sounds like a good year to me, J!

    Hmm, good stuff: Paid off 2 credit cards. Started the blog and started freelancing. Moved to Portland. Left public accounting and began freelancing full-time. Net worth up almost $15,000 for the year! Traveled to VA, NC, Toronto, a million and one cities across the U.S. during our move, and then St. Louis for FinCon. Celebrated 4 years married to my best friend. Now that I’m looking at it, my year was pretty damn good :)

    Bad stuff that I had control over: Income went down (expected when I made the switch to freelancing). Financed a car in January (so upside down! why did I do this?!). I think that’s it!

    1. J. Money December 18, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      The year of Adventure for you!! I’d take some income losses for that any day :)

  24. writing2reality December 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Biggest takeaway here? How lucky I got to see the handlebar in person… Chalk it up to a win for 2013.

    In all seriousness, a good year is one filled with ups and downs. The ups encourage us while the downs challenge us to innovate and grow as individuals. Examining both at the same time is a great way to look back over the past year.

    1. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      You were one of the last too – it’s now shaved off! :)

  25. Martin December 19, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    Well — sold my condo, went to Argentina, lots of fun times, and so on.

    What needs improvement — business income.

    1. J. Money December 19, 2013 at 10:06 AM

      I feel like business income *always* needs improvement too? Haha…

  26. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen December 19, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    It’s been a great year! Had a wedding, bought a new car, started a new higher paying job, and bought a house! Only thing I could say is that I wish it was a bit more spaced out! Haha. Our net worth has gone up a bit but of course not as much as I would have liked!

    1. J. Money December 20, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      Wow – that’s a lot! Soak it all in, baby! You’re nice and young and full of more adventures to come :)

  27. theFIREstarter December 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Sounds like overall a good year J!

    For me, good:
    Got married and had an awesome honeymoon.
    Got a pay rise.
    Started a blog
    Quit gambling(!!!)

    Worked far too much
    Felt quite stressed throughout most of the year

    I guess you could say that overall it was a pretty freaking good year! If hard work is the greatest of my worries then I should be extremely greatful (and I am, of course)
    Next year I’m gonna focus on working less, which I think I can pull off, which should in turn make me less stressed hopefully!

    1. J. Money December 23, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      Sounds like a fine plan, my man :) Good work on the gambling part too – I can only imagine how hard that is to break!

      1. theFIREstarter December 23, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        Cheers man. It was actually surprisingly easy, I just decided to stop one day and then kind of stopped. The main thing for me wasn’t the money it was the amount of time I would spend on the computer doing it. I’ve now replaced that with much more productive endeavours such as reading your fine blog!

        1. J. Money December 24, 2013 at 8:38 AM

          There you go! I found a similar thing happened with me and starting this blog too – once I decided to spend time on it vs going shopping every week I magically saved lots of money :)

          Happy holidays, my friend.

  28. Tahnya Kristina December 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    I made as much as I wanted to this year – but I didn’t save as much as I wanted to. I cut down my eating out expenses, but I didn’t save the money because I just spent it on other things. OH WELL c’est la vie. I had a fun year and I’m looking forward to 2014!

    1. J. Money December 23, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      You can try and save more all over again in 2014 :)

  29. Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 27, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    I feel ya on the car trouble. I broke down in the middle of the 405 freeway this year at rush hour traffic…5k later…ouch! But..I did make 25k more this past year than the year before! But…it’s still a fairly tough income to live on in LA. Overall though, MUCH better year than the year before.

    1. J. Money December 27, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Ouch indeed, dang! Sorry to hear, my friend… I guess in 2014 you’ll have to shoot for $5k more to make up for it :) Or even better, $50k more! Hubba hubba!