Path to a Million: 2016 Q4 – Results

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In this post I talk about why I wanted to make my net worth public. Here are the actual numbers and below I’ll discuss what they all represent. Since this is the first time I am posting this, I will give some background information below. Going forward, I will only be posting the statement of net worth and referring to this post for the details.

 

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On the asset side

Liquid assets represent cash and investments that can be easily accessed in the event of an emergency.

Personal property includes things that have been appraised but aren’t real property and aren’t easily accessible. That includes jewelry, furniture, etc.

Real estate is pretty self-explanatory.

 

On the Liability side

Both the HELOC and the Consumer loans seem like “too good to be true” deals, however they are state and federal subsidized loans for energy efficient improvements on our primary residence. The HELOC is for the solar panels and the consumer loan is for energy efficient central AC.

The student loans are what they are. But if you want to know how determined I am to pay them off, I graduated with over $45,000 in 2015, and I’ve paid down over $10,000 in principal payments this year alone. So I don’t anticipate it will be weighing around my neck much longer.

2 of the 3 mortgage loans are on rental properties which are cash flowing well and do not require us to pay anything out of pocket.

I do not have, nor have I ever had credit card debt.

Net Worth

Pretty self-explanatory as well. It’s the difference between what I have and what I owe. While most of my NW is tied up in real estate, a significant portion of the real estate is income generating. By no means am I living in a $1 MM house. My goal is to increase my net worth by $75,000 by this time next year. While a good portion of that gain will be through eliminating my student loans, I think there will be several other income generating, savings and investment opportunities in the new year. Paying off the student loans alone will make a significant difference. Those $300 that are currently being eaten away by the loans, can be funneled to other projects and create a snow ball effect both in savings and in investments.

Nothing happens by luck. It takes faith, hard work and discipline. I am making a plan preparing for a prosperous 2017. I look forward to checking in for the first quarter.

 

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Path to a Million: 2016 Q4

This is the first installment in my “Path to a Million” series. I will use these posts to track my family’s net worth over time to record the progress we try to make in reducing expenses, eliminating debt, increasing our income and saving as much as possible to retire early and in style.

I have chosen a quarterly format which will give me enough time between updates to make leaps, recover from setbacks and fine tune anything that might not work as well as I would have wanted to. But it’s frequent enough to make it consistent, keep it interesting and prevent me from being complacent. I will also schedule it for the last Monday of the quarter, making it a “Monday Motivation” post both for myself and for those who might stumble upon it.

With that said, I am a bit apprehensive about posting this. For starters, it feels a little like financial exhibitionism. Telling people how  much you are worth in detail is like being naked, in part because of the stigma we attach to money. We tend to tie our self-worth to our net worth, in part due to a capitalist society built on poverty exploitation that has turned us into money-worshiping cult followers. In fact, even rich people have been known to inflate how rich they are, with some resulting to threats of litigation when the overinflation of their wealth is brought into question. (I don’t want to get sued so I won’t say his name, but you know who he is…)

But I’ve decided that I have nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, my story is one of inspiration. What do I have to lose by telling it? Either a bunch of people are going to see the details and be inspired or no one will even see it. I can’t lose and scenario 2 is more likely to happen anyway.

I am a 31-year old first generation American woman of color who started out with $5,000 almost 10 years ago in May of 2007 when I finished my bachelors. That $5,000 was composed of $1,000 I had saved after working part time all 4 years of college, $1,000 my dad gave me as a graduation present and $3,000 I got in monetary gifts from various guests at a surprise party my cousin threw for me. My first experience at “investing” was putting that  $5k in a long-term CD at Bank of America  where I was getting 5% at the time. That CD, my clothes and a 2000 Honda Accord was all I had in my name. No inheritance, no stocks, no homes. While I know I’m more fortunate than many others, I still have to point out that this was as close to starting from scratch as you could get. But I’m on a path to a million and I want to take you with me one quarter at a time. Your first insight is how  things have changed 9.5 years later.

Without further ado…

 

I Met Kevin O’Leary

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While there were a few men in attendance at the Conference I attended 2 weeks ago, there was only one male speaker: Mr. Wonderful himself. I have admit that I was perplexed as to why they would have famous wealthy man speak at a conference for women at the risk of overshadowing the less famous women. After all, being trapped in the shadow of men is part of the reason why the glass ceiling is in place and part of the reason why we need women only spaces like our own conferences and affinity groups? Turns out Mr. Wonderful was invited as “a man who gets it” and as someone who has recognized that the unique traits that many women possess make us successful business people when we have adequate resources.

The billionaire businessman doesn’t just claim to support women. He also puts his money where his mouth is. He has invested significantly in women-owned and run businesses. He lists 3 attributes of women-owned companies that he believes make them different from, if not more successful than, businesses run by men.

  1. Goal Setting – He believes that women set more achievable goals. They don’t reach for the moon. They reach for success. When the goals are achievable, it builds confidence for everyone involved and it motivates them to strive for more. With unreachable goals, there’s a potential of damaging morale and undermining the abilities of the team.
  2. Access – Women in leadership roles tend to be more accessible. That access shows respect for those who work with you, letting them know that their opinion matters. It also builds teamwork.
  3. Delegation – Women are more willing to give up control. It allows them to allocate their time better and it demonstrates trust in the management team.

These are conclusions he is drawing from evaluating his personal portfolio of investments. I’m curious to know if anyone else shares that view.

Why You Should Check Your Credit Report

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If you have not figured it out by now, your credit history is extremely important. Credit has transformed from something financial institutions used to determine if you can be trusted with their money, into something everyone else uses to assess your character. Here are some (unexpected) uses of your credit report:

  • Insurance Companies: They are now checking your credit report to determine what your risk appetite is. They’re also using it as a character assessment tool which they use to influence your premiums, however small. While the use of this varies from company to company, chances are you won’t know until it’s too late.
  • Current Creditors: We expect people we are requesting loans from to check our credit reports. What we don’t anticipate is someone who already claimed to have trusted us to check in after a financial commitment has been made. However, they’re definitely looking in on us. They use information to determine if there have been any additional debt added and what our behavior has been (i.e. delinquency at other financial institutions). The uses of this information will depend on what they find. It could be used as a marketing tool (additional offers) for good behavior or a punitive tool (credit card interest rate goes up or credit limit gets inexplicably reduced) when they detect potential issues.
  • Jobs: I don’t know if this is a product of the millennial generation being over educated for open positions, or a result of the recession that flooded the market with unemployed people looking to fill very few slots, but it appears that companies are really going out of their way to reduce the pool of candidates. In the 9 years I’ve been out of college I have never been a candidate for a position that did not require a credit check, other than retail. The requirements were always: background check, references, credit check and drug test. References and drug testing were not always required, but background checks and credit checks were always consistent.

With all these parties reviewing or requesting your credit report for purposes other than borrowing and/or large purchases, why would you want to risk not being fully aware of any adverse information that might show up? The sooner you find something negative, the better you can respond, either to defend yourself or to take corrective action. Here are the reasons why you should check your credit report regularly:

  • Time sensitive: Changes to your credit report happen relatively quickly. All it takes is 30 days for a bad payment to show up on your account and it’s there for 7 years. Your score, your history and your risk profile can change very fast as a result of 1 negative data. The sooner you are aware, the faster you can address it.
  • Mistakes: Some of us have common names, others are simply victims of a fast typist who transposed a few digits on the social security section of a form. Either way, errors on your credit reports are actually not rare and can lead to having your character brought into question, while it’s really the OTHER Erica Smith who is a total crook and won’t pay her credit card bills.
  • Identity Theft: How would you feel if you worked really hard to build your credit for 3 years to buy a car only to realize you’re already overdue a very expensive car loan but you don’t have a fancy ride? Picture this… someone steals your identity, takes a loan under your name, rerouting the mail to a different address so you never got the mail. They have also conveniently not made a single payment since they drove off the lot. This is the worst kind of mistake you can have on your report. Because you’re not just proving they have the wrong social security number, which is easily verifiable. You have to prove that someone who tried really hard to pretend they are you, were not actually you. You’re stuck clearing your name, proving that you are not responsible for these purchases or credits and you aren’t a con artist looking to get one over on your creditors.

2016 Massachusetts Conference for Women

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“Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.”

Earlier in November, I received an invitation to the 12th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women. Although I had never attended before, a friend and neighbor who is a bright and ambitious woman, was once on a discussion panel at a previous year’s conference, therefore I knew all about the event and the potential it had to give me invaluable insight. As a result, I accepted  quickly and without hesitation.

On Thursday December 8, 2016, I sat in the Boston Convention Center in awe, along with more than 10,000 other business and entrepreneurial minded women (and a few men) as we watch these accomplished, hardworking and confident women on stage talk about their challenges, successes, struggle to be accepted while fighting to maintain their authenticity. We listened to stories of sexual assault, self-doubt, sexism and racism they faced to overcome and get a seat at the table.

It was amazing to see women mentoring each other and supporting one another. Women who have achieved what the rest of us can only aspire to be for now, taking the time to equip us with the tools necessary to discover our power and wield it from any level of our organizations. Pearls of wisdom that have the potential change lives. The diversity of ideas, backgrounds,  and industries was encouraging as it demonstrated that the paths to success are many. My toughest choice there was having to decide which break out panel session to skip while I attend another, as they all seemed to be competing for attendance, not with marketing gimmicks, but with the quality of presentation and the credentials of the speakers.

I know that in an uncertain world where, despite our strides, we continue to face discrimination, physical violence, high barriers to entry in leadership roles, it is easy to forget how truly amazing we can be. However, if you take the time to listen to the stories of the sisterhood, you will realize that there is a global village of trailblazing women who have already worked to lessen our own burden.

November Budget Update & Important Lesson

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How I feel right now…

When I assessed my October budget at the beginning of last month, it was quite a disappointment. Both unexpected expenses as well as anticipated but non-recurring spending sent my household off track. While occasional overspending does not spell disaster for those who are well-prepared and save regularly, it is still frustrating to try so hard and still come up short. Nonetheless, life happens and we must learn to move on. And move on I did. I moved on to a better November.

November, due to having no birthdays, trips, home repair projects or excessive dining out nights, was my best month this year. I didn’t just stay on budget, I spent $139 less than I anticipated. However, my best lesson in November had nothing to do with spending. November taught me that controlling spending can only go so far and that you must earn to move forward. While I only spent $139 less than I budgeted, I earned $1,245 more than I planned, which puts me $1,384 ahead of where I hoped to be by 11/30. This reinforces what most wealth builders and personal finance experts always say: you cannot save your way to wealth.

Saving is critical to not further find yourself into debt or dig yourself out if you’re already there. It also teaches you discipline and self-control. I am a frugal person who is a savings champ, but I have come to accept that I will not achieve financial independence if my earnings don’t far exceed my savings. Now, I am very pleased to see that I am starting  to reach the point where more money is coming in than I thought and the extra I am earning is far more than what I am saving. Although I will need to replicate that consistently over many years to reach my ultimate goal, I am satisfied that I am ever closer.