2006 is undoubtedly a great year now that we are looking to wrap up the year with about $220,000 annual net worth improvement, but can we do as good in 2007?
As we are approaching the holiday season, I finally have some time to unwind from the chaotic business life, and spend some time to plan our family's financials in the new year. Our Financial Plan 2007 starts with an assessment of the big drivers that will affect our finance.
Here are the top decision-making factors I came up during the thinking process.
1. Job Income from my daily job will be steadily growing at an annual pace of 8-10%.
I have full confidence I will continue to perform at the top of the pack in my company, and expect 1-2 raises throughout the year. I also count on more employee stock option and stock award income. On the balance, some of my expatriate benefits will not grow as fast.
2. Employee stock option appreciation will be a wild card as MSFT is priced for perfection at $30.
I have been seeking an exit strategy for my employee stock option inventory since November. While we did finally launch Windows Vista and Office 2007, there seems to be no catalysts that will drive the stock price higher from this point. $30, or 15x current earnings, sounds like too high to me for a company this big.
3. Our family business income can continue to grow at an annual pace of 10-15% with time investment and smart monetization.
We are very surprised that the gross income from our business grew from $39,000 in 2005 to over $70,000 in 2006 with minimal care. Still, we do see some opportunities to grow the top line -- as a starter, we completed our first price hike in about a year in early December and so far customers have been very receptive.
4. Size of investment portfolio will grow from $700,000 to $900,000 by the end of 2007.
If anything, 2006 educated us how investment is growingly more important to our finance. With some leverage (i.e. 0% APR balance transfers and unpaid tax on unrealized capital gains), I'm currently managing a $700,000 portfolio and this number will most likely to grow to $900,000 next year. It will require more time to be allocated to the investment process and more rigid process management.
5. US economy growth may fade and the current bull market in the stock market may come to a close.
Personally, I don't feel U.S. stock market gains will be as dependable as in the previous four years. Therefore, I will be more careful in constructing my US dollar-denominated portfolio.
6. China stock market is apparently overheated and will be much more volatile in 2007.
I benefitted slightly from the domestic stock market, which grow almost 70% in 2006. I have since downsized my exposure to only 10% of the peak now that the valuation is gone (average market P/E is over 30 now) and everyone is taking stock as the favorite topic now. It will be interesting to see how this will play out, and whether new opportunities will surface in 2007.
7. US dollar may continue to weaken against other currencies. Chinese Yuan will continue to appreciate 3-5% against US dollar.
One chronic pain in our financial progress is how we will use a US dollar-denominated portfolio to pay for our retirement which will certainly include at least an element of living in China some time of a year. With the growing deficits, it will only take time for US dollar to weaken further. While I don't expect the Chinese government to implement a sudden exchange rate hike in the next few years, the daily climb of the exchange rate (adding up to a total of 3% appreciation in 2006 so far) still requires some careful treatment to make sure we can still come ahead, after foreign exchange adjustments.
8. Core expense will grow 8-10% in 2007 with growth in travel expenses.
Let's say an expatriate's life in a low-income country is still not easy. We managed to reduce our annual spending from $90,000 in 2005 to $80,000 in 2006. At the current level, I do feel we have the right balance of spend vs value. We do look to travel to more places in 2007 (Scandinavian, Maldives and Canada are in the plan), and hence some potential spending increase over that of 2006. We will still be living well below our means -- we intend to keep spending less than 25% of our income.
9. Possible change of rental apartment or home purchase in late 2007 or 2008.
We are currently paying $1,600 plus utility for a nice three-bedroom apartment of about 1,200 SqFt in a downtown upscale community. We chose not to buy in 2005 because of the obviously overpriced market. The local real estate market has been colling down since then, and if price falls to the right levels, we might continue to be a homeowner again. Alternatively, we are considering to move to a larger apartment when our current lease ends in Decmber 2007.