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2014 in review

January 12, 2015

I don’t really feel like summarizing 2014.

My goals were vague.  There were a lot of unknowns going into the year.  My job turned out to be a lot less personally fulfilling than I was hoping.  We weren’t sure if we were going to look at houses – in fact, we didn’t really plan on it.  We didn’t budget much, intending to spend the money was “saved” by living in a cheaper neighborhood on exploring our new area and doing fun things.

My tracking spreadsheet for 2014 doesn’t give me the complete information I want, so I adjusted it for 2015.  I think it is going to work a lot better for us. Here is what I have for 2014 highlights:

  • Our net worth increased by $132k, with about half of that in retirement account balances, the rest cash/home equity.  I’ve decided to use the purchase price of our house as its value, unless there is a drop in the market.
  • Our total spending was about $94k, excluding closing costs, downpayment, 2013 tax bill, mortgage prepayment, but including mortgage principal payment.
  • A large chunk of spending (about $25k) was home maintenance (furnace, bathroom fans) and a few furnishings.  This should be a little less next year, then flatten out to $5k-8k per a year long term average after that.
  • Our total food spending averaged about $1000 a month.  This is obviously way higher than necessary, and tips more towards eating out than groceries.
  • My estimate of our total 2014 tax bill (federal + state) is about $74k. This is unusually high, since we had some one-time income.  But it is an insane number!  It would be even higher if we didn’t itemize and claim mortgage interest / property taxes.

I’ve looked at the detailed spending numbers.  In general, I’m OK with them.  I see some easy areas to reduce for 2014 (food and wine mostly – we intentionally had an indulgent first year in the bay area).  I see some areas we’ll increase (travel!).  It wasn’t a bad year money-wise.  Seeing our net worth increase makes me less worried about spending a bit more than I’d like in some areas.  Still, I want to be sure our money is tracking our values.

From a non-financial perspective, here is what happened in 2014:

  • We moved into a new apartment in a new city (technically in December ’13)
  • We both started new jobs that were significantly different than our 2013 jobs
  • We bought a  house!  It turned out to be a pretty straightforward process.
  • I quit my job and accepted a new one.  This is the first post-college job I quit for reasons other than moving far away.
  • We did minimal traveling: 2 visits to my home, 1 to T’s, one to Portland, and 3 backpacking trips.  Plus some work trips for each of us.
  • My mom had heart surgery to correct a hole in her heart.  Everything went really really well.
  • I ran in an overnight relay race and had a blast.  My running was otherwise pretty much crap.
  • I read about 30 books, and the ones I rated 5 stars were:  And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini), Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri), Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card), A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Anthony Marra), Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).
  • My favorite non-fiction books were The Future of the Mind (Michio Kaku) and I’m feeling lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 (Douglas Edwards).  I listened to both of those as audio books, mostly while running or commuting.

There were definitely good points, but overall, 2014 was a frustrating year for me, mostly driven by my job angst. Beyond the day-to-day things that were frustrating me, many of the people I shared my job frustrations with turned it back on me and made me feel like it was my fault I wasn’t having a good experience.  “Oh, you just need to do X, that’s what I did!”  “You just have to have the right attitude!”  This was really demoralizing.  The only person that I felt had my back 100% of the time was T.  It did get better as the year went on, but it really had nowhere to go but up.

All in all, we made it through a year filled with changes.  Budget honestly wasn’t a priority, but we will pay more attention to now that things are  stable,

I’m really glad to welcome 2015, and more importantly, to start a new job.  I like the feeling of a new year, of a fresh start, of a chance to set new goals and think about the next 12 months.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2015 9:48 am

    Woo for having a reasonable financial year despite the job frustrations! $132k net worth increase is pretty good 😀

    “many of the people I shared my job frustrations with turned it back on me and made me feel like it was my fault I wasn’t having a good experience”

    I’m so sorry. A lot of people were confused why I stayed for the full year at my job when I explained my frustrations with them. I just kept thinking I could fix it. But now I have six weeks off until I start the new one, yay!

    Do you roll over your old 401(k)s? Or have you collected a few of them now over the years? Congrats on the new job!!!

    • January 12, 2015 10:12 pm

      I should caveat that this only applies to people who worked at the same place. For them to agree/admit that a lot was not in my control was to simultaneously acknowledge that they could be in a similar situation at some point. And they weren’t rude, they probably thought they were trying to be helpful with all of their suggestions of things they thought I should do. Sometimes you just want someone to say, “yeah, that really sucks.”

      I rolled over my very first 401k into a traditional IRA, and now I have 2 others and will be starting a new one. I can’t decide. I was going to roll over, but since I have relatively little in my trad IRA, I still sometimes consider the backdoor Roth. Or I guess I could roll over into my new plan (probably). What have you done?

      • January 13, 2015 9:21 am

        This is the first job I’ve left. I want to keep the Backdoor Roth IRA open for now, so I’ll either leave my 401(k) with the current plan or roll it into the new one. I’m waiting until I see the funds that are available in the new one. My current 401(k) plan is pretty good, other than the fee for leaving it there, but that’s still only ~0.04% of my balance.

  2. January 12, 2015 12:56 pm

    Wow, from this distance it looks like you guys rocked 2014.

    • January 12, 2015 10:14 pm

      Yes, the numbers turned out great after all! The actual experience was mediocre as far as years go, but it is nice to look back and see how much progress we actually did make.

  3. taylorqlee permalink
    January 12, 2015 3:49 pm

    If you liked Ender’s Game, you should check out the Ender’s Shadow series (following Bean) who, after reading through, was actually an even more riveting character than Ender! I thought, at least.

    Hope 2015 treats you well!

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