Today’s post is a little more intimate than my normal stuff…..less fart jokes and more serious talk.
At year’s end I enjoy reflecting back on my accomplishments, my failures and the lessons I’ve learned. It’s one of two times that I enjoy looking back. The other is on my birthday in February.
There’s a difference, however.
In February I’m far more morose. I think it’s a combination of the weather and the fact that I’m learning I’m not going to live forever. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m shocked every year that some day I might die. Every birthday means another year of opportunity lost. It’s pretty depressing.
During the holiday season, though, I somehow can do this same exercise and be totally happy about it. Weird, huh? Maybe it’s the promise of a new year around the corner. Maybe it’s the fact that pretty lights put me in a better mood. New Years is one of my favorite holidays, though I often am a little moody on January 1st. I’m sure this has zippo to do with alcohol or staying up until 3 am. Zero.
2013 was the year of follow through.
While I didn’t experience many firsts, I moved forward on several lifetime goals. I like this feeling. I like closing loops. It’s fun to see that I’m finishing things instead of just opening new opportunities.
When I was younger I would start a ton of new stuff but I wouldn’t finish any of them. Now I always worry that I won’t finish a task, or that I have too many things going on at the same time. It’s interesting to see this difference in myself. I like it.
2013 was the year that I realized that I’ll probably never catch up again as a writer. Sure, I enjoy the process of writing, but in college, I was a master. Now, I can get the job done reliably well, but nobody comments on my writing now like they did at that time. Maybe it’s because I’m good enough that my writing is utilitarian. It gets the job done. I know that my writing style isn’t flashy, so it doesn’t draw attention to itself. I actually learned this in college, too. Sometimes my English major comes in handy. But, without significant practice, I won’t be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s a bummer.
In 2014 I’ll continue to hone my writing, but I’ll know that it isn’t the only way that I’ll make money. In 2011, when I started blogging, and in 2012 when I dedicated more time to it, I’d get frustrated when I’d read some other blogs and see that they clearly had a gift that I didn’t have….prose that just popped off the page. Now I still find myself working too hard at it. I’ll keep working in 2014 on being a better writer, but that’ll be a side-project instead of the main focus. I’m smart enough to know when to hang it up.
Wow. 2013 was THE YEAR for me to figure out that podcasting is probably the backbone of Stacking Benjamins. Early in the year I’d be happy if 120 people downloaded our show on the first day. Now, over 650 people download the show on day one, and we set a new record nearly every month. Our podcasts have a really long tail, also, which amazes me. Every day a new person goes back to the first episode we ever did and downloads it….then begins working through our back catalog.
Podcasting is a double-edged sword. I’ve found it to be great for social proof. Stacking Benjamins is “on the map” with a bigger set of people than ever before, and I sense that it has a good reputation as a quality product. I hope it is, because we put a TON of time into getting the show right. Some people might think that “getting it right” would look different than our podcast. However, I’m incredibly happy with the tone of the show. If you want serious financial talk, you should look elsewhere. Our podcast is meant to be a more relaxed series of discussion, presented in an ADD format….
The downside of podcasting is that it’s hard to give people a call to action. They’re in their car, or jogging, or working on something else while they listen. Few people remember to go click that link. So, I’ve realized that podcasting is a great way to get the word about Stacking Benjamins, but it probably can’t be the only product.
I can’t have a post like this without saying how happy I am to also be surrounded by a fantastic team on the podcast. I feel lucky that voices as strong as Len Penzo, Paula Pant, Greg McFarlane and PK join us every week. It’s an honor to work with these people, as well as some amazing guests who joined us throughout the year. I’m especially grateful for Sandy Smith, Barbara Friedberg, and Philip Taylor who all made multiple appearances. I also have two great critics of the show that I talk to every week. These guys just rip the podcast to shreds, and it’s because of them that we improve nearly every week. Doug and Tony (Doug you hear on the show….Tony has yet to make an appearance) are the best critics a guy could want. They’re on my team but aren’t afraid to tell me when something stinks.
I’d love to thank everyone, but when you’ve decided to build a community-based show, I’d be here all day. Thanks to all of you who listen to or appeared on our podcast.
This was a year of transition. My kids went away to college, which made me far more emotional than I expected. As I write this, my son is home for the holidays and I can’t begin to express just how happy that makes me. I’m even happier knowing that in two days I’ll head to Fayetteville to pick up my daughter and we’ll all be together for a month. Parents of young kids: hold them tight.
This had an unexpected benefit. My relationship with my spouse, which has always been strong, became even stronger. A short story: when we were contemplating having children, Cheryl won me over by telling me how we’d still be young when they were in adulthood and we could enjoy each other as friends. However, my point had been that I really enjoyed spending time with her and that was going to get sacrificed in the process. It’s true: we did spend less time together.
But now things have changed. I make us dinner nearly every night. We get to spend lots of time together, and that’s been fantastic. I’ve enjoyed spending more time with Cheryl.
This was the year that I continued “The Streak.” In two days I will have run 450 days in a row. As I mentioned earlier, the streak isn’t difficult to maintain. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass when you realize at 10:30 pm on a cold night that you STILL haven’t run, but all-in-all it’s a fun little diversion….figuring out when I’m going to run every day.
I ran two marathons. The first I ran with my sister in Washington D.C. to help her celebrate her good health. The second was an attempt to run my fastest time ever, in College Station, Texas. I beat it by twelve minutes!
2014 will be the year of many more marathons (probably three). I really enjoy running them, though running for a fast time is difficult and leaves me tired on many days.
My biggest concern is making sure my kids get through college without interrupting our retirement savings. Luckily, in 2013 we were able to maximum fund our retirement account while also ensuring that this year our kids won’t have an trouble completing their studies. While theoretically there’s enough money for college, I always worry about future years….I know exactly how the rest of their freshman year and their sophomore years will be funded. I have trouble looking past that because at this point I’ll have to sell some of their college funds and I don’t know which I’d sell first.
Part of successful money management is to be comfortable with the fact that opportunities are going to come to you. Stick to your plan, but also be fluid enough to make changes as new ideas present themselves.
This year I’m all about building out my business plan. If 2013 was about closing loops and continuing on a path, 2014 is going to be about now building on this infrastructure. Here’s a look into my future:
– I’m finishing a book. I think it’s pretty funny. I’m going to have my first draft done by the end of March.
– We’re working on multimedia. The Stacking Benjamins brand will move into video and webinars in 2014.
– I’m growing my social media attack. Instead of being a brand about “the blog,” my goal is to interact wherever my readers are at currently. I’m working on better relationships on Facebook, Twitter, and in 2014….Pintrest, which I think will be a ton of fun.
That’s my 2013 look back. What’s yours? Give me the highlights in the comments below.
Great 2013 review. I’m currently working on mine. I can say that my cross country trip was one of the best things to happen this year.
That sounds like a blast. Seeing the USA coast-to-coast would be a ton of ground to cover in one trip. We took a trip once where we spent three weeks seeing tons of stuff west of Michigan. It ended up being too much. By the end I couldn’t wait to get home.
John S @ Frugal Rules
That’s all very cool Joe! Moving forward and closing things can be such a good feeling, especially when you’re able to do it on various fronts. I’m very excited to see what things you’ll come up with in terms of video and webinars – I think that’s a very natural outflowing of what you have going on with your podcast. Our biggest highlight for 2013 was likely the more than doubling of our business. At the beginning of year I still had a little of that uneasy feeling and now that has grown to a modest confidence (sort of ironic phrasing there I know 😉 ). It has been very rewarding to see our business grow and are planning several more ways to grow it even more in 2014.
Thanks, John! The camera is here…the tripod is here…the lapel mic came today. I’m all ready, except I don’t know how to use any of it!
Doubling your business has to be gratifying. I’d be confident, too! If you’d like to double mine next year, feel free. 🙂
Nice! Look forward to the book.
My big accomplishment was moving jobs to something more sustainable.
Having a sustainable job is a HUGE win. I hope it’s also a job that you really enjoy!
I could read lists like this all day. Excited to see where 2014 takes you! (More excited if the answer is Portland, but you knew that…)
I’d love to come party in Portland with this crazy Irish woman I know….
Savvy Financial Latina
I feel like this year has gone by so fast. We accomplished most of our goals but I, also, realized it’s hard to accomplish everything. Some goals fell a little on the sideline. I’m looking forward to my holiday break to refresh. I think I’m burned out for the year.
An old guy once told me that “It goes faster and faster every year….” Now I feel like that old guy because it’s so true. I’m pretty burnt out also, but I’m making this final push because Thursday at 11 am I have a hard stop on my work for the next 10 days (outside of checking in once in awhile).
The big goal that fell down for me was the book. But once I saw how the podcast was going, I threw the book aside and focused on getting one thing running well (rather than 10 things going poorly). Now that we have some systems, I’m back on the book.
I hope you can join us in Dallas for our local FinCon meetings. I’ll try and remember to let you know when we’re meeting!!
Jacob @ iHeartBudgets
What an awesome summary, Joe. And I love your writing style! Nice work on “the streak”. Going to start calling you Cal Ripken Jr. And thanks for letting me be a part of the magic that is the Stacking Benjamins podcast. It was a great time 🙂
All the best for 2014!
I have an idea that’ll need you on again soon! Expect to hear from me shortly after 1-1.
You too, man! I have an idea for the podcast that involves you. I’ll give you a holler after the new year.
Joe, congrats on a wildly successful 2013!! You’ve had so many great accomplishments, my friend! We are still kind of reeling in our 2013 after making it a full year of behaving like grownups with our money. 🙂 We have a ways to go, but I feel kind of like we’re running a marathon: if we can make it a year, then we can make it to the finish line, you know?
It’s that old joke about eating an elephant, right? One bite at a time………. I think you had an awesome year, Laurie.
I like this more personal post. You’ve got a lot accomplished this year. I’m happy to hear your son is back home with you for the holiday. I’ve also just started listening to podcasts and I’ve listened to a couple of yours and think they’re great! Good luck to you in the New Year, Joe!
Thanks! We have fun making them. I think some people struggle with them because they’re looking to “learn” from podcasts. We definitely aren’t trying to teach.
Doesn’t the year just fly by Joe? A lot of good things happened for you this year, what kind of book are you writing?
It’s a financial planning book about how I’ve screwed up just about everything and still managed to get it (largely) right. Each chapter starts with a story about me making a completely boneheaded move and then shows you how to avoid the train wreck.
Matt @ momanddadmoney
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you this year Joe, and inspirational as well. I love this kind of reflection because the accomplishments we have along the way often get lost in the day to day grind. Taking the time to step back and really look at what happened can be eye-opening. This past year I started my blog and have spent a TON of time figuring out how to make that into something meaningful. That’s definitely still in progress, but I can see how much I’ve already accomplished and feel proud. 2014 will be about truly building my own business. A financial planning practice is in the works and I’m really excited about it. A little scared too, but I think a little fear is a good thing. Should be fun!
I think you had a monster year, Matt. A financial planning practice next year? Everything sounds fun about that except for a) marketing; and b) clients.
Matt @ momanddadmoney
Haha, you weren’t a fan of your clients back in the day? I feel like that might actually be the fun part. Maybe I’m naive.
Done by Forty
Joe, I am in awe of your organization in all these areas. I applaud all that you accomplished in 2013, but could you throw me a bone and just talk a little more about your failures? Maybe that chicken parm you tried making that just wasn’t quite right? Help a guy out.
Ah….maybe it came out more egotistical than I intended….I really think that writing was a big fat failure this year. I also could have started more stuff more quickly. Example: we went to three podcasts in September, and I should have done that long, long ago. On that note, last year (2012) was a great year because I started the podcast, but it was something I should have done long, long ago. Frustrating. I need to learn to pull the trigger more quickly.
What a year!! BTW I enjoy your writing immensely! Way to go on the podcast stuff too. That’s still on the back burner for me but video will probably emerge more. Also can’t wait for the book! I still can’t believe you’ve run that many days in a row. Were you ever sick? Right now I have a chest cold and coughing like crazy and know you should not run when you feel that way. Really scared of how it’s going to affect my training. I digress. Enjoy the time with your kids while they’re home!
The most hilarious (in hindsight) day of running from last year was when I had the flu. I was wheezing and moaning the entire way. At one point I realized I was saying, “Oh God….Oh God….Oh God….” out load every step. How did I figure it out? My neighbor was standing in her front yard staring at me. Hopefully she thought I was just praying.
2013 was a great year. We sign closing papers on my practice this coming Monday. A thirteen year chapter of my life is coming to a close, and I certainly feel the onset of middle age, but I’m so much smarter and comfortable in my skin than I was a decade ago,that it’s all good. I’m going to be as active in school and outside activities with my daughter. Like you said, she will be grown before I know it, so I want to have time to enjoy this period of life. Best of luck with your 2014 plans!
Kim, did you just mention Chapter 13?
I just recently stumbled upon your podcast through MoneyPlanSOS and I’m loving it so far. I think you’ve struck a very healthy balance between money nerdiness, shenanigans, humor, and some personal input. Your podcast doesn’t sound like a selling tool for investment firms, it has personality, its own style almost. Good job!
If it was a selling tool, we’d need to first build an investment firm! 🙂 Thanks for the kind words.
And OG. You’re thankful for him too. Minor oversight 😉
Dude, I get to work with you every stinkin’ day. That’s the obvious gift that just keeps giving….
Your kids may want to consider becoming Resident Assistants (RA) as a job. This will require them to live in the residence halls (has benefits and drawbacks) instead of an off campus apartment (has benefits and drawbacks). While there tends not to be a stipend provided with the RA position those holding the positions receive free Room and Board which will certainly help contain costs.
Great idea. That actually was our approach, but unfortunately, isn’t going to work. My son found engineering to be a struggle without any additional responsibilities. He’s never been a kid who had problems with school, but he’s in WAY over his head now. My daughter is running track and cross country with the Razorbacks and athletes aren’t allowed to be RAs.
If they’d said, “But all my friends are moving off campus and aren’t RAs…..” I would have put my foot down. In this case, it just isn’t an option.