categoryNet Worth

March 2021 Review

Hello!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty busy month.

Among other things, the new job is keeping me very busy. Compared to my previous job, it’s the complete opposite. I need to justify that raise increase, huh? After every workday, my brain is just mush, and I still feel like I need to learn a million things. Thankfully, I see a progression. Until then, fake it ’til you make it, they say.

I also participated in the Quebec podcast 20 ans, pas l’temps?, as my Facebook page subscribers may have noticed. I actually participated in three different parts. Although I was apprehensive, as any introvert would have been, I absolutely loved the experience! 🙂

On top of all that, spring has arrived and with it, sunshine and warmth! I’m not mad about it. I feel like I’m slowly coming out of hibernation.

In short, I’ve had a little less time and energy to write, but I’m not giving up on this blog. The frequency of publication may slow down a bit, but don’t worry. My motivation towards my FIRE goal is still very much alive! 🙂

Now, let’s see if the numbers are also motivating.

Net Worth as of March 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,109
$38,978
$45,376
$35,456
$5,752
$13,427
$2,053
Total assets:$142,151
Liabilities
Car loan:
Line of credit:
Credit cards:
$6,577
$0
$56
Total liabilities:$6,578
Net Worth$135,518
Difference+$9,432

We can see a very nice progression this month! This increase is mostly due to an exceptional savings rate, which will be detailed below. Also, the car loan continues its slow descent, which increases my net worth at the same rate.

My crypto portfolio is growing rapidly, as much due to the rapid increase in value of the various cryptos I hold, as well as due to the $30 bonuses I received thanks to my Shakepay referral link. Thanks again to everyone who used it. 🙂

You may have noticed my crypto portfolio value has already surpassed 1% of my overall portfolio. While I’ve invested $1,400, the value is already quite a bit higher. In fact, I must admit that I am already very tempted to increase my “psychological limit” of 1%. The next big correction might convince me to put in more. Stay tuned. 😉

However, as far as the stock markets are concerned, it was an up and down kind of month. I’m glad I was able to put so much money into the market this month, while it was kind of at a standstill. The next big leg up will be all the more appreciated. 🙂

Savings

Here are the details of my March savings:

  • March 11: $975.00 out of $1,789.71
  • March 25: $4,103.45 out of $5,077.03 net
  • March 26: $331.83 out of $331.83
  • March 29: $964.72 out of $964.72
  • Total savings: $6,375.00 out of $8,163.29 in March or a 78% savings rate

Of the $6,375 I saved, I contributed $5,700 to my TFSA and bought $675 worth of cryptocurrency outside a registered account.

As I mentioned earlier, this was truly an exceptional month in terms of savings, thanks to so much money coming in! Indeed, in addition to my two regular paychecks, I received my annual bonus and both tax refunds.

In addition, I’m happy to see that I’m in a good position to reach my savings goal of $25,000 in 2021. I’ve already saved and invested $9,700 this year, or 39% of my goal, in just 3 months. That leaves me with $15,300 to save to reach my goal at the end of the year. That means I’ll need to save an average of $765 per pay until the end of the year to reach it.

Considering my annual raise next month (3.5%), the maxing out of QPP before the end of the year and my car loan paid in full in November, I should be able to do it. 🙂

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-03-01$497.50Rent
2021-03-02$26.43UFile
2021-03-04$11.60Pharmacy
2021-03-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-03-07$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-07$3.76Amazon
2021-03-09$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-03-10$112.42Groceries
2021-03-10$23.07Gas
2021-03-10$18.53Mondou
2021-03-12$403.85Car Payment
2021-03-13$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-17$64.45Indiegogo
2021-03-21$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-25$6.89Pharmacy
2021-03-25$23.22Gas
2021-03-26$403.85Car Payment
2021-03-27$102.47Groceries
2021-03-29$27.02Home internet
2021-03-29$64,38Mondou
Total:$1,877.18

In March, I spent $1,877.18, which is $22,526.16 annualized. If we take out my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,069.48, which is $12,833.76 annualized.

I had very few expenses this month, and I’m very happy about it! This has actually been one of my best months since I started tracking my expenses! One of the reasons for this is that I did some expenses in advance in February in order to unlock bonus points on my credit cards.

Also, I’ve noticed another benefit to very low spending. It’s much less time-consuming for me to track and prepare the tables for this blog. 😉

Other than the usual stuff, the one out of the ordinary expense was on Indiegogo. I helped fund the upcoming Star Trek Voyager documentary, while also getting a nice T-shirt of my favourite Captain. 😉

Next month, I already know about an out of the ordinary expense. I had the nice surprise of a speeding ticket in the mail. Long live those photo radars.

Reading List

Despite a busy month, I’m still reading as much as I can! It’s really important to me, both for learning and entertainment purposes. 🙂

I would like to thank my Facebook subscribers who share their book suggestions with me every weekend. You really give me great book ideas!

So, my March reading list goes like this:

Beat the Bank is truly a must-read. Contrary to my expectations, it was not just theoretical and educational about the questionable practices of the big banks. There are also many concrete examples, such as portfolio models that you can build yourself, etc. Really an excellent Canadian resource!

I also really enjoyed 5 years to freedom. Although a bit of a typical FIRE book, the simple fact that it is a Canadian book is a huge bonus! Also, unlike books like Quit Like a Milionnaire and La retraite à 40 ans, it really shows how it’s possible to reach financial independence in a frugal way, even with children. Without hesitation, I added it to my recommendation page in the Canadian books section.

Otherwise, I want to make a special mention of The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway, just because. I actually took advantage of the audiobooks.com free trial period to listen to Kate Mulgrew, herself, read it. What a treat! 🖖

Conclusion

I love this moment of reflection these monthly reviews give me. It’s a great exercise to see my progress, see where I am in relation to my goals and to start planning the month ahead.

By the way, I scheduled my appointment on April 30th for my corrective eye surgery. Another 2021 goal I want to get done! 🙂

The company seems to offer financing up to 24 months at 0% interest. I might go for that, if they don’t boost the price to make up for the 0% interest, of course. That way I wouldn’t be slashing too much of my immediate cash flow.

I’ll have the exact figure on that day, but I’ve been told it should be between $3,200 and $4,200. Of that amount, my workplace health account will cover $800.

Therefore, it’s possible that the April monthly review will come out a little late, while my eyes recover. 😉

Finally, I am already working on my next article about travel hacking and how I intend to travel at low cost. Although it is still impossible to predict when we will be able to travel again, it also doesn’t hurt to dream (and plan)!

See you next time and enjoy that spring!

February 2021 Review

Hello!

I just knew February was going to go by very fast. 🙂

Seriously, between finalizing my old job’s last few files, starting my new position and writing my withdrawal strategy article, time just flew by! It’s quite a good thing for someone who doesn’t like winter too much. During a lockdown, on top of it! I’m also quite glad to see that we’re gaining a few more minutes of daylight every week. That’s a very positive thing in my book. 🙂

I’m also happy to report that things are going really well in my new role. I have a lot to learn, since I’m far from my usual field of expertise. So that usually means my brain is mush at the end of the day, but I’m confident I’ll handle the work fairly quickly.

Now let’s get down to business.

Net Worth as of February 28, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,228
$34,983
$44,969
$35,135
$5,752
$13,427
$976
Total assets:$136,470
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$7,384
$3,000
$0
$0
$0
$0
Total liabilities:$10,384
Net Worth$126,086
Difference+$4,968

What a weird month in the markets! Seriously, how many days in a row were the markets green at the beginning of February? It was not rare to see clickbait articles predicting an imminent crash almost every day. Reaching all-time highs every day, week (and even month) was obviously cause for concern. So it wasn’t too surprising to see the second half of the month rebalancing things.

However, I would like to emphasize that the recent decline has not completely erased the bullish rise that preceded it. In fact, both the S&P 500 and the S&P/TSX show an overall increase in February. 🙂

Personally, I try to remove all emotion from my transactions. Mr. Spock would be proud of me. 🖖

My plan is to save as much as I can on every paycheck I get. I invest on every second Thursday, whether it’s green or red. It doesn’t matter. I invest, no matter what happens in the short term. Anyway, what matters is long-term.

Bonus

Good news! My employer confirmed our annual bonus. It will be paid out on March 25th. Knowing the amount in advance ($6,000 gross), I have decided to take the net amount ($3,000) out of my personal LOC and invest it right away while the markets were down.

I was already planning to save and invest my entire bonus anyway. So I just got ahead of the curve.

Once I receive my bonus on March 25, I will simply pay off my LOC. For your information, it’s a personal LOC offered by Tangerine with a 5.45% interest rate.

Cryptocurrency

Contrary to my very boring index investments in the stock markets, I allow myself to speculate a bit more with crypto. Actually, I only allocate a small portion (1%) of my portfolio that I intend to hold for the long term. I am looking into the mechanics of cryptocurrency and the blockchain, and I place my pawns as I go along. It is a very wild ride. Faint of hearts beware. 😉

I also got three $30 bonuses on Shakepay this month. Thanks to the readers of this blog who used my reference code. 🙂

Also, thanks to Shakepay’s feature that allows me to stack Satoshis (a subunit of Bitcoin) every day by shaking my phone, I have now accumulated 0.0004352 BTC for a series of 47 consecutive days. At the price of the BTC as it is now, it means about $26 only for shaking my phone. I have also deposited all my BTC in BlockFI which allows me to earn 6% interest on it.

Savings

Here are the details of my February savings:

  • February 11: $700 out of $1,710.66 (41% savings)
  • February 25: $840 out of $2,017.17 net (42% savings)
  • Total savings: $1,540 in February or 41% savings

Of the $1,540 I saved, I contributed $1,050 to my TFSA and purchased $490 worth of cryptography outside a registered account.

It could definitely be better on the savings rate front, but I had some spending to do to unlock my credit card bonuses. I’ve made some expenses ahead of time by buying Spotify, Netflix and SAQ gift cards. I also made my annual donation all at once, rather than spreading it out on a monthly basis. Since these are already paid for, I should be able to save a little more in the next following weeks and months.

These expenses have allowed me to get my bonuses of 3,950 Air Miles and 10,000 Aeroplan points (as well as the Buddy Pass). Now, I just have to wait to actually travel. 😉

With my promotion, my March bonus and my yearly raise in April (3.5%), I expect a slight increase in my average savings rate. I should be on track to reach my savings goal!

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-02-01$497.50Rent
2021-02-01$89.15Groceries
2021-02-01$25.00SAQ
2021-02-02$7.15Spotify
2021-02-02$10.00Donation
2021-02-03$160.00Passport
2021-02-04$62.38Mondou
2021-02-04$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-02-04$13.33Pharmacy
2021-02-04$100.00Donation
2021-02-04$25.00Netflix
2021-02-04$30.00Spotify
2021-02-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-02-06$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-11$168.94Amazon
2021-02-12$403.85Car Payment
2021-02-14$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-14$8.04Groceries
2021-02-18$102.93Groceries
2021-02-20$20.83Gas
2021-02-20$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-23$6.14Subway
2021-02-26$403.85Car Payment
2021-02-27$3,86Starbucks
2021-02-28$27.02Home Internet
Total:$2,315,94

In February, I spent $2,315,94, which means $27,791,22 annualized. Excluding my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,508.24 or $18,098,82 annualized.

In addition to my travel hacking expenses, I had to renew my passport and I bought a Valentine’s Day gift for my mother and my grandmother.

I also had a somewhat big expense on Amazon for a treadmill that I had been looking to buy for a while. Luckily, my employer reimburses a fair amount for sports activities. That means I only had to pay $168 out of my own pocket. Considering that the treadmill should be good for a couple of years, that’s much cheaper than a gym membership. 😉

Finally, I still don’t have a mobile phone bill to pay this month. Thanks to everyone who used my Fizz promo code (N5MMB)! As things are right now, I won’t have to pay anything until June. That’s very much appreciated!

Reading List

February was another great month to read. I’m not at all a winter sports fan, so I’ll be found more often cuddled in a blanket with a book, rather than out playing in the snow.

At the same time, although I’m outside much more often in the summer, you’d probably still find me with a book in my hands. Once a nerd, always a nerd.

You can see that it would be totally unprofitable for me to buy every book I read! There’s a reason why I love the public library so much. 🙂

So, my reading list for February looked like this:

From this list, I highly recommend the book on Elon Musk. Whether you like him or not, he is undeniably a genius and human beings will benefit from his long-term vision.

I also liked Courage, Vision, Passion after I stole this reading idea from L’investisseur caféiné. I don’t necessarily plan to invest in real estate, but it was still a fascinating read. The focus on the millionaire mindset, the importance of thinking big and controlling our fears were the highlights for me. That goes to show that a success starts in the mind!

My Favourite Season

Of course, with March comes tax season. 😉

Seriously, I can’t wait to get started. I already have my T4 and Relevé 1 in hand, but I won’t have the form for remote work (detailed method) until mid-March. Only then I’ll be able to do my tax return, plus my sister’s and my brother’s. At the very least, I want to send my sister’s tax return as early as possible. She boosted her RRSP and she’d like to avoid paying interest on her loan for too long. 🙂

For my part, despite the fact that I filled out the T1213 form for my employer to withhold less tax in 2020, I still expect a tax refund of about $1,500. Guess what I’m going to do with it?

For future articles on this blog, I’m thinking of writing an article on my worst financial mistake (I’ll let you guess which) and the associated opportunity cost. I’m also planning an article on the emergency fund, or my lack thereof. If you have any specific topics to suggest for a future article, please feel free to let me know in the comments section.

I look forward to hearing from you!

January 2021 Review

Hello!

Already one month behind us! Even though it’s a rather boring time of the year, even without a pandemic, I feel like time went by pretty fast. My blog and Facebook page keep me pretty busy, on top of the overtime I did at work and the time I’ve spent preparing for a job interview!

It just goes to show that the best way to survive this never-ending pandemic is to stay busy. 🙂

So here we are, already starting a new month. Let’s see how my net worth has grown in this past month!

Net Worth as of January 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,369
$32,176
$43,405
$33,916
$5,752
$13,427
$307
Total assets:$130,352
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$8,192
$1,000
$0
$0
$31
$11
Total liabilities:$9,234
Net Worth$121,118
Difference+$3,313

My net worth is now $121,118! That’s a $3,313 increase since December 31, 2020. It had been a good month for the stock market, right up until last week, when everything went haywire. It doesn’t matter much, since I continue following my savings and investment plan and as a result, my investments slowly but surely keep going up. 🙂

As a matter of fact, a reader wrote to me recently and wondered if the monthly portfolio value was the best way to track one’s net worth. She thought that it fluctuates excessively from one month to another, and it could be discouraging during periods of decline.

I have to agree that tracking my net worth so closely involves a lot of fluctuations. However, I am aware that this is part of the game and I have an excellent risk tolerance. Since I already track my net worth in my spreadsheets on a monthly basis, I decided to include it on my blog on the same basis, along with my expense reports.

However, I realize that I will eventually have to compress the data on the graph (due to lack of space) on my net worth page, possibly to three-month intervals. This should smoothen the curve a bit. 😉

Portfolio Changes

I decided to start the year with a few small changes to my portfolio. As I mentioned in previous articles, my main investments are with Questrade, split between a LIRA, an RRSP and a TFSA. In all three accounts, I held only XEQT, an all-in-one ETF by iShares made up of 100% equities, 22% of which are Canadian.

Reducing Home Country Bias

After doing some reading, notably Ed Rempel‘s blog, I decided to reevaluate my home country bias, i.e. being too widely exposed to one’s own country’s stocks. Indeed, Canada represents about 3% of the world economy and is primarily based on resources and banks. Knowing this, how is it good diversification to hold 22% of my portfolio in Canadian stocks?

Especially since I have (unfortunately) about 15% of my portfolio in labour-sponsored funds that invest only in local companies. That means my home country bias is actually quite high. It actually amounts to about 33% of my total portfolio in Canadian equities.

After some thought, I chose ZGQ (graciously brought to my attention by one of this blog’s reader) to reduce my home country bias a bit, in addition to getting a bit more exposure to emerging countries. This ETF actually seeks to replicate the performance of the MSCI All Country World High Quality.

However, I only made the change in my TFSA, where I want to get the maximum return. I still hold XEQT in my LIRA and RRSP. This will gradually reduce my portfolio’s total exposure to Canadian stocks as I continue contributing to my TFSA.

A Healthy Dose of FOMO

Yes, I joined the Bitcoin train (or rocket?). It finally went down after its all-time high in early January. So I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about Bitcoin, then invested a small amount of money. Initially, I decided to do this by buying a few units of the new Bitcoin ETF QBTC. This way, I can take advantage of the possible gains of Bitcoin in my TFSA, which cannot be done by the traditional method.

Afterwards, I continued to read up on Bitcoin and learned about the Montreal application called Shakepay and decided to actually buy Bitcoin this way. In fact, by using a referral link, I was getting $30 by buying $100 worth of cryptography. So why not? An instant return of 30%. 😉

More seriously, I prefer to set myself a limit of 1% of my portfolio with regard to cryptocurrency. I think setting a limit will prevent me from going overboard on this. What’s more, it’s an amount I’m willing to lose. And if I ever make a  sizeable profit, even better! I just don’t intend to speculate, but to buy and hold it like with my other holdings.

Savings

Here are the details of my January savings:

  • January 14: $750 out of $1,710.67 (44% savings)
  • January 28: $1,035 out of $2,005.17 net (52% savings)
  • Total savings: $1,785 in January or 48% savings

Of the $1,785 I saved, I contributed $1,550 to my TFSA and added $235 to Shakepay.

The higher pay is justified by a few extra overtime hours in January.

Also, starting at the end of February, I’ll start getting bigger pays because I got a promotion! Before the holidays, I had applied to a higher-level position within another team. I didn’t necessarily have a lot of hope to get a call, as I didn’t know anyone on that team. You know it: it’s better to know someone than to know something. Luckily, I got the call and a few days after the interview, I was offered the job. 🙂

So, I will go from a base annual salary of $71,180 to $76,600, which is a 7.6% increase. There will also be a yearly increase in April, which should be around 3%, which would bring my salary to $78,898.

I’m not just talking about increasing income. Trying to walk the talk!

Finally, my $25,000 savings goal for 2021 will be slightly easier to achieve than I thought. You know me well enough to know I plan to save 100% of my raise. 🙂

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-01-01$120.00American Express Annual Fees
2021-01-01$6.79Starbucks
2021-01-02$7.15Spotify
2021-01-02$10.00Donation
2021-01-02$18.39Mondou
2021-01-02$13.41Gas
2021-01-03$96.42Groceries
2021-01-04$497.50Rent
2021-01-04$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-05$14.39Home Insurance
2021-01-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-01-07$14.23Subway
2021-01-07$12.50SAQ
2021-01-09$7.70Netflix
2021-01-09$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-13$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-01-13$71.95Home Insurance
2021-01-15$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-17$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-17$101.00Groceries
2021-01-21$25.21Pharmacy
2021-01-23$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-25$11.09Pharmacy
2021-01-28$20.82Gas
2021-01-28$15.29Groceries
2021-01-28$2.70Starbucks
2021-01-29$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-30$27.60Home Internet
2021-01-31$3.40Starbucks
Total:$2,396.83

In January, I had $2,396.83 in total expenses, or $28,761.96 annualized. Excluding my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,185.28 or $14,223.36 annualized. The big difference between the two is explained by three car payments I had this month, instead of the usual two.

Otherwise, one month look like the next! I should be ashamed: $23.09 in Starbucks coffee. Just think about it! That’s $277.08 a year! It would take $6,927 invested to generate enough passive income to pay for this bad habit! I just can’t wait to do anything other than car rides. 😉

Also, there are some transactions related to travel hacking, such as the $120 annual fee on my Prestige Aeroplan American Express. I also paid my home insurance policy balance in full to help me reach the required spending on my BMO AIR MILES Mastercard to unlock the 850 bonus miles. Once again, I didn’t spend more to earn points, I spent money I was going to spend in the future. 🙂

It’s ironic, really. My biggest challenge with Travel Hacking right now is to find a way to reach the spending thresholds necessary to unlock my bonuses. Luckily, Milesopedia gives good tips on how to do this.

Reading List

My Facebook page followers may have noticed: I am an avid reader. I often read several books in parallel, in addition to the occasional audiobook. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll reach Warren Buffett’s level:

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.

In addition to reading, I also like to share about the latest books I’ve read and know what others are reading. In that vein, I thought adding this section to my monthly reviews could be interesting to my readers. 🙂

So, my January reading list looked like this:

I have to admit it: I’m a Self-Help junkie. I still try to balance a bit between fiction and non-fiction. By the way, don’t be surprised to see a Star Trek novel in it from time to time.

Of this list, the one I recommend the most is definitely The Psychology of Money. For me, it was a perfect mix of two subjects I love.  Also, anyone who is struggling to make lasting changes in their lives would also benefit from reading The Power of Discipline.

February Is Going to Fly By!

February only has 28 days, after all.

Next Monday’s article will focus on job interviews and how to prepare for it, especially when you’re an introvert like me. The following week, I’m going to take a little break. I’ll start working on my new position then, and I want to be able to focus mostly on that. 🙂

So I’ll still have two weeks to put together an article on my withdrawal strategy once I’ve reached FIRE. Many of you are asking me to do an article on this, so I’ll try not to disappoint.

I will also have access to my T4 & RL-1 on February 16. This nerd will be very happy to get started on doing tax returns ! In addition to mine, I always do my sister’s and brother’s tax returns. 🙂

I’m especially looking forward to doing my sister’s tax return to apply the method to boost her RRSP contributions as perfectly as possible before March 1st.

As a matter of fact, do you have any suggestions for a good software to do multiple tax returns? I’ve been using UFile since 2014 without looking too closely at what others offer. I’m open to suggestions!

See you next time!

 

2020 Review

I’m not gonna lie. I’m not at all mad 2020 is over! A year that felt like ten, but also sort of flew by, in retrospect. A year that made history, for sure.

I like to think that this year will also have made my history. It was truly the year that allowed me to take the reins of my financial life. And now that this unique year is behind us, it’s time to do a full review! I’ll be true to myself and I’ll present a lot of numbers. 🙂

My FIRE number

As you already know, I am aiming to reach financial independence by building a nest egg of $375,000 that would generate $15,000 in passive income, according to the 4% rule.

So where do I stand exactly with regards to my goal?

I had $125,500 in personal investments at the end of the year. To this, I add the estimated commuted value of my DB pension of $26,000. I can therefore say that my nest egg reached $151,500. Therefore, I’m at about 40% of my goal.

Another way to put things into perspective is to apply 4% to what I already have. Right now, my nest egg would provide me with an annual passive income of $6,060. I am $8,940 of passive income away from my goal.

If we take a closer look, we can also conclude that at $6,060 per year, it would currently pay my rent. In fact, that would give me $505 per month in passive income and my rent costs me $497.50 per month. 🙂

In comparison, I had $73,000 in personal investments and $14,000 in my DB pension plan, for a total of $87,000 as of December 31, 2019. That’s an increase of $64,500 (or 74%) in twelve months! I am extremely pleased with those results!

Now, I have to be realistic and adjust my target with inflation. So I’ll add 2% to my goal. That means $15,300 in annual expenses or a FIRE number of $382,500 in 2021 dollars. 🙂

Net Worth

You’re already quite familiar with this part, thanks to My Net Worth page, in addition to my December 2020 monthly review.

All the same, I am proud and happy to repeat that in 2020, I reached a net worth of $117,805.

By comparison, my net worth as of December 31, 2019, was $55,444. This is an increase of 112%.

What a year!

Returns

The year 2020 will certainly have been full of twists and turns in the stock markets. Let’s just take a look at the S&P 500 or the S&P/TSX 60 over the last twelve months. Since I only invest in index ETFs, this has had a direct (and positive) impact on my returns.

Indeed, Passiv allows me to see the (relatively minimal) impact that the stock market jolts have had on my portfolio over the last twelve months:

The top line represents the value of my portfolio while the bottom line represents my total contributions.

This clearly shows the importance of staying the course. Just keep saving and investing on a regular basis, regardless of the ups and downs.

For all of my personal investments, I have earned the following returns according to Questrade :

If only it could always be like this. 🙂

Switching Strategies

I have to say that I have had some strokes of luck during the year. At the time of the March 2020 drop, I had a sort of hybrid portfolio that combined the old Canadian Couch Potato portfolio model and Ray Dalio’s All Weather Portfolio. While I most certainly felt the drop, it wasn’t as bad as if I had been 100 % stocks.

On top of that, I had a lot of money coming in at the time, including a large tax refund, a bonus and refunds for a cancelled trip. I invested all of it at the right time and clearly benefited from that afterwards.

Also, I later decided to make some changes to my portfolio after hearing about the all-in-one ETFs. I changed most of my portfolio for XEQT. By doing so, I took advantage of another happy coincidence. Indeed, I sold a considerable amount of MNT (gold) while it was at its peak during the summer.

In the end, my portfolio will have increased by $20,544 in return alone. I still find it a little hard to believe that this amount accumulated on its own! I’m starting to see the benefits of making my money work for me, rather than working for it.

Dividends

Although my investment style is not focused on dividends, some of the ETFs I held, or still hold, do pay dividends. It’s no big deal, but I received $1,200 in dividends in 2020. By comparison, I received $1,056 in 2019. The difference is rather small, considering the difference in value of my portfolio over the last twelve months. This is mostly due to the changes in ETFs I’ve made in the past year.

One thing is certain: I’m not going to say no to money that’s deposited in my account. Also, all of it has been reinvested.

Expenses

Although every personal finance book in the world explains how important it is to track your expenses, I only started doing so this past August. So I don’t have the information for the whole year, but here is the detail from August to December regarding my expenses :

This amounts to a monthly average of $2,138, or an annualized total of $25,654.

Also, I would like to do the same exercise, but without accounting for my car loan repayments. Since this loan will not follow me into retirement, I wanted to get an idea of my current spending level without this cumbersome (and unrepresentative) expense.

  • August: $1,090
  • September: $1,761
  • October: $1,042
  • November: $1,599
  • December: $1,396

That’s much better, isn’t it? This means an average monthly amount of $1,377, or an annualized total of $16,529.

Considering that I estimated $15,000 in annual retirement expenses (in 2020 dollars) and that my current expenses are not yet completely optimized (notably through geographic arbitrage), I find that I’m not that far off the mark. 🙂

Income

My final pay stub confirms I earned a gross amount of $78,050 in employment income. In comparison, I earned $63,288 in 2019. That’s a 24% increase! I did have 27 pays in 2020 instead of 26 and a nice raise. That helps. 🙂

Worth mentioning, although nothing major : I got $340 in Amazon gift cards through Swagbucks and $260 by doing jobs through Field Agent (mostly before the pandemic and during the summer). By the way, thanks to everyone who signed up for Swagbucks using my referral link!

Savings

I am more than happy with my savings rate in 2020, which is 50%!

As I explained here, I prefer to use a very simple formula:

(Amount saved / net income) * 100

Indeed, I saved a whopping $27,055 on a net employment income of $49,371, to which I also add my $5,000 tax refund, for a total of $54,371. I want to make it clear that this is my personal savings only. It does not include contributions to my DB pension plan, or any other form of forced savings.

I wasn’t tracking every cent at the time, but I estimate my savings rate in 2019 to have been around 27%, based on the same formula. At that time I was not yet aiming for FI, so I wasn’t saving as aggressively as I am now. It was still a good savings rate compared to the average person. With 50% in 2020, now we’re talking! 😉

Travel Hacking

I started looking into Travel Hacking this year after reading Quit Like a Millionaire, which praised its benefits in lowering travel expenses.

I started simply with the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite back in March (for 30,000 Aeroplan bonus points). I later took the CIBC Visa Infinite Aeroplan in July (for 20,000 Aeroplan bonus points).

I studied more about travel hacking (thanks to Milesopedia), and in November, I applied for three more: American Express AIR MILES Platinum (for 3,000 bonus Air Miles), American Express Prestige Aeroplan (for 20,000 Aeroplan bonus points + a Buddy Pass) and BMO AIR MILES Mastercard (for 950 bonus Air Miles).

On top of all the sign-up bonuses, points are also earned based on expenses.

So, in just about 10 months, I managed to pile up the following points and miles for future trips :

  • Aeroplan: 72,212
  • Air Miles: 1,182

What I Can Buy With My Points

I still don’t have enough Air Miles to buy much of anything. Since I started collecting them pretty recently, I haven’t unlocked any sign-up bonuses yet.

On the other hand, I am starting to have an interesting number of Aeroplan points. You can take a look at this page for an idea of a flight’s cost in points. For example, I could currently pay for five short round-trip flights in North America (ex: Toronto, New York, Washington, DC) or three longer round-trip flights (ex: Mexico or California) with my points. I would only have to pay the taxes.

More specifically, my first travel destination post-COVID will be Hawaii (which I had to cancel this past April). Currently, a round trip (ex: YQB-KOA) with randomly picked dates would cost me 34,100 Aeroplan points and $189.66 in taxes. Once I get my Buddy Pass, I’ll even be able to bring someone with me (my sister, in this case) for the same number of points. Only the taxes would then be payable in double.

If I do the same search on Google Flights for the same random dates, I find that the cheapest tickets are $635.00 per person. By using my points, we’d be saving $445.34 per person!

Long story short, not taking advantage of Travel Hacking is leaving money on the table. 🙂

Blog

Finally, I wanted to mention that in only 3 months of blogging, I wrote (and translated) 14 articles. I must have something interesting to tell because I have had 3,741 visitors in 2020. My Facebook page is also now over 600 likes! Wow!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any real success. I just wanted to have a place where I could put my ideas in place and have some structure. Based on the positive feedback I get, I think people relate to me and I’m really thankful for that. It’s been a very rewarding experience to talk to some of you. I also love the complicity that comes naturally between FIRE bloggers.

All in all, it has been a very positive experience and I will do my best to continue bringing quality content. 🙂

Managing Your Personal Finances Like a Business

I know I may seem a little intense by doing such a detailed review, but I think you’re getting to know me a little bit. What can I say? I like numbers. It’s my Vulcan brain’s fault. By the way, I see that you like numbers too, judging by the traffic trend on the blog. 😉

Also, the fact that I put hard numbers on all this allows me to see my progression. That’s very encouraging.

I can’t help but think about Jean-Sébastien Pilotte’s (Jeune Retraité) book La retraite à 40 ans. The first chapter is called Devenir le PDG de sa vie (Becoming the CEO of Your Life). Here’s my rough translation of my favourite part:

The first step towards financial independence is the most decisive one to succeed. It is about having the will to take control of one’s finances. It’s time to go from being a janitor to becoming CEO. Take off your blue rubber gloves and put on your best tie. You are promoted! No one else applied for the job.

To begin your new position, you will need to understand and analyze your current financial situation. Where is your money going? What are your main expenses? What are your assets? So many questions that are essential to your financial health and, ultimately, to your quality of life. Like a CEO, you will have to peel the onion, layer by layer. And most of all, don’t cry! You will certainly have to get out of your comfort zone and make some unpleasant observations, but it’s time to get to the bottom of this.

I particularly liked this part. It’s really in synch with the way I see things. How can we hope to improve and move forward if we have no idea where we stand exactly?

Gratitude and Thanks

To say the least, 2020 has been a very special year. No matter how unpleasant the year has been, there is always a way to find something positive. I think this review shows that.

Financial review aside, I am also filled with gratitude for this blog and all that it brings me. In addition to discovering a certain talent for writing, my articles allow me to reach out to people and interact with them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to discuss with equally passionate people.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for commenting (it’s sort of my pay!). I like to know what resonates with you in my writing. I love it when you share your own calculations or suggestions. Sincerely, don’t hesitate to contact me. I love discussing personal finances and FIRE.

I am ready to face whatever 2021 has in store for me. As you already know, I have already set goals for this year. Undoubtedly, I have a lot of work to do!

Perhaps the fact that it’s not easy is what makes it worthwhile.

– Odo (Star Trek Deep Space Nine)

Let’s stay the course. The best is yet to come.