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It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life and forget to take the time to assess where we’re at and where we’re headed. But one of the things our mini-retirement has reinforced for us is the value in taking the time to pause, reflect, and look ahead to the future.

We intentionally avoided setting any New Year’s resolutions in January of this year as we wanted to take the month as our time to reflect. We’re halfway through our mini-retirement and are starting to think about what we want our life to look like after it wraps up.

Figuring out how we want to spend our time, where we want to be, and how we’re going to bring in income were all on our minds and thankfully we’re starting to get some answers :)

2017 Reflections

We might call 2017 the year of change. At the start of the year, our family of five was working on paying off the mortgage on our 1800-square foot home using the income from my job as an engineering manager.

Early in the year, we realized we had reached Retirement Freedom - that we’d saved enough in our retirement accounts that they should grow enough for us to retire when I’m 65 even if we don’t contribute another penny.

Knowing our age 65+ expenses should be covered gave us the freedom to think differently about our current life. We set our minds to finishing the remodeling in our house, selling it, and me parting ways with my 9-5.

Mid-year we accomplished all of that, kicking off a one-year mini-retirement.

The mini-retirement has been an opportunity to spend more of our time focusing on things that are important to us:

  • Spending more quality time together as a family. Jaime and I have coffee together or play cards during the day. I’m part of bringing the kids to and from school every day and have been volunteering in their classrooms.
  • Working on this blog. We launched a video series, started recording audio, and shared stories of people who have created their own freedom.
  • Continuing to develop Thrifty. This year, I was able to add a ton of features:
    • custom categories
    • custom currencies
    • spreadsheet exporting
    • improved onboarding process
    • messaging (for new features and user questions)
    • goals
    • tracking savings
    • monthly dashboard
    • analysis of income, taxes, spending, and expenses

Beyond this, we got some good family travel time - road tripping the northeastern US and spending two amazing weeks in Hawaii. In both cases, we soaked up the joy of exploring new places as a family.

The last seven months have been an opportunity to refocus our time and money on what’s most important to us and it’s been a life-changing experience full of new adventures and personal growth.

In 2017, I learned a ton about myself - both my strengths and my weaknesses:

  • I love learning more about coding and writing software
  • I’m really (no, really) risk-averse
  • Even now, I struggle with regressing into a workaholic and worrying about my identity and income
  • I’m a product development person but don’t have much passion for the sales and marketing side of being an entrepreneur

It’s been an incredible year and it’s time to take what we’ve learned and look forward.

2018 Goals

In all honesty, setting goals for this year has been really tough. Not because we don’t have things we want to accomplish - quite the opposite - because the world of opportunity is so wide open right now.

So some of our goals may be vague or high level, with details to come as we figure them out throughout the year. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. Earn an income (again) that supports our family. That’s the funny thing that happens when you leave your job and take a year off - eventually you have to figure out the whole income thing again :)
    • At this point, my top choice would be to work in web development - either as a full-stack engineer or as a software engineer in test.
    • Our ideal is a remote job (which lends well to software jobs) so we can keep our options open on location and have some location and work hour flexibility.
    • I’ll work on improving my skills by developing Thrifty. In addition, I’m in the brainstorming phases with another personal finance blogger on a really exciting project.
    • I also signed up for a Treehouse account to help me sharpen my coding skills in a couple key areas. I’ve used Treehouse before and I think they do a great job teaching coding!
  2. Figure out where we’re going to live. This is both a short-term and long-term goal. Our current lease expires at the end of June and we need to figure out where we lay our heads for July 1st, but we’re also trying to figure out what our plan is for the long-haul.
    • We could renew our lease here but we’ve been craving easy access to a backyard for the kids to play in.
    • We have our plot of land here in Wisconsin but aren’t in a financial position to build yet. We’ll consider if building here is still in our future or if we want to try something else.
    • Our two-week trip to Hawaii was amazing for our physical and mental health and we’re seriously considering moving there for a year to see what life could be like. That said, we’d need an even higher income - see goal 1 :)
  3. Continue to travel as a family.
    • Jaime and I will be celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary this July. I’m so lucky to have the perfect partner and am looking forward to us taking a small trip to celebrate a decade of marriage.
    • In addition, we had planned to take a “Wisconsin Staycation” this upcoming summer with our girls - enjoying the best our state has to offer. As much as we’ve enjoyed our road trips, it’ll be fun to explore the state we’ve called home in a deeper way.
  4. Establish some better habits. Throughout the year, I’m going to establish better habits by giving myself one-month challenges. Some areas I know I want to work on are below. Others will come as the year progresses.
    • Get to bed earlier
    • Pray more
    • Practice mindfulness - be present in and make the most of my day-to-day
    • Try intermittent fasting
  5. Stay within our budget. When we kicked off our mini-retirement, we set an annual budget of $60,000 to cover everything we needed - from housing and healthcare to charity and travel. Our goal is to stick to this budget and - if possible - to come in even lower. By keeping our spending lower, we’ll open up more opportunities for our future.

It’s not a long list, but there are some big ones in there. It’s bound to be an interesting year with a lot of change and adventure. We’re looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us!

When you reflect back on 2017, how did your life change from the start to end? What dreams and goals do you have for 2018?