October Financial Update

We’ve been busy, which has kept our expenses down in our personal life. I’ve been working a few days at our local racetrack, which has been for my entertainment and a good way to bring in some money for our household. While our busy schedule has kept us from eating at restaurants and spending money on activities, the last quarter of the year brings big expenses on the rental front for insurance and taxes.

I still haven’t decided how to format these financial updates, but I did work on categorizing all the expenses for our year. I’d like to see how our spending changes through the year, and if I keep a running tally of the information, I’ll be able to consistently categorize expenses. At this point, I’ll just report for the whole year later in January, but it feels good to have that process started since there are a lot of transactions (already at 786 line items!).

RENTALS

We paid an extra $2000 towards the mortgage that we’re trying to pay off (we paid $1000 and our partner paid the other thousand). That mortgage balance is about $26k, which we’re responsible for half.

Kentucky taxes are due in October. Well, they’re actually due in November, but they give you a 2% discount if you pay before 11/1, so we of course do that. Two of our houses are still escrowed, so I don’t need to worry about that, but I had to pay one of the houses, which was about $1300. As an aside, I put it in the mail on 10/6 and it was taken out of our account on 10/8; I’ve never seen the mail and processing of taxes happen so quickly!

We had someone do the work on a house (fix bedroom doors and replace a missing section of fence) that was left over from my July walk throughs, and that was $490 (split with our partner). This house has been notoriously late on payments with very little communication, but they’ve turned a corner. They’re still late with payments, but they pay the late fee without prompting and give us advanced notice, which is all we ask for! They say they’ll be back on track with on time payments next month.

We’ve had issues with another rental, which I shared in my last post. They were approved for state assistance, so I’m expecting September, October, and November rent from the state here soon. Since there’s no timeframe for when that will come in, I’ve told her that she has to keep paying on the payment schedule we agreed to, and anything she pays will just go to December rent at this point.

PERSONAL EXPENSES

We had all the drywall for the basement delivered in September for $788. Several pieces arrived damaged from the strap that held them down. Mr. ODA called Home Depot since the delivery fee was $75 for this convenience, and they were super nice. She refunded us for the broken sheets and the delivery fee ($125!).

Only $130 spent in gas (that will probably go up next month since I’m driving to/from Lexington 3 times per week for work, plus a few more personal trips there). Only $92 spent in restaurants!

SUMMARY

While some of the expenses for rentals have trickled in, the next month is when most of them are going to hit. We’ll also have an annual medical bill come due in November.

Our net worth increased by $21k from last month. Our credit card balances are low, and then our cash balance is higher than usual because we used to just put any extra cash towards mortgages, but right now we’re trying to pay off that mortgage we have with a partner and rethink our approach (do we want to save for another down payment.. type question).

September Financial Update

Cooler weather is here! We have a full calendar these days with pre-school and sports. I’ve been managing that by setting a lot of alarms giving me a half hour warning that we need to leave the house for something. We also celebrated our son’s 3rd birthday with both sides of our family, which was so much fun. He knew all about a birthday and the traditions, did a great job at being grateful for his gifts, and hasn’t stopped playing with all those new toys. This month, his birthday party and a long weekend trip to Virginia were our big expenses, while the sports and activities kept us home and not eating at restaurants in between those things! On top of all this craziness, Mr. ODA went on a work trip, then I picked up a few shifts at the race track to help them out. And so, here we are, two-and-a-half weeks since my last post.

NET WORTH

About once a month, we have a meeting with our financial advisor. During last month’s meeting, his software system said that we hit $3 million net worth! Unfortunately, my numbers last month didn’t say that, and they still don’t, but we’re right there. I didn’t think it worth it to line up my information against how the software is reporting the number because a lot of our net worth is based on the current market value of our real estate, which isn’t necessarily an exact amount. I know Mr. ODA had a goal for the first million in net worth, but I wouldn’t say that we had a goal to hit this particular number. With the financial advisor, we’re working on our mentality. We’re basically trying to figure out what’s our true goal (instead of just this number), and if we had (and did) everything we wanted, what would that cost difference be? I’m working on two other posts about our mentality, and I’ll have to include this side of the thought process as well.

DETAILS

One of our credit cards has a balance of over $2,200 in this net worth update. That includes almost $1,000 of a hotel that Mr. ODA had for a work trip, the hotel for Richmond at $450, and an AirBnB charge for an upcoming trip of $424. It also includes Mr. ODA’s food purchases while on travel, which amount to about $180, and an Uber trip of $10. The work expenses will be reimbursed, but that’s not yet accounted for in the math since the payment hasn’t hit our checking account yet.

With the child tax credits coming in, our investments have gone up each month. We’re putting some of that into the kids’ investment accounts. We’ve also had other unexpected income, which led to another $500 transfer into Mr. ODA’s investment account. Usually, we see an automatic contribution of $1100 between our Roth accounts and the kids’ accounts. This month, we had $1,900.

All of our housing expenses were about the same. This coming month has a trip planned, a day to hang drywall in the basement, and me working at the race track nearly every weekend.

August Financial Update

This has been a crazy month. We went to St. Louis and New York, we tiled the basement bathroom that we’re building, I refinished a desk that I purchased 6 years ago, and we had several activities to occupy our time. Being that we’ve been so busy, we haven’t set any new goals and are still talking through what we think the next few years look like. We are still managing sleep disruptions with our nearly 3 year old, and that takes a lot of time from my day and night. Anyway, here’s how things shook out over the last month – very high credit card bills to cover many large expenses.

just for fun – my before and after of the refinished desk that I bought for $15
  • Utilities: $240. This includes internet, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. I find it interesting that it’s not routine to have irrigation in Central KY, and that’s led to surprisingly low water bills. Our water, sewer, and trash is all together each month, and it’s only $53 in the middle of the summer!
  • Groceries: $390. On top of that, I had a charge for a 4 month supply of the vitamins that I take, which I pay for up front because I don’t want to pay a surcharge to pay monthly (if I can afford to pay $300 now, I’d rather pay that then end up paying $340 for the same product at the end of 4 months).
  • Gas: $230
  • Restaurants: $215
  • Entertainment/Travel: I broke down the St. Louis trip costs in my previous post. We booked our flights to NY through the Chase portal using points. It was the equivalent of $833 for 3 round trip flights (our daughter as a lap child). We paid for parking at the airport ($36), and that was it. On top of those costs, we had several sports fees and activities that we paid for. I didn’t add up the details, but I estimate that those cost us about $300 this past month.
  • I paid $3,800 worth of medical bills (high deductible plan… we got there).
  • We spent about $175 on tile supplies for the bathroom, which includes returning about $40 worth of materials.
  • Rental work cost us a good bit this month.
    • Our plumber made his rounds to 3 of our houses on one day to address items that I found during the walk throughs in July; this cost us $730.
    • Somehow (very unlike us), we had an outstanding pest control bill from December. When I called to schedule another appointment, they requested payment (rightfully so!). We spent $290 on pest control then.
    • We purchased a hot water heater and a refrigerator for a rental property after our property manager did her walk through. We also purchased a fan and had that installed (we would have done it, but we don’t live there anymore), but we split that cost with our partner. These cost us $2,317.
    • As usual, two houses were late on rent. One paid on Friday and actually included the late fee (10% of rent). Another gave us a letter about a car accident she was in and said she wouldn’t have rent until she received the settlement money from that. It’s the 16th and we still don’t have rent. The positive here is that we have several other properties worth of income that cover the expenses on this house (mortgage), so we’re not floating the mortgage with our own money for this one house.

Here’s a tidbit of my spending. I don’t have Amazon Prime. Rarely do I need something in 2 days or less than $25 that I would need to pay for this service. I search Amazon for things that I eventually want, put it in my cart, and then when I need to hit the $25 free shipping threshold, I add the items to the cart to check out. This is how I handle Christmas shopping basically. I have thoughts on what to get for people, keep it in my “save for later” section, and then order it when I place an order. I actually have several Christmas gifts already purchased.

NET WORTH

Since I’m not able to find the time to coordinate updating all our accounts with Mr. ODA, this is just a rough update of our financials. Our net worth has increased about $58k. I’ve paid down the very high balance on our Citi card already this month, so this snapshot in time isn’t showing that I’ve already made $5k worth of payments towards that. About half of that increase is attributed to an increase in property values. The rest is attributed to the usual mortgage payments and investment balances increasing.

July Financial Update

We paid off a mortgage! Reaching this accomplishment was threatened once again when I was told another rental property needed the HVAC replaced ($3,900), but we were able to cover the cost of the unit replacement and pay off the last $3,000 on the mortgage. This gives us $391 worth of positive cash flow each month going forward.

Our two usual suspects are late on rent. One said that her bank account was frozen, and she has no idea why. With a history of forgery, fraud, and domestic abuse, I can’t imagine how this could have come about (sarcasm..). The other just casually emails us and says “Rent will be late. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Lovely. They also don’t pay the late fee, although I’m tracking that to be able to recoup it from the security deposit.

Last month, I mentioned that we had credit card rewards expiring without our knowledge. After several unanswered phone calls, it was resolved through a checking account credit.

  • Utilities: $420. This includes internet, cell phones (we pay quarterly, so this is a big bump from last month’s total), water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant.
  • Groceries: $590.
  • Gas: $327. We traveled to Virginia this month, so that caused a higher use of gas. Mr. ODA’s work trip also caused an increase in gas usage, but that’s covered through his employer.
  • Restaurants: $275.
  • Entertainment/Travel: $1,167. But this includes $485 worth of Mr. ODA’s work hotel that was reimbursed. This also includes $535 for our hotel stay in Virginia for 5 nights.
  • Investment: $1,100
  • Rental work cost us about $150 in supplies, and I paid one house’s quarterly HOA dues of $240.

Our net worth has increased again this month thanks to the stock market and property values. We’re down to 7 mortgages. We’d like to pay off one of the houses that our partner holds the mortgage on, but we need to re-evaluate our finances together first because that equates to about $20,000 for each of us.

ANNUAL TRACKING

I don’t love the format of these posts, so I’m brainstorming ways to share updates going forward. For now, I created a chart to show our spending so far this year and how it has changed month-to-month. I have a feeling I’m not categorizing our spending consistently after seeing this information, so I’m going to dive in deeper. At the end of each year, Mr. ODA asks me what our spending by category is, and I need to recreate that information each time. I thought I was being better about it this year with these monthly updates, but I’m not.

That’s my lesson learned for this month – while tracking your spending, track it consistently and look back at previous months. I thought $300 in gas was consistent with previous spending, but now I see that it’s much higher. While we did travel to Virginia this month, is that really representative of such a drastic increase? We may be ok with the entertainment that driving more has given us, or we may decide we want to scale back our spending in this category. It’s also important to know that some spending is seasonal. While our gas usage is high during the summer, we knew we were planning several trips and wanting to be out of the house more than we were over the winter.

Overall, I don’t feel like I have a good grasp of our spending after seeing this graph, and I plan to dig deeper into the costs. I’m glad I looked at it in this format halfway through the year, before I would have to go back through all 12 months of spending! It’s easy to see an increase in net worth and be complacent, but I’d rather be more intentional with our spending than we have been over the last few months.

June Financial Update

We’re continuing our spring/summer of travel and activity, which is why there are fewer posts and lots more spending.

The stock market has increased, which has been the main factor in our net worth change. We paid $2,000 towards the mortgage we’re paying down, leaving a balance of $3,300. This mortgage will be paid off once all our rent is collected for July; it was pushed back a little bit because of the flooring replacement that occurred in one of our rentals, which is why our credit card balance is much lower than last month. We’re also still waiting for half of one property’s rent, which is the norm these days.

  • Utilities: $250. This includes internet, cell phones, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant.
  • Groceries: $518
  • Gas: $268
  • Restaurants: $165. Our credit card reimburses for many of these expenses; we received credits totaling $120.13 in the last month.
  • Entertainment/Medical: $1,093
  • Investment: $1,100
  • Insurance Costs (personal and rentals): $845

VIGILANCE ON CREDIT CARD REWARDS

Mr. ODA discovered that our PNC credit card rewards balance was decreasing, despite earning new rewards this cycle. He investigated further and noticed that we had been losing rewards for a few months now. PNC has a policy that they don’t issue their rewards until you hit $100 worth of rewards. Once we hit $100, PNC sends us a check in the mail. Since they send a check, we still receive paper statements, even though we regularly check our financial accounts online. Over the past few months, both of us checked the balance to see “ok, we’re nearing $100,” but didn’t put any more effort into knowing the details of the balance. Mr. ODA happened to notice that the statement didn’t make sense.

$89+3 somehow equals $82. There isn’t a single section on our statement or via our online account that identifies the loss of rewards Mr. ODA called PNC to ask for more details and learned that our rewards expire after 2 years, despite their policy of not issuing a check until you hit $100. They basically said, it doesn’t matter that your account is over 10 years old, or that credit has been used less in the last year due to the pandemic, or that they don’t clearly identify the expiration of rewards and just identify a lower balance. As a comparison, and I keep going back to Chase, but Chase changed up their reward categories to allow the consumer to earn more rewards during the pandemic (e.g., in addition to giving rewards in the travel category, since consumers weren’t traveling, they added grocery and home improvement stores as major reward categories).

The PNC customer service representative reinstated 60 days worth of lost rewards and issued a statement credit. We don’t want a statement credit because we no longer want to use this credit card, earning rewards that we’ll never be able to capture. If we use this credit card to use up the statement credit, that’s rewards that could be earned on a different credit card. Now Mr. ODA is fighting for the credit to be applied to our checking account or to have a check sent to us (which is the preference on our profile) and fighting for the reinstatement of the rest of the rewards lost.

Without PNC, we’re down to 4 credit cards in our regular rotation. We have 3 cards that we use for categories (gas, grocery, restaurants, travel, home improvement stores), and then we have the Citi Double Cash card that is for “everyday purchases.”

May Financial Update

RENTAL PROPERTIES

We paid $2,850 in extra principal towards the main mortgage we’re paying down, leaving that mortgage with a balance of $5,500. We had a $4k flooring purchase on another house that has set our pay off timeline a few weeks back, but we’ll still have that mortgage paid off in the next couple of months. We have a rental property that we purchased in 2016 that has flooring that’s at least that old. The carpet has long passed its useful life, and the linoleum in the kitchen and laundry room has started to peel up at the seam. Typically, we wouldn’t want to replace flooring while a tenant still lives there, but they’ve lived with this for almost a year, and they’ve been our tenants since we purchased the house. As a means of keeping the tenant happy, we agreed to replace the flooring in all the rooms except the bathrooms.

We had two of our tenants not pay rent by the 5th, as required by the lease. They’re the two that are typically late, and they’re typically not up front with telling us about it. We’ve said several times that we’re really flexible landlords, but we can’t be flexible if we’re not told what is happening. With one tenant, who had just recently irked us with a plumbing issue and being incommunicado, we didn’t even reach out for information. We’ve had enough of their antics and having to chase them for rent. So I simply sent them their notice of default letter, outlining all their rights as tenants as now required under COVID-related procedures. I received an email letting me know that they’d pay on the 7th. I love their nonchalant response, like they hold the power and will pay whenever they feel like it (hmm). For the other tenant that was late, she texted to say she’d be late with the payment on the 7th, and then on the 7th only paid part of the rent due. She said she was in a car accident and there was an issue with her sick leave pay out, but she’d get it to us when it got fixed. She resolved it on the 12th, although still without the late fee.

We were able to get the invoice on the HVAC replacement for one property, which meant we paid our partner the $3,288 we owed him, on top of his usual $2,167 that we pay out for him to pay the mortgages and then his share of the profits (since I manage all the rent collections).

OUR SPENDING

Our credit card balances are high for several reasons. The $4k flooring purchase; as well as the insurance for one of our properties that isn’t escrowed because we paid off that mortgage, which was $436; an expensive gift purchase that isn’t transparent in the cash and credit line items because that cost was split 3 ways (i.e., we received 2/3 of that cost back in cash, but it’s still reflect in the credit line); and our travel.

We booked a camp site for the end of the month that required payment up front. We just got back from a trip, which increased our spending. But I’ll note that when we travel, we’re not eating expensive meals. Our interest is in the experiences and activities, rather than exploring sit down local restaurants. Our food for 5 days cost us $161 as a family of 4. We also ended up only paying for 2 of the 4 nights in the hotel because the air conditioning was broken, even after they came to ‘fix’ it, and then, when I was checking under the bed to see if any toys or socks got left behind as we were leaving, I found a large, dead roach. We didn’t ask for any comps; one was automatically reflected in my final invoice without my prompting, and then when the manager was speaking to Mr. ODA about his stay, he volunteered removing another night.

We opened a new credit card to take advantage of the bonuses since we knew we’d have this travel and the flooring cost to meet the $4,000 spending threshold for their bonus. This credit card has an annual fee of $95 and no 0% interest period, which goes against our norm when looking to open a new credit card. However, the bonus can be transferred to our Chase Rewards Portal, where we can use it to book travel at 50% the cost. We also received a $50 grocery credit.

ROUTINE UPDATES

  • My husband and I cashed in the last of his savings bonds that we got as children, so that was an extra $735 that we brought it that wasn’t planned.
  • We paid about $6,074 for our regular mortgage payments. Several of our properties had mortgage increases due to escrow shortages. I haven’t figured out which I dislike more: planning for tax and insurance payments, or the large escrow increases that seem to happen year after year. I think it’s the escrow though.
  • Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts. I should also note that I don’t speak to other investments because they happen before take-home pay, but my husband maxes out his TSP (401k) each year as well, which I had also done when I was employed.
  • Our grocery shopping cost us $700. Honestly, I don’t even know how to explain that cost jump. I think it’s because my husband shopped some deals at Kroger and Costco, so we stocked up on some things that aren’t part of our routine purchasing.   
  • We spent $200 on gas. Two trips to Cincinnati, our trip to Atlanta, and then more-than-usual trips around town. 
  • $400 went towards utilities. It’s higher than last month because we paid 3 months of our cell phones, which gets us back on quarterly billing as a family. Utilities include internet, cell phones, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. We still haven’t sought reimbursement from the builder on our electric bill, but this month’s bill was even less than the last month’s. 
  • Our entertainment costs included baseball game tickets for our trip as well as two games later this summer, parking for the games this past weekend, a new shirt for our son, activities for the kids, and the hotel. This past month, we spent $650 on things I’d classify as entertainment related. I also included boarding for our dog ($100) in this total.
  • Speaking of our dog, he had his annual appointment (shots and the year’s worth of preventative medicines), and that cost us $500.
  • We spent $292 eating at restaurants and ordering take out. We utilized a Door Dash credit on one of our Chase credit cards, which was about $30.
  • But! I killed it with running errands this month and actually returning things that needed to be returned. I returned $150 worth of items one day!
  • We paid our State taxes during this period too. Between two states, that was $954. Also, anecdotally, I’ll share that we spent $6.40 to mail our Virginia tax return. We processed our taxes through Credit Karma, as we had done last year. We got through the federal e-file and moved onto the state filing, only to find out that if you’re filing partial states, Credit Karma doesn’t support it. I had to print 70 pages of our federal return, sign it, and ship it off to Virginia.

SUMMARY

Our net worth actually dipped this month. The stock market is the main factor in that, but the house valuation estimates are starting to level off and look more realistic as well.

Between our personal lives and our business life with these rental properties, we were sure kept busy. We expect the Spring months to be a busy time of year, and honestly it feels good to be active again. While we’ve loosened the purse strings for the summer months, especially after having done hardly anything for the last year, it was still a shock to see just how much we spent in these categories. But that’s the benefit of looking at your finances regularly. We can either choose to remain on course with our summer plans, or we can dial it back if we feel this was more than we expected.

Since we know we’re on top of our finances and have set up a healthy mentality when it comes to spending, we’re comfortable looking at this information once a month. If you’re currently developing these money habits, you may want to do these types of check-ins more frequently.

April Financial Update

This month had a lot of money movement – tax payment out, stimulus check in. As I’ve shared before, we don’t budget. But you can start seeing how we’re pretty consistent on where we spend out money. This is because we have a spending mentality that we use to make each decision, rather than giving ourselves a ceiling in each category. I believe some may see a ceiling as a definitive amount to spend (e.g., if I’ve allocated $100 for restaurants this month, and by the last week I still have $75 in that budget pot, then I’m going to go spend it). If you know your long term goals and take responsibility for your decision-making, then you don’t need to pay close attention to each dollar.

With that said, my family came to visit for a week. It was our second’s first birthday, and my dad is helping us finish our basement. With 3 more adults in the house, we spent more than typical feeding them and eating at restaurants versus cooking after spending the day working in the basement. Mr. ODA and I share the same birthday, so we splurged for a nice meal that night. We actually spent about $300 at restaurants over this last month, but thanks to our Chase credit card, we received statement credits for $188 worth of these purchases!

We have also spent more on entertainment. We went to a winery and a brewery, purchased tickets for the local horse race season, and have done other activities now that the weather is nice. The pandemic and winter had our spending lower than our usual amounts, but I expect our spending to be more than it had been in these coming months. We’ve already put together our summer bucket list for travel.

We had all the tenants pay their rent on time, except one who eventually paid. Our rental income is $12,353, and we pay our business partner about $2,100 (we collect the rent and then pay him to cover the mortgages he holds and his half of the ‘profit’ after the mortgages are deducted from rent). We had to replace the HVAC in a rental. Luckily, this rental is owned with a partner, so only half the cost will affect us. We haven’t paid the bill yet, so that will hit next month.

  • We paid about $5,972 for our regular mortgage payments. We put an additional $5,000 towards an investment property mortgage, which now has a balance of $8,665. We also put $5,000 towards one of the properties that we have with a partner, which he matched, leaving that balance at $42k.
  • Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts. Our stimulus checks that we received for the kids went directly into the kids’ UTMAs.
  • Our grocery shopping cost us $539.  
  • We spent $91 on gas.
  • $290 went towards utilities. This includes internet, cell phones, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. We still haven’t sought reimbursement from the builder on our electric bill, but this month’s bill was significantly less than the previous months.
  • About $1300 was spent on supplies for the basement bathroom work. We registered the kids for swim lessons, registered our son for pre-school in the Fall, did more activities with the nice weather, and I made several gift purchases (current birthdays, baby shower, next Christmas (I like buying when I find something that makes me think of a person rather than a mad dash in the Fall to buy gifts)), so that was about $400.

SUMMARY

Our net worth has increased over $123k since last month due to our investment accounts and property values increasing. Our cash balance is starting to dwindle down to what we typically carry as ‘cash.’ And our mortgage balance is decreasing more than average due to our goal of paying off two of the mortgages that we’re carrying.

Two Years of Changes

On the surface, a jump of $1.1 million in just over 2 years seems impossible, but here’s the break down of how things changed in our finances during our child-rearing hiatus.

The highlights:
– Mrs. ODA left her job;
– We purchased three new properties;
– We sold one property;
– We paid off two mortgages and significantly paid down two others;
– Our investments grew based on market fluctuation, as well as our continued investment; and
– The value of the properties we own appreciated.


401K

Since I met Mr. ODA, I maxed out my Thrift Savings Plan (TSP, the Federal government’s 401k) contributions each year. Before that, I had been putting money into the TSP, but hadn’t maxed it out. I left my career position in May 2019, at which point I stopped contributions to my TSP. However, we put in as much as we could for the year before I quit (if Mr. ODA has his way, we’d have maxed out my contributions); I contributed $13,070 over the first 4 months of 2019. My balance on June 30, 2019 (it’s a quarterly report) was $300k. I have gained $127k over 19.5 months based on my investment strategy for the account with no new contributions. Mr. ODA continues to max out his contributions of $19,500 per year. His account balance has increased due to annual contributions, a loan repayment, and market fluctuations.


IRA AND TAXABLE

A Roth IRA has maximum contribution limitations per year. For 2019, 2020, and 2021, that amount is $6000. We each put $500 per month into the Roth IRA to max out the contributions. We have maxed out the contribution limitation every year we’ve known each other (10 years), and Mr. ODA had done so before Mrs. ODA knew such a thing. We don’t time our contributions throughout the year because we don’t want to stress about when the perfect time is and then possibly end up throwing five grand in when December rolls around. We have taken the ‘set it and forget it’ (essentially dollar cost averaging) approach to the Roth IRA investment.

Dollar Cost Averaging – Since we know we want to put $6,000 in for the year, we break it down into $500 a month and contribute on the 30th of every month regardless of individual pricing. This eliminates the need to pay attention to, and the effect of, volatility in the market. Some may say that dollar cost averaging is not a prudent idea because the market always goes up over time (essentially you’re setting yourself to pay higher and higher per share as the year progresses, on average), but I just can’t handle the psychology of dropping $6k on January 1 and not having anxiety for the rest of the year that it was the right decision.

As for the taxable accounts, this includes accounts we have set up for our children – UTMAs (however, the growth of these funds are not taxable to us because they are taxed at the minor’s rate – 0% for us). An UTMA is the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. It allows an account to be set up in the child’s name without the child carrying the tax burden of the money. The IRS allows an exclusion from the gift tax up to $15,000. We put $50 per month, per child, into the account. This is also ‘set it and forget it’ with automatic deductions from our checking account.


CASH

Our cash balance really has no meaning. We bring in income and we pay our bills. We don’t purposely keep a savings account balance (as I shared in the Leveraging Money post, we’re not interested in maintaining 3x our monthly income in a savings account at 0.01% interest rate). We don’t purposely project how much to put towards mortgage principal.

We currently have a larger-than-normal cash balance, which is left over from selling our primary residence in September. It hasn’t been dwindled lower yet because we have a fence install that needs cash and we were paying down the last of our large credit card. Now that most of these things have happened, we’ll put more of our cash balance towards the investment property mortgage we’re currently paying down.


PERSONAL MORTGAGE

In October 2018, we had been living in our previous house for just under 3 years. In January 2021, we had only made 1 mortgage payment on our new home. While our current home cost slightly less than our last home and we put 20% down for each house, we had more years of principal pay down in October 2018 than we currently have.


PERSONAL RESIDENCE AND VEHICLES

We sold our Virginia home for $400k in September 2020. The valuation of that home rose significantly over the 2019-2020 years due to lower inventory with high demand in the Central Virginia area (probably all over the country, but I don’t know those details).

Also in September 2020, I traded my vehicle in for a van (and I couldn’t be happier :)!). That increased our vehicle valuation since the van is 3 years newer and a higher cost than my previous vehicle.

Even though my vehicle value rose slightly, Mr. ODA’s vehicle’s value continued to decline, and we purchased a home in a lower cost of living area, therefore having a lower value.


INVESTMENT PROPERTY VALUES

Since October 2018, we’ve purchased 3 properties, increasing the total property value of our portfolio. Additionally, all of our properties continue to increase in value. The Virginia homes have increased significantly over the last two years. In the table below, I’ve provided each property’s change in value from January 2020 (oldest snapshot per property I have) to February 2021.

Note that this is a projection based on the internet’s valuation and not an exact science. The only house that we have a recent appraisal on is the one that we refinanced in January 2020. That house’s appraisal was $168,000; we paid $112,500 in July 2017.


INVESTMENT MORTGAGES

Of the three most recent purchases, one was purchased with a partner, split 50/50, and the other two were the last two KY houses purchased. These three added $215k of new debt. However, you see that our mortgages on investment properties have only increased by $27k, which doesn’t exactly say “we bought 3 new houses.” That’s because we’ve paid down (and sold) about $150k of mortgages in addition to 2+ years worth of mortgage payments going towards these loans.

In May 2020 and January 2021, we refinanced two properties. Quick tidbit – we signed the refinance papers in May under a tent in a parking lot, and we signed the January refinance at our kitchen table with a traveling notary. While the interest rate and monthly payment decreased, the loan balances increased because we rolled closing costs into the principal and took $2,000 cash out (the maximum allowed) in each case.

We sold one property that we had been paying down the mortgage on; in October 2018 it had a balance of $11,142, and we sold it in January 2019. We had been paying down the mortgage because it was our lowest balance. When we made that decision, selling the house wasn’t in the immediate future. An opportunity presented itself, and we sold it.

We’ve paid off two mortgages during this period. One was in January 2019 with a balance of about $44k, and another was in April 2020, which also had a balance of about $44k in the October 2018 calculation. Our intent to paying off mortgages was two-fold. It increases our monthly cash flow that helps Mrs. ODA stay home with the kids, and it gets Mr. ODA closer to being able to leave his job. Plus, due to Fannie/Freddie requirements of having no more than 10 conventional loans, it creates the opening for us to get a new mortgage if the opportunity arose. The downside is that it de-leverages the house’s financials and creates a smaller cash-on-cash return for the property.

We have also paid down 2 mortgages over the last two years that aren’t completely paid off.
– One of those properties is the one that we purchased after October 2018 with a partner. It has our highest mortgage rate. The affect on the numbers here just shows that the principal balance of that mortgage is smaller than it was originally, thereby not increasing the mortgage total ‘fully,’ if you will. The principal pay down on that mortgage has been $44k total, but we’re only responsible for half of that.
– On the other mortgage, we’ve paid almost $28k towards principal between October 2018 and now.


CREDIT CARDS

We open new credit cards with 0% interest for an introductory period when we have large purchases looming. Not only is the 0% interest beneficial to us for an introductory period of 12-15 months, but we strategically choose new cards that come with a welcome bonus (points or cash) when you reach a moderate spend level in the first several months. Given the strategic timing of a new card before a large purchase, this bonus is easy to achieve. When we have large balances on credit cards, it’s because we’re purposely carrying a balance month-to-month at 0% interest. We have never paid interest on a credit card balance.


LIFESTYLE

Despite Mrs. ODA leaving the workforce, our net worth increased for all the reasons listed above. The one unmentioned piece, because its not directly tied to any accounts, is lifestyle. While our net worth, rents, and investments have increased, our lifestyle has not creeped. We still make strategic decisions, spend money mainly on needs, look for wants that provide our happiness without breaking the bank, and generally keep our financial future at the forefront of our daily lives. We live like no one else does so eventually we can live like no one else can.

Living intentionally allows us to get to where we want to be.

February Financial Update

I had so many things to share, and now it’s time for another net worth update, but I hadn’t gone into the details of our 2019-to-2021 changes! I promise, it’ll come.

SPECIFIC LARGE CHANGES FROM LAST MONTH’S UPDATE

We paid off $5,000 left on one of our credit cards. This credit card was opened for a large purchase, and the 0% introductory rate expires at the beginning of March, so I wanted to make sure it was fully paid off so we don’t pay any interest on the balance.

We put $2,000 towards an investment property’s mortgage, and we received $2,000 cash out from another investment property’s refinance.

MONTH’S EXPENSES

Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts.

Between our personal home and the investment properties, except for the one that we refinanced so we skip February’s payment, we paid about $5,500 in mortgages. To put this in perspective, we brought in over $8800 from those properties, which doesn’t count $900 worth of rent at this time that the tenant is late on. This doesn’t include the properties that we own with a partner through an LLC, which nets us $400 each month (although one of those properties hasn’t paid rent this month yet either).

  • Our grocery shopping cost us $409.
  • We spent $76 on gas, and $72 eating take-out. We typically visit family once a week (45 miles round trip), go to the grocery (10 miles round trip) once or twice a week, and get take out once a week (10 miles round trip).
  • I made two Amazon purchases for non-grocery items we needed (e.g., activities for our 2 year old, vitamins, items for our daughter’s 1st birthday, and – really important – potty training seat), which totaled $125.
  • We owed personal property taxes from last year’s time in Virginia, so I paid the $94 for that. I also paid the balance of our personal home’s HOA, which was $85 for the rest of the year.
  • As for the investment properties, we had to purchase a new washing machine, which was $528 (although that cost is split with our partner for this particular house). We also paid for the insurance on a property that isn’t escrowed, which was $203.

$430 went towards utilities. This includes internet, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. Our electric bill was insane this month. We moved into our new home in November and had previously been living with gas heat so didn’t know what to expect. Mr. ODA called the HVAC company to have them run a diagnostic check on our units, and we found that the downstairs condenser isn’t working. It isn’t resolved yet due to an ice storm here, but hopefully it’ll be fixed today, and we hope to see some sort of compensation for our high electric bills due to this not working properly.

SUMMARY

Our net worth increased by $102k from last month’s update. This change is due to fluctuations in the stock market and the value of the houses. Our 401k balances increased over $35k, our taxable investments rose over $10k, and home values increased over $42k all together. A difference of over $5k in our credit card balances also contributed to the change in net worth.

January Financial Update

There are a lot of updates to share over the next few weeks to fully explain how our net worth changed so drastically in two years. For the time being, here’s a snapshot of this month’s status.

*The original post had IRA at $313,630, but that was double counting an investment account between ‘IRA’ and ‘taxable’ categories. The image above was updated as part of the February financial update to reflect the accurate January IRA total.

As a quick summary from where we left off, Mrs. ODA’s 401k loan and that 0% interest credit card were paid off. However, we have a new 0% credit card that now has a $5,000 balance that will be paid off in the next month. One of the investment properties was refinanced, which included a cash out option, increasing the mortgage balance. We purchased two new properties in September 2019.

These updates will occur around the 15th of every month. The investment properties’ mortgages are paid on the 10th of each month, so the majority of changes in our finances occur at this time. Future updates will include spending categories as well.