2021 New Year Goals & Resolutions

NY 2021 350Hey everyone, Happy New Year week! Whew, 2020 is almost over. What a crazy year. I’m so glad 2021 is almost here. It can’t get any worse than 2020, right? Hopefully, we’ll all be vaccinated by June so we can have a great summer. Anyway, let’s put 2020 behind us and make some goals for 2021. No point dwelling on the past. My 2021 goals will be pretty modest. I need some easy wins to help get back to normal.

Setting goals

In previous years, I had moderate expectations and set goals accordingly. This worked well because I was able to accomplish most of the things on my list. (2020 was the exception. I failed about half of my goals. That’s alright. It was a bad year for everybody.) I find that setting high expectations doesn’t work for me. I can’t achieve them and then I become discouraged. My style is to go slow and steady. Shooting for the moon is probably better for younger folks, though.

Here is my approach to New Year Goals.

  • Set achievable goals – Don’t shoot for the moon unless you have a sterling record of high achievement. Most of us will become discouraged and give up.
  • Make specific and measurable goals – New Year goals need to be very specific. Don’t make vague goals like saving more or losing weight. You can’t keep track of it and you’ll forget about them by April. A better goal would be maxing out your 401(k). That’s measurable. You also need to figure out a way to get there. Will you increase your 401(k) contribution right away? You need a plan or else it’ll be much harder to achieve these goals.
  • Write them down and track your progress– Write down your goals and put them where you will see them. The refrigerator door is a good spot for many people. Personally, I put my goals here on Retire by 40 and update the status monthly. This worked very well over the last 10 years. I have a public audience and all of you give me the motivation to improve. I made tremendous progress with our finances and personal life since I started blogging. It’s been terrific. I recommend starting a blog if you don’t already have one. It really helped me and it might help you, too.
  • Academic scale – These days, I grade my New Year goals on an academic scale. It works out really well. 90% is still an A-. It’s motivating and I feel good about the result. That’s better than getting 90% and still fails.

Ok, on to the goal sheet.

2021 Goals

Check out my goal sheet below. It’s simple and helpful. I can see my progress at a glance and it’s easy to update every month.

2021 NY Goals

Financial Goals

Real Estate Crowdfunding $150,000

I plan to increase our real estate crowdfunding investment at CrowdStreet to $150,000. I’ve been working on this one since 2019. All of our money is invested in something else already so it’s not that easy to increase here. Also, I wanted to start slowly because real estate crowdfunding is a relatively new way to invest. Fortunately, most of our investments worked out quite well. Now, I feel more confident to put more money in RE crowdfunding.

Currently, we have $98,900 invested. I already committed $18,000 so the total will increase to $116,900 very soon. After that, I just need to find one good project to invest in. I think we should be able to accomplish this goal in 2021. You can see how our investment is doing here – real estate crowdfunding monthly update.

FI Ratio > 110%

In 2020, our FI ratio was 111%! That’s very good for a pandemic year. Our passive income dropped, but our spending decreased significantly as well. Somehow, it worked out. Let’s hope we can keep the streak going in 2021. You can see how I’m doing with passive income here. The table below isn’t finalized because we have a few more days left in 2020. It should be pretty close, though.

*FI Ratio = passive income / expense

Passive income 12.26.20

Save 1 year of cash for Mrs. RB40’s mini-retirement

Alright, we plan to take a year off to travel after RB40Jr finishes 5th grade. That will be in June 2022. To prepare, we want to save up at least one year of expense. Normally, we keep just 3-6 months in our saving accounts and money market as an emergency fund. So we need to beef it up to $50,000 by June 2022. I’ll use this money to open new bank accounts and take advantage of the signup bonus. Hopefully, I’ll be able to generate about $1,000/year.

Side hustle income > $5,000

2020 was a tough year for side hustle*. I made about $3,000 by charging LIME scooters, cashed out credit card points, signup bonuses, and other small hustles. In 2021, I plan to continue and keep my eyes open for other opportunities. This goal might be too ambitious for 2021.

*There were lots of opportunities to make money from side hustles, but I wanted to minimize my exposure to COVID so I avoided deliveries and many other gigs.


Refresh Retire by 40

This is terrible. I procrastinated on this goal for 3 years already. Our WordPress theme is no longer updated so I really to move to a new theme. I wanted to get it done in 2020, but everyone was home and I couldn’t focus at all. I have a plan for 2021, though. I’ll be in quarantine for 14 days when I go to Thailand and I’ll use this time to get it done. If it isn’t complete by March, I’ll hire someone to do it.

*My guide – How to Start a Blog and Why You Should.

1,000 subscribers on YouTube

Last year, we started a YouTube channel – SAHD Cooking. We made cooking videos and restaurant/food cart visits. It was fun, but we didn’t make much progress. Currently, we have 164 subscribers. At this rate, it’ll take 10 years to complete this goal. We’ll keep making cooking videos because RB40Jr can refer to them when he’s older. But we need something extra. Here is the plan. I’ll help RB40Jr start a gaming channel in the summer. He talks constantly when he plays games. I suspect he’ll be a much better YouTuber than I am.

Check out our cooking channel and subscribe to learn how to cook easy Thai recipes – SAHD Cooking.

Personal Goals

Visit Thailand

I wanted to visit my parent last year, but we had to cancel the trip. My mom has dementia and it’s getting pretty bad. I can’t put off this trip much longer so I’ll go by myself in January. The tickets are already booked, but I still need approval from the Thai embassy and a fit to fly certificate. Check back over the next few weeks to see how the trip goes. I’ll be in quarantine for 14 days then visit my parent for 4 weeks.

Drop my weight down to 135 lbs

So did you gain any weight in 2020? I went from 130 to 142 lbs. I didn’t exercise much in 2020. In 2019, I worked out at home and tried intermittent fasting. It worked really well and I got down to 130 pounds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it up with everyone at home. Mrs. RB40 worked from home and RB40Jr did virtual schooling. I couldn’t be noisy. Also, Mrs. RB40 baked a ton of stuff while working from home. It’s been nice, but I snacked too much and gained weight.

For 2021, I’ll try to get down to 135 pounds and keep it there. The plan is to lose weight in Thailand. When I get back, I’ll ask Mrs. RB40 to bake less. She also needs to lose some weight. Hopefully, things will go back to normal soon so Mrs. RB40 and son can be more active.

Finish estate planning

We talked to an estate lawyer recently. This led to the realization that Oregon is the worst state to retire in. Anyway, the wheels are in motion. Hopefully, we can get this done before I leave for Thailand.

V for vasectomy


Happiness level > 8

I started this goal in 2019 and it was a good goal. It confirmed that I’m a naturally happy person. My happiness baseline is pretty high, around 8. 2020 was a tough year, but I was still pretty happy. We had a chance to spend a lot of time together as a family. It could be a lot worse. Unfortunately, I got stressed out about my mom over the last few months of 2020. Well, what can you do? Hopefully, I can stay happy in 2021.

Joe Happiness 2021

On to 2021

Alright! Those are my goals for 2021. I’ll update them monthly in my cash flow posts. I think this is the key. If you don’t track your progress, you’ll forget about your New Year goals by April.

What about you? Do you have any New Year resolutions for 2021? Happy New Year and good luck!

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
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29 thoughts on “2021 New Year Goals & Resolutions”

  1. I finally figured out my 2021 goals. I just posted in the URL box.

    My main goal is to go back to retirement once I get vaccinated or once tax rates go up, which ever comes first! I’m assuming I won’t be able to get vaccinated for another 6 to 8 months. But once that happens, it’s back to living the good life.

    Are you sure you want to get a vasectomy? Chances of you guys getting pregnant is low after 40 years old. And then there’s only a two day window to get pregnant anyway. So I don’t think surgery is necessary.


  2. I like your yearly goals and the tracking you do. We have to do Estate planning too, hopefully we do it in 2021. I hope your Thailand trip goes well!

  3. Question about the passive income total number. I see part of the total number comes from tax advantaged account. I assume those are 401k and IRA dividends. Why do you count that towards part of the passive income since those cannot be withdrawed yet. They cannot be used to cover your annual expense, right?

  4. Merry Christmas to you Joe and hope you and your family have a great new year’s.

    I’m working on setting my 2021 goals as well. On one hand I want to challenge myself, on the other hand I want to make sure these goals are realistic, especially given the pandemic and the challenges it brings. It’s a tough call which is the best approach.

    I hear you about working out at home and snacking more. I’m glad that we have garage space that I can work out regularly. Also very glad that I bought some kettlebells in late August.

  5. I’m not sure about my 2021 goals because I haven’t even done my 2020 review yet!

    It’ll be great if you can visit Thailand. I’m sure you can just go if you want to regardless of the vaccine right?

    I definitely plan to see my parents next year as well. We’ve got to do it! Time is so precious.


  6. I’m not optimistic we’ll be vaccinated by June of 2021. I think we’ll need more vaccine makers, but we getting updates all the time, so maybe we’ll get there.

    I like the wife mini RE fund. We’re trying for $100K and have it 20% completed. We’re on the same 2022 timeline as you, but that might be too aggressive. If we combine other emergency funds into it, maybe we can get there.

    I gained a pandemic 15 lbs and got very close to a big number on a scale that I don’t want to reach. It’s for all the reasons you mentioned, and maybe some comfort eating. The wife and I are challenging each other to lose weight.

    I’m going to borrow those two for my own goals this year.

    • Oh wow, really? You guys know more about the schedule than I do so you’re probably right.
      That’s disappointing, though. I want to visit Yellowstone this summer. Ugh.
      Do you really need 100k padding? You will have plenty of income, right?
      Good luck with your goals. I think I’ll get to 135 lbs very quickly. The challenge will be to keep it there.

      • Hopefully we won’t need to have full vaccine everywhere for an outdoor activity like Yellowstone in the summer.

        We would have a good income compared to most, but private school and 15-year mortgage would eat up about 80-90% of our post-tax income. We’re hoping to not move the kids to a new school for my wife to take a year off. However, there’s certainty she can go back to work as she can’t rejoin the military and her job will likely be gone (there are only a couple positions in all of New England). It’s a lot more complicated than most people’s income minus expenses.

  7. These are great goals, especially the weight loss one. I think one’s health should always be a #1 goal. I’m sure once you’re away from the horrible influences of American food you’ll have an easy time losing weight in Thailand. Good pure food makes all the difference.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and the family!

    • I don’t think our food is that bad because we cook most of our meals. The big problem is snacking. Mrs. RB40 baked all kinds of goodies this year. They’re delicious, but not very healthy. Next year, she’ll cut back significantly. (She got heavier too…)
      Happy New Year!

  8. Good luck with your new year’s goals as well! I’ve been wanting to lose weight for the longest time and the day job ALWAYS got in the way. It was insanely difficult to focus on long-term goals at one.

    COVID was fortuitous since that I could plan my meals out day to day. I actually lost 18 pounds so far with plans to slim down 6 more pounds. May we both reach our goal!

    • Oh wow, great job! I gain 12 pounds since March. That’s terrible.
      I haven’t exercise and snacked way too much. It’s hard with my wife and kid at home.
      Next year, we’ll snack a lot less and hope everybody goes back to work/school. They are not active at all when they’re home.

      • Thank you! If I could give unsolicited advice (feel free to ignore), losing weight has very little to do with exercise. Sure, it helps a lot but what matters the most is your diet. Someone who never exercises but eats well will always at a healthier weight than someone who always exercises but eats badly.

        • Thanks for your input. We plan to snack a lot less in 2021. Mrs. RB40 already promised to bake less often. 🙁
          I think being active helps a lot. It’s healthier to exercise a bit everyday.

  9. Merry Christmas to you and the family, Joe! And I hope 2021 is a wonderful year!

    It’s cool that you started a YouTube video with your son. I was actually thinking about doing that with my daughter. She’s only two (almost three) but she actually follows directions really well and she is so darn cute. We have made a few personal videos so far, but haven’t taken the leap to publish them on YouTube. Even if we don’t make any money, the videos are fun to make. Also, it would be rewarding to make some people happy or to show some people that vegan kids can really thrive. We have privately shared some videos with friends and it always makes them smile to see her.

    I need to get on the ball with Estate planning too.

    Hopefully you can make that trip to Thailand in 2021. I was kind of surprised that you didn’t make any travel hacking goals for 2021. If anything, points and miles would be so valuable in 2021 due to potentially the high cost of travel (pent up demand) and the safety concerns (it’s much more easier to stay physically distant and safe when you redeem travel miles for business or first class).

    I hope you have a wonderful 2021!

    – Dr. McFrugal

    • Thank you! We put off estate planning way too long. You really need it when you have a kid.
      I’ll try to sign up for some travel points, but it isn’t a big priority. Maybe Mrs. RB40 can do it for us.

  10. I always like seeing your goals for the year, but sometimes I feel like I’m not getting enough done when I read them! 😛

    As far as goals go, I’m actually enjoying spending as much time with Faith as possible. I like that you’re helping RB40Jr do creative things like starting a gaming channel. I taught Faith how to edit for her channel and now she just runs with everything herself. If you don’t have something specific for that, OpenShot works really well and is free.

    I had a good year somehow – I’ve been working out 5 days a week and spending a lot of time learning Spanish, too. I’ll continue down that path, but I’d also like to make a little more income on my blog. It was a decent year, but I just need to get better at it overall.

    I hope your trip to Thailand goes well. International travel seems to be pretty safe as long as you’re careful in the airports and getting to and from them. We’ll be heading back from Panama in February for a month so we’ll get to go through the whole fun process again.

    Happy New Year!

    • I use OpenShot too. It’s a great idea to teach Faith editing. I’ll teach our son this summer. We’ll have to learn how to record first, though.
      Congrats on a nice year. We did pretty well. I’m just a bit stressed out about my parent.

  11. Hi Joe, I hope you and your family had a merry Christmas and wish you a safe and happy New Year. Bye bye 2020. It can’t happen fast enough. I plan to visit Thailand again this year as well but don’t have family there so may wait until I am vaccinated. I hope it works out for you in January. Take care.

  12. Merry Christmas to you Joe, your family and your readers. Let 2021 bring everyone health and a lot more joy than 2020!
    Thanks for sharing this great example of personal goals – something which I’m also doing since years and found quite useful.

    Do you think liking yearly goals to longer-term goals makes also sense? I personally find it useful, as this way I can track not only my yearly progress, but also the progress towards my longer-term goals.

    N.B. Vacation in Thailand in Jan 2021 might be a bit ambitious taking into account the current COVID situation, but I keep my fingers crossed for you.

      • Thanks for sharing. I like the list, combining some practical financial goals with pleasure and care for the family – e.g. travel around New Zealand. Some are very long-term and very ambitious goals (visiting space!), but they look definitely very exciting!

        By the way, you might have done it, but travel by car around Europe is also amazing experience. There are so many small towns and villages with amazing culture and spirit, definitely worth it.


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