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December 26, 2023: Year End Wins (Part 2)

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.

Year End Wins (Part 2)

I received so many incredible ‘year end wins’ emails that I felt compelled to feature as many as possible these last two newsletters of the year. For some more year end inspiration, check out ChooseFI podcast Episode 468 ‘Year End Wins 2023’ that came out last week with 10+voicemails (and another Jonathan guest appearance), plus here’s a link to last week’s Part 1 newsletter in case you missed it.

Enjoy these wins from the community:

“1) I started 2023 with a net worth of $23,300. My net worth will be around $80,000 by the end of the year.

2) I’ve turned my side hustle into a small business earning over $40,000!! (Youtube, blogging, financial coaching)

3) I maxed out my 2023 Roth IRA by June and now I already have the $7K saved up to max out my 2024 Roth IRA on the first of January.

4) I’ve made over $3,300 from credit card cash back/bonuses and checking/savings account bonuses!

5) I got promoted at my Salesforce job(which I just started in 2022) and that came with a 12% pay increase.

(Brad Note: The Talent Stacker Salesforce Career Development Program, which we’ve long partnered with, has proven to be an amazing way to transition into this lucrative field. Literally hundreds of ChooseFI listeners have gotten jobs after going through the Free 5 Day Challenge and then signing up for the program)

6) I reached over $12,000 saved in my emergency fund, plus much more saved across my multiple sinking funds.

Bonus: I started planning and prepping for an entrepreneurial sabbatical where I will be taking my business full-time/pursuing Slow-FI. I’m so excited and I’m so grateful I started listening to ChooseFI years ago to make all these things possible.”

– Leila

“Here are my year-end wins. I’ve been a listener for years and it’ll show. Thanks for all you do. Certainly you and the community have been a key inspiration to my future plans. The focus of my year has been on career clarity, overall resilience, and time with family.

Maxed my HSA and Roth IRA. Remaining investments in my 401k (above the match but below the max). Investing rate is intentionally lower to increase savings.

Got my emergency fund to 12+ months of cash, which could be stretched further if I wanted/needed. This will continue to grow and likely turn into “F.U.” money shortly. See work by JL Collins.

I stopped “drifting.” The awakening moment happened shortly after I realized that I was around the CoastFI mark (even with newly inflated expenses). See Dominick Q’s book “Design Your Future.”

I recently made the decision to pursue a career in financial services, starting with the CFP path. I was hesitant about it because of my perception of financial advisors and other bad actors. But I kept pulling at the thread through podcasts. I found out that Chris Mamula (see the ChooseFI “Blueprint” book) is also a CFP now. I learned about a conference hosted by the Financial Planning Association for new planners. I attended and met Jackie Cummings Koski as well as others who encouraged me to go down this rabbit hole.

I completed 7 years of helping a niche high school athletics program, which is a small side hustle. I’ve helped hundreds of kids over that time. In the event that I need to relocate to pursue this career change, I’ve brought on additional helpers to ensure that the program isn’t dependent on me.

I started learning Korean and I’m planning a mini-retirement there in the 2nd half of 2024. See work by Jillian Johnsrud.

I’m 95%+ recovered from an Achilles tear. This time last year I couldn’t leave my house or even walk.

I traveled to Seattle, Denver, Honolulu, Buffalo, and Toronto, almost all on points. I volunteered for a work trip to Portland to see my brother, who just moved to the Oregon coast. I went to Seattle again and was able to treat my mom. I completed a backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras with my dad.

Even as great as this year was, I couldn’t be more excited about the future. Before now, I don’t know if I could say that with this much confidence, and that’s the biggest win.”

– Patrick

“2023 year end win:

Over the last few years, I have ambitiously invested for retirement and then reduced my contributions as I’ve experimented with big job and career changes. This has set me up well financially and increased my confidence. I now know through experience that I can make significant life changes and earn money in different ways.

Earlier this year my brother-in-law unexpectedly passed away. This past week, my mom was abruptly diagnosed with a brain tumor. Life is calling on me to show up for my family. So much is uncertain from my current view point. I am incredibly grateful to know that my finances, knowledge, skills, and relationships are there to support me. If I had to, I could live for multiple years without working and without going into debt. FI community members who start investing later in life give me confidence that I could build back if I need to deplete my investments. I am incredibly grateful for my previous financial and life decisions that have provided me with this level of flexibility amidst scary and life changing times.

I am now my “future self” and I am incredibly grateful to my “past self” for making intentional and wise financial decisions, which have been inspired by ChooseFI. My FI journey has also equipped me with knowledge so that I know a thing or two when I speak with my parents’ financial advisor and look at their investments. This will be really important as we determine the options and best course of treatment for my mom and where my parents should live in the coming years. I feel better prepared to play a role in managing and supporting my parents with their finances as they age. Given how much they have given me, including my life, I am grateful to be able to give back more effectively given all that I have learned and experienced.”

– Emma

“I stumbled upon your book at my local library in 2021… and started my FI journey from there… consuming books/podcasts on FI/FIRE like crazy. I had just turned 29 and had spent my 20’s treading water. $60-70k of student loans, $15k auto loan, $13k credit card debt, and living paycheck to paycheck with no emergency fund. I came from a great supportive family, but the thought process was a “kick the can down the road” mentality with debt, finances, bills. I was moving in with my now-fiancée and felt shame coming into our new life together with such a financial burden. Enough was enough.

2 years later and I cannot believe the transformation in my life thanks to the ideas and tips from the FI community.

I’m happy to share major wins from the year, and some wins on the horizon:

Erased the credit card debt, started tracking my net worth, FINALLY paid off my student loans after attacking it aggressively, and after a big promotion thanks to leveraging another offer, increased my income by 50%! And just when I thought things couldn’t get better, the day after I paid off my student loans, my boss told me that the paperwork for my next promotion is in the works… which is hopefully another 15% increase from current levels. My fiancée and I are also using travel rewards to pay for our honeymoon!

My plan now is to save aggressively to build up a solid cash cushion, and eventually aim to get into some real estate investing down the line.

While complete financial independence is a ways off, the confidence I feel after retaking control over my own life is amazing. Thank you again for everything you do… your podcasts consistently reaffirm my motivation behind this FI journey.”

– Michael

“My year-end win is that I used F-You money and the financial freedom I’ve gained along the journey to financial independence (I’m Coast FI) to take my time searching for another job and being super picky to try to find the best fit. Things weren’t horrible by any means at my last job, I just wanted to see what else was out there. After months and months of searching and being super transparent and honest about what I was looking for in my job search, I finally found a company that ticked many of the boxes I was looking for – better benefits (mainly, more PTO), better pay, better culture, etc. I decided to go for it, and it has been even better than I thought!

After accepting, I learned about even more benefits (summer hours, vacation buy-up) I hadn’t even known about during the interview process, and turns out, the work I’m doing is way less stressful and demanding than at my previous job. So better pay for less stress! What could be better?”

– Liana

“I wanted to share how I manage our credit card spending well. My wife and I used to be horrible with credit cards and were always behind on the balance. We followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and stopped using credit cards all together. This lifestyle change did help engrain the financial discipline we desperately needed.

Since then we found ChooseFI and love it! We wanted to begin leveraging credit cards again so that we can travel via points. What I am doing that has really worked well is:

1. We leverage a reverse budget (learned about on ChooseFI) and fund our “spending” money into a dedicated checking account. We hate detailed budgeting and wanted to set aside money to spend and when it is gone… it is gone.

2. When we use the credit card we transfer all of our purchases that day from the spending account to our bill pay account. That way we can see our spending account dwindle as we make purchases and slow down spending (or just stop) as the balance runs low.

3. I then pay off the credit card from the bill pay account in full each month.

This has really helped us out and kept us from abusing our credit cards. We have several Hyatt vacations queued (St Augustine FL and Costa Rica) up in a short amount of time!”

– Ryan

“I just wanted to share a few things with you. I found you guys in the summer of 2020 and I was on your year end wins. Since then I have done so much. My kid is now 2.5 and I am still buying used whenever possible. I got a $2+ per hour raise from my non profit job (which I am still somehow making it work to watch my kid and work, with a little help of course) so I get the best of both worlds.

Considering we began saving towards the end of 2020 we now have just broke the $100,000 net worth, which to me feels huge. I signed up for a consultation with Student Loan Planner to go over my student loans and I am blown away by the results.

I opened up a checking account with Capital One that earned me 60,000 bonus points. I’ve built up mine and now my husbands emergency fund. Our 2.5 year old now has almost $11,000 in his account.

I’ve started reformer Pilates which I absolutely love which is not a financially savvy move but it is a happiness move, and it has done amazing things for my back as well. I have been working more to bring my husband around into our FI journey and we are slowly starting to learn to work and communicate together and work for our dreams together (with the help of our amazing therapist).

We thankfully are still living rent free (not exactly replicable just kind of fell into our lap), and that has been the obvious game changer for us. My husband has started a company and is going to leave his job and work for himself which we hope will make us more money but of course feels a bit risky.

I am toying with the idea of doing my dream and opening up a wellness center studio or working in an existing one, or fulfilling this desire in even a volunteer capacity and keeping those in my back pocket as job security, that I can use if I need it.

My credit also went over 800. I plan once my child is in daycare to use a credit card for it to get miles. I am accruing some but I would love a deep dive on how to best utilize points.

Thanks to you I have come along way, but it’s not just me it’s my family and I’m so grateful. Btw I also got my mom to look (a tiny bit) into their investments (they have advisors and have no idea of the fees) but at least they switched one of them so I feel that’s helpful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

– Lauren

“My year end win was opening 457 accounts for my kids (2 & 3 years old). Auto transfers and some supplemental contributions have me projecting their accounts to top $30,000 by the time they turn 18. I’ve put this off because I didn’t want to get locked into the constraints of this account. I finally got sick of not taking action and went for it. It’s a weight off of my chest. Honestly, I was worried about over funding and getting hit with penalties, but the Roth IRA rollovers will cover any overages and allow me to help fund that account while they focus on starting their career and focus on their 401k.

Here’s to second generation FI!”

– Bryan

“I thought I would share with you my end of year wins as 2023 has been a life changing year for me financially.

I stumbled across the financial independence movement quite by accident last year when listening to one of my favorite podcasts about rock climbing. Rock climbing is my main passion and hobby in life, and I listened to an episode about a climber who achieved financial independence in his thirties, quit his job and now spends his life pursuing his passion of climbing. It was like a switch immediately flicked on in my brain. THIS is what I had been looking for. I have been a natural saver and frugalist my whole life, and I have for many years dreamed of living a life where I didn’t need to work much and would be able to dedicate a large part of my time to climbing.

I began doing more research, and I quickly came across JL Collins and Choose FI. In those first few months, I binged the podcast, soaking up as much information as possible. I was fortunate to be in a pretty decent starting position financially without much debt other than the equivalent of a few thousand dollars in unpaid taxes. I am in my early thirties, and I work as a guide all over Iceland and its glaciers. It is pretty much my dream job, but it does chain me to the country and prevent me from pursuing my real passion of rock climbing. The winters are also very hard. I quickly began to work on building up a bigger emergency fund and tentatively put my first few thousand dollars in a Vanguard S&P 500 fund via one of the Icelandic banks.

At the end of 2022, I had an accident in the climbing gym, which resulted in me needing ankle surgery and being unable to drive or walk, and therefore unable to woek. I was so thankful that I had built up a fairly large emergency fund of around $16k, because I ended up spending 10k on getting my ankle surgery done privately back home in the UK. The alternative was for me to wait many months to have it done on the Icelandic healthcare system. Because I had built up that emergency fund, I had options. I estimate that my 10k bought me back approximately 6 months of my life. I was able to get back to working and climbing 6 months sooner than if I had been forced to wait here in Iceland.

Since getting back to work earlier this year, I have fully embraced the FI lifestyle. I have increased my income by taking on more work. On top of that, I have renewed passion for my job, because I feel like I have a real purpose now, which has resulted in more tips. I have slashed my expenses by house hacking on airbnb and by getting one renter in my house. I am now hitting an approximately 70% savings rate each month, and by the end of 2023, I will have about 50k invested in my Vanguard fund. My aim for end 2024 is to have over 100k invested.

Long term, my plan is to continue saving and investing for the next couple of years until I have enough invested that I can take my foot off the gas and work less. In Iceland, we are fortunate to earn relatively high salaries, so my plan after the next few years is to return to Iceland to work the summers and head to a low cost of living country such as Greece or Spain for the winter, where I can also pursue my passion of rock climbing. Geoarbitrage for the win!

Thank you so much for everything you have done, your work has been truly life changing to me.”

– Holly

“Long time listener, first time caller. Here are some wins and a potential win:

1) My side-hustle-turned-main-hustle, a scholastic chess business, had a difficult 2020/2021 (COVID), began rebounding in 2022 and 2023 has been the best year yet. I started the company in 2018 with $100 worth of plastic chess pieces and an insurance policy, and we now are in over 35 elementary schools and have about 15 chess instructors. I continue to run this business out of my home (we go on site to schools to run our programs), so no rent!

2) Now that I’m somewhat established in the after school enrichment space, I started looking for other opportunities to tuck into the chess business. I found a local coding school for sale that looked promising, but after looking at the books I realized the business was on life support and not worth anything near the asking price. To make a long story short, the owner is bringing me on as a sweat equity co-owner (no investment required!) to help turn the business around. I’ll also be able to use the space for additional chess classes, so it has huge upside without any financial risk.

3) Last week my wife and I put an offer in on a small commercial space (medical/professional condo) here in town. Maybe at some point I’ll open my own chess center with a dedicated, physical space, but if the deal goes through I’m happy to keep the tenant in place for the foreseeable future.

Appreciate you and all you do for the community. I found you and Jonathan after “graduating” from Dave Ramsey years ago, and your content has been incredibly helpful.”

– Rob

“Year End Wins: I lost my husband, and my kids lost their dad to cancer this year. We were aggressively pursuing FI. Now I am aggressively pursuing life instead. I am not sure what FI means at this point – but I do wish I had worked less, vacationed more, worried less about the little stuff, and been more present. Hug your kids and significant others, and continue to spend and save wisely, but also remember to live. Money is meaningless without time to make memories.”

– A

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Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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