[Video] Save That Money, People
My wife just let me know that Lil Dicky released a new music video — $ave Dat Money. Let it serve as a reminder to all you excellent people to save your money.
Just A Small Update
General

Just A Small Update

9/12/2015, 1:20:31 AM

Just wanted to let you people know I'm not dead; I'm just taking a hiatus. Because I can only dedicate energy to so many things at once, I don't think it's fair to expect myself to keep up to date on this blog on a weekly basis. I'll be back, but while I'm taking a break from dumping money into my investment accounts and focusing more on the business side of things, I'd rather not bombard people with updates on things unrelated to finance and financial independence. Until, at least, I'm back into that mode. When that happens, expect some comments and another barrage of posts. For the time being, I'm also giving myself an out on the blog-related goals. On the other hand, I'm still focused on increasing savings, however slowly. Thanks for stopping by and hope to catch up with you soon. For now, I'll be focusing on the business, my family and reading a ton. P.S. In case anyone is curious, I'll be keeping my Net Worth (on the right sidebar) up to date. That is all.
Whoa! Is it August Already?
This won't be a long post but I just realized we're about one third through the month and I haven't posted once! Perhaps part of the reason for that is that nothing has really happened financially, so I haven't had anything interesting to say since my last post. I've had an oddly packed schedule and have sort of been watching all my portfolios do terribly. Before diving into investing in general, I figured I might be nervous wreck seeing my portfolio take $100+ dives each day, but I think I've read enough sort of assuage my fears. Now I view these downtimes as opportunities. Whether or not I can take advantage of the opportunities is another matter. Hmm, wow. That reminds me. I haven't done a net worth update this month! Nor have I done an update on my goal progress. Based on my average posts per day this month, I'm guessing I will be falling short of glory. But that's okay. I'll post something along those lines soon. This just shows how easy it is to fall out of the swing of things if you aren't involved on a daily basis. Admittedly, I've been spending more time on the side business than watching my stocks. On that front, I've finally chosen a name, so hooray for decisiveness! Another thing I've been doing is allowing myself to get lost in fiction. It happens a few times a year, but getting absorbed in stories, particularly horror stories is something I love. Plus, I've been on quite the bender lately with horror movies on Netflix. I think I've all but used up their queue. Right now, I'm half way through The Exorcist. I hadn't seen it in a few years, so I felt like now is a good time. All that is just to say -- I'm still here, just temporarily sidetracked. As soon as I make some additional purchases, stock or otherwise, I'll be sure to let you know. And, as I mentioned, stay tuned for my net worth update! Thanks, FI Monkey
What I've Been Up To
General

What I've Been Up To

7/30/2015, 8:45:02 PM

Hello, hello! I'm not dead, but I did have some catching up to do with work and such before I could give you guys a decent update here. First things first, let's talk about stocks and portfolios. I haven't made any additional purchases since my last post which was ... 9 days ago. Holy wow. Sorry about that huge break in posts. That also reminds me that I didn't update my portfolio page to reflect my updated portfolio values after my last buys. I'll do that after this post. For now, I just want to say -- what's up with the stock market lately? All my stuff is either down or stale. Get it together, stock market. COME ON. The only thing that has been doing reasonably well is Realty Income Corp (O), but I guess that's why we diversify, right? Can't blame the market if I only have seven stocks. Instead of building upward (buying more stocks for my existing portfolio), I think I will build horizontally a bit (buy other companies) for my next set of purchases. Moving on to business endeavors, I have actually made some progress there! Having narrowed down the product selection to five last week, I ended up making some more business purchases to assist me in my quest and have narrowed the list down to three products. This part of the process has been difficult to say the least. Luckily, I have a buddy I'm partnered with to keep me motivated and keep the wheel rolling forward, however slowly. That being said, I still have to narrow the list down to that one product to start with and then make a big purchase. Of course, this might seem unrelated to this blog at first glance until you consider the business itself an investment and part of my overall strategy to make up the difference that my new situation has led me into. While I'm not being frivolous with my spending, I'm certainly trying to be less timid in pushing forward with my FBA business and buying the right tools (after much personal vetting) to get my to my destination. I'm already about $1,000 in and I'm keeping track of every penny. This is not my first business, but it's definitely the business I have taken most seriously. There was a time when I started my first business on my own and actually took time off from working in general, but because I didn't take it seriously enough, I ended up focusing on too many things and the original business idea went cold, then died. Not the end of the world, but it's good to know myself. Business-wise, self-management is paramount for success. Armed with that knowledge, I know it's best to focus on my main gig while keeping a side focus on my business. On top of that, it's important to have a partner with similar goals who will keep me focused. Interestingly, that brief period of joblessness I mentioned reveals something about one way I might retire if I didn't keep working. For a while, I just played games instead of doing any actual work. That's not how I want things to go, so a big part of self-management means keeping myself busy with meaningful work. I do want some time to just mess around because I believe that's just good for the soul, but not like it was. I'll keep you posted on the progress on my FBA Business, of course. Meanwhile, I'm looking at my next portfolio purchases. If I can't find something suitable, I'll just move more money into my SEP IRA while I can. As always, let me know if you have any suggestions in that department. Thanks!
Recent Buys
Buys

Recent Buys

7/21/2015, 6:44:22 PM

So I'm on vacation, but I'm not dead. Before I go out and swim for a bit, I decided I'd execute some orders (sounds so much cooler than it is) on the stocks I'd been comparing/eyeing this weekend. As usual, I will preface this by saying I am new to this whole thing and if there were a gradient from completely green to Warren Buffett, I would be firmly in the green still. That being said, I actually did my own analysis on the stocks I did purchase today, albeit nothing too deep or intensive. For example, I'm not to the point where I'm using P/E to determine whether I should invest. I'm sure I'll get to that point, but for the moment I'm not going out on any crazy limbs by establishing myself with these companies. I'm keeping it simple. So far, I'm using these metrics (which could be absolutely terrible, I'm sure) which I took largely from David Fish's CCC list:
  • Reasonable dividend payout (2 - 5% yield)
  • Long history of increased dividends
  • An upward trajectory in stock price over the past 5 years
Feel free to point out my terrible strategy. I am completely open to learning -- that's what this whole thing is about. For now, I'll get into which stocks I bought! Realty Income Corp (O) Realty Income Corporation I'm sure many of you are quite familiar with this one. I read that it is described as the "Monthly Dividend Company" on its Wikipedia article. Honestly, I didn't even comprehend that this was a REIT stock until after I purchased it. But hey, it looks strong to me. The company was founded in 1969 and was recently added to the S&P 500. It's had 22 years of consecutive dividend growth and its current dividend yield is at 4.85% from what I can tell. I bought in at $47.12 with 10 shares. This was my second out of three commission-free trades on Scottrade (yay!). Target Corporation (TGT) Target Corporation Last of my commission-free trades was Target. While I do own Walmart stock, it's Target my family visits 4-5 times per week. Like Diet Coke, we have a personal stake in the success of this company and based on how it's done previously, it seems like it will keep going strong for years to come, so by that measure I had no qualms going forward. It's been around for over 100 years now and is also included in the S&P 500! Although I read that Target Corp's dividend growth wasn't so hot in recent years, it has still continued to climb over the last 32 years. The dividend yield is presently 2.46%, which is good enough for me. I bought 6 shares at $84.48. This brings my total number of stocks owned up to seven (7) for a stock portfolio currently worth about $3,450.00.
Picking Products, Watching Stocks and Generally Hoping for the Best
I’m taking a break from cleaning my house to post an update on my recent activities, partially as a reward but also to help me get some of my thoughts down.
How do I ... business?

How business makes me feel.
This past week, I’ve been trying to choose a product to start my side business with. As I mentioned recently in my post on making money on the side, I am in the process of getting things rolling with Amazon FBA and, subsequently, an e-commerce business. Featured prominently in that post was Kermit as I was trying to make it clear that I am very green to the process from the business side, although I have spent years working with various e-commerce shops from the engineering side. So the first step in any commerce-based business, as far as I can tell from what I’ve been studying, is to choose a product. Well, for some that may be easy, but for me picking products has been nearly impossible. There are so many things to choose from and I definitely don’t want to recreate the wheel here. I have a list of products I plan to start with and later I will narrow that down by setting up a score for each — essentially going with the product that I think will sell best while maintaining a decent profit margin, all while being something that I can pivot off of for similar products. All the things on my list are of high quality, which is extremely important to me. As I mentioned previously, I wouldn’t want to sell anything to other people that I wouldn’t sell (okay, give) to my mother. That qualifier has sort of narrowed my list of possibilities way down, which is nice, but there are still hundreds to choose from. It could take forever. This is exactly why I’ve given myself a deadline. I have to have chosen five products by this Monday. And that’s after choosing many and narrowing down the list based on a series of factors both of my own and sort of plucked from various posts and videos I’ve been watching. I don’t want to take forever on this. The next goal is to find a supplier for said products, foreign or domestic. Either way, it has to be done and soon! Another interesting thing has been watching my individual stocks and comparing them to my index funds. Obviously there hasn’t been enough time to compare them in a meaningful way, but still — the index fund has been killing the individual stock selection. Luckily, I’m a buy and hold kind of fellow and won’t be selling my stocks any time soon. Despite the downward trend my stock selections have already entered, I have transferred another $1,000 to Scottrade for some buys on Monday. That money is to take advantage of my free trades which, inconveniently, have an expiration date. For me, I see that as free money. At this point, I don’t think I will invest more into the companies I already have. Once I have a decent selection, perhaps 10 or 15, I think I will do that but while I have 5, my plan is to diversify my selection a bit more. I don’t have a hard and fast rule here, it just feels like what I should do. Maybe some of you fine people can weigh in on this with your valued opinions. For now, I should get back to work. This place needs to be clean before I go (I hate returning to a dirty house). For this next week, I will be out of town on a much-needed vacation so I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting, but rest assured I will be back to keep you posted on where I take my portfolio and my side business.
Recent Buys
Buys

Recent Buys

7/16/2015, 10:46:53 PM

Ha! "Recent buys." Am I doing this right? So as I mentioned in my last post, I purchased several more stocks after my first one, which was for Coca-cola! The research behind these was essentially the same, meaning I stood on the shoulders of some of the DGI Giants in our circles and moved forward based on their hard work. I'm thinking that my next stock purchase will take some actual hard work and due diligence on my part, so I've already started putting some legwork into that. But meanwhile, I figured I'd update on what I actually got going. Please excuse the smaller number of shares. I realize some of you have 10X or more what I have here, but remember I'm just getting started: 5X UNP @ $97.5899 for $494.95 5X WMT @ $73.5599 for $374.80 5X MMM @ $156.719 for $790.60 5X PG @ $82.379 for $411.90 (this was a free trade) So, as you can see on my portfolio page (which I promptly updated after buying up the stock for Proctor & Gamble), I have updated my total stock equity amount to $2,460.35 from $2,048.40. My trades for UNP, WMT and MMM all came with the $7 trade fee from Scottrade, but luckily my referral situation finally got figured out. I had signed up through a referral link but something went wrong in the process. All it took was a quick call to customer service and they were quick to help me out (very nice!). So now I have two more free trades to make within the next 30 days! I've also added another $2,500 to my Vanguard SEP IRA which brings its value to about $15,270! All these recent moves have pushed me over the $40k mark in combined brokerage + investment accounts, which is ... such a good feeling. I think as I move toward the $50k mark, my goal is to start adjusting my portfolio to include a higher percentage (which currently sits at 0%) of both bonds and international stocks. Most likely, I'll go with the Vanguard index funds that track both those markets. What do you guys think of VBMFX and VGTSX? Should I buy into those next? Should I wait until I have $10k for each and go with  VBTLX and VTIAX for a decreased fee? As always, your input is appreciated!
First Stock Purchase: Coca-Cola (KO)
Coca Cola It's official! I have purchased my first stock ever! After going over all the fine advice offered in my last post (thanks so much, guys), I've decided to go with 10 shares of Coca-Cola Company. Honestly, it was a huge help reading the Coca Cola (KO) Dividend Stock Analysis post from Div4Son. While I'm getting my own analysis sheets going, it definitely helps to have friends! Jason from Islands of Investing also gave me a great link to dig into PE ratio to remove some of the mystery from that term, so I also appreciated that. Oh, and to give a few details, I bought just 10 shares of KO at 41.1599 ($411.60). Combined with the $7 trading fee, it cost me $418.60. Man, I can see how that starts to add up. Still, it's better than the $20/trade I'd have to pay with Vanguard after the honeymoon period is over. What an exciting day! And, of course, it went way more smoothly than I thought it would. Now I'm looking into what to purchase next, but apparently there are only certain hours where trades can happen (I tried buying some Union Pacific stock as well). I'll wait to see what the price looks like in the morning and perhaps give that a shot then. Thanks for all the help, guys. I'll update once I figure out what to buy next! Update: After buying 5 shares each of UNP, WMT and MMM (in that order), I just created a Portfolio page like all you fancy people!
Learning the Ropes - Starting up my Brokerage Account
Hey guys. So I'm still focusing on building my side business this week, but I also don't want to let my primary goals go either. Today, I've been getting things set up for taxable investing. Last week, I set up a brokerage account with Vanguard for this very purpose and went through the trouble of transferring some money over only to learn that, for an account the size of mine, they only allow $7 trades for the first 25; after that, they become $20 each. So I decided to use Scottrade in the mean time while my Vanguard + Brokerage add up to more than $50,000. After that point, the trades become $7 each with no limit. Once that happens, my plan is to consolidate everything over to Vanguard so that both my taxable and non-taxable accounts are there. Whether that will actually happen is up to future me and how much it will cost me. Ideally, it would be nothing since I'd want to hold on to the same stocks and such. Worst case, I can keep trading with Scottrade. On the other hand, the reason I'd like to keep things with Vanguard is that once you have $500,000 with them, all trades become $2! I'm sure there's something even more amazing out there, but for someone who's as green as I am to stock trading, that seems like a pretty great deal. And as some of you are probably paying close attention, you'll note that I already have a brokerage account through Chase, but my plan is to also consolidate that. I hate having so many accounts all over the place. I'd rather have everything set up simply so there's less for my simple mind to worry about. All that being said, my account with Scottrade should be ready for funding this week and I should be ready to get things started with some dividend growth stocks. From what I've read recently, Coca Cola isn't a bad one to start with, so I'll probably go with that and a few other familiars just to get things rolling. I'm only starting with $2500, so I'll probably invest in a handful of stocks in addition to KO (most likely borrowed from the amazing Dividend Growth blogs I follow). I'm still trying to come up with my own vetting process which, admittedly, is also largely borrowed from the blogs I read. For those of you who I'll be stealing from, please accept it as flattery more than outright theft! I just want to be more like you fine people. I'll probably update once things are actually set up and I'm ready to start buying, but while we're on the subject... Any recommendations for my first five or so stocks? Any links to a checklist I should go over to vet each one before buying? Any general advice?
Making Money on the Side
General

Making Money on the Side

7/12/2015, 11:43:06 AM

Yeah, I could used to this view.
Yeah, I could get used to this view.
You know what’s not easy? Making money on the side. At least for me it isn’t. For the past few days I’ve been looking into a whole bunch of different business ideas, and I think I’ve stumbled on something that works. Of course, I’ve tried things in the past and they worked okay I guess. Mostly, I dabbled in Internet Marketing a few years back and that … didn’t end well. Yes, I made money. That was the upside. But the downside was stress. Lots of stress. I was spending thousands of dollars just to churn out a couple hundred dollars or profit margin on the other side. In fact, that margin was always a moving target and knowing when to stop, say, a pay per click campaign became an art. It’s what I imagine day trading to be like, except on fast forward. On top of that, there was a nagging feeling that I was doing something wrong and so I stopped. Some of the things I was selling seemed to promise the moon without much substance. I don’t ever want to be in a business that could possibly screw people over.
No, relax Kermit.
No! Relax, Kermit. Like I said, I’m not a monster.
So I’ve been focused on legitimate businesses, which are rightly more difficult to build and more prone to failure. That risk of failure is what scares me. Ideally, I’d like to build my own brand of something I wouldn’t mind selling to my mother. Er, well, I’d give it to my mother, but sell it to other people. I’m not a monster. For a long while, I’ve had a good name for a potential e-commerce business with not much more than a name to show for it. Mainly, that’s been because I wanted to either build products myself or find a supplier that made products I wouldn’t mind putting my name on. Well, building products myself has a steep learning curve, especially if I want to scale my business. It’s not out of the question, but I just don’t have the time. After all, I haven’t become financially independent yet. So, now it comes down to finding a supplier. Or two. You know, just to get things rolling. And that’s been the hardest part overall, because I just don’t know where to look. And from what I’ve read, wholesalers generally don’t want to get involved with those of us who are a little green behind the ears (only established businesses need apply). Jerks. What I’ve been looking into this week is just the material I’ve been looking for to jump start that part of the business, so as you might imagine, I’ve been soaking it up like a sponge. The next part is buying actual products that I can put either on an e-commerce site or even use Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) for, or … both! Decisions, decisions. I’ve read about people who do okay with Amazon FBA using arbitrage, but I don’t have time at this point for such low numbers. I’m really after higher numbers, which means I’m going to need to put more money into purchasing and branding up front. I’m convinced that building your own brand of quality products (that people already use) is the way to go. That way there’s no competition for the same product, which means higher profit margins. Then I could laser-beam focus on marketing while Amazon takes care of all the other things.
That's rude, Kermit.
Be cool, Kermit. You’re supposed to be my analogy for being new to something.
So, for now, I’m still trying to find products but at least I have a better idea of how to vet them. I feel closer now to the prize at the end of the rope because I’m not just going blindly about it anymore. It’s sort of like having a mentor. Mentors, as it turns out, are super important. Having someone who knows the ropes and has gone through doing what you want to do will decrease the distance from start to success because they remove many of the unknowns, including the unknown unknowns! As much as I may know about programming, web application development, Internet marketing and the like, these are only pieces to a larger puzzle. Generally, programmers aren’t exposed to the business side of the things they build. I know I’m not. So by the time I get to work on something involving, say, e-commerce, the real hard part has already been done so there is this illusion that it’s easy to get things going, when clearly … it is not. I mean, programming isn’t super easy for everyone. I’m definitely not saying that. Actually, let’s throw an analogy at this thing. Those always work, right? I’m not saying building cars is easy for everyone. I’m just saying that as well as an engineer or mechanic can put a car together, selling the car — especially in large quantities — is a different beast altogether. That’s why there are car commercials and pushy salesmen to deal with. You could have a lot of a million cars, but without someone selling the brand and the experience that is your car, they’re just going to sit there. So branding and marketing are the missing pieces. And brand-building is what I know virtually next to nothing about. That’s something I wasn’t aware of previously! First, that I needed to brand at all. I thought branding was optional — something you did once you were tired of eking out profit from selling other peoples’ already-popular product lines. Second, that branding was important. I was also of the mind that you could just sell things sort of haphazardly and just build your name up (which is sort of branding), and people would trust you, the salesman, no matter what you sold. Hey, I never said I was bright. And this stuff hasn’t really been my serious focus until now, so forgive me being green. It certainly isn’t easy.
Green Will Hunting. I’d watch it.
Pushing Through Writer's Block
For some reason, I don't feel like posting today. Maybe it's because of the holiday weekend, or because this is a Monday or because I'm only one coffee-cup deep into the day. Whatever it is, it's giving me writer's block. The best approach to the writer's curse, I've read, is to just keep writing, so that's what I'm doing today. This weekend was a great little mental vacation. I barely touched the computer, didn't look at my spreadsheets and didn't even touch Mint. It felt very free. I did, however, spend some time (using my phone) reading over some posts from Steve Pavlina on his Passive Income Series. Who knows whether I'll actually use any of that information, but it's generally entertaining to read his stuff. I'm not much for "personal development," but I also appreciate the way some things make me think. I made some headway this weekend with my wife. I didn't really post about it because I prefer to keep my personal problems personal, but we've been hashing out the approach we're taking toward finances as a family. This happened because one day I mentioned how I thought a particular Groupon deal she was interested in was a waste of money. Keep in mind, I have been drinking some of the Kool-aid from the folks who are frugal, and sometimes I get carried away with ideas. So this became an issue. All of a sudden, I'm a penny-pinching miser who isn't the man she married. And I'm not that guy, but she had a point. I was just reacting to things with negativity because I'm trying to maximize our savings. It's easy to forget that we're all people and we're all in this together. Plus, I hadn't really discussed where I've been lately. Sure, I tell her about every bloody thing I read whether she's interested or not, but that's not discussing things. It's not making sure we're on the same page. So finally, I apologized for getting ahead of myself and explained where I was coming from. It's not that I don't want to spend money on things that are important to us, it's that I don't want to spend money frivolously. More succinctly, I want to spend money on things we love, but cut way back on things we don't. So it's not that I'm turning into Mr. Cheapskate, it's that my intention is to turn into Mr. Mindful. And some of you may think me stupid for carrying this mindset, but I don't mind, because each of us is on a different path. For my life, I want to save money but I also want to be able to have things I like along the way. While I don't want to save life enjoyment for typical retirement age, I also don't want to live a life of scarcity leading up to early retirement. There has to be a balance. So that eased the tension and we were back to normal. I even worked in some ideas for some slow travel in there, because a significant portion of our monthly income goes to paying a mortgage on one fat house. The false dilemma a lot of people fall into is that you either need to rent an apartment or buy a house, but as I read and learn, there are a variety of other options. For example, we could sell this house, buy a couple houses (duplexes maybe) in different locations and then maintain a home base (which is important to people apparently) while renting out the unused (by us) units. This way, we could still travel all over. We wouldn't be homeless nomads -- a very important mental safety net for my wife and children -- just wandering the earth. The success there wasn't that she readily agreed, but that she didn't put up an offense to it. Honestly, there are some great reasons to get out of the main stream and venture into the wild unknown. For one, life shouldn't be the same thing on repeat. Maybe I'm crazy, but I also think it would be far more interesting for my kids if they could experience different cultures both inside and outside their native country. I don't know if there are published statistics on mental health for those who have traveled and those who haven't, but I would hope it would have a generally positive impact. I'll have to look that up after I finish writing this post. Er, wait. Hold on. My inner critic is reminding me of kids that get moved from state to state, school to school, causing them to leave their friends behind each time. This could probably cause some damage in terms of an ability to form long-term relationships. On the other hand, I drove far, far away from home when I graduated high school and basically left all my friends behind. I still keep in touch with some, but we all live some distance apart. Still, there's something to be said for getting through school with the same set of friends. I was definitely able to do that, so I don't know that I'd want to deprive my children of that experience. Of course, recently I met a well-traveled young lady who was wise beyond her years. Her father being a diplomat, she was moved from place to place while he was stationed for a few years in each location. Talking to her, I wanted the same thing for my children. I'm aware that there are no guarantees in life and that my wife and I are completely different parents in different situations to hers, but still, there is something alluring to that kind of life story. I mean, if you could choose your sort of childhood experience, and you were given two choices, either -- A, relating to most people by sharing in most of the same experiences or B, having unique and interesting stories to tell people -- which would you choose? That's not such an easy answer, and it might differ from person to person. It's almost unfair to force it on children, one way or the other, but we do it anyway. I'll have to look into this a bit more.  
June 2015 Net Worth Update
Happy Fourth of July! June has come and gone in a flash and with my little free time on this holiday weekend, I wanted to take the chance to update you on my net worth. While things went up significantly this month, I know I can't expect increases like this for the rest of the year, but it's still fun to see them on an upward trend! June 2015 Net Worth: $432,866.16 Here's the net worth statement for this month: 2015-06 Net Worth As you can see in the image above, that's a total increase from last month of $10,823.90, or a 2.5% increase from last month's $422,042.26. Also, the Emergency Fund is shown at $50,000, which probably won't be increasing from this point as I consider that goal complete! Instead, you'll hopefully start seeing increases in the Vanguard SEP IRA and after that, other yet-to-be-determined accounts that may or may not be taxable. We'll find out soon. As soon as I figure that out, I'll be writing posts to keep you all updated. So, the reason my May net worth percentage change was so big was due in part to our tax refund. This month, however, I was still able to stash over $10k away and I'm pretty damned proud of that. Another thing you'll notice is that the home mortgage amount dipped below $500,000, which is an amazing feeling! I mean, it's still quite a mountain to climb but it feels like we've reached the first base camp. Slow and steady gets you to the top of Mount Everest. On the other hand, my taxable brokerage accounts decreased due to the dip at the end of the month, but I just saw it as an opportunity to move more money into VTSAX (in the Vanguard SEP IRA), so no problem there. As always, I'm in it for the long haul. Overall, June was a great month in terms of overall net worth. Next month probably won't be as great, but as long as I make forward steps, that's what counts. Thanks for stopping by!
Setting Goals for the Rest of the Year
Man, today has been a busy day for side hustles! I must have spent a good six hours re-making an old site that was just sitting there gathering dust. Well, sort of. Yesterday, I was just casually checking my AdSense stats which have been at an average of about $0.02/day now (up from $0.01! Yay!), when I noticed a single $0.15 click. Upon further investigation, it turned out that it was a site I'd sort of set up and forgotten about. So of course I had to dig in a bit more and it turns out that it's ranked well for a number of organic search terms. Naturally, there was only one thing to do -- give that puppy a make-over while preserving SEO. And that's what I did. As soon as work was done, I got to work. Luckily, my wife took the kids out for the night so I've been in focus mode the entire time (early retirement light, I guess). She'll soon return, which is why I feel a bit rushed in writing this but I wanted to get a post out tonight. I hate breaking that chain. Boy have I digressed from the title. So today, I read a post from my buddy Adam over at I Want to Retire Soon (IWTRS) where he went over his progress for the year so far. I feel like I've been doing a lot of that, but one thing I haven't really done is set any kind of public goals for me to embarrass myself with (just kidding), so I wanted to take the opportunity to set a few in the same vein as IWTRS. So without further adieu...

Goal 1. Fill Emergency Fund to 100% (Status: Completed)

Okay, I'm kind of cheating on this one but to be fair, it was the only real goal I publicly stated (besides my FI date goal stated in my About page, that is). Also, I killed that goal, so I'm going to give myself that one.

Goal 2. Reach $20,000 in investments for the year (Status: On track)

So far, I have about $12,000 invested (as you know from my many postings on the subject). This goal poses some threat as I have an upcoming dip in salary coming, albeit temporary (side hustles and side businesses -- time to step it up).

Goal 3. Write at least 25 posts here per month (Status: Behind)

Last month, I wrote 24 posts. I feel like none of my posts are really super long, nor are they super short, so I feel like that should be a good momentum to maintain. However, I'm going to reach a little higher on this one and call it 'Behind' because I'd like to generate more quality content on a constant basis.

Goal 4. Comment on at least 20 posts per week on similar blogs (Status: On track)

I'm totally ripping Adam off here on this one, but I think this is vital to keeping involved and keeping the right mindset. If I'm constantly thinking about financial independence, early retirement, dividend growth investing, index funds, I will be much less likely to fail. I'm calling this one 'on track' because I comment on at least 5 blogs every day just because I enjoy it. And Adam, if you find a way to track that metric, please let me know.

Goal 5. Get my feet wet with Dividend Growth Investing (Status: Behind)

I've been bothering a lot of people in my attempts at researching this one, and I don't think that will stop anytime soon. Still, I haven't achieved it yet and I want to sort of pressure myself into it because I think it will pay off well in the long-run. Hopefully this one is set to "on track" by the beginning of Q4! Well, that's it for now. I've got stuff to do around the house since I've been staring at this stupid screen all day! Until next time.
Emergency Fund Update - 100%
I don't care if it's cheesy. I'm using it.
I don’t care if it’s cheesy. I’m using it.
I just checked my Emergency Fund and as of today, I have surpassed my goal!!! You know, I’ve said it before, but I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever reach this goal. It’s the most I’ve ever saved for anything, ever that didn’t involve buying something tangible. In the beginning, it felt the same as trying out a new diet. Every time I’ve done that, there’s this sinking feeling I’ve gotten that I won’t hit my target weight and I imagine that’s the little devil on my shoulder who likes to mock me for past failures. Today, however, that devil gets the cone of shame. In your face, little mocking demon. I will personally celebrate this moment tonight, maybe with a nice glass of wine. And what else? Uh-oh. I feel a Warren Buffet quote coming on.
Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. — Warren Buffett
I know that one gets used a lot, but it’s a personal favorite. And so true. And so ends my first major financial goal, hopefully the first of many. Next comes my incursion into actual investing. As you know, I’ve been deciding on what I should do, given the fact that I’m going to be heading into a lower-paying position for a while. I was planning on getting into taxable investing right up front, but I think the smarter thing to do is to maximize my SEP IRA investing while I can. So in addition to the huge chunk of change I sent over to my E-fund, as I mentioned in a recent post, I also bought up some additional shares of VTSAX during the latest market drop. I’ll probably do this a couple more times before I’m temporarily relegated to a lower paycheck. On to further adventures!
My Financial Enlightenment
So, I'm not quite sure when it happened. The whole thing is still a little bit hazy, but I know there was a before time and then an after time. The exact point where the skies opened up and I saw the possibility of not working for the rest of my life is somewhere between, but remains a mystery.

The Dark Ages

I remember going to look at a used BMW one day back in 2013. I'd been working as a high-paid consultant for a couple of years without much to show for it in terms of status symbols. Sure, I'd just bought a house a few years before, but the glow had since vanished from that shiny thing, so it was on to the next! Plus, the car I was driving was starting to do some very funny things that the repair shop kept charging me not to fix. The price on the car was lower than it should have been for a 5-series, so I felt like I should go for it. On the other hand, I had a very specific number in mind so I told the sales guy and he dismissed it saying he had other interested parties. Not wanting to get emotionally suckered by a car salesman, I gave the car salesman my details and walked off the lot. The next day, I got a call from him and he begrudgingly said he'd agree to my terms. So I went in, paid around $45k in cash (after buying a warranty, final fees and all that good stuff), and drove off the lot in my new toy. For the record, I still love that car, despite how much it has depreciated. That was the way things went. Saving a bunch, only to spend it on something new. Sure, we had a small cushion in savings on the side, but it was nothing compared to what I have today. It was just meant to avoid over-drafts on months where our high income was met and nearly wiped out by our high expenses. Did over-drafts happen occasionally? Yes, once or twice a year. And yes, we never missed payments on our debts and never let our credit card debt ride. But the only investments we had were my high-fee IRA that had no on paying attention to it for years and what was left over from my wife pulling money out of investments to come up with our down payment. In other words -- not much. Certainly not enough to carry us into our twilight years. And there were times when I'd get into a kick on the topic of personal finance. I've mentioned this before, but I used to buy personal finance books. I'd basically read a few chapters, set it down and then forget about it for another year. Rinse, and repeat. Yeah, not terribly effective. All it did was add another annual expense -- the very book that was meant to help me get my finances in order. I'm not sure, but there's irony in there somewhere I think. So to sum up where I was during the dark ages, I had a high-paying job, my wife and I bought whatever we felt like buying, we saved a little, invested virtually nothing and were both 30-ish with not much to show for it.

The Turning Point

As I type it out now, that was probably the initial catalyst and driving factor in turning things around. Just thinking about having nothing to show for all the hard work and long hours I was putting in. I was sleeping in hotels four nights a week. I was spending part of my vacations on my computer glued to the phone. I remember one vacation where I literally did not leave the hotel room the entire two days we were there. I didn't swim with my kids in the pool. I didn't eat dinner with my wife. I just ordered room service while staring at a screen. And being a consultant, that's just part of the life. It's going to happen to you once in a while and that's perfectly fine. My family was understanding. At least, as understanding as they could be. But it's when that kind of life became the norm that I saw things a different way. That was when the seed was planted. It wasn't until I started working at the next high paying consultant job where I got to work full time from home -- the one I have now -- that I actually started doing anything. And maybe that's it. Yeah. That's the actual turning point. Though I probably did more actual work than I'd ever done since I lacked a commute, I was also able to focus on anything that needed focusing on. In retrospect, that's kind of a no-brainer.

The Enlightenment

When I started working from home, I remember my wife and I sat down and decided we needed a financial planner, and she'd heard something about LearnVest, so we tried that for a while. In the short time leading up to actually establishing an account with them, I had started to participate in r/personalfinance on Reddit. From what I'd learned in the very short time I'd been active there, I basically needed to establish three things before I could start investing (my actual goal through all of this). First, it was an emergency fund (E-fund), with three to six months of expenses in there; I chose six! Second, I needed to fill my Roth IRA to the maximum every year. Then, and only then, could I start taxable investing. This isn't something I came up with, of course. It's the general advice for many people who frequent those forums, but it was the best advice I'd read in a long time. Better, in fact, than all the cumulative information I'd learned from all the books on personal finance I'd paid money for. And the advice preached in r/personalfinance is free -- the best price there is. So I started on that journey around a year ago. Actually a little more than a year ago according to the first e-mails I received from LearnVest. It was around March. So that puts a number on it. I've officially been "enlightened" for over a year now. I did actually pay for LearnVest though, which was sort of a sunk cost because they essentially set me up with the same plan I'd already established, only with more concrete goals (i.e. actually setting up an IRA account and destroying my old one). As it turns out, that was just the bit of fire I needed to get things going. And the fire I'm talking about was paying for LearnVest. So I accomplished those goals, weened myself off of LearnVest and started focusing solely on Mint to track my financial life. Well, that and a whole bunch of spreadsheets. Since then, I've come a long way. As of this month, I will have completed my six-month E-fund (watch out for an upcoming post!). I've significantly reduced my expenses and continue to find ways to do so. I've contributed a lot (compared to how much I've contributed in the past 30 years of my life, that is) to my IRA and will continue to do that as well. I've also picked up a lot of advice along the way from the community I've come to be a part of. There are some amazing people in the circles of personal finance, including those from Reddit, Bogleheads Forums and the general awesome people who take the time to comment every day on my blog and answer my myriad stupid questions. This blog has been alive for a month now, and it's gone by so fast. I hope to keep writing like this for a long time coming. I've still got so much left to learn. My financial enlightenment, as I put it in this post, is clearly just the beginning. It's more of an awakening from years of mindlessly doing what society is comfortable with me doing into a life of mindfully investing my time and money for a better future.
Loading...
© 2015 - 2024 FI Monkey