Hello Personal Profitability readers, I hope everyone had a great Easter or Passover this weekend if you were celebrating, or just enjoyed the weekend if you were not. I had an amazing March, and worked harder than ever before. Let's see how the cookie crumbled.
What’s Eric Up To
I am writing this blog post from my childhood home in Denver on the tail end of a quick weekend trip to celebrate the Passover seders with my family. As usual, I didn't pay full price for my flights. We used Southwest miles and my companion pass for a roundtrip out-of-pocket cost of about $20 for the two of us.
I'm heading back home this evening for four days, and will be taking off on Friday for two weeks in Spain and Portugal. I've never been to those countries before, and we're very excited to explore Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Gibraltar, and Lisbon. Our flights were paid for with American Airlines miles, and we fly partner airlines including US Airways, British Airways, and Alaska Airlines. We only paid full price for a hotel in Barcelona. In Madrid and Seville we are staying in hostels, and I used Starwood points for our hotel in Lisbon, a very nice one at that!
If you want to get in on the free and discounted travel game, be sure to check out my Ultimate Beginner Guide to Travel Hacking. Everything you need to get started is there, and it is the longest, most in-depth post I've ever written.
Tax Time Countdown
Last month I finished my taxes for the first time on my own after hiring a professional to do them for me every year prior. I filed taxes for myself and my wife with a Schedule C for Narrow Bridge Media (the parent company of this blog and my online freelance work) and a second Schedule C for Denver Flash Mob, my flash mob planning company.
I paid a professional over $500 last year, and this year filed everything for less than $100 thanks to H&R Block online. TurboTax was a close runner up, but I leaned toward H&R Block because their small business functions looked a bit more powerful and they offer free audit support in case the IRS comes knocking.
For the first time in a few years, I got money back instead of owing, largely thanks to the benefits of filing as a married couple for the first time. After filing a couple more 1099 forms arrived, so I have to file an amended return by April 15th to avoid a penalty for anything I might owe after updating my taxes.
I’ve spent some time in January cleaning up my Quickbooks and getting everything ready to fill in my Schedule C information for my small business income and expenses. Follow this link for $50 off the newest version of the edition I use, Quickbooks Pro.
Side Business Income
Narrow Bridge Media – All Blogs and Online Activities
I ran some reports in QuickBooks after finishing up my March accounting and saw a very strong trend emerge. I earn enough on this website to cover the costs, plus a bit more, but my serious online income is coming from freelance writing and website support.
To prepare for my trip to Spain, I wrote more freelance posts than ever before in a single month, hitting 30 on the last day of the month. I have been writing like a madman for clients and my own site so I don't have to take my laptop with on my big European adventure.
I have a goal this year of $40,000 in online income, a big increase year over year. I missed the mark in January and February to stay on trend for that goal, but March definitely helped make up the gap, and April will be another great month thanks to the extra work I did in March. May will probably be light, though, so I can't revel in the success for too long.
Revenue – Goal: $40,000 in 2015 ($3,333 monthly average).
- Web Design Earnings – $1,167
- Freelance Writing – $2,625
- Affiliate Payments – $649
- AdSense – $1 (Phasing out display ads to focus on affiliates and my own products)
- Advertising & Partnerships – $0
- Premium Plugin Sales – $0 (Thesis Post Image Converter available at CodeCanyon)
- Book Sales – $1 – Buy here or Amazon
- Email List – $19 (Provided by Aweber)
- Web Hosting – $13 ($8.33 per month for MediaTemple and $5 per month for Hostgator – both paid annually)
- Podcast Hosting – $12 ($12 per month for Blubrry Podcast Hosting)
- Outsourced Workers – $110
- Domain Fees – $77
- Conferences & Events – $0
- Computers & Software – $2,119
- Misc – $12
Total Revenue: $4,806, Total Expenses: $2,369, Total Profit Before Tax: $2,437
Denver Flash Mob – Flash Mob Consulting and Planning
After over six months without a peep, we're back at it! I have had several contacts for events and some good successes in the last few weeks. It is great to see life come back into this business.
- Custom Flash Mob Payments – $286 (includes pre-payments)
- 7 Step Flash Mob Planning Workbook Sales – $16
- Outsourced Workers – $200
- Website Expenses – $2
Total Revenue: $302, Total Expenses: $202, Total Profit Before Tax: $100
My automatic investing in my retirement accounts has been going along as planned. It is nice to see so much cash going into our savings for the future. I have been debating funneling some money into a regular taxable account that could support early retirement, but for now this is the setup I'm sticking with:
- 401(k) Contribution – 6% automatic from paycheck
- 401(k) Match – 3% automatic by employer
- Roth IRA – $5,500 of $5,500 max for 2015 – Made maximum contribution on February 13 from savings
- Roth IRA (Spouse) – $0 of $5,500 max for 2015
- Employer Stock Purchase Plan – 3% with 15% discount on market stock price
If you have an opportunity to get any employer match, make sure you are taking 100% of that or you are leaving free money on the table. If you have any old 401(k) plans from former employers, make sure to roll them over into an IRA where you can save on fees.
If you are not sure where to start with retirement investing, be sure to check out Betterment as an option. I have been a customer myself and recently joined their writing team.
Individual Stock Portfolio
For most people, buying individual stocks is not the best way to invest. It is much smarter to just get a low fee S&P 500 index fund and wait it out. But I have extra education in investments and I’m always trying to beat the market. Here is my current list of all individual stock holdings. Over the Q1 2015 , my portfolio gained 7.33% vs. the S&P 500 0.95%. Very nice!
- AMZN – Amazon.com
- BLK – Blackrock
- BA – Boeing
- CSCO – Cisco Systems Inc
- GE – General Electric
- JPM – JP Morgan Chase
- KR – Kroger
- PM – Phillip Morris International
- SBUX – Starbucks
- TEVA – Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ADR
- WMT – Walmart
- WYNN – Wynn Resorts
Loyal3 Portfolio – 100% Fee Free Trades:
- GDDY – Just sold with a 26% gain after the IPO
- Company stock from ESPP
I have automatic monthly investment in SBUX and BRK.B in my Loyal3 account, which, like the IPO, has no trade fees. Here is a post all about how Loyal3 works.
The best tool I have found to help me keep my portfolio balanced is Personal Capital. The site helps me track and manage my bank accounts and credit cards too, but the site has helped me save hundreds of dollars per year by showing which investments are charging the biggest fees and how to balance my portfolio for my goals and risk tolerance. The site is completely free.
The stock market continues to reach new highs and there seems to be little getting in the way of more growth ahead. There are always bad days, but over the long run the stock market has always gone up. If you are new to investing be sure to check out my in depth guide to the stock market to get started with investing.
This past month, my Lending Club account had three loans go past due, which is more than I have ever had combined. This lowered my annual return to 9.9%, but that is still much better than any bank account or most investments will return. I have earned $348 in interest, so even with my losses and the potentials on the horizon, I am still way up overall. Including cash, my adjusted account value is $1,070.
My Notes at a Glance:
- Not Yet Issued – 0
- Issued & Current – 54
- In Grace Period – 0
- Fully Paid – 37
- Late 16-30 Days – 0
- Late 31-120 Days – 0
- Default – 0
- Charged Off – 5