My personal finance journey – a look back to 2000

No, that’s not a typo in the title. This really is a summary of my personal finance journey in the year 2000 since that was the starting point of my new life in the US. It will be interesting to see where my money went and what mistakes I made. I’m reading a book called Your Money or Your Life and it encourages working out how much money you’ve earned in your life – so this is part 1.

Luckily I kept pretty good financial records for that particular year – my financial situation in Germany wasn’t that great and I was used to tracking my income to the last pfennig [1]. This was my first year in the US and I arrived on these shores with only a carry-on bag containing clothes and my personal laptop. I was shuttling back and forth between Germany and the US with my job for the first part of the year and it was only later in the year that I started to rent an apartment and lease a car.

Without further ado, let’s take a look back into the past.

The year 2000 marked the beginning of the end of the dot-com boom. The NASDAQ index peaked on March 12 at 5132.52 and went downhill from there. 14 years later, the NASDAQ has yet to reach those same heights.

On March 31, the top ten largest companies by market capitalization were [2]

Rank Company Ticker Market Cap ($ Billion)
1 Microsoft MSFT 586
2 General Electric GE 474
3 NTT DoCoMo DCM 366
4 Cisco Systems CSCO 348
5 Wal-Mart WMT 286
6 Intel INTC 277
7 Nippon Telegraph NTT 274
8 Exxon Mobil XOM 265
9 Lucent (*) ALU 237
10 Deutsche Telekom DTEGY 209

In a lightning round of other news, the world survived the Y2K date transition [3], the 27th Olympic Games were held in Australia, George Bush was narrowly elected president over Al Gore and the first crew arrived at the International Space Station. The US population was 281 million people, the 1 billionth person was born in India and just north of 6 billion people were living on the planet.

I held no investments that year, not even a 401(K), although by the end of the year I had a little money saved in my first checking and savings accounts at Chase. I didn’t even think about the stock market to be honest; in the UK it’s not something the average person did since there were higher barriers to buying stocks at that time (more fees, taxes, hassle) than in the US.

So my net worth went something like

Major events? Hmm…let’s see. In April I spent a lot on a business trip that was later reimbursed. In June I bought a desktop PC. In August, I leased a new car for 3 years.

Scorecard

My scorecard for 2000 looked like

Average Living Expense $1,405
Security Ratio 0%
Retirement 0%
Savings 10%
Expenses 37%
Wet Worth $4,943

It’s a mixed-bag really. On the bright side, I managed to save some money and my living expenses were around 35% of my income. I opened a deposit-secured credit card account to start building credit and I wasn’t carrying a monthly balance.

On the other hand, I spent around 53% of my income with little to show for it, nor did I contribute to my company’s retirement plan.


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


[1] I was leaving the country as the Euro currency was entering, so it was still German Marks back then. It was only in January 2002 that Euro notes and coins were in general circulation.

[2] Source: Wikipedia

[3] I remember watching the live broadcasts that evening in the UK with amusement as first New Zealand, then Australia failed to melt into a pile of radioactive waste (or whatever else ‘really bad’ thing was supposed to happen) in an encouraging sign that civilization would continue. Then I went to the pub.

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