1st Weekly Snapshot November 1st, 2020

This is the first of a soon to be long line of snapshot updates telling the story of me following my own rules and suggestions, as well as a way to show all the ways things can and will go wrong. I will explain things like my future plans and how I intend to complete them. I will include screen shots of the various accounts to help show my progress but also to keep me accountable.

This first posting of my finances will be much larger than any other following due to having to explain the baseline I’m starting from, most following snapshots will mostly be just updating the numbers, explaining any setbacks I’ve faced, analyzing my expenses to make sure I am following my own words and perhaps anything in the market that I am interested in talking about.

To set the baseline I feel I must explain that in the last 3 months my income nearly doubled what it was back in January, pre-covid, and post-covid after our dog-sitting business basically got shut down it’s almost 3x what I was making March-July. What changed is that I went from going to school to working at Dominoes as an assistant manager to now working the night shift an Amazon fulfilment center. What really made income jump (besides going from $13/hr to $17.90/hr) was that I roped my fiance into joining me at Amazon. Before, she was only (though she still is) working part time as data entry for an electrician. She makes $14/hr working for him, but only gets something like 8-10 hours a week, so her income went from somewhere around $550 a month to now $2,600 a month, combined with my $2,100 or so means we went from around $3,500 at the peak between Dominoes and dog sitting and her part-time, to less than $2,500 with Dominoes and part-time. Now we make $4,700 a month combined. (all numbers after tax estimations) This jump, while resisting lifestyle creep is what has made it possible for us to do some of the amazing savings and debt-payoff’s we’ve done this year.

My Finances At A Glance

First up is my overall finances at a glance. I currently have $1,660 in checking and $1,506 in savings, plus $574 in a Special Projects savings account that is being funded solely through my fiance’s secondary part-time job.

On top of that, I also have $5,653 in my M1 Finance investing portfolio. In the last month it’s taken quiet a hit to it’s overall value but I will discuss that in it’s relevant section.

This puts my liquid assets at $9,393. This is actually down significantly from a week ago when I was forced to replace my entire furnace in my house, which cost me $5,000.

Feels kinda small for 2 people and 2 dogs, but it’s home.

Speaking of my house, Which I have lived at since January of 2017, with a VA Loan of $87,236 at 4.25% interest, I currently owe $79,932, and according to Zillow my house is currently worth an estimated $153,506. Which means I have about $73,574 in equity in the house at this time.

My fiance has a new-ish 2019 Chevy Cruze that we got for $12,327 but we currently owe $9,982 on it. We were on track to pay it off before the anniversery of it’s purchase but then the furnace happened. While it will not be impossible to pay it off by January 2021, it is highly unlikely at this point, that being said, it is easily going to be paid off by next year.

Owned the bike for less than 2 years.

I bought a motorcycle in March of 2019 that I paid off this August, It originally retailed at $9000 something, but after the down payment I owed $6,362 on it, of which the majority of the payoff came this July when I dropped $5,000 on it which reduced it to just under $100. (It was hard to get an accurate read on what my exact amount owed was because I didn’t get the loan through my personal banks, and my aggressive aversion to phone calls. Either way, my 3 year bike payment was completed in a year and a half.

So, with everything that’s been said what is my total net worth?

  • Net Worth: Cash+Equity-Debt = $72,985

My Expenses

I, like most people, need to work on controlling my expenses. While I feel I more actively concern myself with my finances than most people it does not mean that I do not drift away from the path I’ve laid out for myself. In fact, I often make purchases that completely fly in the face of what I preach. I’m human, I’m bound by human desires and especially convenience or the slight rigidity of my current work environment, that being the graveyard 6pm-6:30am shift, where on weekends, when we work, the only things open when we get off work are fast food and gas stations (the two things I rail on the most about cutting out to easily reduce expenses)

With all that being said, the last few weeks had some pretty aggressive expenses besides all the typical ones. The most aggressive was replacing my furnace that died several months ago. (Yes, I went without AC for the majority of summer) finally got replaced because I feared pipes bursting as temperatures dropped. This set me back $5,000 but luckily I’ve been saving aggressively since we started working at Amazon because I knew the day would come that I would eventually replace it.

It labels Wal-Mart as shopping, though we mostly buy food. For the year, we have spent less than $2,000 at Amazon, where we do most of our item shopping.

Two other major expenses came up in October, both totalling around the same cost. We bought a year-long membership to the local recreational facility because they have pools open year-round, and we thought their hot-tube and sauna were going to be open, but we were wrong. Some slight buyer’s remorse over that discovery. That purchase ran us about $650.

The last major expense was buying my fiance a new phone, her old phone, an iPhone 6, was getting to the point that it couldn’t hold a charge for more than a few hours and had to be attached to a life support power cord nearly at all times, plus with each update her system was taking more and more storage space to the point that she had less than two gigs of her 16gb phone to use for apps, messages, photo’s etc. So we upgraded her phone to a similar model to the phone I upgraded to in March-ish. (I upgraded from an iPhone 5, so we’ve been holding onto our phones for quite a while, in particular I think I’ve had my 5 since 2014)

I have a card that is about 75% dedicated just to my monthly bills, worst case scenario and I lose all my money and income I’ll lose the house before the lights get shut off.

Taking my total expenditure to date this year, my average monthly expenses run around $2800 including my bills and mortgage. Subtract that from my estimated income of around $4,700 leaves me with about $1,900 left over each month. Of course, without us working at Amazon, we would be doing a lot worse off but the entire point of this website is to prove that you don’t need a fancy degree and crippling debt to retire.

Investments

While I would love to say I hand picked some 30+ stocks because I had some air tight and rigorous selection criteria, but I actually got my stock list from a person I followed on YouTube because they believe in all the same things I believe in when it comes to investing. Namely, what this youtuber believes is that to safely and securely attain retirement one should invest in dividend paying companies that year over year increase the amount they pay out. Years ago I invested in highly volatile and dangerous stocks that paid insane dividends, and while it worked out okay for me for the most part, it’s not a viable strategy if you are worried about losing all your money, instead nowadays the investments strategy I follow is a slow and steady increase in dividend income from companies that are fairly secure and established (called Blue Chip companies).

Last month I put in $1,000 and since I started working at Amazon that is my goal to do so every month. I also earned $24 in dividends. It’s not much, but if I didn’t invest a single penny for the next 12 months, I would earn $288 by this time next year. Still not a super big deal, but this number will only get bigger, and the dividends buy more shares that pay more dividends. I am earning roughly a 5% dividend yield based on this month. If I continue to invest $1,000 a month for the next year I will reach $17,000 this time next year (possibly more if I find I have extra cash sitting around, plus all reinvested dividends) and earning $72 a month. Still not a huge number but starting to see progress!

In order to earn one whole extra paycheck a month ($500) from dividends alone (or roughly cover 80% of my mortgage) I would need $150,000 at 4% to do so. Without dividends that could take me 10 years at $1,000 a month, but it will be much faster thanks to the dividends I make, plus the fact that over half of the stocks I invest in increase their dividend each year.

In a single week I lost $300

However, in the last week I’ve lost over $300 in portfolio value. I’m not paying a whole lot of attention to the news at the moment, but it’s pretty safe to assume its at least partially due to covid.

In future updates I’ll point out any up’s or down’s I’ve had as well as any interesting market news I come across.

Credit/Debt and Loans

This is basically the same as the expense category due to the fact that my bills and expenses are all setup on credit cards, but I’m bringing this up because I pay off my cards in full every month, aggressively pay off my cards so that I am never paying any interest. I then get points on my cards that in effect actually reduce my total expenses by giving me cash back.

I do tend to up my credit limit once a year or get a new card, with my current maximum credit being over $27,000.

The major reason for this is that if something did happen and I couldn’t afford to fix something, like a storm knocks a tree into my house destroying half of it, and repairs are getting taken care of it won’t max out the entirety of my credit. In order to minimize damage to your credit score you need to keep your utilization under 30%, well if your credit limit is $1,000 and you have a balance of $500 you have used 50%, but if you have $10,000 and use only $500 then you have a 5% use.

My credit utilization hasn’t gone over 2% in years, which ironically comes out to $540.

I strongly believe that if you are of a lower income family then proper use of credit and it’s rewards, as well as the proper care for your credit score are paramount. Money guru Dave Ramsey might bite my head off to suggest that debt might be necessary for those in the bottom quartile of income. It’s just not feasible for many to buy everything with cash, especially a home. I mean, if you do what most experts say and save at least 10% of your income, and you made $100,000 a year, it would still take you 10 years to save up the money to afford the cheapest of homes in the midwest, and even with 100k you might only be a quarter of the way there if you live in any of the big cities. For the rest of us, reality is that you will probably have to get a loan and having good credit makes it so you don’t burn as much money down the line.

When it comes to debt I have things pretty much under control. I pay my cards off every month so those are not a concern, I did owe a little over $5,000 on my motorcycle and currently nearly $10k on a car, the bike got paid off and I’ve made a few extra, all principle, payments on the car before deciding to buckle down and save for the furnace.

If I manage to keep my expenses in check and continue to pay myself first I aught to be able to pay off the car by February, or late March. Depending on mandatory overtime at Amazon I might go back to my regular schedule of getting it paid off by January. since each overtime day gets us an extra $150 or so per person.

My mortgage comes out to being $681, with the car payment of $221, which makes a nice, almost even $902 that comes out of the beginning of each month. By far the hardest part of the month, as that $900 is basically the entirety of our combined first week of work, it does however mean the rest of the month is pretty much a cakewalk expense wise, and since I’m not afraid of using credit I don’t have to worry about if I can afford to get food or gas for that week as long as I don’t go crazy with purchases.

Conclusion

It is my ultimate desire to retire off of dividend income, eventually I would like to someday try my hand at being a landlord and owning my own real estate empire and that might speed up the process of getting closer to retirement. It is my goal to put $1,000 into investments and $500 into savings each month. My fiance wants to put her part-time income into a special projects account for… you guessed it, special projects. Hopefully things go well, and here’s to a long, successful future! Cheers!

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