Year End Summary – 2002

A look back into 2002 where I held no stocks and so was largely oblivious to the stock market turmoil that year. I spent a month working in my company’s Singapore office and briefly considered transferring there until I met Ms. DivLife and decided to stay put in the US.

Let’s turn the pages back and take a look…

March 2002 saw the start of a stock market crash as the fallout from 9/11, the war on terror and additional corporate scandals [1] continued to shake investor confidence. Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act [2] in response, setting financial reporting standards and criminal penalties for violations. The market reverted back to 1997 levels in July and all three market indexes ended the year lower than at the start.

Brits had a chance to wave their flags this year when Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Golden Jubilee in February, marking 50 years since the death of King George VI in 1952. Sadly the much beloved Queen Mother died a month later in March. Former European currencies such as the French Franc and German Mark ceased to be legal tender as the transition to the Euro completed. In domestic news, the Homeland Security Act was passed, creating the Department of Homeland Security and the Iraq War Resolution was passed allowing military action against Iraq.

The line up of world’s largest companies as of March 31st, changed again from the previous year. [3]

Rank Change Company Ticker Market Cap ($B)
1 General Electric GE 372 (-22%)
2 +3 Microsoft MSFT 326 (+26%)
3 Exxon Mobil XOM 299 (+5%)
4 +2 Wal-Mart WMT 273 (+9%)
5 +2 Citigroup C 255 (+2%)
6 -2 Pfizer PFE 249 (-6%)
7 +2 Intel INTC 227 (-10%)
8 NEW British Petroleum BP 200
9 NEW Johnson & Johnson JNJ 197
10 Royal Dutch Shell RDS.B 189 (-8%)

Cisco and Vodafone fell off the list and remain out of play today; Vodafone losing > $38B and Cisco, more than $$110B. JNJ made a guest appearance this year as well as BP who would hold on for several more years.

I entirely gave up any semblance of a budget this year and I had no reconciled account records. The one thing I did partly-right this year was to start contributing to my company’s 401(K). I say partly-right as I started paying into a money-market fund and promptly forgot all about it for the next 6 years.

As for things I did wrong, they’re numerous:
1) Incurred bank charges on cash withdrawals.
2) Incurred additional fees from not paying some rent / bills on time.
3) Failed to create a budget.
4) Failed to cancel subscriptions and services I really didn’t need.
5) Failed to spot duplicate charges in my bank accounts that I suspect were bank errors.

At least today I’m protected against a lot of those mistakes. My Charles Schwab account refunds any ATM fees; I have automatic payments for nearly every bill and Ally Bank bill payment for the ones that I don’t. And I’m now tracking my finances daily [4] in my budgeting Excel spreadsheet, which addresses #2, #3, $4 & #5 combined.

On the whole however, my net-worth increased again this year as I spent less than I earned.

I wired some money back to the UK in September; I have no idea why now to be honest.

The year’s score card was

Living expenses increased for the third year in a row, helped by yet another 5% increase in the monthly rent. Even though I did contribute to a 401(K), the numbers above are taken from net income; not gross. In other words, I didn’t contribute after-tax dollars to a retirement plan.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

[1] In a word – WorldCom. Or is that two?

[2] If you work in a large corporation today, you’ll likely know all about it.

[3] Source: Wikipedia

[4] Typically it’s only minutes per day: Start Quicken, download transactions, check any activity against my Excel file. Some days (stock purchases and end of month) require more time however. And being somewhat OCD, I generally spend time tweaking the spreadsheet formatting or adding a new feature or report to it.

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