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End of March Update

April 1st, 2015 at 05:36 am

Investments lost some money this month, so we are down a little in spite of making contributions.

401ks: $252,528
IRAs: $44,305
Def Compensation: $91,539

Total Retirement: $388,372

Taxable Accounts
SCHB ETF: 2,755
Fidelity: 84,824
Loyal3, TradeKing: $9,963
DRiP/DSPP Plans: $2,275
P2P Lending Accounts: 3,493

Total Taxable: 103,310

Total Investment Balances: $491,682

Total amounts invested this year:

401ks (including match): $4,187
Deferred Comp: $1,443
Schwab ETF Fund: 650
P2P Lending: $885
IRAs: $900
Loyal3, DRiP Plans etc (Taxable): $5,938

Total Invested: $14,002

Planning Ahead

March 17th, 2015 at 11:07 am

It occurred to me this morning that it is really much more fun to tell other people what's wrong with the way the earn, spend, and invest their money than to sit down and make some of the hard decisions about my own money.

No seriously. Tell me what your next paycheck is going to be and I'll form a 100% correct opinion in the next 20 seconds. My own? Blah.

Next month is EXTRA PAYCHECKS month around here which means some decisions have to be made. This is my thinking so far.

Roth IRA Investment Account $1,000

Car Repair Sinking Fund $1,000 (we totally emptied this out a couple of months ago when all 3 of our cars decided to get sick the same week)

Peer 2 Peer Lending Investments $300 (This Investment Account continues to do quite well for me, still earning a respectable 8%)

Child 1, Child 2 .. $200 Money I'll put in savings in order to handle the next unexpected expense they throw my way

House Repair - $1000 Our Chimney Rebuild has been completed and now we move on to a driveway resurface project

Schwab Taxable Investment Fund - $300

Education - $1000 Tuition money

Total $4800. So a little bit toward several of our goals. No vacation or big spending sprees. Maybe putting it here will make it more committed. But I'll likely change my mind about 10 or 20 more times before we actually get the money next month.

I am at about 2310 Swagbucks. Has anybody else ever noticed how hard it is to earn the last couple hundred needed to cash out? But as soon as I get enough for a $25 Paypal, I'll likely be sending that to my Loyal3 Investment account.

Brokerage Activity

March 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am

I received an invite last week to open an account at Robinhood - the new brokerage that has been receiving press for no commission buys and sells of stock. I wanted to give it a try, so we transferred money in and bought one share of Caterpillar Tractor stock.

I chose Caterpillar for a couple of reasons. It has a high dividend yield and has been trading near the bottom end of it's one year trading range. It has for a long time been on our lists of "Possible" to set up a DRIP/DSPP plan, but we've always passed on it because it has a particularly fee laden direct purchase plan with set-up fees and purchase fees and we prefer to choose no fee DRiP/DSP plans.

Our plan right now is to buy one share a month of Caterpillar for the foreseeable future, although we have no commitment to do so such as with an enrollment in some DRiP/DSP plans. We could also buy more than one share on any trading day, again with with no trading commissions.

My general impression of Robinhood this far


1. Relatively painless to set-up account, transfer in cash and buy stock. It even allowed me to set a limit on the Buy price which is something our Loyal3 brokerage account lacks.

2. Unlike Loyal3, which only offers an extremely limited number of stocks which can be purchased, nearly any US company that sells stock can be purchased via Robinhood.

3. Real time trading. A few other of the low cost brokers such as Loyal3 and the regular monthly purchase option at Sharebuilder employ batch trading, which means that you might need to wait a full trading day or more to sell your stocks, if you wanted to sell for whatever reason.


1. I can only trade on iOS devices. In their FAQ section they mention that an Android and Web Based method of trading is on their to do lists.
This is actually a big deal for me as I personally use an Android phone and tablet. I can only access this account via my husband's iPAD mini, which is often in my husband's briefcase and not readily available for me.

2. Ongoing concern. Many might remember the saga of another no fee brokerage from a couple of years ago - Zecco. They simply were not able to maintain the no fee business model and all their accounts eventually ended up at TradeKing when the two companies merged. Currently this is not a huge concern of mine as I'm only dealing with a small number of shares of one stock and I will not have a significant account balance for quite awhile.

This factor, however, is why I have no interest in transferring my other brokerage holdings TO Robinhood in spite of the fact that I could buy and sell those holdings commission free. If they are still around several years from now and things have gone well with them, I might consider a transfer. Until then I will have to deal with another brokerage, another set of tax forms and added complication of having money in several different accounts.

3. Robinhood does not offer automatic dividend reinvestment, although the website states it is also in their list of possible future benefits. Automatic Dividend Reinvestment is a strategy we often employ with our DRiP/DSP plans and with some other stocks we own such as Lockheed Martin.

4. Similarly they do not offer the purchase of fractional shares, although few Brokerage Accounts do. With our Loyal3 account in particular we often take the $10 to $15 we might have saved elsewhere (such as on the grocery bill) and use that to purchase a small fractional share of a stock such as Berkshire or Apple. The advantage of being able to dribble in $10 at a time is the HUGE strength of the Loyal3 brokerage.

5. No Joint account registration. This account is only registered in my name and not jointly owned by my husband because Individual Ownership is the only option available at the moment. Again, with such a small account balance it is not a significant factor, although I prefer accounts to be jointly owned with clear Beneficiary Designations in order to circumvent Estate issues should I kick the bucket next week. These are advantages to holding investments at the larger, more established institutions such as Fidelity. This is another reason I would not consider depositing large holdings with Robinhood for the moment.

Beyond Robinhood, we also made purchases at Loyal3 today. We added $10 to each of the following stock holdings at our Loyal3 account, for a total of $80: Apple, Google, Hasbro, Intel, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Microsoft, Unilever.

A few of our DRiP/DSP are scheduled for automatic buys soon. Exxon, Pinnacle West and Realty Income.

March is an active Dividend month for many companies. I will be collecting dividends from several stock positions and we manually reinvest those that do not automatically reinvest into new or established stock holdings.

} { This Close!

March 2nd, 2015 at 07:51 am

Well, we are almost half millionaires. I suppose we probably are if house equity and cars etc were included but I really don't consider either of those "investments" and I don't like to worry too much about market values of assets that are so illiquid that it seems pointless. We don't live in a "hot" real estate market. It isn't uncommon for houses in our area to take years to sell, so it's a good thing we're fairly happy living here.

I also don't consider the college funds we have set aside because it's pretty certain that all that money will be spent on tuitions. LOL

Investment Balances at end of February

Retirement Accounts

401ks: $253,454
IRAs: $43,743
Def Compensation: $91,216

Total Retirement: $388,413

Taxable Accounts
SCHB ETF: 2,633
Fidelity: 91,946
Loyal3, TradeKing: $8,870
DRiP/DSPP Plans: $2002
P2P Lending Accounts: 3,295

Total Taxable: 108,746

Total Investments: $497,160

We have been playing around with several calculators recently trying to determine just how we should structure our money in order to fund an early retirement. In other words, how to pay for those years before we can start tapping our 401k and IRA money. This is the main reason we have been saving so hard outside of retirement funds in recent years.

About the one concrete factor we can agree on is that we'll need a paid off house. Our mortgage is scheduled to dip below $100k balance in the next couple of months so we are strongly considering using a large part of our year end bonus monies to knock it out. With such a low interest rate I'm not convinced it is the best thing to do, but then again the stock market seems to be positioning for another one of those "corrections" so maybe a guaranteed return of debt payoff is better than Investing right now.

February Mid-Month

February 14th, 2015 at 03:25 pm

So far

Non-Paycheck Income

Swagbucks/Perk/Surveys etc $130.06
Credit Card Rewards $60.60
Storage Rent etc $67.97
Stock Dividends $10.46

Non-Retirement Investments made

P2P Lending Accounts: $260
Loyal3 Account and DRiP Accts: $1047.9
TradeKing Brokerage: $497.15

Balance of Retirement Accounts: $386,014
Balance of Non-Retirement Accounts: $102,039.56
Total Investments: $488,053.71

Note: I am really looking forward to breaking $500,000.

So far in 2015 our Investments have increased by $26,485. Of that $8467 has been from contributions and the remainder from growth.

Organizing DRiP Plans and Purchases

February 10th, 2015 at 10:20 am

I have a few DRiP/DSPP purchase plans going and the one thing everybody complains about with these is keeping track of your cost basis. That isn't always so easy when you have little fractional amounts of dividends being reinvested every month. I've been doing it all on a spreadsheet but yesterday I started using the portfolio tracker at the CBS MarketWatch site. I spent a couple of hours inputting my history in and ongoing shouldn't be as difficult. Since I'm a numbers geek, that was actually kind of fun and as a bonus I got to put off cleaning the bathrooms because I was busy with important money stuff. I'll see how that goes.

Valentines Day this weekend which really is not my favorite holiday at all. I don't know why, after almost 28 years of marriage my husband and I cannot come to some compromise on this but we are always out of whack. I spend big, he doesn't. He spends big, I don't. Or we both spend big and then I spend the next month wishing we didn't have so much chocolate in the house trying to attach itself to my hips.

But whatever. I got him some sort of "Love Gift Pack" of 3 bottles from a winery and a set of Depression Era Glass Wine Glasses from an antique store. I've seen the credit card bill, I think we're about equal in outflows so hopefully it won't be another "But you didn't stick to the agreement!" holiday.

I received some money from surveys and a rent payment so I sent $110 off to my Loyal3 stock purchase account. This is how I divided it up

Berkshire $30
Coca Cola $30
Apple $10
Mattel $10
Intel $10
Unilever $10
Google $10

I am up to a whopping .1155 Shares of Google stock! I think when it gets to the point of owning one full share I might have the family celebrate with a Pizza Night or something. Woo Hoo we own a full share of Google!

Since our Tax Refund is going to be so much larger than expected, I also took $500 that I had saved up to replace our Furnace and A/C system this summer and bought 20 shares of GE stock in my TradeKing account this morning.

My P2P Loan accounts are going pretty well. Between Lending Club and Prosper I have a little over $3000 accumulated in there and it's currently generating about a 7% return. My returns are lower than many of the people who post at places like LendAcademy, but at this point in time I'm still sticking with the higher quality notes rated A, B and C which mostly return 7 to 10%. I haven't decided when I'll feel comfortable diversifying out into some of the riskier loan pools but likely not until it gets to over $10,000.

Ebates and Tax Estimate

February 6th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Received $52.90 from Ebates today. Haven't quite decided where to send the money but it will go into one of the investment accounts.

We have about 90% of the paperwork we need to complete our taxes, and all of the major items like W2 forms and our Real Estate Taxes. So far our Federal Refund looks to be around $8k. This is mostly because I was extremely busy last December and didn't have time to look closely at all the numbers, so I had husband's company withhold a huge amount of his year end bonus just to be "safe." I guess I hit safe and then some. I haven't looked at the State yet but I've never gotten a huge refund or owed a huge amount on the State return.

The good thing about this is it should cover our heating and a/c system upgrades planned for this summer. Now I can move on to saving for some roof repairs and fixing up our driveway.

Since 2015 will likely be similar to 2014 in terms of income, I'm reducing our quarterly estimated payments.

Loyal3 Stock Purchases

February 4th, 2015 at 10:03 am

I finished getting all my accounts reconciled in YNAB and my cumulative under budget amounts for the month of January was $223.

I made the following stock purchases in my Loyal3 account. In case you are unfamiliar, Loyal3 is a new-ish discount broker that lets you buy choose from a slate of around 50 companies and purchase small amounts with no commissions or fees.

They also let you purchase fractional shares. So you can buy a fraction of one stock for as little as $10. For instance, even though just one share of Google costs over $500, I am able to buy a tiny fraction of a share for $25.

Apple $15
Alibaba $40
Berkshire Class B (I hired Warren Buffet!) $25
Google $25
Hasbro $25
Kraft $18
Mattel $15
McDonalds $20
Microsoft $20
Unilever $20

I am attempting with this account to build balances in some strong Dividend Stocks as well as throw in a few Growth and Technology companies.

Some January Numbers

February 2nd, 2015 at 09:38 am

Amounts Saved:

Retirement Accounts
401K - $1,182.92
Non-Deductible IRA: $300
Employer Match - $591.45
Voluntary Def Compensation: $477.8

Taxable Accounts:
Schwab: $200
P2P Lending: $300
DRiP/DSPP/Loyal3 $1,511

Some Balances:
Retirement Accounts: $368,421
Other Investments: $80,788
Emergency Fund (added $400) - $23,198.79
Furnace and A/C Replacement Fund (just started) - $481.65
Chimney Rebuild Fund - $2147.78

I have applied to start a new DRIP for HCP, Inc. The minimum starting purchase is $750, which I've set aside. However the plan only processes new purchases once a month so my account is waiting for the next batch processing date to fund. I didn't include that in my amounts saved since the money is still in my bank account. But I've already subtracted it from my register.

Unfortunately my husband's company stock has taken a huge hit this year which has reduced our Net Worth. It looks bad on paper but since we had no plans to sell the stock, hopefully it will recover sooner rather than later. The President was golden parachuted away in December and they are now in rebuilding mode.

My husband thinks they will have a much stronger year financially since they just picked up 2 rather huge contracts. There are rumors that the Dividend is going to be decreased next quarter which is important to my planning processes, since we use much of that Dividend money to invest in other places. We'll just have to wait and see what happens. Thankfully I dissuaded my husband from buying more Company stock within his 401K, which many employees have done. They are all kind of nervous now.

I have a 0% Discover balance that is due to start charging interest on the March statement so I will probably pay it off fairly soon. I like to pay those off far in advance so I can be certain the balance is at $0 well before the cut-off date.

For the first time in over 2 years, I don't think we'll have enough Fidelity Investment rewards accrued to cash out for investing this month. But EBATES is supposed to pay this month so I'll get some money there. I received a $25 Swagbucks payment right at the end of January so even with the bonus on the 5th, it'll be a bit of time before I can make a February cash-out.

Mid-Month Update

January 15th, 2015 at 05:53 am

Non-Paycheck Income

Swagbucks/Surveys Etc: $135.22
Credit Card Rewards: $140.6
Savings Acct Interest: $18.6
Quarterly Company Stock Dividends: $1531.2
Rent Collected: $50
Other Dividends: $0.83

Total 1876.11

Deposits Made

GE Capital Bank: 400
P2P Lending Accounts: $300
Loyal3 Account: $275
Other DRIP/DPP: $550

Total $1525

I am holding some money back because I'm considering starting a DRIP for the stock HCP. This is a Real Estate Investment company which invests in health care properties including senior housing and skilled nursing and medical complexes. It is currently paying a dividend of around 4.5% The minimum initial deposit is $750.

Also, as I said in a previous post, we've had an expensive month around here with things breaking down left and right. I am trying to cut down on our admittedly way too high grocery bill for the rest of the month in order to offset some of the expenses.

The good news is our little dog hasn't had another seizure. He has about another week left on his pills and then we'll need to take him back for another blood test. The Vet says that if that blood test comes back okay, the best course of action would be just to monitor him and hope he just never has another one or at least they don't ever get more frequent than one every 3 years or so that he's had so far.

A Few Investing Purchases

January 6th, 2015 at 09:55 am

My DH collected $1289 in quarterly dividends from his Employee Stock account. $500 was added to a bit of cash already at TradeKing Brokerage and we bought 5 more shares of Chevron. The rest is in holding pattern while we make a few decisions.

$100 that we collected for renting space in our storage shed to a neighbor went to Schwab Brokerage and was invested in SCHB.

Payment on some Independent Contractor work I did .... $100 to the Realty Income stock purchase plan and $50 to the Pinnacle West stock purchase plan. These are both DRIP/DSPP plans where transactions are made commission free and dividends are automatically reinvested.

$10 from survey income went to the Loyal3.com Investment account to invest in Berkshire Class B. I just set this account up last week so this is the first $10 invested there.

I cashed in $25 in Swagbucks this morning for a Paypal reward. That will likely go to my P2P Lending Investment Account at Prosper.com

Blog Reboot

January 2nd, 2015 at 04:49 pm

New Year, New Intents Yada Yada Yada.....

I haven't posted in like, forever - I'm a bad, bad blogger. But no time like January to start anew.

I was thinking about a blog and for now I'd like to concentrate on what I like to call my "Investing Hobby" money.

When I say this what I mean is the amounts that are about to follow are not our Retirement Funds or Emergency Fund or anything like that. These are accounts that I hold using mostly what I like to call found money. Some of it is extra work I pick up doing small business bookkeeping here and there. Some of it is Swagbucks and Survey amounts. Some of it is from when I come under budget in grocery or other items in a month and I'll sweep the difference into my investments. Occasionally life aligns in a manner that we just have some extra money and DH and I will agree to take a small part of it and put it in one of these accounts.

So to start the year, this is where things were at the beginning of January/end of December.

1. Lending Club/Prosper P2P Loans Investment Account. $2,725.86

Back in 2013 I became very interested in the things I was reading about Peer to Peer Lending and I wanted to give it a try. But, I didn't want to risk what I considered "real" (I do know the money isn't fake, seriously) money. I determined that I was going to take what I earned with Swagbucks, Survey sites etc and use those funds. I literally started these accounts with $100 and I just keep reinvesting the interest and pumping new money in as I get it. Some months it is a couple hundred bucks, some not so much.

I will later write about how I choose loans and how it has worked out, mostly good but some bad.

2. Schwab Acct (currently all SCHB, which is an ETF). $2,051.43

This is just a broad US Market ETF that trades commission free. I like it because it reinvests dividends and it is a fuss free way to invest fairly small amounts and keep it diversified. We have several other schwab ETF investments in our retirement account, but this is the only one I hold in a regular taxable investment account. Most of this was bought using money I made from a garage sale and EBAY etc.

3. Individual Stocks. (TradeKing, DRIP Plans, Loyal3) 9,441.92

I'll write more about how I ended up with each of these stocks later. Let me just say I do realize that nearly every intelligent financial advisor on the planet recommends against owning individual stocks in such small amounts. That's why I don't do this with our retirement or college funds or whatever. I've just realized that I LIKE owning individual stocks. Many years ago I was a member of an Investment Club and it was lots of fun, but we moved so I had to cash out. For now I've tried to limit myself to under 10 symbols so I can keep up with them.
I've been dabbling with this for a couple of years, but with the kids not sucking up so much of our income with tuitions now --- money is just a bit more freely available and I get to play with it more.

So this is what I have right now

Berkshire Class B 2 shares
Realty Income Corp 6 shares
Abbvie Corp 6 shares
ATT 16 shares
Pinnacle West 10 shares
Chevron 8 shares
National Healthcare 19 shares
Lockheed Martin 10 shares
Lending Club 125 shares
Disney 1 shares

I will just quickly explain the Lending Club stock as it is a large holding for us and not exactly a fit considering the other companies I've bought stock in, or how I got the money to buy it.

When the company (Lending Club) issued their IPO awhile back, they gave their existing customers a chance to participate. I've never done an IPO before, and I might never again because they are very risky. But I thought it sounded intriguing so DH and I decided to go ahead because the IPO just coincidently matched up with one of his "extra paycheck months."

My gut says that I should probably sell these shares now at a nice profit. But right now I'm still in the Short Term holding period, which means a huge chunk of our gain would just go to the government for taxes and I HATE to pay more taxes. So I haven't done it yet.

Total of the 3 Sections - $14,219

So that's about it for now. I think it would be fun to see if I can get this total to over $20,000 by the end of 2015 while still maintaining our Retirement and other savings goals.

Looking at my sidebar Author Info I really need to update that too. My son did graduate college, we did go on a vacation but I wouldn't mind another one. Our savings account has about $40k in it right now, but I have around $15k in 0% Credit Card balances that need to be paid off in February and March. I'm not sure of our exact Mortgage balance but I do know that 2015 is the year it is supposed to go under $100,000 so that's pretty exciting.

And if you actually read all this rambling, thanks!

Drip Drip Drip Drip

February 4th, 2013 at 11:06 am

Tiny little snowflakes have been appearing all morning. $3.84 Paypal deposit from QuickRewards, a $22 check for some textbooks I sold and I won $5 in a Superbowl pool.

The funny thing is that I am such a numbers geek, putting all those little snowflakes into my YNAB and then dutifully assigning them a job gives me such a happy feeling. I wish everyday could be a happy little snowflakes day.

My husband this weekend discovered we live in what is known as YNAB Bufferland, which means we have one full month of budget saved up in our checking account and we are living on January's income in February.

"You mean I can have ALL my allowance for the month right now?"

"You betcha!"

So then later on he asked how our other savings was doing and I showed him our Retirement spreadsheets, Vacation funds, and Emergency Savings. He gets these bursts of interest in our finances about two or three times a year. Otherwise, he's content just to know the ATM will give him his allowance whenever he asks for it. LOL

We are very much opposites attract in that manner because I HAVE to balance my checking account daily or I get hives. I even do it on vacation -- wake up and balance the checking account online.