Posts tagged money
August 2018 Money Diary: Preparing To Travel Around The World & Dealing With U.S. Medical Bills

Jennie here.

Hi all, sorry this post came so late! It’s been a bit of a hectic transition period. Since August (until now - early September) we’ve traveled or moved at least four times. How time flies! And now we're currently in Hawaii taking a "break" and relaxing before we begin our crazy adventure.

So what happened in August?

Our “New” Origami Life Begins

Last month, we shared our experience with moving out of Los Angeles. And this past month (August) marked the first time that I’ve been “unemployed” (or funemployed) in the last six years. It actually felt really strange to have 100% control of my days. For example, some days, I’d work from 6am to 8am, take a break, go running at 9am, and back to work again. There were a lot of days that were spent leisurely floating from activity to activity.

August 2018 Money Diary Content Image.png

Financially, I’d say it was a pretty solid month. For starters, because we left Los Angeles on August 1st - we saved $1,600 on rent and other bills. However, we spent about $1,900 on business expenses (including a new laptop and phone). So our spending rate was relatively high compared to the previous month. But these were also one-time, necessary expenses.

In terms of earnings, I got paid out by my company for essentially a month’s salary (yay) and Ivan and I both billed hours for our business.

Dealing With The U.S. Healthcare System & Financial Assistance

I went back to Albuquerque in August for two reasons:

  1. Spend some time with my family

  2. Take care of my parents’ medical bills

It’s no secret to my close friends that I grew up in a low-income household so the biggest concern for me while I travel is that my family make rational financial choices (or if not, I set things up to minimize any potential damage).

Last year was rough on my family - both my mom and dad got sick, had surgery, or went through some extended medical treatment; it was awful and more than anything - they racked up more than $15,000 in medical bills (after health insurance - land of the free!).

Spoiler alert: they couldn’t afford to pay those kind of bills.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, I stepped up and took care of the medical bills and was able to bring some of the larger institutional hospital bills down. In some instances, it was simply helping my family apply for financial assistance programs.

In the end, I was able to help my parents save anywhere between 60% to 75% on several of their medical bills. That meant thousands of dollars in savings!

What did I learn in the process of dealing with the U.S. healthcare system?

U.S. Medical and Hospital System

Lesson 1: The U.S. private healthcare system is a fucked up and completely random system.

When dealing with one hospital, I had to call between 4 to 6 different departments within their system just to verify my parents’ outstanding medical bills. Oftentimes, there are different billing departments or systems for physicians, facilities, and emergency services - AND most hospitals include “contractor” services (e.g. outsourcing anesthesiology or lab teams). It’s almost as if they just “make up a number” when they bill the patient. And if the patient can’t afford that number, they just “make up” another, much lower number. It’s completely random.

Lesson 2: You need to be informed to navigate through the system.

If you don’t validate every line item and/or talk to the right people, it’s hard to know what’s negotiable and what isn’t. So I’d suggest calling and talking (pestering) as many people as possible within your specific hospital. The system is so complex that even seasoned hospital reps can’t help guide you through it.

5 Tips On How To Get Your Hospital Or Medical Bill Reduced

If you’re having a hard time paying for your bills, here’s a few things to know:

  1. Always ask - even if you get laughed off the phone. Typically, larger institutions will have some sort of financial support or payments plan. Just call and ask about it. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I asked about financial assistance programs at smaller private practices but they kind of shrugged me off the phone - they only accepted payments or setting up monthly payments; they’re incentivized to get money from you before they send your bill to collections, but that usually takes a while.

  2. Most hospitals should have a “financial assistance” page on their website. In my opinion, they bury the lead when you get your hospital bill but you can definitely find financial assistance information. Just search on Google: financial assistance + [hospital name].

  3. Even if you’re not sure whether or not you should apply for financial assistance - you should try anyway. Sure, most of the applications are based on income tiers but if you’re having a difficult time (e.g. multiple medical bills, you’ve got a ton of student loan or auto loan debt, you’re recently unemployed, etc.) then it’s worth a try. You’ll never know until you ask for it. Also, once a hospital receives your application, they should put your account “on hold” during the evaluation to avoid sending it to collections.

  4. You can speak with a financial assistance support agent at the hospital. It seems like a lot of the larger hospitals will have some sort of support arm for questions and to help you manage through a financial assistance application. Call them even if you think you know what you’re doing. Ask a ton of clarifying questions.

  5. Look into your benefits, you might have support service like “Health Advocate”. There are services out there that can help you negotiate your healthcare services or look into healthcare specific questions for you.

Dealing With Pre-Departure & Administrative Tasks Before Our Round The World Trip

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Other financial highlights of our time in August:

August 2018 Money Diary - Good Budget Screenshot - The Origami Life.png
  • We were cat-sitting for my sister for two weeks while she was away in Europe. This was a nice change of pace for us since we’ll be on the move for the next couple years. Plus, the cat eventually learned to tolerate us and gave us a routine (e.g. cat-feeding and play schedule).

Savings: Half a month’s rent in Los Angeles (~$712)

  • We lost about 5 pounds each, working out and swimming in my sister’s community pool and gym. Honestly, we’re bringing our weight down for the long-term health benefits. It’s amazing how much easier it is to lose weight when you “have time” to work and focus on your physical and mental health.

Savings: Month gym cost (between $30 to $60 per person)

  • Validating our marriage certificate to begin my permanent residency papers in Taiwan. Although Ivan and I have been legally married for the last four years, we’ve yet to register our marriage in Taiwan. We decided earlier this year that we’d actually start my permanent residency process in Taiwan. Unfortunately, we had to have the Taiwanese embassy in Boston validate our certificate before moving forward.

Expenditures: $15 fee for our application; $7 for postage via snail mail

The bureaucracy is expanding, to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.
— Oscar Wilde
  • We had to send additional evidence for our U.S. immigration application. Let’s put this into perspective, we sent in our application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2016 and they just got back to us and requested for MORE information. Basically U.S. Citizenship and Immigration was telling us: “because of our delay, you need to provide us with more evidence of your marriage for the period of our we can spend even more time reviewing that evidence”.

    Two years and counting. We begrudgingly sent in more information to cover the last two years to showcase that our marriage is still legitimate. Le sigh.

Expenditures: $7 for postage via snail mail.
We had to bite the bullet and send it in but really, it cost more than $7 - more like it cost $7 and two years of dignity and patience lost.

  • We got global health insurance and life insurance. While I dealt with my parent’s bills, Ivan took care of our health and life insurance for our RTW trip. For our global health insurance, we went with Cigna which cost about $142 per month for the both of us (excluding U.S. coverage except for short visits). For context: the cost of getting coverage in the U.S. was equal to coverage for the rest of the world combined.

$1,700 per year (for both of us) with a $1,500 deductible and 20% copay (excluding the U.S.)
$18 per month for life insurance (I consider my family to be dependents in the event that something happens to me)  

  • A relative died in August and I had to get my dad and uncle last minute flights to Florida with points. Fortunately, we had points to spare. We were also reimbursed by my uncle for less than the carrying value of the points. But family is family. And some things are more important than money.

Earnings: We received cash for $650 - minus last minute booking fees of $160 equals $490.


That’s it for this month's Money Diary! Tune in next month for our first month of a traveling money diary.

30 Things We Believe That People Might Disagree With Us On

Ivan here. 

I don't know if it's the sun setting by four in the afternoon, but for the past few weeks I've been suffering from my annual, end-of-the-year case of writer's block. Whenever this happens, I try to get myself out of the rut by substituting quality for quantity. For example, here's a not-very-good poem I wrote titled "I'm Not Myself Today":

I'm Not Myself Today

These hands are some guy's hands
These thoughts are some guy's thoughts
My days are shown on rerun
In a land that time forgot

I'll keep these fingers moving
Through the silence in the air
Past the age of politeness
Beyond the point to care.

Another thing I like to do is make lists - tons of lists - about anything that crosses my mind. Taking a page from Silicon Valley, I've compiled a list of 30 things Jennie and I believe that people might disagree with us on - categorized by the three subjects we cover here at The Origami Life: money, travel and love. 

Keep in mind that while Jennie and I really do believe these things, the truth is probably a bit less black-and-white. 


10 Things We Believe About Money

  1. Most people don’t make choices, but are forced to accept their circumstances.

  2. Every household should operate like a lean, bootstrapped business.

  3. Maintaining a fuck-off fund is more valuable than anything money can buy

  4. Beyond the basics (food, shelter, physical/mental health), most financial problems we experience in the developed world are just weaknesses.

  5. Investing isn’t about maximizing your return, but about minimizing your mistakes.

  6. Buying a home early in your career may be the right purchase, but is rarely a good investment.

  7. The financial success of others wouldn't hurt if you were secure in yourself - and shouldn’t influence you to make stupid and unnecessary gambles (*cough* bitcoin).

  8. Following the herd and consuming for appearances is a long term recipe for pain and unhappiness.

  9. Frugality and long term thinking could solve most of the world’s problems (eg. some of the US's money problems are actually consumption problems). 

  10. Money is not that important or interesting. People also need less of it than they think to lead fulfilling lives.


10 Things We Believe About Travel

  1. You are a consumer and tourist no matter how you travel. 
  2. Authenticity in travel is probably overrated. 
  3. Finding your authentic self is definitely overrated (‘you’ is not a static concept and ergo, impossible to find).
  4. If you’re from the developed world, traveling abroad is objectively cheaper than your normal life.
  5. Never setting foot outside your country/state/town is almost the definition of ignorance (while being able to is the definition of privilege). 
  6. Staying connected to your phone is the best way to disconnect from the moment.
  7. At some point, the number of places you’ve visited is inversely proportional to the depth of each experience. 
  8. Just because something is local or “part of the culture” doesn’t mean it’s good.
  9. Places, people and things are as meaningful as our mindset and degree of openness. 
  10. Take your time. Nothing good gets away.

Love & Relationships:

10 Things We Believe About Love

  1. There’s no such thing as ‘the one’ - only opportunity meeting circumstance.
  2. Arguments are the healthiest thing for a relationship.
  3. You can only compromise on details but not direction (if you want to go east and she wants to go west, compromise means you never go anywhere).
  4. There should be no restrictions on what can or can’t be brought up in a marriage.
  5. Feelings matter - but only after everything has been laid out on the table. In marriage, personal truths that aren’t expressed have no merit.
  6. A good relationship means two people being themselves completely for long periods of time and not hating each other for it.
  7. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your partner is nothing.
  8. Time apart from each other is both healthy and necessary.
  9. The secret to marital bliss is to consistently outperform low expectations.
  10. Most relationships don’t last forever; forcing it or pretending will only make things worse. 

So what do you think about these statements?

Feel free to disagree! 

Also, what are some of things you believe that most people would disagree with you on? 

Financial Priorities: The Origami Master Plan & Blueprint

Ivan here. 

This is what the average person’s life looks like:

Always playing catch up, always reacting to one situation after another. Never realizing what was truly important.  

I look at this trajectory and ask myself: did these people ever make any real choices at all? Or did they just end up accepting the choices that had already been made for them? 

An Origami Blueprint

This gets at one of the core tenets of this blog: our refusal to accept the results that most people get. It’s about setting priorities and making sacrifices in order to live deliberately, to create a life we can look back on that’s truly our own. 

If we had to design our own origami life, what would it look like? Obviously, a lot of it would be dependent on choices we haven’t made yet. 

But here’s a rough sketch: 

The Origami Life Blueprint. The plan so far.

Our 20s - Asking the Right Questions


1. Build a Fuck off Fund

It’s not enough to simply pay off our debts to society (i.e. student loans). We need to build a fuck-off fund to ensure that society will always owe us

With a 6-12 month fuck-off fund, employers owe us better compensation, banks and credit card companies owe us better bonuses. Basically, we need financial leverage over everyone who might otherwise have leverage over us. This means that before we spend a single dime on anything that’s not essential to our survival, we first buy the option to tell someone to fuck off. 

2. Be Done With Retirement

Retirement sounds like a terrible idea. Hanging out by the beach, sipping mai-tais, with no purpose or meaning besides “enjoying your old age” is not our idea of a good time. Who wants to wait around to die? 

This is an advantage Jennie and I have over most people because it makes our retirement number far more attainable: we simply need to make sure we have “enough” by the time we’re too old and decrepit to work (not by some arbitrary age of 65). 

Our minimum number happens to be $700,000. Working backwards, assuming a 6% annual return for the next 35 years, this means we need to have $90,000 ($45k each) invested by age 30. After 30, even if we don’t invest another dollar, the magic of compound returns will ensure that we’ll have at least $700,000 by age 65. 

This is why we lived in shitty basement apartments in Toronto and a room the size of a closet in Boston - to make this minimum number happen. 

3. Build a Travel Fund

This is where readers find us today, as we track our progress through our Money Diary. Keep in mind that this came after a considerable amount of pain moving through steps 1 and 2. But what better time is there to take our lumps than in our 20s? 

Our 30s - Finding Answers

1. Insure Ourselves Against Loss

At age 30, we’ll be purchasing 30 year term life and disability insurance to protect ourselves against catastrophe (i.e. protecting our downside). Also, the younger you are, the cheaper the premiums are. 

2. Build Our Own Freelance Business & Pursue Creative Projects

Start traveling and take some major creative and professional risks. 

3. Have Kids (maybe)

We're still on the fence about this. See our blog posts on the subject. 

Our 40s - Expansion Phase

1. Grow Our Business & Creative Projects

It's too early to say how this will play out. 

2. Save for Child’s Education

Taking a cue from Ivan's parents, no expense will be spared for their education. After that? They're on their own. 

3. Support Our Families

At the end of the day, family's still family. No matter how terrible their life choices were.

Our 50s - Consolidation Phase

1. Continue to Grow Our Business and Creative Projects

Again, too early to say. 

2. Invest in Other People  

We'd like to eventually be in a position to employ other people or help them start their own projects

3. Pay for a House With Cash

We covered our rationale for this in The Hidden Cost Of Home Buying. 

Our 60s and Beyond

1. Never retire

Retirement is basically tacit acknowledgement that you can no longer add any economic value to the world. 

2. Give 90% of our wealth away

We'll leave our potential offspring with the remaining 10% and hope they don't squander it. The rest goes back into society. The only things Jennie and I hope to leave behind are a few ideas, not a burdensome estate that our beneficiaries never earned. 

Financial Priorities: When to Take Risks vs. When to Play it Safe

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.

Challenges and risks
Investing is the one sphere of life where victory, security, and success is always to the minority and never to the majority. If everyone agreed about its merit, the investment is inevitably too dear and therefore unattractive.
— John Maynard Keynes

Ivan here. 

Here’s a list of things most people find risky: 

  • Asking for a raise ("What if my manager says no?")
  • Talking to a stranger ("What if it gets awkward?")
  • Moving across the country ("What about my family and friends?")
  • Moving abroad ("What if I get homesick?")
  • Starting a business ("What if I fail?")
  • Joining a startup ("What if it doesn't work out?")

And here’s a list of things most people find safe: 

  • Buying a new designer bag or pair of shoes ("It's an investment in myself")
  • Taking a vacation abroad ("It's a once in a lifetime experience")
  • A $26,720 wedding and $5,978 engagement ring ("It's for the rest of my life")
  • Financing a new home with credit ("Every grown-up has a mortgage")
  • Financing a new car with credit ("I've had my old car for ages")
  • Pre-spending your paycheck with credit cards ("I can always pay it off")

This is just my way of illustrating the obvious: most people seek comfort and social acceptance and avoid discomfort and rejection. 

What Safety and Risk Mean

‘Safety’ is code for what most people think. ‘Risk’ is code for what most people aren’t willing or able to do. Aspiring to be like most people is to accept the results that most people get.

In some instances, the cost of not taking risks can be greater than taking risks, just as the cost of doing a ‘safe’ thing can be higher than the price we pay for safety. 

There are those who prefer not to live with so much uncertainty. Those who may be content with their lot in life, surrounded by family and friends, doing ordinary things that most people do and living safe, ordinary lives. This is totally fine. 

But what if the safety we’ve come to rely on is no longer safe going forward? What if safety is a more expensive illusion than we ever imagined? 

The coal miners in West Virginia thought they were safe. Just five years ago, accountants, pharmacists, lawyers, journalists, and taxi drivers felt like safer professions than they do today. 

In a market system, the more people there are seeking safety, the harder it is to come by. The fewer people there are seeking risk, the more cheaply it can be acquired. 

Safety is always expensive. Risk is always on sale. 

When Should We Take Risks?


When Should We Play it Safe?

Jennie and my position on this question has always been:

We should never hesitate to take risks so long as we ‘safely’ plan around those risks, focusing 75% of our energy on upside and growth, while using the last 25% to protect our downside. 

To summarize: 

  1. We should be taking risks in areas where most people aren’t willing or able to take risks. 
  2. We should be safe in areas where most people have been taught to be reckless. 


Our Manifesto: One-Upping Mr. Money Mustache


The Next Level of Frugality

Ivan here. 

I love Mr. Money Mustache. He’s been a hero of mine ever since I stumbled upon his blog in late 2012, as I was starting my first full-time job following graduation. Because of him, I was able to save 60% of my income in my first three working years and avoid the status seeking impulse which inflicts most people my age. Without MMM, I wouldn’t have a two year fuck-off fund. I wouldn’t have maxed out my 401k every year. And I definitely wouldn’t have the luxury of writing full time today. 

We share a lot of the same values: the importance of constantly exercising our frugality muscle and letting your money work for you through passive indexing. I also laid out a similar philosophy in my article, A Millennial’s Guide to Money and Long Term Investing

So what I’m about to say is with all due respect to the huge impact he’s had on our lives. But it needs to be said:

The world has changed. We all got a healthy dose of this when we witnessed the last inauguration. With this change comes new return expectations and new ideas on what financial freedom really means. And the idea that our generation, millennials, can follow the same Mustachian prescription and get the same results is the very definition of complacency. 

When something moves into the mainstream and becomes conventional thinking, it’s time to think again. Last year was a record year for passive indexing. True rewards can only enjoyed by those who dare to think different. Frugality is great (and still a useful tool for a majority of over-consumers), but there’s also a new frontier out there. 

The hard truth is that this frontier no longer lies in America, where comfort has become the expectation and not the enemy. 

Escape from Debt and Rising Cost of Living

As inhabitants of the wealthiest country on Earth, the faster we realize that America is only a jumping off point, the more clearly we’ll be able to see our own future. 

Why are we crowding into large expensive cities in search of diminishing opportunities and stagnant wages?

Why must we lock ourselves into 30 year mortgages to buy cramped homes we can’t afford to make the hour long commute to some anthill of late stage capitalism? 

The big picture doesn’t look so hot either. With a looming multi-trillion dollar federal deficit and wealth disappearing into the Cayman Islands, what’s the one asset that can’t escape future tax increases to pay for all of this? 

Oh right, property. Real estate owners are about to become the bagholders of the 21st century. 

While we think it’s great that Mr. Money Mustache can live in Colorado for under $2,500 a month, you know what sounds even better? Living in Bangkok for $1,333 a month. Ho Chi Minh City for $975 a month. Rio de Janeiro for $1,592. Here, see for yourself. 

Sure, all of this sounds “risky” and “dangerous.” But how do we grow without risk? In 2017, comfort is the true enemy and change is the only constant. Nature rewards those who learn to adapt to their surroundings. 

So keep your overvalued coastal properties. We're not interested. It's time to find out what the rest of the world has to offer us. 

Global Mobility is the New Frontier

You might be asking yourself: what happens when it’s time to settle down and start a family? Don’t we all eventually have to return to the rat race? Better to stay put, keep your head down and work your way to the much coveted six-figure salary than to leave everything behind and not make “progress.” 


Wrong. Why take a six figure salary in a city you can't afford when it’s possible to work digitally for at least $30,000? 

A studio in New York costs half a million dollars, but a two bedroom in a city like Phoenix costs $100,000. With a dual remote income and a frugal lifestyle, we could pay this off in cash within five years. Our only requirement would be that this house be located near an airport. North America would be a home base to us, somewhere to stay rent free when we want to take a breather. 

The world on the other hand, will be our playground. 

That's the dream of The Origami Life. True simplicity, maximum flexibility. The ability to work, live and play anywhere in the world. A life completely without restrictions.

We, as millennials, don’t even know how good life could be if we dared to think a little different. We live in the wealthiest nation on the planet and there’s an arbitrage opportunity staring us right in the face. Something that will enhance both our financial and life experience banks. A life that’s self sufficient and semi-nomadic. A life where the choices you make actually belong to you. 

There’s a reason why Genghis Khan and the Mongols conquered the world. So if any of our mad ravings make any sense to you, it’s time to saddle your horses.

Because we’re taking no prisoners. 

The Origami Life's 2018 Goals

If you're new to The Origami Life, we figured that we would sum up the big goals and what we're about. Every deliberate and conscious step that we make is for the sake our big life goals.

If you're new to The Origami Life, we figured that we would sum up the big goals and what we're about. Every deliberate and conscious step that we make is for the sake our big life goals.

On the Lives We Could've Led

Most people go through life using up half their energy trying to protect a dignity they never had.
— Raymond Chandler


The most important decision of my life

Ivan here.

When I was 17, my parents sat me down and laid all their cards on the table. 

At the time I was trying to decide between attending college in Canada (where I could pay domestic rates) or the US where tuition was 3-4 times the price. I had gotten accepted into some pretty good schools in the States.  Chicago. Berkeley. Columbia. Dream schools. 

That’s when my parents broke the news: they couldn’t afford to send me to the States. They opened up about everything: how much savings they had in the bank, how much debt they were carrying, how much they still needed to save for my brother, and how much they could realistically afford for my education. 

Then they gave me a choice: I could stay in Canada and have the majority of my education paid for (after scholarships) or I could go to the US and take out loans to make up the difference. More importantly, they broke down the consequences of each choiceIn the first scenario, I would come out of college with zero debt. In the second, I would be like most of my peers, struggling under the burden of debt after graduation. It would be a decade or more of indentured servitude. 

They asked me what price I would put on my own freedom. What was the next decade of my life worth to me? 

Was I devastated by what they told me? You bet. I was furious. Who turns down Columbia? Are you fucking kidding me? But the two paths my parents laid out for me were clear. I couldn’t deny the logic. 

Getting past the shame of talking about money

Looking back on it now, that level of transparency was the best thing they could’ve done for me. It couldn’t have been easy for my parents to share their financial struggles with me. Imagine the shame they must’ve felt to tell their kid they couldn’t afford to send them to their dream school. But you know what was more important to them than their own ego? Their son knowing exactly what his options were. 

How can we as millennials ever learn to make good money decisions if nobody’s ever told us what our options were? 

Five years later, I ended graduating from a top Canadian school with zero debt and was lucky enough to get a well paying job straight out of college. Since I knew the financial strain my parents were under, I paid for the last two years of my brother’s education so that they could start putting more towards retirement. 

Isn’t that what a family is for? No secrets, no shame, and a willingness to face our problems together. To share in the burden of life. 

Maybe I’m being too much of an idealist. Maybe I’m imagining a perfect world where every family can get together to sing kumbaya around the open communication campfire. 

The cycle of financial dependence

Sometimes I imagine the life I could’ve had. What if I had gone down the path that most millennials were forced down? I would still be in debt today. I would’ve taken the first job offered instead of holding out for the one I wanted (or thought I wanted). I wouldn’t have quit my corporate job to pursue writing full time. I wouldn’t have been able to build my two year fuck off fund. Worse, my brother would've followed me to the U.S. and gotten into a similar amount of debt. My parents wouldn’t have enough for retirement. My brother and I wouldn’t have enough to take care of them. 

And on and on goes the cycle. 

It's only a shame that it's a secret

I read articles like The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans and wonder what if. What if the writer had told his daughter he would have to clean out his 401k to pay for her wedding? Would his daughter have let him do that to the family? Her family. 

More so than knowledge, I think the lack of communication around money is one of the core issues facing lower to middle class families today. And it seems like the more trouble a family has, the less inclined they are to talk about them. 

But how do we learn anything if everyone’s afraid to address the problem? To move past the shame towards something more constructive? The problem doesn’t go away. We’re just kicking the can further down the road. 

Instead, why not take the first step and start with something we can control? 

In the coming days and weeks of the new year, sit down with your families or significant other and share everything you’ve been afraid to tell them about your finances:  

  1. What am I struggling with? 
  2. What worries me about the future? 
  3. What steps am I taking to address these issues? 

The Origami Life - Looking Ahead at Our Goals for 2017

Happy New Year! Jennie here!


We all make them, but how many of us keep them? According to a University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology study, only 8% of those who make resolutions actually achieve their goals.

That said, I’m pretty stubborn and would like to think that the goals we’ve set for ourselves this year are both specific, measurable and realistic. By the end of 2017, I’ll be doing a year in review of our goals and rating how well we did against them.

We've come to the conclusion that we need to work harder at a lot of things in 2017...

We've come to the conclusion that we need to work harder at a lot of things in 2017...

I’ll be covering our goals in the following categories in this post:

  1. Financial goals

  2. Travel goals

  3. Relationship goals

  4. Personal goals

Financial Goals

  • Save at least 50% of our salary. This past year, we managed to save 42%. We believe we can do better. This year, we’re aiming to save 50% of our combined incomes.

  • Move into a cheaper apartment. Currently, we live on the westside of Los Angeles. While it’s beautiful, convenient and close to the turns out, we don’t really care about the beach and are paying a premium for this luxury. So, we’re looking to move into a new apartment in the springtime that is $200 to $300 cheaper than our current rent. Ideally, we’ll save around $2,400 to $3,600 a year in our next studio.

  • Donate 1-2% of our (post-tax) earnings. After this election year, we thought a lot about how we want to show our support for the causes we care about. We’re putting together a list of potential causes that we’ll be donating to in our December 2016 Money Diary.

Travel Goals

We just finished up with our Death Valley camping trip in December and it’s got us excited about what’s planned for our 2017 travels. Outside of our routine visits to our families in Taiwan and the southwest, we’ve got one big travel goal for 2017!

  • Travel across the country by rail. Awhile back, we were inspired by Derek Lowe’s train adventures across the United States. So, Ivan and I are planning a railroad trip across the United States during the fall. Truthfully, it’ll probably be our last chance to travel domestically once we move abroad. We’re hoping to hit up new cities like Austin, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. And we’re likely going to end up in Boston and see many of our old friends and catch some fall foliage too! I can’t wait!

Bonus: We want to try and get a quick trip to New Orleans in for the food, jazz, and history. Ivan has been wanting to go there for ages!

Relationship Goals

The big thing we noticed this past year was that we were definitely together more often but not spending enough quality time together. Some nights after work, we’d be in the same room but on separate computers -- catching up on reading articles, Youtube clips, or television episodes. We’re going to be the first ones to admit that we could use some more love and effort in our relationship.


Instead of spending more time nursing our relationship with black mirrors, we’re looking to improve the following:

  • Power down all electronics by 9pm every day. Turns out, our lives revolve around a computer/mobile device. And it sucks. So, we’ve decided to turn off our computers by 9pm and spend time together or simply just read together.

  • Volunteer together in 2017. I believe this will be a good bonding experience for us but I think it’d be beneficial to also spend some time giving back to our new Los Angeles community where it’s filled with many issues like homelessness.

  • Be kinder to each other. This definitely manifests in different ways for the both of us but here are a few ways we’re looking to improve our relationship...


Jennie's 2017 Relationship Goals:

I promise to pick up the scattered empty water bottles all over our apartment because Jennie hates this.

I’ll encourage (or make) Jennie go to the gym at least three times a week. Jennie also hates this.

I’ll read to Jennie at least once a week before bed because for some reason my voice puts her to sleep...
— Ivan
I promise to nag Ivan a lot less. I tend to nag but I know I can choose my battles better.

I’ll give Ivan real space for when he is reading or studying...even though I’m a social penguin.
— Jennie

Personal Goals

At the end of the day, we're two individuals with our own goals and ambitions. 

At the end of the day, we're two individuals with our own goals and ambitions. 

There’s a lot we have planned in 2018 but before any of that can happen, we need to prepare for the hard part in 2017. Part of the legwork required is having established savings for our travels and the other is creating habits that lead to stable income during our travels in 2018.

Ivan's Goals:

  1. Write and submit one new (financial or travel) article for publication every week.

  2. Complete the first draft of his novel by June 1, 2017.

  3. Study for the final CFA exam for at least 30 minutes per day.

  4. Run two to three times a week.

  5. Read 52 long novels by the end of this year. For reference, Ivan read 86 novels this past year.

Jennie's Goals:

  1. Practice drawing for at least 30 minutes a day.

  2. Read (a book) for at least 30 minutes a day. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have read at least 20 to 25 new books! Note: I'm already one-third of the way finished with my first book for the year!

  3. Exercise (e.g. go running, to the gym, etc.) two to three times a week.

  4. Send more emails/correspondences to my loved ones and friends this coming year.

So, there you have it. Our deepest hopes, ambitions, and desires. Happy new year from us to you!