2018 started with a bang, literally. We bought a healthy $300 worth of fireworks (between 3 families) and rang in the New Year with a firefight in the sky. We said good-bye to 2017.

This year promises to be one of continued progress toward our FIRE goal. Add in an epic trip to Nepal and Everest basecamp and we have ourselves a fantastic 2018 to look forward to. Before we dive deeply into what awaits us in 2018, let us quickly recap a memorable 2017.

2017 in Review (Finance) 

We started our journey to FIRE in late 2016, but 2017 marked the first full year we kept track of our progress. The first step in the plan was to understand our spending habits. The exercise opened our eyes, to say the least.

Most glaringly, we had been spending 40% of our post-savings disposable income on eating out. The biggest accomplishment in terms of our spending habits resulted from this understanding as we worked to cut 57% of that spending by the end of the year.

We visited the grocery stores more often, with more home cooked meals and packed lunches filling our stomachs. It saved us a significant amount of money.

That single lifestyle change snowballed into a healthier us as we worked not only to reduce cost from eating out but also to eat healthier. Taking that one step further, we started a regimented habit of going to the gym. We had not been to a gym for years until that point.

2017 also marked the beginning of a more deliberate investing strategy, diversifying and increasing our contributions to our retirement nest egg. We did this by opening positions in ultra low-cost indexed and ETF funds, primarily to get exposure to the broad market.

We also moved some assets from ultra conservative saving accounts to low-to-moderate risk investments. To see the complete list, read Investing for early retirement: personal strategy and holdings.

The ability to see our spending and saving habits gave us insight into how to improve our financial situation. Remarkably, we went from saving a dismal 25% of our after-tax income to 41%.

With all those changes, we increased our net worth by 33%! If you do not already understand your spending/saving habits, I suggest you make 2018 the year! If you would like to start, read How to calculate when and WHERE to retire early for the link to the spreadsheet we are using.

2017 in Review (Everything Else)

A lot happened in 2017. So to make this easier to read, I will include the top highlights in a list:

  1. An epic honeymoon concluded in Guatemala at the beginning of 2017.
  2. We visited Iceland for the second time in February and got our minds blown as the aurora borealis lit up the sky. I created a complete guide for Iceland, which you can find here.
  3. The UK was everything we imagined it to be and more as we sipped fancy afternoon tea in April.
  4. Project Beta, Taste the World, successfully concluded with over $1000 donated to Action Against Hunger. I remain hopeful for the goodness of humanity.
  5. We made a point to explore the PNW and it turned out to be an extraordinary summer. Highlights include hiking through the dead of night to witness sunrises over mountain ranges and soaking in a natural and “secret” hot springs.
  6. Driving on the Autobahn was exciting, but Germany’s beautiful and fairytale-like landscapes, friendly people, and delicious food won us over. Viva Oktoberfest!
  7. A year cannot be considered complete without a trip to Hawaii. 6 days of eating, drinking, swimming, and lazing around got us recharged for the last push to finish the year.
  8. I celebrated my 10th year at Boeing – I’ve been in the workforce for 10 years now! I still remember my first day at work like it was yesterday. Now, I’m considered a “senior engineer.” This will take some time to get used to.
  9. Work-wise, 2017 proved the most challenging year yet, but it also marked the most fun I have had working. I also nailed it.
  10. Celebrated our 1-year anniversary by playing tourists in our own city. It turned out to be a great weekend and reaffirmed our commitment to explore this beautiful region.
  11. Solar Eclipse – too epic to put words to. It was like a religious experience.

2018 Look Ahead

Financially, we will strive to increase our savings from 41% to 50%. With the market at all time highs (following 9 years of continued growth), we will look to hedge against possible market correction/collapse by moving some of our assets to more stable funds such as the VDC, Vanguard Consumer Stables ETF.

Furthermore, we will continue to look for ways to decrease our spending. While we took a big chunk out of eating out, opportunity exists to decrease it further.

Nepal will be the marquee trip this year. The 2-weeks trip includes a 4 days trek to Mt. Kailash, a sacred and arduous journey high in the mountains. To prepare for the trip, we will be doing several winter snowshoe hikes around Mt. Rainier. This will be a physically challenging year, and the hope is that it will get us into the best shape of our lives.

Apart from Nepal, we will be coming back to Hawaii earlier in the year. Toward the end of the year, we hope to visit Ecuador and perhaps be bold enough to visit Antarctica to ring in 2019.

Overall, I hope to continue the good progress 2017 built. I hope to also become more of a teacher/mentor at work and outside of work. This means continuing to learn, especially on how to best pass down practical information to new members of the workforce.

I will be setting goals for 2018 and will share them with you here. For guidance on setting smart goals, read this great article from Mind Tools. To quickly get started with 2018, why not change a few money habits to maximize your year?

So how about you? What are your highlights from 2017? What are you planning for 2018?