The world shut down this year. I never thought I'd experience such a thing. As 2020 comes to a close, and my birthday has just passed, I find myself experiencing a year in review. It's nothing I do officially, but I find that there is an outtake reel that plays in my mind that plays a "best of" sequence which might be better relabeled a "most notable of" sequence. While this might play like a bit of an "event checklist" in my mind, I find it good for my spiritual and financial practice to connect events to key learnings and inspired actions. So, here are some of the most notable events in my personal year, and the subsequent takeaways.
Rental Property in Perspective
The cold, hard fact of 2020 is that our tenants have spent roughly equal amounts of time paying their rent versus not. There were a number of months in a row where they were unable to make payments. During that time, there were maintenance things that popped up albeit small ones. None of this is good. Owning rental real estate can be a huge risk. This is especially true when you have a mortgage on the property, which we do (granted it's a small one).
Key Learnings: There were some practicalities of our situation that make this situation turn out fine. We have a savings account earmarked specifically for the rental property to cover any emergencies or repairs. This savings is built 100% from funds brought in by the property. As of March 2020, it was equal to 5 months of mortgage payments. This move really provided a lot of peace of mind for us. Interestingly, we didn't even touch that savings account because of the second practical strategy we implement in our lives. We choose to live off of one income. Currently, we have two full-time incomes. So, when the tenants couldn't pay, we simply made the payment out of our own income and didn't have to use the savings account. From a Law of Attraction standpoint, mindset was tremendously important in this area. Neither my partner nor I were ever worried about whether or not the tenants could pay. We were obviously in communication with our management company, and keeping up on the status of things, but we always adopted the attitude that it'll be fine. The Law of Resistance tells us that which we resist, we draw unto ourselves. So, we didn't spend any of our time or energy worrying about worst-case scenarios. Rather, we chose to do that which felt good, and positive, and responsible. We made the payments, communicated with management, and elected to feel good about our ability to weather this challenge.
Inspired Actions: The purpose of analyzing the key learnings is to identify that which we feel inspired to do going forward. All of the above-mentioned strategies worked for us, and we will continue with them. We've built our rental property's emergency savings (because of course, it has it's own) to 6 months of mortgage payments at this point, and we are happy with that number. Having a second full-time income was huge in terms of our ability to handle this situation in a relatively worry-free manner, but I've been feeling a pull away from conventional full-time work. For that reason, among others, I've been feeling the pull to turn our attention to paying off the mortgage associated with the property. Of course, this will probably begin after we move, which we intend to do this summer.
Working from Home:
I had always been curious about the prospect of working from home. I had suspected that I would be good at organizing my time appropriately in order to be successful in doing so. Given my primary job is as a teacher, it didn't seem like there would be much opportunity to gain any real experience in working from home to test my hypothesis. Then 2020 struck, and the entire country pivoted to remote learning. Regardless of its challenges, this gave me an opportunity to discover my feelings about working from home.
Key Learnings: My partner and I save about $250 per month in transportation costs by working from home. Additionally, we save approximately 80 hours per month that had previously been absorbed by our commute. While we both utilized that time to listen to podcasts and educate ourselves about topics of interest, I am finding that we are both reaping tremendous benefits from the added time at home. We are both exercising in the morning; we read more; I am spending more time researching investments, cooking, and meditating. Furthermore, I've invested some of that time into further developing this blog, and participating in a group coaching program in the lifestyle development space. I have also found that I enjoy working from home quite a bit and am able to be both organized and productive in my own environment.
Inspired Action: Inspiration is a funny thing. Often times, it just hits me. It may seem like something that's been percolating for some time, but it won't fully hit me that it's something I want to do. Then all of a sudden it strikes me like a bolt of lightning, and I know 100% what my next action will be. I've invested in a group coaching program and been working from home, and somehow the culmination in those experiences resulted in me having the realization that there is a business I really want to start. It is something that I am passionate about and is completely in my wheelhouse. I will also be able to operate this business from home. In fact, most of it would provide me location independence. I've spoken about The Law of Commitment before, which suggests that if you commit to a thing that aligns with your purpose things will seem to simply fall into place. The key mindset shift is that it is important to have no indecisiveness whatsoever. The truth of the matter is that I have absolutely no indecisiveness about my business. It will be open in 2021.
This year, I lost two family members that I love very much. The grieving process is difficult under the best of circumstances, but add in a year like the one we've experienced, and it can be an intensified and isolating experience. One family member crossed over in December of 2019. The other on Easter in 2020.
Key Learnings: In December, when I knew there was likely only a few days left, I flew to be by my family member's side. I was with her the day she passed. A couple of weeks later, I learned that this other family member was ill and things were progressing rapidly. In February, we were scheduled for a week off from work. So, my partner and I took the opportunity to fly to visit this family member. Little did we know that would be the last time we would see him in his physical form. Within a month of our return, New York City was on lockdown and the epicenter of the pandemic. Even if we would have flown to be by him as he crossed over, the hospital wouldn't have admitted us due to enhanced Covid-related restrictions. I'm incredibly thankful that I listened to myself on both occasions and went. It's really easy to second guess yourself in the moment, but what I can offer is this. You'll never regret the fact that you went. Don't wait. Just go. Follow the love. You'll never regret that. You might on the other hand regret deciding to stay away.
Inspired Action: I'm incredibly fortunate that I have an emergency savings. These experiences reinforce my desire to maintain that standard in my life. I want to have the freedom to go if someone I love falls ill. Both of my family members had their affairs in order. This makes me feel that I need to do the same. First off, I need to make sure that my partner is fully aware of the various places where there are assets in my name, and I need to be aware of hers. We need to double-check our beneficiaries in all of the appropriate places and start the processes involved in setting up a living revocable trust, will, durable power of attorney, etc. That sounds like a lot for sure, but it'll be achieved one step at a time.
As a couple, we really don't spend much money. We rarely eat out or do takeout; consumer purchases are rare. The one thing we spend money on is travel! We visit our families across the country each year and add a couple of camping trips, and another bigger trip to a destination yet explored for ourselves. At this point, we haven't flown since February (for me, the top of March for her). Once the pandemic hit NYC, we became incredibly uncomfortable with the notion of navigating airports and airplanes. Quite frankly, we only take the subway or bus when absolutely necessary.
Key Learnings: We recognize that this is only for a season. This year, we only really traveled via rental car (which we could disinfect thoroughly) to go on camping and hiking trips. We both realized that this saved us a lot of money and we love doing it. Even with a few equipment upgrades, we spent very little. The biggest expense was the use of a rental car with insurance. We're going to be cautious and wait until the pandemic dust settles a bit before embarking on any major trips, but we've both realized that travel is a high priority for us and we need to continue to plan for that going forward. If anything, this past year has shed light on just how much we miss exploring the world and yearn for more of it, not less.
Inspired Action: We need to work travel expenses back into our budget this Spring. I'm imagining that we won't go too far this summer, but will probably want to start preparing for that hopeful moment when we feel that things are safe. Spending a lot of time camping and hiking in New York State has given us the opportunity to find a few little places that we really quite like In the distant future, we might like to get a little lake house or a country cottage of sorts just a few hours outside of the city to utilize part-time when school isn't in session. I think that would greatly improve our long-term lives. In the world of personal finance, we often discuss sacrifice, but don't always remember to discuss dreams. We're making choices with our money so as to live our best lives. For us, that might include a vacation home. Remember, the Universal Law of Belief states that you can have whatsoever you want so long as you can give up the belief that you can't have it.
Really, there was so much that transpired this year that this is just a small amount of it, but I find great value in reviewing the year that just passed as it comes to a close. I realize that I've learned a lot and I've used it to influence my roadmap going forward.