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My Journey to Financial Independence

Hi reader,

I am a happily married Asian with two wonderful kids and a loving wife. We live in beautiful but unaffordable California! However, we have both been blessed with stable careers but have reached our mid 40s and realized that the rat race/maze is something we would like to stop in the near future.

I decided to write this blog to document our journey to financial independence but also remind us (and perhaps teach others) about the mistakes we have made in the past in order to avoid doing so in the future.  As it is often said, “History repeats itself.”

I hope to discuss a variety of life lessons throughout this year regarding our journey including:

  • Retirement investing
  • Budgeting/spending
  • Real estate investing
  • Credit cards/credit scores
  • Raising a family
  • Educational resources

Wife comments: Holy cow! You think anyone is going to read this? It put me to sleep in just two minutes!….

I guess that can be a positive? 

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Be Pavlov’s Dog!!!

Since graduating from school and no longer playing active team sports.  I realized that my nature requires that I keep a scorecard of how I am doing.  Case in point, the periodic updates on our financial situation.

I found that keeping a scorecard of our savings, income, debts and net worth helps motivate us to continue our journey. Similar to weighing yourself on a scale.

Wife’s comment: The scale does not define me!!!

We use both http://www.mint.com and http://www.personalcapital.com – if you read financial blogs I am sure you have run into both in the past.

Continue reading “Be Pavlov’s Dog!!!”

The American Dream for the Other

America the Melting Pot the Salad Bowl or the rancid Potato Salad????

I believed and still believe that America is still the envy of the other countries and that so many people do wish to come here and pursue “Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

We have all from a young age been indoctrinated with the motto: “Pursue what you love passionately, dedicatedly – do not let anyone or anything stand in your way”.

This is bull larky!  I believe this has led many of us astray or provided an excuse to pursue castles built on sand.  History has shown Revolutions have displaced people from safety and security and left many behind.  We are going through such a period today and it’s called the Technological Revolution.  A revolution that is replacing many working and middle class jobs but also opening up a new era of freedom, communication and self actualization.  The question is:

“Are you one of the beneficiaries of this revolution or are you or your loved ones being left behind?”

Continue reading “The American Dream for the Other”

I Can Beat the Market..or Not. What Stock Market Crash?

stock crash

Wife comment: You know red is a lucky color in Asian cultures?

September 29, 2008 – Black Monday, we had been only married for 6 months when the Dow fell 777 points.  I remember coming home from work and realizing as I watched the news the past month has seen our combined retirement accounts decrease significantly.  The urge to jump ship and sell everything while running to the hills and the strongest emotion – FEAR.  The Dow would eventually hit bottom on 6,594.44 on March 5, 2009 – our retirement accounts would decrease by half when all was said and done.

I believe many of us could no longer bear the bleeding from a thousand cuts over those 5 months and tuned out. Our own 401k lost over 50% of its value how much worse could it get?  The actions we took (some of these actions may sound familiar to some of you)?

  • We sold some stock to get some cash, but left the rest in the market believing it was better to have something then watch it go to zero.
  • We continued to contribute to our 401ks but not as aggressively – not maxing out.
  • We turned off the news, could not bear to continue to watch the bloodletting.
  • We ignored the market, focusing on local or personal issues.
  • Hoarded cash in savings account.
  • Employed ostrich investment strategy. Stick your head in the sand, ignore it, that lion will go away.
  • Listened to all the talking heads and slick advisors, I meant, stock advisors on what to do. Some was good advice but knowing what was good vs. bad was an issue.

During this time I didn’t realize how lucky I was because there were a significant amount of Americans who would be hit with a double whammy of the stock market crash and the housing bubble caused by our titans of Wall Street and their innovative derivatives.  Many families would end up losing their homes as owners or renters.

Wife comment: Hey don’t just blame the bankers! Some of it was our greed too! You almost convinced me to buy that rinky dink condo for half a million!  Remember what you said? “No honey we are not in a housing bubble! This is California…they don’t go through boom and busts!” Have you heard of the saying,”California or Bust?”

housing bubble

Wife comment: Pretty housing bubble…so pretty. Is that a key or needle?

Mortgage-backed securities anyone? Made to order, fried, boiled or raw – all Americans were affected…whether you were a homeowner, renter, investment tycoon or mom and pop investor.

More importantly, if you were young and just entering the workforce the next ten years were going to be difficult. Potentially, the Great Recession will impact your future earnings for the rest of your life.

Now that I ruined your day and gave you bad flashbacks…

There were positive lessons we learned from this in the graduate school called The School of Hard Knocks that we all became enrolled in:

Some Lessons (to be elaborated on in future posts):

  • Cut back on spending (interesting issues on this), learning about wants and needs.
  • Focused on budgets, budgets, budgets…did I say BUUUUDGETS???!!!
  • Alternative investments. Spreading and diversifying your income stream.
  • Life insurance, safety net not investment.  Looking at the market gyrations was bound to give some of us heart attacks…
  • Money markets aren’t risk free.  Whaaaat..you can lose money??
  • Refocusing our priorities: New baby, renting vs. buying, work – keeping our jobs, re-evaluating what makes us happy…fulfilled.
  • Evaluating what is the American Dream? Is telling your kid,”Pursue what you love, the money will come.” make sense?
  • Your only guarantee with the stock market: The market goes through boom and bust cycles. However the average bust cycle is something you can weather if you have planned well.
  • Sometimes dumb luck can make you look like a genius but who wants to depend on dumb luck?
  • Understanding our FEAR, gaining perspective and how important information, experience and education vs ignorance can allay your fear, decrease bad decision making, and allow you to seize opportunities while others are running away.

Final thoughts for today. Reflect on the charts below and and chew on some tasty thought nuggets. We may be heading towards a market correction….but…so what?
Continue reading “I Can Beat the Market..or Not. What Stock Market Crash?”

How the journey started

Ten years ago I got married to the love of my life.  Long story short, I highly recommend going on as many blind dates that your family or best friends try to introduce you to…you just never know.

We were both in our early 30’s and had followed the dictum from our parents

You must finish your education and have a career before you are married

Best form of birth control ever! With graduate school or professional school for both of us, by the time we finished we were in our late twenties and working for a few years was enough for me to ask,”Mom, Dad whyyyyyyyy?”  But you know something? Listening to that advice got us to where we are today so…

Holy Cow Batman, they were right!  Now some of you readers may disagree with this piece of advice but bear with me as we continue on this journey.  I have found that learning about and possibly adopting certain cultural norms/advice have helped me tremendously.  No matter how politically incorrect it may sound, these nuggets have helped us achieve some pretty awesome things.  So I hope to share them with you in the coming year.

At the time we got married this was our financial situation.  As you can see below who really was the smart one in the family.

Wife’s Comment: Booooyah!

Well, except for her credit score….hurhur

 As of March, 2007  Myself  Wife
Credit Score                  680                      650
Salaries  $  75,000.00  $    125,000.00
Savings  $    5,000.00  $      50,000.00
Investment Accounts  $  10,000.00  $      20,000.00
Retirement Account  $  20,000.00  $    180,000.00
Car  $  18,000.00  $      15,000.00
Rent  $  (1,500.00)  $                     –
Mortgage Payment  $                 –  $      (1,800.00)
Net Worth
Home Value  $    480,000.00
Cash Equivalents & Other Assets  $  53,000.00  $    265,000.00
Mortgage  $                 –  $ (280,000.00)
Subtotal:    $  53,000.00  $    465,000.00

This doesn’t describe how each of us got to where we were before marrying each other, but we plan to describe it in later posts.