July 26, 2017

Reaping Dividends: July 2017 report

Reaping Dividends: July 2017

My brokerage was TradeKing which was acquired by Ally this year. I’ve been very happy with TradeKing’s low fees and service so I’m hoping that Ally does that and better. There’s one thing I already like the look of. For investors with at least a $100,000 daily balance or execute at least 30 trades per quarter, you can be part of Ally Invest SELECT.

The one tiny perk that I care about is lower fees: $3.95 per equity trade and $0.50 per options contract.

Other perks that I don’t personally care about right now:
Priority routing to our Ally Invest reps. No additional cost when you place a phone trade. We’ll waive the first six months’ advisory fees for any new Ally Invest Advisors account you open, including custodial and joint accounts or IRAs. No fees on requests for 1099s, paper statements, or trade confirmations. We’ll refund transfer fees on deposits of $5,000 or more to your Ally Invest Securities account.

I’d trade a few of those benefits for free trades, really.

Observations this quarter 

  • Dividends income this past quarter (April through June): $941.20. If nothing changes, we’ll see about $2600 in dividend income this year.
  • I love COST and Costco loves me! For a second year in a row, they’ve paid out a special dividend at $7 per share. Delicious dividends, that can go on to buy more dividend bearing stocks.
  • For two days, I had a triple dividend from KO but it turns out that was just a dirty trick.
  • I was surprised to realize that I’ve been buying more stocks in the “Cyclical Consumer Goods & Services” sector than anything else. Probably not a good idea to be concentrated in retail if I’m worried about a recession. 

Dividend income update: June 30, 2017

Year to Date Dividends: $1,365.20, Fees: $9.90, Net: $1,355.30

Income Replacement

For perspective, I like to think of the dividends investing project in terms of how much of our income it can replace, or how much of our fixed expenses it can cover.

At a whopping $1355.30, this year’s dividends can pay 39% of one new mortgage payment. Our old mortgage payment would have been paid in full!

Since I started 6 years ago, I’ve made a grand total of $2,810.00.

:: How did your portfolio do this quarter? Would you try to replace income this way, or do you have another preference?

May 1, 2017

Reaping Dividends: April 2017 report

Reaping Dividends: April 2017

My brokerage is TradeKing, I’ve been very happy with their low fees and service. They’re offering a promotion through my referral link right now: New accounts opened with a $500 minimum deposit get $500 in free trade commission and new accounts opened with a $5000 minimum deposit get $1000 in free trade commission.

  • Given my apathy towards the trajectory of my full time job (flattish for now) and the trajectory of my salary (also flattish), I’ve decided to carry on with investing in dividend stocks. It’ll be useful for early income replacement if I were to voluntarily retire, but also in case my health drops precipitously. There’s no guarantee I’ll stay healthy enough to work for as long as I want to work.
  • The $15,000 that I was holding finally went into two more stocks in January – both have already paid out their dividends as well.

Year to Date Dividends: $518.20, Fees: $9.90, Net: $508.20

Income Replacement

For perspective, I like to think of the dividends investing project in terms of how much of our income it can replace, or how much of our fixed expenses it can cover.

At a whopping $508.30, this year’s dividends can pay 50% of one mortgage payment. Over the past 6 years, I’ve made a total of $1,940.80. It’s all been reinvested, I haven’t taken any dividends out of the portfolio and won’t for some years yet.

Income projection. If nothing changes, we’ll see about $1500 in dividend income this year.

:: How did your portfolio do this quarter? Would you try to replace income this way, or do you have another preference?

April 24, 2017

Real Estate Investing: rental increases

Real estate investing: handling rent increases gracefully It’s been a while since my last rental property update!

I’ve identified a new property manager that I will likely change over to later in the year. It will cost me $150 to make the change and transfer, so I decided not to do it until after June for a couple reasons.

First, the pain of working with the current property manager is low right now, so I can afford to leave this alone for a few months while I focus on our more pressing needs. Don’t get me wrong, she’s used up my good will. It just doesn’t make sense to try to do everything at the same time, and do them all badly, because each project needs a minimum amount of care.

Second, my rent to expenses ratio was pretty low. It was time to reassess the rent against market rates, and we found that we were something like 20% below market.

Aside from that long-running HOA violations debacle, though, they’ve been good tenants with two years of consistently paying rent. I have to make sure that my expenses, now and upcoming, are covered but also didn’t want to hit them with a huge increase so we decided to make it a 6% rate increase with an explanation that we are choosing to give them a lower rent than we might because they’ve been good tenants.

Besides, I wasn’t about to repeat the same mistake that Dad’s landlord pulled. Small regular increases over the years are easier to swallow unless you can afford to leave the rent low for years. I can’t, unfortunately, but it’d be nice to be in that position!

:: What’s the biggest increase in housing cost that you’ve experienced? Was it as a renter or an owner? 

Read more of our experience with real estate investing!

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

January 9, 2017

2016: Our year in review


2016 highlights


The good

My day job income stayed the same, PiC’s increased a little. My competitive side HATES that mine stayed the same but my realistic side knows that was part of the deal of accepting the job with more risk. With more risk, I should remind myself to be glad the job is still alive and kicking!

We focused on our areas of our side money project which generated the funds to send much needed support to friends who’d hit rough patches: severe illness, loss of loved ones, injuries.

We didn’t splash out on a jumbo loan for a bigger house, nor did we add a second dog to the pack. I wanted to but reined in those currently unsupportable desires. Reminder, I need early retirement more than I need to take on more responsibility and I don’t want the guilt that comes with taking on more dependents than we can truly care for.

1. Debt reduction is saving. We refinanced our mortgage, freeing up our cash flow, halving our interest, and sending more straight to principal. We had the original mortgage for 4 months of the year, and the refinanced mortgage for the remaining 8.

See what a difference the lower interest made:

From January to April, we paid $3,628.05 toward principal and $4,151.61 toward interest. The next 8 months on the same loan would have seen $7,256.10 toward principal and $8,303.22 toward interest for a total of $10,884.15 (P) and $12,454.83 (I), or $23,338.98 spent by year end.

Instead, we paid $6,985.28 (P) plus closing costs, and $3,510.48 (I), totaling $10,613.33 (P) and $7,662.09 (I), for a year end total of $18,275.42.

Savings: $5.063.56. This was one reason we absorbed this year’s financial hits a little more easily than we might have any other year.

2. Automatic savings. We reduced our automatic savings rate to increase our cash-flow once JuggerBaby started going full-time at daycare. Hard to believe we held out for 2/3 of 2016 on a part time schedule but that saved another tidy sum.

We maxed out PiC’s 401(k), my IRA, added $10,000 to JuggerBaby’s 529 plan out of savings, and saved 25% of our income after that.

The bad

We had all manner of unbudgeted expenses this year and had to dig into savings. I HATE touching savings. We absorbed them but this removed $25,000 from our assets. *grouse*

Also, I secretly wanted to bump up our savings rate. Wait, let me rephrase that. I wanted to bump up our savings rate in secret and see if anyone (PiC) noticed a change in our lifestyle. This might be an unethical human case study but c’mon! Never mind, though, that didn’t happen because – see Spending.

1. An unexpected on-paper-only change meant our taxes cost more than $13,000.
2. We had to replace a car earlier than planned which came with a lot of unplanned maintenance: $4,000.
3. PiC has a health thing: $7,000.


  • This was a great travel year: Seattle, Hawaii, SDCC, FinCon! We flew with JuggerBaby and it didn’t kill us.
  • My sewing kit and I bonded this year over torn seams, preloved toddler shirts falling apart, and crafting new pockets for PiC’s pants. I’m 0% crafty so these tiny successes were a big deal for me.
  • I celebrated ten years of blogging and don’t feel like hanging up my keyboard anytime soon.
  • I spent quality time with longtime blog friends, and made new friends, at FinCon. All bonuses in a trip with no clear purpose at the outset.


  • I was sick with one virus or another for ten months of the year. That’s 83% of a full year being sick but not being able to call out sick because you can’t just call out from being mom, wife, or dog-mom. Professionally, I can’t take sick time because I have zero backup. It shouldn’t have been any surprise that I took so long to get better after each infection.
  • We broke the baby. We fixed the baby (yay) after breaking zir (whoops).
  • Coming to terms with Dad.


Plan for 2016

  1. Save 25% of our income. If we stay on track with regular income and barring any catastrophes, we should come within shouting distance of a Major Milestone Net Worth Number in 2016.
    DONE and DONE. We hit our first Major Milestone this year, and saved 30% of our income counting all forms of saving. 
  2. Finish the last steps of our estate planning.
    DONE. Oh my goodness, we FINALLY completed this one. Now we have to finish transferring all our assets to the trust.
  3. Decide on JuggerBaby’s college savings vehicle and set up a savings plan for zir.
    DONE and it was easier than it looked to be, at first.


  • TOTAL MONEY – Our Net Worth increased by 34%. Exactly half of that was updating our real estate valuations, the other half was saving cash and adding to our investments.
  • DIVIDENDS – Our last dividend payouts for 2016 were later than expected so I didn’t have time to pull together a report before we traveling. I’ll publish our next updates on a April / July / October schedule so I’m not publishing all reports in the first half of January which is BOR-ING. Besides, I shouldn’t have another dividend payment until February so there’s no point in reporting before them. At our last dividend update, we had a grand total of $434.50 in dividend income and I projected a final total of $600. Our final 2016 year end total was: $710.60! Yay, I beat projections!
  • SIDE MONEY – $855 was earned from Swagbucks, Mr. Rebates, and ebates; $2920 was earned from Craigslist sales making a total of $3775 in alternate income.
  • BLOG MONEY – $200 was earned by the blog which goes toward expenses (hosting, FinCon2017, etc). It’s a LONG way from paying me for my time.

Hello 2017!

  1. MONEY – Save 30% of our income, PLUS max out PiC’s 401(k), my IRA, an IRA for him, and
  2. MONEY – Organize our retirement funding for tax and income efficiency.
  3. MONEY – As part of the above, research the backdoor ROTH IRA and decide when would be best for us to do one. I think I’ll need our CPA’s help running some numbers for this.
  4. MONEY – Decide if we’re going to hoard more cash (investing it) or pay down more mortgage, then do it.
  5. LIFE: Mail hand-written letter to one of JuggerBaby’s surrogate grandparents every month. We always send hand-written thank you cards to the loving surrogate aunts and uncles who think of zir or send lovely thoughtful gifts but I’d like to be more proactive in this area, and sharing a bit of life in a more meaningful regular way instead of reacting to their generosity or hoping we can visit.
  6. LIFE: prepare one New Baby Care Package to send to an expectant mother friend per month. The first half of the year is spoken for! This is a hobby though sometimes I think it’d be a fun job.
  7. LIFE: travel will definitely be happening this year, that’s not a question. The open questions are: how much of it can I travel hack and will we enjoy it all? I’ll be setting up a travel calendar to address these questions.

:: What were your bests/worsts of 2016? How’d you do this year with spending and saving your money? Did you remember to make time for life? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, and Racing Towards Retirement*

December 12, 2016

Real Estate Investing: reducing costs

I can’t make a decision on my property manager just yet, I need to run some projections on the potential costs and benefits, so I moved along to do quick research on the other list items.

This turned out to be a great idea.

Refinancing! or not.

I ran some initial numbers with Quicken Loans, they wanted to give me a 30-year-fixed loan with $4899 in closing costs and 2 points for a rate of 3.625. I’d save $238 monthly, but with the closing costs, it’d take 21 months to break even.

My current company offered me a 15 year loan, 4.25 / 4.38 with 2 discount points, and the monthly payment goes up by $247. Not the goal.

They also offered a 20 year loan, 4.375 / 4.25 points with 2 discount points, and the monthly payment goes up by $250. Also not the goal.  These loan costs are before we calculate the other costs of refinancing: an appraisal running somewhere between $575-625, and closing costs.

Overall, it seems like it’s just not the time for refinancing.

New home warranty

My old home warranty company was bought out by American Home Shield who tried to increase the premiums by 20% at the time of renewal. Even if my profit margins weren’t quite slim, that wouldn’t be acceptable.

My property manager found me a second policy with First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation, at a lower rate than I was paying before, for just about the same coverage and lower call-out costs. Savings: $200 for the annual policy, and $10 off each call-out.

New property insurance

I’m usually all about automating bill-paying so I went for holding the property taxes and hazard insurance in escrow. Pay three bills in one, what’s not to love?

Here’s what – I didn’t see the bill, therefore I didn’t think about it much, therefore I didn’t put it on the list of bills to attack. It did catch my attention briefly when the bill went up bit at renewal time, then it slipped back off my plate shortly after.

No more!

In a burst of productivity, I have …

  • gotten a quote from a new insurance company,
  • started a new policy
  • submitted a request to remove the property taxes from escrow,
  • had the new company send a cancellation notice to my old insurance company to avoid having to tell them that I’m dumping them, but we’ll see if they make me talk to them anyway.

The new insurance agent was very responsive by email, exactly how I like doing business, which meant I wrapped the whole process from quote to finish in 9 days.

With any luck, I’ll come to a decision about the property manager soon and then I’ll have shelved a year’s worth of administrative maintenance stuff – woo!

The unfortunate thing is that this stuff always occurs to me at the end of the year. Because what better time is there for sorting out all your paperwork and paying big lump sums like insurance policies then at the end of a long year? The only good thing is that, for the rental at least, I keep all the expenses and income in a separate account so it doesn’t impact our personal finances.

:: When’s the last time you evaluated your insurance, property, auto, renters, life, or otherwise? Do you carry any other than the required auto insurance?

Read more of our experience with real estate investing!

October 17, 2016

Real Estate Investing: hiccups and the routine things

Real estate investing: I'm on the hunt for a new property managerHas it really been so long since my last update? Whoops.

Things have mostly been going well, but I’m definitely seeing the downside of hired property management. Not that I have a choice, the property is an unrealistic distance from us so I can’t drive over there and manage it myself. But when your property manager’s responsiveness goes down by 55% despite your specifically calling them out for it, then it’s time for a change.

I’m also in the market for a new home warranty company, and a new loan! If possible, I’m looking to refinance since my original interest rate was not favorable at all and I need to bring our monthly costs down.

But let’s start with one thing at a time since I get that “mountain sitting on my chest” feeling from all the things that feel like they must be done NOW.

  • I contacted my broker, and investing friend, to get recommendations for a new property manager. (Turns out that same friend is also considering a change because we use the same person and it’s not just me, the service has been much less attentive than it should be.)
    • The broker gave us a recommendation for a boutique property manager. The fees are pretty high, in addition to the monthly 10% off the top, so I’m thinking about what it is I want and how much I’m willing to pay. I want the kind of hands-on detailed service this manager provides but I have to consider whether my income will bear it. My monthly profit margins still aren’t high enough to cover more than a little over our expenses by the end of the year.
  • I read through some Yelp reviews and sites, and sent an email asking about services and fees, to the one that seemed to be a possibly good fit.
    • They replied the next morning saying politely they were not taking new clients because they have a full docket. That’s actually a good sign, I think, when a company knows how much they can handle well and sticks to it. Not great for me personally but good to know they’re not the sort to just take in as much business as they can get and damn the consequences.
  • My friend is inquiring after a larger company. He and I both came up with their name independently, I’m guessing because it was because they advertise.
    • My preliminary research turned up mixed results. They have all their information up front, which is great, and they state pretty baldly that if you’re asking about the kinds of restrictions you want to put on who gets to rent from you, you’re very likely trying to screen out people based on discriminatory reasons. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told that screening renters based on certain characteristics is really a racially motivated screener, I’m glad to see this company is speaking plainly about what that’s code for. I like that because of their size, they have easy ways for the renters to pay electronically. But I’m not sure that I want to work with a huge company that only gives you a price break after you own 40 units. For one thing, that’s a hell of a lot more than I intend to take on, so I wouldn’t benefit from adding one or three more properties with them the way I would with the boutique manager. For another, while they have the infrastructure to be more technologically up to date, that also means they may not be motivated or willing to consider updating where they’re lacking.

:: If you were renting, would you prefer to deal with a large somewhat faceless company, or a boutique property manager? If you were hiring a manager, which would appeal to you more?

Read more of our experience with real estate investing!


October 10, 2016

Reaping Dividends: September 2016 report


My brokerage is TradeKing, I’ve been very happy with their low fees and service.

The third quarter of 2016 has been pretty quiet on this Western front. I have about $15,000 in cash from various CDs rolled over to wait for the next purchase but I’m not stalking anything in particular at this point.

  • Dividends income this past quarter: $203.50. If nothing changes, we’ll see about $600 in dividend income this year.
  • I’m considering whether this particular course of investing continues to make sense for us. I like seeing replacement income come in with an eye towards a before age-65 retirement, but I need to do a better future income projection to see if there’s a better way to expand our portfolio.
  • I’m also considering folding this report into my monthly net worth report. It won’t show such dramatic (hah) increases monthly instead of quarterly but perhaps it makes more sense there. Thoughts?

Dividend portfolio as of Sept 30, 2016Year to Date Dividends: $434.50, Fees: $9.90, Net: $424.60

Income Replacement

For perspective, I like to think of the dividends investing project in terms of how much of our income it can replace, or how much of our fixed expenses it can cover.

At a whopping $424.60, this year’s dividends can pay 40% of one mortgage payment. Over the past 6 years, I’ve made a total of $1,146.50.

:: How did your portfolio do this quarter? Would you try to replace income this way, or do you have another preference?

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