2019 Stock Picks In Review

Wow, 2019 started with a whimper and appears to be ending with a bang! There was doom and gloom in the air, with the threat of recession looming in December 2018. Federal Rate inversions were happening, high yield savings accounts were approaching 2.5%. The sky was falling. Fast forward to December 2019 and the champagne is flowing. “One of the best yearly returns of the S&P 500 since the Great Depression!”

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Now if you are a prefect market timer and were able to get out of the market in late Sept 2018 and THEN jumped back in the beginning of 2019, you are looking pretty with a “28% gain” in the S&P 500.

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Now, if you are like most folks… there is a good chance you were invested in an index fund tracking one of the major indices like… the S&P 500 and it was more likely you road the wave, achieving an 11% gain since the September 2018 peak. Yes your retirement account statement is showing a great year to date return but sometimes you need to step back and look at the big picture when you hear Bob from accounting exclaim his 401k is up 25% this year!

2019 was full of opportunities to buy great companies at crazy low valuations compared to their historic norms.

Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. – Warren Buffett

We focused primarily on what we know and understand the best, cyclical “tech” type companies. Namely companies focused in…

  • Mobile devices
    • Smart phones, laptops, tablets
  • Computer components
    • Processors
    • Memory chips
    • Graphics cards
  • Internet focused companies that have a large probability of scale
    • Cloud storage/solutions
    • Online merchant storefronts
    • Online advertising
    • Cyber security solutions

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Lets see how we did looking back on our portfolio performance for 2019.

Company Ticker Percentage Gain/Loss Purchase Month
Advanced Micro Devices AMD 62% August
Apple APPL 80% January
CVS CVS 19% February
CyberArk CYBR 20% September
Google GOOG 25% January
Micron MU 60% June
Nvidia NVDA 40% July
Shopify SHOP 35% October
Splunk SPLK 25% June
The Trade Desk TTD 50% June
Zillow ZG 40% September
Average return 41%

Will the good times flow into 2020? Who knows! How was your 2019?

Remember, we are not financial advisers and are merely sharing our experiences and make no recommendations to invest in any of  the above mentioned securities. 

So what are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or send us an email via our Contact Page.

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Give Your Income a Plan – The 35/45/20 Rule

So you want to start making real progress on getting out of debt or building wealth, right? But where do you start? I’ll tell you…it’s not buying stocks or consolidating your student loans and it’s especially not by buying another lottery ticket.

No. You need to start on the ground floor by looking at yourself and streamlining how your most important tool, your income, is working for you.

If you are like most people… you’re itching for payday. As soon as the check clears your feeling pretty good, maybe even a little too good. A big lump sum, $500, $1000, $2000 or more, in your bank account that immediately starts burning a hole in your pocket… just wanting to be spent on new cloths, gadgets, or experiences. Hey, you earned it right?

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But what happens when the weekend is over or it’s the end of the month and your bills are due? How big is that pile of cash now?

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The problem is physiological. That single shot of cash is giving you an artificial high of “wealth” by feeling that you have more money than you really do.

So how do you avoid this trap?

You have to give your paycheck a purpose by developing a plan.

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I am going to give you the thought process that my wife and I currently use that helped crush our debt and accelerated our net-worth growth rate by almost 100% year over year.

You may have heard of the 50/20/30 rule – 50% of your post-tax income goes to needs, 20% goes to savings/debt, 30% goes to wants – i.e. fun stuff.

Why would you want to be normal? If you really want to change your life you have be different. We flipped the ratios around and currently live by the 35/45/20 rule. (A mouthful, I know!)

The 35-45-20 Plan

35% is your needs, or living expenses – rent, utilities, food, etc.

45% goes to debt payments or savings and investing. This portion swings wildly from debt payments to savings & investing depending on where you are in your financial journey.

20% is your wants – night out with friends, new shoes, movie tickets, etc.

If you think it’s nuts to only live off of 35% of your income check out our Ultimate Guide on understanding your budget and trimming the fat. 

Build a system of Accountability

How we held ourselves accountable to the above ratio was by developing an automated system for our income.

Instead of having our paychecks dropping into one checking account we started thinking of multiple accounts. This was taking “making a budget” to the next level, instead of putting the onus on us to constantly juggle and really blurring the lines of where the money was going from a single account we instead set our paychecks to direct deposit into 5 separate accounts…

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Checking Account #1 Fixed Expenses
Checking Account #2 Debt Payments/Investing (eventually)
Checking Account #3 Allowance
Savings Account #1 1 Month Emergency Fund
Savings Account #2 5-12 Months Emergency Fund

Checking Account #1 – Fixed Expenses – 35%

What are your “fixed expenses”? Think of the items that have a recurring bill, such as your rent or mortgage, utilities (water & electric), cable/internet, cell phone, groceries, etc. Think of expenses that typically don’t fluctuate significantly month to month. Write these expenses down… and add them up. Now, since some of these expenses fluctuate slightly due to external factors, such as hot summers and cold winters (i.e. A/C, Heating) electricity usage, and food prices, add another 10% to the total to cover that flux.

For example, if your fixed expenses add up to $1000 per month add another 10% on there, so you’ll have $1100 per month going into this account. If you get paid bi-weekly you will need $550 per paycheck going into Checking Account #1.

Checking Account #2 – Debt Payments – 45% to 0%

Depending on your income level, the status of your current emergency fund, or debt level this account will change in meaning as you progress on your financial journey. Like what was stated before…if you are getting paid bi-weekly whatever your total debt payments are every month you’ll need at least half of it going into this account per paycheck.

Checking Account #3 – Allowance – 20% 

So now take that lump sum of money and send 20% of that to what we will call your “allowance” fund. The money that you can use to spend how you want, going out to dinner, buying that fancy coffee every once in a while, or that new gadget. This is where living within or below your means comes into play.

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When my wife and I started living within 20% for the “fun” expenses our mindset started to change, we started adding more weight and value to the items or experiences we were buying. We don’t feel as if we are restricting ourselves here, we just ended up focusing on things that actually held value to us. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we were wasting so much money with our old habits, adding up thousands of dollars per year!

Savings Account #1 – Easy Access – 1 Month Expenses Emergency Fund

As we talked about earlier, having an emergency fund helps you handle life’s unexpected moments by giving you the money you need when you need it to avoid taking on additional debt. This account should equate to about 1 months worth of living expenses and should be easy to access, within less than 24 hrs. This account will be available when an appliance breaks down, or unexpected doctors visit. This account should not be touched unless an “emergency” happens.

Savings Account #2 – (5 – 12 Month) Emergency Fund – Online High Yield Savings Account

So this account should equate anywhere from 5 to 12 months worth of living expenses and should be accessible within 3 days or less. So we should be thinking of online savings accounts here. Your money is in a safe spot that is just out of immediate reach to prevent you from making impulse decisions.

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Steps to using the 35/45/20 Rule – From Debt to Wealth

Alright, so lets go through an example of using the 35/45/20 Rule…

Step 1 – Build 1 Month Emergency Fund

If you are starting out without an emergency fund of at least a one month’s worth of expenses your first goal should be to create one. This may mean paying the minimums on your debt payments at first, with the remainder of the 45% going to building up that small emergency fund. Remember, you can’t focus on aggressively paying off your debt if your constantly reaching for your credit card to cover small expenses that popup outside the norm.Step 1

Step 2 – Eliminate Debt

When you’ve completed your small emergency fund can you now attack your debt with the full salvo of 45% of your income. Step 2How you go about this is up to you. What worked for us was “The Debt Snowball” method outlined by Dave Ramsey. Take all your debts ordered smallest to largest and contribute more than the minimum to the smallest debt until it is paid off. Then roll that money over and put it toward the next smallest debt, and so forth and so on until your debt is eliminated.

Step 3 – Build Up a 5 – 12 Month Emergency Fund

After successfully eliminating your non-mortgage debt your next goal is to strengthen the rest of your emergency fund. Start throwing that 45% into Savings Account #2 until you hit that 5 to 12 month equivalent number. It is up to you what that amount is… be it 5 months, 12 months, or any number in between. This account is your fall back for extreme emergencies, job loss, significant health issues, etc.

Step 3

Step 4 – Wealth Building & Investment

So now this is where the fun starts to happen… Your non-mortgage debt is gone, you have a strong emergency fund set aside… now what?

Don’t fall into the trap of seeing all this freed up income as giving you the right to start a shopping’s spree. Stay focused!

It’s time to start building real wealth.

Checking Account #2 changes it’s meaning now to “Investing”.

Step 4

How you define “Investing” is up to you.

You may start saving up for your first home or your first investment property.

You may start to dabble in index and mutual funds in a taxable investment account.

Or maybe a little bit of everything… that is ultimately up to you.

What matters is that when you start to leverage 45% of your post-tax income to “investing” and wealth generation you are now way outside of the normal. Stay there.

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Plan, Automate, Execute!

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If you made it this far.. congratulations! Hopefully you followed all that…

So in conclusion, by giving our income a plan and a purpose while also automating our paycheck we changed our mindset, and ultimately our path to financial success. The 35/45/20 rule may sound like a challenge but you have to break outside the norm if you want to achieve above average results. This process has amplified our net-worth growth by 100% year or year by eliminating our debt and supercharging our investing potential.

Let us know your thoughts on the 35/45/20 Rule or whats plans you’ve had success with! We would love to hear from you.

So what are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or send us an email via our Contact Page.

If you liked what you’ve read please be sure hit the “like” button and share! If you want to receive the latest articles please be sure to subscribe.

 

Millionaire Status? Better get that Emergency Fund First

Alright, so you want to be a millionaire as soon as possible right? So your looking at all different ways of leveraging your income, be it real estate with income properties, maybe investing in the stock market, or even starting your own business.

It all sounds good on paper. Someone else paying the mortgage on your rental, or the stock market averaging X% percent a year. Hey…you can’t lose right?

What happens when Murphy’s Law slaps you right in the face? You get a call from your rental that the furnace went out, or your tenant just left and now your paying the mortgage, or the stock market just took a dump? Or heaven forbid you just lost your job. Ah! Are you going to run to the credit card at 20% APR or take out a personal loan at 15% APR?

Nothing is ever perfect so you need save yourself from…. yourself by establishing a safety net in the form of an emergency fund.

So What is an emergency fund?

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So what is an emergency fund? Well it is money set aside to cover those life surprises that will come up. Not may or might, but will. It’s purpose is to improve your financial security by giving you access to cash to handle those unexpected events while allowing you to avoid the need to take on high-interest debt options like credit cards or personal loans.

An emergency fund should not be considered a fund that is accessible for investing. You DO NOT touch it unless you need to cover an emergency. Sounds boring earning 1-2%, but you’ll be happy it’s there when you need it.

So How Much?

Your emergency fund should ideally be equivalent to a minimum of 3 to 6 months of expenses. Depending on what your threshold for risk is….strive for 6 to 12 months of expenses. Having an empty rental or job loss will have big dollar signs, so more is always better.

The average mortgage payment is around $1500 per month! If a tenant left and your struggling to find a replacement do you have $1500, $3000, $4500, lying around to pay the mortgage? Yeah, $4500 is only 3 months.

What about if you lost your job? Not only are you covering the mortgage but you have all your other liabilities, such as your car, student loans, food expenses, utilities, etc.

Start putting dollar signs and amounts on those monthly expenses and it starts to be eye opening how much you need to tuck away. Three months of expenses may be $10,000 or more! Do you want $10,000 sitting on a credit card just dragging you down into a debt spiral?

Automate – Out of Site – Out of Mind

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So where do you keep your emergency fund?

Keep your stash somewhere that your impulses can be kept in check. Look into online high yield savings accounts, as they typically require a 3 day transfer period to allow you access to large sums of funds, this gives you a chance to control that impulse of buying that shiny new thing you saw on Amazon today.

Also, make it painless by automating your savings plan to cushion your fund. Have a percentage of your income direct deposit into your emergency account. If you don’t see the money initially in your checking account your more likely to keep yourself accountable.

Conclusion

If you want to stay on the path of tremendous wealth building and financial success an emergency fund is an essential cornerstone to your overall financial health as it prevents you from making costly mistakes such as liquidating your investments, taking on credit card debt, or loans.

If you don’t believe me on the importance on having an emergency fund listen to an inspiration for my wife and I, Dave Ramsey, below.

So what are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or send us an email via our Contact Page.

If you liked what you’ve read please be sure hit the “like” button and share! If you want to receive the latest articles please be sure to subscribe.

5 Money Habits to Start in your 20’s

Your 20’s are an exciting time of your life, so much opportunity for development and growth. For a lot of us we hit some major milestones… starting our first “adulting” job or career, getting married, buying our first home or car, maybe even paying off those good ol’ student loans.

The time you have in your 20’s has the potential to set the tone of your financial health of the rest of your life, so it’s important to develop some essential habits…

1. Create a Budget

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You hear this one from everyone, make a budget!

Write down and understand where your money is coming and going. When you start to track your income and expenses it opens your eyes to all the potential money you could be saving and investing but were actually eating away by going out three or four times a week.

You can track your budget using a number of different tools and methods, you can do the home brewed approach by developing a simple spreadsheet or you can use a number of financial and budgeting applications for your smart phone. Whatever method you end up choosing the most important attribute is your dedication and consistence in tracking your in’s and out’s. Check out our guide at making a budget and slashing our expenses.

2. Automate Your Savings

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This one is easy, money you never see in your paycheck is harder to spend on impulse. Set up automatic deductions from your paycheck to deposit into an online high yield savings account or online brokerage account for investing.

There are plenty of options today that not only are easy to setup and use but help you in the long run of setting you up for financial success. It may be developing an emergency fund for a rainy day, or starting that passive income dividend stream you always wanted.

Start small, it can be a little as $5 to $10 a paycheck but your goal should be to gradually ramp up your deductions until it starts to feel uncomfortable. You will be amazed in as little as a year how much you have saved with this approach.

3. Have an Emergency Fund

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In your 20’s change can be rapid and sudden, your 15 year old car breaks down.. your furnace goes out, or you just received a pink slip. You can never be too careful by creating a emergency fund to cover those rainy days.

Strive to save up 6 to 12 months’ worth of living expenses to get you through the tough times. Since the majority of Americans don’t have the cash on hand to cover a $1000 expense, it should be a wake up call to have a stash of cash to help you when you need it. By maintaining an emergency fund it allows you to avoid the major pitfalls of using credit and loans to cover those unexpected expenses and racking up unnecessary interest payments.

An emergency fund is not a “I need the newest iPhone” fund, or the “shopping spree” fund, and it should not be considered an investment fund. Leave it alone and keep it in a liquid high yield savings or money market account, it may not sound as sexy as putting it all in the latest penny stock but you’ll be happy when you need it to cover that blown out tire.

4. Invest early and often – Retirement (401k, IRA, etc.) and Taxable Accounts

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In your 20’s you have one of the greatest assets that money can’t buy, and that is time.

Use that time and the magic of compounding by investing early. If you are fortunate enough to have an employer that provides access to a 401k, try to contribute 15% of your pretax income or if you can’t achieve that do your best to contribute the percentage needed to receive an employer match if available. Your starting salary and contributes may start out small initially but as time goes by you’ll see massive growth and the sooner you start the less effort will be required in your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s to prepare for retirement.

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it.”

-Albert Einstein

With every raise you receive try increasing your retirement contribute by 1-2%. If you were living on your previous salary just fine, you won’t miss that 1 or 2% all that much.

For 2019, you are able to contribute up to $19,000 of your pre-tax income. I know, your thinking to yourself…$19,000?! Are you crazy? You all have the potential to achieve that and more… you just have to start!

Other retirement vehicles such as IRA’s offer other tax benefits depending on your income, and I recommend looking into them if you do not have access to or are maxing out your 401k.

Taxable investment accounts also can be considered when you have reached your goals for your emergency funds and retirement contributions. Remember not to chase the latest penny stock or virtual currency, start off small and steady by researching low-cost index and mutual funds that provide you diversity to hundreds or thousands of companies.

“It’s a mirage… the idea it has some huge intrinsic value is just a joke”

-Warren Buffet (on Bitcoin)

5. Live Like a College Student

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You were living like one not too long ago so why change it? Just because your making big bucks now doesn’t mean you should go out and blow it all on a new depreciating car or some fancy apartment. Get a roommate, nurse that old car for a few more years, buy a a refurbished smartphone with cash. If you really want to jump start yourself on your way to extraordinary financial wealth, live below your means!

Conclusion

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Remember, your 20’s can be the best years of your life or… they could be the years that set you up for success for the rest of your life, it is your choice. By making simple and steady habits with your finances now you’ll thanking yourself later.

So what are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or send us an email via our Contact Page.

If you liked what you’ve read please be sure hit the “like” button and share! If you want to receive the latest articles please be sure to subscribe.