Happy March everyone! Spring is on the horizon and I have so many travels and adventures coming up as well. Join me as we decode my February online earnings, investment performance, and tips on joining in on the profits and fun.
What’s Eric Up To
Just a month ago I turned 30, and now I'm on the fast track to making my 30s much more profitable than the prior ten years. If you missed it, please take a moment to visit my Thoughts at Thirty birthday post on my personal site.
Over the last month I have locked in a lot of travel plans. Thanks to miles and points, I was able to arrange most of it for free, or very cheap. First up is a trip to Denver to celebrate Passover with my family, booked for free with Southwest miles and a companion pass. That quick weekend away brings us back home for five days before we jet off to Spain and Portugal, booked with American Airlines miles. We will visit Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Gibraltar, and Lisbon for two weeks before we come back to real life in Portland.
May will take us to a wedding in New York. June brings us to Minneapolis for a Bat-Mitsvah (thanks again to the Southwest miles and companion pass). Then we are home for a bit before I'm off to FinCon in Charlotte in September, my first visit to North Carolina. I'm flying there first class, and coach home, thanks to more American miles used on US Airways flights.
I'm not sharing this to brag, I am trying to share what is possible if you follow my Ultimate Beginner Guide to Travel Hacking. It is all there spelled out for you. Please join me in traveling the world!
Tax Time is Here
This 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.
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
In the mean time, I'm leaning on my freelance business for side income more than ever, as traffic, and revenue, is down quite a bit on this site. Traffic to big money making posts like this one on Personal Capital went from a lot to nearly zero, and the affiliate revenue I was earning on the post went to zero at the same time.
I have a goal this year of $40,000 in online income, a big increase year over year. I am off to a reasonable good start thanks to some new freelance writing clients. I am also mid-design on a few web design projects and I am ramping up some writing work after an early year lull.
I fell short of my goal again this month, and I am about $3,000 behind my goal for 2015. If you include Denver Flash Mob income, which I did not make a goal for, I am closer, but still not there and I would call that cheating, so I need to kick things up as we come into Spring.
Revenue – Goal: $40,000 in 2015 ($3,333 monthly average).
- Web Design Earnings – $373
- Freelance Writing – $1000
- Affiliate Payments – $130
- 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 – $0 – Buy here or Amazon
- Email List – $19 (Provided by Aweber)
- Web Hosting – $12 ($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 – $133
- Domain Fees – $16
- Conferences & Events – $0
- Computers & Software – $0
- Misc – $0
Total Revenue: $1,504, Total Expenses: $192, Total Profit Before Tax: $1,312
Denver Flash Mob – Flash Mob Consulting and Planning
After over six months without a peep, we're back at it! We just had a successful event in February and have another two booked for April, with another two in negotiations.
- Custom Flash Mob Payments – $1,149 (includes pre-payments)
- 7 Step Flash Mob Planning Workbook Sales – $0
- Outsourced Workers – $150
- Website Expenses – $100
Total Revenue: $1,149, Total Expenses: $250, Total Profit Before Tax: $899
While in the car with my wife yesterday, I had an epiphany that we were saving over $20,000 per year in our retirement accounts. That's pretty cool! I decided I really want to save more outside of our retirement accounts, but I don't want to do that at the expense of retirement savings. I want to save extra on top of this.
Retirement Savings Summary – Learn about my automatic investing in my retirement accounts
- 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. I just rolled over my 401(k) from my old employer to my Rollover IRA account at Charles Schwab last week.
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 Q4 2014 , my portfolio gained 5.64% vs. the S&P 500 4.93%.
- 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:
- BRK.B – Berkshire Hathaway B Shares
GPRO – GoPro– Sold 1/20 with over 100% return from IPO price
- SBUX – Starbucks
- LC – 100 shares purchased in 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 9.61%, but that is still much better than any bank account or most investments will return. I have earned $331 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 $1,053.
My Notes at a Glance:
- Not Yet Issued – 1
- Issued & Current – 53
- In Grace Period – 0
- Fully Paid – 36
- Late 16-30 Days – 0
- Late 31-120 Days – 0
- Default – 1
- Charged Off – 4