Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Goals - 1st Quarter Update


Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future.  The first quarter of the year is already in the books and the second quarter is now well under way.  I think it's important to set specific, measurable goals at the beginning of each year to keep you focused and motivated towards hitting your goals.  It's important for them to be measurable so you can see exactly how you're progressing.  Back in January I set several goals covering budgeting, savings, investing, blogging, and personal goals, so it's high time I take a look and see how I'm doing.

2014 Budgeting Goals - 1st Quarter Results
Goal 2014 Amounts Status
Grocery spending < $200 per month $228.78 Needs Improvement
Restaurant spending < $110 per month $98.68 On Target
Average monthly expenses < $2,350 per month $2,672.43 Needs Improvement

My budgeting goals haven't been all that great so far in 2014, but I kind of expected that shortly after my goals were set.  I figured I would do better on my grocery and restaurant spending but my total monthly expenses were pretty much dead on arrival.  It's great to see my restaurant spending coming in under budget but my grocery spending has more than made up for it.  I'm trying to do better by cooking more while I'm at work and I'm slowly doing more.  Of course that will really help out with my personal weight loss goal as well.  I'm planning on really focusing on my grocery and restaurant spending and doing what I can to lower my total monthly expenses, but the $2,350 goal is probably not going to happen.

2014 Saving Goals - 1st Quarter Results
Goal 2014 Amounts Status
50%+ Investment Savings Rate 53.94% On Target
$450,000+ net worth ($125,000 increase) $354,243.61 ($34.129.39) On Target

I changed the way I calculated my savings rate starting this year and I think it gives a truer picture of my savings rate.  That calculated savings rate now shows just the after-tax income that is saved each month and directly marked for investment.  I'm pretty happy to see that with my higher expenses I'm still over the 50% savings rate.  And even better is that I expect to be able to increase that throughout the rest of the year.  I want to see how the second quarter goes before I increase my target but I think I can push it up to the 60%+ level.  My net worth is going along smoothly and on target to beat my goal by about $10k if I keep the same rate of increase up.  This one is a bit out of hands since a lot of my net worth is tied to the markets and therefore susceptible to declines on the asset side.  I'll do everything that I can to keep it increasing but eventually the markets will sour and lead to declines no matter how much I save each month.

2014 Investing Goals - 1st Quarter Results
Goal 2014 Amounts Status
Receive $4,500 in dividends $939.32 Needs Improvement
$5,000 Forward 12-month dividends $4,146.83 Needs Improvement
Rental property providing $150+ per month in cash flow -- Needs Improvement
Receive $1,500 in option premiums profit $460.57 On Target
Increase invested assets by $100k ($361,500) $23,436.85 ($284,925.02) Needs Improvement

Now on to the really fun goals.  My goal is receive $4,500 in dividends throughout 2014 and right now I'm a little behind that pace.  Even though I'm behind right now I expect to be able to make up ground if the markets can cool off a bit and get valuations back into better value territory.  I almost hit $1k in dividends for a quarter for the first time in the first quarter and I should be over that every quarter the rest of the year which is a nice milestone along the way.  My forward dividends are well behind my goal right now but that's due to two main reasons.  One is my goal of seeking out a rental property is leading me to build up more cash and the other is that there haven't been as many value opportunities in the markets.  I've got a lot of work to do to reach $5k by the end of the year.  I'll have to invest over $26k over the rest of the year at an average yield at purchase of 3.25%.  I'm a bit torn on whether to pursue a rental property.  Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great way to diversify my income sources and if I can find the right property at the right price I'd go for it.  It's just very difficult while I work out of town to be able to check out properties and move forward on any that I like.  Most likely I'll have to go through a turnkey company so I'm going to research that route a lot more over the next few weeks and hopefully meet with some companies when I have vacation in mid-May.

I'm ahead of pace right now for my options premium profit so at least one of my investing goals is on target.  I still have two open put options (one on KO and one and PM) and if I hold them until expiration they should push me up to $1,500 or at least very close.  I typically like to sell put options rather than calls but I haven't been quite as active in the options market because I've honestly not had time between everything else that's been going on.  My total invested assets are almost on target to reach a $100k increase and with a flat or slightly increasing market I think I'll be able to get there by the end of the year.  If the markets decline throughout the year then I'm not sure if I'll get there but it's still in the works.  Plus I'm sitting on about $25k cash in my savings account from saving for a down-payment for the rental property that isn't included in my invested assets.  Overall I think my investing goals are fairly well on track despite being a bit behind schedule at the end of the first quarter.  I'm excited to see what the rest of the year brings.

2014 Blogging Goals - 1st Quarter Results
Goal 2014 Amounts Status
Surpass 50k 100k monthly pageviews 49,298 in March Needs Improvement
Earn $1,000 from online activities $419.03 On Target
Average 2 stock analysis reports per month 2.0 average On Target
Increase Decrease Alexa Rank to < 70,000 123,034 Needs Improvement

My blogging goals are going quite well so far.  In March I almost passed my original goal of 50k pageviews and I should officially pass that goal in April.  Although I'm well behind my revised goal of 100k so I've got a lot of work to do on that front.  I'm earning way more than I ever expected from online activities and mainly thanks to increased traffic leading to increased Adsense revenue and my writing on Seeking Alpha.  The Seeking Alpha income isn't included in these calculations yet, but I'm well on my way to passing $1k this year.  That's extra money that I can throw towards my portfolio and reaching financial independence.  I'm going to focus on getting some more stock analysis reports out because I have a lot of valuations to update.  It's difficult to get them written up quickly but I have three updated already and I'm working on the posts.  The Alexa rank has been fairly flat so far this year which has been a bit of a disappointment.  So if you want to help me out with that goal then go and download the Alexa Toolbar since the ranking is completely based off pageviews from people with the toolbar in their browser of choice.

2014 Personal Goals - 1st Quarter Results
Goal 2014 Amounts Status
Lose 20 lbs  Lost 5 lbs On Target
Quit Smoking Still smoking Needs Improvement
Read 6 books 0 books read Needs Improvement
Travel More


My personal goals, like most everything else, were a mixed bag throughout the first quarter.  I've been doing well with working out and running a little bit and have been fairly consistent with both, but my diet has most likely kept me from losing more weight so far.  Even though I haven't lost as much weight I think it's gone great so far as I've lost inches and my clothes are fitting better.  Hopefully the second quarter will bring a bit more progress on this front.  Well I'm still smoking so I can't say that's a goal that I'm doing well on.  I've still been going back and forth between smoking and not smoking and really need to do better here.  It's expensive both financially and for my health.  I haven't read any books yet this year because I've been just way too busy.  Between working moving extremely fast and trying to do more writing for my blog and exercising most days, there just isn't enough hours in the day to get everything done.  I know I mentioned at the beginning how we need to set measurable goals and well "Travel More" doesn't exactly count as something specific.  But I mainly wanted to remind myself to take advantage of the free time that I do get.  I'm heading to Vegas next month, so that probably won't be cheap, and then my wife and I are still trying to figure out what we're going to do in July.  I'd still like to go on a road trip and we're trying to narrow down some options there.  But part of me would also love to go to a beach and relax somewhere.  We'll figure it out and if you have any suggestions, feel free to pass them along.  We'll have a week to do whatever we decide on.

Overall I'm pretty happy with where I stand in relation to a lot of my goals after just the first quarter.  If the markets do pull back then I'm sitting on a lot of cash that I can use to make some big progress towards my investing goals.  Most of the financial goals will just be steady as she goes the rest of the year but I'm really looking forward to making some progress on the personal and blogging goals the rest of this year.  There's a lot going on and it's an exciting time.  I'm looking forward to what the second quarter brings, well the rest of the second quarter now that we're almost a third of the way through.

How did you do on your goals in the first quarter of 2014?  What's your number one goal for the second quarter?

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

25 comments:

  1. Wow! Great work so far JC. Even though your status on a lot has 'Needs improvement', I think you are doing great.

    How are you keeping your food bill so low? Thats an amazing rate. Our food bill is exorbitant, but its something that we feel like we cant reduce without giving up on quality. The restaurant bills are somethign that we could definitely control...hopefully we will be able to get that number down.

    Your blog is doing great - 50K pageviews per month is already great and best wishes for reaching the 100K views. I am still around the 20K mark - and I need to pick it up in to grow my readership.

    regards
    R2R

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    1. I agree with you R2R. I too think it is going great for the first half.

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    2. R2R,

      There's definitely a lot of needs improvement but some of those will take care of themselves the further along we get in the year.

      I have a feeling that food is generally cheaper here in Texas than DC some I'm sure that's part of it. I keep forgetting to add this in to my posts, but due to my work situation my wife and I keep separate finances. It's just a lot easier since I'm gone so much. So the food costs are just expenses that I'm incurring each month. For about 3 weeks each month I'm essentially buying food for just myself although there's a lot more convenience type foods being bought. My guess is that we're around $400 per month combined but we would optimize that a lot more if we could buy/cook for two all of the time rather than one.

      I have no idea if I'll even get close to 100k by the end of the year but I sure would love to see that happen. You're doing great and 20k per month is awesome. As you get more content and exposure I'm sure you'll continue to see growth. I know once I started writing on SA as well as here my traffic has increased quite nicely.

      Best of luck in 2Q!

      Delete
    3. FFDividend,

      There's definitely work that needs to be done but I think it's been a fairly successful 1Q. I would love for the markets to pull back some to let me get some more cash invested.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  2. Good stuff! I wanted to ask about your calculation method for savings rate. I'm sure you covered this elsewhere in your blog, but is there a reason you wouldn't count tax deferred investing (like in a 401k or traditional IRA) as part of the savings rate? I do, but am interested in hearing other viewpoints.

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    1. Done by Forty,

      For the purposes of my goal for the year I calculate my savings rate as just after tax income that is saved directly for investment purposes. I do have other income that's saved each month but is earmarked to be spent, property taxes, car maint., gifts...

      I can't remember how you calculate your savings rate but I do remember it probably gives a better picture of all savings. There's a lot of savings of mine that aren't accounted for such as 401k (6% pre-tax), ESPP (8% post-tax) and those work out to a pretty significant amount each year. Plus ideally I'll be able to reach FI through taxable accounts only and that will let the tax-deferred accounts grow until I can withdraw penalty free.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  3. You're making crazy progress JC. Nice work. I wouldn't worry too much about the "needs improvement" areas.....although I think your pageviews goal is very ambitious. Doing great!
    -Bryan

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    1. Bryan,

      I know there's a lot of needs improvement but a lot of those should hopefully work themselves out as the year goes along. The markets have been relatively flat so far this year and I haven't been investing as much cash. I'd love to see it get up to 100k and with 9 more months and some additional marketing and of course continued writing I think it could be a possibility. Who knows though.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. I haven't been actively tracking my goals, but I know they'd show a lot of "needs improvement" like yours do. Good thing we still have 8 months to turn it around!

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    1. First Million,

      Yeah I'm glad there's still plenty of time left in this year to make more progress. There's a lot more needs improvement than I'd like to see but it is what it is. Although I know that we have 8 months left, I'm sure that's going to fly by.

      Thanks for stopping by and best of luck on making some more progress on your own goals.

      Delete
  5. JC,
    Your goals are by far the most detailed out there. And you're making some serious progress with your investments. Your blogging page views have really shown growth too. The Seeking Alpha is surely helping with that. I'm glad to see your really detailed DSAs on there so you get some income, and we all still get to read them. Keep it up!
    -RBD

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    Replies
    1. RBD,

      SA has really helped out on a lot of fronts. Better income payouts, exposure to a wider audience and follow through traffic to my own blog. It's been a win-win-win so far. I hope to make a decision on whether to go the rental property route sometime in May so I can start doing something with my cash that's on the sidelines. I've got way more than I'd like to have sitting relatively idle.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  6. Looks like you are doing great so far!

    The year is young, there is plenty of time to hit all of the needs improvement goals =)

    Keep it up!

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    Replies
    1. ILG,

      I know it seems like the year is young, but it always does at this time of year. The spring/summer months always seem to fly by and all of a sudden I look up and it's August. I should still be able to make some great progress and I hope that the markets will give a 5-10% pullback and let us all get some better values for our capital.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  7. You're doing great with your financial goals, all you have to do is keep plugging away!

    "How did you do on your goals in the first quarter of 2014?" All 3 of goals (investing, saving, lending club) are on track. I'm also nearing my savings target for my "next vehicle in cash fund" and that will open up additional money later this year which could be used for investing.

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    1. CI,

      That's great that you're on track with everything. I think having enough cash to buy a new car is a pretty great goal and it can double as an emergency fund for just about everything. If you have $15-25k in cash then that will cover just about every emergency that could come up and having to quickly replace a car without going in to debt is probably the largest expense you could realistically expect. I love crossing off a debt or savings goal because that frees up more capital for investments!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
    2. CI,

      That's great that you're on track with everything. I think having enough cash to buy a new car is a pretty great goal and it can double as an emergency fund for just about everything. If you have $15-25k in cash then that will cover just about every emergency that could come up and having to quickly replace a car without going in to debt is probably the largest expense you could realistically expect. I love crossing off a debt or savings goal because that frees up more capital for investments!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  8. JC,
    Yours and dividend mantra are two blogs that are inspiring me to post more of my investment updates. I'm going to after reading this in depth one. Sometimes I don't want to look like a brag considering how much debt blogs are out there, but I know this is a great accountability piece.

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    1. Charles,

      Thanks so much for the kind words. Whether you post the goals/updates in a public forum such as your blog or just somewhere in your home, it doesn't matter. The key is to make sure that you're checking back up on your progress on whatever intervals you plan to.

      I've thought about that as well though since I never struggled with the typical story of most PF blogs out there of getting into consumer debt and then having to work through paying it off. When I first started my blog I thought it'd be more of a general PF blog with an investment tilt. But as I never went through having debt my voice and story just didn't really apply. Plus as you mention there's thousands of blogs about getting out of debt and being frugal, but far less about what to do once you get rid of the debt. The only way to reach FI, whether early or at a normal retirement age, is to save and invest. I was drawn more towards the invest side of that equation.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  9. I've been establishing and tracking goals for over 10 years now and I can personally attest to their value. I've found that even when I dont accomplish my goal I can see that I'm at least better off that where I would be without the goal. From my experience, periodically review to see if I'm track or if I need to make some adjustments helps me accomplish or at least make good progress towards my goal. But its obvious by your quarterly update that your already pro at this. I'm sure with some adjustments, you'll be back on track with the goals that needs improvement. Good luck on your progress and look forward to seeing your update next quarter.

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    1. AFFJ,

      Setting and tracking your goals can make a huge difference for most people. If your goals are very general it's too easy to think you're making progress or doing better than you really are. You need to set specific goals that you can measure in some way to see how you're doing and check in on them at whatever set intervals, once a month, once a quarter, once a year...

      I think the halfway point of the year will show some better progress since some of my goals are a function of needing time to accomplish. I'm looking forward to the halfway mark, although I'm not ready for it to be here yet.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  10. JC,

    Good stuff and thanks for sharing the update. Buying a rental can be tough when you have such limited free time. With turnkeys you'll end up paying a premium, but if you go with the reputable companies, you can have peace of mind knowing that they'll do a good job of running the PM side of things. You definitely do give up returns going this route, for sure. However, if you are extra busy, it might make the most sense, should you decide to go through with buying a rental.

    Keep up the great work!

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    Replies
    1. FI,

      There's a lot of issues with trying to purchase a rental property. I've found some pretty good opportunities but things haven't worked out so far. Unfortunately I think it's going to have to be through a turnkey company but that has it's pros and cons. The properties should be completely rehabbed and therefore maintenance costs should be relatively low for the first few years which will help build up the cash reserves a bit and provide extra cash flow each month. Although there's no such thing as a free lunch so I'll have to pay a premium for the convenience and "quality" of the property. I'm hoping to get some more clarity on this in mid-May when I have my vacation and can devote time to talking with and hopefully meeting with some companies.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  11. No no nope not going to just say good job! YOU SMOKE REGULARLY?! In New York that is $10+ a pack! Even if you are doing 2 packs a week that's a 1K+ for a habit that is not good for you. Step up the quitting! or for financial reasons alone start bumming lol

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  12. Wow! very nice with the $939 in dividend payout. How many different dividend stocks are you aiming for to reach your $4500 goal?

    ReplyDelete