At the beginning of every year, I typically set financial goals for myself. The goals are usually fairly lofty but achievable with the proper discipline and desire.

Although 2009 was a great year for net worth and income growth, there was room for improvement in terms of achieving the financial goals that I set out for myself.  In 2009, I was really focused on career and business growth which pushed a lot of important items onto the back burner as you’ll see from my report below.

Goal 1: Open a TFSA with a discount brokerage and maximize the contribution – As of January 1, 2009 (or a bit later), some discount brokerages will offer a tax free trading account.  We will open 2 accounts, one for each spouse, maximize the contribution ($10k total), and start the TFSA income fund strategy that I’ve written about before.

Right out of the gate, I messed this one up!  As a last minute effort, I managed to open 1 TFSA account (Questrade TFSA) near the end of 2009 after reviewing my financial goals.  Why didn’t I open one earlier?  My original plan was to open a TFSA trading account and purchasing income trusts to increase my passive income.  However, I procrastinated a bit and the markets took off leaving the trusts that I liked a little too expensive.   Now that we have an account funded, I will be on the lookout for attractive income opportunities.

Goal 2: Maximize RRSP Contributions – Due to higher income in 2008, my contribution limit will be higher and I plan to maximize my contribution.  This will do two things.  One, it will put some cash into my RRSP account so that I can buy beaten up equities.  Two, it will reduce my taxable income significantly in 2009.

I am happy about this one as I managed to maximize both of our RRSP accounts for 2009 and generate some growth due to the rising markets.   For those of you who haven’t contributed yet, here is the RRSP contribution deadline for tax year 2009.

Goal 3: Pay Down Mortgage Principal by $20,000 on Top of Regular Mortgage Payments – Seems like a stretch, but in addition to maximizing both the TFSA and RRSP, I plan on paying down the mortgage principal by an additional $20,000.

During 2009, I made the decision to aggressively pay down the mortgage and I’m happy to report that it is working out better than planned.  We started January 2009 with a mortgage balance of $101,200 and as of the end of 2009, the mortgage balance stands at $25,200.  The relatively low remaining mortgage balance is well within striking distance of being completely paid off.

Goal 4: Charity Goals – As charitable giving is becoming more important to our family, we plan on giving at least $3,000 this year to registered charities.  In addition to the financial contribution, we plan on donating at least 30 hours of our time to a local charity that we support.

This past year was a decent year in terms of giving, but didn’t quite meet the bar that I set out for myself.  In terms of monetary donations, we increased our monthly giving to the local children’s hospital, continued our monthly giving to another cause that we support, and we started sponsoring a child through Compassion Canada (thanks to Kathryn for the idea).  Total donated in 2009 is around the $2500 mark.  Not quite the $3000 that I set out for, but I’m pleased none the less.

Donating time to charities, on the other hand, was a bit more challenging.  Even with a hectic schedule, I managed to donate 15 hours this year to a local charity that I support.  I hope to do more in future years.

Goal 5: Blog Goals – The quality of the Million Dollar Journey community never ceases to amaze me.  I hope to continue the strong readership growth of this blog in reaching 7,000 subscribers by the end of the year.

I’m extremely pleased with how this goal panned out.  We started the year with about 4000 subscribers, and thanks to you, we have doubled to over 8000 by the end of 2009. If you are interested in getting daily content updates delivered straight to your email, you can get it here.  Alternatively, you can sign up for the MDJ Money Tips Newsletter which is delivered once or twice a month.  It’s all offered for free of course.

Goal 6: Dividend Income Goals – One of my higher priority goals is to increase my passive or alternative income.  My current Smith Manoeuvre portfolio is paying about $1,000/year in dividends which I plan to increase this year.  Combining both my dividend portfolio along with our TFSA’s, I hope to reach $2,500/year in investment income by the end of 2009.

This is one of the goals which was hinged on setting up a proper TFSA portfolio.  As I explained above, I didn’t get to invest within the TFSA for 2009, so passive income from investments plateaued in 2009.  Although SM portfolio dividends are up to around $1,500 per year which is significantly more than last, it’s still not in the range I want to be.  However, I plan to get more focused on passive income in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

Although the results were positive for the most part, there is room for improvement.  Over all though, I am pleased with the way that 2009 turned out financially.  For those of you who track your financial goals, how did you do in 2009?

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Great work on the mortgage – if I could knock $75k off in one year…well, I would just go ahead and do that! :)

No rush on the TFSA – the contribution amounts aren’t high enough in the first couple of years to make it a priority.

FT – How did you manage to survive while paying $76,000 off your mortgage, maximizing your RRSP & funding your TFSA? It seems unbelieveable, except that having read you for several years now, I know you’re a straight shooter. I’d love to hear more about it.

1) Continue making RRSP contributions for retirement equal to 5% of pretax income.
-Stopped saving for retirement around midyear when I aggressively started saving for a home down payment.
2) Contribute $1400 a month up to May to my Tradefreedom TFSA account, buying under valued stocks (betting on a large rebound by the end of 2009)
-Got a handsome return on my Q1/Q2 investment by the end of year which I put towards the downpayment :)
3) Contribute up to my tax bracket threshold on feb 28 to put into a new account to be used for the HBP in 2010. This account will be low yielding.
-maximized my 2008 RRSP contribution, and came close to maximizing 2009 RRSP contribution. It all went towards home purchase on Jan 4.
4) Starting in May continue contributing $1400 a month to HBP savings account
-see above
5) Total savings rate will be 30% pretax, 40% post tax.
-I came close -> 29% pretax, 40% post tax.
6) Look for cheaper apartment when lease expires in June. Looking for savings of $400 a month
-savings of $450 a month went directly towards down payment.
7) Aggressively monitor spending using Spend app for iPhone.
-This was a huge help to meeting my aggressive savings goals for 2009

FT – I am impressed with your accomplishments in 2009. I’m begining to make the necessary changes in my habits to follow your lead.

When you describe what you’re doing/have done it seems like you have significant cash flow. Out of curiousity, what is your household income?

I applaud your cander publishing your honest goals and how you did against them. Your aggressive debt pay down I think is the single most important thing to do right now, given you have the opportunity with lower interest rates to achieve a major goal that most folks never achieve, so good on you!

Seems cheap to post this twice, but what the heck (I originally posted it back in the post from Jan 09)

Here’s how I did:

My goals – starting from easy to hard.
1. Increase net worth (2008 was brutal).
2. Make a will for wife and myself
3. Contribute $5k into each of 2 TFSAs (hehee, transfers count right?)
4. Finish portfolio restructuring (dump investments with high MERs)
5. Pay $15000 above base payments into mortgage
6. Increase passive income to $2000/month

I did pretty well.
1. Yes – by 24.5% – woo hoo!
2. No – really really got to get this done
3. Yes – about $13500 in there (REITs and income trusts)
4. Yes – only a few mutual funds left – 90% done
5. Yes – paid $16.8k above and beyond our accelerated biweekly payments
6. No – have to rethink this one (I had originally considered rental income as passive). Annual dividend income increased from $3700 to $4900.

Congratulations on the specificity of your goals- I’ll confess mine are fairly vague for this year. As far as 2009 went, I believe I met or exceeded my knowledge goals and put myself on the right path. At a young age, there is always room and time for improvement though…

Financial Goals for 2010:

1. Start writing Financial Goals :)

Admittedly, I often come up with goals but fail to write them down which is detrimental to determining how well I am doing against them. For this year I WILL write down my goals and start tracking my progress against them.

Anyone know of a good “goal tracking” program? I am a very visual person so something that shows a progress bar of some sort would be useful for me.


Why don’t you start by just writing down what your goals are first.

I think it’s pretty hard to plan out what your goals are unless you write it down. If your goal happens to be saving money – then you should definitely take a look at your budget and see what you’re spending. That way you can kind of have a road map and track where your money is going.

I find it best to just use excel.

Good luck :)

I think the reason I keep reading and am so impressed by your blog (now a daily read of mine) is the honesty of the writing. Real life happens and no one is perfect. Your honesty in your writing is appreciated. When it comes to finances I don’t think perfection exists.

Thanks, it’s the honesty in your approach that has started me tracking my own net worth and thinking about setting specific financial goals again.

2009 was great… particularly for my investments. I limited losses in 2008 and then capitalized with my cash on the side by investing in April… I don’t let the media hype get to me.

Great work and great goals.


Great job paying down the mortgage. Fantastic actually!

Just one little thing. Isn’t it a Smith Manoeuvre mortgage? What about the tax refunds helping to pay it down?

I don’t remember all of my goals for last year but I did have a few.

1. Take out a loan for 2009 RRSP contribution for both my wife and myself. I don’t usually do this but the interest rates were so low. And that forced loan payment eliminated the last minute topup.
2. Get another 0% credit card to borrow $20k for only $100 fee good for 12 months. I used this to pay down our SM mortgage.
3. Build a SM portfolio paying $24k in dividends annually. Came up short as some stocks slashed (eg Manulife) or eliminated (eg Teck) their dividends. It is a little more than $20k … for now.
4. Maximize RESP contribution to get the CESG.
5. Maximize RRSP contributions. This we do every year.
6. Open up a TFSA for myself. There wasn’t enough money for both of us. I’ll correct that this year.
7. Implement a monthly cash donation to our local foodbank rather than weekly food donations when grocery shopping.
8. This was temporary when things looked dire early in the year – eliminate ALL discretionary unscheduled spending. We really tightened our belts (which were made from some twine I found).
9. Keep my 14 year old car on the road. That one didn’t work out. The rust was too much. I must say we both love our newer car (it’s a 2005). It even has cupholdera and variable speed wipers and a CD player!

For 2010? Check this space for what is sure to be an odyssey.

FT – congrats on meeting or exceeding your goals of 2009.

I’m especially impressed by your mortage balance effectively being chopped by 75%. Kudos to you sir!

It was fun to read your evaluation of your goals of 2009 and how they panned out. As far as my financial goals for 2009 and how they faired, while I didn’t reach the income I had hoped for, I was still happy that in 2009 I did increase my income, Im looking for more improvement in 2010, which would be a success for me :D

It’s great that you are giving to charity, and putting your own time towards helping out, but I am wondering, and curious bout something… are there any tax benefits by giving to charity? Would be great to know.

Till then,


My goal is to become debt free this year!


sorry for not responding sooner. You have so many commenters I can’t see if I’ve been asked for more info. I got an MBNA car again this year. Last year it was 12 months 0% interest and 0.5% fee for the balance transfer. I negotiated the reduction in the fee.

This year it is 15 months 0% and 1% fee. I received approval for $25k. I’ll put most into TFSAs.

There is a thread at RFD in Personal Finance forum that talks about it. Don’t walk – run!

Hmm, I didn’t do as badly as I thought…

I would like to sell my rental condo to get rid of the debts associated with it and reduce my exposure to the real estate market.
-Could not sell the condo, so we continued renting it with the goal of listing it in May this year.

Finish renovating the main floor of our house, and pay for renovations with cash.
-Pretty close to done, got the hardwood in, so just have to put some baseboards on and a bit of paint here and there.

Set up a TFSA for both my wife and I and put emergency savings and monthly contributions in them.
-Nope, no progress here.

Get a will drawn up for us newlyweds.
-Got this done early in the year.

Grow my self directed RRSP by 20%, not including contributions.
-With contributions, I probably hit the goal, without, not. So did not meet this goal.

Get out of my car lease and buy a cheaper car.
-Sold my leased car to a friend at work and bought a 2000 Accord that was a salvaged rebuild. 7 months and it’s been great!

Increase our net worth by 15%.
Did not meet this goal. NW increased by 9.1%.