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TJ

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.

Money Travel

Have You Considered #VanLife? Info From Actual Van Lifers

by on November 30, 2016
How Much Does Van Life Cost?

How Much Does #VanLife Cost?

if you’re pursuing any sort of extensive road trip, you’ll notice that there’s sort of a shortage of financial particulars.  I did the logical thing. I asked my friends. I even asked one of my mother’s friends. True story, my mother sings in a choir with a woman my age who pursued van life. Since I know I’m not the only one who has considered the possibility of van life, i’m going to share the wealth of knowledge that was shared with me with people who are actually doing van life. Most of these people do not have a van life blog, so they aren’t trying to convince you to consider van life and click their affiliate links and fund their lifestyle. They’re just living the dream. Do I sell my car and go full out for #vanlife ? Do I go for a test run with a 3 month van rental in “low season” to go up and down the Pacific Coast ? (The cost would be about $1k per month for a 3 to 6 month rental – in case you were curious.)

Discounts Money Saving

My Black Friday Treasure Finds

by on November 28, 2016
Black Friday Treasure Hunt

Hello friends! I had a super relaxing weekend. Spent the weekend out in the desert and only took my mini laptop. I did not remember my WP Admin or wordpress.com passwords, so I was conveniently forced to step away from the blog. It was a welcome break from all of this, but it is not so much fun trying to cram a past in under the wire before Monday morning. You know what place was NOT crowded on Black Friday? The local grocery store! Not a soul in sight.

It was a productive weekend in terms of finding good deals as well as actual free cash.

Travel

Awesome Posts I Read

by on November 23, 2016
Awesome Posts I Read Recently

One of my favorite things that I’ve seen some bloggers do is give shout outs to other articles that they’ve read recently. A lot of people don’t do this anymore because it effects their SEO rankings. There are so many writers out there and it’s impossible to keep track of everybody.  I decided that I’m writing for humans and not for robots, so below are a few of the articles that I noticed throughout this past month.

Blog Stats

October 2016 Blog Traffic & Social Media Report

by on November 21, 2016
October 2016 Blog Stats

Happy Monday friends!

I’m not sure how interesting these posts are to read, but I write them for the purposes of archiving my progress. One of my problems over the years has been laziness in the form of outsourcing various data collection, so when I switched my expense monitoring from LearnVest to Mint, I lost all of that historical data. By writing down this information on my blog, it is saved indefinitely and seeing the progression validates my decision to keep writing.

I briefly touched on my September Stats in a different format. For this post and all subsequent traffic updates, I’m following in Graham’s footsteps, as his format for tracking these analytics is effective and very easy to read.

Life Retirement

Why Isn’t Productivity Personal?

by on November 18, 2016

There’s a lot of talk in the financial independence community about feeling the need to be productive. Productivity in life. In retirement. In employment. Also in *unemployment*. If you’re Mustachian, then consuming is the anti-good and producing is good. I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear that I think this is yet another false dichotomy perpetuated on the internet. Production and consumption are on two sides of the spectrum. I have no interest in being on either extreme.

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