July 2017 review – a look at my finances for the month

Here’s my July 2017 review following on from my July income fund update. It’s almost like a balance sheet statement, but different!

My Score for July

Living Expenses Budget $3,970 ?
Freedom Ratio 20.2% ?
Expenses 52.8% ?
Savings 15.5% ?
Investments 31.6% ?
Wet Worth $252,652 ?
Work Freedom Day 12-Oct-17 ?
Cash Reserves 4.5 months ?
Emergency Reserves 9.4 months ?

Only one ? this month as July continued a streak of record-high Wet Worth results.

Living Expenses Budget

This is my monthly budget for living expenses and it includes both essential (e.g. groceries, mortgage, insurance), and non-essential (e.g. music, travel) purchases. $3,970 is the amount from my Budget 17.5.

The amount is more of a spending goal than a strict budget as I over/underspend each month. The budget is calculated from an estimated yearly spend divided by 12, so it’s normal for some months to be over or under the target amount.

Freedom Ratio

My Freedom Ratio is the percentage of my monthly living expenses budget that my Income Fund pays for. The current payment is $800 a month which is 20.2% of my current $3,970 monthly budget. So I’m 20% of the way to Financial Independence!

I’ll change this amount once or twice a year as dividend income increases. I aim to keep this number as a sustainable number, so it’s a little below the maximum dividends from the Income Fund.

Living Expenses %

The percentage of net income that’s spent on living expenses. Lower numbers are better here.

This month’s 52.8% is the second worse result this year, beaten only by January and February. Still I’m not complaining as it’s hovering close to 50%. I save or invest any income that I don’t spend on Living Expenses so my effective “Savings Rate” this month was 47.2%.

Like the Freedom Ratio, any change in this number is caused by a change in either income or budget. However this metric takes total monthly income into account including actual investment income. This means it jumps around more, especially in the third month of each quarter.

The average percentage value should gradually decrease over time. This is because salary and investment income will hopefully increase faster than living expenses as I try to limit lifestyle creep and personal inflation.

The Living Expenses % metric and the Work Freedom Day metric (see below) are both good incentives to avoid increasing the budget since both numbers are impacted by a higher budget.

Living Expense History

Last July I spent 52.9% of my income on expenses, so I’ve improved 0.1% points compared to this time last year! Although last year’s budget was $70 less at $3,900, this year’s result is helped by a higher paycheck and income. In other words, compared to the same month last year, salary + investment income increased at a higher rate (1.9%) than my cost of living (1.8%).

The chart above shows the trend in my Living Expenses % since the start of 2014. For the first part of 2014 I was paying two mortgages. In June 2014, I introduced Budget 1.0 after selling my first house and I made some minor tweaks in Budget 2.0 from October onwards. In January 2015 I started Budget 3.0 which I updated to Budget 3.5 in July.

Budget 4.0 started in 2016 with an increase to the monthly amount which I held constant in the mid-year review of Budget 4.5.

This year I’ve adopted Budget 17.0 which increased monthly spending to $3,970 and tweaked it a little to Budget 17.5.

Savings %

The percentage of net income spent on Savings (excluding Investments). Savings represents cash plus a long-term holding in Vanguard’s Wellington fund (VWELX).

I’m putting aside $1,100 every month for mid and long term goals (any large expense or purchase due a year or more in the future). I’ve reduced this down from ~$1,400 in previous months as I’m not saving as much towards paying down my mortgage. This month the savings percentage was 15.5% of my month’s income compared to 20.7% last year.

Last month’s saving rate was 14.8%; the percentage increased this month because income was lower due to lower dividends.

Investment %

The percentage of net income that I invest.

All spare money left over after savings and living expenses are paid goes into my Income Fund. This month it was 31.6% of my income.

I’ve written about my July portfolio income and gains in a separate post, so I won’t repeat all of that here again.

Wet Worth $

My liquid assets minus all debt (excluding retirement and non-liquid assets).

My Wet Worth increased $7,958 in July from $247,882 to $252,652. This is yet another all-time high and so far this year there’s not been any decline. There’s a more detailed breakdown of this amount further below.

Work Freedom Day

The day in the year that my dividend income could pay for the rest of the year’s expenses.

The current estimate of my Work Freedom Day remains at 12 October 2017, which is fast approaching! This number includes some very conservative estimates of fund income, so hopefully it will move forward again later this year. It’s nice to think that I only need to work 10 months of the year before investment income takes over.

Note that based on my $3,970 budget, one Work Freedom Day requires about $132 of dividend income which in turn requires about $4,400 of capital. Financial Independence then requires about $1,588,000 at a 3% yield.

Cash Reserves

This is a new metric I’m reporting to keep a closer eye on the account balance of my Living Expense account. I’m tracking the number of months of monthly expenses currently in my Living Expense account. Cash stored in other accounts such as Savings and Investment is not included here.

I spent a total of $2,698.65 in July which means I underspent my budget by $1,272. There were no unexpected purchases so it was a pretty quiet month all in all. I did add $215 from my Savings to pay towards Medical expenses and I also received $267.29 as the final insurance payment for the roof repair.

The account balance at the end of July is now at 4.5 months of living expenses, compared to 4.0 months in May.

Emergency Reserves

After my recent Emergency Fund shuffle, I’m now holding $37,127 in VBIIX as part of my Income Fund. I added $700 in cash and the fund now has $796.19 in capital gains.

This total would fund 9.4 months of living expenses (at $3,970 a month) in an emergency.

Wet Worth detail

I’m showing my Wet Worth in this post – this is the cost of my liquid assets minus debt, I exclude assets and retirement accounts from this number. I prefer this over Net Worth since the equity in large assets (house, car) and retirement funds is hard to get at and not always predictable. I find this is a more honest view of where I’m at on my journey.

The change in Wet Worth is caused by

Cash +$1,834 I underspent my monthly budget, received an insurance payment and used some Savings.
Debt +$8,673 Debt increased this month as I charged the $7,800 roof repair payment to my credit card. The bill won’t be paid until August.
Savings +$3,085 Savings increased quite a bit in addition to my regular saving amounts as I received an HSA contribution from my employer. VWELX gained $600 in capital gains too.
Income Fund +$8,524 My Income Fund market value increased this month. See my earlier post for details.
Total +$4,770 Total change in Wet Worth

July 2017 Summary

Budget Review

I’ve updated my Budget to 17.5. This hasn’t changed the monthly living expense allowance but it made me cut some expenses.

Back to hospital

I’ve been back to hospital this month for a small test / procedure as part of my preventative cancer treatment. Total cost of the visit was $3,000 but I’m on the hook for $1,200 which will show up in October’s report because of the billing / credit card delays. I’ll be back at the hospital for more of the same in December.

In other news

My Wet Worth reached a new record high continuing the winning streak from each month so far this year. This result means that I could pay off all my debts with liquid assets tomorrow and still have over $250,000 remaining. Of course, that’s not the plan since Mr. Taxman would want some money too.

A positive Wet Worth lets me consider myself to be debt-free. I chose not to aggressively pay my mortgage down because I can get better returns in the market and I prefer more liquidity.

So another solid month. It’s one more step in the right direction towards Financial Independence!

Quote of the Day

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.

4 thoughts on “July 2017 review – a look at my finances for the month”

  1. Good luck on your treatment! My wife was diagnosed with cancer October 2013. Her treatment costs are in excess of $2.7M (after insurance – she has had 4 operations and 2 14 day hospital stays for blood clots) and she still have 14 months left to go on her 5 year treatment plan.

    1. Thanks Dave, I wish the best for your wife’s continued and successful treatment. It sounds like it’s been a rough time so I hope the worst of it is behind her.
      My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a long time ago but fortunately they caught it early and after surgery / drugs she’s healthier than ever now 30 years later.
      I have a genetic condition that causes pre-cancerous polyps which will lead to colon cancer. As long as they can remove them faster than they grow and before they mutate then everything’s fine. But more and more grow every year so eventually real surgery will be needed.
      Best wishes,

  2. Nice update, Dividend Life! I really like how detailed you are and the stats you’re tracking, such as your Wet Worth and Work Freedom Day. Keep up the good work!

    I wish you all the best on your treatment!

    1. Hi FerdiS,
      Thanks for your support, I appreciate it! 🙂 Congrats on the great options income / report this month.
      Best wishes,

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