Looking Back And Looking Forward – 2020

2020…One of the weirdest years ever. Has it been a black swan or a golden eagle? Some of us have been inconvenienced, some have been devastated. It’s been different thing to different people, but one thing we can all count on. It’s been Unpredictable!

I’d like to take a look back at some things I’ve experienced and look forward to what our life could look like next year. Come take a short journey with me through 2020.

Looking Back

My Big Event for 2020 – My Mom’s Death

On October 24, 2020, my Mom went home to be with her Jesus. This last year has been especially hard for her and me. She was 99 when she passed. Her health had been good till about mid-2018. Over the last 12 months dementia had taken hold, and then the quarantine amplified the dementia. She lived in an Assisted Living facility in another state and I was her sole caregiver and decision-maker outside of the facility staff. Most days I would talk to her 3-4 times a day. Some days she could carry on a normal conversation, and some days she didn’t know where she was. One bright spot was she continued to know who I was. She just couldn’t make sense of what was going on around her.

I will miss my Mom terrible, but Praise God the strain on her and me is over. She is now with her Savior and her heavenly family enjoying God’s perfect love for eternity.

Not Seeing Family

Not seeing family has been hard, but thank God for Zoom! Today’s technology has made the quarantining a little more palatable. I think we all felt a little relief this summer as things opened up slightly. Depending on your area of the country, your restrictions may have loosened a lot.

One thing I found interesting was how many people still went camping/fishing this past summer. I live near a highway that folks travel to go to the mountains. This past summer the road was full of RVs and campers. I hope you had a chance to get out and enjoy nature, also.

Stephen and I have even considered joining the ranks of RV’ers, but I have heard in parts of the country RVs were hard to come by. Because this was a way to get out and take your “clean home” with you, folks were snapping them up like hotcakes! Maybe there will be a good used market in a year or two!

Flexibility And Introspection

Did you find you had time for things you didn’t before? This is one area where I’m thankful for the changes to our lives. How many times have you thought, “If only I could slow down!” Did you find you had extra time to think, plan, do projects, make a phone call or read?

Or did the “new norm” strip you of all these opportunities as you tried to work and homeschool all at once? Those caught in this situation have probably learned a whole new level of planning and flexibility.

What Was The Deal With Toilet Paper!?!

What WAS the deal with toilet paper? I know, I’ve heard all the philosophical answers for this one, but I just want to go on record and say I DON’T GET IT!!

What I really won’t get is if it happens again!

How Did Your Money Do?

2020 was a roller coaster year for the stock market and our investments. (Just to review, Stephen and I only have paper investments, i.e. Stocks and Bonds. We don’t do real estate or side hustles.) March made us think a disaster was on the horizon and the next recession was imminent. Then the markets rebounded in record time.

Personally, our accounts had rebounded by the end of July. As of the first week in December, our net worth is higher than it’s ever been.

This cannot be said often enough…it’s not timing the market, but TIME IN the market that matters. After reading “The Simple Path to Wealth” in 2017, we moved our investments into VTSAX and VBTLX . We started our drawdown for retirement in about April 2019. Our portfolio was worth more at the end of 2019 than at the beginning. Even though we are drawing down. 2020 will be the same. Will this always happen? NO. Can we ride it out when it doesn’t? Absolutely.

2020 was hard on our emotions concerning our money, but it also gave us some incredible short-term opportunities. The important thing is that we learn from it. Please evaluate your financial situation today. What did you do well? What could you have done better? We can’t be perfect, but we can learn.

Looking Forward

Locking Down Again

I think we’re all weary of the quarantines and the ever-changing landscape of our lives. I know I am. We’ve probably been expecting our world to lock down again in the Fall, but I’ve been surprised at myself. I am more unhappy about it than I want to be. I guess a little freedom felt so good I didn’t want to have it wrangled back again.

This is an area I’m having to work on my own gratefulness. I know an attitude of gratitude is the best antidote for unhappiness and frustration. How has this been for you. Are you finding it hard to be content? I think I’m struggling with this happening during the holidays when I expected to be able to see family. Again, thank God for Zoom!

More Time

OK, enough with the pity party. The bright side of being locked down again is more time. I am also about to experience having more time because my caregiving job has ended. This will give me a freedom I’ve not ever experienced. Caring for my mom started before my kids left home, so it’s always been part of who I am.

I have to admit, I’m a little afraid of the same issues new retirees face. Like finding myself. Deciding what lights me up. I have no lack of passion projects, but now I will be making my own decisions about my time rather than reacting to each day’s emergencies. How will I decide where to spend my most precious resource – my time? It’s going to be a journey and I will try to keep you up to date on my progress.

One huge hope of mine is to spend more time on Stated At 50! I’ve not been able to post consistently to the blog or really care for my Facebook group. I’m excited and scared at the same time. Excited to be more consistent and more attentive. Scared because I’m still SO new to blogging and the technology. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I think I’m up for the challenge. I always want to have the attitude of being a life-long learner.

This means you will be coming along this ride with me. I just ask for your patience and your support. If you see something that could be improved, tell me. If you want to hear about a particular topic, let me know. This blog is for YOU. You are my focus.

Spend The Mental Energy To Lock In Goals

The beginning of a new year always seems to be a good time for self-evaluation and goal setting. Did you notice I did not use the word resolutions? I think New Year’s Resolutions get a bad rap, but you can call them whatever your like. The point is to evaluate, ponder, and find those areas where you can get 1% better. Brad and Jonathan on ChooseFI talk frequently about talent stacking and becoming 1% better. If you improve by just 1% each week or month, think about the improvement over one year.

This idea relates to any area of your life. Your finances for sure, but what about your health? Or relationships or skills? Any area you would like to improve is possible. Just take the time to pay attention (My Mantra!) and honestly evaluate what you’d like to improve or what new goal you’d like to work on. As I said earlier, I’ll be working on learning more about blogging and improving my website.

Pray About Being More Generous Next Year

Personally, one area I would like to refine is my generosity. This is very important to Stephen and me. There are places where the opportunity is easy – sponsor a family for Christmas, give to the food bank or pregnancy center, or help a missionary. But lately, I’ve been feeling restless, like there is more I should be doing. Maybe not even with my money, but with my time and energy. I’m going to be praying about this one for sure. How about you? Does your generosity muscle need a little strengthening? One of my favorite sayings is “Our life moves at the speed of our generosity.” 2020 has been weird, but our generosity can’t be quarantined!

Refine Your Budget

Have you seen areas that may need to be tweaked or even changed all together? My own budget is changing because of Medicare. Stephen started in May and I will join the ranks of 65 and over in February. This has been an interesting challenge to figure out what to do with Medicare. (I will write an article in the future to let you know what we learned.) In our case, our monthly budget has decreased because of the lower health care premiums!

Even beyond budgeting, there may be items in your financial plan that need attention. Do you need to make a contribution to an IRA? Have you maxed out your HSA if you have one? Can you do any ROTH laddering? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have no fear. I didn’t either a few short years ago. I’m not going to explain each one at this time – I’ll talk about them in another post, but there are lots of resources available. Again, ChooseFI’s podcast and website along with others have great resource material.

Be aware that each of these items, along with many others, have tax implications. BE SURE you understand the tax implications of what you do and when you do it. Some moves need to be made by Dec. 31st and some April 15th. Also, the tax rules for 2020 are different because of COVID. Some deadlines have changed and some items, like RMD’s are not due at all this year. Also, 2020 is giving us an “above the line” $300 charitable giving deduction. This means you can deduct $300 of charitable giving without having to itemize. Please consult a tax specialist for your situation with any of the items mentioned above.

Your Overall Financial Plan

Since the end of the year is a great time for evaluation, look at your financial plan. If you don’t have one, this is a good time to start building one. The time to put together your plan is not when the world is falling apart and the market is tanking. You need to write out a plan for your future finances when you are level-headed and not in a panic.

We’ve seen huge changes this year in a short period. The markets have dropped like a rock and then rebounded. The pandemic may have changed your mind about your risk tolerance. It may have given you an opportunity for a new income stream. No matter where you are today, look back and learn from where you’ve been.

No one could have seen 2020 coming. Now that it has, use it to make sure you are ready for the next “unexpected event”

Wrapping It Up

I hope to journey down this twisting road of life with you – talking about God, money and stuff! Let me know what you think. How are you coping? What are your goals for 2021? What is your family doing for Christmas?

It’s beginning to look a lot like…a Zoom Christmas!

I pray for you always and wish you a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

Key Takeaway – Do your own version of looking back and looking forward. Write down goals and things you learned

Assignment – Answer this question in the comments below. What is one thing you learned about yourself in 2020?

Coming Soon – I’ll still be writing about Credit Cards. Watch your inbox!

…Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Spreading the Message of Hope in Our FI Community

Becky’s story published on other platforms

Over the last few months I have been interviewed for other podcasts and websites. They have all gone “live” recently. I want to share these with you. Not to pat myself on the back, but because my story contains a message of hope. Hope that you or your loved ones can improve your finances, can improve today, and improve your future. Hope that It’s Not Too Late!

If you aren’t familiar with my story, you can read it here. In a nutshell, my husband Stephen and I made terrible financial decisions – for years! We found ourselves with no income, no emergency fund and paralyzed with fear. We turned things around at age 50 and retired at 63. In those 13 years we paid off our debt, funded 3 weddings, 4 college degrees and saved enough to retire comfortably.

During those bad years, we thought there was not hope. No chance we would ever retire or be free of the fear we lived with because of finances. But, there is hope.

Meet other friends in the FI community

My story has been published recently on two podcasts and one website. The podcasters and website writer come from different backgrounds with different perspectives. The reason they podcast and write are similar to mine: to reach people where they are and give them tools to improve their finances.

I would like for you to meet them and check out their sites. You might find new resources for your toolbelt.

One Life, Live It! Podcast and Go Bucket Yourself Website


Click here for my story on Episode 011.

One Life. Live It! Episode 11
Sound Bite #1
One Life. Live It!
Sound Bite #2

This is a podcast developed by Chris and Debbie Emick. Here is a little about Chris and Debbie and their website/podcast.

Chris and Debbie created Go Bucket Yourself after reaching financial independence by 40 through investing in rental real estate and while raising their two daughters. They were inspired to pay it forward by empowering others to create the life of freedom they desire.

At Go Bucket Yourself, Chris and Debbie believe it’s absolutely possible to build the life your soul is calling you to. All of their content is designed to guide you through overcoming fear, growing your mindset, eliminating obstacles and living an authentic, adventurous life.

On the podcast One Life. Live It!, you’ll hear stories designed to do just that, as well as show you that you’re not alone. There’s a community of folks out there navigating the messy middle of life together who are supporting and learning from each other along the way.

Micro Empires


Click here for my story on Micro Empires dated April 23, 2020.

The Micro Empires podcast is about real people achieving financial independence, one step at a time.  The host, Jennifer Grimson, has some experience with this. After losing everything (twice!), she rebuilt her financial well being using her W2 and some grit. In 4 years, she created $1.4m in income producing investments.  Jennifer pulls no punches, is refreshingly honest, and her guests are too! The guests are people with real experience and provide tactical steps that anyone can take to build toward their own financial independence.

Fiology


Click here for my story on Fiology.com dated May 29, 2020.

Meet David Baughier, the developer of Fiology.com. David believes pursuing Financial Independence results in a happier life.

His passion for educating and helping others led to the curation of the online resource Fiology, where knowledge and confidence in the concepts of Financial Independence build as you experience the 52 free lessons.  

Fiology uses content from the best and brightest of the FI community and creates lessons covering the critical concepts of FI. It is designed to help educate and motivate without scouring the internet reading, watching, and listening – wondering if you’ve educated yourself enough on any particular topic before moving onto the next. The intended audience ranges from those just beginning their FI journey to those who have achieved FI.

You can download a free fillable pdf version of The Fiology Workbook: Your Guide To Financial Independence here.

Final Thought

Check out One Life, Live It!, Micro Empires, and Fiology for other great content. See you next time!

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hebrews 6:10-12

It’s Not Too Late! How I Went From Broke At Age 50 To Retired At 63.

Are you feeling hopeless beause you’ve started too late to save for retirement? Been there, done that! I have good news for you. It’s Not Too Late! Here’s my story of starting at Net Worth Zero at age 50 and retiring at 63.

If you need a place to start with your money, check out the articles below and my resources page.

Becky’s Background

I grew up in a 2-working parent home.  My mom was a school teacher and my dad was a blue-collar worker.  We had what we needed, but not a lot of extras.  Mom was the main provider and decision-maker.  Dad was impulsive and had grown up in a family with an entitlement attitude.  My parents were Christians, but faith and money were not discussed.  There was no education on how to handle money.

College and Early Career

Stephen and I met in college and married after graduation.  We both secured good jobs earning more than our parents!  We thought we were all that!  Little did we know, that disaster was coming.  One of the first things we did in our newly married life was buy a new car and a house.  That’s what you did, right?  This was the late ’70s when oil was booming and things were only going up.  The advice we received was to buy as much house as you could afford.  So we did.  Six months into our marriage we were homeowners.  At a 13.25% interest rate!  If you lived through the ’80s, you know it got even worse. 

We made our payments fine, but not much of it was going to principal. Someone even told us about making extra principal payments to shorten the 30-year mortgage, but we didn’t listen.  After all, we were in a position to have fun and have some “stuff” for the first time in our lives.  This included a sailboat and yacht club membership.  Life was good.

What wasn’t good was our vision for the future.  We knew we needed to think about that, but it was not a priority.  “We’ll do that another day.”  Our life seemed to be on autopilot.  Problem is, autopilot looks a lot like drifting through each week, month and eventually year.

How Can We Possibly Save Anything Now!

When our first child arrived, we decided I would stay home with our son.  This was a big decision because my salary was a little over 50% of our income. We had never heard of the “Save one salary and live on the other” idea.                          

A few years later, Stephen’s company transferred us from Houston to Boston.  We hoped for a large increase in salary that wouldn’t be walked back when we returned to Texas.  This was not to be.  Our home in Texas was rented at a loss and his salary didn’t keep up with the increased cost of living.  The final insult happened when we returned to Texas.  Soon after moving back, his company started downsizing and he was laid off.  So much for the salary bump!  There were several job changes after that, but never one that helped our financial situation.

God Enters Stephens Life

During the mid-’80s, God did a miracle in our lives and marriage.  Stephen and all 3 children came to know Christ.  Stephen’s new life in the Lord caused him to look at life differently. Then a day came when he decided that the ethics of his coworkers did not match what he was striving for.  He decided that something had to change and he started his own business working from home. 

There were good years and some not so good.  But like the old MasterCard commercial, having Dad at home was “priceless”.  He attended every school sporting event or concert. 

Now, back to the financial part of this story.  Remember, we had not saved anything for the future.  That means no retirement OR college savings.  While Stephen owned his own business, there again was not enough income to start any savings.  Or so we thought.  Oh, how I wish someone had shown us the power of compounding interest!

Falling Off the Financial Cliff

In the same year, two of Stephen’s clients decided not to pay him.  I know this happens, but we had not experienced it. The amount was about a year’s salary.  This sent our finances and our relationship into a death spiral.  Not only did we not have any income, but Stephen had consultants that still needed to be paid. 

Our financial situation deteriorated until our marriage and family life were affected.  I was frightened and Stephen felt like a failure.  We set ourselves up for hardship because of our failure to even have an emergency fund.   All our poor choices and indifference to the future had landed us in the middle of this storm and we were paralyzed. We were buying groceries with a credit card, and we were about to start the college phase of life with 3 kids.  I felt like we could pay on our debt for the rest of our lives and not pay it all off. 

This time in our family was awful.  No hope and, as the old saying goes, the light at the end of the tunnel felt like an oncoming train.  But, God’s grace is new every morning!  He didn’t leave us in our mess even though we deserved it.

Enter God’s Comfort and Hope

With the recommendation of a friend, Stephen connected with a small business owner that had a position to fill.  He took the position which put us in a place of stability with a steady paycheck.  He worked in this position for 2 years and, in that time, paid off his old business debt.  We had room to breathe!  Stephen then took another position at a firm he had admired for many years.  We felt like God had held this position just for him.  It was perfect and he fit right in.  The salary was good and the bonuses were even better. 

Stephen started this position in 2008.  Our oldest son was in college on a full-ride scholarship.  Our second son would be starting college soon and had a ¾ scholarship.  We were in a much better position than before but still didn’t know how to handle our finances well.  We just knew we didn’t EVER want to go back to where we’d been.

Ramsey Days

A friend mentioned some tapes they had from someone named Dave Ramsey.  (Yes, I said tapes, as in cassette tapes!)  I listened to a few and after discussing what I heard with Stephen, we decided “What can it hurt?”  It didn’t take long before we realized we needed a change in our thinking and our attitude. 

We saw how Big changes could be made if you worked at it and we wanted more.  We were hooked on Ramsey’s simple, bible-based approach to finances.  After all, God has given us all we have and we had not been good stewards.  Now we were ready to change that for good. 

A desire for helping others out of their mess and hopelessness became a passion of ours. Stephen and I became Dave Ramsey leaders.  It was very rewarding to see others make positive changes that can last a lifetime.

The Big Shovel

The next few years consisted of paying for college and saving everything we could. It still wasn’t much, but we had a different attitude about our spending.  When the youngest was finished college, we were able to ramp up our savings.  Stephen’s salary and bonuses gave us a HUGE shovel to use for retirement savings.  It felt so good!  And, we had 3 adult children with 4 degrees between them and Not One of them had any college debt.  Funny thing about making better decisions.  God can bless them.  It was like He was waiting for us to grow up, act like adults and then He truly poured blessings on us. 

Finding Choose FI

After we got to a place of stability, we thought our lives could somewhat go back on autopilot.  Not only that, but we could loosen the purse strings a bit and enjoy some of the income we had.  At that point, we assumed retirement would come at a “normal” retirement age of 66 or 67.  In May of 2017, our oldest son introduced us to the ChooseFI podcast.  (We had not entered the podcast world yet!)  We listened to a few selected episodes and were quickly hooked. 

What we learned from ChooseFI, and other sources took what we knew and put it into warp drive!  We learned about travel rewards, tax optimization, being even more frugal and many other topics.  With the help of spreadsheets found on blogs like Retirement Manifesto, we decided to keep our spending low.  That allowed us to shave off 3 years and retire at 63.  Not early, but early for us!

Life Lessons

Our whole family had survived the bad years and come out the other side in good shape.   A little charred from the experience, but in good shape.  I thought many times that I never want to go back to where we were, but we learned lessons we wouldn’t have otherwise.  I don’t think we would be in the great place we are now if we hadn’t walked through that pain.  We would have continued to drift through life thinking normal is good enough.  Unfortunately, normal is in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.  Also, many people assume that normal can’t be changed, but it can totally be changed with a shift in your thinking.  Our eyes have been opened.  Opened to better attitudes and more efficient ways of handling money and life. 

I will go more in-depth with those changes in future posts.  Right now, I want you to know one thing.  If you’re young and don’t know where to start, there is a way to get your money under control and make BIG changes for your future self!  If you’re not quite so young, it’s not too late.  Let me say that one again.  IT’S NOT TOO LATE!  BUT, you need to start NOW.  In either case, forgive yourself and let’s begin to make positive changes for your future.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.

Ephesians 3:20-21