REVIEWING MY INVESTMENTS FOR 2016
I figure 2016 was the last year of focused investing and savings for me. I started investing in 2012, having raided my 401k accounts prior to that on 2 occasions. It was December, 2012 when I realized that I was doing what most of my peers were doing with their income, spending rather than saving it.
There is nothing wrong with spending your income, buying nicer and bigger/better things as your income increases, as long as whatever it is that you’re paying for is in line with your values. It’s a tragedy to look at a hunk of metal sitting in your driveway 2 years after its purchase and regretting dropping $60k on it.
2007-2012 were high income years for me as well as high spending years, moonlighting in residency marking the first year of this bullrun and 2012 marking the end. I managed to accumulate more debt than I was able to pay off but taking on credit card debt, auto debt and a mortgage.
By end of 2012 I was still spending my money, but no longer on fancy clothes, engine upgrades, new cars or fancy vacations. Instead, I was spending my money buying assets rather than liabilities. The former which earns me more money but is not very sexy, the latter which only depreciates but provides more entertainment.
INVESTING THROUGH WORK
The advantage of being a part-time or full-time employee is that there are a lot of investment options for retirement. Back when I was with Southern California Kaiser, I was getting a 401k, a Keogh and a pension.
The 401k was deducted from my paycheck, the Keogh & pension came out of SCPMG’s pockets. I started maxing out my retirement contribution, which I am now very grateful for. The Keogh and 401k together, couldn’t exceed the IRS mandated maximum of $53k of retirement contributions.
Now, at Northwest Kaiser Permanente, I get to max out my 401k which comes out of my pockets, $18k per year. They match me at 2% from their own pocket, add another 9% into a 401a and they give me a 10% cash-balance plan – all from them.
I am incredibly fortunate for my employer being so generous when it comes to helping me secure my retirement. KP is one of the most transparent companies I know when it comes to such work benefits. Unfortunately, the individuals in charge of benefits know very little, exacerbated by physicians on the retirement committee who know even less.
MY 2015 WORKPLACE INVESTMENTS
I think it’s really important to keep track of your investments, whatever you contribute either to a private brokerage account or through work. Not only is it important for the sake of the IRS and taxes, but more importantly, it helps you count the steps left towards being financially secure.
My timeline for work after residency:
2009 – SCPMG
2010 – SCPMG
2011 – SCPMG
2012 – SCPMG
2013 – SCPMG
2014 – SCPMG
2015 – NWKP
2016 – NWKP
2017 – per diem
I contributed $18,000 to my 401k in 2015.
They contributed $5,031 to my 401k through their 2% matching.
They contributed $25,590 to a 401a.
They contributed $25,100 to a cash-balance plan.
That’s a grand total of $73,721 for 2015 or $6,143/month. None of this was taxed and most of it helped me lower my taxable income.
MY 2016 WORKPLACE INVESTMENTS
I keep a running spreadsheet for all my paychecks. I fish the data out of the paychecks and enter them into the spreadsheet. The columns have the following titles:
- gross paycheck
- 401k deducted (me)
- HSA contribution (work)
- 401a contribution (work)
- Cash Balance Plan contribution (work)
- SS taxes
- Medicare taxes
- Federal taxes
- State taxes
- gross earning YTD
- take-home per paycheck
- take-home + retirement contributions
I contributed $18,000 to my 401k in 2016.
They contributed $4,032 to my 401k through their 2% matching.
They contributed $17,990 to a 401a.
They contributed $19,989 to a cash-balance plan.
That comes out to $60,011 for the entire year or $5,001/month.
$111,000 got deposited into my checking account in 2016, this is my net-pay or take-home pay.
$60,000 went into my retirement accounts as I outlined above.
That’s a take-home total of $171,000.
$72,000 was deducted from my total income towards taxes.
WHAT I CONTRIBUTED MYSELF
I invested around $80,000 into my own private brokerage account. This is an average monthly savings of $6,700/month.
There were some bonuses paid, less than $10k for the whole year, and I had some other income as I was transitioning off of working for Kaiser. The reason I mention this is that, if you’ve done the math, I didn’t just spend $30k for the year. My expenses for the year were closer to $40,000 in 2016.
MY NET WORTH CHANGE IN 2016
I think it’s important to see how powerful your investments can be by looking at how your net worth has grown or shrunk. After all, if I invested $10,000 in one year and was up only $10,000 for that year then I would be just saving, not investing.
I had a net worth increase of $190,000 from 1/2016-12/2016.
The point of investing for retirement isn’t to get the biggest, sexiest of returns. If you are after high returns then you have to take big risks, I’m not a fan of risking my retirement money in that way.
I believe it’s better to build up a healthy investment account for my retirement years, then drop down my number of hours working and just contribute enough to keep my investments growing.
I prefer to spend my free time learning about investing, searching for those slightly riskier investments, which I can slightly offset in risk-value by adding some market research or personal knowledge. The more I learn and practice investing in these higher yield vehicles, the better chance I have at succeeding in them.
WHAT IF MY NET WORTH WAS DOWN
It took me a while to understand the concept behind following an investment strategy. Choosing one that makes sense to me, sticking with it, learning it and profiting from it.
What if during this same period my $170k investment dropped in value, taking my net worth up by only $130k. Would that mean that I failed or that I was unsuccessful, or that I lost money?
No. Let me break down the answer a bit. My net worth is a touch above $700k, but these are just numbers. They don’t mean much because the majority of my investments are invested, so they aren’t spendable, per se. Even if I had all this money in cash, it wouldn’t mean a whole lot because I wouldn’t be spending it all in the short foreseeable future. Market forces can have massive effects on savings a few years.
$175k is the value of my paid off condo which is part of the net worth above. Sure, it allows me to live rent free, but it’s not like saying “I have $175k in my pocket right now”.
Just like my net worth is more of a concept, my gains and losses are that exact same thing. They are only relevant once I realize them. Only when I sell my condo and have the cash in my pocket have I realized the value of the condo.
So, in a long-winded answer, it doesn’t matter if my investments were down. I am keeping track of my net worth mostly because I want to learn and hone my investment skills. My investment strategy is far more important than my investments. I know this sounds a bit counterintuitive but a viable investment plan will last forever while an individual investment can eat shit and tank.