A Look Back at 2016 and Ahead to 2017

[Advance notice/warning: This is a personal post about my annual goals and accomplishments. If you’re not interested, which is understandable and highly likely, feel free to move on to my next post.]

The election of Donald Trump as President notwithstanding, 2016 was a good year. I played a lot of music (I’m in three jazz ensembles and a wind symphony), did a lot of writing (although not enough), and married a lot of people (100 couples).

Jeff and I enjoyed our annual all-gay, all-inclusive week at the Hard Rock Hotel in Puerto Vallarta, and we took an enjoyable five-day trip to Santa Fe, NM, which was the first visit for both of us and an item accomplished on my travel bucket list.

More specifically, how did I do against my measurable 2016 goals?

Retire Fabulously!

I didn’t have nearly as good a year as I set out to achieve. My goals and results:

  • Reach 1,000 subscribers. At the end of the year, I had 401. That’s a big improvement over the 116 I started the year with, but nowhere close to 1,000.
  • Write two books. Nope – didn’t happen.
  • Pursue syndicating my columns. Nope – didn’t happen.
  • Aggressively pursue guest posting opportunities at high-traffic sites like Next Avenue, AARP, and Huffington Post. I didn’t do that either.

While I did not reach out to those sites, something else happened that was very significant. At the beginning of 2015, I wrote to U.S. News about the possibility of becoming a contributor for their “On Retirement” blog. I received no response at the time, but on August 3 (a year and a half later), I received an email with an invitation to do just that. Since then, I have written 16 articles for U.S. News, all of which have been shared to Yahoo Finance. That exposure is what has driven most of the increase in my subscriber base; my number of subscribers more than doubled in the last four months of the year.

I went three months (mid-April to mid-July) without publishing anything. I was just about ready to pull the plug on the website until U.S. News came along.

The other exciting and rejuvenating event came a week later, when I was contacted by an investment advisor in the United Kingdom who wanted to purchase 100 copies of my book to give to his clients. With that sale, I recovered the costs of producing the book. So everything I make going forward is profit – such as it is.

I am getting requests to be interviewed for other websites and requests from other writers to contribute guest posts to RF. This is another indication that I am growing in visibility and significance.

Still, at the end of 2016 I still gave serious consideration to pulling the plug on Retire Fabulously!. It’s still unclear whether I will ever make enough money to justify the hundreds of hours I have spent on this. But I am now starting to achieve the growth I have been hoping for, and things are on an upward trajectory. Why quit now when I am finally starting to see results?

So I am going to plug away at it for another year. My goals, most of which are a carry-over from last year, are:

  • I am still going to approach Next Avenue and AARP about writing for them.
  • My subscriber goal for the end of 2017 will still be 1,000, and at the current rate, I should hit it.
  • I will retain my goal of writing two more books.
  • I am going to try my hand at creating an online course, premium (pay-to-read) content for my website, and offering coaching/consulting services.

Ceremonies by Dave

My wedding officiating business was an unqualified success in 2016. My goal was to officiate 75 weddings and earn $12,000-$15,000 in revenue. I officiated 100 weddings and earned over $18,000 in revenue.

I still enjoy officiating weddings, although it’s becoming less shiny and it certainly ties up my weekends and creates schedule conflicts. I’m not passionate about it, but it is sufficiently agreeable and I would be foolish to give up the income at this point.

I’m hoping that I can generate enough money from other sources (books, consulting, an online course, and more paying musical gigs) to stop doing weddings at the end of 2017. We’ll see.

A friend of mine (a former Intel co-worker) with whom I have lunch a few times a year suggested that I should create an online course on how to become a wedding officiant. That’s an excellent idea. Add that to the goal list.

My Personal Life / Home Life

Last year, Jeff and I committed to downsizing our possessions. We did a great job of this for the first few months of the year. We donated a lot of clothes, got rid of a lot of books, and made over $500 selling kitchen gadgets and other household stuff at a yard sale in April. After that, things came to a halt.

I need to get back to tidying this year. I still have my vinyl records and I still want to sell more CDs.

I haven’t migrated my music from my 400-CD jukebox to our music computer.

My desk is still a perpetual mess, which distracts me from my writing.

In 2016, I did very little in the way of fitness. As a result, I gradually gained weight all year. Even our annual week in Puerto Vallarta didn’t provide sufficient motivation for me to lose weight. I began the year at 198.8, and I have seen the dreaded ‘2’ a couple times. I need to get back into hiking, biking, and walking. If I can just lose one pound a week, I can be down to 180 (a good target) in less than five months.

Finally, writing. Since August, I have produced an article for U.S. News/Retire Fabulously! almost every week. But I want to do more. I want to try my hand at novel writing. I have a full-length book mostly formed in my head and outlined, and a little bit written. I also have an idea for a short story. I want to devote at least two hours every day to writing – whether it’s for RF, this website, or my books. I have discovered that I love writing and I have a lot I want to say. This could be the thing that I become most passionate about (and successful at) during my retirement, so I need to get in the habit of writing every day.

Just like last year, I have set an ambitious list of goals for myself. I probably won’t be successful at all of them.

One of the biggest conflicts I face with myself is that I often seem overwhelmingly busy, yet I don’t seem to allow myself enough time to relax and do what I want. It’s clear that I fritter away a lot of time on Facebook (and online in general) and doing other frivolous things, and I need to eliminate that and stay focused on my goals. More about that in my next post.

I’m certainly not bored.

It’s also clear to me that, at least at this early phase of my retirement, I prefer to keep my life very full – perhaps too full. I don’t spend much time “taking it easy” (whatever that means) and relaxing, and I often bemoan that fact that I don’t have more time to just relax and chill. But I guess if I really wanted it that way, I wouldn’t take on so many things.

But overall, life is good. I enjoy my life and I’m very fortunate.

© 2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

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