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October 2015 - Fruitful Asia Trips

November 2nd, 2015 at 07:46 am

Cash & Savings: $79,533 ==> $84,156 (5.81%)
Foreign Currency: $38,065 ==> $39,923 (4.88%)
US Brokerage: $293,170 ==> $312,180 (6.29%)
Overseas Brokerage: $238,161 ==> $249,257 (4.66%)
Retirement Accounts: $291,281 ==> $301,681 (3.57%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $70,000 (7.69%)
Charitable Account: $9,932 ==> $10,397 (4.68%)
Total: $1,015,682 ==> $1,067,594 (5.11%)

This month I went to Asia for 2.5 weeks visiting 3 countries – first stop is a second wedding banquet at my home country where my parents live, second stop is Kyoto for my honeymoon, and last stop is to visit my in-laws. I was blessed to meet all the old friends and families and for the purpose of this blog I received enough gifts to cover all my expenses and even more.

In October it seems like the market has returned some of its losses since August, which explained the increase of value in all my brokerage and retirement accounts. In fact, the actual value would be even higher since I sold some Altria shares, worth about $8,900, and moved the proceeds to my checking account.

The financial consultant I worked with at my brokerage account recently just left so I need to make an appointment with the new consultant they appointed to me. I hope he is as good as the previous one.

September 2015 - First Pay Check in Five Months

October 6th, 2015 at 11:06 am

Cash & Savings: $78,843 ==> $79,533 (0.88%)
Foreign Currency: $38,005 ==> $38,065 (0.16%)
US Brokerage: $283,141 ==> $293,710 (3.73%)
Overseas Brokerage: $240,131 ==> $238,161 (-0.82%)
Retirement Accounts: $290,443 ==> $291,281 (0.29%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $10,031 ==> $9,932 (-0.99%)
Total: $1,005,594 ==> $1,015,682 (1%)

This month I finally received my first pay check in five months. I now work for a company that only pays once a month instead of twice a month so I have to wait till the end of each month to receive my pay check.

I also pledged $5,000 more to invest in my friend's mobile app business, now valued a lot more than a year ago, which gives me a 174% return. I'm also considering investing another $10,000 into a new convertible note, but haven't made up my mind yet.

August 2015 - Back to the Workforce Again!

September 9th, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Cash & Savings: $72,496 ==> $78,843 (8.75%)
Foreign Currency: $38,985 ==> $38,005 (-2.51%)
US Brokerage: $312,179 ==> $283,141 (-9.30%)
Overseas Brokerage: $250,880 ==> $240,131 (1-4.28%)
Retirement Accounts: $314,389==> $290,443 (-7.62%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $10,796 ==> $10,031 (-7.09%)
Total: $1,064,725 ==> $1,005,594 (-5.55%)

So obviously the best news this month is that I'm back to the workforce again, which is much more important than the market turmoil, because the latter is something that happens all the time.

However, I do regret that I didn't sell several stocks 4 months ago when I was just laid off. I've been waiting for those stocks to go higher but of course that never happened. Regardless, the important thing for me now is being patient and ride out the storm.

July 2015 - My wedding! And 4 months unemployed..

August 11th, 2015 at 07:25 pm

Cash & Savings: $58,594 ==> $72,496 (23.73%)
Foreign Currency: $39,690 ==> $38,985 (-1.78%)
US Brokerage: $300,922 ==> $312,179 (3.74%)
Overseas Brokerage: $247,360 ==> $250,880 (1.42%)
Retirement Accounts: $311,317==> $314,389 (0.99%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $10,801 ==> $10,796 (-0.05%)
Total: $1,033,684 ==> $1,064,725 (3%)

By now I have been unemployed for exactly 4 months but I did manage to have my wedding went as planned and I’m wrapping up several interviews, hopefully one or more of the job leads will turn into offer(s).

My cash position increased a lot last month because my wife contributed another $10,000 into the wedding fund and I received a lot of wedding gifts in cash, merger payout from one stock, plus dividends from several stocks that totaled about $1,000. However, some big credit card bills will quickly lower my cash position.

As I’m writing this blog, the market has already gone through several ups and downs. It appears that the China slowdown is finally coming and when it comes, it comes with a brutal force.

June 2015 - 12 weeks into unemployment and counting

July 3rd, 2015 at 09:24 am

Cash & Savings: $66,386 ==> $58,594 (-11.74%)
Foreign Currency: $39,690 ==> $39,690 (0%)
US Brokerage: $300,094 ==> $300,922 (0.28%)
Overseas Brokerage: $253,820 ==> $247,360 (-2.55%)
Retirement Accounts: $317,217==> $311,317 (-1.86%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $11,020 ==> $10,801 (-1.99%)
Total: $1,053,227 ==> $1,033,684 (-1.86%)

By now I have been unemployed for 12 weeks but since I didn’t claim unemployment benefit immediately I can still receive 5 weeks of it. The process is quite efficient after you received the first payment – you file it on Monday then the government deposit it into your account on Wednesday. However, that money is only good for a week worth of grocery for a family of four, not that I have one, but I wonder how a middle class family survives with such measly amount, not to mention that I’m receiving the maximum amount, so for a working class family I doubt they can make the ends meet.

The sharp drop in my cash position reflects the expenses for my wedding that is less than 4 weeks away. There are another $10k due by end of July.

A month from now I’ll be staying at my fiancee’s house so the total expenses between the two of us will go down eventually but before I sell my house there are still some big expenses that need to happen, such as new appliances, some patch work in my house here and there, etc.

On the job hunting front, it was really slow the first six weeks but things started to pick up in June and I had spoken to three difference companies so far. Hopefully I can get a job before my wedding, keeping my fingers crossed!

May 2015 - 7 weeks into unemployment and counting

June 2nd, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Cash & Savings: $53,763 ==> $66,386 (23.48%)
Foreign Currency: $39,690 ==> $39,690 (0%)
US Brokerage: $303,577 ==> $300,094 (-1.15%)
Overseas Brokerage: $251,943 ==> $253,820 (0.75%)
Retirement Accounts: $312,383==> $316,119 (1.20%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $11,900 ==> $11,020 (-7.39%)
Total: $1,038,256 ==> $1,053,227 (1.44%)

I’ve been unemployed for about seven weeks right now but due to the untaxed lump sum severance payment and some $700 I received from dividends, medical claims, cash back bonuses, etc, my cash position actually increased. I spent close to $7,000 in wedding related expenses but they will only show up in next month’s credit card bills.
Looking at the month of June, I only have two sources of income – 1) unemployment benefit of $330 per week, and I expect to receive the first check by end of June since I only applied it last week; 2) company share purchase program contribution, which should be over $4,000.

I have enough cash to cover living expenses for a few months but I continue to seek ways to reduce expenses – 1) will downgrade my cable to basic after the promo runs out end of this month, which will save me at least $50 per month; 2) use gift cards as much as I can so I don’t need to pay anything out of pocket, whether it is for household items or for my wedding.

By my calculation I had used about $500 worth of gift cards and cash back bonus since I got let go. I can share how I was able to do this in my next post.

April 2015 - Planning my wedding while being unemployed

May 7th, 2015 at 10:01 pm

Cash & Savings: $44,819 ==> $53,763 (19.96%)
Foreign Currency: $39,625 ==> $39,690 (0.16%)
US Brokerage: $296,068 ==> $303,577 (2.54%)
Overseas Brokerage: $247,942 ==> $251,943 (1.61%)
Retirement Accounts: $308,215==> $312,383 (1.35%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $11,774 ==> $11,900 (1.07%)
Total: $1,013,443 ==> $1,038,256 (2.45%)

Yes, it finally happened...after months of speculation I finally joined the millions of Americans who got laid off at least once in their career. In the consulting industry that I am in, you need to maintain a high billability by being on a client project as much as possible, unfortunately, there wasn't that much to do in the last six months so I got laid off for the first time in my career.

Clearly that isn't something I enjoy, especially when planning a wedding. In April I paid $3,700 to book vendors and venues for my wedding and also paid off the remaining payment of the engagement ring and wedding bands.

It did come as a surprise to me that my total asset increased by 2.45% after losing my job and made so many big payments. A few things were at play though: 1) I still got paid for the first half of April; 2) stock market appreciation and dividends; 3) I asked a friend to pay a $5,000 personal loan back to me; 4) I received a tax refund of close of $10,000.

Other strategies I deployed were: 1) cut my cable bill by $9 by using just one TV; 2) lower utility bill by using less power; 3) stopped contribution to my investment accounts; 4) paid off a few credit card bills using the cash back bonuses I accumulated; 5) sped up medical reimbursement; 6) sold one stock to boost my cash position and formed a strategy to sell a few more stocks that will only lead to little capital gains but increase my cash position by a potentially $17,000 (it will be throughout the year since my current cash position is very strong).

If there is time later this month I will talk about how I deal with job loss and the pressure from my fiance and the wedding.

March 2015 - Maintaining the One Million Mark while Planning My Wedding

April 4th, 2015 at 09:57 pm

Cash & Savings: $40,388 ==> $44,819 (10.97%)
Foreign Currency: $38,794 ==> $39,625 (2.14%)
US Brokerage: $298,160 ==> $296,068 (-0.7%)
Overseas Brokerage: $249,558 ==> $247,942 (-0.65%)
Retirement Accounts: $307,304==> $308,215 (0.3%)
Business Investment: $65,000 ==> $65,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $14,279 ==> $11,774 (-17.54%)
Total: $1,013,483 ==> $1,013,443 (0%)

Surprisingly, I'm able to maintain above one million dollar six weeks after engagement. But now that I think of it it actually makes sense since I'm only paying off the ring in April and other expenses like various deposits only begin in April as well.

One thing I need to do in April is reviewing my Q1 fund performance to see if I need to make any adjustment. I was also hoping to sell a few stocks and use the proceeds for my wedding but right now it doesn't look like it will happen soon given the market gyration.

February 2015 - Finally Hitting the One Million Dollars Mark!

March 3rd, 2015 at 02:05 pm

Cash & Savings: $87,729 ==> $40,388 (-53.96%)
Foreign Currency: $38,794 ==> $38,794 (0%)
US Brokerage: $277,786 ==> $298,160 (7.73%)
Overseas Brokerage: $242,307 ==> $249,558 (3.42%)
Retirement Accounts: $290,797==> $307,304 (5.68%)
Business Investment: $15,000 ==> $65,000 (333.33%)
Charitable Account: $13,880 ==> $14,279 (2.87%)
Total: $965,293 ==> $1,013,483 (4.99%)

The biggest personal finance achievement in February is that I finally hit the one million dollars mark. Back in my 20s when I started working I set the goal of saving one million dollars when I hit 40, that was during the dot com age. I missed that goal by a few years but so be it.

The biggest personal achievement in February, however, is that I’m now engaged and need to save money for the ring and wedding. I budgeted $50k for this but not sure if it’s enough. $20k of it will come from the emergency fund I had saved and the rest will come from monthly savings and proceeds of selling stocks.

January 2015 - New Year Personal Finance Resolution

February 2nd, 2015 at 08:38 am

New Year and a New Beginning!
Starting in 2015 I am changing the asset buckets I have based on the nature of the asset instead of accounts: 1) grouped all my retirement accounts into one bucket; 2) created a new one for business investment as I started to invest into start ups; 3) made charitable account a new bucket since it is not cash I can actually use for daily stuff.
So here it is:

Cash & Savings: $87,912 ==> $87,729 (-0.21%)
Foreign Currency: $37,901 ==> $38,794 (2.36%)
US Brokerage: $273,569 ==> $277,786 (1.54%)
Overseas Brokerage: $238,551 ==> $241,307 (1.16%)
Retirement Accounts: $293,377 ==> $290,797 (-0.88%)
Business Investment: $15,000 ==> $15,000 (0%)
Charitable Account: $13,880 ==> $13,880 (0%)
Total: $960,190 ==> $965,293 (0.53%)

In 2015 my personal finance resolutions are:
1. Invest more into start ups/business directly
2. Close one of my brokerage account so I have one less to manage
3. Continue to tune my rollover IRA account now that I have $175k in it.
4. Adjust holdings in my overseas brokerage account: this one I already did in early January as my original world allocation fund was not going anywhere (and it has a large portion in European stocks, we all know how that has been doing) and the fees has increased a lot so I simply switched to a Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund.

There are some other things I plan on exploring this year but I need to do more research before I can share it on this blog. As my asset gradually increases my investment strategy also becomes more complex, hopefully for the better.

2014 - A Stellar and Record Year!

January 6th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Despite the negative market in December I ended the year with a record increase of my total assets:

Cash & Savings: $76,975 ==> $116,360 (51.17%)
Foreign Currency: $37,881 ==> $37,901 (0.05%)
US Brokerage: $209,852 ==> $273,569 (30.36%)
Overseas Brokerage: $219,042 ==> $238,551 (8.91%)
401(k): $116,662 ==> $5,913 (-94.93%)
Rollover IRA: $41,998 ==> $177,550 (322.76%)
Roth IRA: $102,723 ==> $110,346 (7.42%)
Total: $805,093 ==> $960,190 (19.26%)

In summary, my total asset has increased by $155,097, largely thanks to US stock market appreciation where my portfolio jumped 30% or $63,717.

Starting in 2015 I will realign my categories to better reflect my holdings but other than that I haven't really thought out any new investment strategy, that would be part of my 2015 New Year resolution that I plan on doing this weekend.

December 2014 - Even the Longest Party has to End

January 5th, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Cash & Savings: $109,813 => $116,360 (5.96%)
Foreign Currency: $37,963 => $37,901 (-0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $281,435 => $273,569 (-2.79%)
Int'l Brokerage: $242,014 => $238,551 (-1.43%)
401(k): $5,935 => $5,913 (-0.37%)
Rollover IRA: $178,581 > $177,550 (-0.58%)
Roth IRA: $111,264 => $110,346 (-0.83%)
Total Assets: $967,005 => $960,190 (-0.7%)

December came in with a loss in terms of total asset after a global stock market retreat. This ends the longest stretch of monthly asset increase I've ever had, a total of 16 months since August 2012. The previous record was 13 months, from November 2008 to December 2009.

My biggest worry though, has nothing to do with the stock market decline itself because the market always goes up and down; my biggest worry is about the over 40% drop of oil prices and how that affects the US energy industry - my employer has a strong presence in this sector and had won large and lucrative contracts in the last few years, with the industry in decline and even starting to lay off people, I have to assume our clients will start cutting their investment and capital expenditure.

November 2014 - Too much food and too less time on investment

December 2nd, 2014 at 02:25 pm

Cash & Savings: $108,274 => $109,813 (1.42%)
Foreign Currency: $37,901 => $37,963 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $278,505 => $281,435 (1.05%)
Int'l Brokerage: $235,132 => $242,014 (2.93%)
401(k): $2,436 => $5,935 (143.64%)
Rollover IRA: $175,749 > $178,581 (1.61%)
Roth IRA: $109,212 => $111,264 (1.88%)
Total Assets: $947,210 => $967,005 (2.09%)

The global equity market improved a little bit but not that much in November.

One thing I need to keep an eye on in December is that I don't over contribute into my 401(k) account. What happened was when I switched job in the middle of the year I stopped contribution for a few months and only resumed contribution in October. In order to catch up I went from 17% to 25% contribution, assuming it will take 2 billing cycles for the contribution % change to take place but it actually took place immediately.

Other than that, I still have a lot of work to do in December as I haven't had the chance to overhaul my Rollover IRA account holdings. I've been slacking this Thanksgiving holiday and now I have to catch up before Christmas...

October 2014 - Ongoing Retirement Accounts Consolidation

November 4th, 2014 at 07:42 am

Cash & Savings: $89,363 => $108,275 (21.16%)
Foreign Currency: $37,839 => $37,901 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $284,548 => $278,505 (-2.12%)
Int'l Brokerage: $234,289 => $235,132 (0.36%)
401(k): $131,339 => $2,436 (-98.15%)
Rollover IRA: $42,240 > $175,749 (315.07%)
Roth IRA: $106,338 => $109,212 (2.7%)
Total Assets: $926,016 => $947,210 (2.29%)

In October I rolled over my old 401(k) into the Roller IRA account then the money for the new 401(k) account finally arrived so if you just look at the % then you will think there is a wild ride when in fact it’s just an increase of a few thousand dollars in my combined retirement accounts.

One thing that I wasn’t able to do when the rollover occurred, however, is that I did it when the Dow was down by over 200 points so I didn’t sell any funds in the old 401(k) account. Now that the market has stabilized I need to organize my Roller IRA account with the end goal of having fewer funds and with the allocation that fits my investment goal.

Also I decided to put funds in my charitable account into the ‘Cash & Savings’ category since it’s money I can only use for charitable donation.

September 2014 - My own charitable trust is now opened!

October 7th, 2014 at 07:30 am

Cash & Savings: $137,364 => $89,363 (-34.94%)
Foreign Currency: $37,778 => $37,839 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $277,397 => $284,548 (25.13%)
International Brokerage: $237,743 => $234,289 (-1.45%)
401(k): $131,465 => $131,339 (-0.05%)
Rollover IRA: $43,958 > $42,240 (-3.91%)
Roth IRA: $110,991 => $106,338 (-3.50%)
Total Assets: $925,896 => $926,016 (0.01%)

Last month made a few significant moves:
1) Put $50k to work in my brokerage account: I've been putting too much cash on the side line and being a procrastinator I know just have to do it instead of timing the market;

2) Invested $15k into my friend's mobile app business: I found out from a long time friend's LinkedIn profile that he is now the founder and CEO of a company so I emailed him to find out what's going on. Other than catching since we last met in Brussels 4 years ago he explained to me the mobile apps business he is doing and why he quit being the VP of Business Strategy of a well know multinational company. Knowing him and buying his vision I decided to because their first round investor.

3) Opened my personal charitable trust: Through the advise of the Fidelity adviser I mentioned before I just opened this trust so I can channel my highly appreciated stocks proceeds into this trust then distribute it into a charitable organization of my choosing. This is particular important to me since I always put over $10k into charitable contribution every year. Not sure why the Fidelity adviser I met 2 years ago didn't mention this tool to me but this tool will save me thousands of dollars each year! Less to the government but more to the good cause! =)

August 2014

September 4th, 2014 at 08:31 am

Cash & Savings: $105,322 => $137,364 (30.42%)
Foreign Currency: $37,717 => $37,778 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $219,837 => $227,397 (3.44%)
International Brokerage: $234,918 => $237,743 (1.2%)
401(k): $130,807 => $131,465 (0.5%)
IRA: $43,022 > $43,958 (2.18%)
Roth IRA: $105,873 => $110,991 (4.08%)
Total Assets: $877,496 => $925,896 (5.52%)
Again the big jump in cash position has a lot to do with all the business travel expense reimbursement. The rise in domestic brokerage and retirement account reflects the strong US stock market but international doesn't fare that well.

As I mentioned in my reply to fellow blogger ‘snafu’ I met a financial adviser from Fidelity last Friday since I qualified for their premium service. He looked at my new 401(k) account and suggested what funds to invest and corresponding percentage. He will also look at other accounts and holdings I have to make a comprehensive proposal two weeks later.
There are three things I need to do this month:
1) My previous employer still hasn't moved their 401(k) account from Merrill Lynch to Fidelity and as a result I can’t make any adjustments there. I need to find out how long this process is going to take because six weeks seem way too long to me.
2) I decided to invest $15,000 in a start-up my friend and his partner started a few months ago. The investment will be made in promissory note with a 5% interest if the business doesn't take off in two years.
3) Move some extra cash into my Fidelity brokerage account and buy some low cost funds, including S&P 500 index fund. Fidelity has a promotion that gives you $100 if you move $50,000 over and $200 if you move $100,000 over but that is not why I’m moving more cash over, it’s to deploy cash into other investment vehicles.

July 2014

August 9th, 2014 at 11:49 am

It's been a while since I posted my last update. Work was extremely busy, working 60 to 70 hours per week in a highly stressed environment, then switched my job in mid July. My new job isn't any easier in terms of the amount of work, at least initially.

March to July performance:

Cash & Savings: $87,194 => $105,322 (20.79%)
Foreign Currency: $37,717 => $37,717 (0%)
Domestic Brokerage: $223,675 => $219,837 (-1.72%)
International Brokerage: $229,632 => $234,918 (2.30%)
401(k): $125,620 => $130,807 (4.13%)
IRA: $42,534 > $43,022 (1.15%)
Roth IRA: $104,359 => $105,873 (1.45%)
Total Assets: $850,731 => $877,496 (3.15%)

The big jump in cash position is due to 3 factors - 1) my friend paid me back a $10,000 load I lent him a few years back; 2) signing bonus from my new job; 3) unused PTO days paid off by my previous employer.

In the last few months I also deployed cash in various accounts into a few mutual funds. My long term goal is to get out of stocks except the blue chips I bought years ago and just invest in funds but I may have gone into another extreme because now I have 17 stocks but 24 funds!

In August my old 401(k) account will be transferred to a brokerage firm that I already have several accounts with so there's some review I need to do after the transfer is over.. Also it just happened that my new company's 401(k) plan is also with the same brokerage firm so now I have an individual account, Rollover IRA, Roth IRA, old 401(k), and new 401(k) all with the same firm. Maybe this will make me one of their top once everything is said and done.

February and March 2014

April 7th, 2014 at 09:22 am

February performance
Cash & Savings: $77,578 => $84,184 (8.52%)
Foreign Currency: $37,819 => $37,695 (-0.33%)
Domestic Brokerage: $214,869 => $228,017 (6.12%)
International Brokerage: $221,573 => $226,798 (2.36%)
401(k): $116,678 => $122,664 (5.13%)
IRA: $41,238 > $42,878 (3.98%)
Roth IRA: $101,651 => $105,733 (4.02%)
Total Assets: $811,406 => $847,969 (4.51%)

March performance
Cash & Savings: $84,184 => $87,194 (3.58%)
Foreign Currency: $37,695 => $37,717 (0.06%)
Domestic Brokerage: $228,017 => $223,675 (-1.9%)
International Brokerage: $226,798 => $229,632 (1.25%)
401(k): $122,664 => $125,620 (2.41%)
IRA: $42,878 > $42,534 (-0.8%)
Roth IRA: $105,733 => $104,359 (-1.3%)
Total Assets: $847,969 => $850,731 (0.33%)

As mentioned in my January report I’m continuing to lower my cash/income position in my 401(k) account. Last December it was close to 40% and by February it was down to 20%.

I also need to adjust my positions in international brokerage accounts but so far I haven’t had sufficient time to determine when to make the adjustments. My broker kept saying that I should replace my existing funds immediately but that would mean suffering big losses on one of the three funds so mentally I’m reluctantly to proceed. (bond fund up by 15%, one stock fund up by 8%, one stock fund down by 25%)

January 2014

February 4th, 2014 at 08:19 am

Cash & Savings: $76,975 => $77,578 (0.78%)
Foreign Currency: $37,881 => $37,819 (-0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $209,852 => $214,869 (2.39%)
International Brokerage: $219,042 => $221,573 (1.16%)
401(k): $116,622 => $116,678 (0.05%)
IRA: $41,988 > $41,238 (-1.81%)
Roth IRA: $102,723 => $101,651 (-1.04%)
Total Assets: $805,093 => $811,406 (0.78%)

To follow up on my 2014 goals I did make further adjustments to my 401(k) account so now cash/income only accounts of 21% (from 37%). I will gradually lower it further.

Other than that I have not done much on other goals. This year it's even more difficult as I'm also looking for a new job.

2013 Review - a good year but not great when comparing to how the market did

January 4th, 2014 at 10:44 am

Cash & Savings: $71,084 => $76,975 (8.29%)
Foreign Currency: $35,948 => $37,881 (5.38%)
Domestic Brokerage: $167,737 => $209,852 (25.11%)
International Brokerage: $208,875 => $219,042 (4.87%)
401(k): $94,394 => $116,622 (23.55%)
IRA: $34,633 > $41,988 (21.27%)
Roth IRA: $80,986 => $102,723 (26.84%)
Total Assets: $693,657 => $805,093 (16.07%)

The last week of December I sold three loser stocks that I held for years to offset the gains I have from one winning stock. I also sold a fund that has been under performing for years but managed to claw back this year. I sold it because I have too many holdings. As of today, I still have 16 stocks and 23 funds, more than a commoner can manage.

In 2013 I also made more donations than ever.

Looking back, my total assets increased 16%, or, $111,436 this year, largely due to equity portfolio appreciation. All my brokerage accounts appreciated more than 20% this year except two that focus on emerging markets.

Also my 401(k) account appreciated little because it was too concentrated on cash and income, instead of growth. I changed my fund selections back in October but it's not enough to swing the pendulum by year end. There's still a lot of work to do on my 401(k) account since it still has over 40% on cash and income.

Going into 2014, I have a few goals:
1) make adjustments to my 401(k) account so it is more balanced, i.e. less cash and cinome, more growth;
2) make adjustments to one of my taxable brokerage accounts and close it by mid 2015 if not sooner. That account also has two big losers;
3) Purchase one new fund, perhaps ETF, in one of my taxable account;
4) Purchase one or two funds in my Roth IRA account now that it has $24,000 in cash;
5) Make adjustments in my Roller IRA account now that it has over $6,000 in cash.

October 2013 - A step towards the right direction, despite being a year late

November 10th, 2013 at 07:53 am

Cash & Savings: $69,297 => $72,886 (5.22%)
Foreign Currency: $37,243 => $37,243 (0%)
Domestic Brokerage: $189,786 => $202,387 (6.64%)
International Brokerage: $200,551 => $223,572 (11.48%)
401(k): $109,337 => $111,267 (1.73%)
IRA: $39,390 => $40,735 (3.41%)
Roth IRA: $97,293 => $99,226 (1.99%)
Total Assets: $742,907 => $787,316 (5.98%)

There is a big jump in the internal markets last month that contributed to the most gain of my portfolio. By end of October domestic market has also imporved due to the temporary ending of federal government shutdown. Cash wise there's also a 5% jump but that increase will quickly disappear in November because it's mostly just travel expense reimbursment from my company.

The best thing I did this month was spending 2.5 hrs on a week day night while I was on the road to re-balance my 401K portfolio. Back in 2009 when the financial crisis unfold and other subsequent events made me lost faith to major financial institutions and as a result I decided to contribute only to money market fund and a bond fund called Daleware Diversified Income Fund in my 401k account. I didn't sell anything in panic, which is debatable, and I keep contributing to other accounts.

That move stopped the bleeding but by mid last year I knew I need to adjust my contribution, not because I have regained my faith in major financial institutions but because bond fund itself is not as appearling as it used to be. I had it on my to-do list for about a year and finally spent the time to review everything and re-balanced it. There's still a lot of work to do because I only adjusted my contribution % and moved some money out of money market and bond fund but still has a lot in those two. With me spending more time at home starting this week I'm hoping I can finally review/adjust my portfolio, not just 401k, but also other accounts.

September 2013 - Time is the rarest commodity

October 14th, 2013 at 07:54 pm

Cash & Savings: $64,397 => $69,267 (6.67%)
Foreign Currency: $37,060 => $37,243 (0.49%)
Domestic Brokerage: $181,740 => $189,786 (4.43%)
International Brokerage: $207,661 => $200,551 (-3.42%)
401(k): $104,715 => $109,377 (4.45%)
IRA: $37,774 => $39,390 (4.28%)
Roth IRA: $92,687 => $97,293 (4.97%)
Total Assets: $726,574 => $742,907 (2.25%)

The Fed’s decision of not tapering in September helped the US stock market but not the international market, at least not the holdings in my internal portfolio. Basically it’s been losing thousands of dollars every month since May bringing the total loss to a whopping $20,000!

I really need the time off to find ways of stopping the bleeding but time is a commodity in rare supply these days in my life.

August 2013 - August is yet another disappointing month of so many things

September 6th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Cash & Savings: $59,258 => $64,397 (9.58%)
Foreign Currency: $37,000 => $37,060 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $189,238 => $181,740 (-3.96%)
International Brokerage: $209,607 => $207,661 (-0.93%)
401(k): $104,913 => $104,715 (-0.19%)
IRA: $39,000 => $37,774 (-3.14%)
Roth IRA: $95,069 => $92,687 (-2.51%)
Total Assets: $734,085 => $726,754 (-1.02%)

August is yet another disappointing month, especially for emerging markets; August is yet another disappointing month where I didn’t have time to do a true review on my portfolio, even on the two small funds that I’ve been considering of selling for years; August is yet another disappointing month in the summer that I didn’t visit the beach even though I travel to Boston weekly and even to Tampa.
Can I break that curse in September? If history is any guide the answer would be no. How disappointing.

July 2013 - starting to think of hiring a financial planner

August 4th, 2013 at 04:48 pm

Cash & Savings: $53,187 => $59,258 (11.41%)
Foreign Currency: $37,000 => $37,000 (0%)
Domestic Brokerage: $179,299 => $189,238 (5.54%)
International Brokerage: $210,936 => $209,607 (-0.63%)
401(k): $102,597 => $104,913 (2.26%)
IRA: $37,662 => $39,000 (3.66%)
Roth IRA: $89,830 => $95,069 (5.83%)
Total Assets: $710,471 => $734,085 (3.32%)

Last month I accidently clicked on the back button and lost the blog I wrote. In June the stock market wasn’t doing that well but it roared back much stronger in July except some overseas investment I had. The unfortunate thing is that, my portfolio’s performance has been lagging the market by a wide margin and with increased responsibility at work I have less and less time to look after my money.

Shall I go ask someone to manage my investment? How much is a reasonable fee? I’ve been managing my own for 15 years.

May 2013 - Lousy bonus plan this year

June 10th, 2013 at 09:28 pm

Cash & Savings: $42,688 => $53,187 (24.59%)
Foreign Currency: $36,821 => $37,000 (0.49%)
Domestic Brokerage: $178,147 => $179,299 (0.65%)
International Brokerage: $213,283 => $210,936 (-1.10%)
401(k): $102,274 => $102,597 (0.32%)
IRA: $37,580 => $37,662 (0.11%)
Roth IRA: $88,544 => $89,830 (1.45%)
Total Assets: $699,337 => $710,471 (1.59%)

This month my cash position increased by over $10,000, not sure where the money came from, probably due to a $3,500 bonus plus expense reimbursement that came in early. Other than that, my domestic equity increase was offset by losses in overseas equity so net-net the gain is close to zero.

This month I also reviewed my bonus plan with my boss and it's not very impressive because even in the best case scenario I can only make as much as last year, regardless of how many billables hrs I put under my belt. Perhaps it's time for me to move on.

April 2013 - Cash dwindled

May 4th, 2013 at 09:55 am

Cash & Savings: $94,588 => $42,688 (-54.87%)
Foreign Currency: $36,468 => $36,821 (0.97%)
Domestic Brokerage: $173,802 => $178,147 (2.50%)
International Brokerage: $209,744 => $213,823 (1.69%)
401(k): $99,958 => $102,274 (2.32%)
IRA: $36,186 => $37,580 (3.85%)
Roth IRA: $84,951 => $88,544 (4.23%)
Total Assets: $735,697 => $699,337 (-4.94%)

As expected, my cash position has dropped by a whopping 55%, or $51,900 last month due to the federal and state tax I owed and paid down my car. Now it's time to rebuild my emergency fund.

Other than that, however, things are going quite well. Despite the scare from Cyprus, the stock market continues to climb and more so on the US market than overseas market.

March 2013 - sequestion has not affected air traffic so far

April 15th, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Cash & Savings: $92,792 => $94,588 (1.94%)
Foreign Currency: $36,063 => $36,468 (1.12%)
Domestic Brokerage: $169,990 => $173,802 (2.24%)
International Brokerage: $208,431 => $209,744 (0.63%)
401(k): $96,966 => $99,958 (3.09%)
IRA: $35,943 => $36,186 (1.95%)
Roth IRA: $83,082 => $84,951 (2.25%)
Total Assets: $722,817 => $735,697 (1.78%)

I really can't complain about my portfolio's performance in March and what really exceeded my expectation wasn't the equity market but having the same traveling experience as before. The sequestration has not affected air traffic so far and the time it takes to pass airport security has remained the same.

Pleasant mood aside, I'm expecting a big drop of my cash position in April due to the taxes I owned and paying off the BMW I bought end of last year.

February 2013 - Ready for the sequester show?

March 2nd, 2013 at 08:30 pm

Cash & Savings: $83,933 => $92,792 (10.55%)
Foreign Currency: $36,006 => $36,063 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $180,015 => $169,990 (-5.57%)
International Brokerage: $211,800 => $208,431 (-1.59%)
401(k): $95,527 => $96,966 (1.51%)
IRA: $35,670 => $35,493 (-0.5%)
Roth IRA: $83,305 => $83,082 (-0.27%)
Total Assets: $726,256 => $722,817 (-0.47%)

The memory of a strong January quickly fades away as a volatile end of February market takes over all the discussions. As I write this entry we already entered March where the automatic budget cut is supposed to kick in. The one thing that really worries me is that if the budget cut does happen then many air traffic controllers and TSA staff will be placed on furlough therefore creating long delays on air travel. For someone who travels cross country weekly this will be an absolute nightmare. I hope the White House and congress at least spare this part of the cut because it's not just the delay but also safety that concerns me.

In February I also moved $12,000, money I gained by selling some old stock holdings, from my brokerage account to my savings account in preparation of paying the remainder of my car payment and taxes. This also means I actually gained $2,000 in my US account and there's a net flow of $4,000 from my bank, probably to pay off my creid card.

My overseas account, however, does see a net loss of more than $4,000, which means a 2% loss. Not as bad if I look at it percentage wise.

January 2013 - As January Goes So Goes the Year?

February 8th, 2013 at 09:53 pm

Cash & Savings: $71,804 => $83,933 (18.08%)
Foreign Currency: $35,948 => $36,006 (0.16%)
Domestic Brokerage: $167,737 => $180,015 (7.32%)
International Brokerage: $208,875 => $211,800 (1.40%)
401(k): $94,394 => $95,527 (1.20%)
IRA: $34,633 => $35,670 (2.99%)
Roth IRA: $80,986 => $83,305 (2.86%)
Total Assets: $69,357 => $726,256 (4.70%)

The big jump in cash position is due to the business traveling Ive been doing. Flying to San Francisco weekly does cost a lot of money, and a lot of time as well. Regardless, due to the strong equity market in the US theres a 7% jump on my domestic holdings. As January goes, so goes the year, Im having high hopes of this year. =)

How I did in 2012 - what a pleasant surprise!

February 4th, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Cash & Savings: $87,256 => $71,804 (-18.53%)
Foreign Currency: $33,995 => $35,948 (5.74%)
Domestic Brokerage: $163,531 => $167,737 (2.57%)
International Brokerage: $85,873 => $208,875 (143.24%)
401(k): $71,751 => $94,394 (31.56%)
IRA: $87,489 => $34,633 (-60.41%)
Roth IRA: $21,802 => $80,986 (271.46%)
Total Assets: $551,697 => $693,657 (25.73%)

My total assets increased more than a quarter last year and certainly more than my take home income so bulk of the gain came from my investment. The biggest gain is a $123,002 in my international brokerage account, which reflects solid returns from several investment vehicles, including currency trading.

The other big gain came from my 401k account of $22,643. Since one can only contribute $15,000 per year $7,000 came from the strong US market.

Between my rollover IRA and Roth IRA the gain is about $7,000 so that's not a lot. To be more specific the return on my roller IRA account is quite good but because I lose so much money on Roth IRA and I had to take a lot of money earlier this year due to my previous account's mistake it diluted my overall return.

When you report your return on a monthly basis you tend to lose focus on the bigger picture so this exercise really helps me to understand I did quite well last year, whether I can repeat the same performance this year I don't know. In the best case scenario I can only make slightly more than what I make last year due to a change in compensation formula so any major gain has to come from my investment. We shall see...


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