Our 2014 Financial Goals

mb-201312billscoinsLast week I wrote about our household’s financial performance.  Having beat our goal of a 17% net worth gain by a few percentage points, I set our sights on what our goals are for 2014.  I love this time of year as others post their goals, not just to see the goals themselves, but to see the priorities and also the reasoning behind their goals.

As such, here are our goals!

Read moreOur 2014 Financial Goals

2013 Financial Year In Review

When I first started tracking my budget and net worth, I did monthly updates around the 7th of each month.  This still holds, and what it means is that December 7th is the ‘last’ net worth update for the year.  In order to do year to year comparisons, I’ve always kept the December update as the ‘final’ update.

What this means is that I wrapped up our net worth tracking for the year a couple of weeks ago.  I finally had a chance to look at it compared to our estimates, and determine that it was a pretty good year.

I don’t go into actual dollar amounts, but rather like to keep things in percentages.  I will still try to keep things interesting and in perspective.   I also continue to use accounting principles upon which my budgeting skills were formed, so I will list things according to the simple accounting formula that Assets minus Liabilities equals Equity (or in this case, Net Worth).

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Great Read Friday: I Jinxed Myself – September 6, 2013

I had a feeling when I posted last month that our net worth had made positive gains for fourteen months that I was probably jinxing myself.  Sure enough, the streak came to an end as our net worth fell for the first time since June 2012.  Largely driven by the stock market taking a breather, our net worth fell by 1.5%.

mb-pennyI guess that can only mean one thing: It’s time to start another streak!

Here are some great posts I’ve read over the past few weeks.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

A buffer of cash in your checking account can help in many ways, as pointed out by How I Save Money.  My favorite positive reason is simple: peace of mind!

Read moreGreat Read Friday: I Jinxed Myself – September 6, 2013

A New Car Is Little More Than A Drag On Your Net Worth

I got a call from our credit union the other day.  I used to do all my banking at this credit union until we got married, when we decided to combine our finances, and this led us to consolidate checking and saving services into a nearby bank, meaning that the credit union accounts largely became dormant.

Still, I kept the account active with a little bit of money because for several reasons:

Read moreA New Car Is Little More Than A Drag On Your Net Worth

Reviewing Our 2012 Financial Goals

I wanted to take a look back at the financial goals that we had set for 2012 and review how each of the areas that I had targeted actually performed.  The way I handle our financial spreadsheet, the net worth review that we do toward the beginning of the month is how the year is closed out, so even though there’s still some time left in the year, we can give an accurate look at our goals based on how things shaped up with the most recent review.

Here is a summary of each goal as well as how things actually turned out:

  1. Home value increases by 1% – The housing market had begun to show signs of stability at the beginning of the year, but it now looks like an actual recovery is taking place.  The formula which I use to calculate the value of our house takes into account a number of considerations, including Zillow’s reported value, comparable houses sold in our neighborhood and surrounding subdivisions, and a couple of other factors.  I’m happy to report that, based on these calculations, the value of our home went up by 5.7%.  There’s still quite a ways to go before we even reach the point of having it worth what we paid for it, but it’s still a great step in the right direction.  Achieved!
  2. Auto value decrease of 13% – Auto values had been holding relatively steady over the recent years, mostly as a result of an increased demand for cheaper, reliable used cars.  Now that the auto industry is steadily increasing sales and the age of the average car increases, the value of used cars has begun a more rapid decline.  Ours actually went down only by about 8% simply because the decline I forecasted didn’t really start until about mid-year (at least according to Kelley Blue Book, which is my estimating tool for our two cars).  Better than expected!
  3. A 25-30% growth in our investment account – I have a few stocks which I believed were ripe for big gains.  Unfortunately, they didn’t do as well as expected and we only realized about a 6% gain here.  It’s still better than nothing but not what I had hoped for.  Fail!
  4. A 15% increase in our cash holdings – We did OK here, seeing an increase of about 12%.  (Our cash holdings allowed us to pay for items and costs that came up, but if cash is not readily available there are options for quick loans that can get you through in a jam)  I had hoped our side income would be a little higher with various things that we do to earn money on the side, but while it was good, it was slightly less than expected.  Fail! 
  5. A fifteen to twenty percent increase in our retirement balance – This one was right on target and I’m happy to say it was toward the high end, as our retirement account balance increased by 19%.  Achieved!
  6. A five to six percent decrease in our mortgage balance – We did not apply any extra to our mortgage payments this year, but the 15-year 3.375% re-finance we got ourselves into last year helped us pay off 5.3% of the balance.  Achieved!
  7. An eleven to twelve percent decrease in our student loan balance – Again, we made minimum payments (thanks for nothing, employer who still hasn’t given out any raises) but this allowed us to pay off 11.3% of the outstanding balance we have for student loans.  Achieved!
  8. An overall net worth increase of 22% – If I were to have hit on all of the targets above, the end number would have resulted in a 22% net worth increase.  As it was, we hit on five and missed on two.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that the ones we hit on had a bigger impact than the ones we missed on, namely hitting the high end of our retirement saving goal, and the value of our home going up by a few more percent than I had estimated.  With this we saw a net worth increase of 25%.  Achieved!

Read moreReviewing Our 2012 Financial Goals

5 Financial Items To Do With The 5 Weeks Left In The Year

Today is Cyber Monday and by now, everybody is in full holiday mode.  I’m sure lots of people gave up some sleep for Black Friday shopping, and I know internet traffic spikes (and work productivity goes down) as people will be online today trying to hunt down deals.

While this is all good, one thing to keep in mind is that there are just 5 weeks left in the year.

Thus, I thought it would be prudent to discuss 5 things to do with those 5 remaining weeks:

Read more5 Financial Items To Do With The 5 Weeks Left In The Year

One Number Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Pretend you had two conversations with people about their net worth.

Person 1 reveals:

“My net worth went down by $200,000 last month.”

Person 2 tells you:

“My net worth went up by 50% last month.”

Chances are, upon first reading that you would think that Person 2 is making all the right moves and that Friend 1 is in trouble.  Big trouble, most likely, considering that most people would see most or all of their net worth disappear with that kind of loss.

Read moreOne Number Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

A Bittersweet Net Worth Milestone

For the first time in over three years, I estimate that we have full positive equity in our home.

This is a good thing, but it’s bittersweet considering that we put 20% down on our home in 2007. Part of the downside was automatic and would have been in any market (see below) but that’s still a lot of equity lost otherwise.

The calculation

I estimate the top-line value (what a contract would say) of our home using four inputs:

  1. Tax estimates – The city tax bill gives the value of our home, and it’s generally been pretty accurate compared to market estimates
  2. The bank estimate – Our lender has always allowed us to pseduo-begin a re-finance application, at one point where it would give you a ballpark estimate of your home.
  3. Zillow – Even though this changes regularly, we use this as a fraction of the calculation.
  4. The ‘sniff test’ – I look at comparable sells in the neighborhood and will give a manual adjustment based on what I think is realistic based on what’s going around us.

Read moreA Bittersweet Net Worth Milestone

A Four Year Debt-rospective

I use July as the benchmark for looking at the progress on our overall debt.  This practice started in 2007.  Why July 2007?  Simple.  Because that was the time that our debt was at its absolute highest.


July 2007 

Why was our debt highest in this particular month?  Because that’s the month we assumed the 30-year mortgage on our house.  Happy to say it’s been all downhill from there.

At this point in time we had:

  1. Mortgage – 100% of our mortgage balance remained since we hadn’t paid anything yet
  2. Auto Loan – We had about 30 months left on a 48 month car loan
  3. Student Loan 1 – This loan had the higher balance and the higher interest rate and higher monthly payment
  4. Student Loan 2 – This was the other loan we had.  Both loans were 15 year notes starting in 2005.

Read moreA Four Year Debt-rospective