2020 Year in Review

Every year, I write out a summary of my year. Key events, experiences, lessons, and anything else that comes to mind. It’s my opportunity to review my behaviour, progress, situation, and any aspect of my life I find interesting.

While I write posts about my personal goals and progress, this is more of an account of what happened throughout the year. I like to do this to reflect, think about, and document some of the more interesting moments of my life.

2020 was a very different year, but throughout all the challenges, I feel that it was one of my best years yet!

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was essentially no travel apart from small trips to Adelaide and around Canberra. I was also working full-time from home from March to November – which I loved!

This time at home allowed me to focus more on things that I wanted to achieve. And throughout 2020 I was working hard to create content for Nathan Challenges Life – through my website, social media, and YouTube.

I found the whole stay-at-home thing really good. I love being at home and working on all my things, and there is so much to do! I can happily spend days inside without even wanting to go out (apart from working out), so this really hasn’t been a challenge for me.

Given my end goal of achieving financial independence, and thinking about what I want to do with my time, I signed up for a Master Trainer course with the Australian Institute of Fitness so I could get a head start on being a personal trainer and getting the experience I needed. I’ve thought that perhaps closer to retirement, I could coast into early retirement by doing personal training part-time. So when better to start gaining experience than right now! I signed up for the 6-month part-time course delivered completely online (due to COVID), and I thought this was an amazing opportunity, so a month before it started, I decided to enrol and give it a shot. The course turned out to be amazingly fun and a really great way to learn – it was about 8-10 hours per week on top of everything else I was doing, but I found the whole experience really good. It also included trainer experience hours in a real gym, so that experience with Jake was so good – I learnt more in those 20 hours than I did throughout the whole course. I don’t miss the uni life of always having assignments and homework to do. The course went from July to December, and I am now fully qualified as a personal trainer! I also ended up winning the champion award for the top student of the class so that was pretty great! And at the end of it, in December I spoke with my local gym and they may have an opportunity for me to fit into a casual position in 2021 – which is awesome! My plan for 2021 is to start up my own mobile PT service in Canberra – where I can drive to people’s houses and train them. I’ll see how it goes with a possible casual position at the gym, but I’d definitely like to get into this space, and in the future, have the resources to set up my own home/garage gym.

Nathan Challenges Life

I created Nathan Challenges Life to record my experience going through 30-day challenges. I also expanded this to include my thoughts and progress on my goals and towards financial independence. I’m doing this for my own personal interest, and also to be transparent with my financial situation and actively show whoever wants to see it, exactly how I plan to reach financial independence and my progress each month until I reach it.

This is always what was missing from whenever I read a blog about personal finance – not seeing the actual numbers! I hope that anyone who reads my posts finds some inspiration for themselves or even just recognises that it is possible if you are determined and keep consistent.

My year started off with a 30 day challenge waking up at 5am. And from then on, I’ve gone on to complete 11 30-day challenges over 2020, which you are able to see here: https://nathanchallengeslife.com/home/

I’ve enjoyed everything about my website, writing blogs, posting on social media, and interacting with anyone who comments or messages me asking a question or is just interested about what I do. I’ve learnt heaps throughout the process, and I can’t wait to see how much everything grows over the years.

By doing these 30 day challenges, I’ve been able to finally create a YouTube channel, Nathan Challenges Life. I’ve always wanted to make a YouTube channel but I could never think of the right topic / niche for myself. I’m glad I decided to push hard towards YouTube because I’ve found a whole new area in which I have a lot of interest. I love making videos, the process, thinking of cool ideas, different camera angles, writing scripts, editing videos, making voice overs, and everything else required.

What I have found interesting is that I am so much more confident having started it. I started making videos with a voice over as I didn’t feel comfortable showing my face on camera. After 6 months of doing this, and filming myself for my videos, I decided to film myself on camera, talking directly to the camera rather than doing a voice over. I loved it. And I felt so comfortable doing it (I still sweat from my head pretty easily, and find it hard to breathe normally when I speak, and most of all find it almost impossible to say a sentence of words without messing it up, leading to more sweating and recording 30 minutes for a video that is only planned to be 6min worth of talking). I’m slooowly getting better at it, but I’m really liking it. Fun fact, the first video with me speaking to the camera is actually my most popular video (to be fair, the topic is very searchable).

YouTube has been a whole new game to learn. From catchy titles to tags, thumbnails, keeping viewers entertained, and everything else that goes into it. I’m still learning something every day, and slowly getting more proficient at it. Editing has been amazingly fun to learn (but very time consuming).

There is still so much more I want to do with this platform and this brand. I feel as thought there is a lot of avenues I could still explore to grow this and to make it more appealing to a wider audience. More to come in 2021.

Health / Fitness / Wellbeing

2020 was the year that I planned to reach my goal of 15% body fat once and for all. In early 2020 I participated in an 8-week challenge from my local gym, and managed to go from 22 to 18% body fat – a great start but not the results I hoped for. Throughout the year, with gyms closing, I found it hard to stay motivated. Then in September 2020 I had my ACL reconstruction surgery that was in the works for the past few years – and with that I thought there goes my chance of reaching my goal. The gym happened to have another 8 week challenge that started literally a few days before my ACL surgery… but I decided to give it another shot and work my hardest. At the end of November, working super hard on my meal plan, I managed to drop from 18% down to 14% body fat! Smashing my goal and finally achieving the result I wanted. I still can’t believe it – and I’m so happy that I was able to push through the challenges. I was also able to come runner-up at the challenge at my gym, so I won a free singlet, towel, drink bottle, and a bottle of champagne!

I’m recovering remarkably well from my ACL surgery, surprising the physio and the PTs at my gym. I’m back to my strength before surgery and slowly getting back into running. I was thinking of running a marathon in 2021 and beating the sub 4-hour mark, but I may push that out to 2022 and really focus on building strength and muscle in 2021 instead.

I’m feeling stronger and my physique is the best it has been since starting my weightlifting journey in 2013. There are still a lot of areas for improvment, but I’m happy with my progress so far. Consistency is literally the #1 key in terms of gaining muscle, losing fat, getting stronger, and anything else to do with your physical body. Definitely something to work on for myself.

Wealth / Finances / Money

2020 was an amazing year for me in terms of finances and wealth creation. I am fortunate to have a very stable and ongoing position for work, which allowed me to earn a stable, and growing income throughout the year. This, combined with being restricted by the pandemic on travel, really allowed me to save and invest as planned.

I finished the year with a 39% savings rate, and I grew my investment portfolio to ~$68,000 and my net worth to almost $100,000. The table below shows the components of my net worth.

I am really pleased with how I was able to grow my wealth throughout 2020. I don’t feel like there was a lot more that I could do, I was trying to save as much as possible, while also still having fun and trying out new things.

In 2020, I’m planning on working on a few other avenues to create more income outside of my full-time job. This will include growing Nathan Challenges Life, working on side-hustles, and starting my own personal training business with my new PT qualifications.

My Australian portfolio (the portfolio I am growing to eventually retire with), saw some really good growth. I didn’t quite hit my goal of $70,000, but I got very close. Some of this total value does include my house deposit which will be taken out when required, so I’ll need to catch-up a bit when the time comes. My calculations towards financial independence are working with roughly a 6% annual return. As you can see below, my annual return for 2020 was 14.5%. Incredibly happy with that, especially as the market only returned 1.1%.

My portfolio is roughly 80% exchange traded funds, and 20% individual companies. I’ve had good success with this balance this year, I’m unsure how it will go in 2021, but hopefully my return stays above 6%.

In 2021, I really want to accelerate my progress towards financial independence, and focus on earning more income. I’ve got a couple of areas I would like to improve upon which can make that happen, such as getting monetised on YouTube and creating a PT side business, as well as any other ideas that come to mind (such as uploading designs to Red Bubble).

Career

I was still in the same position as I was from mid-2019, which I enjoy. However, in the later end of 2020, I’ve been searching for a new job as I would like a change of topic area. Since working in Canberra, my income has gone from 75k to 85k in roughly 2 years, which I’m really happy about. This income (coming from 45k a year previously), has really helped to improve my financial standing.

I’ve been learning a lot at work, and I’m keen for a new challenge. After completing my trainer experience hours for the PT course, I may end up getting a small casual / part-time job as a PT for a bit of extra income and to also gain more experience in the area of personal training, which will give me more credibility when starting my PT business.

I don’t expect many other changes in 2021 regarding my career. But who knows, maybe my personal training business, and YouTube channel will really kick off, and perhaps I can move to doing them more full time. Only time will tell.

PedalPay

In late 2019, my friend and I launched our cycling-reward service, PedalPay. I had a lot of fun working on expanding this in Canberra and trying to gain awareness. Over 2020, I managed to have PedalPay available in 3 cafes and 1 bicycle store, which allowed cyclists in canberra to redeeem their points from cycling towards a coffee or item from the bike store. There are currently ~65 users on PedalPay.

It didn’t catch on quite as much as I would have thought. This service essentially allows cyclists to earn free money towards coffees and items. I was expecting a much bigger uptake of users and stores. It was a struggle to get some of the shops involved, as the service was new and quite unique. I spent a lot of time promoting through social media and contacting endless stores around Canberra.

While I still really love the idea behind it, I am planning to put this on hold for 2021 as I have a few other competing priorities that I want to pursue. I wasn’t spending as much time as I would have liked towards PedalPay in late 2020 as I had quite a lot of things on. I am grateful that we had the opportunity to try this out. I will be picking this back up in the future, as I still think it has potential, but for the time being, there are other things I would like to devote my time towards.


All of this may seem like I have no spare time at all, but the interesting thing is, even with everything I do, there is still so much time left over. Most of what I do is completed with a small amount of work per day, or a few hours of work on the weekend and in smaller chunks of free time. I’ve come to realise even more clearly than before, that everyone has time to do the things they need to do, it’s just whether you want to sacrifice your time towards it. Instead of watching an episode of a tv series, that’s a solid 20-45 minutes of time you can spend on things you want to accomplish. We all need downtime in our lives to recharge, but if there are things you want to achieve, there are definitely ways you can optimise your time and day. While the later end of 2020 was very busy for me, I will have a bit of extra time throughout the week in the new year – which I will allow myself to relax and be worry-free.

I’m still in the process of writing out my goals for 2021 and trying to think about what I truly want to achieve by the end of the year. I have a lot of plans, and I’m extremely excited to see how everything goes. 2020 was a very interesting year, and through it, I have found new and exciting things to pursue.

Hope you enjoyed the above summary of my year, there is a whole lot more I could include, but for now, I’ll leave it as that.

Have you ever written a year in review? I’d highly recommend it!

Happy 2021!!!

Nathan

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