November 2017 Net Worth Update – Up again

NOVEMBER SUMMARY

November is behind us and we continue to make progress towards our financial goals. For the first month in what felt like a while, we haven’t had any major travel or home improvement projects, which is nice.

This month I also reached my goal of reading (or listening to) 52 books for the year. I have met this goal every year since I starting tracking it in 2011 and only started getting into audiobooks in the past couple of years (I’m about 50/50 reading vs listening). Not everything I read is worth recommending, but the best books I read this month were:

The Simple Path to Wealth, by JL Collins. The title sums it up best – it really is a simple read about a topic that many try to overcomplicate.
Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know about Religion, and Doesn’t, by Stephen Prothero. This isn’t a religious book but was helpful in learning about religions role in our culture.

And of course, the market continues to surprise and delight contributing to our 13th consecutive month of net worth increases. We ended the month with a net worth of $731,362, up nearly $10k.

CASH

Our cash balance stayed pretty flat this month and will probably do the same thing for December. We mostly completed our Christmas shopping in November and also booked a cruise for this coming Spring. So far, we’ve only booked flights and made the initial payment towards the cruise and we’ll cash flow the remaining cruise costs.

In our house, Christmas tends to be a pretty low key holiday. We make it special but don’t go all out, especially for the kids. This year, we will spend less than $1,500 on gifts, most of that on gifts for each other.

For the kids, we’ll spend under $100 each and you know what’s crazy? They’ll be thrilled. By not constantly giving things to the kids, even small or simple gifts become a big deal. Also, I hate clutter, and if you’re being honest most Christmas gifts are clutter. We really try to make sure we aren’t contributing to a cluttered house whenever we buy gifts. The one exception to this rule lately has become Legos. Since introducing them to our house earlier this year we’ve been able to keep the mess to a minimum, but I tolerate it since it is contained and they really spark the kids’ creativity.

As inexpensive as electronics have become, we are pretty firm in our stance of kids not having their own electronic devices. This will only get harder as they get older since many of their peers at school or church are already getting their own tablets or phones.

INVESTMENTS

Similar to previous months, the biggest factor driving our net wort change was our investments. The S&P 500 was up 2.81% in November, and our investments were up 3.1%. This is basically just the market gains plus our normal monthly contributions.

For our primary portfolio, our asset allocation is heavily weighted to US stocks, as shown below:

I’ve been allocating out of bonds for some time now but still have some lagging positions. Rather than have the bond income reinvest into bonds, I reinvest it into stock mutual funds.

CARS

As expected, the value of our vehicles declined this month. Back when I had the Corolla, the value had pretty much leveled out and KBB had it hardly depreciating at all. Now with a newer car, I expect to see the value steadily decline for the next several years.

Something to know about my wife’s car is that she doesn’t drive it much. LIke hardly at all. We live close to our church and kids schools, our kid takes the bus from the bus stop two doors down, and I do almost all of the grocery shopping on the way home from work. With her natural hermit tendencies, this means that there are times when she goes almost a week without driving anywhere.

For years, whenever I review coverage with our auto insurance provider, I always ask how low can we say her car is driven each year. Consistently, I’ve been told 8,000 miles is the lowest they can quote (even though she probably doesn’t drive 1/2 that much). This came up again when I called to add the new car to our insurance, but this time I was told that they actually could quote a lower rate but that I would have to give them an odometer reading and call back with another reading in 30 days.

I gave them the odometer reading and made a reminder to call them back in 30 days. The grand total of driving for those 30 days? Under 300 miles. I told you we didn’t drive that car much. They rounded it up to 4,000 miles per year, but that one change lowered our insurance bill by almost $200/year.

HOUSE

Zillow says our house value came down slightly, but we paid extra on our mortgage so the decreased principal helps offset the loss. Nothing too groundbreaking here, but it is exciting to see that we’ll now be consistently paying down over $1,500/mo. Our current plan is to increase this amount further starting in January.

Our home improvement projects in November were limited to general maintenance and repairing a few spots of rotted trim on the exterior.

This is the time of year where we look at our last 12 months of spending and decide which areas we want to increase or decrease our spending in the next year. In 2017, we spent roughly $9k on home repairs/improvements, which was roughly what we’ve spent in 2016, and slightly less than 2013-2015. In 2018, we’re thinking we may lower that expense further to make additional progress on the mortgage, but we do have plans to renovate our master bath and kitchen at some point, each of which would be at least a $10k project.

529 College Savings Accounts

I am now including these funds in our net worth, but we haven’t really changed much with this account. The amount we’ve saved here has been growing steadily, but will not be enough by itself at this rate to pay for 4 years of college for each of our children. Our goal is not to be able to fully fund their educations, but this will make a good contribution. Once our home is paid off (within 5 years from now), we will revisit how much we are saving here vs increasing our taxable investing.

Net Worth Summary

A year ago when we set the goal to reach $700k net worth by year end,  it felt like a stretch goal. Market returns have certainly helped by significantly exceeding my assumptions, but I would rather be conservative in my projections. As gains continue to exceed our expectations, we can reach our goals with even lower future growth assumptions.

October 2017 Net Worth Update

October was another great month for the DIY$ household. We had a lot going on financially but were still able to increase our net worth by $15k to $715,925.

Here’s how it went down:

CASH

Our cash balance got decimated this month. We paid almost $4k for our new patio that finally got completed, and also bought a new car. A lot of the cash had been earmarked for a car anyways, so this isn’t entirely unplanned. We’d rather keep our cash balance above $20k though, so we have some rebuilding to do. We should only be below $20k for a couple of months.

INVESTMENTS

Each month we add about $1,600 to our investments accounts, almost all of which is tracking the S&P 500. The S&P was up 2.2% in October, so this explains the vast majority of the change in our investments.

Investing in index funds certainly isn’t the most exciting way to build wealth, but it makes for one less thing to worry about. I don’t spend an incredible amount of time researching mutual funds but do periodically rebalance between US and international, large-cap and small/mid-cap.

While the majority of our investments are in index funds, we do make the occasional speculative investment. I do this to learn about new markets, keep a pulse on other trends, and sometimes just to have fun. The rule that we have set for ourselves is to have no more than 1% of our net worth tied up in our non-core index fund strategy.

As of right now, we are way under this limit, but some of our speculative investments currently include

  • Amazon (AMZN)
  • Bitcoin
  • Some REIT ETFs (MORL and NLY)
  • Various options trades – none at the moment, but I have historically traded spreads

CARS

We finally said goodbye to my trusty old Corolla. For weeks, I had been unsuccessfully making offers on cars but wasn’t having much luck getting what I considered a good deal. I was looking at newer Corollas, Camrys, and Fusions or slightly older Lexus in the $15k range. We ended up with a 2012 Lexus for right around $15k plus tax and traded in the Corolla.

I probably could have gotten an extra $1k or so if I sold the Corolla on my own vs trading it in, but I really value my privacy and time and didn’t relish the thought of having to meet up with random strangers from Facebook or Craigslist to sell it. I wasn’t pleased to trade the car in for less than my previous net worth calculations valued it but decided that it was worth avoiding the hassle.

If the Corolla was actually worth more than $2,500 I may have tried harder. Although it probably has another 100,000 miles left in it, the list of small things wrong with it was actually pretty long once I started to list them.

Here’s a list of some of the little things that were wrong with the Corolla:

  • Fading paint on the roof
  • Scratched/peeling tint on one window
  • Weatherstripping coming loose from one door
  • Broken latch holding down center console lid
  • Sunroof shade that wouldn’t close all the way
  • Squeaky A/C
  • A slight smell in warm weather that I never could put my finger on
  • A loose section of the body kit

The new car has none of these problems. In fact, it has quite a few upgrades that I’m really excited to have. The KBB when I bought the car showed that I paid right about what it was worth after taxes and fees, but by the end of the month it had dropped a couple of thousand.

HOUSE

A lot of our net worth increase came from the value of our home. The value still seems in line based on prices in the neighborhood. The house next door is still for sale, but I’m not surprised it hasn’t sold yet since there haven’t been many updates to it.

In October, we increased our payment slightly and will bump the payment amount up again starting in January. We’ve always paid extra, but haven’t been paying the maximum we could since we were building cash to buy a car. Now that we’ve bought the car, we’ll start to really attack the mortgage once our cash is back at a more comfortable level.

NET WORTH SUMMARY

With our net worth already exceeding our 2017 goal of $700k, I’ve been making some projections for our next goal/milestone. It no longer seems that out of reach to hit $1M by 2020, so that is going to be our new target. It still feels strange to be within sight of $1M, but so did getting to $500k just a few years ago.

Also, starting in January I am going to start including our 529 accounts with our net worth. Even though the money is earmarked for kid’s college it is still ours and we can technically use it for anything. We discussed it and just decided that it makes sense to include it.

August 2017 Net Worth Update – up to $685,332

August was a crazy month here in the DIY$ household. We got some of our last trips in before school season makes it harder to skip town with the kids, got the backyard prepped for our concrete patio that will be poured in September, and increased our net worth by $4K to $685,332.

NET WORTH SUMMARY

We’ve done a pretty good job at growing our net worth. With the recent madness of hurricanes and other extreme natural disasters, it has caused us to reconsider some of our net worth allocations. I’m not talking about bonds vs stocks or international vs domestic, I’m talking about taking stock of our ‘survival’ inventory. We already have a bit of non-perishable food stored and lots of tools, but we’ll be re-evaluating whether we have enough. We may also find ourselves buying things that are really just for emergency preparedness purposes.

CASH

Our cash balance crept up again this month, helped out a lot by an extra $1,000 that came our way unexpectedly. I know I keep saying that we’re done with big trips, but our travel never seems to end. It isn’t impeding us from saving for retirement or building our cash but it does slow down our cash pile-up. This month I traveled for work a bit (no out of pocket expense), and we took the kids to California for a wedding. I also just got back from a quick trip to go to a football game with my dad and brothers.

After spending a few days in the SF Bay Area and Sacramento, I think I’ll be adding that area to my list of ‘places I won’t be upset if I never go back to’. Las Vegas and Chicago are already on the list for me. We got to see the Muir Woods (along with what felt like an entire small town), and that was great. I’d still like to see Yosemite, but the city and traffic are just not for me.

INVESTMENTS

The S&P 500 was basically flat in August, growing just 0.05%, yet our investments managed to grow by about 0.5% excluding our normal monthly contributions. While most of our investments are invested in S&P 500 index funds, we do have some international funds that did well.

CARS

Nothing has really changed in our driveway or replacement plans. We have a gas guzzling Expedition EL to tote around our crew and it is great. When we travel and have to rent a vehicle like we did in San Francisco, we typically get a minivan. Every time we rent a minivan, I’m reminded how much I prefer a large SUV.

My little Corolla is a great car. There really isn’t much more to say. It has over 207,000 miles on it and has never had any major repairs. The end of this year will mark 10 years that we’ve owned it. As much as I love it and know it could probably go another 5-10 years, I’ve started looking at replacements. It is getting old and while it runs great, it’s cosmetically showing its age.

HOUSE

Yet again, we paid extra on the mortgage. Our total home equity went down slightly as Zillow has our home value declining. Our neighbor has moved out and has been doing some home improvements before selling. We’re curious to see when he lists his house for sale and how much it ends up selling for.

A friend who lives nearby recently sold his house and it was only on the market for two days. In our area, updated houses sell quickly and for top dollar. Houses that aren’t updated tend to sit until homeowners realize they won’t get top dollar based solely on location.

MINI DIY OOPS

A few times each year, Sherwin Williams has a 40% off sale. Pretty much whenever this sale happens, we buy a couple of gallons of paint. Even with the 40% off it’s still more expensive than some of the stuff at Home Depot or Lowes, but it covers so much better and is much easier to work with. There’s a reason the pros use it. One thing we love is that they keep a record of all the colors you buy, so you can go in and say “I need another gallon of the color I bought last Spring”, and they’ll know what color you’re looking for. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

We bought 3 gallons back in July but didn’t get around to using it until August. Halfway through painting a room, we realized it wasn’t the right color (doh!). It looked a little off from the get-go, but it was close enough that we thought maybe it would dry right. Not so. Turns out, someone fat fingered the numbers and gave us something one shade off from the same sample card. At the store, they were great and swapped it out for the right color even though we had already used some of it.

The room looks great now, but we wasted a couple of hours painting the wrong color. The moral of the story is that Sherwin Williams is great. But when it comes to paint colors remember to ‘trust, but verify’.

So that’s the August update. Better late than never, but life seems to get in the way sometimes. We’re still on track to get to $700k by year-end and are excited for what’s next.

July 2017 Net Worth Update

I can hardly believe July is already over. The year really seems to be flying by. In the month of July, I finished reading seven books, vacationed to both Florida and Hawaii, and somehow we managed to grow our net worth another $12,800 to $680,980.

If you’re looking for a good read, the best two books I read this month were:

Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall by Neil Barofsky

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World by William Bernstein

July 2017 Net Worth Overview

Cash

As you can see, our cash balance continues to be stagnant, and this months excuse is a trip we took to Hawaii. It was totally worth it (left 3/4 kids at home!), and we snuck it in before school started. With school starting, we’ll be staying put for a while and should see our cash start to grow in September (we’re finishing up a backyard patio in August or September). At least our cash is paying a whopping 1.1%, right?

Investments

Again we continue to do nothing different or special with our investments. The S&P 500 was up 1.93% in July and we continued to invest. I keep about 1% of our investments available for more speculative, risky investments and one of those investments is Amazon. I’ve always said that I love the company but hate the stock but decided to buy some early this year on a dip in the $740 range. I still hold it and continue to be surprised at how much it’s gone up, despite recent declines.

Cars

Nothing new to report here, but Kelley Blue Book periodically shows an increase in the value of our SUV. Tesla launched their new Model 3 last week, and I now have a somewhat renewed desire to buy one but my little Corolla keeps chugging along so nothing planned here.

Side note – when we went to Hawaii, we couldn’t reserve a rental car online since the trip was planned at the last minute when we found really good flights. As a result, the cheapest car we could rent was a BMW 7-Series (non-luxury SUV’s and Minivans were available but even more expensive).

So for a few days, I went from driving a $3k 2005 Corolla to a $85k+ 2015 BMW. You know what’s crazy though? I didn’t like it. The gear shifter was confusing, the doors always took two tries to close, and I didn’t figure out how to unlock the doors without the key fob until the second day. There were other issues, but you get the idea.

Sure, it was roomy and comfortable, but it was a really big car to navigate through crowded streets (Waikiki is awful, it’s much more enjoyable out of the city). The island was also too small to really test out the powerful engine. My takeaway though was that I don’t get much enjoyment out of driving a really nice car.

Our Hawaii rental where we went to see a beautiful sunrise.

House/Mortgage

We continue to pay extra on the mortgage and our home value increased slightly, boosting our equity by $3,700. Our next door neighbor is getting ready to sell, that should help us gauge our own value. His house is smaller and needs some updates but he’s got great neighbors so it should sell quick, right?

We need our net worth to increase by $4k per month to hit our goal of $700k by year end. The concrete patio should be the last big house project for the year and travel will slow with school in session. Next year I’ll be excited to really start making a big dent in the mortgage.

 

June 2017 Net Worth Update

I’m just getting back from a nice quick trip for the 4th of July and wanted to provide an update on our net worth. June was an expensive month for us in the DIY$ household. Nonetheless, we managed to still grow our net worth by $3,900 to $668,176.

June 2017 Net Worth Details

Cash

Our cash balance crept up this month but should jump more in July. We finished installing a backyard fence and had multiple trips that had me on planes for 27 hours in the month. Side note, it’s REALLY expensive to rent cars now that we need vehicles that can hold 4 car seats/booster seats.

I even added another stamp to my passport by visiting Santiago Chile for the first time. The best part of the trip was that my 6-year old son was able to join me. While on that trip, I almost had a disaster when I realized mid-flight that I still didn’t have a replacement debit card from when our accounts were hacked. Thankfully I did have some cash to convert and I made to sure to use credit cards everywhere I could and it worked out. Travel and home projects for July should be much lighter.

Investments

The S&P 500 returned 0.48% in June and we continued to stay the course. We continue to add 15% of my income to my 401k and are primarily invested in S&P 500 index funds. The only sort of exciting thing here is that our liquid assets are about to surpass $400k.

Cars

Our car values supposedly went up this month, but the overall trend still is down. I am a little bit nervous that one of our vehicles might die soon, but the fear is ungrounded. Both cars are doing great just getting old. What’s the longest you’ve heard a Corolla lasting? I drove my mom’s Suburban the other day and she’s at 210,000 miles.

House/Mortgage

Yet again, we paid extra on our mortgage but not nearly as much as we’d like to do. Once our cash builds up a little more we’ll start making much larger payments. For the first few years in this house, most of our home improvement projects were on the inside of the house. In the past year, we’ve shifted our focus to the exterior of the home. In June, we finished installation of a new aluminum fence.

We live on just under two acres but fenced in an area large enough for the kids to play in, but small enough to be relatively easy to manage. The next step was to tear down our deck. Rather than rebuild the deck, we’ll be pouring a concrete slab with some steps down to it from the house. Once that’s done, we’ll be focusing on the grass and possibly starting a garden. It’s going to be a lot of work, but surprisingly it feels less intimidating now that we’ve fenced in the area we’ll be focusing on beautifying.

Here you can see part of the new fence and the area the deck used to be

Overall, it’s been a good start to the year for us and I’m optimistic that we can reach our net worth goal before the end of this year. I’ll leave you with another view on our progress so far this year. 

 

May 2017 Net Worth Update

I just got back from a work trip, but wanted to make sure I kept up with my tradition of monthly net worth updates. Our May 2017 Net Worth increased by $6,470 to $664.267. 

May 2017 Net Worth Summary

Cash

Our cash balance went down slightly this month. We had to spend >$300 pumping out our septic tank and also spent most of the month on a low carb diet, which increased out grocery bill a bit more than normal. In May, we also paid for the materials to install a fence in the backyard. Now that school is out in our area, we’ve been wanting to allow the kids to play outside with less supervision and this will allow that. In the not-too-distant future, we may also be tearing down our deck and pouring a concrete pad in its place. None of these projects really will make a significant dent in our cash, but they will slow our growth and delay our acceleration of mortgage reduction. I expect our cash will stay around these levels for the next couple of months.

In May, we also paid for the materials to install a fence in the backyard. Now that school is out in our area, we’ve been wanting to allow the kids to play outside with less supervision and this will allow that. In the not-too-distant future, we may also be tearing down our deck and pouring a concrete pad in its place. None of these projects really will make a significant dent in our cash, but they will slow our growth and delay significant mortgage reduction. I expect our cash will stay around these levels for the next couple of months.

Because our accounts were hacked, my direct deposit was rejected on 5/31. Our old account numbers have all been closed and I missed the deadline by one day to have payroll make my deposit go to the new account. I’ve been out of the office but am told that there is a check on my desk for when I get back. These numbers assume that my paycheck had already been deposited. I feel blessed that missing a paycheck by a couple of days doesn’t really impact our lives like it would for many Americans.

Investments

The S&P 500 earned 1.16% in May and our investments continue to be primarily tied to that index. We had a little scare with some fraudulent activity in our accounts. Someone sold all our index ETFs and bought another stock. Everything is now resolved as if it never happened.

Most of our index funds are invested in ETFs. Whereas mutual funds can only be bought or sold at the end of the day, ETFs trade throughout the day like stocks. I like the flexibility of ETFs, but in reality, I don’t place many trades. I am considering changing to traditional index mutual funds ever since we were hacked. So far I haven’t made any changes but am open to suggestions.

Cars

Our cars continue to depreciate slowly but really nothing too exciting is going on in our garage. The only thing I really did this month was to change the oil and get a new antenna.

House

Similar to previous months we paid extra on our mortgage this month, decreasing our mortgage debt by about $1,100. The house value according to Zillow came down slightly, but overall our home equity increased. I’m excited to start paying A LOT more extra principal payments. Before we can do that, we first need to increase our cash and finish some home improvement projects.

529 College Savings

Our automatic investment to this account was missed this month because our accounts were compromised. I’ve since corrected this, but that explains why the account didn’t grow by as much as it has in previous months.

Summary

May was another pretty good month for us and June is already off to a great start. We are still on target to hit our 2017 Net Worth goal. I continue to be blown away at how quickly things have accumulated.

April 2017 Net Worth Update

For those who are just joining, each month I publicly update our household net worth. April was a good month for us, but nothing out of the ordinary. With this months’ increase of $6,744 to $657,793, we are still on pace to reach our goal of $700,000 by the end of the year.

NET WORTH DETAILS

CASH

Our cash went up a bit this month and continues to get closer to our goal of ~$40-50k. We had a couple items this month that slowed us down like a week of travel, rental car, etc. This next month we’ll also be fencing in part of the backyard and starting some other backyard projects. Household projects slow down our cash build up, but these allow us to enjoy our yard in a way we never have.

INVESTMENTS

The S&P 500 returned 0.9% this month, and most of our investments track that index. 15% of my income continues to go to my 401k, but we haven’t done anything else special.

We finally received and paid all of the hospital bills for our newborn this month as well. We paid from our HSA which I include in the investments category because I do plan on eventually having it invested and growing. As long as the balance is lower than our deductible though, I’ll keep it in cash.

Our total out of pocket was ~$3,500 for the baby. That was literally the cheapest we could go and still give birth at a hospital. My wife has always preferred natural childbirth, and is super tough. This is our fourth child to be born naturally and she’s never had any anesthesia/epidural. Avoiding pain meds during childbirth significantly reduces the hospital bill. Saving money isn’t the reason she avoids them, but it is a nice side benefit. One money saving tip we do use at the hospital though, it to bring our own Tylenol. Have you seen how much hospitals charge for OTC meds?

This month I had an experience that helped highlight a benefit of regularly tracking my net worth. One of our investments accounts is an old 401k we haven’t added to it in several years. I was feeling that it wasn’t moving much even though it is all invested in equities. Since I track the monthly balances for all our accounts as part of this process, it was nice to be able to quickly go in and show that it actually has gone up quite a bit. It just didn’t feel like it since the balance has been hovering around $15,000 for so long. That account has actually gone from $14k to $19k just in the past year or so.

CARS

Nothing too exciting in the car department. As expected, they continue to depreciate slowly, but really are close to their end of life value so long as they continue to be in good mechanical condition.

Late in the month I was driving back from the airport and noticed what smelled like engine coolant coming from my wife’s Expedition. Shortly before I got home the hood briefly started smoking but thankfully didn’t overheat. Much to my chagrin, I knew I didn’t have time to fix this myself, so had to bite the bullet and let a mechanic do it. Thankfully they were able to get it done all in the same day, and $500 later the leaky hoses and parts have been replaced.

I am certainly an advocate for DIY, but there are some instances where it just makes sense to pay a professional. Reasons to hire a professional either are for time or expertise. If the reason is expertise, I’ve found that I can often learn to do most things myself (thank you YouTube!). If I need something done with a tight deadline, I am not always able to do it myself. This was one of those times. It is worth pointing out that we tend to have at least one $500 repair per year on my wife’s Expedition. Her truck has 140,000 miles on it. Contrast that to my Corolla, which has never been in the shop (beyond routine maintenance) and has over 200,000 miles. If Toyota made a big enough vehicle, we’d probably have two. (No, the Sequoia is not big enough).

HOUSE

We continue to pay extra towards our mortgage, but less than we plan to pay once we reach our cash goal. We really haven’t seen many houses go up for sale in our area, but feel the estimate is conservative. Our next-door neighbor will be selling his house and downsizing as he becomes an empty nester this summer. His house is a bit smaller than ours and I’m not sure about the interior condition, but it will be interesting to see what it sells for and what the new owners do to the place.

All-in all, I’m pleased to report we’re on track to reach out net worth goals.

 

Overreaction leads to Underperformace

Have you ever heard of the Dalbar study? This company does an annual study that looks at the impact of investor behavior on returns. What they’ve found is that over time not only do mutual fund investors underperform the market, but they also underperform the underperforming mutual funds. Wow…that’s a lot of underperforming.

This underperformance is attributed to picking the wrong mutual funds and getting in and out of the market at the wrong times. Since it is impossible to time the market, I would argue that it is always the wrong time to be getting out of the market.

Here’s an example of a chart Vanguard put together using data from the Dalbar study:

source: Vanguard

What do YOU do when the market gets scary?

The answer to this question should be “nothing” or “buy more”. Sadly, research shows that many people do exactly the opposite. Selling everything when things are scary can feel good and provide a sense of safety in the short term. These same people will buy back in ‘when the coast is clear’, which typically means prices are much higher than when they sold in the first place.

For your long-term investment strategy, sitting out of the market is the one big mistake that you can’t afford to make. With craziness looming in North Korea and other parts of the world, it would be easy to self-justify getting out of the market right now. But when do you get back in?

Do you remember how Greece’s economy was going to destroy global markets? How about the fiscal cliff and government shutdown? Oh, and let’s not forget about the debt ceiling or the flash crash. For eight years the market has continued to rise, quickly recovering from any number of fear-inducing events. Over longer periods of time, short-term declines aren’t even noticeable.

It can best be summed up by a chart I have framed on my desk at work from Behavior Gap.

The Value of a Financial Advisor

I am a Do-It-Yourself investor. I think most anyone can successfully manage their investments without a financial advisor. Financial advisors will point to the chart above and argue that you need to have your accounts professionally managed to protect you from yourself. While there may be some truth to that, I think all you need is someone who can talk you off the ledge.

Even though I am a DIY investor, I have a financial advisor. He is someone I used to work with and trust his judgment and integrity. He doesn’t manage my accounts, but I get free dedicated access to him because of the size of my accounts. We talk a few times a year and he helps validate that I’m still on track to reach my goals.

If I ever were considering selling everything, he would (hopefully) be able to talk some sense into me and prevent me from making that huge mistake. The real value of a financial advisor is when they can remind you of your long-term goals in times of short-term uncertainty.

March 2017 Net Worth Update

Wow, is it really April already? Hopefully, you avoided getting pranked too badly on April Fools’ day. Here in the DIY house, we don’t really like playing jokes on each other. We spent the day doing some spring cleaning of the garage and playing with the kids. As we enter a new month, it’s also time for another net worth update. In March, our net worth increased to $651,050. 

NET WORTH DETAILS

CASH

Our cash went down a bit this month, but it’s mainly because we did some large charitable giving. The largest chunk of this was our monthly tithe paid in March for February, which was a big income month. Additionally, we made our annual donation to our alma mater. With all that, I’m actually surprised that it only went down as much as it did.

We are working on growing our cash cushion but do have some decent size house project expenses coming up that will slow that down. These projects include a backyard fence and small kitchen remodel. Whenever we do projects we plan to do them without taking money out of our savings account .

INVESTMENTS

The market was essentially flat for the month of March, so our investments didn’t really change other than monthly contributions.

We still haven’t made the final payment for our hospital visit, which will come from our HSA included in this total. The only reason we haven’t paid it yet is that there has been some confusion on who we owe what since it depends on the timing of when claims are submitted whether we pay 100% as part of our deductible or 20% after our insurance kicks in. I think we’ve figured it out, but we had to get refunds from doctors who we paid in full but then didn’t need to since they took their sweet time submitting the claim and ended up getting paid mostly from our insurance.

What a mess. I really hate dealing with doctors’ offices. Thankfully they are used to this confusion and aren’t in a hurry to get paid by us and they won’t send the repo man looking for our baby if it takes another couple of weeks.

CARS

I crossed over 200,000 miles in my Corolla this month! It was a bit anti-climactic but does feel like a pretty big accomplishment in delayed gratification and proper maintenance. We’ve been prepping/planning for a replacement vehicle for a little while now, and I had been thinking that something like a used Lexus was in my future. When I did a little bit of shopping, though, I found that I can actually get a brand new Corolla for cheaper than a 5-year-old Lexus. We aren’t pulling the trigger anytime soon, but I’m now leaning towards a newer, less luxurious car when that day comes. Either one would be a huge upgrade from my current vehicle.

I walked through this logic the other day while carpooling with a co-worker who suggested I get an even more expensive car brand new (they don’t make ‘em like they used to, right?). Rather than give him a sermon on FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), I just nodded and said: “hmm, something to think about”. I’m not going to change his mind and he’s not going to change mine. We can still be friends, but we are at different stages in life/career and don’t have the same early retirement goals. He earns ~4x as much as me, drives a $100,000 car, and is already at the age that I plan to be when I have the option to retire.

HOUSE

Nothing too exciting here other than continuing to pay a little extra on the house each month. We plan to kick this into overdrive once our cash balance gets a bit higher, but we are only paying $600/mo extra until then. A house down the street is for sale and they are asking $490k, so $450k doesn’t seem unrealistic. In the years since moving here, I’ve learned that many of the same features that attracted us to our neighborhood are qualities that continue to attract buyers (proximity to great schools, large lot size, neighborhood amenities, traditional architecture, etc.), which helps houses to sell quickly.

529s

We first started funding our 529s about a year ago and I haven’t included them in our net worth figures. I still don’t plan to even though it is all technically still ours, but I will track it here. It is worth including to show what we have been saving and how that amount continues to grow.

We add $200/mo and have it allocated 100% towards equities. I know this won’t be enough to fully cover college, but we are torn on how much support to provide. I had limited financial support for the first half of college but was on my own entirely for my MBA. My wife was completely on her own for her entire degree. She finished with no debt and I had some debt for undergrad, but we planned and saved aggressively to finish my MBA with no debt.

I know all about the rising costs of education, so hold the hate mail. I also believe that there will always be a way to get the education you need without debt. We’re savings towards our kids’ college, but don’t want to have it all in a 529 so we preserve flexibility on how much support we provide.

So that’s it. Another good month of building our net worth, and we’re still on track to hit our 2017 goal of $700,000. Given the strong 1Q gains, we should get there if our return for the rest of the year is >3%.

February 2017 Net Worth Update

February has been a busy month in the DIY$ household. We welcomed a new baby into the family, had family visit from around the country, and even found time to take a trip to the beach with our newborn (it felt crazy, but turned out great). It was also a great month for us in the net worth department. As I alluded to in last month’s update, we were expecting February to be a great month and it certainly did not disappoint. We ended the month with a net worth of $646,721, an increase of over $35k.

NET WORTH SUMMARY

CASH

Our cash went up substantially, largely due to year-end bonuses that paid in February. We’ve been working on increasing our cash savings, and this helps us get closer to our new goal. We haven’t fully decided how high we want the balance to get, but it’s probably somewhere around $50,000 so long as the potential for a new vehicle purchase remains on the horizon. We also just had a baby and haven’t seen all the bills, but we should be able to cover those expenses using our HSA which is included in the Investments category.

INVESTMENTS

Our investments grew from good stock market performance as well as extra large 401k contributions with the accompanying company match from my year-end bonuses. The S&P 500 notched a 3.72% gain during the month and our largest holding is IVV, which is responsible for over $10k in gains. I added some very small speculative positions in NLY and MORL through my Robinhood account but this won’t move the needle in either direction.

Nearly all of our investments are in no-load mutual funds or ETFs that our brokerage firm allows us to purchase with no trading fee. I do place occasional trades but have opted to use Robinhood for most transactions that otherwise would include a transaction fee. In early February, Schwab announced that they were lowering their trading cost from $8.95 to $6.95. This was definitely a win for consumers but the price seemed selected only to be able to say they were cheaper than Fidelity who has been offering trades for $7.95 for several years.

Over the weekend, I was poking around on the Fidelity website and noticed that they were no longer comparing themselves to Schwab, opting to only compare to companies that charged higher commissions like E*Trade and TD Ameritrade. It seemed a bit shady, so I called them out on Twitter and got the typical canned response.

Yesterday I noticed that Fidelity had lowered their trading cost to just $4.95. Not to be outdone so soon after gaining the lead in the race to the bottom Schwab quickly announced that they would be matching Fidelity at $4.95, temporarily calling a truce in the price war. I don’t see myself trading more often just because trading commissions are lower, but $4.95 certainly feels a lot cheaper than $6.95 or $7.95 and should be a win for investors.

CARS

Sadly, this isn’t going to be where I tell you that I hit 200k miles in my car. That update should be coming soon though since I just hit 199,000! While reading through Twitter it sounds like Corolla’s are pretty popular in the FI community, and hearing other stories of immortal cars gives me confidence that mine will be able to make it to 250,000 miles or more. I did go to a used car lot that specializes in the type of car I’d like to replace my Corolla with, but only because I’m not normally in that area and I successfully avoided giving myself a case of car fever.

HOUSE/MORTGAGE

This month, we finally got our mortgage balance under $200k, woo-hoo! It was always part of the plan to throw a good chunk of my bonus at the mortgage and even though $199k is still a lot of money, it’s a psychological boost to pass that threshold. This month my oldest was asking me if we could buy something like a 4-wheeler and I explained that I would love to have those types of toys, but not until we pay back the money we borrowed to buy our house. To help visualize what this meant, I created this chart that showed how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

Each red square is $1,000 we have still to pay back. The green squares show how much equity we’ve paid off, including our original down payment. The yellow squares are market appreciation since we purchased.

My projection is that we’ll have the house paid off before the oldest is 12 years old, which would be perfect timing to get a 4-wheeler.