Dividend Account results – 2020

For most folks who are tracking dividends, 2020 has been a crazy year (unlike the rest of the folks?). Yields went up dramatically in the first half – because stock prices crashed. Yields returned to their normal levels, or were lower, because stocks hit the roof! Yield percentage ended up not being the best way to track performance because of the wild swings in stock value – the key was to track the actual dividends paid.

My brokerage account is invested in a Vanguard value fund 100%, so dividends aren’t that much of an emphasis. Still the yield on that was 1.92%, which beat the S&P500 (my Vanguard S&P 500 was yielding around 1.5%). The dividends paid out were slightly higher than last year.

My stretch IRA, which was built to generate dividends, really showed the effects of 2020. The value of the account dropped 12% for the year (I had a lot of REITs), but the dividend was up 5.7% for the year. While their value dropped, they did pay me more income.

Vanguard Stretch IRA
stockDetailsInvestment valueYieldDividend
CSCOCisco Systems$6,712.503.20%$214.50
XOMExxon Mobil$4,122.008.44%$348.00
HRHealthcare Realty$14,800.004.05%$600.00
IBMInternational Business Machines$6,294.005.17%$325.50
ORealty Income Corp (REIT)$12,434.004.31%$536.05
SVCServices PPTYS TR$6,894.002.61%$180.00
MMM3M Company$8,739.502.35%$205.80
UMHUMH Properties$16,291.004.86%$792.00

This was offset by the performance of my 401K, IRAs and Roths. I’ve talked before about my mix, and I dropped my bond allocation for 2020 from 30% to 20%. This appears to have hit my dividends, because they are down 8.2% for the year (about $2k). Yet the gains in the funds for the year are up 8.3% (over $100K) – so I think I made the right choice reducing my bond allocation.

Overall, I received about $957 less in dividends in 2020 vs. 2019. Again, I think the change in bond allocation affected this – which probably means my dividends will drop further in 2021 since I’m getting out of bonds. We will see.

  Variance in Value 2020 vs 2019Variance in Dividend
Vanguard Brokerage $57,743$1,079
Vanguard Stretch IRA ($16,107)$279
401K $10,673$207
Deferred Investments $6,940($214)
TRowePrice IRA $16,059($935)
TRowePrice Roth IRA $28,586($440)
Vanguard IRA $33,773($1,307)
Vanguard Roth IRA $34,004$735

As I have stated previously, I use this account to experiment and look to see how I might use a lump of cash to generate income. In the book “Power of Zero” they point out that if you keep your income below a certain threshold, dividends and capital gains are tax free. That is going to be one of my goals for my retirement, to keep my taxes very low.

How did everyone else do with the dividends in 2020?

Mr. 39 Months

Goals/Objectives for 2020 – How did I do?

Now that I’ve gone through the financial side of my “end of year checklist”, its time to review the goals for 2020 and see how I’ve done. I’ve done the goal setting posts before and gone over my 2017-2019 goals in previous posts. As for most people, 2020 was a mixed bag. Surprisingly, most of the finance goals were accomplished, but for the non-financial goals, it was a mix. As I stated before, as the FIRE gets you, you end up with a lot of the finances on auto-pilot, and then you really start to concentrate on what really matters.

For 2020, my financial goals reflect that we are closing in on “coming in for a landing” and need to adjust for that. We continue contributing to the match on our 401K and the max on our Roth IRA, but we’ve shifted a lot of our investments to post-tax, so that we can have more flexibility when we retire early. We started that in 2019, and kept it up.

Officially, I’m 6 months past the original date I set in the blog. When I run the numbers, I believe we have achieved FI, even with the reduced returns that our financial advisor has. Like so many others, I’m starting to rethink actually leaving at that time. No so much because I need the funds (although that would be nice) but because I still enjoy some aspects of the work, and may not be ready to jettison it. I think what is more likely is that I’ll depart at some point, but continue to work on “side hustles” off to the side for some time.

So what about 2020?


  • Save $28K in tax-advantaged accounts (saved over $75K in 2019 – but a lot of that was in the Deferred). 401K, and Roth IRA. Grade A –  $29,311
  • Save $41K in regular accounts (compared to $5K in 2019). As I noted above, we’re going to be taking about $3K per month and sticking it in regular investing, after paying taxes on it versus putting it in pre-tax with the company’s deferred. Starting to build that bucket of funds we’ll need prior to hitting age 65. Grade A – $43,100
  • Increase dividend income from all accounts to $30K/year (compared to 29K in 2019). Grade C – $28,912
  • Passive income covers 38% of base living expenses in retirement, estimated at $78K per year (previously, I was using $72K, but after meetings with our finance guy and Mrs. 39 Months, the budget ended up being $78K).  My long-term goal is to get my dividend/passive income up to where it covers over 100% of my expected retirement living expenses, so my investments can continue to grow. Grade B- 37.1%
  • Beat net worth growth rate of 6% (it was +20.1% in 2019 with the stock market run up). This is my historical growth rate for the last 10+ years, so I want to beat my average. As I stated earlier in January, I’m expecting the market to be flat this year, since we jumped up so much in 2019. Grade A: +14.6%


  • While not getting a membership, I want to attend six (6) of my local real estate investors association meetings this year. I’ll probably join permanently in2021. They hold a regular monthly meeting, a monthly meeting for new investors, and a monthly meeting for my specific county. All three could be interesting. Grade A: Attended 8
  • Double the number of blog visitors in 2020. Last year it was a little over 6,000. I want to get at least 12,000 this year, so I need to put myself out there more (i.e. comment) and write interesting topics. My thanks to everyone who stopped by, and I try to return the favor, and comment as well. Grade F – decreased by 19% from 2019
  • Create TKD Woodworking (my side-hustle name) with an LLC, website, finance tracking, etc. Sort of a trial method for running businesses. Grade A – Created business
  • Make $1,000 in sales (not necessarily profit) on items with TKD woodworking. Grade F – no sales
  • Write/publish a book on finance.  I wrote one for new graduates in 2017, but I have identified an area of the community which hasn’t been served as well in the past. Hopefully I can assist with something here.  I’ve got the first five chapters outlined/partially done, but still have a ways to go. Grade F


  • Increase weight lifted by 10% from 2019. Was able to exceed this in 2019, need to continue to push it. Incomplete. Chinese Virus killed gyms, didn’t get back in
  • Average 2 hours of cardio per week, which is about what I’m doing now.  Grade B: Completed, but mostly daily walks. No intense cardio
  • Backpack over 90 miles on AT (did around 80 miles in 2019). The trail that I haven’t hiked is getting further and further away, making it impossible to do weekend trips. Going to get harder. Grade D: 58.1 miles
  • Continue volunteering at Pennsbury Manor at their joiner’s shop (woodworking). Really enjoyed this. Incomplete. Site shutdown due to Virus
  • Reduce weight by 20 lbs. from Jan 2019 (lost 2 lbs. in 2018). Again, I want to get in better shape as I get closer to financial independence. Grade D. Only lost 8 lbs and I think at least half of this is muscle
  • Read at least one book a month. I surpassed this goal in 2018, and re-learned the joy of reading.  Grade A. 23 books


  • Visit three national parks (that is the plan, right now); Incomplete due to virus
  • Visit family in Tennessee, Vermont and New York. Family is very important to me. One of the things I am looking forward to with financial independence is the opportunity to visit family more often. Need to get up to see my brother in Vermont. Grade C – Visited Vermont and Tennessee, but didn’t get up to NY
  • Take a week at the shore and just relax with family. Currently planned for July, but we’ll see how many family members can come. Incomplete due to virus
  • Visit Ellis Island. Still want to do this – its so close. As 50% Czech from immigrant great grandparents from the turn of the century, I believe they went through there, and I want to see it Incomplete due to virus

So those are my somewhat ambitious goals for 2020. I am going to do my best to hit them, so wish me luck.

Other Bloggers:

What are your goals for 2021?

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Mr. 39 Months

OK, I’m out!

That’s it – I’m moving out of my bond funds!

As many of you know, I changed by allocation at the beginning of the 2020 to reduce my bond portion from 30% to 20% of my portfolio. My reasoning was that the US Fed was keeping rates for borrowing low, so the yield I could expect from fixed assets would be low.

Of course, my timing sucked (as usual) and within 2 months of purchasing more stocks, the market tanked and the bonds became more valuable. Still, I held my course and even rebalanced In July, selling bonds and purchasing underpriced stocks – even though the market wasn’t going anywhere. That is why I have been very happy with the Nov/Dec. recovery

The US Federal Bank continues to keep rates low. The yield on the 10-year treasury is running at 0.947%! Thus, if you loan the fed $100, at the end of the year, you will have made $0.95. In ten years, you will get back $109.89. How can anyone make money in this?

So, with the S&P 500 paying a 1.6% dividend, and my Income account paying 4.19% dividends for the year, my thought is that I am going to take those bond funds in my 401K/IRAs, and convert them to mutual funds that focus on Dividend growth. For 2020, my bond funds returned about 2.2% growth and 3.0% in dividends – total of 5.2%

For my IRA/401K/Mutual Funds, I’m looking at three funds:

  • Wife’s IRAs (Trowprice): PRDGX (Dividend growth) – 13.93% 1 year / 14.49% 5 year
  • My IRAs (Vanguard): VDADX (Dividend Appreciation Index) – 15.46% 1 year/ 14.92% 5 year
  • My 401K/Deferred: VIMAX (Mid-Cap, my company does not offer a dividend growth fund, and I’m already invested in S&P500, small cap and international here) – 18.24% 1 year/ 13.28% 5 year

The plan here would be to use my rebalancing step, which I normally do in early January, to shift out of bonds and move into these new dividend growth stock funds. I’ll try and do that later this week.

Of course, knowing how well I time things, I’d expect a major market correction/crash shortly after I do this – so you’ve been warned.

So what changes are you guys making at the start of the year?

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Mr. 39 Months

What do you do at the beginning of the new year?

So it seems everyone has their own method/ideas for closing out the old year and starting the new one. There are “new years resolutions” and lists of financial and personal decisions to review and update. I find this time of year fascinating on the FIRE blogs, because you really get a chance to see where people are, how their decisions throughout the year “panned out” and what their thoughts on for the new year. Hopefully you’ll write and share yours.

For me, I typically start out my review where I’m most comfortable – the numbers! As an engineer and a FIRE guy, I enjoy looking at my spreadsheets and investments to see where I am and to plan for the future. So what do I do with my finances?

  1. Update Investment status: I track my investments monthly, and at the end of the year, I determine, for each investment, its overall growth and its percentage in my overall portfolio.
  2. Calculate dividends: I also take the opportunity for each investment to determine its dividend yield and the amount of “passive” income it has thrown off. I use this for planning the potential for retirement income in the future.
  3. Individual Investment Performance: Determine if I need to sell/buy new investments, based on performance.
  4. Updated Net Worth: Adding all of this together with my real assets (home, cars, side hustle) and our liquid assets (checking & savings) I determine our net worth, and the growth of our net worth in the past year
  5. Determine rebalancing moves/stock sales & purchases: Finally I look at each investment and what its overall percentage is in the portfolio – and then determine if I need to buy/sell items to bring everything in line (I also rebalance in the middle of the year).

With all this done, I have a better idea of where we are financially, and where we are in relation to our goals.

At this point, I turn to the “softer” items on my new year review

  1. Review previous years goals: In addition to financial goals, I’ve got a long list of goals that I was working on (fitness, reading, traveling, visits to family, etc.) I try to put real numbers or performance measures on each, so I can actually grade myself on accomplishing/not-accomplishing them.
  2. Review 5-minute journals from past year for insight: Like so many others, I use a journal on a daily basis to write about my thoughts and feelings (I use the five-minute journal). I go back and review my writing for any insights.
  3. Go through “Year End Review” list of question: I have a “year end review” list of questions I picked up from my reading that I do at the beginning of the year, that I reflect back on weekly. The idea is to answer these questions and reflect on them
  • Identify 20% of people, projects or ideas which provided 80% of enjoyment/powerful emotions for 2018
  • Identify 20% of people, projects or ideas which provided 80% of stress/pain/powerful emotions for 2018
  • Try and spot patterns from #1 and #2; Determine action steps to increase #1 and reduce #2:
  • Identify Three things to add to my life
  • Identify Three things to remove from my life
  • Ask folks close to you, what you should do more of and what should you do less of?
  • Start putting stuff into the calendar. If it is on the calendar, we will do it
  • Questions from “Happy Money”.
    • For Purchases, “how will this affect my use of time”
    • “How will I use this thing on Tuesday night”
    • $100 to most increase happiness?
    • $500 to increase happiness?
    • $1000 to increase happiness?
    • Take 20% of liquid cash, how would you apply it to increase your quality of life?

I then set new goals for new year: Based on all this, I go and set new goals for the year, and then post them where I can reflect back on them regularly

So what do you do for your year-end review?

Other Bloggers on the topic

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Mr. 39 Months

TKD Woodworking – How did we do?

Well, it appears I sure picked the wrong time to start a new business/side hustle!

I’ve written several articles previously on my attempts to start a side hustle with my woodworking

So, the year is coming to an end, and its been interesting. As you might expect, sales did not exactly go according to plan. My sales for 2020 were $0. I believe that reflects a lack of marketing on my part.

My initial plan was to use craft shows and farmer’s markets to sell my products. As you would expect, once the virus hit, this got hit hard. In my area, they’ve had no craft shows, and the farmer’s markets have opened up with reduced volume and lots of requirements. So my major source of potential sales dried up.

I sought to use online sources (ebay, etsy, etc.) but the competition on there is pretty fierce (I’m competing in some cases with overseas low labor, and its hard to differentiate my quality online vs. folks being able to see/touch it). That competition only ramped up higher with the virus.

So here are the end-of-year financials for TKD Woodworking:

Income Statement

Sales Revenue$0.00
Cost-of-Goods Sold Expense($1,505.91)
Gross Margin($1,505.91)
Operating Expenses($951.52)
Earnings before interest and Income Tax($2,457.43)
Interest Expense$0.00
Earnings before income tax($2,457.43)
Income Tax Expense$0.00
Net Income($2,457.43)

So as you can see, I’m spending about $1K a year just to stay in business (insurance, business registration, etc.) The remainder of the money if for wood, hardware and finish, which I will hopefully get back once I can start selling items.

Balance Sheet

Accounts Receivable$0.00
Prepaid Expenses$0.00
Subtotal of current assets$2,421.78
Property, plants and equipment$0.00
Accumulated Depreciation$0.00
Cost less accumulated depreciation$0
Total Assets$2,421.78
Liabilities and Owner’s Equity 
Advanced payments from Customers$0.00
Accounts Payable$0.00
Accrued Expenses Payable$0.00
Short-term notes payable$0.00
Subtotal of current liabilities$0.00
Long-term notes payable$1.00
Total Liabilities$1.00
Owner’s Equity – invested capital$2,421.78
Owner’s Equity – retained earnings$0.00
Total Liabilities and Owner’s Equity$2,421.78

For the Balance Sheet, I had to add about $500 into the company’s account in mid-December (if the cash in my checking account drops below $1,500, they start charging me a fee every month.

Overall, I’m disappointed in sales not being able to at least cover the operating expenses. With the items I’ve built, I think I’ll be in a good enough position to recover in 2021. I’ve got one other item that I want to make some of, and then I will probably stop until I can actually start selling product.

Let’s all hope 2021 is a good year!

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage

Dec 26, 2020

  1. Why I joined, then left, the FIRE movement (The financial diet); The writer has several thoughts on militant folks and FI, but I believe she misunderstands most of the folks in it.
  2. Ten ways to lower your taxes (physician on fire); Many to get done before the end of the year.
  3. Top 5 reasons to retire with less than 25 years of expenses (passive income); The key point here is that you can alter your income (i.e. earn more) and your expenses.
  4. Cash-on-Cash return – the most important calculation in investing (the physician philosopher); Simple method and lets you see effects of different investing options.
  5. Too Thrifty? (Humble Dollar); “You shouldn’t live life always thinking about your future self.”
  6. The journey to one million (banker on fire); Lessons learned along the way
  7. Is successful investing about good luck or hard work (mindfully investing);
  8. Measure Twice, Cut Once (A reader’s story) (the retirement manifesto); Breakdown of a couple’s plans for retirement in 2024, with spending, income, and emotional health comments. Good read!
  9. Your Lifestyle has already been designed (raptitude); Interesting article on how your lifestyle is pushed by marketing and sales professionals. /
  10. Merry, Bright and On Budget (Budget Life List); Story of staying on budget for Christmas shopping
  11. Be Happy as you Want to be (My tipid Tips); Good message for the holiday season

Do you have a SHTF plan?

For many folks, the advent of Covid played havoc with their work status, with layoffs, reduced hours, or just getting let go/company failing. This isn’t fun, and the economic fallout from the Chinese Flue hasn’t ended yet. The number of people who have chosen this time to retire (or had the time chosen for them) is large, and probably growing. Even if you don’t assume a virus causing havoc, you should still have a “S&$t Hits the Fan” plan. You never know when your company may fail (Enron?) or a change in management happens which causes job changes.

The first step is to try and understand how much money you may receive, both upon being let go, for the next several months, and then beyond.

  1. Vacation time: Check to see how much vacation time you have remaining. If you do, you’ll get paid this out with your last paycheck.  
  2. Severance/Separation Package: Its possible that the company letting you go  will provide you with a package, depending on your years of service. I’ve seen as much as 1-2 years, though the standard appears to be one weeks pay for every year of service. This package could also include medical care for a period of time, or other benefits.
  3. Unemployment: In the US the have unemployment insurance, which pays a percentage of your income (up to a certain max). As a US worker, you pay into that with your paycheck every week, so its not exactly “free money.” I’ve been paying into it for 30+ years, so I don’t feel guilty collecting it. The unemployment period can be up to 26 weeks, though it has been extended to longer in times of extreme distress for the US economy.
  4. Personal Investments: Its possible that your investments (dividends, real estate, etc.) is already paying you and income stream. Take this into account as well.

Now its time to look at your expenses. Are there specific expenses that you can cut out in order to reduce the outflow? Is there additional expenses that will hop up due to your being let go?

  1. Possible expenses reduced/eliminated: Investments (401K, IRA, other), Gas, Dining, Charity, Hobbies, etc.)
  2. Expenses that may go up: Medical. In the US, you are eligible for COBRA insurance, which is where you can continue to get your former companies health insurance – but it will cost more, as you are paying for your co-pay and the company’s share

Once you’ve got an idea of what your inflow and outflow is, you have some idea of how long you can last until you have to really start dipping into your retirement/other funds. The key is to do this sort of planning well ahead of time, so that when SHTF, you don’t have to react entirely with emotion.

Example SHTF plan:

Remaining Vacation$4,348.79
Unemployment (26 weeks)$20,306.00
Cobra (12 months)($16,961.36)
Remaining Funds$25,088.59
Monthly after-tax income$2,090.72
Property Taxes($534.47)
Insurance (home, auto, life, flood)($297.76)
Other expenses($300.00)

As you can see, there is sufficient funds in the SHTF plan above, primarily due to a generous amount of unemployment for 26 weeks. Based on this, you could last 9-12 months before having to pull money out of your investments. Hopefully this will help you find another source of employment. Of course, the benefit of keeping your expenses low and paying off your debts/mortgage dramatically help here.

Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me yet, but I will say that I am expecting it in 2021. They’ve moved several new, young engineers into my group and are starting to train them in areas that have been my specialty. My assumption is that when the time is right for them, management will let me go. Since we’re in OK financial shape right now, I’m not fearing it – I’m just hanging out, doing work I enjoy, and collecting the paycheck till they make the decision.


Hope your holidays are going well!

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage

Dec 19, 2020

  1. How American Invests (Vanguard.com); Long report with detailed data on how Americans have invested in 2020. Good read if you can get through it.
  2. A case for claiming social security early (ESI Money); This analysis is based more on folks who have their retirement already funded – what to do with their Social Security? In this case, it may be best to claim early.
  3. Using Leverage and Passive Income to achieve FI (Physician on Fire); using the leverage of your knowledge & experience, financial strength and time to invest in other people’s deals and hit your goals. Interesting idea.
  4. Friday Frugal Five (Tread Lightly Retire Early). Every week this site goes over five ways they’ve been frugal, including home cooking, walks in a national forest (vs. expensive vacations), etc.
  5. Three reasons it might be better to rent in 2021 (the simple dollar); I’ve noted that with the 2017 changes to the tax laws reducing deductibility, it often is better to rent vs. buy, as long as you invest the difference.
  6. How to start your financial life (a wealth of common sense); Good podcast on what you need to do starting out.
  7. Repairing a damaged 570 credit score up to 820 (budgets are sexy); Goes through story of a guy, how a credit score is calculated, and the steps he took to raise hi score over time. Entertaining reading!
  8. Seven Decluttering tips from the Minamalist home (Becoming Minimalist); Mrs. 39 Months would never agree to any of these. 9
  9. Fun, Frugal Toys you can make at home to save and entertain (financial Samurai); The kid always plays more with the box….
  10. How are normal people supposed to save for retirement (tony isola); The age old complaint – its only special folks who can achieve FIRE or retire
  11. Seven takeaways from my second year of FIRE (mina fi)

Do you use Robinhood?

Robinhood is a “Commission-free trading platform” which is fairly user friendly, especially with phone applications. Since its inception, it has been surrounded by a lot of controversy. The idea of commission free trading brings up the question “how are they making money?” Their level of service has been spotty (at best) and at key moments, the site has shut down or not let people make trades which may have cost them significant money. They’ve had a lot of legal issues as well, further confusing the issue.

The solution to many of these issues is a simple one. As laid out by the Motley Fool, the solution is to use the application to invest, not the try and time the market (i.e. don’t use it to day trade). Robinhood plays up its ease of trading, but its performance in quick trades has been poor. However, its ability to make stock trading easier to start is laudable.

I was thinking about this after reading an article by evidence investor about “Why most robinhood traders get lousy returns.” The article pretty much lays out that people are using it to day trade, not invest for the long-haul, and are thus using having their emotions drive their investing decisions. It’s a good article and worth a read.

I personally don’t use Robinhood. Most of my investments are in mutual funds/ETFs. I gave up stock picking (I sucked at it) and chose just to stick with those. I’ve heard it said that it really doesn’t matter that much getting the optimum return – its getting started with regular investing and sticking with it. In that sense, if Robinhood gets you to do that, it can be a worthwhile option.

Hope your holidays are going well!

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage

Dec 12, 2020

  1. Start meeting your Money Goals with a Yearly Budget plan (Cash for Tacos); A good place to start if you are just getting started on the FIRE trip
  2. How Large Money Managers Control our Economy (Economic Liberties); Really something to be concerned about going forward
  3. The difference between 10-yr and 20-yr student loans (Simple Dollar); Payment schedule and effects of 10 vs 20-year
  4. Paying yourself first – 6 ways to automate your financial life (Physician on Fire)
  5. When’s the right time to sell (the irrelevant investor); Some good points on how to analyze when to sell a stock you have
  6. Average American debt by Generation (DQYDJ); Kinda sad that folks are in that much debt.
  7. FIRE: A few things I’ve learned along the way (financial bodyguard)
  8. What to expect from Early Retirement (Freedom is groovy); Looking forward to some of these, and interesting in how to deal with some of the others.
  9. How we minimize our Big 3 Expenses (Retire by 40); Housing, Transportation and Food.
  10. The Mad Retirement Rush of 2020 (Retirement Manifesto); Some of its forced retirement, some of its voluntary
  11. Myths and misconceptions about financial independence and early retirement (Get Rich slowly)