In a way, October 2020 kind of felt like the beginning of early retirement. We took our medicine for a long time (strict lockdown for months / aggressive saving for years) and now we’re finally benefitting from our sacrifices.
It feels a little strange to be free again. You’re not quite sure what to do now that you have so many options. Slowly but surely you get back to living the way things were pre-pandemic. But you also know that danger could be just around the corner.
Just like after you retire, you also wonder whether your newfound freedom will last. You ask yourself whether your new life is real and warranted. Maybe you might even prefer to stay at home all day because that is what you’ve become accustomed to.
I’m hopeful things will continue to progress in San Francisco with a sub-1% coronavirus positivity rate. Businesses are opening up everywhere I look.
However, looking around the nation, it seems like just a matter of time before we go back on strict lockdowns again. Therefore, I’m not wasting a day of freedom.
Here’s a recap of what happened in October 2020, the seventh month of the global pandemic.
October 2020 Recap
Overall, October was our best family month of the year because we finally did a lot as a family.
- Went to the California Academy of Sciences Museum for the first time since February. This was a really special moment because we had been going once or twice a week since our son was born in 2017. For all of us, it was like seeing old friends again. This was the first time we took our daughter as well. Going to the museum made my wife and I feel like we had finally turned the corner.
- Went to the Japanese tea garden for the first time this year. It was more beautiful than I remembered. My son stepping over a stone bridge for the first time gave me a mini-heart attack as he could have easily fallen in the water.
- Went to the zoo for the first time this year with both kids. They saw their first rhinoceros, grizzly bear, black bear, flamingos, orangutans, kangaroo, koala bear, horses, and ostrich. We paid for a year membership in February and then the zoo shut down shortly thereafter.
- Went on vacation to Lake Tahoe for the first time since Fall 2019. It wasn’t a very relaxing trip because the kids didn’t sleep well. But I’m glad to say we did it, especially if there’s another lockdown. Our kids went on their first real hike and I’ve been teaching my son how to swim.
Other Random Things
I was happy to have set up three playground playdates with our son’s old preschool classmates. Not having social contact with same-age kids was starting to concern me after seven months.
We got an inflatable pool for $70. It was perfect because the temperature frequently got to over 80. My son and I loved it.
My daughter is crawling all over the place now. She’s also pulling herself up and standing at 10 months. Her feet are so small; I hope they can support her weight. She’s always smiling and so excited. Fingers crossed her cheerful personality continues for the rest of her life.
For Halloween, we dressed them up as Number Block O and Number Block 1,000. If you’re looking for a good show on Netflix or Youtube to help kids count and do basic math, Number Blocks is a good one.
On the downside, we had a small scare when our daughter started itching and swelling up due to a food allergy. She’s at the stage where she’s starting to eat solid foods now, so we have to be very careful. We now have plenty of children’s Benadryl and an EpiPen just in case.
Given the S&P 500 lost about 3.5% for October, so did ~25% of our net worth. It’s never fun to go in reverse, but I’m hopeful the Fed and the Federal government will resume stimulating the economy post-election.
On the rental property front, all of my tenants continued to pay on time because all of them are gainfully employed.
I have been wondering whether my tenants in my 2/2 condo will ever relocate given they’ve been there for three years and they are two individuals. My hope is they stay until at least June 1, 2021, by which time I’m assuming there will be a viable vaccine. If so, there should be no hit to cash flow during this latest recession as demand for condo living in a prime non-downtown area should rebound.
Demand to rent and buy on the less dense western side of San Francisco continues to be strong. I’ve been tracking comparable homes every month during the pandemic and I’m continually impressed with what many homes are closing for.
My overall net worth, according to Personal Capital, was flat again for the month (+12% for the year) as a decline in stocks was offset by healthy passive income and online income. I’ve kept my real estate portfolio valuation flat and bonds have traded sideways for a while. The spikes in my chart are from when I was playing around with my property valuations after a reader said I sold one property too cheap back in 2017.
Every year, my goal is to grow my net worth by 10%. My other financial goal since having kids is to generate $300,000 a year in retirement income so that both my wife and I can be stay at home parents.
Passive Income Update
I received a surprise $34,981 distribution from my real estate crowdfunding portfolio in October. Before the $34,981 distribution, I had already received $191,679 in distributions for 2020. Therefore, I thought distributions were done for the year, especially with the pandemic hitting the heartland hard in 2H2020.
Unanticipated distributions are like getting surprise presents. However, my tax liability is going to be much higher than expected because I originally forecasted receiving only $69,000 in real estate crowdfunding income for 2020. This miscalculation is too big and needs to be rectified for 2021.
I ended up reinvesting $21,000 of the proceeds into the S&P 500 when it started selling off during the last week of October. I also bought $15,000 more Netflix after they disappointed on their latest results because there was a pull-forward of their subscriber count. If we go into another lockdown, I’m betting Netflix will outperform again. I’ve owned Netflix for over eight years, so this is not a new position.
In my newsletter, I said I would buy any dips before the election and that’s what I did. I’m counting on the Fed to stay accommodative, no matter who wins the presidency.
At the same time, I don’t mind hoarding a lot of cash as we go into a potentially dark winter. Since about July, I’ve been mostly saving the majority of income, paying down some mortgage debt, and investing in a remodel. I definitely feel less anxiety the more cash I have.
October was the best I felt all year. My occasional shortness of breath I experienced earlier in the year all but went away. I was no longer conscience of my breathing when I spoke.
October was also really fun because we had a softball game every week. There’s so much smack talking among a group of really different personalities. One of the more boastful guys captained a team he drafted and lost by an astounding 21 runs. When I asked him what he would have done differently in terms of drafting, batting line up, and defensive positions, he said he wouldn’t have changed a thing. Love it!
It’s interesting, but as I’ve gotten older, random health issues seem to pop up more frequently now. It’s becoming rarer that every single body part feels great at the same time. Playing lots of sports doesn’t help my bum shoulder, sore lower back, and achy knees either. Therefore, I’ve got to space these activities out more and let my body heal. It’s just hard to take it easy when things could shut down again.
Mentally, I think many of us are going to look back on this time period and realize we were under much more stress than we realized. I strongly believe mental health leads to physical ailments. Whatever chronic or random pain you are feeling may very well be from stress.
For parents out there trying to juggle work and parenthood, please don’t be too hard on yourself. Cut yourself and your kids some slack. These marathon days are intense! If you’ve got to put them on the iPad for an hour so you can unwind, do it.
It has taken me seven months to finally feel OK with being a parent to two young children during a time of great uncertainty. And I don’t even have the pressures of a day job, only a commitment to keep writing on FS.
Financial Samurai (4/5)
I kept publishing 3X a week without fail. My wife and I also recorded a couple of podcasts. I’m thinking of starting a private paid newsletter for $10/month where I’ll share more opinions and more investment ideas. But I’m not sure whether I want to take on this commitment just yet.
Some of you may have noticed I finally added published and updated dates on all my posts. There was no button to press to make it possible myself, so I paid someone to code it into the site.
I was also able to add a couple new sponsors in October. However, I’m not really enjoying the business development part of running Financial Samurai. I’d rather just focus all of my time writing.
October, November, and December are seasonally slow months for personal finance traffic. We’re all tired and trying to spend more time enjoying the holidays. I expect this year will be no exception. I’m ready to take all of December off myself after taking things easier in Samurai September.
I spent a lot of time writing during our Lake Tahoe trip. Therefore, I should be able to keep up my publication cadence for the rest of the year.
My favorite posts in October are:
Praying For Continued Good Health
November 2019 was about the time I started getting sick. My son was in preschool, caught colds, and then got us all sick for several months. Therefore, each day I’m not sick after November 1, 2020 will feel like a win.
I’m hopeful that because our son is no longer going to preschool that we’re all going to be healthy for the remainder of the year. I’d pay a lot of money not to get sick ever again.
I’m thankful my kids haven’t been negatively affected by the pandemic given they are so young. In fact, the pandemic has probably improved their lives given my wife and I are spending more time with them.
We are reapplying to a new preschool for Fall 2021. We got wait-listed for Fall 2020, which was just as well since we would have deferred. Hopefully, things will be much better next year. If he doesn’t get in, that’s fine as we’re OK with homeschooling for the foreseeable future.
Overall, October was a wonderful month. There were so many things to do it felt a little overwhelming. It would have been nice to make some money in the stock market too. But at least the S&P 500 is still marginally up for the year.
Let’s see if this early retirement freedom can last for at least a couple more months!
Goals For November 2020
For November, we plan to continue taking full advantage of all our favorite parks, museums, zoos, and playgrounds that were closed for so long. The city spent a lot of money remodeling several playgrounds during the pandemic we’d now like to check out.
Right around Thanksgiving is when rainy season begins so we need to take full advantage of the remaining great weather. That said, winter is generally moderate enough where we can all still go hiking and play sports.
My contractor is also supposed to go full steam ahead on a ground floor remodel at one of my rental houses. The upstairs has already been remodeled and rented out. The downstairs can be rented out as a separate unit.
We’ve blown out roughly 250 sqft of space downstairs that consisted of a weird shaped room and an old half bathroom. In its place will be 600 sqft of space consisting of a living room, bedroom, closet, full bathroom, hallway, and laundry room. The old knob and tube wiring has been completely replaced by modern romex electrical wiring, which is much better for safety.
When the ~$70,000 project is done, it should add about $300,000 in value since we’ve created more livable space. However, I’m focused on building more investment income though rental properties because the value of cash flow has gone way up. Therefore, my goal is to finish the project by January 15, 2021 and rent the unit out for between $1,500 – $1,800 a month.
Fingers crossed the SF Department of Building Inspection gets its act together and my contractor doesn’t go AWOL for several weeks like he tends to do.
Here’s to an even better November!
Readers, how was your October? Any plans for November?