Denali Northern Expenditure

Month: December 2020

Q4 2020 Plan Update

It is truly hard to believe that 2020 is finally coming to an end. This has been a year and a decade at the same time. I want to say that this year has been traumatic. Even if you never got COVID-19 and didn’t lose employment, you have experienced trauma. Just remember that it’s okay to not feel totally okay right now. You are not alone. It’s okay to not have a plan right now. It’s okay if you feel like you’re just treading water. Do what you need to do to get through this. Remember 2021 won’t get better right away. Prepare yourself for that.

I’ve seen so much hustle talk from wealthy people and it’s exhausting. It’s truly okay if you emerge from this pandemic with nothing to show for it but yourself and your family. Just get through it, friends. I’ve shared how I plan to approach New Year’s resolutions this year. I suggest you do something equally guilt-free.

It’s also okay to not see all the “bright spots” people keep saying about 2020. It’s hard to identify the positives when you’re in the middle of the trauma. One positive I would say is that 2020 made my migraines so bad I sought treatment and it turns out there are some miracle drugs on the market that can stop a migraine in 30 minutes. SCIENCE IS MAGIC.

I also wanted something to look forward to during this dark winter before vaccines come available, so I am diving all in to the two-week birch tapping season at the end of March. Birch syrup is a northern novelty. Because of the type of sugar that birch sap has, if you boil it down like maple sap to make syrup, it ends up with sort of a molasses-y taste (which still makes for yummy baking on carrots, salmon, or mixed with honey), but don’t you worry. I’m building (with much help from Mr. T) a reverse osmosis system to help cut out some of the bitterness. This is a big foray into my suburban semi-homesteading lifestyle I hope to ease into as we leave traditional employment. Don’t worry. I’ll definitely blog all about it.

The Money Stuff

I will say what I’ve said all year: This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. It’s down to $322,000. At 3% for 15 years, my goal is to not pay it down early, but save enough money to cover it before early retirement (an account just for paying down the mortgage each month). I also have to constantly remind myself that a lower interest rate (2.5%), would save us less than 20k BEFORE closing costs, so I need to just settle down and live with my pretty incredible 3% mortgage. (Though, if it drops to 2%, all bets are off!)

The market remaining high still remains one of the greatest mysteries of 2020. And it all feels like fake money at this point. But at this rate, we’ll hit our goals in 2021 and sail off into the sunset (just kidding). Our investments currently sit at: $444000. Bonkers, amiright? That’s a $73,000 increase over last quarter. That’s a salary! I’m sure this will continue to blow my mind as investments get higher, but in 2020, this seems particularly bonkers.

After last quarter’s work drama of the boss getting let go and getting a new supervisor, this quarter, I got ping ponged around the office. I still do the COVID thing but no one can quite decide who I should report to. This drama is sure to continue through the first quarter of next year when they think they’ve finally decided which team I should land on. This is the first year I’ve really been exposed to the giant corporation nonsense I’ve heard so much about. Like, can everyone just leave me alone to do the work we all agreed has been valuable? Instead I’m constantly stuck writing my strengths and weaknesses, goals for a week, a month, a quarter, a year, etc etc.

2020 has verified to me that a) Mr. T and I will not get bored not having regular employment and b) corporate life is not my natural habitat. I’ve been living vicariously through Purple’s early retirement the past few months (I mean, she even took a sleeper train car!).

2020 Goals

Here’s the final break-down. We did pretty darn good considering all the chaos that is 2020 (including purchasing a new house without selling the old one!).

  • Max Out My 401k ($19,500/$19,500) – DONE! I found out that my company doesn’t let you contribute too much, so my last paycheck just maxed out and then gave me the rest back!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($18,900/$19,500) – Mr. T’s retirement contribution “slider” may be the death of me. This was as close as we could get because we can slide the slider to “$798” or “$819” – random, arbitrary numbers. I kept messing with it all year to try to get as close as we could… but I was still $600 off. Hopefully I can get this closer to the max next year.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done (thanks to the extended July 15 deadline).
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Same.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000). Done.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000) Done.
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA –Done. Because we had a really good Q4 sales season in 2019 that paid out in Q1 2020, our self employment income was quite high this year (though Q4 2020 saw less than half as many sales, understandably). I just opened a SEP-IRA this week and contributed $2k. I’ll wait until my accountant tells me the final number needed to max out the employer part of this (since I already maxed my personal Roth IRA) and then contribute that amount.

I hope you are all well. Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. The world is dark enough.

How To Set New Year’s Resolutions during Hard Times

So 2020 was something, wasn’t it? Now, I’m usually all for starting over and setting goals and resolutions at the start of the year, but I feel like 2021 New Year’s Resolutions need to look totally different than previous years and I think this is true for any really hard season in your life. Over the past several weeks, I’ve thought of several ways to approach goals during Hard Times and I think I’ve settled on what I think it should look life for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this is how you should be doing it. (If you need to just treat the New Year like any other day and keep on surviving, by all means, DO THAT.)

If you can adapt any of the following to yourself this New Year’s resolution season, go for it:


In “normal” times, this looks like reflecting on what you did well this year and what you would like to improve upon. But in the middle of Hard Times, this turns into self-shaming and that’s not going to get anyone anywhere. So, here’s how I plan to approach “end of year reflections” this year: Stream of consciousness write your thoughts and feelings of 2020. Seriously. Just write everything. Does that mean you just write down a bunch of angry words? Do it. But this moment is historic (in 2020, this is true both globally and in your own life, but tough times are personal historic moments). Document it. Add details that you’ve found notable this year. Here are just a few of mine:

  • We moved this year and the elderly new neighbors came over and tried to shake my hand at the front door and I had to decline but still try to seem friendly and happy to be in the neighborhood. It was a weird, notable moment for me.
  • The absolute horror I feel when I find someone wondering the grocery store completely maskless. It’s a cross between indecent exposure and fearing for my life.
  • One of my big regrets of 2020 was not watching Tiger King. Not that I feel like I’m missing out on the actual show, but at the beginning of all this, it was the first way the US came together in a collective experience binging that crazy show. And I was too busy with work because I’d just been thrown in the deep end of being the office COVID research expert. I feel like I missed out on a notable, collective experience in this lonely year.

What is this supposed to accomplish? Well, catharsis if nothing else. It’s not ever and we’re still in Hard Times. But reflecting helped me work through some emotions about this year and also find some humor in the insanity that is this Hard Time.

Set Just ONE Goal: Feel Better next year at this time.

See? That wasn’t so bad. I even set your goal for you. And it breaks all the goal setting rules. Other than being timely (one year), it is not specific or measurable. But it’s the only goal you need this year. I promise. Let me explain.

During Hard Times, all the fringe stuff falls away and you’re just surviving. It’s super easy to be like: I have eaten terribly this year, I’ve hardly exercised. My meditation time is down to zero. I haven’t hustled. etc etc etc. DON’T DO THAT. You’re in the middle of Hard Times. It’s okay to not be improving in all areas of your life. And you’re probably feeling yucky about lots of things. Pick just the yuckiest and set a simple goal to feel better about it next year than you do now.

This could mean many things. Maybe in order to feel better about that thing, you need to process it or approach it differently in order to feel better about it. Maybe you need to take some sort of action. Do that.

Example: My sedentary 2020 lifestyle has led to hip pain (yes, I’m a 35-year-old really old lady). My entire goal is to have my hip feel better at the end of next year. That will involve me moving it sometimes.

No Guilt Allowed

The goal is to mainly empower you to do SOMETHING helpful to yourself during Hard Times. It is NOT to give you something else to feel guilty about. What if all through January, I exercise the same amount I did 2020 and my hip still hurts? I can get up and move that hip once and feel great about doing that one thing. Was my goal exercise X amount each week? Nope. Was my goal to have zero hip pain at the end of the year? Also nope. It was just to FEEL BETTER. That’s it. I can’t have guilt about that at all because a) it’s not the end of the year yet and b) these are Hard Times and I’m just going to try to feel better.

Now, Happy New Year’s friends. May 2021 be way less terrible than 2020. And may we all feel better next year than we do this year in some way.

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