My Personal Finance Journey

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Monthly Review - November 2006 ($604,535, +$28,543)

Contributed by mm | December 2, 2006 4:39 PM PST

Like in the previous few months, in November our household finance continued to benefit from sizable investment gains and sustained earning power, which collectively added $28,543, or 5.0% to our net worth.

While it is extremely satisfying to see the fourth straight month of 5.0% or more monthly net worth growth of 5.0%, which helped us to make the sixth $100,000 in merely three months, this result is hardly repeatable -- our investment portfolio and my employee stock option plan each delivered $30,000 growth in the last three months thanks to the positive market sentiments.

Nevertheless, now that we are sitting on over $200,000 year-to-date net worth improvements, we look forward to wrapping up this year in a positive tone. The 2007 annual financial planning is coming, and it will be a lot of fun to map out how we will grow our finance next year.

MONTH-END BALANCE SHEET

net-worth-2006-11.GIF

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH

Self Employment 401(k) Contribution: I made my first-ever SE 401(k) contribution of $3,000 for the tax year of 2005.

Portfolio: I made an uncharacteristically high number of transactions this month. On one hand, I unloaded EXPE for year-end tax write-off, and sold half of my PPD holdings for some profit taking. On the other hand, I started my long position in APOL and added more to my COP holdings. Our current investment portfolio includes about 30% in stocks, 50% in mutual funds and 20% in cash-like investments.

One More 0% APR Balance Transfer: As I disclosed earlier in the month, we received another new credit card (Citi Professional to be exact) with a teasing offer of 12-month 0% APR balance transfer. We were able to transfer another $14,500 to our bank account. This will be our last activity in this carry-trade game for a while.

Good Tax News: My generous employer notified me that it will give me a one-time allowance of about $4,000 on a tax grossed-up basis to compensate for my increased tax liability in 2006 due to the earlier announced tax hike for expatriates. Thank you Microsoft!

NEXT STEPS

• I'm working on our Financial Plan 2007 right now. The sizable investment gains so far this year will make nex year's comparison extremely hard, but I'm committed to setting a high bar in our annual financial goals.

• I'm still working on the corporate tax return of our small family business.

• We are planning a trip to Hong Kong in December or January to bring our son to his best friends in the Disneyland.

This Post Has Received 20 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.


fin_indie Commented on December 3, 2006

Fantastic progress! I have 2 questions for you:
1. Why on earth do you not own a home?
2. How are you calculating your stock option worth? Is the number listed your theoretical "take" after exercising and taxes?


CPA1298 Commented on December 3, 2006

MM is working as an ex-pat in China, with a housing allowance provided by his employer. The local real estate market is overheated, so he (wisely) is staying liquid and not getting tied up in a home. He previously owned a home in Seattle, which he sold last fall for a significant gain.


John Commented on December 3, 2006

Very nice. Those are some the the best net worth gains I've seen around the entire blogosphere. Keep it up!


2million Commented on December 3, 2006

I am amazed at how close your monthly gains are to each other the past 3 months. MM, anything behind this?


MM Commented on December 3, 2006

Fin Indie, on your second question, stock option line is the before-tax value of all vested options, but I also account for the tax bite in the tax liability line.

The tax liability line represents 25% of all option value and capital gains in my after-tax portfolio.


Soccer Commented on December 3, 2006

What is the family business? Is that refer to income from the blog?


surfmoc Commented on December 4, 2006

Look at your credit card loans... savvy investors would work towards decreasing not increasing it regardless of balance transfers


Bob Commented on December 5, 2006

Free $$$ for 12 mos from a credit card making you 8-10% is an extra 1200 in your pocket for every 20k borrowed. No brainer for "savvy investors".


Jim Commented on December 5, 2006

Bob, how is he going to make 8-10% extra on the borrowed money? By putting it in the stock market?

Even if you put the borrowed money in an Emigrant Direct Account earning 5.05%, you still need to factor in the amount of damage you are doing to your credit rating by borrowing such a large amount of money.


CPA1298 Commented on December 5, 2006

Bob's interest income example ($1,200) is a little high, and also doesn't jive with the 8-10% he also mentioned; obviously, at 5.05% you're talking closer to $1,000, pre-tax; for MM, this would be close to $650 after-tax. Given the complexities of 0% credit cards, MM might be better off spending his time fine tuning his portfolio or posting additional blog entries, now that he's managed to generate >$100k off this blog over the last three years.


personal finance advice Commented on December 5, 2006

Congratulations on another stellar month. Positive gain is always to be celebrated.


MoneyMan Commented on December 6, 2006

Wow! At this rate, is it safe to say you're probably going to hit your $1 million networth goal within the next 5 years?


Slim pinkslipings Commented on December 7, 2006

I do have a question for you MM. In your growth month on month - how do you account for new contributions? So for example while you show a $44K increase in brokerage account - was some portion of that increase driven by new contributions / infusion or was it all "pure growth". In my net worth calculation spreadsheets, I tend to show the growth on 2 columns => prior period, new contributions, growth, new balance, growth %. There are a couple of different ways you could calculate growth % but basically I assume growth % to mean growth excluding new contributions, at least for the current period.

Thanks


DrChunger Commented on December 7, 2006

As others have said, congrats on your performance. I think that the answer to Slim's question is that the increases do include new contributions. I think the difference here is that this is not a measure of performance but rather a measure of growth rate - whether it comes from equities appreciating or salary being spent.

mm- one thing that i think would be interesting as you go into the new year is a measure of your expenses. i think that this would add a dimension to overall personal finance. in other words, start to bring in some of your expenses. while this may get a bit more personal, i think it also will offer your readers additional data - and more importantly comparisons to their own situations.

indirectly this helps people budget or think about how they are spending money. while you used to track mortgage, this was only a single aspect. try tracking the following (if you have them):

car payments
electric / gas (utilities) bill
insurance (car, life, umbrella, etc)
credit card payments
rent
food
entertainment
other (e.g. shopping, whatever)

again, this would add a new dimension to understanding what you may be sacrificing in everyday to save for the future / meeting your goals.

i don't think that these have to be precise numbers but i think that it would be good to get an understanding of other aspects of your cash flow.

just a thought....


Slim pinkslipings Commented on December 7, 2006

I see DrChunger's point. I should add though that looking at performance is a key part of achieving one's net worth goals. One should base asset allocation, specific sector picks etc based on performace vs one own goals and market benchmarks. The problem with looking at overall growth is that it has the potential to mask an underperforming asset base since pure growth is mixed with growth from new contributions. Not that it is happening here since based on your history I suspect the bulk of your growth is "pure growth" but still would be nice to see.... I learnt from my own exeperiance that I have outperformed the market over the past 2 years managing my own money with a combination of mutual fund picks and individual stocks. In the 2 years before that, while my NW grew appreciablly, I actually underperformed my 9% benchmark.

Thanks


MM Commented on December 7, 2006

DrChunger, expense report will be interesting, and believe me, I had counted money like beans if you look at this blog's archive between 2003 and 2005.

It would be pretty ineffective to do this now for several reasons:

1) China is mostly a cash society, which makes expense categorization a burden. I actually don't have good expense reporting except for big-ticket items (rent and child care).

2) My expierence in managing expenses in China is not relevant for most of PFBlog readers.

3) Both my wife and I already have the saver's mentality so we can do a fairly good job maintaining the expense part without too much bookkeeping.

4) In addition, cost cutting is not most time effective. When we only added $1,000-$2,000 every month to net worth back in 2003, $100/$200 expense savings were really important, but today in the big picture of five-figure monthly gains, cost cutting is not that much relevant.

For the question on contribution vs net investment gains, I use Microsoft Money to calculate investment gains, and do report gains from time to time in the monthly update. I do know I can disclose more on my portfolio though. I will try to do that shortly.


DrChunger Commented on December 8, 2006

Sounds fairly reasonable from particularly the point of view of China's expenses.

As for point 4, I go back and forth on this one. Salaries are somewhat a set income stream which is difficult to increase / decrease. I do have a similar situation whereas I usually see 5 figure movement on my net worth. However, for right or wrong, i look at it in two manners:

1) how much did i gain on a quarterly basis to my net worth. the reason for this is that i'm not very likely to make radical movements in my investments except for my "world domination" portfolio.

2) i look at monthly cashflow. I like to see where my money is going. i don't do a budget but, for example, the last two months, i've seen a jump in my credit card bills for nearly $2500. all the charges seem "reasonable" but i look at this in comparison and in conjunction with my savings rate. my friends kid me at my frugality minus my "toy" budget - yeah, i'm in technology too. but it is "interesting" when people point things out to you or you do some summations.

i do think that you should be keeping an eye on your expenses because that really does effect your actual goal - retirement. when you do retire, you may need to change your investment risk tolerance. in that case, you will not necessarily be able to sustain a 5 figure income. so, what does that do to your ability to truely retire? some track of how your "personal inflation" moves up, over time, would be interesting. engineers tend to over complicate but you should increase your goal annually by the percentage increase of your expenses. :^)

personally, not a true subscriber to pure inflationary increases - they don't take into account your personal situation.


MM Commented on December 8, 2006

DrChunger, thanks for the additional feedback. They are all valid points.

I definitely see expense control an important part of personal finance. Although I don't have a detailed breakdown of monthly expenses, I do know exactly how much we spent each month, and do believe if we need to tighten up, my corporate controller's mentality will do me a good job to cut things done.

My current goal is to increase the % of savings (1 - (expense + tax)/non-investment income) year over year.

Again, good points!


fin_indie Commented on December 10, 2006

I have to say, I'm loving the discussion on this blog. I've struggled with what to do with gains vs. contributions. I think the points above are valid, and perhaps we should all be calling that out more prominently in our updates. A 5% monthly "gain" on networth seems more reasonable with that disclaimer.


SAM Commented on December 26, 2006

MM, you might have mentioned this earlier but are you not currently investing in your ESPP? If MSFT is like other large companies you could get at least 15% return on 10% of your take home pay. That's not bad.

-SAM
http://www.smartatmoney.com


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