Browsing Articles Written by

TJ

Life Travel

The Camp Mustache Experience

by on January 17, 2017
Dirt Trail

I Survived Camp Mustache!

This past weekend was a new experience. The closest parallel I can come up with is when I went to Bloggers in Sin City back in May 2011 and May 2012. The biggest difference there is that it was short flight to Las Vegas from here. This past weekend, I had to connect through Charlotte on the way over and Atlanta on the way back. I’ve never had to do a domestic connection before. I was reminded that I don’t particularly like air travel. Sitting in airports. Sitting in planes. I’ve always preferred longer vacations to maximize the time investment of the flights. The upcoming travel by automobile will have a much larger time cost for sure, but at least I don’t have to sit on a giant tube of metal or wait in a crowded place with overpriced meals for one.

Things I Would Do Differently.

I definitely cheaped out by taking a red eye on Thursday night. This was because I didn’t want to take a 3rd day off from work and I didn’t want to pay for a hotel. Might as well sleep on the plane. I didn’t get any sleep on the plane. I can afford these things. My decision to stretch my dollar absolutely effected my enjoyment of the camp. And that’s unfortunate. I went to bed pretty early 2 of the 3 nights because I was exhausted and I definitely missed out on some conversations and perhaps friendships. That’s unfortunate and I hope readers can learn from that example and not make the same mistake. I misjudged the affect a cross country red eye would have on me.

 Highlights

People were so unbelievably nice. It was pretty cool to have actual conversations with Mr. Money Mustache, Joshua Sheets and JD Roth. I even did a quick interview with Joshua for Radical Personal Finance about my real estate story and the upcoming road trip. We shall see when/if that get’s published. When you’re sitting in the hot seat and you’re not sure which questions are going to be thrown your away, it’s so easy to mis-remember some of the facts and make little mistakes.

I didn’t mis-remember anything too egregious, but still. Here I with my voice on a podcast rattling on information that I recalled at the time that wasn’t entirely correct. The perfectionist in me wishes it was perfect. But…c’est la vie. A lot of the blog posts that you see here tend to go through several iterations before I actually click publish. It’s obviously not like that when you’re speaking in real time on a mic.

Get Rich Slowly was one of the first personal finance blogs I was exposed to. That would have been towards the end of college/ early stages of my working career. JD gave us a fantastic presentation with some exercises to help us create a mission statement for our life. That whole purpose thing has always been a bit of a struggle for me. That 15 minute exercise definitely affirmed that I still have a long way to go. Hopefully, in between all of the new places I explore in the coming months, I will make some progress in creating a mission statement for my own life. I also learned so much from Keith, our resident tax expert, just by keeping my ears open to the various conversations. Hooray for mustachian boating.

Camp Mustache Canoes

Unexpected Surprises

I was pleasantly surprised at how valuable some of the sessions were. In my opinion, some of the real estate financing advice was a bit dangerous and ethically questionable, but other than that there was a lot of solid information and I learned a lot of new things. I really had no idea what to expect at a Camp Mustache. There was less money talk than you might expect, but it was definitely amusing to hear real life arguments over the merits of an emergency fund.

Then there was Lauren, my new financially independent introverted physician friend. When she told me her dividends were double her expenses, I got a bit jealous. The first night we talked a lot. Probably because we felt super comfortable with our co-introversion and were exhausted from having the same introductory conversation roughly 30-40 times.

I even had people offer up their guest room for me or offer to show me around their city. The likes of Chicago and Florida weren’t originally intended to be on my road trip route. Yet it would be fun to reconnect with such fun friendly people. Especially since there are already other bloggers I haven’t met yet who I would love to meet. Sometimes the friendships are more important than the geography. But at the same time, I feel like the geography can make it tough to maintain the friendship. As evidenced by the fact that I probably met 75-100 cool bloggers at Bloggers In Sin City across the two years, but I maintain regular contact with less than 5.

The food was not overly healthy but I can’t complain. I even tried stuffed peppers for the first time.

Would I go to a Future Camp Mustache?

I can see myself attending for any of the following three reasons: It’s local to me, I want to meet someone who is going, or maybe if it’s in a locale that I haven’t been to before. So, I probably would not go to the Southeast version again unless I happened to be living in or visiting the Southeast at the time.  I felt like there might have been bit much self promotion from some people, but the majority of people were not annoying about it. I didn’t even mention that I had a blog or that I was soon to be going nomadic to the group at large because the purpose of my attendance for this event was not to promote myself but rather to get to know like-minded people.

Plus, California has been cold and rainy. The weather was beautiful in Florida.  There was no humidity, or at least I didn’t notice it.  Had a great time out on the water and on the trails. There was even some kickball and basketball games going on. I passed on the archery. Note to all: when people tell you to pack hiking shoes for Florida, you probably aren’t going to actually need them. Never took my hiking shoes out of my backpack, my regular running shoes were just fine.

 

Canoeing

 

 

Discounts Money Travel

Pre-Road Trip Leg 1 – The Preliminary Route

by on January 12, 2017

You guys, The road trip is almost here!

I only have 5? more weeks of work, or three more bi-weekly paychecks. That’s so exciting!

This post is being published on Thursday 1/12 in lieu of Monday 1/16. I’ll be at Camp Mustache in Florida from 1/13 – 1/16. I have to imagine that my post on 1/23 will be a Camp Mustache wrap up.

Soooo, yeah, about that road trip. The whole reason I started this blog in the first place.  I’ve now got a general idea of what it looks like. At least the first part of it.

Here’s what we know so far:

I have booked a four week room rental in Albuquerque via AirBNB. The entire 28 nights won’t necessarily be spent in Albuquerque. Instead, it will be a “home base” of sorts for the month to explore the surrounding areas.

I also have booked a seven night AirBNB room in Omaha, NE from May 1 to May 8 for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting.

It’s getting to the point where I need to start thinking about filling in the gaps. I mean, my car isn’t going to just get from New Mexico to Nebraska via me wishing upon a magic lamp.

Investing Money Retirement

Invest Even When You’re Not Sure What to Invest In.

by on January 9, 2017
Money

So, what feels like forever ago now, I contributed to Maggie’s ROTH IRA Challenge where I dug up some super old W2’s and did some nerdy analysis on how my finances might have turned out differently if I contributed to a Roth IRA going back to my pizza delivery days. I was painfully ill when the post was published and didn’t really do a good job of promoting my guest appearance at the best Alaskan personal finance blog on the internet. I felt horrible.

To complement that post, I was also able to locate all of my my year-end records for my actual Roth IRA contributions from the very beginning until now, and this post is to show you that even though I didn’t start as early as possible, I still have done fine. I messed around and tried different things. You don’t need to be some sort of investing guru nor do you need to hire one. I did so many things that I would tell all of you not to do.  It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s all a part of the learning process.

As you’ll see below, I fiddled around with funds. I also fiddled around with strategies. And, while it doesn’t show you the whole picture of my finances, it literally shows you how I started with nothing in an IRA on January 1,2010 and as of December 31, 2016 I’m well over $60k. There were no mega backdoors or 401k conversions or any other sneaky business to juice this number, I just maxed out my IRA every year starting with the first year of my first professional job. Because that’s what all the financial gurus on the internet were telling me I was supposed to do.

Blog Stats

2016 Blog Traffic Round Up!

by on January 4, 2017
Blog Traffic Update

Below is a summary of December’s traffic numbers. I really don’t trust these numbers as being remotely accurate. Anyone else have what appears to be super inflated Google Analytics stats?

Social Media

As of January 4, 2017 I have 2,132 Twitter followers. Thanks for following!

As Of January 4, 2017 I have 86 Pinterest followers. I’m still not really utilizing Pinterest.

Blog Traffic

All time page views: 12,202  (Aug 31, 2016-to-December 31, 2016)

Page views in December: 6130 (Up 2608 | 73% increase)

Sessions: 2806(Up 1134|67% increase)

Users: 2342 (Up 1266 | 117% increase)

Unique page views: 3853 (Up 1731 | 81% increase)

New sessions: 79.04% of views (Up 19%)

Bounce rate: 21.60% (Virtually the same)

Comments in December: 92 comments (Down by 10)

Blog Posts in December: 5 (Down by 6)

Alexa Score – Present Day

As of the time of this composition (01/04/17), my Alexa ranking is 587,071 (down from 621,144 last month) overall and 87,447  (up from 73,103) in America.  I don’t have the knowledge to know how “good” of a jump in score that is, but it’s obviously encouraging to see it go in the right direction for the global number. I haven’t been posting as often which might explain the U.S. number going in the wrong direction. The goal of the Yakezie Challenge is to get under 200,000 worldwide.

Investing Life Money

2016 Financial Year in Review

by on January 2, 2017
Money

2016 Financial Round Up!

There’s a lot I can say about 2016, in regards to finance and otherwise, but it’s slightly difficult because I don’t feel comfortable revealing all my numbers. I had a major net worth “goal” that I was targeting for year end 2016. And I would be past it if I didn’t contribute to a DAF. Maybe I’ll hit that goal again in a few months after I get my tax refund and continue to save. Don’t really know. Don’t really care. The net worth number at age 31 isn’t so important. I mean, the fact that it’s not negative puts me years ahead of so many of my peers. You shouldn’t compare to others though. How about you compare to you former self. Here’s where I was at year-end two years ago:

2014 Year in Review

What have I accomplished in the past two years? Let’s see:

  • Drastically reduced my housing expenses by moving away from the beach.
  • Significantly reduced my automobile expenses in terms of gas, toll roads, and less frequent maintenance due to putting less miles on my car.
  • Spent so much less time commuting which was a non-financial life win in so many ways.
  • Drastically reduced my spend on social sports.  Social sports are a ton of fun, but I drove all over creation and it probably prevented me from forming authentic friendships with anybody because I was all over the place
  • Have not internationally traveled since the above referenced Europe trip.

Those are all things that I refrained from doing though.  What are the things that I DID do?

  • Started working out regularly and lost over 25 lbs.
  • Sold my condo which massively boosted my investment portfolio.
  • Started cooking my own breakfasts and dinners and did not feel like a hopeless child in the kitchen
  • Increased “passive” (non-work) income by a huge margin. (See below..)
  • Started a blog that people actually read and comment on.
  • Oh, and 2016 was my last full calendar year of employment in the family business. So that’s pretty exciting.

Because I knew that I had exciting travel adventures ahead, I definitely had some extra motivation to keep my spending in check in 2016 and allocate more $$ towards saving for travel. But I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself. It’s almost as if I’ve taught myself to be content with less expensive alternatives. I still splurged for some travel adventures that are above my $100-per-day target, like Camp Mustache SE (only 2 weeks away!) and FinCon. I also pre-paid for some future lodging in the form of 4 weeks in Albuquerque. I’m not viewing the ABQ portion as necessarily part of the epic road trip, it’s more like somewhere cheap while I wait for better road trip weather conditions in the places I really truly want to go to. Nevertheless, I’m excited to explore ABQ just the same as I’ve never been there.

There’s also the 1 week I booked in Omaha to take advantage of AirBNB Weekly discount for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting. I recently wrote about my real estate windfall. That’s only part of my recent personal financial story though. I sold that real estate in August 2015 and I’ve been keeping track of my net worth ever since the immediately subsequent month. I use ThriftyGal’s Google Sheet, linked at the bottom of her November 2015 financial update post. It’s pretty user friendly and gets the job done rather nicely.

Monthly Savings Rates Since Real Estate Windfall

Below is my exact savings rate percentage for every month in between September 2015 and December 2016. To calculate my savings rate, I take my after-tax income, I subtract my expenses. Then, I divide what is left by my after tax income. The result is my savings rate. Any additional taxes, such as estimated taxes, gets recorded as an expense. Similarly, my 401(k) and HSA deductions all happen pre-tax and are completely ignored in this calculation.

That does means that in a month like December, the savings rate percentage is a bit understated because I maxed out my new HSA for 2016. But the formula is the formula. Too lazy to change it now.

Savngs Rates

December was clearly a fantastic month on the savings side of things. It was also a rather strong month for my investments. You’ll notice that December of last year (4th row) was also a very high savings rate month. I get a little bit of extra compensation every December.  As for August 2016, (the other 75% savings rate month), I paid August’s rent in July, had a few different signup bonuses post in August and it just happened to be an inexpensive month.

What does that mean for my overall net worth?

Net Worth Growth

My average monthly change in net worth over the 16 recorded months in the table screenshot above is right around +1.25%. The highest month being just under 8%, the lowest being a slightly larger loss than -2%. Four months were over +3%, while the vast majority of the months were in between -2% and +2%. 16 months of 1.25% is a total net worth increase of about 20% over that time period. Not too shabby. And that cumulative 20% is after putting a not-small sum of $17,000 into a donor advised fund.

Can that continue? Pretty damn unlikely. So far, I’ve had a combination of an equity bull market as well as cashing out on some astronomical real estate growth. Plus, I’ll be lacking a job for the majority of next year. Not exactly a slam dunk combination for future sustaining portfolio growth. But anything can happen.

Of course, this also means that I have not experienced a major market drop over the course of my investing career. Psychologically, that’s a bit scary. If you haven’t experienced a bear market, you’re probably a little over-confident with your equity exposure. For that reason, It seemed fairly prudent for me to take some risk off the table in light of stepping away from my job. I’m actually considering taking some profits from my stocks after the 1st of the year and increasing my fixed income exposure a bit further. Nobody ever got poor taking profits. Everyone I talk to who takes a break from work to do extended travel says they wish they had more cash to re-establish their life post-travel. I’ll post an update on my portfolio shortly.

Passive Income Stats

2016 was absolutely a banner year for passive income. Passive income for me being anything that didn’t involve my going into the office:

Bank/Brokerage Interest, including Signup Bonus Incentives – $3515

Fund Dividends (Bond Interest, Stock Dividends, Capital Gain Distributions) –  $3589

Realized Capital Gains (Allocation changes that had gains minus tax loss harvesting) –  $2051

Compare these numbers to 2015:

Bank/Brokerage Interest, including Signup Bonuses : $1,365

Fund Dividends: $1,451

Realized Capital Gains From Investments : $1,152

Clearly taking $100k out of an illiquid real estate asset did wonders for giving me the available capital to chase bonuses, as well as to generate dividends from increased investments. The bank/brokerage bonus chasing is, I don’t think, easily repeatable, though there are are some banks that I’ve rinsed and repeated so many times, that you really have to wonder why they continue to open new accounts for me. Like, seriously, Chase sends me these coupons in the mail every month.

Neither the 2015 nor 2016 numbers include any dividends inside of my retirement accounts.

December Spending

December 2016 Expenses

Honestly, nothing too exciting on the December spending front. The main reason December is higher than November is that my Black Friday Laptop got billed in December. I feel like I ate out way more in December than November, but the food spending is actually somehow slightly lower. In the personal care category, I had a hair cut and a much needed massage in December. And apparently I bypassed having a hair cut in November. Whoops!

 

Readers – how was your 2016 financially?

Life Money Taxes

The $17,000 Christmas Present.

by on December 19, 2016
Money

 I opened a Donor Advised Fund at Fidelity Charitable!

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been going back and forth on whether I should put $5k in a DAF.  For a few days, I even convinced myself that I was NOT going to put $5k in a DAF. I don’t want to take $5k out of my savings account for the road trip when I have $7k in payroll deductions going to an HSA in the next 2 months and of course $5.5k going into a 2017 IRA as I always do in January. That’s basically my entire salary through the end of January.

Blog Stats

November 2016 Blog Traffic Update

by on December 14, 2016

Below is a summary of November’s numbers. I’m pretty sure the traffic is inflated from that Russian spambot thing..

Social Media

As of December 10, 2016, I have 2,103 Twitter followers. Thanks for following!

As Of December 10, 2016, I have 86 Pinterest followers, an increase of 83 from a month ago. Pretty cool. I’m still not really utilizing Pinterest.

Blog Traffic

All time page views: 6072  (Aug 31, 2016-to-November 30, 2016)

Page views in October: 3522 (Up 2194 | 165% increase)

Sessions: 1672 (Up 1001 | 149% increase)

Users: 1076 (Up 588 | 120% increase)

Unique page views: 2122 (Up 1058 | 99% increase)

New sessions: 60.77% of views (Down 9%)

Bounce rate: 20.19 (Virtually the same)

Comments in November: 112 comments (Up by 17)

Blog Posts in November: 11 (Up by 4)

 

Alexa Score – Present Day

As of the time of this composition (12/14/16), my Alexa ranking is 621,144 (down from 935,655 last month) overall and 73,103 (down from 132,567) in America.  I don’t have the knowledge to know how “good” of a jump in score that is, but it’s obviously encouraging to see it go in the right direction. The goal of the Yakezie Challenge is to get under 200,000 worldwide.

Money Real Estate Retirement

Consider a Co-Op in Early Retirement

by on December 12, 2016
Condo Photo

Hello friends,

I’ve recently learned of a housing option that makes “early retirement” sound a lot more feasible for me as a young single dude. One of the biggest variables an early retiree will face without a robust portfolio is the inflationary rise in rent. One solution is to purchase real estate or take on a fixed rate mortgage, but then that potentially eats into a portion of your portfolio. Some are willing to just move somewhere cheaper when the inevitable rise in rent happens, but what if, like me, one of your goals of early retirement is to immerse yourself more in your community? It’s hard to do that if you have to start over every couple years.

Money

November 2016 Expense Update

by on December 7, 2016
Lake and Mountains

November Numbers are in!

 

November 2016 Spending

A reminder that the “spending column” is November’s spending, and the comparison column is October’s spending. Click immediate previous link to get some insight on October. There aren’t a whole lot of changes.

I’m most pleased to see the food expense line continue to go down. No doubt this is due to cooking more often at home. Not to mention a holiday weekend with my family where I basically didn’t have to spend any money on food at all. There’s another one of those holidays coming up this month….

Travel

I booked a week long AirBNB stay in Omaha next May for the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting! The hosts sound pretty cool. They said they have a list of restaurants for me to try and places to explore. To AirBNB hosts out there, this makes perfect sense. If you give your guests a list of suggestions that they can do with their time, maybe they spend less time in your home.

Auto

Auto expenses are up because AAA did it’s annual billing last month and auto insurance started billing. I believe I lumped the previous 6 months for auto insurance to hit a credit card bonus. I actually spent a little less on gas specifically in November vs. October.

Shopping

It’s unusual to see the shopping category this high. I bought a couple pairs of work pants, some hiking poles, a headlamp and some hiking shoes. And I want to say I went on like 6 or 7 hikes, so they are getting used. I’ll get some more hikes in late this month after my fitness boot camp session is over.

No Income Summary Until Further Notice.

I won’t be reporting any income for the next few months because my financials just have too much craziness going on right now. There are capital gain distributions coming from my mutual funds. I even exchanged 1 of my funds temporarily into the S&P 500 index to avoid a hefty 5% of NAV distribution. I also paid so much California estimated taxes this month that it made my savings rate go negative for the month. This is the first time that has happened since I started tracking my monthly income and spending with either Mint or LearnVest. I’ve done WAY more bank and brokerage bonus chasing this year, so it makes sense that I’d have higher tax liability. But I might have overpaid my state taxes. If that’s the case, I’ll be in a lower federal tax bracket next year so that should work out in my favor if I did for some reason over-pay. It all depends on if I do any more donations this year….

Speaking of Donations…

I donated somewhere around $400-$500 worth of extra clothes to Goodwill on Sunday morning. Three GIANT trash bags of clothes. Including 37 t-shirts! Mostly anything with a branded logo on it has departed my closet. Someone else can advertise brands for free. 😀 Exception being the local fitness boot camp because one of the girls gave it to me and I’d feel bad. I got quite the work out individually hauling those bags down my 3 flights of stairs. I feel like I still have way too much clothes too.

I’ve also considered donating all my living room furniture before year end if the Salvation Army or some other charity will come and do a 3rd story apartment truck pick up.  You can’t downsize into a Honda Civic when you own a 2 bedroom apartment worth of crap! It’s not like we ever really use the living room furniture.  But I might just leave it so that my sister can use it with whoever her new roommate is. If I thought I would be moving back to this area after the road trip, I would just put it in storage. The tax deduction is more valuable this year….sooo….we’ll see what happens on that front.

I’m still on the fence about establishing a Donor Advised Fund. The minimum is $5000. That would save me about $1,700 in federal and state income taxes for 2016. I have to believe that I’ll earn enough money over the next few years that I would probably donate $5k anyway, so frontloading it now really shouldn’t  be a big deal. But, yeah. Income stream shutting off for who knows how long and it’s not exactly good stewardship of a windfall to just spend it so that you don’t have to work for a little bit.

Yet, people who are less fortunate donate way more as a percentage of their income, so knowing me, I’ll probably just shame myself into going through with it. But that hasn’t happened yet. :-/

Investing Money Real Estate

When $6,000 Turns Into $111,000 In Five Years.

by on December 5, 2016
Condo Photo

 The Backstory

I’ve struggled with the right way to tell this story. I’ve attempted to write about my privilege in the past, but I’ve never been overly happy with the posts. A lot of people, especially my own family, tend to tell me that I’m “good with money”.  I feel like part of that is because my idea of a super fun Friday night is reading about money on the internet. The thing is, I didn’t start out as a “money expert”. I think that writing directly with some actual numbers is just the best way to do this. The big numbers here are public record. Therefore, I don’t see a reason to try to keep it a secret.

In 2010, I bought a 2 bedroom condo in Southern California. It was less than 5 miles from where my job was.  I bought a condo not because I was some investment wizard, but because my dad scribbled on some paper and showed me the comparison of costs of me paying rent vs. me paying monthly expenses of a mortgaged condo after tax deductions. Thanks dad! In other words, he was probably just gently telling me that it was time to move out.

When I started looking at real estate, I did not have any retirement accounts. There were no taxable brokerage accounts. I had somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 in an ING Direct Orange Savings Account. It might have even still been paying over 2% around that time.

I Didn’t Know A Lick About Investing.

My obliviousness to investing during my college years (2004-2009, ages 19-24) shielded my life savings from one of the more massive drops in U.S. equities during my life time. You could say that was the very beginning of a long road of “good financial luck” as I began the process of distancing myself from being fully financially dependent on my parents to where I am today, talking about taking an extended break from work.

That’s huge. How did I get there? Mostly because of real estate and debt.

I’m sure that my dad might have believed that it was a “good time to buy” relative to what the local real estate market had looked like in the years prior. Looking back, I  certainly recognize that it absolutely was. But I had no idea about any of that at the time. I wasn’t counting on real estate appreciation when I made my real estate investment. What I did understand was that by having a cheap mortgage instead of rent, I would have more cash flow to blow on pizza and chicken wings.  So I bought a condo. And potentially a lot more pizza vs. if I were a renter.

§121(b)(4)

When I got tired of living there, I rented it out for a couple years. I could have sold it right away, but I didn’t go that route. It actually went up in value some more. This article from San Jose State University  has a great explanation of Internal Revenue Code §121(b)(4), the tax code exception which allowed me to rent out my condo for a couple years and still keep all of the capital gains tax free. I actually didn’t know about that part of the exception until I did research to file my 2015 taxes, so that was pretty exciting. I thought I had to split the gain between 60% personal use and 40% rental use, and I wanted to sell before it was 100% rental. At that time, I totally thought that renting it out (and making the gain partially taxable) was going to end up being one of those financial blunders I quietly ignore on this blog. Instead, it was yet another turn of random good luck in my personal financial life. Ha.

1 2 3 5