The year of 2014 was amazing in so many ways. On the professional level, I took the leap necessary to pursue my passion for writing, taking on blogging and freelancing full-time while leaving my traditional job in the auto industry far behind. Looking at my personal life, I got engaged to my long-time girlfriend, Claudia. And financially, I moved even closer to my overarching goal of financial independence by 40 years old.
But that overarching goal is much easier to track and progress toward if I’m setting annual goals all along the way. And I don’t just blindly set goals based on irrelevant criteria. I set SMART goals every year and then follow up on those goals the following year to see how I did, so that’s what I’m doing today.
Below, I’m going to review each of the four goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2014 to see how I did, which will also help with setting goals for 2015. This keeps me honest and on track for the bigger picture.
Goal #1 – Receive $5,200 In Dividends During The Year Of 2014
This is probably the most important goal of all, as my ability to generate enough dividend income by the time I’m 40 years old will dictate exactly how financially independent I really am.
I can report with great pride that I absolutely knocked this goal out of the park. I ended the year of 2014 with a total of $5,721.60 in total dividend income. That number even counts all foreign dividend taxes that were withheld, so this number is actually a bit low since I’ll recoup all of that foreign tax as a dollar-for-dollar credit when I do my taxes this year. However, I count only the cash flow that actually hits my pocket at the time and the foreign withholding is really only a few dollars anyway.
I’m currently 32 years old and my long-term goal is to generate $18,000 in annual dividend income in eight years. Considering I started this journey as I turned 28 years old, I’m four years into a 12-year journey. So I’m on pace here, especially considering that the dividend income should grow faster as the base becomes larger.
This is a PASS.
Goal #2 – Save 50% Of My Net Income In 2014, Averaged Monthly
I knew this was going to be a goal that I was going to have a difficult time with once I decided to leave my job in the auto industry paying more than $50,000 annually. But if there’s anything I’ve tried to convey over the last few years, it’s that life is more than money. If I wanted the most amount of money, I certainly wouldn’t be aiming to become financially independent at 40. I’d just try to climb the corporate ladder until I was in my 60s. But I want time, not money. And the move I made to write full-time was staying true to myself in that regard.
Working from home comes with benefits and drawbacks, like anything else. I’ve taken a hit to the income, which is a drawback. With that said, I came short here. I ended the year with a 44.3% savings rate, which is the lowest rate I’ve achieved since 2009.
I’m hoping to get back to the 50%+ savings rate mark in 2015, but it’ll be difficult. I’m facing an uphill battle with a lower income base as well as the fact that I’ll likely owe a hefty sum for taxes due to the fact that my quarterly estimated taxes last year were not enough to cover my liability. However, I’m a fighter and I’ll continue to march toward financial independence with as much gusto as ever.
This is a FAIL.
Goal #3 – Maintain A Weight Of Less Than 180 Pounds During 2014
There’s always a method behind my madness. 180 pounds isn’t a number I pulled out of the thin air, just like the dividend income and savings goals intertwine with my long-term, overarching goal. The same with my weight. 180 pounds is right on the border for a healthy body mass index, but I do account for the fact that I probably carry more muscle on my frame than the average male of my age and height.
I do have to admit that I cheated a bit here, though not on purpose. I actually decided to take a quick break from my consistent exercise routine right around Thanksgiving. I was just burned out and my weight was about 175 pounds at the time. So I figured I could take a couple of weeks off. Well, I did take that time off. Unfortunately, I also ended up catching a particularly nasty case of bronchitis before Christmas and I’ve been sick ever since. I didn’t get a chance to weigh myself until the first week of January. I came in at 179 pounds.
Fitness is, in my mind, a huge aspect of this journey. It’d be hard to fully enjoy financial independence and take advantage of all of the possibilities if you’re in poor health. I think that’s what’s so attractive about being able to retire early in life. Who wants to finally have ownership of their time and be free in their late 60s if they’re perhaps too old to fully enjoy it? I’m hoping to overcome the bronchitis pretty soon here and get back to working out regularly.
This is a PASS.
Goal #4 – Earn $12,000 During The Year From Online Income
I had the thought of leaving the job at the dealership as early as the middle of 2013, but the opportunity just wasn’t there. I knew I had to increase other sources of income, especially income from writing. And I felt $12,000, or $1,000 per month, would be a huge step toward that.
Well, I knocked this goal out of the park. I mean I actually knocked it into the next city. I ended up earning $29,909 in online income this year. That’s just huge, especially considering that I only spent the past seven months tackling it full-time. Of course, I’ve been writing for almost four years now, so this didn’t happen overnight. Quite the contrary, as I worked 17-hour days for years, between my day job and blogging.
This goal, however, wasn’t specific enough. I didn’t specify whether it should be gross or net, or how expenses would factor into that. Either way, there was such a margin of safety that any way you slice it, the goal was exceeded. But I do plan to list a more specific goal relating to online income this year. I also believe 2014’s income is inflated because my quarterly estimated taxes were set up before I was making so much, so I wasn’t paying enough in taxes to cover my liability toward the latter part of the year. But I’m going to be far more conservative with estimated taxes in 2015, so the online income should be much more accurate.
This is a PASS.
I went three for four this year, which I actually consider a success. I think each one of these goals is challenging on an individual level, but all of them working together amounts to climbing a mountain. But I’m an enthusiastic climber, so coming up a bit short of the peak is a bit frustrating. However, I still had a great year on all fronts, and being closer to financial independence in a big way is a win. Not only is the dividend income now almost 1/3 of the final amount I think I’ll eventually need to live off of, but I’m now working on my terms and setting my own schedule. I have ownership over a lot more of my time than I did just a year ago, which is just a wonderful preview of what I imagine financial independence will ultimately look like.
I actually plan on discussing what my schedule looks like these days, which I hope will give you readers some insight on what writing for a living looks like, as well as what financial independence might look like to some degree. Meanwhile, I’ll also be posting my 2015 goals very soon, which will be somewhat similar to the goals for 2014, but all of them will properly advance me even closer to where I ultimately want to be. So please stay tuned for that.
I hope you all had a great 2014 in regards to your goals. I believe every day, week, month, and year is another opportunity. It’s a chance to grow and further ourselves along. Let’s keep taking advantage of those opportunities every single day!
Thank you all for your support of Dividend Mantra over the last year. I’m blessed to be a part of this great community. To be able to inspire others toward their dreams is an amazing position to be in, and I hope to continue doing this for many years to come. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
How did your goals turn out this year? Did you hit all of them? Any you want to improve on for 2015?
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net