Path to a Million: 2017 Q3

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Another quarter, another net worth update. This time is no different. My laser focus on keeping a tight budget has ensured continuous success with my net worth slowly but surely climbing through a combination of debt reduction and asset appreciation. I’m adding more to liquid savings, increasing retirement contributions in addition to accelerating my debt payments.

The importance of both sides of my balance sheet moving in the right direction at the same time is that it’s an indicator of the fact that I am finding ways to increase my household income. Whether it is a special project, a real estate transaction, a consult or even a travel stipend, our income has not remained stagnant. Often times, you may find yourself only able to move one side of your balance sheet. You can pay debt faster or you can save more but not both. That’s often a sign that there isn’t more income coming in and it takes one set back to undo all your hard work. Incremental changes matter but never miss an opportunity to accelerate your goals.

In any event, I am up nearly $22k for this quarter, a pace which could put me well over the 1/2 million mark this time next year and it motivates me even more. Updating this spreadsheet is borderline therapeutic. It is the balm that soothes any sting I may feel from not buying a new purse, packing a lunch or passing on that watch I’ve been coveting. It reminds me that there’s a greater purpose: seeing that ‘Student Loan’ line item say $0.

 

NW

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Path to a Million: 2017 Q2

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I have a lot to be excited about! Slowly but surely, my net worth is going up…up…UP! I’ve done nothing but CRUSH debt so far this year and an trickle of additional sources of income has helped increase our savings while I fought tooth and nail to keep our household expenses down. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves… Discipline pays off. Watching the assets increase and watching the total debt decrease at an even faster rate is what keeps me motivated.

The goal is for the student line item to be gone by December 31, 2017. Think I can do it?

NW

 

Path to a Million: 2017 Q1

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This is my first update since the initial posts (announcing the start of the series and the pilot post). Things are going well, maybe better than I expected because a great thing happened: tax season! *eyeroll* (take some time to read this post about why it’s not a windfall you should rejoice in).

However, in my case I can rejoice just a little. Part of my big refund had less to do with my lax W4 allowances, but because we had some credits for energy efficient updates, primarily in the form of solar panels and we were able to use the cost of depreciation to offset our rental income.

Tax season came through for some serious debt reduction which had a snowball effect on our net worth. It will reduce our liability (once I get around to actually making the large payment) and free up cash that was normally going to satisfying my monthly student loan payments, to put towards investments/savings. This really does show the positive effects and importance of eliminating debt. Of course, we continued to pay down all our other obligations as well, but using our refund to all but eliminating student loans will make the most significant impact.

 

NW

 

Last quarter, I recorded my net worth at $369,922. This time, it’s $389,213, up $19,291. This represents an average increase of just under $6,500 every month. Although most of that is achieved by reducing debt, it’s a start, and a very good one. Debt plays significant role in our financial struggles and if we can consistently decrease our debts over time rather than add to them, we have the right attitudes and the necessary tools to build wealth, because the idea is that, once the debt is gone, we can use the same disciplined approach towards investing to gain even more speed towards financial independence.

*See Pilot post for more info on loans.

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.

 

q4-nw

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.

 

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…

 

Net Worth Tracking

I stumbled upon a article of someone discussing when they first realized that they crossed the million dollar mark. He listed his net worth which shows both an impressive and simple path to achieving the lofty goal: increase your income, reduce your expenses, save and invest the difference as much as you can.

Some people will say that a million today isn’t what it used to be because of inflation. High cost of living has eroded the purchasing power of the cool $1,000,000. In some ways I agree but it’s a pretty dim view of the world. You can’t retire early with a million in savings but I can’t imagine that anyone who’s worth a million is hurting too bad. And no matter what, saying you’re a millionaire will always ring much better than saying you’re a thousandaire. So I’ve decided to do some net worth tracking so I can record my own path to a cool million. I’ve settled on doing a quarterly update, and since we are in October, the first one will be scheduled for December. If you’ve been wondering if my methods are working for me, or simply want to know the money behind the blog, be sure to tune in!

April 2016 Budget

It’s the end of the month and I’m doing one my favorite things: reviewing my budget. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve likely figured out by now that I enjoy being frugal and keeping a close eye on my finances. In no small part due to my desire to: 1) get out of debt 2) become financially independent. For someone with these goals in mind, there’s nothing more alarming than the red alert on Mint telling you that you’re over your budget.

Mint

The Red Box of Doom

“I keep such a close eye on my finances! How could this have happened???” I lamented. Despair set in as I scrambled to dissect every transaction I had this month to see where I needed to cut back and tighten up for May. Turns out, things weren’t as bad as I thought. Here’s what really happened:

According to Mint, I was $1,687 over budget (over budget, not over income). That’s the high level overview. 

The details:

  • I paid $1,125 towards my student loans, $725 over my budgeted amount of $400. If paying extra towards my high interest debt considered “over budget”, you can call me big spender.
  • I was $74 over my grocery budget as a result of buying an absurd amount of items that were on sale, which will save me money in the future. i.e. I bought 12 cartons of orange juice @ $1.99 a piece, when they are normally $3.99. I also bought 21 packs of English muffins for $31.50 when they would normally cost me $94.50. I have 2 refrigerators and freeze all excess food items upon purchase. They do not go bad. Look for me on Extreme Couponners (or whatever it’s called) one of these days!
  • I reinvested some interest income adding up to $77, something I choose not to budget for.
  • We bought some printer ink for $90, but that’s not a monthly occurrence. Furthermore, the fact that we have a home office and I work as a real estate agent, makes it tax a deductible purchase.
  • A trip to CVS as a due to a stiff back pain which resulted from intense yard work set us back another $34.
  • The down payment check for the solar system was cashed, and cost us another $1,000.

When I look at the fact that $725 of that amount went towards paying my debt and increasing my overall net worth, I would say that I’m really $962 over budget. But when we drill down further, of that $962, $1,000 was a one-time expense, we’re really looking at $38 below budget. Not to mention, the rest of the expenses, while they will come up again, are not monthly recurring payments. We won’t need ink for 1.5 to 2 more years, which makes it more of a $5/month cost over the course of 18 months. I don’t always buy 12 cartons of OJ and probably won’t need to buy any for the next 2-3 months. I also won’t need to buy $30 worth of heating packs every month.

This budget also doesn’t account for the fact that made $125 from my focus group and got $265 back in rewards from the credit card company.

When it’s all said and done, I actually came out on top for the month of April. I netted a few hundred dollars in cash, which isn’t much. But I increased my net worth by several thousands through mortgage payments, student loan payments and increased investments.

How did you do?