Uncertainty vs Risks….part 2

A few months earlier, I talked about the difference between Uncertainty and Risks (https://humblefi.com/2019/07/14/uncertainty-vs-risks/). If you read that post, it would be a really good foundation to understand this post. So, I encourage you to take a peek at that first.

Genuine Uncertainty vs Risk

The basic thesis of the first post was to differentiate between two things:

  • Genuine Uncertainty
    • Events that come of of nowhere like the 2008 global recession
    • Since we do not know when such events happen, how can one create a risk mitigation plan?
  • Risk
    • Events are known and also the probability of occurrence is also known
    • For example, for a recession, here are some possible events with different risk probabilities.
      • Portfolio loss during recession
        • Probability: 80-100%
        • Risk mitigation Plan
          • Keep some cash aside to avoid selling stocks when they are down.
          • Keep some case to keep investing to dollar-cost-average down
      • Job loss during recession
        • Probability: 20%
        • Risk mitigation Plan
          • Emergency fund to last 6 months without a job
          • Life insurance outside of work….
          • Network with people in other companies
          • Always be ready to interview.

Dealing with Genuine Uncertainty and ordinary risks

The basic question that came to me was: what financial system can I set up to deal with both Genuinely Uncertain events and ordinary risk events? Lets capture all the risk events that I want the system to handle.

  • Inflation Risk
    • Cash funds and many bond funds have yields less than 3% inflation.
    • I.e. we need funds with total return (dividends + capital gains) of greater than 3%…mostly implies equity funds.
  • Falling Interest Rates Risk
    • Negative rates anyone…reduces Cash and bond fund returns a lot.
    • This also implies some sort of equity funds.
  • Rising Interest Rates Risk
    • Reduces stock market returns by making borrowing costly
    • Newer bonds will offer more yield i.e. older bonds lose value
    • This implies some sort of bond funds.
  • Longevity Risk
    • If all assets are in cash and bond funds, inflation can eat into them and we may have more life left when the portfolio is down to zero.
    • Historically, inflation protected assets have been stocks, tips, real estate,….
  • Sequence of Returns Risk
    • Retiring when there is a bear market means that stock assets could be worth less than paid for. I.e. drawing down on portfolio which is down, at the beginning of retirement, has been proved to be bad news for a portfolio.
    • For example, 2008 Bear market was a Genuine Uncertainty event
      • Between down market and up market, it took almost 5-7 years
      • Nobody can predict when such an event can happen
    • Dr. Wade Pfau has done a lot of research here which a normal person can read and understand 🙂
  • Job loss risk
    • Need to sustain household expenses for some time until the next job can be found.
    • This time period can be 1-2 years…from seeing folks around me going through some rough times.
  • Health Scare risk
    • Need to have sufficient cash reserves for a health scare when one cannot work
    • Also, need some income protection as well.

After considering the above risks, some of which I have personally experienced and/or have been around people who experienced it, I can sort them into three buckets based on time:

  • Short term risks mitigation for 1-2 years
    • Temporary job loss, health scare, family emergencies like sick parent, etc
  • Medium term risks mitigation for 5-7 years
    • Serious health scare, long term disability, 2008 type bear market (aka sequence of return risk), etc
  • Long term risks mitigation for 30 years
    • investments to overcome longevity risk, overcome inflation risk, etc

System 1: Passive Income Streams

There are two components of this system that I followed for the past 5+ years.

  • Emergency Fund to cover 6-12 months
    • Held in CASH…high yield accounts….appx 1-2% interest rate
    • After taxes on interest and inflation, this is a negative yielding account
  • Passive Income Streams to cover all the expenses
    • Income from Municipal bonds: state and federal tax free
    • Income from Qualified (stock) dividends

Recessions can turn into bear markets. If the bear markets lasted more than 6-12 months, then I would be forced to sell the stocks and/or bonds from my passive income streams.  In addition, many dividend paying companies reduce their dividend payout in bear markets. I.e. I may have to sell stocks when the their prices are down.

Can I come with a better system? Apparently, smart people have already thought about this problem and produced a better system 🙂

System 2: Bucket Investing Strategy

I have always invested until now with Vanguards Risk Levels approach i.e. invest money in different risk buckets to diversify risk (Risk Analysis). The bucket based investing is a much more exhaustive version of the same….a system that can handle both ordinary risk events (job loss, short term education break, etc) and Genuine Uncertain events like 2008 bear market.

Conceptually (imo), the Bucket Investing Strategy has three parts.

  • Bucket 1: Cash Bucket for 1-3 yrs
    • Short term risks mitigation only
    • Goal is liquidity and not return i.e. expected return is 0%
    • 1-3 years of total expenses in this bucket.
    • I have used high yield savings account from Ally Bank, SmartyPig, Capital One 360, etc for this bucket.
    • This is the “Salary bucket”…expenses should not exceed the inflow into this bucket from Buckets 2 and 3.
  • Bucket 2: Bond bucket for 5-7 yrs
    • Medium term risks mitigation only
    • Goal is liquidity and not return.
    • But since Bucket 1 is protecting us for 2 years, we can go up the risk-reward ladder for some more yield but with some more risk.
    • Expected return for this bucket is 2.5%….still does not beat inflation.
    • I have used Muni bonds whose tax equivalent yield is a bit more i.e. barely beats inflation.
    • Income from this bucket flows into “Salary bucket” i.e. Bucket 1.
  • Bucket 3: Equity bucket for as long as it takes 🙂
    • Long term risks mitigation only
    • Since this is an equity bucket, assume 4% return per year.
      • NOTE 4% is conservative w.r.t. the long term equity return of 8%.
    • Since buckets 1 and 2 can provide funds for years 1-7, the goal of this bucket 3 is to keep up with long term inflation by investing in equity alternatives like
      • Dividend growth stocks
      • Capital growth stocks
      • Current income stocks like REITs.
    • Income from this bucket flows into “Salary bucket” i.e. Bucket 1.

Examples for Bucket Sizing

When I am ready to retire (still at least 10+ years away), I would like to have all three buckets set up completely to generate passive income that can deal with all the above discussed risks. Lets take one example design and study two implementations based on that design.

  • Bucket 1:
    • 3 years of full expenses
    • Cash at 0% return
  • Bucket 2:
    • 7 years of full expenses
    • Bonds at 2.5% return
  • Bucket 3:
    • Equity funds at 4% return
    • Since this is an equity bucket, question comes: How much money here?
    • This depends on how much income is needed to be generated from this bucket.

Lets take a couple of examples to understand this.

Case Study 1: $4000 per month passive income

In this case study, the passive income requirement in retirement is $4K pm OR $48K per year. Assume gross for now. So, the bucket portfolio should somehow generate $4K pm in dividends.

  • Bucket 1:
    • 3 years of expenses in cash => 3 * $48K => $144K
    • Since we assumed 0% return for bucket 1, we need Buckets 2 and 3 to generate $48K per year in income.
  • Bucket 2:
    • 7 years of expenses in bonds => 7 * $48K => $336K
    • Since we assumed 2.5% return (I am using MUNIs for this), this bucket will generate $336K * .025 => $8400 pa => $700 pm.
    • So, Bucket 3 will have to generate the remaining ($48K – $8400) => $39,600…appx $40K.
  • Bucket 3:
    • The main requirement for Bucket 3 is to generate $40K.
    • Since this bucket has an assumed return of 4%, the amount needed in this bucket is: $40K / .04 => $1 million 🙂
    • This bucket will have the following types of equity funds
      • Dividend stocks
      • Growth stocks
      • Value stocks
      • REITs
      • etc

Case Study 2: $6000 per month passive income

In this case study, the passive income requirement in retirement is $6K pm OR $72K per year. Assume gross for now. So, the bucket portfolio should somehow generate $6K pm in dividends.

  • Bucket 1:
    • 3 years of expenses in cash => 3 * $72K => $216K
    • Since we assumed 0% return for bucket 1, we need Buckets 2 and 3 to generate $72K per year in income.
  • Bucket 2:
    • 7 years of expenses in bonds => 7 * $72K => $504K
    • Since we assumed 2.5% return (I am using MUNIs for this), this bucket will generate $504K * .025 => $12600 pa => $1050 pm.
    • So, Bucket 3 will have to generate the remaining ($72K – $12600) => $59,400 …appx $60K.
  • Bucket 3:
    • The main requirement for Bucket 3 is to generate $60K of income pa.
    • Since this bucket has an assumed return of 4%, the amount needed in this bucket is: $60K / .04 => $1.5 million 🙂
    • This bucket will have the following types of equity funds
      • Dividend stocks
      • Growth stocks
      • Value stocks
      • REITs
      • etc

Steps to take today

To support generating passive income for ever from the first day of retirement, we have designed the three bucket system above.

  • Bucket 1 is the salary bucket.
    • Income flows into this Bucket 1 from buckets 2 and 3 like a regular pay check.
  • Buckets 2 and 3
    • The pay check, from Buckets 2 and 3, is supposed to overcome all the risks we talked about before: ordinary risks and genuine uncertainties.

Assuming that, what should we do today? From now on, all goals will be targeted to build the buckets to their appropriate sizes. For the two examples listed above,

  • $48K passive income pa
    • Bucket 1: $144K
    • Bucket 2: $336K
    • Bucket 3: $1 million
  • $72K passive income pa
    • Bucket 1: $216K
    • Bucket 2: $504K
    • Bucket 3: $1.5 million

Using the above template, please calculate your own bucket sizes for the amount of  passive income you desire per year in retirement. Hope that helps!

Financial Independence Progress Report for Dec 2019

It is December 2019 now. Somebody recently asked the question: what were your accomplishments in 2019? At that moment, it struck me that 2019 has been a very very busy year….there were a lot of personal and professional issues our family had to deal with….relationship troubles, a job loss, new job and job-change induced relocation, sick parent, moving to a new house, etc. There were some good things as well….but lots and lots of stress. I realized that I need to slow down for a few days and slowly extricate myself from the grind. 

First step is this report 🙂 My last monthly progress report was May 2019. I was supposed to use a new method to track my finances and goals going forward from May. That did not happen for the above reasons. I have used this template since I started this blog…almost 6 years ago. So, lets use it for some more time until I stabilize my life!

That said, let us see how much closer I got to my financial independence targets in Dec 2019.

12/22/2019
Emergency Fund 100.0% 39.27%
College Fund 67.39% 76.20%
Passive Income (2018 vs 2019) $1387.59(12/2018) $732.68 (12/2019)
Retirement Fund 92.52% 95.46%
Roof for our Family Done!
Medical Fund (via HSA) 18.60% 22.30%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • This year’s target dividends was $500 pm or $6000 per year. The target is half of last years because I had to sell some investments for a home down payment.
    • The good news is that I have exceeded my target. The total dividends, as of today, is $10,426.89.
    • The bad news is that last year the total dividends were much higher….$16,589. But that was expected….home purchase and all.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in taxable accounts
      • Nothing this month. Too many expenses related to Christmas 🙂
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • Redirected the December REIT fund dividends into VEIPX: Vanguard Equity Income Fund
    • Investments in tax-deferred 401K
      • No change this month…continuing to build a cash position.
      • The way the market is going up, this plan seems stupid…..but I want to have cash when the chips are down much more that the incremental gains this year.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Nothing special.

 

Financial Independence Progress Report for June 2018

June is traditionally the second biggest month of the year for dividends.  But, since my portfolio rework over March and April of this year, dividends are going to look different than prior years. Dividends will be more stable and divided evenly across all months of the year. June will still be the second biggest month, but will be less in absolute numbers compared to prior years. Let us see how the numbers look for June 2018.

6/08/2018
Emergency Fund 34.67% 28.78%
College Fund 53.79% 53.70%
Passive Income (2017 vs 2018) $2389.89(6/2017) $1721.47 (6/2018)
Retirement Fund 83.01% 85.73%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 9.82% 9.79%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for June 2018 is approximately 27% lower than June 2017. It is expected to be so 🙂
      • In March an April, I redistributed where my funds are invested. Cashed out some gains and converted quarterly dividends to monthly and more importantly more stable and tax efficient dividends.
      • The June, September and December dividends are going to be much less. But, the total dividends for the entire year will be higher though.
      • Compared to this time last year, the total dividends this year through end of June is 21% more than 2017….just distributed differently.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in taxable accounts
      • Nothing new to report here as I am out of cash 😐
      • Loaned out some emergency fund money to a friend who had an emergency….so priority is to rebuild my emergency fund now.
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • I bought some more of VIHAX (International High Dividend) and VTIAX (International index). Both are down a few % points this year and I took advantage of this to dollar cost average down my investments.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Last month I said this…..
      • I have started a new way of tracking numbers for the next phase of my financial independence journey…will talk about this over the next couple of weeks.
    • Found an error in my tracking spreadsheet and had to make some changes. So decided to push the date by a couple of weeks to test drive it a bit more. Will update the blog soon.

Financial Independence Progress Report for February 2018

February 2018 is done and gone and I am late by 11 days in publishing this….bad bad bad. Was a bit lazy at the end of last month and life caught up to me. Better late than never!

That said, lets look at the numbers for February, 2018. Nothing big to report…

  • The dividend stream is settling down to an even pace since I have no extra money to add to the dividend funds.
  • The stock market swoon in February 2018 had its effect on my portfolio also…look at the nos in red below.

Looking forward to March’s quarterly dividends!

3/11/2018
Emergency Fund 83.33% 83.33%
College Fund ($80K) 64.47% 63.66%
Passive Income (2017 vs 2018) $408.50(2/2017) $657.17 (2/2018)
Retirement Fund 82.17% 81.63%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 6.17% 6.17% ….lost login again 😦
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for February 2018 is a couple hundred dollars higher than February 2017. This is mostly the result of a push towards adding to my MUNI funds through 2017.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in taxable accounts
      • Nothing to report
      • Got really attracted to the idea of selling my investments in VHDYX (up 10-12%) and moving them to MUNIs…divided yields are about the same and the MUNIs are federal tax free….had to pull myself back.
      • Holding off until I capture the quarterly dividends in March, 2018.
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • In Dec 2018, I took some profits and set up a a cash fund set up to take advantage of the next investing opportunity.
      • This month, I moved some of the cash fund into a REIT fund….REITs have dropped almost 10% this year….added to my investment in VGSLX to dollar cost average down some of my investments.

Financial Independence Progress Report for October 2017

It is one of those slow dividend months again….not much action (which is good) but not much money coming in either 😐 So, lets directly jump into the numbers for October 2017. This time, I will post a bit early as I will be heading out for a work related assignment and will not have the time until well into next month.

10/29/2017
Emergency Fund $60K Done
College Fund (80K) 58.61% 59.62%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $551.80 (10/2016) $528.04 (10/2017)
Retirement Fund 78.74% 79.39%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 5.86% 5.70%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for October 2017 is approximately 4% lower than October 2016. The only reason for this decrease is that I re-positioned my investments to provide more dividends in the months of Mar, June, Sep and December instead of my older investments that used to have a dividend stream in Jan, April,  July and October.
    • My total dividends at this point in time are actually up compared to last year
      • At this time in 2016, average dividends per month was $603.4.
      • As of now in 2017, average dividends per month is $709.60.
      • So, appx a 17% increase in average dividends per month.
    • I also captured some capital gains from one of my US mutual funds. The stock markets are reaching new levels every day and the only thought that comes to mind is: greater the rise, the greater fall. So, I am staying invested in the US market, but capturing some gains as well.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • In July, I sold portions of some funds to capture accumulated capital gains and created a cash fund inside my IRA.
      • In August and September, I deployed some of the cash in the cash fund into two international mutual funds to avoid the super expensive valuations of US stocks. In October, I continued more of the same and invested in the same funds again.
        • VTIAX: Vanguard Total International Stock Fund
          • Lower expense ratio
          • Covers the entire international market (large, medium and small caps)
        • VIHAX: Vanguard International High Dividend Fund
          • Higher expense ration
          • Covers a portion of the international market only (mainly large caps)
      • The curious reader may ask: why not just invest everything in the cheaper VTIAX? I am following my old rule of risk diversification….in the same class of mutual funds (international market), I always have two funds compete for your money. So, both VTIAX and VIHAX will now compete with each other to make more money for me 🙂
    • In addition, I noticed now that in my IRA, the percentages of US and International stocks are almost even. I will pile up on US stocks over time in the following ways:
      • Periodic 401K investments are always dollar cost averaging into US stocks (70% of money goes into US funds)
      • In the next recession, I will invest some of the leftover cash fund into mainly US stocks and pick them up at cheaper valuations.

Financial Independence Progress Report for September 2017

I was eagerly waiting for September dividends to come….it is the third highest grossing quarter after Dec and June. So, what is not to like? But, September has come and gone and there is not much excitement in reporting the numbers. The numbers are not that bad year-over-year, but I guess it is the slow progress towards the goals’ end that has made me a bit less excited. But, I told myself…One step at a time….build the dividend streams and the dividend snowballing will start for sure!

That said, lets look at the numbers for September 2017.

10/06/2017
Emergency Fund $60K Done
College Fund (80K) 57.59% 58.61%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $1176.20(09/2016) $1547.52 (09/2017)
Retirement Fund 77.79% 78.74%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 4.18% 4.20%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for September 2017 is approximately 31.5% higher than September 2016. The main reason for this increase is Investments in a couple of International funds…..VTMGX (International Developed Markets Index) and VEMAX (Emerging Markets Index).
    • I have tried to diversify away from investing only in US market funds and I am just seeing the fruits of that this year on. Roughly 17% of my total dividends this year have come from International funds. I want to bring this up a bit more to reduce the risk of all dividends coming from the US markets.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • In July, I sold portions of some funds to capture accumulated capital gains and created a cash fund inside my IRA.
      • In August, I deployed some of the cash in the cash fund to buy two international mutual funds…the US funds have not come down from their super expensive valuations.
      • In September, I continued more of the same and invested in the same funds again.
        • VTIAX: Vanguard Total International Stock Fund
          • Lower expense ratio
          • Covers the entire international market (large, medium and small caps)
        • VIHAX: Vanguard International High Dividend Fund
          • Higher expense ration
          • Covers a portion of the international market only (mainly large caps)
      • The curious reader may ask: why not just invest everything in the cheaper VTIAX?
        • I am following my old rule of risk diversification….in the same class of mutual funds (international market), I always have two funds compete for your money.
      • So, both VTIAX and VIHAX will now compete with each other to make more money for me 🙂

Financial Independence Progress Report for July 2017

Belated July progress report. I was out of town on work related matters.

July is here and has the super tough goal of going against June…one of the best dividend months of the year! As expected, July got beat hands down 🙂 Lets look at the numbers for June 2017.

08/12/2017
Emergency Fund $60K 84.97% 85.34%
College Fund (80K) 54.72% 56.83%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $579.61(07/2016) $486.86 (07/2017)
Retirement Fund 75.19% 76.87%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 2.6% 4.14%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for June 2017 is approximately 20% lower than July 2016. This is an expected decrease. I sold off an investment which used to produce dividends off cycle in Jan, April, July and October. So, passive incomes for those months will be less.
    • But, since I re-distributed the sale proceeds to other funds that follow the regular quarterly payout cycle, my total dividends for 2017 year-to-date is higher than that for 2016 at the same time. So. nothing to worry!
  • Additional Investments
    • Captured gains in taxable account
      • Sold some of Euro-Pacific Developed Markets (via VTMGX) and Tax managed Balanced fund (VTMFX) to capture some capital gains and pad my cash fund. Details below.
    • Captured gains in tax-deferred account
      • Some funds in my IRA had developed some nice gains over the past 6-8 years since the last major downturn in 2008. Sold some portion of a few funds to capture capital gains and created a cash fund inside my IRA to fund a future dip.
  • Add to the cash fund..details 
    • I started a small cash fund accumulated a couple months back to take advantage of any market dip(s) in the US market. This month, I captured some gains in a couple of my investments to add to this cash fund. 
      • Captured some gains (10%) from VTMGX (Developed Markets in Europe and Asia
      • Captured some gains (12%) from VTMFX (Tax Managed Balanced fund)
    • Now, the waiting game begins for a significant stock dip. What is a big dip? I will wait to employ my cash fund at least until the NAV drops 10% on any of my passive income streams.
      • Was disciplined enough in July…and was rewarded with a 1.5% drop in August…lets see how much more disciplined I can be on this one….waiting for a 10% drop!

Financial Independence Progress Report for June 2017

June is here and welcome to one of the best dividend months of the year! I had both good news and bad news. Good news was all the dividends coming in…bad news was that I could not resist raiding the home down payment fund and putting that money to work for me 😦

Since I have to travel for work next week, I am publishing the report ahead of time….most of the dividends are deposited anyways…so, I am not going to miss anything. So, lets look at the numbers for June 2017.

06/23/2017
Emergency Fund $60K 84.73% 84.97%
College Fund (80K) 53.24% 54.72%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $1741.69(06/2016) $2392.05 (06/2017)
Retirement Fund 74.27% 75.19%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 2.6% 2.6% (site down)
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • June is one of the best months of the year for me (and all dividend investors I am sure!). My passive Income for June 2017 is approximately 37% higher than June 2016.
    • I was weak this month also in that I stole some money from the house down payment fund to fund my passive income streams. The longer I delay the home purchase, the higher seems the risk of me stealing from it. In some ways, it is good…the money is employed in the market and working hard for me….but my flexibility w.r.t. home prices is lost. Lets see….
  • Additional Investments
    • International exposure
      • Just like prior months, I have continued to increase my exposure outside the US market. US stocks seem so overvalued that I just can’t bring myself to add to it.
      • I added some more funds to my existing investments in Emerging markets (via VEIEX) and Euro-Pacific Developed Markets (via VTMGX).
    • Vanguard Intermediate Term Tax Exempt MUNIs (VWITX)
      • Dollar cost averaged my existing investment in VWITX.
        • Last June at this time,  the price was $14.61….now it is $14.21. So, lowered my cost basis.
      • This will add to my monthly federal tax free income stream.
    • With this, I am done with monthly automated investments for this year….ran out of money 🙂 Except for the cash fund in case of a dip.
  • Build a tiny cash fund again
    • I want to have a small cash fund accumulated to take advantage of any market dip(s) in the US market. I am done accumulating….no money left to steal anymore 😐
    • Now, the waiting game begins for a significant stock dip. What is a big dip?
      • Take a broad based index like the S&P 500. A well known fund that tracks this is SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSEARCA: SPY).
      • Compared to October of 2016, this fund is almost 20% more….for no good reason. The market seems to have gone crazy. To get a nice view that summarizes what I feel, take a listen to this wonderful podcast: http://www.financialsense.com/when-things-get-crazy-dont-get-lazy Valuations have truly gone crazy.
    • So, I will wait to employ my cash fund at least until the cost drops down to 10% on any of my passive income streams. Lets see how disciplined I can be on this one.

2017 Goals and Quarterly Updates

NOTE: Fourth Quarter, 2017 Update….on 12/22/2017

I started my humble journey towards Financial Independence in 2014. But, I really did not have any formal goals for 2014. I just wanted to create multiple passive income streams, protect my family with life insurance, etc. I established what Financial Independence means to me and what the goals were. I accomplished all the implicit goals I had for 2014.

For 2015, I was a little bit more formal about goal setting and set my 2015 goals and updated my progress quarterly (here). In addition, I also tracked my progress via a Monthly Progress Report (here). At the end of year 2015, I reviewed my progress towards FI and I was happy to have reached and/or exceeded most goals I set (here).

For 2016, I achieved most of the goals I set out for myself (here). The two goals where I failed badly are: Keep eating expenses under $200 per month & Estate planning. I will try again this year i.e. in 2017.

The Financial Independence criterion for me (2017) are:

Financial Independence Criterion
Emergency Fund $60k (as of 2017)
College Fund $80k
Passive Income Streams $4000 per month
Retirement Fund $900k
Roof for our Family $750k….HCOL area 😦
Medical Fund $100k
Life Insurance To protect my earning years…..

For 2017, I have thought about the following goals to get me closer to the above financial independence goals. What is the current status of the goals:

  • Ones in Red are not complete
  • Ones struck-through are complete

Financial Goals

  1. Keep scouting for a possible home/multi-family residence/rental real estate
    1. 03/31/2017        Visited many open houses…single/multi family…prices still crazy
    2. 06/30/2017        Visited two open houses….prices even more crazy this quarter…
    3. 09/30/2017        8 more….we finally know what we want….need the $$$ now 🙂
    4. 12/31/2017        0 homes….prices shot up & pushed most houses out of our budget
  2. Contribute $15000 towards Home Downpayment Fund
    1. 03/31/2017           $10272/$15000            $4728 remaining
    2. 06/30/2017           $13772/$15000            $1228 remaining             
    3. 09/30/2017           $16701/$15000            Done..but price rises outpacing savings 😦
    4. 12/31/2017           n/a
  3. Contribute $3600 to 529 College Fund 2 
    1. 03/31/2017        $305/$3600 done                     $3295 remaining (behind…)
    2. 06/30/2017        $1966/$3600 done                   $1634 remaining 
    3. 09/30/2017        $3467/$3600 done                   $133 remaining
    4. 09/30/2017        $3600/$3600 done                   $0 remaining
  4. Contribute $3000 to 529 College Fund 1
    1. 03/31/2017        $605/$3000 done                    $2395 remaining (behind…)
    2. 06/30/2017        $1767/$3000 done                  $1233 remaining
    3. 09/30/2017        $2427/$3000 done                  $573 remaining
    4. 12/31/2017        $3000/$3000 done                  $0 remaining
  5. Contribute $16k to Passive Income Streams (stretch goal of $24k
    1. 03/31/2017        $10150/$16000                       $5850 remaining ($13850 for stretch)
    2. 06/30/2017        $29970/$16000                       $0 remaining 
    3. 09/30/2017        n/a
    4. 12/31/2017        n/a
  6. Max out 401k contributions for both me and my wife ($36K total)
    1. 03/31/2017        $10489.19/$36K                     $25510.81 remaining
    2. 06/30/2017        $19774.94/$36K                     $16229.06 remaining  
    3. 09/30/2017        $33890/$36K                          $2109.47 remaining    
    4. 12/31/2017        $36K/$36K                              done
  7. Keep eating out expenses under $200 pm
    1. 03/31/2017       $358.61                                      Way above budget…
    2. 06/30/2017       $401.83                                      Out of control 😦 
    3. 09/30/2017       $301                                           Pulled in the expense some…
    4. 12/22/2017       $273                                           Pulled in the expense a little…
  8. Start and finish Estate Planning (Will, POD beneficiaries, Caretaker for children, etc)
    1. 03/31/2017  No progress yet      
    2. 06/30/2017  No progress yet
    3. 09/30/2017  Set up an appt with a financial planner….will discuss and decide
    4. 12/31/2017  Financial plan done; Will, POD, etc next year

Personal Goals

Starting this year, I am trying to track some personal goals. Without adding all the details and boring everybody, I will try to keep this simple. I am hoping tracking this in my blog will keep me motivated to reach my goals. Here they are:

  1. Health Body goals (healthy eating, gym visits, popping multi-vitamins, etc)
    1. 03/31/2017       21.4% success rate  ….nothing but improvement ahead 
    2. 06/30/2017       17.1% success rate ….oh boy…eating too much/no exercise…. 
    3. 09/30/2017       20.0% success rate….behind on flossing, popping vitamins mainly
    4. 12/30/2017       14.1% success rate ….no exercise…. 
  2. Simplify Life: Donate unused books once a month
    1. 03/31/2017       0/3 done                                
    2. 06/30/2017       3/3 done
    3. 09/30/2017       2/3 months done….got my kid to donate old books 🙂
    4. 12/31/2017       2/3 months done….books donated to two libraries  
  3. Simplify Life: Donate unused (old and new) clothes once per quarter
    1. 03/31/2017       1/1 done 
    2. 06/30/2017       1/1 done
    3. 09/30/2017       3/3 done….this time, it was clothes, toys and garage junk!!
    4. 12/31/2017       1/3 done…big kids toys cleanup done; waiting for donation  
  4. Simplify Life: Shred all unnecessary documents once a month
    1. 03/31/2017       1/3 done
    2. 06/30/2017       2/3 done….only 10 folders left…even found 10 year old docs! 
    3. 09/30/2017       1/3 done….a few more folders done….cabinet is so empty now 🙂 
    4. 12/31/2017       1/3 done….did not get to work on this much this qyarter 

Possible candidates for 2018 Personal Goals

I decided to start this section in the last quarter of 2017 (Oct-Dec) so that I can capture possible candidates for Personal goals in 2018.

  • Get together with a Financial Planner and checkpoint the overall state of our finances.
    • My goal was to generate $1000 pm in dividend income and then purchase our primary residence. I am close to the former but way behind the latter.
    • So, I want to set a plan for the next five years and getting a plan review from a qualified professional is timely now.
  • Prepare to find a new job with a better compensation package.
    • To support the house purchase, I need something more that the salary. I would like to add some additional options like a better bonus option, stocks, etc
    • This means I need to do really really well in the interviews…need solid preparation before I look into the market.
  • Get into a PE class of some sort and get my health in order.
    • Need the disciple of a class to help my will power.

Financial Independence Progress Report for March 2017

Three months already over in the new year….this year is definitely going faster than last year! Nothing interesting this month. My passive income streams boosted by appx 16% but somehow I feel unsatisfied…not sure why. Maybe the pace of reaching my goals is slow 🙂 Anyways, let us look at the numbers for March 2017.

04/01/2017
Emergency Fund $60K 83.00% 84.135%
College Fund (80K) 50.57% 51.35%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $1052.01(03/2016) $1219.83 (03/2017)
Retirement Fund 68.61% 71.45%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 2.6% 2.6%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • Passive Income for Mar 2017 ($1219.83) is appx 16% higher than Mar 2016 ($1052.01).
    • I did not add more funds this month since all my investment vehicles are trading at peak values. Waiting for the next dip to invest more. One exception is listed next.
  • Additional Investments
    • International exposure
      • Just like prior months, I have continued to increase my exposure outside the US. Stocks in United States seem too overvalued to my simple mind. I want my passive income streams to come from many countries all over the world to spread the risk of a single part of the world going through a bad phase.
      • So, I have added some more funds to my existing investments in Emerging markets (via VEIEX) and Euro-Pacific Developed Markets (via VTMGX).
  • Build a tiny cash fund again
    • I am accumulating some money in a money market fund. I want to have a small cash fund accumulated to take advantage of any market dip(s).