Net Worth Jan 1, 2019

OK, a lot of folks have done postings on their net worth (and how much it took a hit in 2018). I figure I’d join the crew and open up the windows to the folks outside. I know this is a topic of some controversy within the FI community, as some folk’s post their net worth, and some folks are loathe to do it. I believe that the more information folks have, the better they can judge my writings and decisions versus their own.

Like many others, I’ve posted my net worth on Rockstar Finance. So here goes.

Real Assets Value Jan 1, 2018 Value
House $279,809 $289,171
Mrs. 39 Months Car $3,650 $3,981
Mr.39 Months Car $5,251 $4,353
Sub-Total $294,781 $297,505
Liquid Assets Value Value
Family Checking $8,428 $4,014
Family Savings $11,963 $3,673
Mr. 39 Month’s Roth IRA $135,025 $178,199
Mr. 39 Month’s IRA $298,748 $234,647
Mr. 39 Month’s 401K $55,467 $61,732
Mr. 39 Month’s Deferred Savings $56,566 $105,889
Mr. 39 Month’s Checking/Savings $9,249 $8,925
USAA Brokerage Account $53,481 $22,526
Pop’s stretch IRA $135,205 $127,882
Mrs. 39 Month’s Checking/Savings $119,658 $119,658
Mrs. 39 Month’s IRA $162,001 $104,627
Mrs. 39 Month’s Roth IRA $89,448 $135,481
Sub-Total $1,135,238 $1,107,253
Debits Value Value
Home Loan $0 $0
Credit Card bill -$1,288 -$3,240
Auto Loan $0 $0
Sub-Total -$1,288 -$3,240
Net Worth $1,428,730 $1,401,518

Overall, net worth dipped about 1.9% for 2018, and this after pumping in around $87K of money during the year. Needless to say, it wasn’t a “banner year.” However, it’s the first dip in my Net Worth since the 2008 crash, so a good ten year run. Since my growth plans are based on my long term growth rate of 6% (what I’ve averaged over the last 22 years, including the 2000 and 2008 stock dips), I’m still in the ballpark.

Key lessons learned for Net Worth in 2018?

  • Real estate not really jumping up in my area (Southern NJ). My value hasn’t moved much since 2009.
  • Cars have depreciated a lot – but they continue to run well (regular maintenance) so no need to replace anytime soon. Slowly saving up for new ones at some point of time in the future.
  • Roth IRA conversions altered the makeup of my retirement accounts. Will probably due one more $50K conversion, and then let it ride from there. Used money from investment account to pay taxes, so it dipped a lot there.
  • Put aside 25% of paycheck and 100% of bonus to deferred account, so that jumped up significantly over Jan 1, 2018. No taxes paid until I leave work (when it gets paid out as a lump sum). This will end up being a good portion of my year 1 & 2 of FIRE money
  • Credit card bill was from one of our Pet’s emergency medical costs (ouch!). We have the money to pay it off, so no big thing

Overall, while our Net Worth took a slight dip, we will continue with the plan. I believe we are still on track to retire in 18 Months (if we want), or we could retire now if we felt confident in US Social Security.

How did your Net Worth go in 2018?

Other FI Bloggers and their net worth

Mr. 39 Months

Just Like a YoYo

Wow, you go away for a week and the market goes nuts. Down an unprecedented 600 points the day before Christmas? Up 1,000 points the day after Christmas? What is going on?

In my opinion, the market is still unsure of where the economy is going to go in 2019, and there are a lot of scared people running out of the market right now, trying to find safety. This is forcing mutual funds to sell at a prodigious rate, often times having to sell their winners in order to generate sufficient funds. It’s almost a self-perpetuating drop, as each new drop pulls the next group after it. The overall drop was around 20% from the market high, which brought us into “bear” territory. Time to panic and sell?

The problem is, as was just demonstrated with today’s 1,000 point jump, you not only have to get out before it drops and you have to get back in before it starts going back up again! Or you can do what so many good investors do, and don’t worry about it.

Stick to your plan. Invest regularly. Dollar Cost Average. Diversify. Take advantage when folks panic and sell at bargain basement prices to pick up some deals. The mutual funds that folks have shed will be there, ready to jump back up again shortly.

In a previous posting, I talked about the P/E ratio. The P/E ratio had dropped down on Dec 24th to 18.03 – still higher than its mean of 15.73. This was back below its Jan 2014 number. Still higher than its mean though, so we could have more to go before we get back to an average market.

I still have over 18 months to go before I hit my FIRE date. The typical market downturn is 12-24 months, which is why they tell you to have 1-2 years in savings bucket, to weather that storm. So I intend to stay with the plan, and keep investing.

How about you?

Other Bloggers on the topic:

Mr. 39 Months

Well I screwed up…..

 In working through my “Power of Zero” philosophy and plan, which included doing a Roth IRA conversion from my IRAs to Roth (in the hopes of keeping my taxes low to non-existent in retirement) I failed to take into account hitting the limits on who can pay into a Roth.

In order to put money away into a Roth, you have to have a Modified-Adjusted Gross Income(MAGI) less than $135K for singles, and $199K for married couples. Note that it starts phasing out at $120K and $189K. Modified Adjusted Gross Income is before you put in your deductions ($12K and $24K in the US). If you are over these limits, you cannot put money into a Roth IRA. You can put it into a regular IRA, but you can’t deduct the income for tax purposes (so what good is that?)

In this case, I converted over $100K from regular IRA to Roth, and combined with our regular income for the year, its going to push us over $200K. Thus, I am going to have to “claw back” $13K of my Roth contributions for 2018. Uggh!

I have heard that you can invest that into a regular IRA, and then at a later date (since you have already paid the taxes on it) convert it to a Roth with no tax implications. I’m not sure about that, but I am going to investigate it. I’ll let you know at a later date.

So for 2019, if I do a Roth IRA conversion, its only going to be for about $50K, so I can make sure that I stay under the amount. Don’t mess up like I did!

Mr. 39 Months

Budgeting for the next year – when do to it/how to do it?

Typically it is around the middle of December when I start looking at my budget for the next year. By then, I’ve got 11 months of spending under my belt and I have a pretty good idea of what my spend has been. From that, I hope to be able to predict my spending for the following year.

I start off with a short review of the current years financial goals vs. where its looks like I will end up. In this case, while my investments have not done that well (thank you market), I still was able to save over 50% of my salary – the first time I’ve ever done that much! In addition, we remain debt free, and I am 12 months closer to FI. We did dip into our savings account somewhat this year, due to some medical bills (sucks to get into your mid-50s), so our savings account isn’t where I believe it should be.

From there, I try and set my budgetary goals for 2019

  1. Continue to budget to have excess funds for the year (i.e. don’t depend on debt)
  2. Put away more for medical (got caught short this year)
  3. Continue to try and keep my savings rate in the mid-to-high 40% range
  4. Continue to fully fund Charitable spending at the rate I did last year ($400/month)

With that in mind, here is a comparison of my monthly spend for 2018, and my budget for 2019.

Revenue Base 2018 Month Jan-19
$4,543.10 $4,456.42
$0.04 $0.04
Total Revenues $4,543.14 $4,456.46
Expense
Home
Property Taxes ($515.43) ($515.43)
PSE&G ($208.42) ($208.42)
Verizon ($279.15) ($279.15)
Water Bill ($33.55) ($33.55)
Life Insurance ($43.95) ($43.95)
Home/Auto Insurance ($219.79) ($219.79)
Investments ($333.33) $0.00
Groceries ($454.03) ($454.03)
Medical ($334.70) ($334.70)
Roth IRAs ($1,166.67) ($1,166.67)
Savings ($100.00) ($100.00)
Charity ($400.00) ($400.00)
Dining Out ($160.26) ($100.00)
Home Repair ($277.93) ($150.00)
Other ($57.91) ($50.00)
Total Expense ($4,585.12) ($4,055.69)
Operating Revenue ($41.98) $400.77

You will notice a significant chunk of funds being leftover at the end of the month. This is a little misleading, as I get paid every 2 weeks, so every 6 months, I get an extra paycheck. Thus, on a real monthly basis, I’ll be a little in the black until that 6th month. My intention is to dump that extra paycheck into savings to get it back where is used to be.

You’ll also notice that my take home pay actually went down about $100/month. That is because I didn’t take enough out in taxes and didn’t realize it until over halfway through 2018. I’ve corrected it, but the result is $100 less a month in income.

I also have a personal account which I pay myself $1100/month. I use this for paying for my lunch & travel food, gas, hobbies. Etc. I follow the same method to do that one, and plan on coming in each month “in the black”.

Some of the categories may seem outside the norm for FI people (groceries, dining out,etc.) but we intend to live some of life for now. Also, you can see that property taxes are pretty expensive in NJ – and my $6K a year is actually quite low for the state (its typically 2-3 times that).

With this in line, I can now go to my banks and investment sites and set up automatic transfers. I typically track my budget monthly, and make adjustments every 3-6 months, based on how I am doing.

Other articles on budgeting

What are you doing to plan for 2019?

Mr. 39 Months

How did I build my budget?

One of the first steps to getting yourself on course, financially, is to create a budget. Aaahhhh!

I know, many people hate the idea of budgeting, can’t make one, can’t follow one, etc. There are also a large number of FI folks who have been able to move towards FI without keeping strict budgets. However, I would suggest to you that even these people started out by getting a handle on what they were making in $, what they were spending in $, and what the difference was. This is the same as going through the budgeting process and creating a base budget.

I find budgets to be very helpful, though I don’t stick to one religiously. I have an idea of what I’ve spent in the past, build a budget at the beginning of the year, and then track how I am doing against it monthly. Typically I blow past the budget on some items, and under-spend on others. I also adjust as the year goes on, to try to stay within my revenue goals.

So how I go about creating a budget? Like most folks, I started with my actual spending and my paychecks. Remember, the key thing for a budget is to get to where Revenue – Expenses = surplus (what is left over to save/invest). If you are getting a negative number, then you need to either increase your revenue (side hustle?) or decrease your expenses (ex. Cut out the expensive cable bill).

Revenue

Looked at my paychecks and determined my take home pay. I had already adjusted my W-4 (the tax withholding form) with my employer so that I was getting taken out almost exactly what needed to be taken out to not get any money back at the end of the year (i.e. I might owe a little). Why give the government an interest free loan? I also checked how much I was putting into my employee 401K, for reference in tracking my investments. So I knew what I was getting every 2 weeks in pay. I then multiplied that by 26 (# of paychecks in a year) and divided by 12 (# of months in a year) to get a monthly revenue number. After doing all this, I arrived at 3 months of revenue = $15,603.96

Expenses

For this, I turned to my bank and its electronic statements (or you could use the paper statements they can send you). My bank lets you easily download the last 3 months of your bank statements, showing you how much you spent on each transaction, as well as each deposit. With this information I had a key decision to make: How did I want to classify each expense, so that I could determine how much I was spending on it each month? It doesn’t do much good for a budget to have too many categories (it gets hard to track) but you should have enough so that you can make decisions about spending (what to cut back, what to add to, etc.)

After review, I chose the following categories:

  • Home Mortgage
  • Property Taxes
  • Home Insurance
  • Utilities (Gas, electric, water)
  • Phone/Cell Phone
  • Auto Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Groceries
  • Roth IRA investment
  • Charity
  • Vacation Funding
  • Dining Out
  • Home Repair
  • Other (areas that were not easily classified)

With that I created a spreadsheet and determined what I had spent on that for the last 3 months:

Category Expense
  Home Mortgage, taxes, insurance ($5,950.47)
  PSE&G ($839.45)
  Verizon ($686.20)
  Water Bill ($206.50)
  Life Insurance ($131.85)
  Auto Insurance ($366.52)
  Chiropractor $0.00
  Groceries ($1,297.86)
  Disability ($288.90)
  Roth IRAs ($2,750.01)
  Savings ($300.00)
  Charity ($300.00)
  Vacation Funding ($750.00)
  Dining Out ($140.57)
  Home Repair ($203.27)
  Other ($489.01)
Total Variable Expenses ($14,700.61)

So revenue of $15,603.96 and expenses of $14,700.61 gives me a surplus of around $900. OK, a good start. Please note that I gave myself an allowance of $1,000/month for my personal use (gas, lunches & snacks, tolls, etc). This money was already taken out of my revenue above, and I tracked it separately. That is why you don’t  don’t see that in the expenses above.

With that in mind, I created a budget for the remainder of the year that looked like this.

Revenue Budget
Salary from Work $4,733.31
Other $0.00
Total Revenues $4,733.31
Expense
Mortgage ($1,376.29)
Insurance ($83.25)
Property Taxes ($523.95)
Gas & Electric ($313.83)
Phone ($246.14)
Water Bill ($66.50)
Life Insurance ($43.95)
Auto Insurance ($120.78)
Groceries ($378.76)
Roth IRAs ($1,000.00)
Savings ($100.00)
Charity ($100.00)
Vacation Funding ($100.00)
Dining Out ($50.00)
Home Repair ($100.00)
Other ($50.00)
Total Expense (4,653.45)
Operating Revenue 79.86

Note that my revenue went down, because I put more money into my company’s 401K savings plan.

At this point, I had an idea of how much I needed to spend each month. All I had to do was track it monthly, see how I did, and make potential adjustments.

Revenue Budget Actual YTD Variance
Salary from Work $56,619.50 $62,816.57 $6,197.07
Other $0.06 $5.08 $5.02
Total Revenues $56,619.56 $62,821.65 $6,202.09
Expense
Mortgage ($16,515.48) ($16,515.48) $0.00
Insurance ($999.00) ($999.00) $0.00
Property Taxes ($6,287.40) ($7,205.47) ($918.07)
Utilities ($3,765.98) ($1,498.98) $2,267.00
Phone ($2,953.68) ($3,472.88) ($519.20)
Water Bill ($798.00) ($396.93) $401.07
Life Insurance ($527.40) ($527.40) $0.00
Auto Insurance ($1,449.36) ($1,316.59) $132.77
Groceries ($4,545.12) ($3,970.84) $574.28
Disability $0.00 ($96.30) ($96.30)
Roth IRAs ($12,000.00) ($11,995.00) $5.00
Savings ($1,200.00) ($1,200.00) $0.00
Charity ($1,200.00) ($1,824.90) ($624.90)
Vacation Funding ($1,400.00) ($2,350.00) ($950.00)
Dining Out ($600.00) ($1,343.96) ($743.96)
Home Repair ($1,200.00) ($1,318.00) ($118.00)
Other ($600.00) ($2,032.39) ($1,432.39)
Total Expense ($56,041.42) ($58,064.12) ($2,022.70)

So I ended up making about $6K more than expected (didn’t account for pay raise) and spent about $2K more than expected. I could then make additional adjustments for the new year.

Overall, it’s a fairly flexible budget. I make enough money and have a sufficient emergency fund to be able to account for the minor ups & downs, and can make adjustments as things go.

So how do you guys budget?

Other Links to budgets:

 

Good post at retire by 40 on social security benefits for early retirees

The post gives you the math to determine your Soc Security benefits, and how retiring early will curtail them.

Most folks don’t know that the report from SSN assumes you will continue to work at your current salary till you hit your retirement age. Thus the number showing on the website for you is overstated if you retire early.

I found out that we’ll be taking about a 30% cut to our stated benefits if we decide to retire in the next year.

Drawdown Strategy Analysis – using “Power of Zero” – V2 using lessons from the book

My last post, I covered the traditional way to withdraw upon reaching retirement (all your taxable, then all your tax deferred, and finally, all your tax-free spending. In the end, I was left with $1.1M in my Roth IRA.

I also did the analysis with a withdrawal rate of $84,000/year (of which 8,500 if Fed/State taxes). This works out to $75,500 if I manage to avoid any taxes whatever – based on the guidelines of “the power of zero”. In addition, if I keep my income around $24K (the exemption for married) my medical subsidies will reduce my medical costs by an estimated $7.166/year. So I’m going to assume a withdrawal rate of 68,500 to keep the same lifestyle as my previous withdrawal – again provided I can keep my revenue at $24K for the year.

In order to make this work, I would need to use money in my investment account over the next two years to shift $200,000 from my Tax-Deferred bucket, into my Tax-free bucket (using my investment account to pay the taxes. If I do this, at my FIRE date (21 months from now) I should have the following assets:

  1. Taxable bucket: $302,358 (including $156,689 in deferred that I will have just paid the taxes on)
  2. Tax-Deferred: $518,578
  3. Tax-Free: $505,627

So, unless being spent, the items listed will grow at 5.24%.

  • Year 2020 (6 months): Pulling $42K out of Tax-Deferred account (Pop’s IRA). Taxable, but I just got hit with a lot of taxes for my Deferred.
  • Year 2021-2024: Withdraw minimum from Pop’s IRA (a little over $4K) and enough from Mrs. 39 months IRA to hit the $24K (allowance for IRS with no taxes) and remainder from Taxable bucket. This allows us to pay $0 in tax and minimal for insurance, due to subsidies
  • Year 2025-2026: Mrs. 39 Months starts collecting Soc. Security, which alters some stuff. Continue to pull minimum distribution from Pop’s IRA (starting to climb to $5K and $6K), finished depleting our taxable bucket, while reducing money from our tax-deferred bucket to keep total under the $32K minimum for tax-free. Will need to start pulling some from our Tax-Free Roth to make up for lower Tax-Deferred money
  • Year 2027-2028: Mrs. 39 Months goes on Medicare. Assuming medical costs increase about $4500. Continue to take minimum from Tax-Deferred to keep Soc Security under $32K point where we’d have to pay taxes on it. Still Tax free 8 years after retirement.
  •  Year 2029-2031: Mr. 39 Months goes on Medicare. Assume medical costs climb to our final number, so our withdrawal has to be $75,500/year (adjusted for inflation). Still able to pay no taxes by withdrawing minimums from Tax-Deferred and supplementing with Tax-free Roth.
  • Year 2032: Mr. 39 Months begins taking Soc. Security at age 67. However, I’m going to assume that, due to issues with Soc. Security, I am going to assume that I am only going to get half of what I will get (i.e. 50% cut in benefits), so that works out to $16,908/year. So, each year roughly $30K in Soc. Additional funds out of Tax-Deferred and Tax-Free, but I’m going to be past the “don’t pay taxes on Soc Sec – now taxed at 50% of them. Assume income requirements go up to $77K
  • Year 2033-On. RMDs and Social Security force me into higher tax brackets, meaning I’m set at $78500. Mix of Tax-Deferred and Tax-Free withdrawals keep me in good shape.
  • Year 2062: I hit 97 and Mrs. 39 Months hits 99. We have roughly $924K in Roth IRA, and $192K in Tax-Deferred IRA, for a total of $1.16M.

This is more than we had under scenario 1.  This also doesn’t touch our “emergency fund” or house money – which I think of as our backup money in case of major disaster. If this tells me anything, it’s that I should look to shift more than $200k from our Tax-Deferred money, so that we can possibly keep our taxes lower once we start taking our Social Security.

Again, issues with this are that it shows that I could have taken out more and “lived a little more” in my years. In addition, I kept the $9K in medical spending stable, which might not really be accurate.  However, I ended up not paying much in taxes over much of the early part of the retirement.

I think the next step here is to do this study, assuming no social security, and see where that hits.

Other blogs on this topic

Mr. 39 Months

Quarterly Update – Oct 2018

Well, it’s early October, and the year is three-quarters done. Some of the goals have been completed, some are still being worked on, and some have been dropped – a pretty typical year for most folks. So how am I doing in comparison to my goals for 2018?

My Goals for 2018 (some financial, some not):

Finance:

  • Save $81K in tax-advantaged accounts (saved almost $37K in 2017): Grade A. Saved almost $65K after 9 months, and on track to get about $80.5K in by the end of the year.
  • Save $9K in regular: Grade A. Got this done in 1st Qtr 2018.
  • Increase dividend income from all accounts to $24K/year: Grade B. I’ve gotten over $17K for the year, so I’m on track to get to $24K by the end of the year.
  • Passive income covers 33% of base living expenses in retirement, i.e. $24K of my $72K expected expenses: Grade B. See above. If I hit $24K, that is 33% of my expected $72K annual budget upon hitting FI
  • Beat net worth growth rate of 7%: Grade D. So far, I’ve only made 1.5% this year, beyond the money that I have already deposited. If the market stays flat or drops, I won’t hit this number. I need the market to pop up a bit in the last quarter.

Business:

  • Begin attending regular meetings of my local real estate investors association. Grade D. Attended two meetings in 3rd quarter. Slowing down a bit. Some of the meetings have been for info that I’m not interested in, and some of the meetings that I was interested in got blocked by business travel for my job.
  • Double the number of blog visitors in 2018. Grade A. I’ve already hit this goal, and actually working on tripling the number of visitors before the end of the year. Thanks to all of you for tuning in!
  • Write/publish a book on finance.  Grade: Incomplete. Did some initial work on it, but really haven’t put as much work into this as it needs.

Personal:

  • Increase weight lifted by 10% from 2018 (increased by 12.7% in 2017) Grade B: Up 5% from the beginning of the year, but I’ve had some health issues which have set me back here. Still working on it
  • Average 2 hours of cardio per week (currently averaging about an hour).Grade C: Averaging about 1.2 Hours a week for 3rd quarter. Really need to work on this. .
  • Backpack over 100 miles on AT (did over 100 in 2017) Grade: C. Completed only 79 miles this year. Personal issues got in the way of completing other hikes. Looking to rebound in 2019 and get over 130 miles in.
  • Begin volunteering at Pennsbury Manor at their joiner’s shop (woodworking) Grade A: Volunteer training completed, and I’ve been volunteering since May. Year coming to close, but plan to assist in 2019.
  • Reduce weight by 20 lbs. from Jan 2018 (lost 9 lbs. in 2017). Grade D: Dropped down 11 lbs by July 1, but gained most of it back. Health issues are keeping me from aggressively losing more weight right now.
  • Read at least one book a month. Grade A. Read seven (7) books in 3rd qtr – two fiction, 2 financial, three history. I’m going to need to bump this goal up in 2019, cause I’m enjoying it.

Travel:

  • Visit a national park (visited Shenandoah NP in 2017). Grade: A. Visited two parks in May  (Redwoods NP in California and Crater Lake in Oregon) Planning on visiting another park in 2019
  • 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. Grade B. Visited family in TN in March. Plans to visit TN in Oct and Nov (Thanksgiving) and Mrs. 39 Months in early November. Missed out on visiting Vermont this year (plan for 2019)
  • Visit Portland, OR and northern California. Grade: A
  • Visit Ellis Island. Wanted to do this in 2017, but didn’t make it. 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 Grade: F. Still haven’t been there and I have had the opportunities.

Overall, I’d give myself a B. Got a lot done, but still have a few more to close out.

Other updates in 2018

How are you going on your goals for 2018?

Mr. 39 Months

How do I track my investments?

There are all sorts of investment tracking systems, software and websites out there, and I’ve tried several. I really put a lot of effort about ten years ago into using Quicken’s software, which allowed it to download from your various investment and bank accounts and automatically update. The problem I had was when it mis-allocated some spend I did (calculating a grocery bill as something else, etc.) it was difficult (for me) to alter it. Within 6-9 months of getting it started, my bank accounts were not matching up with the downloads, and there were all sorts of issues.

As an engineer, I finally threw up my hands, opened up MS Excel, and created spreadsheets to do my bank and investment tracking myself. Since I’m a bit of a money nerd (like so many of us in the FIRE community) I started tracking my banking (both family and personal) in a spreadsheet to see how I did. That led me to get a better handle on my spending, and a better estimate for future spending & goals.

I also started tracking my investments with my own MS Excel spreadsheet. Again, I felt I had more control of the results, rather than a specific, cookie-cutter approach from someone’s software package. I could create my own reports, modify how I calculated results, etc.

So how do I use my spreadsheet? I’m going to assume everyone here has a basic knowledge of spreadsheets and can calculate (either by computer or by hand) the results.

I set my spreadsheet up with each investment on the X axis (i.e. down the left side of the paper) and my info for each investment on the Y axis at the top of the page. For each investment, I had the following categories:

  1. Name (ex. Vanguard 500 Index Fund)
  2. Note, i.e. information on where this investment was (ex. Wife’s Roth IRA, Mr. 39 Months 401K, etc.)
  3. Symbol for investment (ex. VFIAX for Vanguard 500 Index)
  4. Current price, updated at the beginning of each month
  5. Current Shares, updated at the beginning of each month (in case I invested, or dividends were paid)
  6. Current value (a calculation, price * shares)
  7. Value at the beginning of the previous month
  8. Additions/subtractions from investment during previous month (ex. Putting monthly investment into Roth IRA)
  9. Cost basis for investment (calculation of previous two, value at beginning of month + additions/subtractions)
  10. Gain/loss for previous month (calculation, comparing #9 to #6)
  11. Percentage gain/loss

Every month:

  • I take the “current value” from the previous report, and copy/paste the numbers to #7 (note: you need to copy the actual numbers over. If you copy the calculation, it will go haywire on you)
  • I put in how much I’ve added/subtracted from that investment in #8
  • Updated the shares & price

This gives me, for each investment, how much I made, and the percentage gain/loss (#10 and #11 above). I can also look at the values in #6 to determine my asset allocation, and if something needs to be changed.

It typically takes me less than 30 minutes to do this, and I’ve got about 45 different investments (counting 2 sets of IRAs, 2 sets of Roth IRAs, my 401K, Deferred, dividend account and “fun money” account). I find that I enjoy doing this, and it keeps me in better contact with my investments than just going to a website and looking at a report.

Guess I’m just a number’s junkie.

 

So how do you track your investments?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Tracking Lifestyle “creep” and what to do about it.

20 Something Finance had an interesting article on lifestyle creep (how its defined, how to track it, and how to avoid it). For those in need of an explanation, as defined by 20 Something “Lifestyle Creep (ˈlīfˌstīl krēp), noun: the very real, very unnecessary, and very self-defeating personal finance phenomenon of increasing one’s lifestyle spending as a direct correlation to an increase in one’s income over time.”

Basically, people start out with their base pay out of school (example, $35,000/year) and then get pay raises throughout their work life (3% here, 10% here when they change jobs, etc.). With lifestyle creep, folks just take that pay raise and roll it into their spending without thinking about it. Before you realize it, you are making $65,000, but don’t feel any richer (and aren’t any better financially) than when they were making $35,000. It is something that most of the western world suffers from. You get a nicer car, eat out at nicer places, move to a nicer neighborhood, and just don’t make any real progress financially.

He goes through various ways to track your lifestyle creep and then finishes with ways to combat it, including:

  • Continually monitor your expenses and be on the lookout for lifestyle creep
  • Trim and trade expenses (cut back on some things to pay for other things you want)
  • Practice gratitude and question every purchase
  • Pay yourself first (a FIRE staple)
  • Remind yourself of your goals

I went back and looked at my last five years of spending. I broke it out into our family spending (taxes, groceries, insurance, etc.) and my own personal expenses (clothing, gas, lunches/snacks, etc.). I also took out the mortgage spending for the first 2-3 years, as we are mortgage free now, and I wanted to get a good apples-to-apples comparison.

As you can see, we’ve roughly been running between $26K and $29K of family expenses. Remember that this doesn’t count medical insurance, just medical co-pays, etc.

For personal expenses, it looks like I’ve been trending down the last couple of years, and I’m running around$1,200/month.

 

Based on this analysis, I’d say I’m not really running a lot of lifestyle creep. When we paid off our mortgage, we dumped that right back into savings. We then found out a way in 2018 to put even more into savings and reduce our expenses (isn’t that the way it always is with FI?). I’d like to say we’ve avoided lifestyle creep, but I can say that from 1991 to 2000 (the first 9 years out of the army for me), we did experience a lot of it. I went from a $30K/year salary to a $56K a year salary, without a lot diverted to savings.

 

It wasn’t until 2000 (when I got a bump to $68K) that we started to dump all extra money into my 401K and our IRAs. From that moment on, we’ve kept our lifestyle fairly much around $50K – $55K a year (including mortgage) and all excess funds have gone into savings/debt payoff as we moved towards FI.

 

Good article to review for those folks looking for another metric to track their performance.

 

Mr. 39 Months