A Look Back at 2017 and Ahead to 2018

[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.]

Overall, 2017 was a very good year. It wasn’t a particularly eventful or remarkable year, but it was good. I accomplished a lot (although not everything I hoped to do, but when does that ever happen?), I played a lot of music, and overall I enjoyed my life.

Let’s see how I did with regard to the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

Retire Fabulously!

Several good things happened with my retirement lifestyle website Retire Fabulously! this year.

  • I published my second book, Smooth Sailing into Retirement, in December. In the months leading up to that, I did a pretty good job of sticking to a daily regimen of writing two hours a day (which I plan to continue).
  • I reached and exceeded my subscriber goal (1,000). I started the year with 401 subscribers and ended with 1,240.
  • I received two awards. My website was awarded the 2017 Best Senior Living Award in both the people’s choice and the judge’s selection categories – the only website to place in both categories. And I was named one of Next Avenue’s 2017 Top 50 Influencers in Aging.
  • One of my goals for 2017 was to approach Next Avenue and AARP about submitting articles for their websites. I didn’t do that, but as part of my Influencer in Aging award I was invited to submit an article. I did so right before Christmas, so it hasn’t been published yet.
  • I wrote 29 articles for U.S. News’ “On Retirement” blog, which I also posted to my website. One of them was picked up by CNN/Money, and that alone brought in a large wave of new subscribers.
  • Finally, I redesigned the website. I found a new theme that provides the capabilities and the modern look and feel that I wanted for the site. I’m happy with how it turned out.

All of that was good. Still, notwithstanding the new book release, I’ve hit another plateau, not only with audience growth but with my enthusiasm for continuing to devote many hours to this endeavor. So, I am going to change my approach to Retire Fabulously! in 2018.

  • In November, I submitted my last article to U.S. News. I am grateful to them for the opportunity to contribute to their forum for the past year and four months, and much of the increase in subscribers and exposure I realized in 2017 was a result of that. But the rate of visitors to my website and new subscribers leveled off during the second half of the year, and it became more challenging for me to find new topics to write about and the enthusiasm to do it. Plus, their rather generic writing style requirements hindered me from creating a more unique voice which could differentiate me from the many others who write retirement articles.
  • In 2018, I am going to focus on submitting articles to new sites in order to reach new audiences.
  • One of my goals for 2017 was to try my hand at creating an online course, premium (pay-to-read) content for my website, and offering coaching/consulting services. I didn’t make any progress in that regard, but now that I am free from the burden of creating weekly content for U.S. News, I will have more time to devote to this.
  • I will probably write one more book. This one will be about how to find the place to retire that is right for you. The working title is The Quest for Retirement Utopia.

Ceremonies by Dave

My wedding officiating business continued to be successful in 2017. After officiating 100 weddings in 2016, I wanted to cut back. Also, with over two years’ experience, I could justify charging higher prices. So, at the beginning of 2017 I raised my rates 50%. That had the desired effect. In 2017 I officiated 61 weddings and made almost the same amount of revenue.

The other factor that contributed to the decrease in business was the drop in same-sex weddings. By now, the long-term couples who have waited many years (often decades) for the right to marry have done so. Going forward, I expect the rate of new same-sex couples getting married with level out to the same rate at which opposite-sex couples marry.

If I can have a similar year in 2018, I’ll be happy.

My plans are to continue to officiate weddings throughout 2018, then close the business at the end of the year. I will be able to replace that income with Social Security in early 2019.

My Personal and Home Life

My biggest accomplishment in 2017 was replacing the leak-prone flexible irrigation hose with PVC pipe. It involved digging ditches around the entire back yard and took 2-3 months to finish, but it was worth it. I also built a paver-stone patio on which to place two 2’ x 8’ raised planters for Jeff to raise vegetables and herbs. That was also a lot of work because I had to remove an old tree stump and root system first. But again, the results were worth the effort. I wasn’t able to install the paver-stone walkway on the south side of our house before it got too hot, so I will undertake that soon, now that the weather is cooler.

I continued to play in three jazz ensembles and the Desert Overture wind symphony, as well as serving as President for the board of the Desert Overture. Desert City Jazz had a spectacular year, giving several well-attended and well-received performance and raising approximately $5,000. I spent just shy of 600 hours volunteering for Desert Overture, Desert City Jazz, and the Board. That will result in a nice grant from Intel next year, but it was also quite a chunk out of my life.

Everything else was pretty much on hold. I did very little in the way of exercise or fitness, nothing related to downsizing, and nothing toward moving my music collection onto our music computer. Very few of the CDs I have listed for sale on Amazon sold. My desk and the music room continue to be a perpetual mess.

Even though 2017 was a good year, I am looking to change quite a few things for 2018.

First, a look even farther ahead to 2019. I want 2019 to be a “no commitment” year. I want to have that year to take day trips, do spontaneous things, and finally do all those things I have been meaning to do for years. This includes finishing the tidying process, fixing up the house (either cleaning, fixing, or improving), and hopefully lots of writing. I want to be out from under the yoke of all the obligations I’ve accepted over the past few years (and for most of my life).

I can’t go all-in on this in 2018, because I am committed to serve on the Desert Overture board until June 30, and I need the wedding income until the end of 2018. But I can get started.

Now, my goals for 2018:

Retire Fabulously!

  • Publish at least 12 articles on other websites (Medium, Next Avenue, etc.)
  • Publish one more book
  • Publish at least two special reports/guides that I charge for
  • Reach 2000 subscribers

Ceremonies by Dave

  • Officiate at least 60 weddings
  • Earn at least $15,000 revenue
  • Close the business at the end of 2018

Personal/Household

  • Complete one fiction book
  • Complete the migration from the 400-CD jukebox to the music computer, including creating playlists
  • Keep my weight below 185
  • End my involvement with Desert Overture (band and board) on June 30. Continued involvement in Desert City Jazz is TBD.
  • Finish paver stone project
  • Install weedstop
  • Rebuild daveandjeff.com
  • Write non-retirement articles, publish on Medium, TheDaveHughes.com, perhaps others (Tiny Buddha?)
  • Write a chapter for my memoir every month

Lifestyle Choices

  • Meditate every morning
  • Write two hours a day
  • Write in my journal every day
  • Read every day
  • Exercise (walk, hike, bike) three times a week
  • Simplify or eliminate at every opportunity

But overall, life continues to be good. I enjoy my life and I’m very fortunate.
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© 2018 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

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