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My 3 Biggest Financial Wins of 2023

A happy couple on a couch with receipts and a laptop.

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From a financial standpoint, 2023 was a year full of ups and downs. For example, I encountered issues with my car recently that cost money to fix, and we finally had to replace my husband’s car at just about the worst time to get a new one, given vehicle prices.

On the other hand, a few things went right for me in 2023. But those mostly happened through a massive effort on my part. Here are my three biggest wins for the year — and how I made them happen.

1. Adding more to savings despite a major home repair

This fall, my husband and I had to replace our home’s two heating units. This was an unexpected repair because a year prior, both units had checked out perfectly fine during our annual heating maintenance appointment.

This year, several major issues were uncovered. And given the age of our units, replacing them and getting a 10-year warranty made more sense than sinking thousands of dollars into a repair.

Despite having to dip into our savings account to the tune of $12,000 to cover that repair, my savings managed to grow in 2023. Granted, my balance didn’t grow as much as I would’ve liked it to. But I’ve also been working more hours and taking on extra projects to replenish the $12,000 I removed this fall. And so far, I’ve made good progress.

I won’t be able to put back the entire $12,000 by the end of the year. But if I can get halfway there, I’ll be pretty stoked.

2. Maxing out my retirement plan

Saving for retirement is important to me. It’s also not an easy thing for me to do.

I can accept having to maintain an emergency fund because when you own a home and vehicle, you might need that money in a pinch. It’s harder, in my mind, to deny myself things to free up money for retirement because that milestone is so far away.

But still, I pushed myself to max out my solo 401(k) this year. I’m allowed to open a solo 401(k) since I’m self-employed. In maxing it out, I managed to shield a nice chunk of my income from taxes, so it was actually worth it for that reason alone.

If you’re struggling to find the motivation to save for retirement, you may want to remember that the average senior on Social Security today only gets $1,848 a month. Granted, that number could climb over time. But either way, you probably don’t want to end up having to live off of such a low monthly income, so saving now is the key to financial stability later.

3. Maxing out my HSA and not tapping it despite some costly medical bills

My family switched to a high-deductible health insurance plan last year. And since then, we’ve been able to fund an HSA (health savings account).

Like my 401(k), the money that goes into my HSA is pre-tax. I’m able to shield some household income from the IRS (legally, of course).

But the nice thing about HSAs is that unlike FSAs, or flexible spending accounts, they don’t make you spend down your balance year after year. You can invest your unused funds in a tax-advantaged manner and carry your balance forward into a period of life when you may need that money to cover your medical costs more so than you need it now — like retirement.

A good way to get the most benefit out of an HSA is to contribute funds to shield income from taxes, and then leave that money alone for years to enjoy tax-advantaged growth. I managed to leave my HSA untapped this year even though not just one, but both of my daughters wound up with broken bones that involved expensive orthopedist bills.

Because I had my emergency fund to tap, I was able to leave my HSA intact. And that’s why I’ve been pushing to replenish the money I removed for my heating system repair. Sometimes, making a sacrifice like that allows you to benefit from other savings or investment opportunities.

How did I achieve these wins in 2023?

I’m proud that my savings grew in 2023 despite a massive withdrawal, my retirement plan got fully funded, and my HSA didn’t get touched. But let me be clear: The ability to do all of this really boiled down to me working long hours for the majority of the past 11 months and change.

If you have financial goals you’re looking to meet, cutting your spending may not be enough. You might need to take on a second job to boost your income if your current job only pays you a preset salary. But while working more isn’t easy, to me, it’s worth it for the financial upside. You may easily end up feeling the same.

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