My 2015 Finances Reviewed: Net Worth (and Everything Else)

2
Comments
Written by

[This is the fourth and final part of My 2015 Financial Year in Review. (Yes, it feels like it might have stretched into 2017.) You can read the previous versions there (or just go to , , and .]

At this point, you should have a good view into my financial year. I've given details about my stock investments, my real estate "empire", and my blogging/income. One pattern emerged as I was writing the articles... each area was greatly challenged in 2015. Fortunately, there were some good things that happened at the end that made it a positive year.

I wanted to start with our net worth. Some bloggers give out their net worth and blog anonymously so it doesn't really matter to them. Since some scummy people created hate sites about me because I expose their pyramid scheme fraud, I've decided it really isn't too important to give exact net worth numbers.

I do track our net worth fairly regularly (and it's very easy thanks to Personal Capital). Here's how it has grown the last few years:

  • In 2013, it grew 21.8%
  • In 2014, it grew 14.6%
  • In 2015, it grew 10.6%

The problem with reporting percentages is that growth of 10% means a lot more if you have a million dollar net worth than it does if you have a $10,000 net worth. We're a lot closer to the former than the later.

If you read those previous reports you know about my terrible stock picking (Twitter and oil, you two seriously suck). You also know that my asset allocation which is heavy foreign stocks didn't help. You know how real estate didn't appreciate and instead cost us a good deal of cash in repairs.

I was shocked to read that we grew our net worth by 10.6%. It just didn't seem possible. I double and triple checked for errors.

There were two main reasons for why it happened:

1. We paid down a lot of debt. By having our real estate in 15-year mortgages we (with the help of our tenants) are paying off a lot of principle. It wasn't just real estate, but we paid off a lot of our cars that are on 1% interest rates over 5 years.

2. The purchase of our solar panels helped a little.

That second one requires a bit of a longer explanation. We got a $23,000 HELOC to finance them (we'll get a $7000 tax credit this year). It didn't seem right to add this to our debt, when we really purchased an asset of considerable value - estimated to be decades of free electricity. So for accounting purposes, I included the full price of the solar panels ($33,000 before state grants) and I will deprecate their value each month.

It was a financial decision more than typical home improvement, so I wanted to treat it as such.

Is that fair, readers? You tell me.

The other thing about our net worth is that it isn't very accessible. I already mentioned the real estate and if you read my last annual retirement income outlook you'll know that a vast portion of that net worth is in retirement accounts. I haven't done the calculation in awhile, but it's really hard to touch around 90% of our net worth. Some might want to be more liquid, but I think this prevents a lot of lifestyle inflation.

The biggest lesson I learned this year and the takeaway I want you to have is how powerful slow-and-steady real estate investing can be. It is a pain in the neck from time to time, but between the properties, it can be $40,000 in net worth each year by simply chugging along. It's great to have assets that aren't tied to the stock market and this past year was a great example of that.

This post deals with:

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on January 20, 2016.

Calculating Net Worth: Personal Capital vs. a Spreadsheet

6
Comments
Written by

A couple of months ago, I joined Personal Capital and started tracking my net worth there. In the past, I had a Mint account, but I always got tied up in categorizing payments to make the budgeting look right. That was a lot of time spent and I've found that I'm better off just being generally frugal with a few splurges here and there.

Where Mint struck me as a budgeting tool first and an investment tracker second, Personal Capital is the other way around. It seems to be 90% investment and net worth focused with only a small budgeting component.

Before I get too far into Personal Capital, I need to take a step back. Since I started this blog in 2006, I've been tracking my net worth with a spreadsheet. That means I can go back to watch 30% of my net worth disappear in the housing crash in 2007. My net worth was very small back then and it was paper money. And sadly, the price of my condo hasn't caught up to what it was before the crash.

It's geeky fun to stroll down financial memory lane.

I still update my net worth with a spreadsheet today. I used to do it on a monthly basis, but now it is typically quarterly. That's simply a factor of not wanting to bug the wife to get her password for her Thrift Savings Plan, which seems to be quite the chore. (Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I cheat and do a net worth update and just assume the value of her investments went up or down similarly with mine. I mark these as "estimated net worths.")

What I like about spreadsheet is that I fill it in quickly. It probably takes me a half hour. I do this by bookmarking the 20+ websites where I have money and using LastPass to login quickly to pull the numbers. I even have links to Edmunds to estimate our car's value.

The spreadsheet is also particularly good at combining my money with my wife's money. It simply has infinite flexibility. I can create new categories such as the kid's money, our liquid cash, our retirement account totals, and our real estate holdings.

So why would I join Personal Capital when I already have a working system? Personal Capital updates my net worth in real time. If my Google, err... Alphabet, stock goes up, it's reflected immediately. I don't need to log into 20+ websites and transfer numbers. It's the ultimate "Lazy Man" tool.

Personal Capital also gives me different information. I have four retirement accounts with different holdings in each. Personal Capital can look at all them and show me how much of my money is invested in emerging markets. This view into my asset allocation is not something I can easily track with my net worth spreadsheet.

Sometimes, I think I'm crazy to use two net worth tools. I wonder if 90% of people even use a single tool or ever do a net worth calculation. However, I think they both have their benefits and I'll take a bit of each.

Other than starting this personal finance blog, tracking my net worth has probably been the biggest reason for our financial success. I wish I could convince more people to do both.

This post deals with:

,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on October 22, 2015.

Net Worth and College Savings

3
Comments
Written by

A couple of weeks ago, I put out an article explaining that our family was approaching a net worth milestone. My key takeaway, was that it was just a number, like any other number. One commenter mentioned how he had a similar situation, but most of his money was in the form of real estate equity and other investments that aren't easily liquified.

Questions like these are quite common when someone does a net worth calculation. I don't think there's a standardization body declaring exact what counts in net worth. My advice is just be consistent with what you count month-to-month and take note of the relative changes. It's almost as if you have a bathroom scale that you know is not 100% accurate. You know it is very close, and it is going to be consistently inaccurate, by 1-3 pounds low or high. You can still use it to measure your progress, because losing 20 pounds on that scale is the same as losing 20 pounds on any other scale.

However Steve had an interesting question, which was (paraphrased), "Does our daughter’s 529 plan count in our net worth?"

Mind blown!

I usually have an immediate instinct about what the right answer is and this time I did not.

The Case for Excluding College Savings (529 Plans) in Net Worth

I'm going to go with the obvious here. The money is not intended to be used by me... I've already made a commitment to give it away. It seems fair to consider that money already given away.

The Case for Counting a 529 Plan in Net Worth

You are reducing your own net worth when you deposit money in a 529 plan. If you don't account for it in some way, the lower net worth may cause you to think twice about contributing this money, even if it can be a financially sound move.

If you've made a commitment to pay your children's tuition, then meeting this obligation is obviously of financial value. If you suddenly came into a large sum of $50,000 and used the money to fulfill that commitment, it has value in helping you better your financial situation in other ways. It's a little like putting money in a mortgage, but not counting the equity. If reaching the goal frees you up from making mortgage payments, that's typically a very big deal.

My Thoughts on Net Worth and College Savings

I don't count 529 plans. I consider it money that I've given to my children. They can count it in their net worth, but at 23 and 8 months, they'd rather watch Baby Einstein.

We make decisions everyday that might not lead to best net worth, but benefit us in other ways.

For example, if you were to look at the recent comments in the right column on any given day, you'd probably see giving a lengthy response to someone leaving a comment on one of my MLM articles. Spending my time on a response is not the best move I can make to grow my net worth... in fact is often a complete waste of time. I'd be better served going forward with one of my many projects that I have lined up. Yet, I love to help people and respond to try to help them. In a sense I'm trading "net worth capital" for "spiritual capital" and I'm okay with that. I like to think that this goodwill/karma comes back to me and so far I feel like it has.

This post deals with:

... and focuses on:

College, Net Worth

Posted on August 7, 2014.

Approaching a Net Worth Milestone

10
Comments
Written by

It's been a number of years since I revealed my net worth. I've still been tracking it, but instead of doing it once a month, it is more or less once a quarter. One could argue that I should get in the habit of doing it on a specific date. That would allow me to compare year-over-year to gauge growth and come up with some pretty charts.

Alas, I haven't done that for two reasons:

  1. I'm kind of Lazy. With two kids and a dog, it isn't my highest priority to have it scheduled. Why? Well for the other reason:
  2. Much of the information is nebulous at best.

I want to expand on that later point. Being in my late 38s, a large percentage of my net worth is in real estate and the stock market. Either one, or both, can change drastically at any given time. I've seen each them do it several times in my lifetime and if I live out my life-expectancy will see them change drastically several more times.

I can take some action, such as diversifying my holdings, but I have no control over either the stock or real estate markets. I suspect most everyone reading this is in the same boat.

It simply doesn't matter if I measure my net worth at specific times because I know that at any given point it can be plus or minus 10% what it is right now.

That said, it is still important to look at your net worth. It gives me a gauge of where things are going over time. If it isn't going up, there's a problem. If it's going down, there's a problem. If I were to take a three-year view of a time of good market growth and saw it stand still, there would be a problem.

I was fortunate enough to look at it last week, which happened to match-up with a time last year. In that time, our net worth is up 18.6%. As expected, a lot of the growth is from real estate appreciation and the booming stock market.

Perhaps more importantly, I can see a net worth milestone in the distance. Until I did this last calculation, my binoculars simply weren't powerful enough. It's extremely unlikely that such growth would continue for another 12-16 months, but if it did, we'd probably reach that milestone.

It would be a stretch, as growing kids will certainly bring down our savings a bit (but they are so worth it!). In addition, we'd have to have almost everything fall our way. It's happened before, but it isn't the kind of thing we'd want to count on.

Seeing this milestone in the distance gives us a target, something to try to work for. That's powerful motivation. If we work hard and don't make it, we won't be demoralized as we knew that good portion of it was out of our control anyway. It's a psychological win-win.

This post deals with:

... and focuses on:

About / Admin, Net Worth

Last updated on July 27, 2014.

Reviewing My Net Worth

17
Comments
Written by

It's been a long time since I calculated my net worth - July 2008 to be specific. Why did I stop calculating it then? There were two main reasons:

  • The big stock market drop - Things had dropped so much that it was depressing. The fall of housing prices also played heavily into it as I count the equity of a home that I own (umm, I mean the bank owns, I'm just a small partner). For those who are new to this blog, I don't live in the home anymore as my wife got a better job opportunity on the other side of the country. I didn't sell the home at a loss. So it's a poor investment property until the market gets a lot better.
  • It had gotten boring - I know that sounds like an excuse, but if your income and expenses don't change much, month-to-month, your net worth is going to float along with whatever current investments you have. In the first 6 months of 2008 my net worth changed less that 0.5% in either direction. It's kind of silly to write a post about that every month.

So why now?

  • I had just finished up 6 months of contracting - I was making fairly good money for a good part of it, and it's helped me combat some of the losses in the stock market. Though I still have some money coming in to me.
  • I hadn't done it in over a year - Instead of doing it too often, I'm not doing it often enough. Perhaps I should get on a quarterly schedule.
  • I had just finished up 6 months of contracting - I'm going to use the same reason twice. Without that contract job bringing in constant money, I back to earning by making money online. I need to evaluate where I stand financially and make a plan from there. Figuring out my net worth seems like a natural place to begin planning - and making sure what I'm doing is enough to get me to my goals.

So when I was doing my net worth, I found that I had about $10,000 than last year... going from around $212K to $202K. That doesn't seem to be that good a number for someone who made good money for 6 months. I wish I had a better idea of how much of that money is still on it's way in. I had been a little Lazy with copying the timesheets. I'd estimate to be around $30,000 though.

With a wife making good money, and having health care, and $202K to my name, I think I'm relatively okay to begin this journey of making money online again. Before I really make that case, I'm going to have look at my expenses and see what I really need to cut back on.

This post deals with: ... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on September 21, 2009.

A Brief Net Worth Update

5
Comments
Written by

Last month, I decided there probably isn't a whole lot of value in sharing my net worth ups and downs with you. If you want to put yourself in my shoes, here's a basic synopsis of my account holdings. I have a little over $200,000 in net worth. About half of that is in retirement accounts. A quarter is invested in a condo. The last quarter is cash and other assets that are lot more liquid.

Each month, I look at how I much money I had the previous month and how much I have today. The quick look this month shows that real estate has a minor upswing in Boston where my investment condo is. I use Zillow to keep track of prices, because it's very accurate for my condo. Since it's one of around 200 identical units - there are enough similar recent sales to get a good trend.

My retirement accounts rebounded slightly this month. I'd like to take a lot of credit for it, but other than asset allocation, I simply let the market go where it wants to.

The real part that control is the liquid portion of my account. It's this area where I can see gains from my alternative income, reducing my spending, and other day-to-day money matters. This last month wasn't a particularly stellar month for me as far as that goes. The biggest expense was eating out. Though it was probably fewer than 5 times for the month, we'd probably be better off with our health and our wallet if we stayed home and cooked almost all the time.

The other expense was a surprise gift of jewelry for my wife. She had been eying a particular piece for some time. She has been extremely understanding of my increasingly frugal nature and it was time to show that being frugal does have it rewards.

This post deals with:

, , , ,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on August 18, 2008.

A Brief Net Worth Update

9
Comments
Written by

For the past couple of years, I've been keeping track of my net worth and posting about gains and losses. I've started to realize that it's typically a very boring post. I don't know if readers really get too much value in reading that I've lost $800 due to stock market fluctuations. As such, I think I'll just continue to weigh in with a brief post like this and give a couple of interesting details... if there are interesting details to give.

This month was a tough month. The stock market hasn't been doing well and my retirement plans are taking it on the chin losing $8,000 in value. The other interesting piece of note is that I had more cash this month than last month. This is notable because I'm not making what many would consider a good income while I focus on building a few businesses.

This post deals with:

, ,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on July 21, 2008.

Net Worth Update – June 2008

7
Comments
Written by

It's the middle of the month, so it's a time to take a look at my net worth. Due to the stock market slump it slumped a little bit. It's specifically down about $3,000 from around $220,500 to $217,380. The first half this year has been disappointing to me, because I really thought I'd be making more money that I'm spending. That speaks a little to the splurges that I've made, like my Asus EEE, but it really is about my income. I expected my websites to make more money. Maybe it's the economy, or maybe I'm not doing a few things right. Perhaps the best explanation is that I simply don't have the writing skills as some personal, finance, writers. Either way, I'm not giving up.

In the last month, I've been focusing a bit on another business. I mentioned it in passing in this space before. I can't go into too many details, but I will say this. It piggybacks on the blogging skills I've acquired over the last two years. I will also say it heavily relies on the principals of the four hour work week. It's on the verge of being profitable already which is quite outstanding considering that California's incorporation costs are quite high ($1200+).

Here's looking forward to next month.

This post deals with:

, , , ,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Posted on June 18, 2008.

Net Worth Update – May 2008

Comment First
Written by

It's the middle of the month, so it's a time to calculate my net worth. For the last 5 months or so, I've been pretty much break even - spending almost exactly what I've earned. This is not a long-term recipe for success, but it's a lot better than many people do when starting a business. Of course, I'm aided greatly in that this website makes some money, I do some contract work on the side, and my wife earns a very good income (my net worth doesn't take her money into account).

Due to a small surge in stock prices, my net worth grew around $2,000 to $220,490. I could have done a couple of thousand dollars better, but one organization has been slow to pay some money they owe me. On the other hand, I've been slow to bill another organization for work done. There is no excuse for this other than laziness and possible stupidity. I am leaving interest on the table.

This post deals with:

, , , ,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Last updated on June 14, 2008.

Net Worth Update – April 2008

4
Comments
Written by

It's the middle of the month, so it's a time to reflect on my net worth. I've been very happy to break even lately as I focus on making my businesses grow - while trying to slow down from the rat race.

April came as a very pleasant surprise - the stock market rebound had boosted my net worth $10,000 - to $218,825. This is despite the value of my Boston property reaching an all-time low. If that returns to the norm, it would add another $20,000 to my net worth.

Last month, I had mentioned taking a part time job - around 20 hours a week. I haven't been very good about my time sheets, so I'm leaving a little money on the table due to laziness. I am also doing contract work with another company which has been a little slow to cut checks. If I could get my act together and collect some of this money, I might see another $4,000 in net worth.

This post deals with:

, , , , , , , ,

... and focuses on:

Net Worth

Last updated on June 14, 2008.

 
Also from Lazy Man and Money
Lazy Man and Health | MLM Myth | Health MLM Scam | MonaVie Scam | Protandim Scams | How To Fix | How To Car | How To Computer