To achieve a goal you must keep your eye on the prize. Financial goals are no different and require the same intensity, intention, and knowledge as personal goals. My wife and I have goals. We want to own a home, pay off student loans, save for our son’s college, have financial security, and most important to me… have options. At the end of the day money buys options.
To ensure that we have the options we want as we move forward I have created an end-of-the-year summary of our finances. This is a great way to communicate with my spouse, who has less interest in the day-to-day finances of the household, and ensure that she knows where we stand financially. This type of summary is a primer for those larger conversations about what we want 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years down the road. looking at our finances this way can also help us make sure we are headed in the right direction to achieve those goals.
Year in Review
I will now review the various sections by providing the narrative behind the numbers seen above.
Year in Review - Overview
Despite a $13,400 reduction in our income from 2009 to 2010 (we decided it was best to have B stay home with our son) we still were able to keep our savings consistent, seeing only a small decline from 13.85% down to 13.51% year-over-year.
This was due to our diligence in reducing expenses as our income declined. Many young couples in our situation (married, dual incomes, having their first kid) fall into a trap in which they cut back their income but fail to cut back their expenses. I am proud that we were able to achieve this, though I would be lying if our mid-month money discussions don’t involve eating through what is left in the freezer.
The fact that we were able to save an additional $9,200 in 2010 and make the significant impact on our debts from just cash flowing (paying down debts with only income from that month) was a team effort.
Year in Review - Revenues
As you can see the reduction in income is very easy to identify. B’s income took a significant, and very expected, dip as she quit her job in July to have our son in August. She has done a few odd home studies since then, but her income is essentially gone.
There was also a small reduction in the “Misc. Checks” category which is made up of expense report checks from both of our jobs. Again, with B staying home this item took a small decline as she was no longer receiving mileage checks for her travel.
Our tax return also was significantly reduced. This, I believe, was largely due to the fact that in 2008 I had zero income as I was finishing my Master’s Degree and B’s salary was so small that we received all of her taxes back in 2009. In 2010 both B and I had significant increases in our revenue which of course means more tax liability. So while it was still good that we received money instead of owing, it was less than in 2009. (We anticipate 2010’s return to be better as we will have a child credit).
One time revenue received in 2009 included a Rent Deposit that was not duplicated in 2010 and Tuition return from college that would not be duplicated in 2010.
Year in Review - Expenses
I provided a yearly analysis with a % of total income break-down to highlight any major shifts in expenses.
Fixed expenses was less than in 2009. This was found in $200 reduction in car insurance due to items falling off of our driving records. $1,500 less in grocery purchases.
We scaled our discretionary spending at stores, auto, restaurants, online, and other down.
Student Loans and Healthcare jumped on us year-over-year. Student Loans was due to our attempts to make the biggest dent in our loans before the 2nd income disappeared, and healthcare is largely due to the increase in our Flexible Spending Account and the birth of our son. (Most of our sons birth did not hit us until January 2011 due to some insurance concerns and will be reflected in the 2011 summaries)
Loans or Liabilities
Year in Review - Student Loans
What can I say… we made a $15,000 divot in our student loans in 2010. The small decrease in the smaller interest rate is due to the full brunt of the student loans kicking in around June 2010. That means minimum payments had to start being made on all fronts.
Now that B has quit her job we have changed our strategy concerning the student loan debt repayments. Where we were paying over $1,000 each month towards the loans this has been reduced to a mere $400 monthly (still $25 more than monthly minimum) towards the loans. We are accumulating cash at the moment wanting to ensure we have all the options available if we are required to move again in 2011.
Year in Review - Liquid Assets
I label these categories as “Liquid” because the items found here can be obtained and turned into cash within a week if necessary. Included in these numbers are our savings, emergency fund, and cash flow for monthly expenses.
As mentioned above, we were able to save an additional $9,000 from income and still made some money in the stock market as of 12/31/2010 when this report was compiled.
Year in Review - Long Term Assets
This chart is not included in the numbers above and is inclusive of all items which would suffer penalties, time, or other barriers to their liquidation for cash. This report is not as impressive as 2009 good data was not being tracked as of yet, but there was a nice increase in my 401k. This is due to some modest gains in the 401k and the 3.5% match that is received once in the 2Q of the next year.
The vehicles are also weighted low as I put them both at “fair” condition where they would most likely be graded one level above. I am anticipating needing a new “work” vehicle within the next two years which would come from the “Liquid” asset categories above if needed.
One Time Expenses
Year in Review - One Time Expenses
I like to keep a small list of one time expenses as these items help highlight some of those “cost” that are often unbudgeted in a monthly budget, but were required for various reasons.
The cruise was our baby-cation and birthday present for my wife. An investment in our relationship and family.
Nebraska and Graduation, again, investments in family and memories.
Stove because we enjoy eating food not cooked in a microwave occasionally and our rental did not supply a stove (who has heard of a rental not having a stove…).
The camcorder was to share our family memories. My family is spread throughout the United States and to ensure they are a part of my sons life it is important to keep them updated as he grows through Skype and the occasional youtube videos.
In summary we had a great year. We had our first child, let mom stay home, saved a bit of money, paid down some debt, and were there for some of our family’s milestones throughout the year.
Amazing what a bit of faith, planning, hard work, and supportive friends and family can help you accomplish in life.
If you have questions or want to know how you to can take control of your finances and make them work for you please feel free to contact me at Odysseustoday@gmail.com or leave a comment below.