Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Your House Is Not An Investment

"Your house is not an investment." - My grandfather

My grandpa told me this one day when I was a teenager. He was driving me home from somewhere and we were stuck in traffic on the freeway. I don't remember what the whole conversation was about, but that line stuck in my mind because it was the opposite of what I heard so often before: "The path to the American Dream starts with home ownership."

Many people, including financial advisors, advocate home ownership as a top financial goal to strive for. And for many people, this is perhaps a smart move. Real estate values generally rise over time although, as we have seen in the last decade, there can be dramatic corrections. A mortgage payment is a type of forced savings plan because you are forced into paying down your principal each month, building up your equity in your house that you can recoup when you sell it.

But to call your home an investment is not true. As any home owner will tell you, it costs money to own a house. I'm not talking about the mortgage payment. I'm talking about all the expenses that go into keeping a house in a livable condition. Consider:

  • Your refrigerator died and all the food inside went bad and had to be thrown out. Plus, you had to buy a new refrigerator.
  • Your yard is overgrown with weeds, so you need to hire a gardener or buy a lawn mower and spend your weekends keeping the plants under control. 
  • The yard attracts pests, so you need to hire a pest control company to stop the bugs from invading your family room.
  • The water taps for your washing machine have corroded and are now leaking all over the floor.
  • Rodents played in your crawlspace and destroyed the vapor barrier, which needs to be replaced before the wood walls start rotting.
  • The condensation drain line for the air conditioner in the attic plugged up, causing the drain pan to overflow and you now have water damage to your ceiling.
  • A glass seal on your double pane window broke and let water in, which damaged the window sill. Both the sill and window need to be replaced.
  • After 15 years, the insulation in your attic has broken down and needs to be replaced.

I'm not making this up. Every one of those things has happened to me at some house I have called home. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

If it regularly costs you money, it's not an investment.

Investments put money in your pocket. Your home does not put money in your pocket.

The only time a house is an investment is when you own it and rent it to someone else. Then, it's putting money in your pocket.

This isn't to say owning a home is bad. I don't think it is. You need a place to live and a house provides that. You get the benefits of a mortgage interest tax deduction, but you also have the maintenance expenses. One could make a persuasive argument that it's just as smart financially to rent an apartment as it is to buy a house.

So look at your house as a place for you to live and raise a family. Fix it up the way you want. Make it yours.

Just don't think of it as an investment.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Goal Update: End Of October 2017

At the end of each month, I post an update of my goals, including a brief discussion of any notable events that might have occurred during the month. The latest month's figures can always be found under the Featured menu in the menu bar at the top of the blog.

Last updated: End of October, 2017
Current value: $36,165
Change from last Month: +1,201
Percent of Goal:  33.3%

Note that the funds in this account are invested in stock, so there will be fluctuations in value that are outside my control. I never withdraw money from this account, so any dips are purely due to stock price changes.

Events Of Note Last Month:

I saw an increase of just over $1,200 this month!

I was able to sell another round of cash-backed naked puts of Realty Income for a net income of $171. In terms of a dollar amount, this is less than I made last month doing this, but because the options I sold this month have a shorter time until expiration - two weeks - my annualized ROI is actually higher. The options expired out of the money on 10/20, so I earned an annualized ROI of 10.22%, higher than the 8.28% I made last month.

Realty Income stock took a little bit of a dive in the fourth week of October, so I turned around and sold another 6 contracts on 10/23 for $0.40 per share with a strike price of $52.50. They expire 11/17, which is three weeks out. That's about one week longer than I prefer, but the stock was heading down, so I thought it would be a good time to make a little money. The 52-week low for the stock is $53.63, so I think there's a good chance these options will expire out of the money. Total cash received for this was $231 and I stand to make a 10% annualized return.

My courses on have seen a little bit of activity. Students have watched 188 minutes total of my three courses. I don't have details on how much income that translates to yet - October stats aren't paid out until November 16th. I don't expect it will be much. I should note I haven't really done any promotion for these courses (other than what I have written about here) and I've only got a total of 5 students enrolled. I'm going to wait to see what the payout is before deciding how much effort I should put into promoting them. I've got one more class ready to publish over there, but I'm going to wait until my other classes have more students. When you publish a new course, students of your other courses are automatically notified of your new offering, so that's free advertising.

Over on Udemy however, I picked up another $128.60 in income.

I earned a whopping $0.01 on my ebook royalties.

Achievement Unlocks!

It's been a while since I last unlocked an achievement and this month, to make up for it, I've unlocked two!

I crossed the $35,000 saved threshold!

And I reached 33.3% of my goal!
For those old folks that remember vinyl

Relocation Update

We have moved into our new house! We've still got boxes everywhere and are trying to figure out where to put stuff. We also had to have some maintenance work done to the house, so that is a big reason why our net worth dropped this month - several thousand dollars worth of new paint, new carpet, repairs, etc. Our garage is filled with furniture that does not fit into the new house, so I'm also selling that off a piece at a time on Craigslist.

Net Worth Update 

Our net worth dropped by $2,069 from last month. This was due to the aforementioned repairs. Some bills have not come in yet, so next month I'm expecting another drop of about $10,000.

September 2017September 2017

You can see we've moved some money from our investment accounts to cash in anticipation of the upcoming bills.

If you have any questions or suggestions for topics, please drop me a line in the comments section!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When Stocks Keep Giving After You Have Sold Them

Over a year ago, I wrote this piece about how to go paperless. As a small aside in the post, I said:

(I have been involved in some class action lawsuits regarding stock purchases made years ago, so I felt I should keep all my old brokerage statements.) 
Class action lawsuits against companies are somewhat controversial. On the one hand, they do serve a valid purpose of holding companies accountable when they wrong a large number of people for damages that would be too small for any one individual to sue for. On the other hand, there are a lot of questionable lawyers that abuse the process and use class action suits as a way to generate income for their law firms.

No matter your position on them, they are here to stay and when one comes my way, I will take advantage of it.

Today, I reaped the benefits of my paperless lifestyle. I received notification of a class action lawsuit against THQ (who was actually an old employer of mine). To receive a claim from the lawsuit, you need to submit proof that you bought or sold THQ stock within a certain time period. That proof needed to be in the form of brokerage statements.

If I did not have electronic records, I wouldn't even bother tracking this information down. The time frame in question was between May, 2011 and February, 2012. I've got a lot of brokerage accounts. It probably would take me a couple of hours to go through paper copies looking for transactions involving THQ stock.

eStatements to the rescue!

Because I have gone paperless, all my statements are stored in .PDF files. Furthermore, Windows can read .PDF files and can index the contents. So I just navigated to my brokerage statements folder on my computer, typed "THQ" in the Search bar, and bam! I got a list of all my statements that contained THQ. Because I use a naming convention based on the date, I was able to easily find the three brokerage statements I needed for the class action suit.

I Was Just Paid $600 An Hour!

I printed them out, filled out the claim form, and mailed it in. Total time spent: about 30 minutes. Based on the claim form instructions, I should receive about $301 from the lawsuit. Not bad! And it's even better when you realize that I just made more money from stocks I sold over 5 years ago!

If you want to go all out with the class action lawsuits, you can visit for a list of hundreds of class actions lawsuits you might be a party to.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pie-Based Investing with M1 Finance

Pies are delicious and with the holidays approaching, I'm looking forward to the cornucopia of pies that my family seems to produce this time of year. Those pies do a great job expanding my waistline, but they don't do so well when it comes to expanding my financial accounts.

Financial Pies

 Enter M1 Finance. This innovative new way to invest combines the automation of robo-brokers with the flexibility and control of a traditional brokerage account.

The concept is simple. You define a pie chart showing how you want your investments allocated - say 20% in conservative investments, 20% in stock of one company, and 60% in a mutual fund - and M1 does the rest! Each time you make a deposit, which can be scheduled to occur on a regular basis, M1 will purchase equities in the proportion your pie directs. M1 even purchases fractional shares, so your money is always invested as quickly as possible. No waiting around until you accumulate enough to purchase a full share!

Don't know what your pie should look like? M1 offers professionally created and managed pies for a variety of investments styles and objectives.

Over time, some assets will outperform others and your pie may get out of balance. A simple click of  a button will rebalance your investments. If you are using a pre-defined pie, this is done automatically for you each quarter.

Of course, all this can be done on your phone or tablet with their easy to use app.

How Much Does It Cost?

M1's pricing structure beats a traditional brokerage any day. Rather than pay a commission on each trade, M1 charges a low flat fee based on how much money you have invested with them. Your first $1,000 is free. For balances between $1,000 and $100,000, the fee is only 0.25% per year. Accounts large than that get a lower fee of just 0.15%. Keep in mind this is for unlimited trades. Rebalance every day if you want.

Regular Investing Is The Key

Studies have shown that the best way to build wealth in the stock market is to make regular investments. M1's combination of regular, periodic deposits and fractional share purchases ensure that you are able to get invested quickly and often. Furthermore, regular, periodic investing is the basis of dollar cost averaging, another proven technique to help manage risk.

There are no setup fees and accounts under $1,000 are free, so you have nothing to lose by trying them out! Click here to open an account.

Note: From time to time, I may recommend products or services. I may receive some form of compensation. See my disclosure page for full details.