2019 retrospective and new year’s resolutions
God laughs when men make plans, as an old saying goes.
I never liked making new year’s resolutions, mainly because most of the time they’re just items on a list that remind me of my failures. The bigger the list, the bigger the disappointment at the end of the next year. Every year I make this list, hoping at the end of it I’ll be a better version of myself. And every year I fail to complete it. Sometimes during summer, I forget about it or just throw it away, a constant reminder of my failure to finish things.
No matter how futile this looks, I keep doing it. It’s an important introspective exercise, and it helps me understand what I want and where I want to be in the future. And even though “new year’s resolutions” sounds important, January 1st is just a point in time, and priorities shift, and some of the items in that list won’t be important 3 months later, or 6 months later. (This is me now just preparing myself for failure again, as I doubt I’ll complete this list.)
How was my 2019?
I did have a list for 2019, but of course, I threw it away. However, I did do some things I’m proud of.
I kept writing on this blog for a year
Writing is incredibly hard for me, especially when I want to write about something I’m interested in. I always overthink it and realize there are other people who know a lot more than I do on the subject. Or I just fear nobody’s going to be interested in what I write. If I don’t do it, I won’t be disappointed as I won’t have to face my fear of not being accepted. I guess everybody goes through that to some extent, and this blog has been a way for me to put myself out of my comfort zone.
Around 15.000 people visited my blog this year. Not a big number in the blog stats world, but for me, 15.000 sounds huge. The topics I write about are not mainstream. My writing experience is almost zero. And I’ll never know in my entire life that many people.
This blog also helped me in my professional life.
I build websites for a living. Mostly enterprise solutions, with complex architectures behind the scenes. And mostly, my main focus has been on code and I never really cared about the business purpose of the solution I was building.
I’ve got the chance to try hosting providers, content delivery networks, optimize SEO, create Facebook ads campaigns, Google ads, Twitter ads. See what works and what doesn’t. And see things more from the perspective of a business owner, instead of that of a software developer.
I travelled for 6 months around the world
I always dreamed of travelling for a year or more to all sorts of places around the world. But this was just one dream in the back of my mind, something like being an astronaut or developing superpowers. Until I realized travelling is not that hard. I just needed to put my job on pause, take my backpack and go.
I didn’t travel for years, but it’s been an amazing 6 months’ vacation. In a big way, I feel a totally different person than the one I was a year ago. I also realized I would never be a professional traveller, or digital nomad, or whatever. I do need a stable place, and I do need something to do and work on, besides travelling.
I built up the courage to ask my girlfriend to marry me
Even though I knew I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life, and I was fairly confident she wanted too, it was still hard. The fear of rejection still kicked in, even though rationally I knew I had nothing to fear. Anyway, she said yes.
Plans for 2020
One of the reasons I wrote this post is that I want to check it later next year and see how much I’ve actually accomplished from this list. It will keep me accountable.
If I write a short list, I’ll just be easy on me and I won’t be happy with it. If the list is too long, I’ll know from the start I won’t finish it next year. So, to make it look smaller, I’ll just split my list into 3 categories:
- saving and investment plans
- personal plans
- professional plans
Savings and investments
I’m not really a big saver, except that I think twice before buying something online, and usually I end up not buying it. Between 20% and 40% or my monthly spending usually goes to nights out, books, alcohol, cigarettes and travelling. These are all things I could cut out if I really wanted to save more, but it just feels that I would sell my today’s happiness for a promised one tomorrow.
Based on my spending habits, I should be able to save around 2500 EUR per month or 30.000 EUR from my paycheck. I should also get a bonus next year, but I also have a wedding that costs, so I’ll just assume they cancel each other out.
Since I don’t want to keep these funds in a bank, I’ll be investing these funds as follows:
My portfolio increased by about 9000 EUR in 2019, from 16.000 EUR to 25.000 EUR. Around 2500 EUR came from interest payments, while the rest of 6500 EUR came from new deposits.
I plan to deposit around 7000 EUR more into my portfolio. With expected earnings of around 3000 EUR, my portfolio should reach 35.000 EUR by the end of 2020.
Real estate crowdfunding
My current portfolio is worth around 5000 EUR and with around 3000 EUR more it would reach an amount that would allow me to buy around 10% of a small apartment in Cluj. It’s play-money, but real estate equity crowdfunding is an interesting investment asset class, and I’m happy to keep a small stake here.
I have around 8000 EUR invested in startups, spread between Crowdcube and Seedrs. My stake is a bit high given the risks involved, so I’ll slow down my investing pace next year, and only add 2000 EUR more.
My WiseAlpha portfolio is worth around 3000 EUR now, and my 2019 returns are around 12%, a lot higher than the expected average returns. Past performance is not a good indicator for future returns, but even so, I’m willing to invest 2000 EUR more into this platform in the next year.
I’ve neglected my stocks portfolio this year, and also trimmed it a bit during my 6 months’ vacation. I’m planning to put half of my savings into stocks next year and keep building up my portfolio. Maybe 2020 will also be the year I start investing on the Romanian stock exchange.
1000 EUR doesn’t sound much, but I’ll keep these for any weird, interesting, high-risk investment I might find interesting.
These are usually the easiest plans to break, as I’m only accountable to myself for them. However, these are important to me, and I hope to stick to them:
- Quit smoking (again) – after 6 months of smoking, I got to the point I don’t like it anymore, I start feeling bad and hate the smell of cigarettes, so it shouldn’t be hard to quit them
- Learn French – it is the 5th year I add this to my list, with little progress, but hopefully, this will be the year it happens. I only need to be able to read, write some simple sentences and be able to speak in casual conversations
- Learn sewing – I had this sewing machine in a corner of my room for more than a year now, and I just need to know the basics; it’s a personal challenge, and I don’t want to build a career out of it, but it would be an interesting skill to have
- Go to the gym – it doesn’t have to be a gym, but I need some daily physical activity and my office work doesn’t help with that. After my big vacation, I realized how good it felt to do physical stuff every day, and I want that feeling back
- Start a Romanian blog – I want to improve my writing skills in Romanian, so I plan to open a blog and write short stories in it. I do like writing in English, but my vocabulary is limited, and it’s hard to release my imagination without enough words. It should be an interesting exercise.
- Be more approachable – this should be my mantra. I tend to be dismissive and just state my point of view and many times I forget that I’m part of a conversation and exchange of ideas
- Start meditation – maybe it will help me relax and improve balance in my life
I like my new job. I work in a small company and everything I do has a visible and immediate impact. And it’s so disorganised and with so many problems that I don’t have time to get bored. Every day is a new adventure.
However, I need to keep track of my long-term goals, and also work on some skills that will help me in the future.
These are the things I put on my list for the next year:
- learn more about big data and machine learning – this means I should work on a few small projects and find out if there’s something I can use in the near future
- build a WordPress theme – I find WordPress rigid and lacking lots of features, and it would be interesting to see if I can do more with a custom-built solution
- improve my SEO skills – I can use my blog as a playground for this, and it would definitely help me in the future; one metric to measure this would be if I manage to double my organic search traffic on my blog by the end of the next year
- do a public presentation – it would be a technical presentation, and with an audience larger than 20 people; public speaking frightens me to death, so it would be interesting to get out of my comfort zone
These were my 2020 resolutions. I’ll get back to them a few months later, and see how much progress (if any) I’ve made. Would be interesting to hear about your new year’s resolutions. If you’re like me and you don’t keep up with them, I’m sure they all sound great.