December 2009: Net Worth Report and Financial Plans For Year 2010
Published 12/31/09 (Modified 3/8/11)
Well, it looks like January 2010 has finally arrived. Goodbye 2009, and hello 2010!
According to most public sentiment surveys I've seen thus far, the overwhelming consensus is that 2009 was a particularly terrible year. The economy tanked, retirement savings were largely wiped out, and home equity values were pretty much eviscerated. However, where there's misery, there always seems to be a smidgen lining of hope. Despite most people's vastly negative opinion of 2009, the great majority of surveys indicate a very optimistic outlook for 2010. Maybe it's because this time around, we are no longer staring at the barrel of an imminent financial sector meltdown and hearing the ghastly doomsday warnings of a possible decade-long economic depression, but things certainly feel less dire than the same time 12 months ago.
Most certainly, while we are still languishing under the worst economic recession in decades with depressive unemployment rates continuing to climb, the pace at which the economy continues to worsen has drastically decreased. In other words, while the economy is still deteriorating, it's worsening at a significantly slower pace than before. This is very good news for the aspiring optimists and opportunists in all of us. Most significantly, there also does appear to be tangible economic metrics emerging to back up the growing optimistic fervor for 2010. While I personally think we are still many months away from a real and sustainable recovery, I think we are decidedly heading in the right direction as punctuated by the fact that I've been jumping back into the stock market of late and starting to invest strongly and aggressively in long term positions again - positions that I think will pay off handsomely in the future. Previously during the very early part of spring 2009, I exited and stayed away from the market to protect myself from the effects of the irrational fear and panic that was crippling the American psyche. But with the way things are now, I am pretty confident that the worst case scenario has been averted and all that remains now is for the economy to begin its long and steady natural progression towards recovery. While home prices will almost undoubtedly not return to pre-recession levels anytime soon, home prices will most likely stabilize during 2010, leading to a positive and steady ripple effect across other sectors.
In terms of my New Year's resolutions for myself in the financial planning and income growth department, I plan to make 2010 a banner year for my bank savings account balances and investment holdings. Now is the most opportunist time to start placing one's bets for the distant future. Despite the mild market run up since spring 2009, stock market prices on the whole are still lagging and have not returned to pre-recessionary panic levels. If you have cash on the sidelines and have been waiting for the so-called "best time to start investing", now is the time to start opening up a discount broker account and start investing those excess savings into long term mutual funds, or better yet - into the exchange traded funds (ETF's) of your choice. I've personally chosen to invest heavily into riskier financial and emerging market funds (such as the XLF and EEM funds) to fully maximize the potential of my future gains. However, your personal investment strategy is up to you and dependent on your willingness to assume risk today for a greater payday in the not too distance future.
My Current Net Worth and Financial Status Update Compared To Last Month
Allocating Cash Savings For The Closing Of My New Home Purchase
Back in August 2009, I signed a contract for the purchase of a brand new construction 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom cottage style single family colonial home. For several months now, I've been patiently monitoring the construction progress of my first home purchase ever - swinging by the home lot to take photos of the inside and outside at least once every week. Most recently, the transformation from a pile of dirt to a free standing wood and concrete structure has been nothing been dramatic. With the roof tiles now in place and the windows having been installed, the home is starting to really take shape. While the housing construction is proceeding rapidly and steadily, there have been a few slow downs due in large part to the recent snow storm activity that we've been experiencing in the D.C. Baltimore area the last few weeks. Coupled with the time off effects of Christmas and New Year's, construction work has occasionally stalled - but I expect things to start picking up again briskly when construction starts rolling into January.
Currently, the new home is tentatively scheduled to be completed and delivered sometime early March 2010. As such, I've prepared and saved up a sizable cash balance to pay towards my new home mortgage 20% down payment. With the home priced at around $622,000 (this is pretty much average for the D.C. area), I presently have set aside and reserved more than the necessary $125,000 down payment I will need for home mortgage purposes. While there have been several times that I've been tempted to allocate this special purpose money into various lucrative stock market investments, I managed to do the right thing and keep the funds safely segregated in their own separate bank accounts.
Funding My IRA and Opening Up A New SEP-IRA Account For Stock Investing
Most people rely on their employer's 401(k)'s with matching contribution packages for most of their retirement planning needs. But because I am currently fully self employed with my network of online businesses and run my own legal practice from my home office, I have to depend on myself. Fortunately for solo practitioners and self employed folks like myself, the IRS provides a useful mechanism for us to still take full advantage of the tax deferred benefits of individual retirement savings accounts - namely the SEP-IRA. Because I've already maxed out my limited Roth IRA and Individual IRA contribution limits and desire to contribute more, I recently, I opened up a SEP IRA account with Fidelity Investments. The greatest benefit of a SEP-IRA account apart from the obvious tax deferred benefits, is that the maximum contribution limit is pretty generous - at 25% of an individual's compensation, capped at a maximum of $49,000 for both individual tax years 2009 and 2010. Eventually, I may very well open up a few more other SEP-IRA investment accounts with other reputable online discount brokerage firms to test them all out - but for now, I'm going with Fidelity.
Relying On My Passive Online Income Streams For A Living
Unfortunately, due to several notable and rather complicated personal situations during the last few months, I've neglected to post on my personal finance blog and other online blogs as frequently as I would have liked to. While I've continued to maintain and tend to my online businesses and network of profitable websites on a regular basis, I have not really posted new articles with much regularity. But despite my lack of effort and lack of any substantial headway in the way of content creation, my online income streams continue to remain very stable (with even signs of growth). This brings me to the most powerful and compelling aspect of why I truly believe any person who is strongly self motivated ought to start blogging to make money online and not delay in tapping into the powers and limitless potential of the Internet. Because of all of the effort I had previously put into my online craft for the last 2 and a half years, I've built up a very substantial network of online traffic streams that remain solidly consistent despite my lack of present effort. Contrary to what most layman and blogging beginners believe, once you have built up solid search engine traffic and have earned reputational authority in the eyes of major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo - your keyword rankings pretty much stay consistent indefinitely (and dare I say it, permanently). Once you have this search engine authority built up, it's very difficult for new blogging and website entrants into the field to supplement your existing position. This probably explains why numerous major media companies have been trying to contact me recently to inquire about potential buyout opportunities or website acquisitions. Frankly, I have very little incentive to entertain such offers as I truly enjoy the significant incomes I generate from the sites that I own, as they require very little effort on my part - but of course, with the right offers, anything is possible I suppose.
For those of you who have always thought about wanting to start blogging online to either share your���� interests with the rest of the world or just to make some money on the side or even provide your family an alternative income source during these difficult and unpredictable times - now is the time to start blogging and pursuing your web business aspirations. The more you delay, the more such opportunities will gradually slip away. Carpe diem!