My Personal Finance Journey

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Definitions of Balance Sheet Buckets

Contributed by mm | March 5, 2004 12:45 PM PST

As I am using more than a dozen buckets to report my monthly balance sheet, I am summarizing my classification of assets and liabilities. I deem my way of classifying accounts as a prudent way to look at personal net worth components.

Cash & Equivalent

"Cash & Equivalent" includes all liquid short-term assets that do not offer an interest. It includes cash, checking accounts, PayPal accounts, uncashed checks and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). This type of assets usually does not have a risk of losing principal. I mainly use "Cash & Equivalent" account to pay for bills and daily expenses.

Saving

"Saving" includes all liquid short-term assets that are in risk-free form and are unlikely to be used for daily expenses. This includes my multiple saving accounts, cash balance in all non-tax-advantaged brokerage accounts and Treasury Direct. Most of the assets in this bucket earn an interest (no matter how small). Treasury Direct is included because it shares the same properties of saving accounts: earning an interest while principal is not at danger.

Brokerage

"Brokerage" tracks all investments in my non-tax-advantaged accounts, namely AmeriTrade and Datek so far. (Note it only includes dollars invested in securities; the cash part of those accounts are tracked in the "Saving" bucket.) This asset class represents a portion of my money at risk in the security market (in conjunction with Roth IRA, 401(k) and Stock Options). I have a monthly process in place to reflect the potential tax benefit/liability associated with these accounts.

Roth IRA

"Roth IRA" tracks my account value in Roth IRA account(s). Importantly, any uninvested cash in Roth IRA is still tracked in this bucket instead of the "Saving" bucket to reflect the fact that money in Roth IRA cannot be withdrawn and deposited freely. In addition, Roth IRA accounts deserve a different asset class because it helps to evaluate the potential tax impact of non-tax-advantaged brokerage accounts.

401(k)

"401(k)" tracks my account value in 401(k) account(s). 401(k) accounts are tax-deferred and a separate account class is essential to understand potential tax liabilities in the future.

Stock Option

I use the "Stock Option" bucket to track my vested-but-unexercised stock options from my employment. Again, a monthly process is used to estimate potential tax liability with this account.

ESPP

"ESPP" helps to track my involvement in the Employee Stock Purchase Program. In accordance with my immediate-sale strategy, I am recognizing implied earnings monthly in addition to the monthly addition of ESPP dollars.

Home Equity

"Home Equity" = House - Home Mortgage, the former tracking my house value (I add an appreciation amount monthly) and the latter tracking my mortgage balance. I'm mindful that "Home Equity" is not liquid enough when calculating my liquidation value.

Other Assets

"Other Assets" only includes my car so far. I made monthly depreciation entries to reflect the true value of the car. I didn't plan to include anything else less than maybe $2,000. I expense my purchase of big-ticket items like furnitures and electronics right away to keep conservative accounting.

Receivable (Payable)

"Receivable (Payable)" includes my net exposure on receivables (when the amount is positive) or payables (when the amount is negative). It mainly includes the following accounts:

1) Prepaid expenses: like semi-annual payment of auto insurance, which I recognize one sixth monthly. The unrecognized but paid amount is my net receivable

2) Bonus: I am accuring bonus monthly to reflect expectation of reasonable bonus and avoid unwarranted spike of net worth on bonus payday.

3) Payment Adjustments: Some examples include prepaid some medical bills and business expenses before reimbursement.

Reserve Funds

"Reserve Funds" shows my liability of maintaining my house and the car. I accure a maintenance amount monthly for both items (for 2004, #300/month for house and $50/month for car). The reserve fund balance is usually negative. When I make a major repair on the house or have a service work on on my car I just transfer the amount to the reserve funds.

Loans

"Loans" represents my consumer loans (aka. credit cards). I always paid off entire balance every month except for 0% APR promotional periods.

Tax Liability

"Tax Liability" includes potential future tax payments not yet withheld. I regularly calculate my floating tax exposure based on investment positions I am keeping. I will also incur tax liability when I commit ESPP sale or stock option sales. My tax liability will go down if I ask for additional withholding amount or some of my investments turn south.

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