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2million's Personal Finance Blog

A personal finance weblog of my journey to reach my goal of $2 million + the value of my primary residence.

Last Build Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2018 17:21:49 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2018

January 2018 Net Worth Update (+$43,834)

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 17:21:49 -0500


Highlights for January

  • January was another incredible month of growth for our net worth growth kicking of 2018 with a nice start.
  • Only a few days into the new year and I had to unexpectedly replace a HVAC system at a rental property for $4,400. That is what our cash/emergency funds are for.
  • For the first time in a long time I got *close* to an overdraft situation in my checking account. My primary mortgage company somehow withdrew my January mortgage payment twice in January and then I had a multitude of Dec bills withdrawing from my account in early December. Its thrown my monthly cash flow cycle of income/payments off for a bit and Im still shuffling money around my cash accounts to re-adjust.
  • Late January we got into vacation planning mode planning a short Spring break trip on the Virginia coast (using hotel points), and a week in the NC Outerbanks during the summer (renting a condo for a week).
  • Our monthly spend still seems high. Its the new normal it seems, and I keep talking about reducing our spending run rate, but no progress. With healthy net worth growth its more palatable for me.

December 2017 Net Worth Update (+$32,893)

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 16:51:59 -0500


Highlights for December

  • December was another good month of growth for our net worth growth bringing 2017 to a close. Our net worth grow over $245k USD in 2017! Its hard to complain about that kind of YoY growth. If the market were to continue like 2017 we'd hit out financial goals in the next 1-2 years.
  • I am in the process of paying off our equity line on House #1 as I received a letter reminding me it matures in July 2018. I sent a check in for $5.5k USD to pay it down and plan to get it paid off in the next month or so.

November 2017 Net Worth Update (+$31,585)

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 09:45:10 -0500


Highlights for November

  • November was another good month with our net worth still growing at a healthy clip.
  • Ive decided to go ahead and payoff our equity line on House #1 as I received a letter reminding me it matures in July. I sent a check n for $10k USD to pay it down and plan to get it paid off in the next 1-2 months.
  • Otherwise November was a quiet month on the financial front.

October 2017 Net Worth Update (+$14,082)

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 11:06:44 -0500


Highlights for October

  • October still had healthy gains after a significant bump in September.
  • We spent the first part of October on a Disney family vacation. I had a lot of heartburn about the expense of this trip for several months, but I came back convinced it was the right decision for our family. It was a magical (and exhausting) time for the whole group. In the end our entire trip cost us under $4,000 USD for our family of four for 6 nights/6 days in parks.
  • I also had another 2 week international business trip in October. I foresee work travel slowing down soon (I hope).
  • My wife and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary in late October! Hard to believe how fast time flies. I did buy my wife a gemstone necklace to mark the occasion and we celebrated with a nice kid-free dinner out.

September 2017 Net Worth Update (+$40,835)

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 00:30:24 -0500


Highlights for September

  • September was a fantastic month with a huge gain on paper, our net worth is up $40k. Feels good to see such growth, but it does remind me of one thing my grandfather would remind me of growing up about the stock market - "The higher it goes, the lower it falls".
  • We have booked a Disney vacation for the beginning of October, our expenses are up as we prepaid for some vacation expenses by buying discounted gift cards. I'll post more about our trip later.
  • In early September I threw my wife a surprise birthday party. It was a ton more prep work than I anticipated and it was more expensive than I originally planned, partially because I waited to the last minute for with a lot of the planning. I learned my lesson and doubt I will try that again ;-).
  • Otherwise September was a pretty quiet month for us. I didn't do any business travel in September which was a nice break and good for the wallet.

August 2017 Net Worth Update (+$3,767)

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 21:14:45 -0500


Highlights for August

  • August was a pretty muted month for us in terms of net worth change. We still ended up slightly positive.

  • I have bumped up my short term bond allocation in my 401k. I can't find any investment that Im excited about so parking more dollars in closer to cash equivalents.
  • We track our real estate holdings based on their cost basis. I believe this is a conservative approach to measure net worth given the illiquidity of real estate in general. For example Zillow estimates our current real estate values are $220k+ higher than what we track them at here.
  • Im still waiting for agreement on the car accident claim from the other parties' insurance company for our accident at the end of June.
  • I wrapped up a 3-week business trip to China in the 1H of August. I expect this is the last business trip for me for at least the next couple months.

July 2017 Net Worth Update (+$25,312)

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 15:35:48 -0500


Highlights for July

  • Another great month in the books for 2017. If this was a typical net worth month for us we'd be financially free in < 2 years. Wishful thinking; we are in a marathon, but we'll take months like these when we can get them.

  • I've ramped up post-tax contributions to my 401k plan. I intend to try out a new conversion feature in my 401k plan that will let me convert these to Roth IRA contributions at some point soon.
    This would effectively allow me to contribute at much higher levels to my Roth IRA than the current $5,500 contribution limit.
  • We completed our 2 week+ family road trip to Canada, 2,987 miles. Major stops included: Lancaster, PA; Niagra Falls, Toronto, ON; Montreal, ON; Quebec City; Bar Harbor, Maine; and New York City. It was alot of fun with a ton of great memories. It would be great to spend more time and do it slower once we are financiall free! I also mentioned last month that we got into a minor car accident on day 3, we are finally in the process of filing the claim with the insurance.
  • I am in the middle of a 3-week business trip to China for the last part of July and into August.

June 2017 Net Worth Update (+$26,879)

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 17:14:47 -0500


Highlights for June

  • Finally a net worth jump to get excited about. I've been a little frustrated with Mint lately as some of my account values weren't getting updated. I finally spent some time in June to get those fixed (painfully) and believe that is a major contributor to our net worth pop.
  • I received a small annual performance bonus from my employer in June.
  • My employer 401k plan announced a new opportunity to convert post-tax 401k contributions into a Roth IRA. This appears compelling and Im going to test the waters a bit. If this
    option is as good as I think it is, it seems to allow me the ability to effectively contribute and additional ~$25k USD into a Roth IRA each year. I've started contributions to it in June to see how well this works.
  • At the end of June we started our 2 week family summer road trip to Canada! Already had a minor car accident (other persons fault), here is to hoping the rest of the trip is smooth :-).

May 2017 Net Worth Update(+$12,231)

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:31:39 -0500


Highlights for May

  • Another month, more gains in the stock market. It seems to just go up, up, up. That is when I get uncomfortable as a value investor, who knows what will happen.
  • I had another 2 week business trip in May. Our expenses tend to run slightly higher when I'm traveling.
  • We enjoyed a friend's wedding over Memorial Day.

April 2017 Net Worth Update (+$8,354)

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:07:59 -0500


Highlights for April

  • Our net worth change was moderated with little market movements - our main change came from a bump in our international investments.
  • I had an uneventful 2 week AP business trip in April.
  • At the end of April we firmed up a summer road trip for the family to Canada - over 2 weeks! Should be an enjoyable adventure with the kids as long as we can map out some fun stops along the way.This included a couple AirBnb stays that we offset with some credit card bonus travel reimbursements.

March 2017 Net Worth Update (+$9,582)

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:38:58 -0500


Highlights for March

  • We purchased season passes for the 4 of us to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA for $246 (youngest was free). If we visit twice this summer we'll break even. We went for 1 day already in early April while my daughter was on Spring Break. Maybe not the most frugal expense, but should be worth it for some summer family fun.
  • My youngest daughter started teeball this month. I never played baseball so this is as much a learning experience for me as it is for her.
  • Otherwise things were pretty quiet this month.

February 2017 Net Worth Update (+$32,457)

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 07:45:56 -0500


Highlights for February

  • Stock markets drove another very good net worth gain for us this month with a $32k pop.
  • I signed my wife up for another Barclay Arrival credit card with 50,000 bonus points after $3,000 in spending (effectively a $500 bonus for us). I had read folks were able to leverage this bonus again as soon as they canceled their previous card. We cancelled my wife's previous Barclays card last year to avoid the annual fee so well see if this works.
  • Spending is higher than average in February primarily to us spending most of our 2017 healthcare deductible on long term prescriptions ($2,500+). I find utilizing my employer's high deductible insurance plan lowers our annual costs even though we are likely above average users of healthcare services. Still it mentally stings a bit early in the year as we meet our deductible.
  • Other notable expenses in February included our annual membership to a local summer pool $500 and a $1,000 prepayment to our local electric utility.
  • I moved some cash around in our taxable brokerage account to make some additional stock investments, hence the above average bump in our taxable brokerage accounts.

2016 Passive Income: Dividends

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:57:36 -0500

Its been a couple years since I shared our passive income so I thought I would publish a summary of our 2016 dividend income. This passive income comes from our taxable stock portfolio. All retirement investment holdings are excluded from this dividend income summary. This passive income is an important part of our financial freedom plan. Note we have met our goal in terms of annual taxable dividend income, but we are well short of our interest income and may be leveraging dividends to help bridge the gap.


There are some minor stock holding changes but nothing earth shattering. Some stock have cut their dividends (Connoco) while others have significantly boosted their payout (Phillips 66). Our top dividend payers are the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) and Fairfax Financial (FRFHF) which is consistent with our largest individual holdings.

Overall our dividend growth has slowed over the last couple years (avg ~7% growth annually the last 3 years). We've put less focus on growing dividend income in our investments, but still see dividend income as a important part of our income generation when we are financially free.

Also see our 2013 dividend income for more.

January 2017 Net Worth Update (+$12,144)

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:57:10 -0500


Highlights for January

  • We started off the year playing catch-up from 2016 We paid our annual real estate taxes on 2 properties in the beginning of January. We also had a large chunk of our holiday spending hit our balance sheets in January.
  • In January I had my longest flight travel ever - a business trip from US to India via Hong Kong. The extended travel time wasn't as bad as I had expected, although I spent more time traveling than I did in India. I wouldn't mind getting the chance to spend more time in India in the future.
  • We paid our annual auto insurance premiums (~$1k) this month. We currently use Erie Insurance and tempted to start shopping around again for a better deal, but maybe next year.
  • January was a pretty quite month otherwise. My wife and I started discussing vacation plans for 2017, but nothing definitive. It will be hard to top the 3 international trips we took in 2016.

December 2016 Net Worth Update (+$19,452)

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 14:11:37 -0500


Highlights for December

  • Im far behind with updates on the blog for the past several months. Playing catch-up.
  • We closed 2016 with a nice gain offsetting increased spending. Our net worth rose $170,147 in 2016 still comfortably ahead of our financial freedom benchmark, but the next couple years will be key.
  • In December I completed and received a $500 credit card bonus offer and also signed up again for Barclays travel card bonus promotion in anticipation of vacation travel in 2017.
  • Business travel continued with additional trips to Mexico and Hungary in December. As I've mentioned before these days my personal expenses run higher with business travel so I am still looking for techniques to minimize/eliminate the impact. On the plus side I still accrue significant frequent flyer benefits so its not all negative.
  • In December we purchased $2,700 worth of Target gift cards with a promotion discounting the gift cards by 10%. We do the majority of our shopping at a Super Target close to our home so we expect to consume those gift cards within 6-9 months without any alterations to our spending habits.
  • Spending was up significant in December with holiday gift giving.