Last week I found out my bonus and this week Mr. ONL finds out his. :::squirming in my seat nervously, hoping I don’t burst into tears when we get the number::: (I am the definition of zero chill.)
His bonus has much more impact on our finances (and our retirement timing!) than mine does, but I still had a great moment last week around my bonus that I’ll talk about today. And then we’ll take a look back at the non-numerical goals we set for ourselves for 2016 and see how we did, as well as look ahead at 2017 and set some new goals. Next week we’ll share the full financial breakdown for the year, and what it means for our early retirement timing. (Are you as excited as we are??!?!?!?! Haha. Of course not.) ;-)
Asking Others for More
I already shared last week that I had my last review ever. EVER. Even if we last until the end of 2017, we still won’t go through the whole review ritual, because we will have already given notice. Once that fact really sank in, I felt a lot better. Definitely a big weight off my shoulders.
There was something else about my review that I didn’t share, because I didn’t have any info as of last week’s post. But now I can tell you all about it.
We’ve both generally taken the approach in our year-end reviews of not asking for more money, either in future years, or in our deferred compensation for the year that’s just wrapped up. We’ve truly felt taken care of and appreciated by our companies, so there hasn’t been a need to press on anything. We know how fortunate we are to be able to say that, and we’re super grateful. It’s crazy that we can’t remember a single time when Mr. ONL pushed back on money at all, and I only asked for more once before in my career, in my very early years.
But this year, I wanted to push for more, first because I felt I deserved it for the year I’ve had, and second because it makes me nuts that women negotiate on money so infrequently. If for no better reason than to have negotiated for more money at least one real time in my career, I wanted to push on principle. I’d be a bad feminist if I never did this, right? And if I care about the legacy I’m leaving behind, then I have to do my part to create new norms for the young women who come up behind me.
So in my review, I asked for more. I said I believe that my compensation is lower than several peers who contribute less (based on real information), and that I believe last year’s bonus had been too small. And I said that while I always look out for the best interests of the company, and what makes sense for business, the economics also have to work out for me. The managers in my review said they’d take that back to the team who decides such things, and then I waited. And late the next day, I found out:
I’d been successful. I got more.
My company is pretty conservative about pay increases, so I didn’t get more for 2017, but I did get a bigger bonus, which we benefit from immediately. And we get all of it regardless of whether we work the full year next year. So I’m happy with the outcome, and would have chosen a bigger bonus over more for next year anyway. If you sensed a lukewarm reaction to my bonus last week (as Steve did), I can now say that it met my expectations. And given that this was likely my peak earning year ever (unless some future second act career takes off), it got me to a number that I feel really good about as a capstone to my career.
I’m proud that I gathered up the guts to ask for what I deserved, and I’m glad that I could push back on taboos in my last review, to grease the wheels for future employees. Take that, wage gap.
Asking More of Ourselves in 2016
Having just succeeded at getting more money by asking for it, I’m a little surprised I didn’t set pushing back on money at review time as a 2016 goal last year. But we did set a bunch of other good ones to get us to a happier, healthier, more financially secure place — basically, to ask more of ourselves. At the end of 2015, we did a wrap-up post and outlined five goals for 2016. Let’s see how we did:
1. Increase our monthly contribution to Vanguard
Status: We’ve successfully increased our monthly contributions to Vanguard by 25 percent this year, entirely through our pay ourselves first approach. We increased the contribution amount by the full amount of our pay increases for 2016, even though that didn’t account for taxes, and we cut our spending to make up the difference. Goal achieved. (Related post: How We’ve Upped Our Savings Game Without Budgeting)
2. Continue reducing our spending
Status: We made good progress in 2015 continuing to cut our spending gradually. We’re huge believers that we’d rebel if we tried to cut our spending dramatically at any point, so we’ve focused instead on occasional trimming rather than sudden chopping. So we just continued this trend in 2016, and our spending is now down below where we need it to be in retirement. Of course, several of our costs will go up in retirement, like health insurance and groceries (because I will be home more, not up in the air for work), so when we account for that, we think we’re right on target. Goal achieved.
3. Solidify personal loan to relative
Status: We solidified the loan in January, blogged about it in February, and have been collecting easy automated payments every month since then. Goal achieved.
4. Exceed our year-end targets
Status: Big time thumbs up on this one. Thanks to faster saving than we’d projected at the start of the year and lots of market tailwind, we’ve gotten significantly ahead of schedule, so much so that our retirement timeline is potentially negotiable at this point. Goal achieved.
5. Think less about money
Status: When we wrote this goal, we meant it to mean checking our account balances less and not stressing about spending. And this year we’ve achieved that. We’re now checking balances only once or twice a month, which is a huge improvement over the near-daily checking of a year ago. We also don’t pay attention to market fluctuations, and have continued investing twice each month no matter what. But, one thing that we’ve gotten worse about is thinking about retirement. While not thinking about money, exactly, it’s kind of the same thing. Thinking about money too much in 2015 kept us from being fully present a lot of the time, and this year thinking too much about retirement filled that role. We will try to do better in 2017. Goal partially achieved.
Overall, we couldn’t be happier. I mean, sure, we’d take more money, as we all would, but we’re proud of ourselves for sticking to all the goals we set for ourselves, almost entirely across the board. Because you can teach an old dog new tricks (the Mythbusters proved it). Thank goodness we asked more of ourselves this year — if we hadn’t raised the bar, we wouldn’t have reached higher, and we wouldn’t be where we are.
Goals for 2017
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about 2017, especially the timing of our retirement and questions around how we’ll get health insurance. But there are some things we do know we’ll need to do this year, which we covered in our recent pre-retirement to do list post. (Going to every possible doctor in early 2017 is top of the list! Time to load up on health care, just in case.) We also have a thematic goal for the year that we’ll share in January. And here are our big picture goals for the coming year:
Increase our monthly contributions while we’re still working – We want to keep our momentum going and up our game some more. We’re currently planning to increase our monthly contributions by the full amount of our raises this year, which will again squeeze our spending to account for taxes on the additional income, which will be a good test. The difference this year is that we may need to split those monthly contributions between Vanguard and our cash accounts, to build up our cash reserves to ride out market fluctuations. That piece of the puzzle depends on what we end up doing with our bonuses, which we’ll decide after Mr. ONL gets his.
Pay off the house – Always been part of our plan to be mortgage-free in early retirement, so a no-brainer. We did an in-depth breakdown on why Obamacare subsidies change the math on pay off vs. investing, and given that current talk is about keeping the ACA in place for three more years, it’s still worth crunching your numbers to figure out what makes most sense for your situation.
Decide whether to buy a second rental property – We’ve lately been lamenting that we missed the boat on buying another rental near us, but we’ve actually started to talk about buying an out-of-area rental. While I definitely don’t love the idea of owning a property we can’t easily visit, I do love the idea of diversifying our income streams and being less market-reliant. This is a pretty new idea for us, but we’re thinking more about it. (Related post: Choosing People Over Money // The Story of Our Rental Property)
Put wheels in motion for second-act business – We aren’t ready to talk about it here, but we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what we want to do after we quit our jobs. We want to start laying the groundwork for it, even if we can’t really kick it off until after we retire. Even though we aren’t doing the work yet, we already feel grateful to be contemplating a new venture based entirely on it sounding fun, not based on earnings potential. That is the best privilege of early retirement.
Hit our magic number in taxable savings – Another no-brainer. We aren’t yet in agreement about when we should retire next year, but we are in lockstep agreement that we don’t do it until we hit our magic number. Though you can bet that if we hit it in April or May, I’ll have a heck of a hard time agreeing to work the remainder of the year, regardless of what kind of a bonus Mr. ONL is predicting for himself. ;-)
How Was Your 2016? What Are Your Goals for 2017?
We want to hear from you guys! How was your 2016? Did you reach the goals you set for yourself? Any goals for 2017 you want to put out there? We’d love to give virtual high fives for all of it – even the incremental progress that may not feel like it rises to the level of a goal you met. Let’s discuss in the comments!