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 ūüôā 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!

Welcome to new members of my mutual funds family :-)

This month (July 2016) ends the changes I have been making to my mutual fund family. This month, I am welcoming two new members to the family. Hearty welcome to VWELX (Vanguard Wellington Fund) and VWITX (Vanguard Intermediate Term Tax-exempt fund). The obvious next question is why ūüôā

In October of 2014, I implemented my Passive Income Streams strategy. I wrote about it here. One of the six design principles was: For each risk bucket, have a minimum of two investment vehicles. I like this principle for two reasons:

  • Investment philosophy diversification
  • Investment manager diversification.

My thesis is that both of the above together will provide better risk diversification. Using this thesis, I build the following set of Passive Income streams (as of 10/18/2014).

Table 1: Investment Vehicles Update 10/18/2014
Risk Bucket Name Investment 1 Investment 2 Investment 3
Risk 1 (Cash) Smarty Pig (online) Credit Union N/A
Risk 2 (Bonds) VCAIX (CA munis) N/A N/A
Risk 3 (Balanced Funds) VTMFX (50% stocks and 50% National MUNIs) N/A N/A
Risk 4 (Dividend Investing) VDIGX (div growth) VHDYX (Curr div) N/A
Risk 5 (Capital Growth) VTCLX (large+mid cap) VTMSX (small cap) N/A
Risk 5 (International Funds) VTMGX (large blend) N/A N/A

Over the last couple months, the stock market has been on a tear. I cannot come up with any logical reason to explain why…it seems that no bad news can touch this market….it seems to go up and up and up. For day traders, this is heaven….but for normal folks like me, this seems suicidal…there is no reasonable value to any asset in my mutual fund family. Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) is supposed to help me deal with this, but I can’t seem to pour money into vehicles which rise up like crazy. So, I have taken a few steps over the last couple months to do the following:

  • Bail out to re-enter at a later date
    • Sold VTCLX and VTMSX
    • Moved some of it to VWITX (National Munis) and some to cash
    • Cash helped me capture valuable stocks big time during the Brexit market dip.
  • Sell a portion of funds that had appreciated to capture gains
    • Sold portions of VTMFX, VDIGX and VHDYX
    • Captured gains accumulated over the last two years
  • Move some of the¬†captured gains into¬†to more solid ground
    • More on this below…..
  • Move the remaining captured gains into cash (Money market funds)
    • Basically fresh powder for the inevitable market downturn….

To redeploy the captured gains, I needed to find new vehicles that will produce passive income for me. I like all the categories I have listed in my original design in Table 1…so no new categories were needed. But some of the mutual funds did not have any competition ūüôā So, I decided to add some competition in two categories:

  • Bonds
  • Balanced Funds
  • Dividend Investing

The changes are listed in Green Color in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Investment Vehicles Update 07/30/2016
Risk Bucket Name Investment 1 Investment 2 Investment 3
Risk 1 (Cash) Smarty Pig (online) Credit Union N/A
Risk 2 (Bonds) VCAIX (CA munis) VWITX (National Munis) N/A
Risk 3 (Balanced Funds) VTMFX (50% stocks/50% National MUNIs) VWELX (60-70% stocks/30-40% bonds) N/A
Risk 4 (Dividend Investing) VDIGX (div growth) VHDYX (Curr div) VDAIX (div appreciation)
Risk 5 (Capital Growth) N/A N/A N/A
Risk 5 (International Funds) VTMGX (large blend) N/A N/A

Why did I choose those specific funds?

  • VWITX
    • In the Bonds category, I had VCAIX (CA Muni bonds). Since this was CA specific only, I bought into VWITX (National Muni bonds). Now mu MUNI bonds are spread across many states in the country. The advantage is that National Munis add better risk diversification. The disadvantage is that I lose the state tax exclusion that VCAIX would have given me.
  • VWELX
    • In the Balance funds category, I already had VTMFX…a fund split into 50% stocks (cap appreciation, low dividends) and 50% National Munis. I wanted to add a bit more aggressiveness into the balanced fund category and I chose VWELX, a fund with modest current income and long term growth. The fund invests across a broad section of the market and is known for stable returns….under performance in ¬†bull¬†markets and lower loss in bar markets but stable returns.
    • The disadvantage is that the turnover is 35% i.e. a bit tax unfriendly but short term capital gains are pretty low. So, I think it is worth it….lets see if my bet pays off in the long run.
  • VDAIX
    • In the dividend funds category, I already had two funds which I am very happy about. VDIGX is turned for future dividend growth (low current income) and VHDYX is tuned for high current income (low future dividend growth).
    • VDAIX on the other hand is a mix of both: companies that have consistently raised dividends for the last 10 years (good current income) and also the same companies have promise to continue growing the dividend stream in future.
    • One can ask….VDIGX is managed by Donald Kilbride, a super star manager who has consistently beaten VDAIX for the past few years. So, why not invest all the money in VDIGX if you do not need current income? Risk diversification and lower turnover. ¬†Donald Kilbride is one person and VDAIX is an index…no more explaining needed ūüôā
  • Money Market Fund
    • I want to start accumulating some cash to jump into the market when the markets go down “deep”. I have noticed that when DOW goes 100 pts in the morning, it is back up 200 points by end of market. Looks like a lot of people are investing on a 100 pt dip.
    • My new standard will be to accumulate cash until DOW dips 300 pts. My assumption is that the market will not be able to come back from a 300 pt loss in one day i.e. I can really get some value for money. Lets see how this goes.

Thatz it for now. Join me in welcoming the new members to my mutual fund family!!

Dollar Cost Averaging…my way :-)

I was reviewing the performance of my portfolio for 2015 when I realized that I had used Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) quite a bit this year. The markets have fluctuated wildly in the last few months and my anticipation is that it will be the same in 2016 as well. Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) is what I used to smooth out the fluctuations in 2015. I have a couple different ways of implementing¬†DCA…so, I thought it would be nice to write about it and see if my blog friends have any input.

DCA Type 1

My path to Financial Independence is to generate multiple passive income streams using a diversified set of mutual funds (link). For example, VCADX, VTMFX, VDIGX, VHDYX , VTMGX, VTCLX and VTMSX. Investments into the different funds are automated and are withdrawn on the first of every month. Regular investments, irrespective of the short term market fluctuations was my initial plan for DCA.

But, I realized that when the market went through downward dips, my DCA plan was found a bit lacking. For example, if the dips were spread across many days in the month, my DCA plan of investing at the beginning of every month would miss out on loading up quality investments at lower prices.

So, I spread my mutual investments into two pieces for each mutual fund, and spread across many non-overlapping days in the month. Since Vanguard does not charge me a fee to invest into mutual funds, I felt that this spread captured the market ups and downs better. For example

  • VCADX ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 9th and 28th
  • VTMFX ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 6th and 27th
  • etc

DCA Type 2

But, I saw one more pattern in the  market. Market dips in the downward directions were followed by upswings the next couple of days. For example, if DOW dropped 300 points on one day, it is rare to have a similar drop on the next day as well i.e. consecutive market dips were rare. On the days the DOW (or S&P) dipped badly, there were opportunities to invest in my chosen high quality mutual funds at a lower price.

Every month, there used to be some leftover money in the budget for unused items. For example, if we did not use the entertainment portion of the budget completely OR if my kids school was off leading to less frequent visits to the gas pump, etc. I decided to pool up the leftover money and keep the cash ready. When ever the DOW dropped, I pushed the money into one/many of my investments. Here is the algorithm I followed:

  • DOW drops 100 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Invest $100
  • DOW drops 200 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Invest $250
  • DOW drops 300 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Invest $500
  • FTSE 100 drops 100 ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Invest $200

Since I invest in mutual funds, the smart reader may ask how do I know what the NAV will be before the marker closes on that day? An ETF or a raw stock trade will guarantee as close to the instantaneous market price as possible…a mutual fund cannot. Here are some lessons I learnt assuming the¬†Market closes at 100pm Pacific Standard Time

  • DOW dips 100 at 900 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by¬†200 by 100 pm i.e. I invested $250 at a higher price than what my intention was.
  • DOW dips 300 at 1100 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by 200 by 100pm i.e. DOW is still down -100 and my investment pays a lower price.

The reader might have guessed. My basic idea is that “higher the DOW dip, the earlier in the I can invest and still come out with a lower NAV¬†price than the previous day”. I.e.

  • If DOW is only down 100 points, I buy¬†late say around 1200 pm.
  • If DOW is¬†down 300 points, I buy earlier say around 1100 am.
  • Any investment after 1230pm or so is moved to the next day.

This method of DCA has proven very beneficial to me to acquire quality assets at much lower prices…inspite of using mutual funds.¬†Some people might say that I am using market timing and it is bad. But, since my investments are¬†quality investments, chosen conservatively, I do not lose even if I paid a higher price because my purchase timing did not meet my expectations.

Conclusion

As per my 2015 Goals (link), ¬†my Passive Income Streams¬†goal for 2015 was $16000 with a stretch goal of $24000. Using a combination of DCA types 1 and 2, I have managed to¬†exceed the stretch goal also with a total investment of¬†$28,000 approximately. Believe it or not, I did not know that all the DCA Type 2 investments would add up to so much more money at the end of the year. This indirectly¬†means that my budget is tuned for the worst case money consumption and some more fat can be extracted from it. But, hey, who is complaining ¬†ūüėČ

Financial Independence Progress Report for October 2015

10/31/2015
Emergency Fund ($72K) 100.0% 100.0%
College Fund (80K) 33.94% 36.52%
Passive Income Streams ($4000 pm) $214.08 pm (10/2014)% $492.51 pm (10/2015)
Retirement Fund ($900K) 54.62% 58.03%
Roof for our Family($1 mil) 00.00%
Medical Fund 00.00%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance payments initiated)

Main Takeaways

Markets made a reasonably noticeable turn towards the positive side and the following portions of my portfolio definitely saw some benefit from it.

  • Retirement Fund
  • 529 plan

I did take advantage of some down days in the market and boosted my investments to dollar cost average some of my mutual fund investments (another post on this coming up on how). But, October has been a super busy month for me, including a couple days spent in the hospital for a freakish accident of cause unknown. So, I am happy to see a positive gain without putting in any serious effort…..the precise definition of passive income ūüėČ

The passive income portion of my portfolio is chugging along nicely. I am aggressively funding¬†my passive income portfolio and (try to) make use of every down day in the markets. My funding sometimes is as low as $100 and as high as $500. Most of the days, I have gotten lucky and dollar cost averaged down my mutual funds….a tiny bit, but hey, each bit matters right ūüôā

Passive income for October 2015 continued the winning trend vs last year.

  • I compute Passive Income per month as (total passive income in this year) / number of months completed this year.
    • Total passive income is a sum of dividends + capital gains distributions.
    • October¬†Passive Income = (total passive income in this year) / 10 == $492.51 ¬†pm.
  • Doing it this way keeps the monthly passive income more realistic because I can instantly know which of my monthly expenses are covered by this amount. I keep a separate tracker for this which I will write about at a later date.
  • I did take advantage of the down markets and added to my investment in VDIGX , VTMFX and VTMGX (developed markets ex-north america). All¬†these investments have hovered around their respective¬†52 month lows These new investments will contribute towards dollar cost averaging my holdings.
  • November will be a slow month for me as usual…but looking forward to December for the next big dividend income month.

Financial Independence Progress Report for September 2015

09/30/2015
Emergency Fund ($72K) 100.0% 100.0%
College Fund (80K) 33.77% 33.94%
Passive Income Streams ($4000 pm) $178.58 pm (08/2014)% $439.96 pm (08/2015)
Retirement Fund ($900K) 54.66% 54.62%
Roof for our Family($1 mil) 00.00%
Medical Fund 00.00%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance payments initiated)

Main Takeaways

Markets are continuing the roller-coaster ride…the DOW Jones index lost more than 200 points more than once this month. I did take advantage of this down market (another post on this coming up on how).
I expected a downturn and planned for it (here)…but, that did¬†not soften the blow much. At the end of August, my portfolio had taken a beating….so, how did September do?

  • September was a much better month for markets than August.
    • College fund stayed even
    • Retirement funds stayed even.
  • Passive income for September 2015 continued the winning trend vs last year.
    • I compute Passive Income per month as (total passive income in this year) / number of months completed this year.
    • Total passive income is a sum of dividends + capital gains distributions.
    • September Passive Income = (total passive income in this year) / 9 == $439.96 pm.
    • Doing it this way keeps the monthly passive income more realistic because I can instantly know which of my monthly expenses are covered by this amount. I keep a separate tracker for this which I will write about at a later date.
  • I did take advantage of the down markets and added to my investment in VDIGX and VTMFX. Both these investments dipped to their 52 month lows when the DOW Jones index dropped more than 200 points. These new investments will contribute towards dollar cost averaging my holdings. Yeah for that!