It is that time of year again. Check out my past reviews:
- 2014 Year in Debt – I still want to be the ‘umm, no’ cat in that post when I grow up.🙂
- 2015 Year in Debt – What an emotional and financial roller coaster! It was a year of health and job loss scares.
In 2016, I started off the year with worthy goals and lots of optimism. In January, I got hit with a $750 bill for short term disability over-payment because my employer hadn’t calculated taxes properly following my surgery in 2015. Next, I paid off the last bit of medical related credit card debt and was now credit card debt free AGAIN. In February, I had a temporary panic about potentially losing my cheap (for this area) rented room. Panic is the right word, given that so much of my potential to make progress on this debt hinges on my ability to continue paying below market rent for my room.
By March, I focused my attention on my student loan debt. As the Spring season began, my first action was to refinance my federal loans (6%+ average interest) to private loans (3.4%). For a six-figure loan balance, this change started reducing my yearly accrued interest by thousands of dollars. This monthly savings in interest, helped me to get traction with my huge payments.
The trials of renting a room and living with roommates flared up again and I was worried about needing to move for safety reasons. I dejectedly decided that the cheap rent was worth the risk. I also reaffirmed how much I hated debt and the choices it forces you to make. I really regret this debt. I often deal with stress by planning, so I also did some (financial) Spring cleaning (or attempted to).
By June, the sun was shining bright, and the weather was warm, so I decided to improve my health. Stress has been causing me health problems ever since I started tackling my financial problems. I started working out and feeling good about it, all things considered. I finally dropped below the $100,000 water mark for my student loan debt. It was good to slip below six figures of debt. I had a couple of setbacks, financially and healthwise. I had to stop working out.
By Autumn, I was at a crossroads again about whether to focus more on saving for retirement vs paying down student loan debt. The highlight of the year was my much anticipated international trip, which was wonderful!! ::screams:: Omg, I LOVED it. If I didn’t have this debt, I’d be living over there now. I HATE debt!
As the year comes to a close, an emotionally exhausting presidential election cycle FINALLY ended. America learned that who you vote for (or not voting at all) matters. I learned that startups aren’t for me, at least not in my current financial situation. I HATE debt! On the bright side, I learned that I will be getting a promotion and raise at work starting next year. I’m not getting my hopes up about what the amount of the raise will be, but every little bit counts.
And lastly, to wrap up the year, I managed to reach another debt milestone.
Alright. Enough of the stroll down memory lane. It’s time for some cold, hard, numbers. I tally the outcomes of my 2016 financial goals.
2016 Goals & Outcomes:
- ONE – Pay down my student loan debt from $111,336 to $90,000. PASS!
“Yeah, this may be crazy ambitious. But, hey, go big or go home, right? Paying this down will take even more than it appears on the surface. Remember in addition to the reduction in principal indicated above, I will additionally be paying thousands in interest over the course of the year. It will be a great feeling to be in five figures of debt instead of six figures of debt.”
I did it! My current balance is now $88,926, even lower than my goal amount. When 2016 started, I didn’t think I’d actually be able to accomplish this, but I did. Refinancing to a lower interest rate helped a lot!
- TWO – Pay off remaining credit card debt of $1,996 and remain credit card debt free. Partial PASS
“I want this infernal walking dead credit card debt gone for good. I want to put bars and locks on its coffin so that it doesn’t crawl out and ensnare me yet again.”
I paid off that last $2,000, but did not remain credit card debt-free for the remainder of the year. I racked up some travel and health related debt later in the year, but paid it off again. So, 2016 ends with $0 in credit card debt.
THREE – Save $3,000 in an emergency fund. FAIL
“I eventually want to build up to a solid $6,000 emergency fund in the not too distant future, but for this year I think $3,000 may actually be attainable.”
I did build up an emergency fund of over $3,500 earlier in the year, but had to dip into that to pay off the credit card debt that I incurred both before and during my trip. I currently have about $2,500 in my e-fund, which is too low for me to feel comfortable with.
FOUR – Save $2,500 cash to pay for an international trip. PASS!
“What?! Yes, this has been a wish of mine for years, and travel is very important to me. It’s going to happen this year. It has to. … One thing that I promised myself right before my surgery was that if I came through it healthy and whole, that I would start traveling again, because life is too short. So I’m going to make it happen. I hope this will be the first of many yearly trips to distant locations.”
I saved the money and took my trip!! It was, by far, the highlight of the year!!! The very, very small downside was that I went over budget, but I have two words to say to that… WORTH. IT!!!
2016 Net Worth Review
When I started this blog back at the end of 2012, my finances were at their worst.
By the end of 2015, I’d made good progress despite a rather slow start.
One year later, at the end of 2016, I can now finally see the start of a shift in my finances.
*These are the final 2016 numbers as of December 31. (Updated Jan 1, 2017)
My net worth increased by $56,580 in 2016. That’s almost as much as it increased between 2012 and 2015 ($57,720)! The key to this has been keeping my living expenses low (e.g. having roommates, not having a car, etc), a record breaking stock market, and saving thousands of dollars in interest costs by refinancing my debt. Back when I had $30,000 in credit card debt, the high interest rate made paying it off feel like trying to climb out of quicksand. This year, I also managed to stay out of the hospital, and unlike last year, did not accrue any medical debt.
My assets calculation does not include any money in my checking account or in any of my sinking funds (e.g. opportunity fund, health fund), because those are meant to sink down to zero through the year. They are in fact, pretty much near zero now. I have also included my HSA within my investments category as most of it is invested (index funds).
Overall Grade for 2016: B+
I’m giving myself a grade of ‘B+’. I met almost all of my goals including one that I didn’t expect to. There was great growth in my net worth. However, this year I failed one goal (emergency fund), resorted to credit cards again during the year when my money was low, and I still feel like I’m not putting enough toward retirement.
Overall, though, I’m very pleased with the direction my finances have taken this year. 🙂
In my next post, I’ll look forward and lay out my 2017 goals.
Thanks to those of you who wrote in and shared your own personal experiences or offered advice over the year. Thanks to those of you who stopped by simply to read. Everyone sing along… Peace out, 2016!
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