My 2020 in review: Steps in the right direction

Are you all ready for this? It's one of my favorite days of the year! I just spent an hour entering data in Quicken, then another thirty minutes analyzing it. It's time to run some numbers.

How well did I do with my financial goals last year? Was I able to cut back on dining out? (Hint: There was a global pandemic. What do you think?) Did my net worth rise or fall? Let's take a look.

First, let's review where I was at the end of 2019.

Quite simply, I was a mess. Objectively, my life was good, but subjectively it was a disaster. My mental health was in shambles. Depression and anxiety were crippling me and truly affecting my relationships with other people. I felt like I was in the middle of a prolonged car crash.

The good news is that, for the most part, 2020 was much better from a personal perspective. Yes, I understand that 2020 sucked for a lot of people. And it was the most tumultuous year our country has seen in a generation. But for me, personally, the year was mostly good. I'll explain why this is in a bit, but first lets look at the Big Picture.

My Net Worth

Here's my end-of-year net worth from each of the past three years. (These numbers do not include the value of my business or this website.)

  • At the end of 2018, my net worth was $1,334,227 — a 15.2% decrease from 2017.
  • At the end of 2019, my net worth was $1,437,543 — a 7.7% increase from 2018.
  • At the end of 2020, my net worth was $1,373,233 — a 4.5% decrease from 2019.

Now, on paper a decrease of net worth amounting to $64,310 might seem scary. Maybe it's because I'm in a better mental space than last year, but it doesn't bother me. This may also be due to the fact that I realize most of that drop comes from Zillow's valuation of our home.

At the end of 2019, Zillow said our country cottage was worth $495,749. At the end of 2020, the home was valued at $437,127, which is a drop of $58,622.

Yes, I realize using Zillow to track our home value is...erratic. And it leads to fluctuations like this. Still, I feel like it's a solid enough source for home values, and it gives me some sort of number to go on.

That's one way of looking at it. But looked at another way, things are a little dicier. You see, I currently live off of my investments. Most of those investments are in retirement accounts, which I can't touch (unless I want a tax penalty) for another eight years. At the start of 2019, my regular taxable investment accounts contained $269,264. Today, they have $197,117. That there could also be my drop in net worth.

One thing is certain, though. That $197,117 isn't enough to get me to age 59-1/2 at my current level of spending. I need to spend less, earn more, or (preferably) both.

Now, let's look at some of the numbers in greater detail.

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Introducing “Morning Musings”

Update! I've had a couple of people email to ask if I plan to host these videos here on the blog. The short answer is "no". The long answer is "maybe eventually". But I realized that I could make it easy on folks by embedding the Morning Musings playlist at the top of this article. So, here it is. In theory, this should get updated whenever I post a new video. This is an embedded playlist, and the most recent video should appear at the top. (In theory.)

For years now, I've wanted to start a Get Rich Slowly channel on YouTube.

Well, I guess that's only partially correct. I have a GRS channel on YouTube; it's just not very active. So, I guess what I mean to say is that I want to have an active GRS channel on YouTube.

There are lots of barriers, though, all of which are purely mental. I worry about how I look. I worry about how I sound. I worry about production quality. I worry about the amount of time this will all take. Basically, I'm paralyzed by the need to be perfect.

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Which financial apps, products, and services should we review?

Every Monday morning, Tom and I have a Zoom call to discuss the coming week's priorities for this site. For the past couple of months, we've been focused on behind-the-scenes stuff as we prepared to launch the redesign. (That, and I was working on my course for Audible.) Now that the redesign is (mostly) finished, we've begun talking about content. What sorts of articles do we want to write in coming weeks?

"You know," Tom said this morning, "it wouldn't kill you to write about the financial tools you use. You love your credit card, right? And you use Personal Capital? If you were to write about this stuff, we could make more money."

As I've mentioned many times, Get Rich Slowly earns little compared to other sites its size -- especially other financial sites its size. Expected earnings for GRS are probably on the order of $20,000 per month; we bring in about $5000. (And right now, because of the coronavirus, our revenue is lower than this even.)

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Please don’t adjust your dials.

Hey, friends. Some good news!

First up, I finished my "intro to FIRE" course course for Audible and turned in the manuscript. Once the script is approved, I'll head to the recording studio. Not sure about any projected release date, but we're moving along.

At the same time, it looks like development on the brand-new Get Rich Slowly site design is done. Well, mostly so. There are still a handful of tweaks we'd like to make — but we'd like to do them after the new site is public. To that end, we intend to push the new design live in the next 24 hours or so. This shouldn't cause any hassles...but you never know. Continue reading...

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A short list of useful coronavirus resources

Believe it or not, the current coronavirus crisis is affecting Get Rich Slowly too. Things are slow around here. Traffic is down. Revenue is down. Production is down. Plus, I have a big deadline at the end of the month. My project for Audible and The Great Courses is due on March 31st.

So, just like the rest of the world, we're going to press "pause" for a couple of weeks. I will return next Wednesday with my annual birthday article, but you'll have to scroll down to see it. I'm going to pin this post to the top of the front page.

The break will allow me to focus my full attention on the FIRE course. Meanwhile, my partner Tom can work on behind-the-scenes stuff (including the nearly-completed site redesign!) without worrying that I'll mess things up haha. And, best of all, maybe we can get ahead on our publication schedule for once. We have two new staff writers. I have some articles planned. Tom has some articles planned. It would be great to resume in a couple of weeks with a backlog of material!

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Five short anecdotes about money

What a long, strange couple of months it's been for me. On the blog, things have been quiet. Behind the scenes, I've been as busy as I've ever been.

The good news is that this busy-ness will (eventually) lead to a number of interesting articles. I've been reading Cal Newport's Deep Work, for instance, and have some thoughts on it. I've been thinking about the concept of "no speed limits". Shocking but true: I'm going to write an article about my primary credit card. And I've been reading and writing a lot about "doing nothing".

Today, though, I want to clear my head (and my inbox) by sharing five short financial anecdotes.

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FinCon 2019 and the future of Get Rich Slowly

After twenty-four days on the road, I'm back home in Portland. It feels good.

In mid-August, Kim and I flew to Italy. For the first week, we visited Florence and Rome on our own. We rode trains, drank wine, toured museums, ate gelato, and explored ancient Roman ruins. We also got sunburned. And we sweated from dawn to dusk.

J.D. and Kim at the Colosseum

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State of the blog (and: Introducing Apex Money!)

Okay, enough with the navel gazing! I've been very introspective around here lately. While that was necessary (and cathartic), it's time to get back to work, to turn our attention to money once more.

Before we begin, though, let's talk about some changes to my workflow. Mainly, these will affect me, but they'll indirectly affect GRS readers too.

Refining Get Rich Slowly

As most of you have gathered by now, I'm going to shift how I approach my writing schedule. As in: I'm not going to stick to a schedule. I'm not going to feel pressured to publish. Instead, I'm going to write what I want, when I want. I think we'll all like the results.

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Depression and me

For much of the past two weeks, I've been wrestling with my mental health. I could sense a crisis coming, so I scheduled some time away. I didn't want to have to be worrying about blog posts while I was worrying about everything else. Thus, my "summer vacation".

Long-time readers are aware that I've struggled with depression for most of my life.

In sixth grade, I missed five weeks of school with what my father called "parrot fever". (We had parrots, and he attributed my issues to a parrot allergy.) After our family physician could find nothing wrong with me, Dad took me to his therapist. Hushed conversations followed the appointment. The verdict: I was dealing with depression.

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