With less than two months left in 2021, I have been talking to Eric non-stop (okay, more like I talk, he listens) about what I plan on doing with *our* money. We have always shared our finances and this arrangement has worked quite well. Did we ever argue about money? Absolutely. However, at the end of the day, we have pretty similar money beliefs and values (I also might have brainwashed him). As much as I joke about keeping Eric away from our finances on Instagram, he is still my go-to for advice on big decisions (e.g., a big expense or investment). It works out really well because I tend to be extreme (either follow my gut or overthink to a point of non-action) while Eric is more “if money can solve problems, they aren’t problems.”
Note, I am going to use “my” a lot in this post but Eric and I have had multiple discussions about this. I have been mostly successful in convincing him to get what I want. JOKING. Or not.
My Money Beliefs
I thought I would start by sharing my main money beliefs. I am in no way saying these are the right beliefs as I keep growing as a person. However, this is how I believe money should work for us for now.
Use money to buy happiness, not suffering
There is a saying in Cantonese (“比錢買難受”) which translate to “spend money to suffer”. Trying to get the latest iPhone ten years ago would be an example: fans lined up for hours to buy something that would be widely available later. Even though some did it for resell, many did it for themselves. Of course, not everyone would agree with my example. However, for me, I constantly remind myself not to do that. I should spend my hard-earned money on something that makes me happier, not to suffer in any way.
Never spend money to impress others
This is how I stopped myself from spending thousands of dollars on a purse whenever a design caught my eyes. I don’t generally go out of my way to look for them but I have fallen in love with several designs thanks to social media. If it was completely up to Eric, he would have bought it the second I said I liked it provided that the item is good quality (because he believes in paying for quality). However, I would always question myself “why.” Even if I genuinely like the design of the purse and not the brand, is there a reason why I can’t find a much cheaper alternative instead?
I am not saying I have never splurged or will never again. However, when I do, I will make sure I am doing it for nobody but myself.
Never spend more just because I have more
It is so easy to fall into the trap of increasing your overall budget the second you got a raise or bonus at work. This is also a reason why high-paying individuals do not always have high net-worth. On this note, the book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy does a really amazing job explaining it with data.
Saving for retirement is important but it should not be my only goal
I want the perfect balance between YOLO (you only live once) and being able to retire comfortably. This means I will not jeopardize my current quality of life for the sole purpose of retiring with more money. I believe in taking care of myself now and also of myself in the future.
My Financial Planning Process
1. Ask myself what do I want the most
I first ask myself what do I want the most. Money is finite so I don’t expect to get everything on my list. The goals below range from short- to long-term because they shape how I spend money.
There are two trips I want to go on in 2022. Edmonton for my best friend’s wedding in June and Asia (Hong Kong & Japan) to visit family and eat in the Fall. We might go to Vegas for a short trip for our May birthdays but this one is definitely lower on my list.
If I get designated as a CPA in early 2022 as planned, I hope to make significantly more than what I do now within the year. It will help with my cash flow and allow me to invest more. However, since I have a good mentor and flexibility at my current job, this goal is flexible.
This is one of the financial goals like every other year. When I wrote a post about my retirement plan last year, I shared my objective is to maintain a certain level of quality of life if I retire at 55. To do that, one of the ways is to have two investment properties and a well-funded portfolio.
RELATED POST – Is $1.5 Million Enough To Retire at 55?
2. What is my financial situation?
I have been updating our net worth monthly for years now. Also, since not all assets are liquid, I also update our cash flow projections for the next 12 months. As a result, I know what we have at all times. It helps me analyze what we can afford to do and what we can’t. However, this knowledge is not always used to analyze major financial decision. Something as minor as spontaneously taking a short weekend trip to the island can be an example of when the cash flow projection comes in handy.
To calculate your net worth, it is as simple as:
Market Value of Your Assets (Savings, Vehicle, RRSP etc.) minus Market Value of Your Debts (student loan, credit card bill etc.)
To create your own cash flow projection, all you do is the following:
Month #1: Opening Balance + Cash In – Cash Out = Ending Balance
Month #2: Month’s 1’s Ending Balance + Cash In – Cash Out = Month 2’s Ending Balance
…. and so on.
Items such as your paychecks and dividends are examples of cash in. Rent payment and car insurance are examples of cash out.
RELATED POST – What You Can Do to Prepare for A Recession – Part 1
3. Ask the questions & explore my options
After I figure out what I want, I enter the questions phase.
- What kind of risks can I tolerate?
- am I thinking of switching career? starting a business? is the industry I am in volatile?
- What kind of big expenses are upcoming?
- medical procedures that are not covered by insurance fully (e.g., Invisalign), property taxes, renovation etc.
- Do I anticipate an increase of cash flow?
- a promotion at work or a change of job can have a significant impact on your cash flow
Then, depending on what the answers were, I explore my options. I almost never recommend keeping your cash in a savings account even if it offers interest (0.25 to 1.25%). The rates are usually much lower than what you can get by investing in a diversified portfolio. For reference, the average US market’s return was 13.9% and Canadian market’s return was 5.8% in the last decade. However, I do believe in the importance of having easy access to a minimum amount cash in case of emergency (“emergency funds”). In those cases, savings account would be the perfect vehicle to store the fund.
Aside from my emergency fund, I explore the investment options available:
- stock market (mutual funds, ETFs, individual stocks)
- real estate (physical properties or REITs)
- your business (possibilities are endless)
- education (this might not provide an immediate return but it often will return well later down the road)
My Income Sources
In no particular order, my income sources are:
- salary as an accountant
- dividends from stocks
- ad income from jenthinks
- rental income from our investment property
As of right now, my salary still provides the highest cash in-flow. I don’t anticipate this to not be true in the next 3 to 5 years especially if I keep moving up in my career. However, I do intend to keep growing the income I get from other sources. There are so many reasons for diversifying your income and one of them being the flexibility of saying ‘no’ to unreasonable tasks and/or quitting toxic working environment.
What I Decided Spending My Money On In 2022
The ones I am sharing here either mean a lot to me or have major financial impact. Note, they are presented in no meaningful order.
Home Renovation / Furnishing
Even though we moved in before the summer, we decided to postpone our renovation and furnishing until later this year. We could have gone the slow and DIY route but I loath furniture shopping. Interior design is not something I am good at and I find the process absolutely daunting. So, we ran some numbers and hired a local design firm. We started with a low 5-figure budget before realizing it was not feasible for the amount of work and furniture I want. I ran the numbers again and increased the budget significantly before we met again last month. However, I have since decided to decrease it by a little because of the rest of my plan.
As mentioned, there are two trips I want to take in 2022 (Edmonton and Asia). The Edmonton trip will be 4 to 5 days so I budgeted $2,500. The Asia trip will be at least 2 weeks so I budgeted $10,000 for the both of us. If Vegas does happen, a 4-day trip would probably cost us about the same as Edmonton. However, since that is not confirmed, I left it out of our budget.
I have been mostly investing in ETFs for years. I liked how easy and cheap it was to achieve diversification (low risks). It made sense to me then because I was still working my way up in my career. I didn’t get paid well and I was a lot more replaceable working in an entry-level position. However, with my designation next year, I am more confident in the stability of my corporate income. Note, I believe getting laid off is always a possibility but I simply think I am more employable than 5 years ago.
As I enter my 30s and get designated as a CPA, I have decided to take more calculated risks with regards to my portfolio. I intend to invest in more individual stocks I believe have growth potential and keep a much smaller % of ETFs. Since Eric wanted to get involved this year, we decided to each come up with 3 companies to invest in and have a little competition to see who has the best return at the end of 2022.
Second Investment Property
If you followed me on Instagram, you would know that I love staying up-to-date with real estate opportunities. It is a passion of mine and I love learning about the different projects in the Lower Mainland. Last week, I actually had a lengthy discussion with Eric about getting our second investment property. We got our first one a couple of years ago and managed to collect full rent during the pandemic (having an amazing property management company helped a lot).
This time around, we had a specific area and budget in mind. We wanted to get a presale that would complete in 2 to 3 years. However, our plan was to commit sometime in mid-2022.
Then, my mom expressed interest in investing with me over the weekend. She originally had something else in mind but I thought I would just move my plan forward. She agreed so I got to work. I am still ironing out the details (specific project, % of ownership etc.) but hoping to wrap it up before the year is up.
A final note: I learned very early on to always exercise the same caution when you invest with family as you would when you invest with strangers. This is not about trust but about fairness and protection. As a result, lawyers will be involved at some point.