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Personal Balance Sheet, October 2011 ($373,552, +9.2%)

This article was written by in Monthly Update. 15 comments.


I’ve been tracking my net worth and keeping my finances updated in personal finance management software since July 2003. I’ve done this mainly for myself. Posting my finances online helps make the numbers real. I use these monthly reports to hold myself accountable. If I write publicly about spending more in a budget category than I should, I have no one to blame myself if, at the end of the following month, I still have the same problem. I would have to face the judgment of readers who see my lack of progress. By keeping my finances public, I try to hold my money-related decisions to a high standard.

Over the past eight and a half years, this technique has helped me gain financial independence, combined with a thriving business. But this will be the final month I share my balances with this much detail. I’m moving into the next phase of my financial journey, and this requires taking back some of my willingness to bare all for an audience. I will still share quite a bit, more than most readers would expect, but the familiar balance sheet will be replaced with a different accountability measure.

Another reason to move away from posting a monthly balance sheet for accountability is the fact that the swings from month to month have more to do with stock market performance than day-to-day money management decisions. When I had very little money invested and my expenses were close to my income, every decision I made could have a strong effect on my finances. That is not the case today. Just like my need for tracking every cent has been relinquished as my budget began to allow more freedom, my daily spending has a smaller effect than decisions pertaining to the larger picture, like my investment portfolio allocation and diversification. I’ll be writing more about my investment choices in the future.

In October, my investments recovered. This contributed to an increase in my net worth. Continue reading to see the numbers.

Net Worth Balance Sheet, October 2011

Note that I took my business accounts out of this report a few months ago. Business income was healthy again in October, but that’s not reflected in these numbers.

If you’ve been following Consumerism Commentary, you should recognize the different lines included in my balance sheet. “Cash in banks” includes all the checking and savings accounts I own, mostly high-yield savings accounts. I added a new savings account in October, and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I needed a signature guarantee in person, a service banks and brokerages often provide. I walked into my local Wells Fargo branch, but the representative had no idea what I was asking for. The next closest bank location was a Chase branch, so I walked in to ask whether they could provide a signature guarantee.

At Chase, the representative knew what I was asking for and was able to provide the signature guarantee for free — but only for Chase customers. Despite the proximity to Bank Transfer Day, I opened a new account at Chase with a $100 cash deposit. In order for this checking account to remain free, I needed to initiate a $500 per month direct deposit or maintain a $1,500 balance. I covered both bases.

I’m not happy with the idea of adding yet another bank account, but I’ve also spent some time during the past few months canceling many of the savings accounts I’ve opened over the past few years as tests for writing reviews on Consumerism Commentary. I closed or zeroed out my HSBC Advance account, Ally Bank accounts, Everbank accounts, Sallie Mae account, Discover Bank account, and Zions Bank account. I’ll be canceling more accounts as I continue to simplify my finances.

My investments line includes a few accounts for stock trading, mostly unused, as well as an individual brokerage account at Vanguard. My plan for this month is to look into moving my investments around so this account includes the most tax-efficient investments. I’d rather have tax-free investments in this account to reduce my tax liability, while leaving the less tax-efficient investments in retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs.

Those 401(k) plans and IRAs are included in the retirement line in the above balance sheet. For the Honda Civic line, I’ve just been reducing the value of my car by $100 every month. This may be something I shouldn’t include in the report, but for a while, this was my most valuable asset, and since I could sell my car in an emergency, I thought it might be worthwhile to track. I occasionally check the car’s value in Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. I don’t see selling this car until it costs more to maintain than it is worth. I’ve put very little money into the Honda Civic besides regular maintenance.

THe amount in my credit cards category is paid off every month. I’ve been using primarily a Chase Continental Airlines OnePass Plus Card, and I’ve used the miles earned for upgrades. With all the traveling I’ve done this year, I”m very close to earning “Silver” Elite OnePass status in Continental’s (and United’s) frequent flyer program, but I might end the year without crossing the threshold of 25,000 Elite Qualification Miles. (With the OnePass Plus card, the miles you earn for every purchase do not help you qualify for a higher frequent flyer tier.)

As I mentioned above, my plan for November is to simplify my finances by reducing the number of open accounts. Next month, I’ll report November’s progress and review my finances as of the end of the month, but I’ll be changing the format. The monthly financial update is an integral part of this website, so I will find a way to continue this tradition despite the change of relevance.

Updated May 15, 2012 and originally published November 22, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar GE Miller

Flexo – do you factor in your earnings from consumerismcommentary into these statistics? It’d be much more informative if you included an income or earnings line to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on with your balance sheet. Cheers!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

No, I took all business accounts out of these reports earlier this year, because it made tracking my progress in my personal financial decisions much more difficult.

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avatar Evan

I don’t particularly see the reasoning between slimming down these personal balance sheets due to a heavy reliance on investment results. Why not make them even more detailed and say what in your investment world went up, what went down and how much you contributed to the various accounts? Go the opposite and even become more transparent?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

I’ve usually done a separate investment analysis on a quarterly basis (monthly is too frequent — and quarterly probably is, too — because I’ve been investing with a long-term view), but I don’t believe I’ve done that for the last quarter. I’m open to suggestions for finding relevant ways to track my financial progress.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

I think your quarterly summary is sufficient to track long term investment goals, and I support your changes to your monthly reports. Some of the business related information is less helpful to those of us that don’t have our own businesses.

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

Thanks for sharing your monthly stats. Do you think your credit score has changed dramatically since you sign up for cards to test drive and write reviews for? Does it still seem worth it to you?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

I’ve been watching my credit score over the past few years, and it has increased slightly.

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avatar Barb Friedberg

I totally understand your decision. But, in spite of that, it’s nice to watch your progress. You are doing amazing!

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

I thought i had already posted this months update for me but i don’t see it here. In the middle of transferring everything to a new account at my Credit Union. Did not get my old account closed in time for Bank Transfer Day. Just waiting to make sure all my payment start coming out of the new account before i finish off the old at Wells Fargo.

Assets $16,534.59
Liabilities -$38,107.07
Total -$21,572.48

Last month’s total -$21,711.32
Change since last month $138.84

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Slow and steady reaches the goal. Keep up the path you’re on and you’ll be solvent in no time.

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avatar Anonymous

Great stuff Flexo. Your percentage gains yearly are substantial considering the bear market we have been experiencing for the last year+. Are you playing the penny stocks?

With 2012 being an election year and investors having missed out on the tradition last election, the market should be positive from November to May. Although your investment are down 20.7% since same period 2010, the moves you are making by taking advantage of the free accounts offered by banks is very intelligent.

If you plan on making trades with your investment portfolio, online brokers, as you probably know already, are giving away free trades for new accounts all day long which would also help cut down on nominal fees.

Love the Honda Civic. Smart move. Shouldn’t cost more than couple hundred a year to maintain and will likely run until your retirement.

Good Stuff. Looking forward to the next update.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

If I was your mom, i’d be proud of my son.

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avatar Jason

I think you shoud exclude your car from assets. More importantly, I think you should show your current balances against your long term goals. I track my quarterly net worth, but also compare it against a financial plan. My balances were ahead of the plan until the recession in 08. It was helpful to see because it made me adjust my plans and increase some investments. It was also helpful to see the balances getting back on track as the economy began to improve.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

Don’t forget to post the new month’s update.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

Since December is about 2/3rd’s over here is my November Update.

Assets $15,500.78
Liabilities -$36,966.28
Total -$21,465.50

Last month’s total -$21,572.48
Change since last month $106.98

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