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October 2018 - Back after a 3 year hiatus!

November 21st, 2018 at 12:53 pm


Cash & Savings: $84,156 ==> $254,544 (202.47%)
Foreign Currency: $39,923 ==> $39,410 (-1.28%)
US Brokerage: $312,180 ==> $495,729 (58.8%)
Overseas Brokerage: $249,527 ==> $316,492 (26.84%)
Retirement Accounts: $301,681 ==> $368,594 (22.18%)
Business Investment: $70,000 ==> $100,000 (42.86%)
Charitable Account: $10,397 ==> $9,197
Total: $1,067,594 ==> $1,583,966 (48.37%)

Thanks to a recent comment from a fellow blogger I returned and found out it's been exactly three years since my last entry. Time flies faster than you know it!

This also gives me a good reflection to see how I did in the last three years. For anyone who is reading this, note that the numbers above are based on end of October 2018 numbers and do NOT account for the recent stock market bloodbath in November 2018.

Some major updates are:
1) I've been working with a financial adviser for close to two years by now, more about my experience on that in the future;
2) My personal opinion is that a recession is coming in 2019/2020, accompany by a bear market and housing market correction, not in that order but any order. That's why I cash position is very high because I'm building up my war chest for the upcoming downturn;
3) Last year my wife and I had set a goal to retire in 10 years so by now there is only 9 years left, which is another reason why my cash position is high because I need to protect some profits made during the last two years;

The bucket that turned south in the last 3 years is my foreign currency. The total amount grew but due to strong US currency when I exchanged their value into USD its value actually diminishes. This is a good lesson for anyone who wants to invest in foreign currency, don't just chase the yields but also beware of the exchange rate. For me I'm mainly using the foreign currency as an ATM when I travel overseas, not for savings purpose.

I think that's enough for October. November is coming to an end so I'll just provide more update in two week's time.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

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.