There's a Venezuelan New Year's ritual that involves grabbing your luggage and running around the block as fast as you can after the stroke of midnight to ensure lots of travel in the upcoming year. I do this every year. I know it's silly, but it's fun and it's tradition. Plus, I think it worked last year -- how else would I have found my way to exotic locales like Cambodia, Vietnam, or Louisville, KY?
I woke up on Sunday morning with a burning desire to budget. Not really, but I did wake up knowing that I wanted to go somewhere new this year and be responsible. So, I created some resolutions for 2017 that let me indulge my obsession with saving for retirement and my lust for adventure.
Resolution 1: Maxing out my Roth IRA
Not-so-fun fact, 33% of Americans have $0 in retirement savings. Among people aged 18 to 34, 42.4% have yet to start saving for retirement. That's pretty bleak.
I'm already maxing out my company's 401k match, but I know I can do even better. This year, I'm making a commitment to contribute the maximum amount possible to my Roth IRA. The contribution limit for 2017 is $5,500 (or $6,500 if you're over 50 years old).
Keep in mind, I'm not just sticking this money in my IRA and forgetting about it. I'll be investing it in a mix of index funds and stocks. Why am I doing this? Because of the power of compounding interest. Given a 7% return on a yearly $5,500 investment in the S&P 500, you'll end up with approximately $1.2 million after 40 years.
The more I save and invest now, the more money I'll have in retirement. Plenty of disposable income + retirement = Lots of travel. Hopefully I'll follow in my grandmother's footsteps and be able to continue gallivanting around the globe well into my 80s. Lord knows she's still out there trotting around the block with her rolling suitcase every New Year's Eve, so she clearly has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Resolution 2: Find a side job
In the grand tradition of millennials everywhere, I'm picking up a part-time job in 2017. Traveling is a luxury. Saving for retirement isn't. In order to responsibly accommodate both, I'm going to pick up some part-time work.
The internet offers an easy way to connect with potential employers. Online platforms like Upwork allow freelancers to easily find jobs. I can pick up some work editing or writing copy -- things that are well within my wheelhouse and that I've been paid to do before.
Alternatively, I can look for work in places that I frequent in real life. A perennial favorite of mine is to scrounge up a job at a horseback riding barn. In the past, I've exchanged my skills as an instructor in return for $25/hour and a break on board for the horse I leased at the time. It was a great deal since I was making and saving money all at once. I've also parlayed a friendship with bartenders into a shift here and there at the bar or at a sporting event. Another time, I convinced a start-up to hire me as a part-time travel writer while I backpacked through Europe.
I try to pick things that fit seamlessly with my life, like working at a barn or writing while traveling. I would have been at the barn or on a plane to somewhere new regardless, so monetizing my presence is an awesome bonus that let's me do more of what I love -- whether that's saving for retirement or island hopping in southeast Asia.
Resolution 3: Buy some stocks
If you'll recall, one of my resolutions last year was to buy 20 stocks. That might have been overly ambitious. And by "might have been" I mean "definitely was." I didn't purchase any stocks in 2016 (unless you count the approximately 5,000 companies that are in the index funds I did buy).
I failed, so I'm trying again. But this year I'll be taking a different approach.
To begin with, I'm starting small. 20 was way too many stocks, but 5 is manageable. I'm still planning on buying a diverse portfolio though; each stock will come from a different sector. Instead of trying to do it all on my own, this year I'm going to ask for help from my fellow Industry Focus hosts. It was overwhelming to have to buy so many stocks in sectors that I only have a passing familiarity with. Getting the perspective of a sector expert will help immensely.
Doing it this way is great for me because it's a doable goal and I'll end up with a diverse, if small, portfolio. I'll also get to learn a lot more about each industry from experts in the sectors. Education and tangible gain, all rolled into one fun week -- it's pretty much the epitome of Industry Focus.
Plus, this way I'll know what to do with the money that I'm stashing away in my Roth IRA. Which will hopefully eventually be used to fund a trip or two in my old age. And so, we've come full circle. All that's left is for me to go out and do it. I'll report back next year on my progress. Until then, have a wonderful 2017!