Saturday, January 18, 2020

Over 550K invested

Our investment accounts have now hit another financial milestone: surpassing $550,000 in value!  The stock market has been on a tear over the last decade and our investment account balances have been shooting up as well.
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.
Here is a look at the timeline of our previous investment milestones:
June 2, 2014: 100K
March 12, 2016: 200K
June 5, 2017: 300K
July 15, 2018: 400K 
April 16, 2019: 450K
November 5, 2019: 500K
We are not stock pickers.  We are not market timers.  Our investments are simple and our contributions are automatic.  We invest in index funds that track the US stock market (63%), international stock market (27%), and US bond market (10%).  Index fund investing allows us to diversify our portfolio and keep our costs very low.
In the long term, I expect that our investment account balances will continue to hit new highs - which I will share with you all.  This being said, a stock market correction or crash can occur at anytime.  We had a small stock market pullback in 2018 when the S&P 500 had a -6.59% return.  People were crying, “this is the beginning of the next recession!”  During this time, we consistently contributed to our investments.  In fact, we sold some of our bond funds to put more money into the stock market.  The S&P 500 returned a whopping 30.43% in 2019!  We recently sold some of our stock index funds into bond funds (Vanguard VBTLX) to rebalance our asset allocation.  This is how we continue to buy low and sell high.
Stock market volatility is normal.  Time in the market surpasses trying to time the market.  We will continue to stay the course with our investments on our way towards financial freedom.  I recommend you do the same.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020: Happy New Year, December side hustles and year end summary!

Happy New Year!  Welcome to January 2020!  On New Years Eve, I had dinner and hung out at a friend’s house, then came home to fall asleep before 10:30pm.  I’m sure parents with young kids can relate – sleeping early is a luxury.  Did you have a good December?

It’s been quite a busy month for us and I expect that we will continue to spend more time doing family activities.  December has been such a joyous month.  We had plenty of holiday parties with friends, office coworkers, and family.  Our kids are finally starting to play nicely with each other.  It’s been fun watching the two of them entertain each other and come up with activities to do together.
We visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach 3 times this month.  Our kids love exploring the different sea life exhibits and playing with the toys in the gift shop. 
No December is complete without making gingerbread houses!
It’s been a bit cold and we’ve had a few rainy days.  Whenever possible, we still try to get our kids outside to explore our neighborhood and visit the playground.
My in laws had to change their holiday plans to visit us this Christmas last minute.  Credit card points allowed my wife and son to fly and visit for nearly free.  I could not leave my office due to short notice and so I spent 5 days bonding with my daughter.  
We had a great time visiting the Children’s Museum at La Habra.  Since we have passes here, we probably visit at least once a month.
I took my daughter to visit Petco to see all the fish, turtles, reptiles, guinea pigs and birds.  It’s like a free visit to the zoo!
I also took my daughter to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.  Admission is free for California teachers (I teach part time as one of my side hustles) and children under 2, so we both got in for free!  This museum has a ton of taxidermy animal exhibits, gemstones as well as dinosaur bones on display.  My daughter loved it! 
Next to the Natural History Museum is the California Science Center, another fantastic place to visit.  Admission is free (because exposure to science should be free for everyone), but they do accept donations.  My daughter wanted to hang around the kelp forest and sea life exhibits on this visit.
I am looking forward to brining my wife and son to the Natural History Museum and California Science Center this month!
Here’s our monthly summary of side income that we have generated in the previous month of December.
Cash Back
On 12.3, I received a $7 statement credit on my Chase Freedom card from Chase Offers.  This promotion was for 10% back on purchases made at Petsmart.
On 12.9, my wife received a $10 statement credit on her AMEX Gold card from AMEX Offers.  This was for $10 back after spending $25 or more at Yardhouse.

Rental Income
On 12.5, we received a net profit of $450 from our rental property. 

Survey Income
On 12.3, I received a $70 check from My Impact Network for completing a medical survey.
On 12.23, I received a $20 check from E-Rewards Medical for completing a medical survey.
On 12.28, I received a $25 check from My Impact Network for completing a medical survey.

Miscellaneous Income
On 12.4, I received a $5 Amazon gift card from MyPoints. 

On 12.7, my wife sold a piece of unused furniture to a coworker for $25 cash.
On 12.12, my wife received a $3 Amazon gift card from the Amazon Early Reviewer Program.

Monthly Totals:
We earned $17 from cash back
We earned $450 from rental income
I earned $115 for completing online surveys
We earned $33 of miscellaneous income.

All of this totals $615 from our side hustles for the month of December!  Our total side hustle income for 2019 was $14,181.54!

Side hustle totals:

This is now the 6th year that we have been tracking our side hustle income.  Here are the numbers:

In 2019, we earned $14,181.54
In 2018, we earned $14,802.47
In 2017, we earned $15,307.76
In 2016, we earned $24,195.44
In 2015, we earned $19,178.54
In 2014, we earned $28,633.42

In the past, one of our biggest income producing side hustles was renting out our extra rooms to local students.  That extra income helped us save up enough money to purchase our rental property and aggressively invest in stock market index funds.  When our kids get older, we may consider house hacking again.

This has been a big year for our family on our journey towards financial freedom.  This past year, our investments surpassed 500K!  Whether the market continues to soar or whether we hit a recession, we will stay invested in the market.  We are getting closer and closer to financial freedom. 

When 2019 started, I wanted to focus more on being in the moment and practicing more gratitude.  I try to remind myself daily not to let a wandering mind reduce my happiness.  This past year we have spent so much time doing fun activities with the family.  We’ve put much more value on experiences than material things.  My wife has been proficient at purchasing used clothes from Facebook Marketplace and other used clothing apps (such as OfferUp and 5Miles).  Our kids are growing so fast it doesn’t make sense to buy them fancy brand name clothing.

As our children get older, spending time with them has become a much more important priority than hustling for more income.  I’m glad that we were able to invest aggressively prior to having kids.

I am looking forward to seeing what 2020 will bring.  I’ve been blogging for 8 years and it has helped us track our journey towards financial freedom.  This year I want to focus more on reading for pleasure.  It’s so easy to waste a bunch of time on the Internet browsing sites such as Reddit.  I want to take advantage of my library card and put it to good use.  

Let’s make 2020 another fantastic year!  

Monday, December 23, 2019

FWOTW: no Christmas gifts

So today’s post is a bit different from my other frugal win of the week (FWOTW) posts.
About 5 or 6 years ago, my wife and I decided that we no longer needed to exchange gifts.  This applied to various occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.  I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on gift giving during Christmas here, and I still feel like those comments remain relevant today. 
To quote from my previous post:
One of the best decisions that my wife and I have made regarding gifts was to just agree not to shop for surprises for each other.  If we really need or want something, we just agree to go and buy it – no need to connect the purchase to a random “gift giving” holiday.  We already have almost everything we could possibly want.  We are trying to minimize the junk we own.  Anything else would just clutter our home.   

Sometimes it is hard for people to understand why I don’t buy an anniversary gift for my wife, or why she doesn’t get me anything for my birthday.  Our attitudes go against common consumerism culture.  Once you are in a committed relationship with your significant other, your finances are linked.  You are now saving for financial freedom together.  Spending money from our same bank account doesn’t benefit our financial future in any way.  Our best gift to each other is sharing the common goal of reaching financial freedom together. 

Last week I was in the office lounge eating my homemade food during lunch.  One of my coworkers also brought her lunch struck up a conversation by asking me how my Christmas shopping has been going.  I explained to her that my wife and I decided years ago just to not worry about getting each other gifts.  It was an unnecessary stress that we really didn’t need and our lives were better off without random gifts.  She was a bit surprised to hear that we don’t participate in giving gifts to each other.  My coworker then started telling me about how difficult it was trying to find the right gift for her husband while having a hard time balancing the budget at the same time.  She explained how last Christmas, she was dealing with unemployment and money problems, and the couple decided not to exchange gifts.  Christmas came and went without any issues.  Since she was working this year, she automatically thought that they were just going to resume the tradition of giving gifts.   
Well, this morning my coworker excitedly came to me to share that she had a talk with her husband and they both decided they did NOT need to get each other gifts for Christmas!  She told me that she was so relieved after talking this out with her husband.  There’s no need to break the budget to follow the trends of society.  Christmas is not about giving gifts.
This holiday season, take the time to appreciate everything that you already have.  Appreciate your health, your family, and your friendships.
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