2019: My year in review

December 26

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I found 2019 to pass me by surprisingly fast. I guess when you have most of the things going well for you, time passes by really quickly. As I'm writing this article, I've already closed off my work year and am clearing my annual leaves all the way till 2nd Jan 2020.

Last year, I wrote about the 5 goals that I wanted to achieve in 2019. In this article, I'll look back at these goals and reflect on my achievements in each of them.

These are the 5 goals that I'm going to be reflecting on and you can click on them to jump to the goal you're interested to read about.

Goal 1: Increase my health and fitness activities

I wanted to cycle at least 3,000 km in 2019. According to my Strava account, I've only done 390.9 km over 11 rides. 🙁  This happened because I failed to bring back my past habit of waking up early to join my cycling group on our morning rides that start at 5am.

However, I managed to pivot quickly after I realised that I wasn't able to clock my cycling mileage this year.

In April, I started applying my discipline way of tracking my expenses on tracking my calories. The goal was to maintain a daily calorie deficit of 1,500 calories so that I'm not overeating and my body would use my body fats (and some muscles) to create energy to facilitate my daily functional needs.

By July, I managed to shave off 10 kg just by moderating calorie intake and avoid overeating. While I was physically lighter, I felt better psychologically too. I even walking up the stairs to my office on the 7th floor as a form of cardio exercise every morning.

I started getting more sophisticated with weight loss, with the aim of losing fats while retaining muscles. I had a bump up on my salary with a salary increment this year and I decided to invest the extra money on myself by signing up for a gym membership at Fitness First.

The result of maintaining a calorie deficit with at least 30 minutes of exercising daily was a further reduction of 10 kg in body weight and shaving off 8.9% body fat to date. I think a 20 kg weight loss within a year is quite impressive given I was able to eat whatever I wanted and not sacrifice on my favourite food.

Goal 2: Remain focused on lifelong learning

Last year, I wanted to continue focusing on learning data science. My interest in that topic waned after I learnt sufficient knowledge to have proper conversations with my colleagues who are working in the data science field. I also didn't see myself going into the data science industry as I didn't like the mathematics side of the work.

Instead, I chose to dive deeper into personal finance and nutrition through workshops and online courses in my spare time.

I attended a couple of personal finance and investment events conducted by Seedly and SGBudgetBabe. The Seedly Personal Finance Festival 2019 was especially enjoyable given that none of the speakers and exhibitors were allowed to hard-sell their products. I got to speak to the folks from Funding Societies to learn more about how their P2P lending platform works and eventually invested $2,000 through the platform. I've earned a net income of $103.93 from the platform so far so that's around 5% of my investment.

I've also benefitted greatly from Dawn's SG Budget Babe Readers' Investment Workshop 2019 where I learnt how analyse stocks based on my investment objectives. That led to me investing in NetLink Trust in March 2019 for dividend income. I got in at 84 cents and the stock is priced at 93.5 cents at the moment so I'm looking at around 11% paper gains. That's on top of the 5.9% dividend yield received this year.

On the nutrition side of things, most of my learnings have been mostly online courses where I learnt more about macro nutrition and how to see food from a different perspective. I was able to apply this to my weight management by allowing myself to eat all kinds of food in the right proportions. This was very useful as I formed a better relationship with food and was able to maintain my weight loss through a sustainable lifestyle.

Goal 3: Achieve a 70% net savings rate

My goal in 2019 was to achieve a 70% net savings rate. While the year hasn't exactly ended, I should be closing 2019 with around 74% net savings rate.

It's worth noting that I did not go on any vacation this year which may knock my net savings rate down a notch.

Maintaining a high savings rate not only means that I managed to control my expenses, but also allows me to have surplus cashflow to grow my investment portfolio.

Goal 4: Stay invested through 2019

When I was planning my goals in 2018, I was expecting to go through a bear market in 2019. I mean, we're looking at the 10th year of bull run in the market. Who knew that 2019 would not only create the longest bull market in history, but also one of the best-performing bull run in the decade.

I know of many friends and financial bloggers who have opted to keep a large war chest of cash on hand to capitalise on a bear market where their favourite stocks go on sale. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and they missed out on a year of bullish returns from Mr Market.

By sticking to my goal of staying invested this year, my investments through AutoWealth achieved 5.75% time-weighted annualised returns this year. The best thing was that there was literally zero effort on my part other than transferring funds into my AutoWealth account religiously every month for automated dollar-cost averaging investments.

Even the one-off salary bonus received this year was invested in NetLink Trust for a 5.9% dividend income had 11% paper gains on the side.

This year, I am also continuing to steadily receiving quarterly rental income from my Cambodia property and the rental income gets deposited into USD fixed deposits at around 4% interest.

Looking at the combined performance from both my investment and rental portfolios, I am content with the returns, given how little effort I spent on managing my portfolios this year.

Goal 5: Top up CPF Special Account for next 5 years

I was able to fulfil the first year of this mid-term goal with a consistent monthly top up of $995 into my CPF Special Account once my salary comes in. I found that being disciplined and making the top-up each month works better for me.

While some may think that topping up beyond the $7,000 that qualifies for tax relief is not tax efficient, I feel that my goal of reaching Full Retirement Sum earlier is more meaningful towards my retirement plans.

I hope to continue topping up my CPF Special Account next year.

Closing remarks for 2019

I've found that I was able to meet all my personal financial goals by automating my savings and investments. It's much more efficient and requires very little work on my part.

Understanding my habits and interests allowed me to pivot my non-financial goals to other directions when the original plans didn't work out. At the end of the day, accomplishing something is always better than accomplishing nothing right?

Stay tuned as I map out my 2020 goals in a later post.

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About the author 

Mickey J

Mickey is your typical white-collar Singaporean who works regular hours in a job with a strong passion on personal finance. He writes mostly about personal finance, investing, insurance and retirement planning. He also embraces the Financial Independence and Retire Early movement (FIRE), tweaking the FIRE concept to his lifestyle.

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