The first few posts in a new blog are always difficult. It’s harder since I’m trying to make this more about my finances than about more personal areas of my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage and weddings and stuff, and how frustrated I feel that everyone (coworkers, family members, friends) are more impressed with my engagement ring than with my acceptance to grad school.
That will probably become a post in the future. I will attempt to relate it to personal finance by talking about how insanely expensive planning a wedding is!
This entry, however, is to share my financial goals for 2008.
At the beginning of each year, I make a list of things I want to accomplish (#1 is always the resolution to stop biting my nails; this has been at the top of the list for more than a DECADE), so here is a place for me to write them down. I’ll stick to just recording the PF-related in this entry, and perhaps later I’ll share some personal development goals as well.
Some of these goals have changed since I first wrote this list. I’ll try to remember to note which ones have changed and why.
1. Fully fund my Roth IRA for 2008.
My father has been lecturing me about the Roth IRA since I graduated from college. I finally managed to open one last year and funded both 2006 and 2007. This year, the Roth IRA was my top priority and I funded it before anything else, even before my emergency fund.
2. Save an additional $15,000.
The original goal was to save $10,000 in addition to my Roth, but I wound up doing some traveling for work and working over the holidays, so I ended up making triple my usual salary after all the reimbursements/overtime/shift differential were factored in. (The downside, of course, was that I had to drive between Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. several times, I worked until 10:30pm New Years Eve and in the morning on New Years Day, and I never actually got to take time off.) Bonuses were also pretty high this year, although my paltry raise might make up for it.
3. Max out my 401K.
I actually can’t do this. My company places a limit on how much we can contribute, capped at 20% of our salaries. For me, this is not even close to the $15,500 limit. I can’t complain too much, they match up to 6% (and since I’m blogging about personal finance, you know I’m earning the full match!). My goal, therefore, is to keep my contributions at 20% all year. I really struggled when I first started doing this (my paychecks dropped by several hundred dollars!), but I’m starting to get used to living on less.
4. Find somewhere better to stash my savings.
My emergency fund has grown into a huge behemoth thing, and it was sitting in an ING account earning 4%. This was all well and good until interest rates started dropping. I’ve since transferred most of the money into a CD earning 4.05% APY. It’s difficult for me to decide what to do with the money. I feel like I’m wasting its potential to have it earning such minimal interest, but parts of it I will need to tap into soon (for the wedding, to buy a house in a few years, if I decide to leave work and become a full-time student) so it doesn’t make sense to put it into the stock market either.
5. Donate 5% of my after-tax earnings to charity.
Donating to charity is something that I’ve been struggling with in the past few years. Usually I’ll donate a lot to people I know (if they’re doing Relay for Life, for example), but I haven’t found a charity yet that really seems important to me. My preference would be to give all of the money to a very small soup kitchen, but I’m unsure how to find one. It might be selfishness, but I don’t want to just be a thousand dollars swimming in a sea of millions. I’d rather give the money to a smaller place that can really use it. I just don’t know how you find the smaller charities.
As a small confession: I struggle with the charity line on my budget. Sometimes I look and I think that I could be increasing savings goals, spending that money on clothes, etc. I donate because I want to make a difference and because it makes me feel good when I do so, but when I can’t save as much as I think I should be saving, it’s hard to see that charge and to let it stay. I save by reducing my expenditures, and it’s hard when I find a number I can’t/don’t want to squeeze. I feel guilty for not giving more, and I feel guilty for considering giving less.
Anyway, these are my main focus areas this year, at least financially. Later I’ll share my June to do list, which is slightly aligned with meetings these goals.