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 terribly, 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 lockdown 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 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 you 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 altogether? 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, has 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

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