2010-2019 – A decade in review
I should have published this decade review post at the end of 2019 or early January but I suppose it’s better late than never. It’s a little hard to imagine that the ‘10s are already behind us and a new decade is now upon us. While the new decade is still young and fresh, it’s a good time to reflect on the previous decade and highlight our accomplishments throughout the last ten years.
The 2000’s was a decade involving me graduating from high school and university and entering the workforce. I evolved as an individual. The 2010’s was the first decade where I was working full-time for the entire ten years and my life changed significantly with marrying Mrs. T and the births of my two kids.
Looking back at the last ten years, it was an incredible decade both financially and individually for myself and my family. We are very grateful for having an incredible decade and what we have managed to achieve.
Let’s take a closer look at the last ten years.
I started the year with a girlfriend. Mrs. T (well, Gf T, back then) and I met at a November party in 2009 and started dating shortly after. I was living in a Vancouver apartment with a roommate. Gf T was studying at the University of British Columbia as an exchange student from Denmark. Throughout the year we were busy spending time with each other and getting to know each other. I knew there was something special brewing when we spent the entire weekend with each other and had an endless amount of conversations.
Financial independence was not in my mind in 2010. However, thanks to growing up in a financially responsible household, I knew about the concept of living below my means. I was saving a lot of money each month and investing the money in GIC’s, mutual funds, and a few individual stocks. I was taking advantage of my employer’s group RRSP matching (i.e. free money) and started to build a sizable RRSP. In the previous years, I had purchased ING and Manulife stocks, which paid dividends. I continued to hold these two stocks despite them showing a significant paper loss due to the aftermath of the financial crisis. At the time, I didn’t know much about dividend growth investing.
Although I had maxed out my TFSA contribution in 2009 and 2010, I was buying GIC’s with my TFSA contributions. Toward the middle of 2010, I decided to transfer my TFSA from ING Direct to TD Waterhouse and started DIY investing. I’ll be perfectly honest, although I started DIY investing, I didn’t really know what I was doing. For the most part, I was buying shares of my company’s stock because the stock price had been suppressed due to the financial crisis.
There were a couple of highlights in 2011. One was me proposing to Gf T at her birthday party, in front of our close friends. I kept it a secret so nobody knew I was going to propose. About two or three minutes before the birthday cake cutting, I asked a friend to take pictures with my DSLR and told him that I was going to propose. Gf T was extremely surprised when she opened her eyes and saw me on my knee with a ring in my hand.
The other highlight of 2011 was getting married and Gf T became Mrs. T. Neither of us wanted a big wedding, so we chose to be frugal for our wedding. We managed to get married twice in 2011 and spent very little for our two weddings.
This was also the year of our financial epiphany. A friend gave Mrs. T a copy of Secret of Millionaire Mind Set. After we both read the book, we decided that we needed to take charge of our finances. We started using a budget system where we track everything; we also started reading personal finance and investment-related books. In particular, I took a big interest in learning more about financial independence and realizing that this major financial milestone will be possible for us in the future.
This was the year that we started getting serious in dividend growth stocks. We moved money around, started to get out of mutual funds, and used the money to invest in dividend-paying stocks. This was also the year that I started to learn more about the Canadian tax system and figured out the best ways to be as tax efficient as possible as a couple. As a way of learning more about the personal finance side of things, I started following Canadian personal finance blogs like My Own Advisor, Boomer and Echo, and Young and Thrifty. Little did I know I would meet some of them in person a few years later.
After a year of marriage, Mrs. T and I decided that we’d go on a two-week honeymoon in Italy. Before the honeymoon, we stopped by Denmark for a week and had our third wedding and celebrated with the Danish side of the family. The Danes sure knew how to throw a party. We started celebrating in the early afternoon and didn’t stop the party until around 3 AM in the morning. Being in the midst of summer, there was still a bit of daylight when we went to bed.
What an incredible year 2013 was!
After a bit of research online, I went to my boss and asked for a raise. I was underpaid for what I was doing as a project manager, especially considering that I was very good at what I was doing, and I was handling one of the top three customers. I told my manager and his manager that they could either give me a raise or I was willing to walk. Fortunately, I played my card correctly and got a raise.
Financially, we continued to move more money into our investment portfolio so it could generate passive income for us. We continued to budget and trim expenses whenever we could. Our net worth was on an upward trajectory.
My life also changed forever in 2013 with the birth of Baby T1.0. Words couldn’t describe what it was like to see him born in front of my eyes. Although we had many sleepless nights and struggled as parents early on, I had some great memories of me holding Baby T1.0 and rocking him to sleep in the middle of the night.
Sometime in 2013, after reading and following various personal finance blogs for a while, I had a crazy idea of starting a personal finance blog. But I had many doubts – was I financially knowledgeable enough to start a blog? Was I good enough of a writer? Could I keep up the writing schedule? Would people care enough to read my stuff?
After many months of back and forth, I decided to start this blog. For a long time, I couldn’t decide on a domain name. Eventually, I decided to use Tawcan, a word I invented that stood for Taiwanese Canadian. I published the first post of this blog on July 20 and the rest was history.
During a business trip in Japan, something I never imagined happened – a fellow manager told me that he was hiring a product manager and asked me if I was interested. I had never imagined switching from engineering to marketing. But on that trip, this co-worker had planted a seed in my head.
The highlight of the year was moving to our current house in one of the Vancouver suburbs. While it was sad to move away from Vancouver, we were ready to start a new chapter of our lives. We wanted a home where we could raise our family; we wanted a place where we could start a garden; we wanted a place where we could get to know our neighbours better.
2015 was the year of international travel for our family. First, we spent one month in Denmark. This was my first time spending an extended period of time in Denmark during the summer. As a result, we went to many different places and tried many different types of Danish foods. Before Baby T1.0 turned two, we flew across the Pacific Ocean and visited Japan for two weeks. Having been to Japan many times for business, I always wanted to show Mrs. T Japan and this was the perfect opportunity. We visited Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. Since Baby T1.0 had blonde hair and looked like a Caucasian, he gathered a lot of attention in Japan. I definitely got a few confused looks walking around in Japan with Baby T1.0.
I also had a major career change. After months of debating, I decided to take the plunge and applied for the product manager job. Transferring from engineering to marketing was easier than I expected but there was lots of on-job learning and training needed. As a result of my career switch, I also began to travel more for work.
2015 was also the year that we broke $10k in annual dividend income. It felt incredible to cross this major dividend income milestone. I knew that financial independence through dividend income was possible.
The highlight of 2016 was the birth of Baby T2.0. Thanks to a planned home birth, I was able to catch her as she entered the world. It was absolutely incredible.
The blog was gaining popularity. I was still blogging anonymously, but many of my friends knew about the blog due to the word “Tawcan”. I attended the Canadian Personal Finance Conference in Toronto and met many fellow bloggers and financial experts that I had been following for years. I also began toying with the idea of revealing my identity.
We continued to budget, save money, and invest like what we had done in the past number of years. This was the year that I realized that being extremely frugal and cutting out “fun activities” was not healthy. Mrs. T and I were having arguments over small expenses. I realized that having a more balanced approach while we’re on the financial independence journey was extremely important. Our marriage and well-being were more important than financial independence! Therefore, we continued to be frugal and cutting expenses on things that we did not enjoy while we began to let loose a little bit on expenses that brought joy to us.
This was the year that I decided to reveal my identity on the blog. This was mostly triggered by a feature article on MoneySense. The timing worked out and I believe the blog grew because people could put a face to my writing and could relate with me more.
We continue to chug along on this long financial independence journey by budgeting, saving, maximizing TFSAs, RRSPs, and RESPs, and investing in stocks and index ETFs. We were consistently getting over $1,000 in dividend income each month and I began to feel that the snowball was beginning to get bigger and bigger.
During the summer we went camping as a family of four for the very first time and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The kids loved sleeping in the tent and roasting marshmallows over the campfire. Mrs. T and I also had our first kids-free weekend. We absolutely needed this break and the time to spend together with just the two of us.
2017 was also the year that I went to Fincon for the first time. It was absolutely amazing to connect and talk with so many like-minded people. It was also really cool to meet online friends for the very first time face to face. I had a blast.
The highlight of the year was our 12-day trip to Maui. We had travel hacked our way to Maui and saved over $10,000 along the way. We toured around Maui to check out the different sights, but we also spent a lot of time on the beach, digging on the sand, playing in the ocean, and just relaxing.
During the summer we were able to spend a whole month in Denmark, our fourth month long trip since the kids were born. We checked out the Givskud Zoo and saw many safari animals. We also took a cruise to visit Oslo.
Just like the previous years, we maximized the tax-advantaged accounts then added fresh capital to our taxable accounts. Whatever we were doing must have worked as we saw a 26.29% year-over-year growth rate in our annual dividend income. It felt amazing to have received over $18,000 in dividend income or saved us over 11 weeks of work at $40 per hour salary.
This was the year of lots of travel both professionally and for leisure. As a family, we visited Taiwan, Japan, and New York. We also spent a whole month in Denmark, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends. For me, all my business travels were jammed packed in the last six months of the year. I toured around North America, Asia, as well as Europe. I also went to FinCon in DC. Altogether, I took 46 flights and spent over six days in the air in 2019. As an environmentalist, I realized that this much travel meant a lot of unnecessary CO2 emissions, so hopefully, in the years to come, I can reduce my amount of travel. Since I was away from home a lot, this meant I really focused on spending as much time as possible with my family whenever I was at home.
Financially, we managed to invest more money into our investment portfolio than the previous years. As a result, we were able to hit our goal of receiving over $23,000 annual dividend income.
Looking back, our net worth grew significantly over the last ten years. All the budgeting, saving money, and investing money was well worth it.
The next decade, 2020 and beyond
I know that whatever happens in the next decade, we will be doing fantastic financially. We will continue to live below our means, cut expenses on things that we don’t enjoy, spend money on things that we enjoy, and continue to save and invest money.
I’m more than convinced that at some point in this decade, our dividend income will exceed our annual expenses. When this happens, we can choose to work because we want to, not because we have to. Retirement from high tech has some appeals but I also believe that Mrs. T and I will continue to work in some form when we are financially independent. Both of us want to make a difference in our community, so we will probably be focusing more on volunteering work as we get closer to financial independence.
Being from Taiwan myself and Mrs. T from Denmark, the two of us have been talking about moving to both countries and living there for an extended period of time. We aren’t quite sure when we’d pull the trigger but it’s very likely that we will do it at some point over the next decade. We both know that Canada will remain our permanent home.
Writing and maintaining this blog has become a hobby for me, despite the blog generating some side income. I will continue to operate this blog as a hobby rather than an income generator. I have enjoyed expressing my ideas and writing creatively. I have also enjoyed connecting with other like-minded people tremendously. I have really appreciated all the support and kind words I have received from readers and other personal finance bloggers.
Dear readers, what did you accomplish in the 2010’s?