The Horizon's 2019 Financial Year in Review

2019 Financial Year in Review

2019 was marked by big decisions and big adventures! We made major adjustments to our investments and mortgage payment plan in order to pay the house off faster. We saw 6 National Parks in the US and took our first international triptogether, all of which were amazing. We continued to develop our “Why for FI” and our drive to achieve it is stronger than ever. We started exploring different hobbies and side hustles and we are identifying core pursuits to continue to develop even after we achieve financial independence. In the paragraphs to follow we will talk about major milestones and progress we have made together in 2019!

Continuing the Adventure Life

In May we took our first major adventure this year. We decided to go out to Utah and explore the “Mighty 5” these are the 5 National Parks located in Utah. These parks are Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and, one of the most popular, Zion. This was an amazing trip and we had a spectacular time hiking through the desert and viewing amazing rock formations in the American Southwest. We were able to fly out on a budget airline with all of our backpacking gear, get a rental for ½ price using Mr. Horizon’s earned days from work, and got to adventure for 9-full days for a total sum of $1100!

In June we had our first international trip. We went to Peru and trekked in the Andes Mountains to Machu Picchu. We found an AMAZING trekking service called Salkantay Trekking to guide us on our 5-day trek to Machu Picchu. The trekking service provided so much more depth to our journey. Usually when we travel it is all about us getting back into nature and hiking to see views. This was so much more, we were not only treated to breathtaking views and wonderful hiking, but we were also immersed in the culture and history of the Peruvian people. After completing the 5-day trek and seeing how incredible Machu Picchu is, we were able to spend an entire day soaking up the beautiful city of Cusco. We closed our trip with a day trip to the Rainbow Mountains that truly took our breath away (17,060 ft above see level will do that)! Most think a trip of this magnitude would cost well over five grand for two people. It is no secret that international flights are not cheap and they did account for 50% of our trip expenses, but once we got into Peru, we were able to get a good price on trekking services, food, lodging, and transportation. We could see where some people in the FI community use geo-arbitrage as a way to provide a financial safety net. So, the total cost of that 9-day international trip was $3700! While this is the most expensive trip we have ever taken, it was worth every penny!

In September we took our final major adventure of 2019. We went to Glacier National Park in Montana. There is definitely a reason it is known as “The Crown of the Continent”! We chose to do a single park trip to really explore as much of Glacier as possible. Mrs. Horizon had been there so we knew there was plenty to see and do in the park. We hiked about 70 miles through the park. While hiking we visited many passes, alpine lakes, tunnels, and wildlife (a lot of it). It was absolutely beautiful! Pictures of the park do not do it justice! It is a must see. Hopefully everyone gets the chance before the glaciers are gone. While we were there, we found out the park only has 26 active glaciers remaining. Nearly 75% have been lost since 1910. It really helps drive home the importance of taking care of our planet. It also gives Mrs. Horizon and I another reason to pursue FIRE. At the end of the day, the current rate of consumption of people around the world is not sustainable and the most beautiful places in the world are paying the price.

Experimenting with Hobbies and Side Hustles

This spring we decided to begin a couple unique hobbies and side hustles. Mrs. Horizon tried her hand at being a beekeeper. She has really enjoyed learning how to take care of her bees (thanks to YouTube!) and learning about the inner workings of hives. She is quite happy with her new bee babies! Now that it is winter, she has tried to prep them and is crossing her fingers that they survive the cold and snow. Although she didn’t get any honey from her hive this year due to a regime change in the hive (the queen got replaced) she was able to refine the wax that she collected from working in the hive and made 40 tubes of chapstick. She sold a bunch of tubes at work and has made about $75. It may not be a big side hustle but it is a hobby she enjoys and making a couple bucks doesn’t hurt!

Mr. Horizon began an aquaponics set up in the basement in March. Essentially it is a process that circulates water from a fish tank into a bed of clay beads with plants that take up the fish waste and returns the water to the tank. There are a bunch of bioprocesses that are at work but we won’t bore you with the details! For about 5 months we were growing kale, leafy lettuce, green onions, and collard greens that provided about two salads every week. The three-dozen fish we had grew from about 2 inches all the way to 5”! Unfortunately, there was an electrical mishap that killed all the fish on the first day or two that we were in Montana. This ended with a very stinky house that greeted us about a week later when we got home. After clean up, Mrs. Horizon decided that aquaponics was no longer a hobby of Mr. Horizon’s!

Mr. Horizon also tried out Uber as a side hustle. He started in June and was able to make almost $5000 in 2019 from it. He is working on a post on what he learned, tips and tricks, and his general Uber experience so keep an eye out for that. On top of that we were able to sell textbooks we had been holding onto, some of Mr. Horizon’s electrical stuff, and a couple other items that were just lying around.

Changing Course

Undoubtedly the largest financial decision made this year was to divert from our 2018 goal which was to continue to save in our brokerage and achieve a mortgage payoff level of 22.5% by the end of 2019. In April, we sat down and really thought long and hard about aggressively paying off the house. You can read our full analysis in our blog post on the decision “The Grand House Payment Plan”. This meant selling out of our brokerages and stopping any brokerage additions until the house was paid for. At the time we decided this was the best approach. Let’s talk about the RESULTS!

At end of 2018 after 5 months of owning the house, we were at 14.57% paid off. We felt very good about this number and created our 2019 goals based on continuing our savings. A little way into 2019 we just felt like we needed to do something different. In April, we formulated a plan and are continuing it until the house is paid off. The table below shows our progress throughout the year.

In the first 3 months of the year we were making progress but it felt like we were not getting anywhere. Then we chose to sell our brokerages and readjust our savings. The initial brokerage payment jumped us nearly 50% and with our readjusted savings we could now pay close to 3% of the total mortgage every month. On our initial calculations we thought we would have the house paid off by May of 2020 and we were very excited about this. But as you can see it went even better than expected and as of December 2019, we are 87.35% paid, an increase of 72.78% towards our pay off in just one year. In doing this we netted an estimated interest savings of nearly $135,000 and will give us peace of mind. We are now targeting a mortgage free date of February 2020 and cannot wait! Mrs. Horizon’s parents reminded us that no confetti will rain down on us when we make that last payment, which is kind of a bummer. It is the biggest financial purchase you will ever make in your life and when you pay it off, nothing happens. We did not stop any savings to any of our tax advantaged accounts and continue to max out our Roth IRAs, and 401ks. We can’t wait to start saving in our brokerage again in March after the house it paid off, which is 20 months from when we moved in!

2019 Progress Towards FIRE

This year we did not achieve what we anticipated for a savings rate from last year. It was not because of any unforeseen expense, but a change in direction from our original plan as discussed above. So, 2019 ended with only a pretty small 2.4% increase in our percent to goal and a reduction in our savings rate from 60% in 2018 to 40% in 2019. We ended the year at 20.1% to our golden number. We still think this is the correct path for us and once the house is paid for in early 2020, we should be able to focus on saving for FIRE!

We adjusted our approach in April. The 5.4% drop in percent to goal was when we sold our shares in our brokerage accounts and applied the proceeds to our mortgage. The reduction in monthly income saved from roughly 60% down to 40% was the result of stopping contributions to our brokerage and applying that to the mortgage while maintaining our tax advantaged savings. Due to market doing fairly well this year we were still able to end the year where we started, while paying more than 70% of our house off in this time.

Looking Forward to a Great 2020

We are very excited for the year to come and the adventures that await! Early in the year we will be paying off our house in full and be COMPLETELY debt free! We are really looking forward to achieving this milestone and being able to change our financial efforts solely on our FIRE journey. We anticipate being able to save somewhere between 70%-75% of our total income. This 30% increase will be going into our brokerage and we are excited to rebuild this account. Together we developed a saving strategy that focuses on low cost index investing, but also areas of social responsibility.

In 2020 we have a few projects that are investments in our home. We are going to be spending some money to improve our landscaping along with adding a patio door and deck to host small get togethers! The goal for these improvements is to make our home more livable for years to come and increasing its value. It has the added value of providing a much-needed outdoor space for being with friends.

We have a few adventures in the works for 2020 and can not wait to finalize them. Our first trip will be to Europe to backpack the Tour du Mont Blanc, a 100-mile trail through the Alps! Next, we will be taking a two-week trip across the US to the Pacific North West. While there we are hoping to visit 3 more beautiful National Parks and Mrs. Horizon will see the Pacific Ocean for the first time. We are also going to focus a bunch on local trips this year and may even write about we have an amazing time right in our own backyard. Mrs. Horizon is considering adding trip itineraries with our notes to the blog this next year to help others travel on a budget, especially if they enjoy the National Parks! If this is something anyone out there is interested in please leave a comment.

2019 was a great year! We went on three incredible adventures and created memories for a lifetime! We tried a variety of hobbies and side hustles and learned even more about what we want from our lives post- FIRE. We also made a big decision to change course on our financial strategy and ended up paying off over 70% of the house while having a small increase on our percent to goal. When all is said and done, 2019 was a huge success. We have so many plans for this new year and we cannot wait to share them! 2020 is here and we are ready to accomplish even more!

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