Unlike many bloggers on the internet, I rarely write highly personal posts. But for whatever reason, I feel the need to recap the year 2010. It was a very tough year in the Grouch household, probably the toughest ever. But it also proved how resilient we are as a family.
First, the good things:
Investing - while others were panicking and going into bonds and cash, we held fast to our investment discipline of dollar cost averaging into a balanced portfolio of broadly diversified domestic and international stock and bond funds. By mid-year our portfolios had recovered to their pre-crash highs.
Debt - we have no debt and don't intend to take on any debt. The two credits cards we have are both cash back cards and get paid off in full every month. We get enough cash back each year to pay for 1 out of 12 months of charges.
Cars - we own our cars outright, and hold them at least 10 years and put at least 100,000 miles on them before we trade them in on a new or low mileage used car. Our attitude is cars are just a way to get from point A to point B. We do not buy the fanciest models and try to own cars that get 30+ miles to the gallon.
Saving - we live below our means, max out 401K and IRA contributions, and any given year save 30 - 50% of our income. We believe that saving and conservative investing is the key to building wealth.
Emergency Funds - we maintain 6 months salary as an emergency fund.
Retirement - we are within 15% of our retirement savings goal, and assuming the economy recovers in the next several years will hit our target. That doesn't mean that we will retire right away once we achieve that goal, but we will have the piece of mind that we can when we are mentally ready.
Now for the bad:
Health - I broke my leg in a freak accident in June, and now have a titanium plate and seven screws in my leg.
Job - the day after getting my leg operated on, I got a call from my boss telling me I was being RIF'ed in a month (I detail this experience here.). Though I'd worked for this company for 28 years, in a way this was a relief since the company had changed dramatically over the years, growing very calloused toward their employees and becoming a miserable place to work. After a month-long job search, I was able to find another job with a small company in desperate need of experienced individuals. It's nice to feel wanted and useful again. The stress of losing my job was worse on the family than me. The kids worried about whether we were going to lose the house, not have food to put on the table, and couldn't pay our bills. They lost sleep and stopped eating, despite our assurances otherwise.
Drug and Alcohol Addiction - is there anything more difficult than seeing a child descend into the hopeless of drugs and alcohol? Having them come home at 4 in the morning and still be drunk the next day at 4pm? Seeing them drifting into the wrong crowds with no goals, no purpose in life other than to get high? After many dollars spent for additional counseling with psychologists and psychiatrists, sobriety is still a day to day challenge. Some days are successful, other days are a march through hell. The challenge is never over, never complete, and the stress it places on ever member of the family is tremendous.
2010 was a bittersweet year at the Grouch household, but we made it through still intact as a family. We experienced much trauma, both physical and emotion, and still have many challenges before us. But we made it through 2010. Even though we are meeting our financial goals, money isn't everything. Nothing is more painful than watching a bright, energetic, fun kid self-destruct on the road to adulthood. I wouldn't wish that on any parent. Hopefully 2011 will be a sober year, and a year where everyone in the family will succeed.