January 2018 Financial Update
Wow, January flew by! I can’t believe it’s already February. Here in North Carolina it was a rather frigid January. We experienced not one, but TWO (!!) snowstorms during the month which is a rare occurrence. If you’ve never experienced snow in the South, it’s a treat. Everything shuts down and the kids get a few days off school. We busted out the sleds, bundled up, and made the most of it. Ironically we ended up at our neighborhood elementary school where we hit the slopes hard.
January was a fun month for our finances, too. The market continued its upward trajectory throughout the month and left us much wealthier. Our net worth climbed $77,000 to $2,114,000. Income remained strong at $4,055 which more than covered our spending of $1,281 for the month.
Investment income totaled $345 for the month of January which came from our money market account, CDs, and bond funds. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December which leaves us with much lower investment income in the other months.
Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, remained roughly the same as last month, at $2,377 for the month of January.
My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dipped slightly to $728 in January compared to $843 in December. That works out to almost two hours of consulting per week which is what I’m targeting.
Deposit income of $604 was mostly cash back from a credit card sign up bonus from the Capital One Spark Business card. I completed the bonus offer in November and the cash back check finally showed up in January. If you aren’t already enjoying the free money and free travel from credit card bonuses, click here to check out the latest bonus offers.
Another small portion of the deposit income was cash back from the Ebates.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals. If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card. We scored a decent amount of cash back while shopping online over Black Friday and leading up to Christmas and that cash back is getting paid out right now.
If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.
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Now let’s take a look at January expenses:
Our spending totaled $1,281 during January which is a little less than half our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).
Groceries – $563:
A fairly ordinary month of grocery spending right at our long term monthly grocery average. Lately we have shopped at the new Lidl grocery store that opened up in Raleigh in November. Their regular prices are about the same as Aldi, and they offer weekly sales on their already competitively priced products. We still visit Aldi but find ourselves spending less there for some reason.
Healthcare/Dental – $364:
We spent $364 for our monthly health insurance premium. That’s the premium after we get a $700 per month ACA premium subsidy based on our income.
Taxes – $300:
State of North Carolina estimated quarterly taxes for Q4 2017. We paid for the federal quarterly estimated taxes using Visa gift cards purchased (at a discount) in December so that expense doesn’t show up in this January financial report.
The state taxes came with a 2% fee (totaling $6) that I’m allocating to the “Travel” category of spending. We pay the extra fee to generate spending on credit cards so we can qualify for more sign up bonuses each year. That’s how we get $5,000 to $10,000 in (mostly) free travel or cash back each year.
Restaurants – $32:
$32 for Chinese takeout for our family and my parents.
Cable/Satellite – $14:
$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.
Travel – $6:
$6 fee for paying State taxes with a credit card. Credit card bonus here we come! Travel plans for 2018 include a month in an oceanfront condo in The Bahamas this summer and a week long cruise in the Caribbean on the brand new MSC Seaside over the Christmas holidays. The Bahamas trip is all booked and paid for other than a rental car, whereas I still owe about $1,000 on the cruise (due by October).
Gas – $0:
We didn’t buy any gas in January. The last time we refueled the van was December 10. It’s looking like we’ll make it almost two months between fill ups! The snowy conditions in January certainly helped conserve gas since it’s no fun to drive around on slippery roads and many places close for inclement weather anyway. And who has time to go driving around when you can walk to some fun sledding places for free?!
Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:
Net Worth: $2,114,000 (+$77,000)
Another crazy month in the stock market. It seems like the market only goes up. Until it doesn’t (like last Friday’s 2%+ drop).
During 2017 we moved to a slightly more conservative asset allocation that now includes about $125,000 of bonds and $50,000 of money market and CDs. The remaining 90% of our assets are fully invested in the stock market which means we do really well when when the market goes up but we suffer quite a beating when the market drops.
This aggressive asset allocation was responsible for a half million dollars worth of investment returns since October 2016. I’ll take it. I might also give it back in the next stock market correction.
Financial goals in 2018 are to have fun, spend on what we want, and enjoy our wealth. I might sell another chunk of equities if the market continues it’s upward trajectory. If I sell more equities, it’ll be a speculative play (instead of a defensive play like my sales in 2017) where I’m building up a source of “dry powder” to deploy in the event of a steep market correction. We’re sitting on around five years of living expenses in cash/bonds/CDs right now and that should cover us through any kind of recession smaller than the Great Depression.
And that’s how our January went! I’m glad that February is here since that means nicer spring weather isn’t far off. In other news, Mrs. Root of Good celebrates two years of early retirement today! It’s hard to believe we have both been doing this whole not working thing for so long.
Are you making progress on your 2018 goals? Still striving to make good on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions?