January 2010: Net Worth Update and Paying Estimated Taxes
Published 1/30/10 (Modified 3/8/11)
The first month of the new year was a good month for me financially. Now you must be wondering to yourself - how can that possibly be - especially considering that my calculated net worth dropped in excess of $15,000 for the month of January. Well, because I only show a singular snapshot of my financial picture in each of my monthly net worth updates - they generally don't reveal sufficient cash flow numbers to offer one a complete picture of my true financial health from all appropriate angles. Thus, the balance sheet numbers reflected on these reports can at times be somewhat misleading, as in this particular case. At first blush, my January numbers would seem to suggest that this particular month was a disappointing one. But truth be told, in terms of earnings stability and projected future income potential, January 2010 was yet another reliably steady month for me.
For January 2010, the combined income accumulated from this personal finance blog, the revenue generated by my other online affiliate ventures, and the part time income I earned from my small legal practice as an attorney - all saw slight increases. However, much of the income stats were gobbled up by the hefty estimated tax payments I had to make to the federal and state government during the month. Because I operate my small business and solo legal practice using a cash basis form of accounting, I don't spread the estimated quarterly tax payments evenly throughout the year, but rather record them on my personal financial balance statements only when they are actually paid out - resulting in these precipitous drops in total net asset value that occur four times a year.
There was one major financial hit however which came from a furious stock market correction that reared its ugly head at the latter half of the month, which pretty much wiped out the hefty gains I would have been on track to record. But as far as the worth of my stock investments go, I don't generally pay substantial attention to them - as I see them as long term investments that will ultimately pay off years down the road. Month to month dips in stock portfolio value don't generally rattle me in any significant way (so long as there aren't serious financial Armageddon type issues lingering in the market). On the whole, so long as I can continue to pull in a steady income with my online website businesses and small legal practice, I am generally content to stay the course. No one ever said becoming a millionaire would be easy, as there are bound to be unexpected bumps on the road. But so long as the rules haven't changed to any major degree, the economic and financial landscape will inevitably improve in the long run, and such long term investments will ultimately enjoy much success.
My Current Net Worth and Financial Status Update Compared To Last Month
Paying My Quarterly Estimated Taxes As A Self Employed Taxpayer
For those not familiar with what quarterly estimated taxes are in general, or not sure as to why they took such a big bite out of my networth this month, here's a quick explanation. Estimated taxes are basically the�� income taxes that self employed individuals like myself�� pay on income that is not subjected to withholding. This income includes everything�� from self employment income, interest, stock dividends, rental income, and gains from the sale of assets, etc. It's important to pay attention to this obligation, because failure to timely pay the quarterly assessed estimated taxes on time does result in a hefty penalty and associated interest charges, even in those cases where you are ultimately due a refund when you file the tax return.
Most people never have to deal with paying estimated taxes because their employers usually already withhold their federal, state, and social security taxes on their paychecks. But for self employed small business owners like myself, because we don't have someone else to withhold these types of taxes for us, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has mandated that we do so ourselves - requiring us to make four projected pre-payments throughout the year at set intervals on April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year. One of these hefty tax payment dates occurred in January, which is why the vast bulk of the income I generated during the month was siphoned off to pay the Man. But next month, my networth will likely return back to its regularly anticipated upward growth trajectory.
Buy Low, Sell High - And Continue Investing In A Down Stock Market
Some are saying that we are up for another routine market correction after a somewhat furious run up from spring 2009, while others are running around in circles predicting another major collapse again. But once you cut past the rhetoric and emotional hyperboles, you realize that it's really just business as usual. The economy naturally ebbs and flows and there is always bound to be good stock market days and bad ones as well. But if you are generally optimistic about the distant future as I am and are willing to make your long term investment bets today, I am confident that years from now, your investments will pay off quite handsomely.
While I keep a rather sizable amount stored away in my safe and secure FDIC insured high interest bank accounts for emergency fund purposes, the vast bulk of my savings reside in discount broker accounts - invested into a variety of long range investments. I intend to stay invested for quite a few years - at least 3-5 years before I plan to engage in any significant portfolio reshuffling. I think the market is currently at its low and that all indicators strongly suggest that there is only tremendous upside from hereon. It is certainly possibly for the market to continue getting spooked and experience a pullback, but I don't think we are in for another financial Armageddon scenario or are on the verge of a serious economic depression - the likes of which were talked about during the early part of last year. We are definitely on the road to economic recovery - however, admittedly, the road is long, and heavily paved with pot holes and obstacles.
Cashing In and Taking Advantage Of Credit Card Rewards and Bonuses
This month I also happened to redeem a rather large chunk of the credit card rewards I've accumulated over the last many months - converting my various credit card reward points into usable currency - namely, gift cards. Overwhelmingly, the more lucrative card reward program I use at the present time is the Citi Thank You network, with the American Express Blue Cash program being a close second. Because I used reward credit cards to pay for pretty much everything I purchase, I tend to rack up a substantial amount of reward points in a very short period of time.
The amount of credit card reward points I had accrued after only a year of routine credit card spending was rather enormous (in my opinion) - an amount that exceeded a value of $1,500. Ultimately, I decided to convert the majority of them into gift cards to places like Marshall's and Macy's. I don't go shopping for clothing very often, but I'll probably go on a small shopping spree in the near future with my new found loot. I had the option to convert my accrued credit card reward points into a cash lump sum, but for those who are familiar with credit card rebates and rewards, the point to cash conversion rate is frequently pretty low - and you tend to lose a big chunk of your points during the conversion process. While pure cash back credit card rewards are more versatile and bypass the hassle of having to manually convert accrued points into usable gifts or rewards, I've found that point based reward programs tend to offer a higher purchase rebate percentage. If you don't mind a little work or putting in a little effort towards micro-managing your points, you're better off going with a point based reward program.
I know credit cards tend to get a very bad rap with many out there believing them to be the source of all evil as evidenced by the government's recent crusade to regulate every aspect of how credit card issuers run their businesses. However, I personally feel credit card programs are what you make of them. If you spend responsibly and pay off your balances in full every month, the credit card usage incentives they provide can be extremely lucrative. Even those who persistently carry monthly balances are not without options - there are a variety of 0% balance credit cards and low interest credit card deals out there for the qualified applicants to take advantage of. Keep those FICO credit scores high and monitor them regularly with programs like MyFICO Score Watch like I do, and you'll ensure that you'll always have access to the best credit card offers according to your personalized needs.