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Year-End Personal Balance Sheet, December 2010

This article was written by in Monthly Update. 29 comments.


I’ve been tracking my personal finances for about ten years now, and I’ve been making the information public but anonymous on Consumerism Commentary since 2003. This, in addition to learning about money, was my primary purpose for creating this website and it still is a major part of what I do.

I don’t pay as much attention to each cent as I did in 2003, however. My financial situation was different at that time. In 2002, I found myself a corporate job after making no money after taxes and expenses at a non-profit organization. I considered it a short-term fix, but stayed there until this past month. After a while, I had gained control of my finances and didn’t need to monitor my finances as closely. I gained and maintained better spending, saving, and investment habits and found ways to earn more money.

This year, I may post my financial updates on a quarterly basis rather than monthly. I will continue to monitor my finances as I do. Even while everything is going well, reviewing statements on a monthly basis is still necessary for intercepting any problems. The public updates and the desire to allow the community to keep me accountable may not be as necessary right now.

Here’s a chart of my year-over-year progress.

Net Worth Progress Chart, 2010

I ended 2010 with $538,000 in my accounts, a healthy increase since last year. My income and expenses both increased as well. Not including taxes, my expenses increased about 32% in 2010 compared with 2009, due completely to business expenses and money spent on hobbies like photography (which may be business-related, as well, if I earn money from photography). My income increased 56% — a better raise than I would likely ever get in a corporate environment.

Like last year and the year before, I added history to my net worth report to show my progress since 2001. That year was a low point for me; in December 2001 I left a non-profit company with no money, no place to live, and student loans hanging over my head.

Continue reading to see the chart.

Net Worth Balance Sheet, December 2010

I generate this chart by using Quicken’s Net Worth Report, exporting the information to Excel, popping the numbers into a template I designed to subtotal the account balances by type, and converting the report to a graphic file that can be displayed on a website.

Here’s an explanation of everything you see on the report.

Current assets

I have two lines included here. The first, cash in banks, represents all of the savings and checking accounts I have, including both personal and business accounts. I have accounts at all of the banks I’ve reviewed on Consumerism Commentary, and this coming year I will be looking to reduce the number and close some of the superfluous accounts.

I also include accounts receivable under current assets. This is for the most part a business account, where I track clients and providers who owe money to me personally or to Consumerism Commentary. On average, receivables are cleared in 45 days from the invoice date, and that means any month-end balance in accounts receivable might include income from two different months, as I apply all income earned during the month to the last date of the month.

Long-term assets

Long-term assets are accounts that I don’t plan to touch for a long time. I include my investment accounts in here even though they are almost as liquid as savings accounts. Most of my investments are held at Vanguard to take advantage of their free accounts and low-cost investment options, but I also have accounts at Sharebuilder and Scottrade.

This also includes stock in my former company, which as an employee I was able to buy up to 10% of my salary at a 15% discount (or more). I expect to sell most of this investment later this year.

My retirement accounts are included as long-term assets, as well. I plan to call Vanguard today to set up an Individual 401(k) and possibly a SIMPLE IRA to replace my former company’s 401(k) going forward. I will also need to decide whether to convert my existing 401(k) over to a Rollover IRA. Some of my former company’s 401(k) investment options are expensive, so Vanguard’s less expensive choices will be beneficial over the long term.

I also include my car as a long-term asset. My 2004 Honda Civic has about 128,000 miles on it and it runs perfectly. I’m interested to see how long it will last. At this time, I have no need to replace it. I began deducting $100 from the car’s value in Quicken on a monthly basis to represent depreciation. This roughly tracks Edmunds.com’s third-party trade-in value for the car, and I tend to err on the conservative side.

Current liabilities

My only current liabilities are credit cards, all of which are paid in full every month. The balance is particularly high this month, as it was in December in 2009 as well, because it includes a good portion of my charitable contributions for the year. My current card of choice for personal use is the Chase Continental Airlines OnePass Plus Card..

Long-term liabilities

I have no long-term liabilities left, for now. I’ve eliminated student loans and car loans, and I am completely out of debt. If I buy a house requiring a mortgage, that will change. But for now, I’m just enjoying being debt free.

Thanks again to everyone, particularly regular Consumerism Commentary readers, for a great year! In a few days, I’ll post a review of my investment performance for the year.

Updated May 15, 2012 and originally published January 3, 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 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 Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar SteveDH

From being “underwater” to 500k in 9 years it something to be very proud of – Congratulations!
I might suggest, that since you probably don’t have W2 income anymore that you begin to track your tax liabilities on an accrual basis. Those pesky little things can add up quickly in non deferred accounts and the prospect of a growing tax burden is pretty strong.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

That’s a good idea… definitely something I will explore. I used to just put 30% of my income into a separate savings account designated for taxes but I’d like to try to do something more accurate. After talking to my accountant about issuing myself a W-2… I don’t know if it’s worth the hassle and extra expense. It’s something to think about.

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avatar krantcents

Congratulations. Definitely set up a SEP IRA, and move your 401K to Vanguard. I am a happy Vanguard customer and am consolidating other accounts to Vanguard this week.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

I was on the phone with Vanguard a few minutes ago to open an Individual 401(k). I’ll probably be rolling my 401(k) into an IRA there as well. The SEP IRA I’ve had for a few years now.

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avatar Domenick

Congratulations on your success!

Not sure how long ago this comment was posted. Call me when you get a chance; I’d like to discuss a couple of options with you!

Thanks,

Domenick Juliano
214-212-6480

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avatar Alizah

Flexo
How did you pay off your student loan and how long did it take you?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

Well I graduated undergrad in 1998 with a student loan which wasn’t completely paid off by the time I started my graduate degree in 2003. The MBA was 90% paid for by my employer but I didn’t always use the reimbursement to pay off the loan (bad, I know). I finished my MBA in 2006 with more debt — about $24,000. I paid everything off in December 2008.

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avatar Alizah

I have a Student Loan debt of $55,000. I just make monthly payments of $500. (money is tight) But I would love some insight on how to pay it off in half the time, any suggestions?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

When money is tight you only have two options — tighten up further or earn more money. If it’s a government loan, then you have some options for different payment plans, but the only way to pay it off faster is to put more money towards it. Loan consolidation will free up your cash flow but take longer to pay off the loan unless you’re able to get a better interest rate.

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avatar Investor Junkie

Congrats. Your net worth looks like a rocket ship.

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avatar jim

Good job.

p.s. OK I was going to say just “good job” but the software deemed that comment to be “too short” so its scolded me and told me to try again.

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avatar Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

Interesting to hear about your student loans, flexo, I didnt know. I was curious about your MBA time. Do you think it’s a worthwhile expense if it is covered by an employer?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

I didn’t expect to land a position as an executive after finishing the degree, so I wasn’t disappointed. In all, I got a good business education without spending much money. I had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of people more experienced than I was in business, so that was a plus. If you go in expecting to land a C-level job right after you get the degree, you’ll probably be disappointed; MBAs are a dime a dozen these days. It was worthwhile for me because I’m always interested in expanding my education. I wouldn’t have done it if I had to pay for it myself, though.

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avatar Ken

I would be cautious saying your photography is a hobby, if you legitimately want to make some money from it.

Saying its a hobby will not allow you to deduct your expenses, but you will have to report your income. You should instead refer to it as beginning your photography business.

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avatar brianahasmoney ♦367 (Nickel)

Wow Flexo, I’m hoping to get to your status soon as far as my graph. My timeline is a bit shorter (I have 5 years to go from $-10K to $250k net worth, but I think I can do it!

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avatar Financial Samurai

Flexo, good job in 2010!

Can you share what your average return is on your cash in 2010? Is it all liquid, or is some locked up?

I think you’re looking to use it for a downpayment too yeah?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

For the most part, my personal cash is earning 1.25% to 1.75% APY at various banks. Cash in my business account is earning 0.95% APY at ING Direct. Cash is cash – it’s all liquid for the time being. Yes, I expect to make a substantial down payment when I buy a house.

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avatar Financial Samurai

If your cash is 100% liquid, then getting 1% to 1.75% is great!

BTW, why buy a house as a single guy? Wouldn’t it be best to just rent?

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avatar Investor Junkie

I agree, you can rent from Sam. :-) Or at least buy a duplex. I would rent also, unless you have other plans.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

Well 100% liquid would be cash under the mattress… Cash in online banks may require one or two days to get into my hands. But it’s liquid for all intents and purposes.

As far as the house — you are getting to the core of the matter. Renting is my choice until it’s time to settle down.

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avatar DreamChaser57

Flexo –
Thanks for your transparency. A quick aside, I am a regular subscriber to Consumerism Commentary and enjoy it immensely. Can you briefly speak to your spectacular savings rate? Were you always a saver? Did your frugality or explosion in income contribute the most to your savings? Did you set savings goals? Did you concurrently pursue your savings goals and retire debt? Do you struggle with not touching your savings? Any insights you can provide would be helpful. We have a paltry amount in savings and while we have a lot more debt – I know we can do a lot better.
Happy 2011!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

Hi DreamChaser57. Thanks for reading! I can’t say I was always a saver, but I definitely haven’t been much of a spender. When I realized I had to build my finances, I cut back a bit on a lot of expenses. Out went the cable. I moved into a shared apartment with three roommates. I didn’t have a car and relied on friends (bad) and public transportation (good). From there, I set some savings goals and ground rules. I don’t struggle with not touching savings. I don’t really think about it. All of my spending comes out of income, so my savings grow every month.

I consider myself very fortunate, but I’ve worked hard to be that fortunate. Yet, I am still lucky that the activity I’ve enjoyed since 1994 (blogging/writing online/building communities) is now something that the world values and pays me for. It took a while.

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

Wow! That graph is super impressive. I need to get on my game. Thanks for the great blog and motivation to improve my financial position.

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avatar Chris Grande

Hi Flexo,

I’m very impressed with your discipline and compounding your net worth at a significant % over a long period of time – nice work!

2 questions – if you’re setting up a solo k, why not roll your 401k into that – are there IRA-specific moves you want to make going forward? and second, do you also have company stock in your 401(k)?

Maybe I’ll ask a third:) – are you ruling out a Roth in your strategy?

Thanks for your thoughts…

Chris Grande

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avatar eric ♦1,549 (Half-Dollar)

What can I say? It’s a bit inspiring to look at….hopefully all of net worths head in your direction soon!

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avatar Monevator

I’ve never graphed my net worth but looking at your graph that may be a mistake. It’s an inspiring and pretty picture!

Trouble with buying a house is add debt and your graph will fall off a cliff. This is obviously merely psychologically annoying, but we are all our psychology!

Oh well, you’ve done it before and you’ll do it again.

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avatar FinEngr

Flexo:

Your graph is a very powerful image – congratulations on an incredible 10 years. It hammers the point of diligence showing the successive growth year after year (looks like you’re at the breaking point to go from cubic to exponential).

As for your vehicle, we are/were in a very similar situation. However, we positioned ourselves for a great deal and recently pulled the trigger (worked with Car Negotiation Coach from Yakezie). Planning on doing the breakdown write-up for my site sometime this week

Great job with the podcasts by the way! Have listened to 90% of them – when’s the next one coming out?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,535 (Platinum)

Thanks, FinEngr! The podcasts are published every Sunday. We have David Bach and Liz Weston coming up in the next few weeks.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

Great job – enviable – save before you have kids! We saved 50% of our income before kids, now we can only save 10-15%. We also have 2 houses now that we didn’t have so maybe it is unfair to blame it all on the kids. :)

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