This article is by staff writer Honey Smith.

The new year is a time to look forward; but in order to do that, you need to know where you’ve been. Before I set my goals for 2015, I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything that happened last year.

Updated reckoning for me in chart form: 2012-present

Please note that I have consolidated some separate accounts of the same type into one category for simplicity’s sake. Additionally, I’ve listed our original reckoning amounts from June 2012 and updated reckoning amounts from August 2014 to give an idea of the progress we have been able to make. For more information, also see my updates from December 2012 and December 2013. I don’t have Jake’s numbers from the same time, but will start to collect that data going forward.

Here is a look at my progress last year stated in terms of percentage as well.

Category Jan. 2014 Jan. 2015 $ Change, 2014-2015 % Change, 2014-2015
Debt: Credit cards $0 $0 $0 0%
Debt: Student loans $92,738.61 $88,243.67 -$4,494.94 -4.8%
Asset: Savings $7,000.00 $7,535.05 +$535.05 +7.6%
Asset: Retirement $36,752.52 $46,837.81 +$10,085.29 +27.4%

Updated reckoning for Jake in chart form: 2012-present

This is Jake’s progress from 2012, also stated in terms of percentage.

Category Jun. 2012 Jan. 2015 $ Change,
2012-2015
% Change,
2012-2015
Debt: Auto loan $5,452.02 $0 -$5,452.02 -100%
Debt: Credit cards $27,660.55 $0 -$27,660.55 -100%
Debt: Student loan $102,204.28 $98,013.30 -$4,190.98 -4.1%
Asset: Savings $2,194.77 $16,238.23 +$14,043.46 +640%
Asset: Retirement $19,026.46 $27,352.72 $8,326.26 +43.7%

Joint Reckoning: Debts and Assets

  • Asset 1: Home, $225,000

  • Debt 1: Mortgage, $213,750 (This is probably slightly less, but we have only been making payments for five months and so much goes to interest during the first year of homeownership that I don’t think it is worth updating yet.)

2014 Goal updates

In 2014, I set four financial goals. Here’s where I landed on each:

Goal 1: Pay off $10,000 in student loan principal. Fail. I paid off $4,494.94. During the first half of the year, I really cut back on my extra student loan payments in order to prioritize my second financial goal for the year, buying a house. I did briefly step up my extra payments after buying the house, but I cut back again for reasons I’ll explain below.

Goal 2: Buy a house (or move into a better rental). Achieved! We bought a house and moved in May after the condo we’d been renting was foreclosed. The nice thing about buying (as opposed to moving into a better rental) is that now we’re D-O-N-E with moving for the foreseeable future.

Goal 3: Continue to save for travel. Achieved! In addition to the bridal shower and wedding, we were able to take two other trips together in 2014. The bridal shower and wedding were paid for out of savings. The other two trips were almost entirely paid for with credit card rewards points. Not everyone agrees that we should be prioritizing travel when we still have debt. To us, travel is worth the sacrifice of a slightly longer payoff.

Goal 4: Continue to expand my freelance work. Fail. In 2013, I made just over $14,000 from my side gigs. While I did do better than that in 2014 (about $15,700), I fell short of my stated goal of $20,000.

2015 Goal-setting

For the last two years, I have kept my goals more or less the same in terms of categories. However, I’m setting my goals a bit differently in 2015 as the result of some major life changes.

Goal 1: Beef up my savings. Now that we own a home, we need more in savings. In addition to having money on hand for unexpected repairs, we have a list of prioritized projects we’d like to tackle this year. I cut back on my extra student loan payments for the last few months of 2014 to get a head start on this goal.

Goal 2: Focus on my health. I was recently diagnosed with a herniated disc and am going to need several procedures to address it. While it is a relief to know all the back trouble I’ve been struggling with wasn’t in my head and that I can (hopefully) expect a significant improvement in the near future, I need to make some lifestyle changes. This may mean scaling back on my side gigs so as not to spend nights and weekends hunched in front of a computer when I already spend my day job doing that. It may also mean getting a gym membership and maybe even a personal trainer, even though those things are expensive. We’ll see what my doctors recommend and how this develops.

Goal 3: Negotiate for a raise or promotion at my day job. I have been in the same position for almost seven years now, and the first four years there were no merit increases due to the Great Recession (my employer doesn’t do COLA). As a result, my responsibilities have outpaced my compensation significantly. I plan to use this year’s performance evaluation to ask for a raise and promotion. If I am successful, this may offset any scaling back I end up doing on my side gigs.

Goal 4: Pay off $8,000 in student loan debt. This would put my student loan debt under $80,000. I’d like to reach a milestone like seeing my student debt start with a “7.” This is also an amount that is greater than my payoff amounts in the past two years but moderate enough that I hope to be able to reach it while still beefing up my savings.

Jake has some goals for 2015, too. Since he’s been at his new job for a year, he’s now eligible for 401(k) participation. He is already enrolled and will be maxing out his pre-tax employee contribution of $18,000. There is also an employer match, though I don’t know the percentage. Originally, he was on the fence about whether to max out his contributions. When he asked my advice, I pointed out that if he maxed it out to begin with and then ended up with too little money, he’d have a pretty clear incentive to go back in and change the withholding. However, if he didn’t max out and had extra money, he’d probably just spend it. I doubt it will be an issue and he is playing catch-up on retirement contributions anyway, so I’m glad he chose this route. On the savings side, he set up a portion of his paychecks to be deposited directly into his savings account. That money will be earmarked for an emergency fund and some of our anticipated projects.

What do you think my next financial goal should be?

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