Quick review of 2020 and creating meaningful habits instead of goals in 2021

January 11

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If you could use one word to describe 2020, what word would you use?

For me, that word is, grateful.

In a year where the pandemic created major upheavals in both the financial markets and our daily lives, I'm grateful that the habits that I created for myself around personal finance and lifestyle over the years, helped me ride through the waves of disruptions brought upon by Covid-19.

While I did not manage to hit any of my learning and development goals and disrupted my fitness transformation plans that I've set for myself in 2020, I'm grateful that I didn't lose any money in my investments.

I started reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear and his book resonated deeply with me on how stacking good habits together can become a systematic approach to achieving our end goals.

As such, I'm not setting goals for myself in 2021. I'm going to try to create meaning habits and stack them together to create a better me.

Here's a reflection of my performance in 2020 and the habits I'm going to create/continue in 2020:

Health and wellness

In 2019, I've lost close to 20 kg through a disciplined calorie tracking regime supplemented with a consistent workout routine in the gym. My lowest weight in 2020 pre-Covid, was 75 kg. When the pandemic caused all the gyms to close for several months and we all had to work from home, I ended up binge eating and not exercising for a few months.

That caused my weight to rebound back to a bloated 85 kg by November. 🙁

I managed to turn it around by going back to my calorie tracking regime and have shaved off 5 kg to get back down to 80 kg. 2021 will be the year where I'll aim to continue to maintain daily calorie deficit with more home cooked food to reduce my weight further.

Here are my health and wellness goals for 2021:

  • Continue to maintain a daily 1,500-1,700 calorie-deficit through a habit of meal prepping and logging my meals ahead of time on MyFitnessPal.
  • Create a new habit of cooking at least one meal a day, most likely lunch to have healthier meals, eat more whole foods and increase my intake of leafy greens.
  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in my daily diet by having 2/3 of my filled with vegetables and creating a new habit of having fruits at 3pm each day.

Fitness transformation

Since 2019, my fitness routine has always consisted multiple HIIT workouts and that improved my cardio fitness massively. However, the result was a very lean body with not much strength. While I love the weight loss, I wanted to feel strong as well.

While gyms were eventually able to reopen during the circuit breaker, the number of participants per workout class was limited to very small numbers and I was not able to attend most of the HIIT classes that were available previously. I pivoted to some of the strength classes that I have not tried before and found that they were actually rather enjoyable. I was also able to build some muscle mass along the way.

In my search for a more efficient way to build strength, I learnt about compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts, that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Subsequently I discovered the Stronglifts 5x5 strength training program which has an free mobile app that allows me to follow a simple routine of compound exercises to build strength.

My fitness transformation goals for 2021 is simple.

Build a habit of going to the gym at least 5 days a week in the morning, with 3 of those days working on the compound exercises in the Stronglifts 5x5 program and 2 days of HIIT or cardio gym classes.

Wealth building

2019 worked really well for me in the wealth department as I stacked a set of disciplined saving habits. I intend to continue doing most of the same things this year just because they worked well for me.

While the economy was turned upside down by the pandemic (and on hindsight, very selfish government and leaders across the globe), I stayed invested and continued to inject funds regularly into my portfolio to invest when others are selling to hoard cash.

As a result, my cash investments with AutoWealth continue to grew 8.06% in time-weighted anualised returns since I first started in 2017. My SRS investments with Endowus grew 8.04% since I started with them in February 2020. While the returns are mediocre compared to other financial bloggers, my portfolios are pretty much automated. I did not have to spend any time doing research on stocks and take any risk in trading a specific stock.

My consistent habit of topping up my CPF Special Account in 2020 also puts me on track to reaching my goal of having the Full Retirement Sum amount in my CPF Special Account by the age of 40. 

My plan for 2021 is pretty much the same as 2020:

  • Continue to maintain an average net savings rate of 70% in 2021 through frugal spending.
  • Continue last year's habit stack of automatically socking money away each month once my salary comes in:

    1. Continue to make monthly cash top-ups of $995 to my CPF Special Account using CPF's Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme to achieve Full Retirement Sum by 2023 (1 year ahead of my projection last year).
    2. Continue to make the maximum contribution of $15,300 to my Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account by contributing $1,275 each month.
    3. Continue to stay invested with my globally diversified investment portfolio with AutoWealth this year and keep growing it with monthly investments.
  • Continue to build a secondary investment portfolio for retirement if there's any bonus this year. This secondary investment portfolio only consists of my NetLink Trust shares at the moment.

Learning and development

The pandemic resulted in an epic fail for me in getting any learning and development goals accomplished as I had to pivot and spend a lot of time to build a whole new work routine for myself around the concept of working from home.

In 2021, I'll be taking on totally different role in the organisation that will be bringing me outside my comfort zone. Because of this change at work, I won't be transferring any item that was planned in 2020 over as they are no longer relevant this year. Instead, I'll have to choose what to learn professionally when the KPIs for my new role has been aligned in the following month.

On the personal learning side of things, I intend to focus on one single goal - read more books.

To accomplish this goal, I'll be working on creating a new habit that will have me read at least 1 chapter of a book every day.

I have been experimenting but have not managed nail down the right cue, craving, response and reward mechanism that would solidfy a recurring daily habit. But I'm confident that I'll find a way to make this work.

What are your plans for 2021?

Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Sir Winston Churchill is credited with another saying: “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

2021 will be an interesting year for me as I experiment with creating meaningful habits for myself, that will bring me closer to my long term goals.

What changes do you intend to make in 2021 to improve yourself?

I'd love to hear about your plans. Please share them in the comments section below.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

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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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