2022 Report: A Year of Renewed Growth

Jan 09, 2023

As we continue to put the worst of the pandemic behind us, I just wanted to reflect on the year that 2022 has been.

While it was not a great year for my VTSAX retirement portfolio, the silver lining was that I was able to use my travel hacking skills again to start exploring the world. All those points and miles had laid dormant for way too long as the world dealt with the global health crisis. 

It was also a good year for the Foundation, as we continued to help more people improve their financial lives.

Here is the break down of our 2 existing programs, FI 101, and the PreK-12 Curriculum, as well as an overview of our financial health. I am proud to say that we again managed to stretch every dollar that was gifted to the Foundation.

2022 in review

As we begin this review, I generally like to take a step back at a metric we started tracking in 2021.

This is an approximation that takes into account how much we spent in a year, and divides that by the number of people who signed up for one of our resources.

Together, that gives us a rough but useful gauge as to how much it cost for us to help a new person discover financial literacy.

That number for 2022? 

$1.66 to help others discover financial literacy

Here are the relevant numbers.

In 2022, we received $27,366.41 (after deducting PayPal fees) in donations. Our annual expense was $8,115.33, or around $676 a month (see chart below).

We reached a total of 4,900 new people (see the next 2 sections for the breakdown by resource), which works out to around $1.66 per user.

A little more than the $1.58 from before, but still not bad during these inflationary times.

Here are more details:

Financial Independence 101

In 2022, 3,415 new people signed up for and completed the donor-supported Financial Independence 101. That was a 61.2% increase from 2021's base of 5,584.

In total, the FI 101 course has helped more than 20,000 people improve their financial well-being since we launched it in 2019. 

Here are some of the testimonials that course graduates have left us:

 

"Thank you for sharing this pathway to FIRE. Having been frugal all my life, without guidance, this course was. Full of solid action steps to take to make better intentional decisions."

- Anne H, after completing the entire FI 101 course.

 

"It is much simpler than I feared. It is a daunting number, but I'm ready to get there. It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint."

- Shannon M, upon reviewing the The 4% Rule of Thumb section.

 

"I am grateful to the ChooseFI team for sharing about I-bonds that I purchased last year. This time, May 2022, you could also invest up to $10,000 with >9% interest! I mean...it is just one more way to earn interest on your money instead of paying a financial advisor for their 'help'!"

- Kateryna M, who took action after completing the Common Sense Investment Strategies unit.

If you know someone who might need a course like this to help repair their financial health, please invite them to sign up for the free course. It will make all the difference to their futures, and costs them nothing. 

PreK-12 Financial Literacy Curriculum

2022 saw about 1,450 educators access the Foundation's financial literacy curriculum for students ranging from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. In my report from last year, I had said that these educators are incredible force multipliers in bringing financial literacy to future generations. I still feel the same way!

The 2022 numbers represent a respectable increase from 2021, with most grade levels growing by around 30-35%. Here is the breakdown :

Curriculum Level

2021 totals

2022 totals

% Increase

Pre-Kindergarten

879

1,077

22.53%

Kindergarten

454

614

35.24%

1st Grade

373

518

38.87%

2nd Grade

306

395

29.08%

3-5th Grades

716

967

35.06%

6-8th Grades

734

979

33.38%

9-12th Grades

1,235

1,645

33.20%

Reflecting back on our goals for 2022

In my report last year, I had stated that we were looking to double the number of people that we helped.

Looking at the numbers, while we did fairly well, we nonetheless fell short of our targets. I'd like to explain why.

One of the levers we had planned to pull was to run digital ads to get FI 101 and the FinLit Curriculum in front of a larger audience. And we did go down that path, briefly, with a small test campaign to prove out the idea.

However, while we did see an increase in users, the cost to reach each new user exceeded our expectations, and not in a good way.

I think it had something to do with the mid-term political season in the US, first with the primaries for each party, and then the general elections.

Whether or not that was the case, we suspended the ad campaign since the results we were seeing simply did not meet our frugal benchmarks. We will give the digital ad idea another shot in Q2 of 2023. 

Looking forward to 2023

Looking forward into the new year, we have three major projects to set us up for success. 

Here they are, in a nutshell:

Military FI

When I first approached Brad and Jonathan about setting up this foundation, one of the main objectives I had was to create a set of resources to help those in the military with their financial well-being. As you might have noticed, we abandoned that effort during the pandemic. 

Well, in 2022, we finally regrouped and got cracking.

Led by Stephen Heptig and Crystal Agbalog, we built an instructor-led military FI curriculum designed to be used on-base by leaders for young soldiers, airman, sailors and marines. 

In 2023, one the main tasks is to get that set of resources onto our Learning Management System, as well as to create the marketing needed to get it out to the people who need it.

Improving the plumbing!

Speaking of our LMS, we are also at a crossroads as we may want to leave it altogether. The Kajabi platform was a good one to get started, but we have run into multiple bottlenecks and limitations in terms of being able to more properly targeted learner segmentation and meet them where they are, when they need it.

This is a major endeavor, as it would require help with user interface and user experience, and integration work with website, email and contact management system. Also, a designer would be needed to make the graphics and images we think would be needed to help make the content more helpful to the end user.

We’ve kicked this can down the street since 2021, as it’s a major undertaking, both in terms of time as well as funds. But we think 2023 is the time to finally tackle this important, if unglamorous work.

Thank you to our donors!

2022 started as a somewhat slow year in terms of donations, but it got a shot in the arm in December when one of our community members, W. (they wanted to be anonymous), offered to match up to $5,000 to encourage more people in from the ChooseFI community to donate.

Well that did the trick, and unlocked a torrent of generosity from the community. We handily raised that $5,000 (and more) before Dec 31, and together with W's matching, saw a nice increase to our coffers.

I would like to thank W for the matching idea, and also N.S., who helped cover the gap so we could take full advantage of the $5,000 match.  We also want to thank Shawn, Kyle, and the 42 other people who contributed to make this 11th hour (or is it 12th month?) impromptu fund-raiser such as success.

It's easy to focus in on just the people who gave sizable gifts, but we also want to recognize the people who have contributed smaller amounts every month, year after year. Thank you Patrick D., Wendy LC., and Sarah R. for making the Foundation part of your long term gifting plan!

If you would like to also make a small monthly contribution of $10, here is a link to do so.

Wrapping Up

Despite a couple of very tough years during the pandemic, we thrived by being frugal and judicious in how we allocated our resources.

That's why, looking ahead, we're optimistic.

We're expecting renewed growth in carrying out our mission of helping underserved communities become more financially healthy.

If you would like to help us reach more people, please consider:

1. Share with someone you know the PreK-12 FinLit Curriculum (if they are an educator) or the FI 101 course. Both are absolutely and forever free!
2. Share this post on your personal Facebook or Instagram account.

Thank you all for a great 2022, and onward!