I just returned from an amazing two weeks visiting Spain, Gibraltar, and Portugal! Now I'm back and energized, have a new project idea, and I'm ready to rock and roll!
What’s Eric Up To
Last weekend we returned from 14 days visiting Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Gibraltar, and Lisbon. Of course, we didn't pay full price for our travel and accommodations. I'll have a full post on that coming up soon. At a high level, we used American Airlines miles for our flights, stayed in a cheap hotel and two hostels to save money, and ended at the luxury five star Sheridan in Lisbon using cash+points to stay in a regularly priced €410 per night room for €75 per night.
If you want to get in on secret to saving money on travel, 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. I used the same techniques for my upcoming trips to New York (May), Minneapolis (June), Aspen (July), and Charlotte (September).
New Project in the Making
I am always on the lookout for a new, profitable business idea. One of the keys to a successful business is filling an unmet need, and I found a niche financial market that is very underserved, and I started the process of turning that idea into a profitable venture, or at least a venture. As I recently shared, some of my businesses have failed in the past.
With my new idea, I am going to do things right. I am not building a business that rests solely on my shoulders, as Narrow Bridge Media and most of Denver Flash Mob do. This time, I am looking for a co-founder and partner to help build and maintain this project.
I started by joining Founder Dating, which is exactly what it sounds like. This is a highly specialized social network for startup entrepreneurs, and costs $50 per year for full access. I happily paid the $50 (write off!) for access to engineers who have the skill set needed to build out my idea.
I wrote to four Portland based software engineers who looked promising, and have met with one who I got along great with. We are discussing the idea a bit further together before deciding whether we are a good fit to work together on the idea. As it develops, I will share more about what I have in mind.
P.S. – If you are a software engineer and are interesting in working with me, send me an email through the contact form.
Side Business Income
Narrow Bridge Media – All Blogs and Online Activities
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 to prepare for my Spain trip. May will probably be light, though, so I can’t revel in the success for too long.
Here's how the cookie crumbled for my April online income:
Revenue – Goal: $40,000 in 2015 ($3,333 monthly average).
- Freelance Writing – $2,650
- Web Design Earnings – $533
- Affiliate Payments – $60
- AdSense – $2 (Phasing out display ads to focus on affiliates and my own products)
- Advertising & Partnerships – $150
- Product Sales – $.30 (Thesis Post Image Converter available at CodeCanyon, eBook 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 – $260
- Domain Fees – $32
- Conferences & Events – $0
- Computers & Software – $0
- Misc – $0
Total Revenue: $3,395, Total Expenses: $336, Total Profit Before Tax: $3,059
If you are new here and want to see more history, check out my earnings by month since 2012 at my online income tracker.
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 – $0 (includes pre-payments)
- 7 Step Flash Mob Planning Workbook Sales – $0
- Outsourced Workers – $200
- Website Expenses – $0
Total Revenue: $0, Total Expenses: $200, Total Profit Before Tax: ($200)
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 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
- Company stock from ESPP
In addition to Charles Schwab, I have an account at Loyal3. Loyal3 offers 100% fee free trades and the ability to participate in IPOs, also with 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 $358 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 $1,075.
My Notes at a Glance:
- Not Yet Issued – 2
- Issued & Current – 52
- In Grace Period – 1
- Fully Paid – 38
- Late 16-30 Days – 0
- Late 31-120 Days – 0
- Default – 0
- Charged Off – 5