Sunday, July 15, 2018

Over 400K invested

Our family finances have just hit another major financial milestone.  Our investments have now surpassed $400,000 in value!  This includes money in our 401Ks, Roth IRAs, taxable accounts, and 529.  This does not include money in our checking accounts, savings accounts, home equity or rental property equity.
We track all of our investments with Mint and Personal Capital.  We manually track our spending with ClearCheckbook.
Even with the recent stock market volatility, our investments continue to produce a healthy amount of returns.  A little over a year ago, I shared how our investments surpassed $300,000 in value (June 5th, 2017).  Four years ago was when our investments first surpassed $100,000 in value (June 2nd, 2014).  It’s incredible watching these investments compound.  There are days where investment returns exceed an entire paycheck.  Most of our investing occurs automatically and involve very little maintenance.
We continue to steadily invest in our 401Ks, IRAs, taxable accounts and 529.  Sometimes we contribute as little as $50 at a time.  When it comes to saving for our future, the most important thing we do is consistently invest - no matter how the stock market is doing.   When we reach financial freedom, we want to look back and thank our past selves. 
We are Bogleheads and our investment policy is quite simple.  We invest in index funds, which allow us to easily diversify our investments with very low costs.  We stay the course with our investments and never try to time the market.  We make steady contributions through stock market highs and lows. 
We currently aim to have around 90% of our investments in stocks (70% US, 30% international) and 10% in bonds.  As we get closer to financial freedom, we will gradually reduce our exposure to stocks and increase our bond allocation. 
There’s been a lot of talk from financial pundits saying that a stock market crash (>30% loss), correction (10% loss) or lower expected returns are coming up.  I’m sure one of these events will happen someday – maybe even this week.  Many investors are sitting on the sidelines with their cash, since they don’t want to buy at a market peak. 
The problem is that there is no way to predict the future with certainty.  When losses in the stock market occur, they have historically been followed by a recovery and then yet another all time high.  The stock market can also move sideways for many years.  Over the long run, the market always goes up.  Staying in the market long term allows your investments to continue compounding.  Your time in the market is much more valuable than trying to time the market.  The important thing is to have an investment plan and stick to it.  Don’t believe me? Read about Bob, the world’s worst market timer.   
We focus on the things that we can control, such as steady contributions, diversification and low investment costs.   In addition to consistently investing towards our financial freedom, we try to focus on pursuing a life of meaning and happiness.  If you don’t find happiness now, you’re not going to find it when you reach financial freedom.
How are your investments coming along?  

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Side hustles June 2018

The great thing about doing side hustles to generate extra income is that you can hustle on your own terms.  The more hard work, time, and creative effort you put in, the more extra money you can make.  You can hustle as little or as much as you want, whenever you want.  It’s your extra money, and you can choose how you want to spend it.  Instead of focusing on what ideas don’t apply to you, try focusing on different side hustle ideas that you can implement to work for your situation.

Once a month (usually on the 1st), I like to post a short summary of our personal and financial situation for the previous month.  Here I’ll share some of what’s been going on with our lives and our side hustles. 

Welcome to July!  Did everyone have a good month of June?  It’s been another activity filled month for us.  Our son just turned 3 years old.  He has so much energy and loves to explore.
We started the month off with a mini family vacation to Seattle, and used travel hacking to cover most of our expenses.   
We spent a few hours looking at animals and exploring at the Santa Ana Zoo.  Our son enjoyed the train ride that passed through many animal exhibits.  He enjoyed seeing the monkeys, snakes, eagle, and other creatures.
We brought our son to the Fullerton Arboretum, where he got a chance to see flowers, trees and various animals like rabbits, turtles, carp and birds.  There are several small streams of water and ponds in the arboretum.  It was very relaxing being surrounded by nature while hearing the birds sing.
We enjoyed a day at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  Our son loves visiting aquariums.  He already knows the names of most sea creatures.  On this visit, he touched sharks, stingrays, and even a horseshoe crab.  We will probably get a membership to the aquarium next year.
We still go on walks around our neighborhood often and our son is now enjoying the swing set and playground.  Chasing him around keeps us fit and active.  We want to enjoy our journey towards financial freedom as much as possible. 
Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of June.
Cash Back
On 6.4, I received $10.23 deposit in my Discover Cashback Checking account.  This is a 1% cash back on my mortgage payment for our rental property mortgage, which allows for debit card purchases.
On 6.12, I received a $50 statement credit in my AMEX SimplyCash business credit card.  They offered a promotion of 10% cash back on purchases made at Staples.  I used my credit card to buy $200 worth of Shell Gas gift cards and $300 worth of Amazon gift cards.  We mostly use Amazon to purchase everyday items, saving us a trip to the store. 

Survey Income
On 6.19, my wife received a $10 Amazon gift card for doing a Chase survey.
On 6.28, I received a check for $75 from TDG Health for doing a medical survey.
On 6.29, I received a check for $20 from My Impact Network for doing a medical survey.
Rental Income
On 6.5, we received a net profit of $430 from our rental property.  We are glad our tenants are paying rent on time.

Side Jobs
On 6.18, I received a check for $162.50 for teaching at the local university. 

Monthly Totals:
We earned $60.23 from cash back
My wife earned $105 from survey income
We earned $430 from rental income
I earned $162.50 from my side job

All of this totals $757.73 from our side hustles for the month of June.  This isn’t as much extra income as we usually bring in, but every bit still helps us push towards our financial freedom!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Mini Seattle family vacation

We just returned from a 4-day visit to Seattle.  Thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve $300 travel credits, we were able to purchase 3 Delta Airlines tickets and split payments on our credit cards.  The total cost of the flights came out to be $748.80 and we got $600 ($300 Chase travel credit per credit card) off our tickets.  In total, we only paid $148.80 for a $748.80 flight.
Checking out our plane before boarding
While our son has been on many flights already, this was our daughter’s first time flying.  We thought traveling with a baby was hectic, but traveling with a toddler and a baby took things to a new level!
Thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards, we both have 5 years free Global Entry, which includes TSA Precheck.  TSA Precheck allowed us to completely bypass the crowded security lines at the airports for our flights.  With 2 kids, TSA Precheck was a huge time saver.  We were able to go through airport security without removing our shoes, electronics, liquids, belts, and jackets when getting screened. Our son always has so much energy and he loved running around the airport and exploring.  I don’t think he would have done well waiting in the long security lines. 
When traveling with kids, we learned that it was safer to bring our own car seats instead of renting them along with our rental car.  We bought the Cosco Seneca Next car seat, from Walmart for less than $40.  On our flight to Seattle, we brought the car seat onto the plane so our son could get strapped into it.  
Activity books helped keep our son busy during the flight

Things didn’t turn out too well since he didn’t like being confined to the seat.  We had to tough out a 20-minute toddler meltdown on the flight to Seattle.  On our return flight, we checked the car seat at the gate and our son had no issues.
We stayed at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Seattle Bellevue / Kirkland hotel.  We booked our hotel stay through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal.  Their 2 room suite with king bed and living room was perfect for our family.  We wanted our kids to sleep in separate cribs in separate rooms so they wouldn’t wake each other up.  
We redeemed 48,650 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover our hotel stay, which would have cost us $729.76.  It was nice to enjoy free parking, breakfast and coffee daily.  Thanks to our Chase Ultimate Rewards points, we didn’t need to worry about planning for a $700+ hotel stay as part of our travel expenses. 
While there are many things to do in Seattle, our time was limited a lot of family events, including a wedding.

Seattle Aquarium
No vacation is complete for our son without a visit to the local aquarium.  Our son was so excited when he found out that we were going to see ocean animals that he kept repeating “go see sharks!” over and over again.  
One of our first stops in Seattle was the Seattle Aquarium, located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront.  Our son really enjoyed looking at all the different exhibits that included multiple varieties of fish, giant octopus, jellyfish, sea otters, seals, birds, and more. 

While the aquarium isn’t very large, there are many open areas to explore.  Our son was a bit bummed to find out that the Seattle Aquarium doesn’t have a shark exhibit.  The only sharks they had at the aquarium were dogfish sharks, a small bottom dwelling shark.  Tickets to the Seattle Aquarium were $29.95 for adults and free for kids ages 3 and under.  We parked in a nearby lot for $10.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Since our son did not get to see enough sharks at the Seattle Aquarium, I decided to take a father-son trip to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma.  
The zoo is located about 40 minutes south of downtown Seattle and 30 minutes from the Sea Tac Airport.  The zoo is 29 acres in size with 367 different species of animals including tigers, monkeys, elephants, otters, penguins, polar bears, arctic foxes and several aquariums.  The zoo has plenty of nice walking paths.  Our son was most interested in seeing sharks, and the zoo had plenty of them to offer. 
We also got to check out the camels, tigers, penguins, seals, walruses and more.  Currently the zoo was under construction for another aquarium (Pacific Seas) - unfortunately that exhibit wasn’t open for us to explore (opens summer 2018).
Our son touched his first stingray here!
Tickets to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium are an excellent value at only $17.95 for adults ($15.95 if purchased online).  Since my son wasn’t 3 years old yet, he got to go for free.  Parking here is also free.  This was such a fun place to spend half a day. 
Amazon Spheres
While we were exploring downtown Seattle, we stumbled upon the Amazon Spheres. This Amazon workplace is set up like a huge terrarium or urban botanical garden.  
The 3 intersecting Spheres have a unique architectural design that fuses modern building technology with biodiverse plants.  There are over 40,000 plant species here from 30 countries.  These glass-covered domes allow you to see Amazon employees working inside.  They are quite the futuristic site to behold. 
Amazon Go
Located next to the Spheres is the Amazon Go store.  Touted as having the “world’s most advanced shopping technology,” the Amazon Go store is basically a futuristic grocery store.  To enter the store, you need to download the Amazon Go app.  Camera sensors all over the store automatically detects which products are taken from the shelves and put into your shopping bag.  Once you are done shopping, you can just leave the store without waiting in any lines to get checked out.  
The Amazon Go store sells some ready to eat meal items and has a small seating area.  It was fun visiting Amazon Go, and getting a glimpse of what future grocery store shopping will look like.
We had a great time in Seattle seeing family and exploring some sites.  Since most of our finances are automated (bill payments, investing, and saving), we didn’t have to think about money on our trip.    We continue to strive towards financial freedom – and short vacations like this help us enjoy our journey!
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