Financial Samurai Personal Year In Review 2014

Financial Samurai Year In Review Happy Holidays Everyone!

Year in review posts are one of my favorite posts to write because we tend to forget some of the things that happened in the first half of the year in favor of things that happened in the second half of the year. This type of cognitive bias is the reason why if you must slack off at work, you might as well do so from January – June and really shape up afterward. Almost every single company I know decides on bonuses and promotions in the second half.

I hope all of you have read 10 Helpful Financial Moves To Make Every Year, and checked off at least five of the ten items by now. I promise you that if you can go through all ten items, you’ll be ahead of 99% of the population when the chaos begins again.

Here’s a post about some things that went well, and some things that didn’t go so well this year. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy to find 10 of each. 

10 Helpful Financial Moves To Make Every Year

Financial Moves To Make To Get To Santorini

Cheers to the best time of the year!

The end of the year is always the best time to reflect and plan. I’d like to share several financial moves you should make before the new year in order to protect your wealth and hopefully grow your wealth in a risk-adjusted manner next year.

Those of us who invested in stocks, real estate, and many other asset classes except for oil should be feeling fortunate. But don’t forget that good times seldom last forever. Never forget the Armageddon days of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2000 dotcom implosion, and the housing + financial meltdown that began in 2008. Those of you who haven’t been investing at all better get ready to deploy capital when chaos returns, or else inflation will eat your wealth alive.

If you just started investing in the past five years, lucky you! Don’t worry. Your beat down will happen eventually. But like every beat down, things always get better over time. Look at all of us old farts who are still around.

Losing A Property Bidding War Never Felt So Good

Amazing property

Bring the Grey Poupon

It took about three months of intense searching to find my new home in the western portion of San Francisco largely because I was unfamiliar with the area and price points. Every house I saw looked cheap compared to where I used to live, hence I needed time to recalibrate my thinking. I must imagine Californians retiring to places like Florida, Texas, Washington, Nevada, and Oregon must go through the same recalibration process since everywhere is so much less expensive.

During my house hunt, I met a number of realtors. Some were good, some were clueless. There was this one fella I met who happened to be the listing agent along with his mother of a house I wanted to buy (mother son team). It was a great 2,200 square foot, 4 bedroom/4 bathroom house with two levels of decks overlooking the ocean. The house was perfect for $1.2 million.

San Francisco is currently no ordinary property market. Prices are purposefully set low in order to attract a bidding frenzy unlike many other real estate markets where prices are set high and negotiated down. Instead of earning his cut from his mother for selling the house with her (a sure thing), he agreed to represent me in the purchase of the house. It was a gamble he decided to take probably due to a little more money, his belief that he could convince his mom to sell to us, and to earn a good win for his own real estate resume.

Your Friends Really Do Influence Your Spending Habits

Wimbledon Center Court Roger Federer

Watching Roger Federer on Center Court at Wimbledon 2014. Bucket list item.

I met up with a friend of mine the other day for a function. He rolled up in a new Lexus IS350 that costs about $43,000 out the door. Immediately, I was envious of his wheels given I just drive a $20,000 Honda Fit named Rhino. My thoughts of doing the economical thing of buying out the residual value after the three year lease expires went out the window. I began fantasizing about what sports car to buy in 2017.

No, no, no! I told myself several minutes later. Sure, I’d love to drive a fancy car, but I reminded myself that I hate the stress of worrying about damaging expensive things. I enjoy parking in a crowded parking lot and not caring about a door ding. I’d much rather own stuff I can just throw away without any after thought.

Back in 2005-2008 I was extremely into collecting fancy watches. One friend had a FOMOYOLO mentality and bought a couple $8,000 IWC watches, just because he liked their style. So of course I started collecting watches because I thought, why not me too? I’ve got just as much money as him and I work harder. The funny thing is, before hanging out with my friend, the most expensive watch I’d ever purchased was a $500 Seiko. Now here I was spending $12,000 on a Rolex Stainless Steel Daytona. It was nuts!

How To Make More Money By Doing Nothing

Infinity Pool Makes More Money Doing Nothing

A still pool does nothing in Sao Paolo, Brazil

It’s been over a year since I swapped property management companies for my Lake Tahoe vacation rental (it’s snowing buckets btw), but it was only recently that I marketed the property here to help boost its income for the second year. The property used to be managed directly by the hotel, which would obviously garner the most amount of incoming calls and online inquiries compared to an outside property manager. When reservations were booked through the hotel, they randomly assigned which units those reservations went to. So when I was in their rental program, the only way I used to benefit was when the overall volume of guests increased.

That all changed when I moved to an outside property management company who charges a lower commission. They market my specific units on their website. Therefore, the challenge is for them (Vacasa Rentals) to get well known enough to be a favorable company for vacationers to book living arrangements vs. the hotel’s challenge of simply marketing The Resort At Squaw Creek as the premier Lake Tahoe vacation destination.

I used to try and help my cause by advertising my property on Craigslist while it was still managed by the hotel as well, but I stopped because it takes a lot of time dealing with inquiries and bookings. You would think I’d be worried about seeing a drop in income by switching management companies, especially if I didn’t market my unit on the side. But I wasn’t because I wanted to let them earn my business for the first year, so they wouldn’t take me for granted. They gave me a guarantee that I would earn at least as much as I did from the hotel, or else they’d refund the difference.

Career Advice For Women From Female CEOs

HappinessOne of my goals in 2015 and beyond is to publish new forms of content such as infographics, short essays, podcasts, and comedy. I’m working on the podcast part (takes forever), and I can write short and long form content with some comedy infusion no problem, but I’ve got no graphic skills other than being able to draw an arrow. The solution I’ve found is to simply ask permission from relevant personal finance companies to be able to republish their infographics.

It’s an amazingly small world because one of the leaders in producing infographics is a company called Visual.ly, also based here in San Francisco. They raised a $8.1 Series A round of funding in January 2014 from well-known VC investors such as SoftTech VC, and Crosslink Capital. I think they charge anywhere between $1,000 – $50,000+ for a customized infographic! With companies the world over spending more on content creation, they are in a sweet spot for growth.

You might think I’m crazy for continuously encouraging folks to move to expensive San Francisco to find their fortune since starting Financial Samurai in 2009. But I’m pretty confident that if you work hard, develop the right skill-set, and get on that $120 Greyhound bus from anywhere, you will have a terrific chance of finding your fortune here.

Lending Club in SF is now worth over $7 billion after its IPO pop. I could have joined them three or four years ago, but didn’t like a donkey. HortonWorks in Palo Alto went public, despite losses of $80+ million this year. Then there’s Box, Dropbox, Uber, and Airbnb in the pipeline. A $40 billion dollar valuation now for Uber from just $18 billion at the beginning of 2014 is amazing! It sure feels frothy when companies are valued on price-to-sales multiples instead of operating profit multiples, but you might as well ride the wave and get off before it crashes.

Should I Invest In P2P Lending? Prosper Performance Review

live-long-and-prosperAt long last, Lending Club went public recently with an estimated $5 billion market cap. It’s the first really big new generation fintech IPO, and boy is it going to make a lot of people a lot of money. To give you some perspective, at a $5 billion market cap, Lending Club is ~$1.3 billion larger than Yelp! I’ve been following both Lending Club and Prosper since their inception as their offices were right next to mine in downtown San Francisco.

In 2013, I finally decided to invest some money into P2P lending with Prosper to see what the fuss was all about. I had a friend working at Prosper at the time who helped teach me about the market place and the company over several lunches. I’ve written a post on tips for P2P borrowers from a lender’s perspective, a post highlighting the P2P lending returns by borrower rating and credit score, and how P2P lending can even get a little addictive due to the ability to pick and choose who gets to borrow your money.

I was relatively gung ho about allocating several hundred thousand dollars to P2P lending, but I didn’t because I still wanted to do more research given I expected rates to stay low and the stock market to outperform as a result. I also ended up buying another house, so I only invested several thousand in P2P lending as a result, and basically ignored the account for much of the year until now.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH PROSPER ALMOST TWO YEARS IN

Here’s a snapshot of my current performance: Prosper Annualized Return

A 7.43% overall return isn’t too shabby for 2014 given the stock market has returned about ~9% over the same period. I’m a very conservative investor with P2P lending since it’s only been about two years of actual investing. As a result, I pretty much invested in A and AA Prosper Rating borrowers along with several B Ratings to get some juice.