Sunday, May 31, 2015

Liebster Award

My gratitude to Dividend Developer for nominating me for a Liebster Award. The Liebster Award is a sort chain-letter of blogging, its purpose to raise awareness among newer blogs. Recipients of the award must acknowledge the nominator, provide 11 random facts, answer 5-11 questions proposed by the nominators, and finally nominate 5 additional bloggers to keep the chain-letter moving.

First, thank you to Dividend Developer for the nomination. I have been following DD since soon after his blog started; his first post caught my eye as it was the same way I started my first post about a week earlier. For those that don't follow DD you should definitely check out his blog, he cruises through analysis on a large swath of companies and posting the results several times a week.

11 Random Facts About Me

1) I am 29 years old, I live in Seattle, WA and I work as Structural Engineer at an aerospace company.

2) I love basketball. I watch a lot of the NBA and, since Seattle no longer has a team, I follow several teams but the Cavaliers and Lebron James are my main jam. I love playing even more even than watching and I am not very good, lucky for me I am tall so it evens out. If my knees would let me I would play basketball all day every day.

3) My other hobbies include hiking, biking, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, reading, and my favorite: binge watching Netflix.

4) I am the 2nd of 6 kids. I like having a big family but I am not very close with any of my siblings.

5) I am 6' 4" making me taller than average but my older brother makes me feel small and always has, so sometimes I forget how tall I am.

6) My girlfriend's name is Tracy and we have been dating for over 4 years. We met on a booze cruise and I guess she liked my dance moves because she was insistent on having a friend introduce us.

7) The Seahawks should have given the ball to Lynch....just saying.

8) At one time I was able to ride a unicycle but I'm sure I can't now.

9) I am really interested in teaching. I think I would love it but I'm not sure if my communication skills are really on par to be a good teacher. In college I was considering switching from engineering to teaching early on but as I completed engineering classes I realized I was good at engineering and was starting to even enjoy it. Now my goal is to continue working full time and try to teach engineering part time at a community college and if I like it and am good at it I will try to switch to teaching full time.

10) I love kids and they usually love me too. I always have, probably comes with having 4 younger siblings, the youngest of whom I babysat and took care of quite frequently. Now I have my nephew who is a load of fun and my girlfriend has a nephew as well who is about to turn 1 so he is a lot of fun to play with too. I think my favorite thing about kids is that they wake up so excited for the day, they hate sleeping because it takes them away from all the cool stuff out in the world waiting for them to see, play, and experience. As adults all we want is to sleep because waking up means its time to go to work.

11) While I love basketball, it has not always been kind to me; I have dislocate my pinky at least three times playing basketball. The first time was really bad and they gave me a splint. Well my pinky ended up healing to the curve of the splint and now I can no longer straighten my pinky, it is stuck in a semi-bent position. Which I think has made it more susceptible to dislocation. I have also has some bad ankle sprains, hyper-extended elbows, finger jams, eye pokes, countless bruises, and of course the worst of all is the nagging knee pain due to all the wear and tear I put on it.

Up next are the questions Dividend developer posed to his Liebster Award recipients.

1) Why did you start your blog?

I started my blog for three reasons: accountability, community, and practice. 

Firstly, I wanted to make myself accountable for my goals and actions. The single best thing you can do to accomplish a goal (besides setting it) is to write the goal down. So this blog provides an easy way for me to have my goals clearly stated and permanently recorded. In addition, by posting to the world the fine details of my budgets and goals, I am holding myself accountable to the world. This provides a real incentive to meet your goals or face the shame of the world knowing you didn't quite make it.

Secondly, I feel that having a blog joins you more to the community of like-minded individuals. Prior to starting my blog I followed several other blogs regular but never participated in discussions and such. Now with my blog I feel more inclined to comment and participate than I did before. It also provides a great opportunity to find additional like minded people that I would have never found otherwise.

Lastly, I wanted to practice both my writing and my communication skills. As an introvert am not always the best communicator and I have always struggled to put my thoughts into words (whether verbal or written). Well, the only way to get better at something is to practice. This blog provides a great opportunity to practice putting my thoughts down in writing and sending it out to the world to read. This part I need to do better on with my blog; I need to take more time and be more thoughtful with my blog post to make sure I'm what I am putting out there is high quality and makes sense.

2) What do you like most about the dividend growth investing/personal finance community? What do you dislike? Why?

My number one favorite thing about dividend investing is the dividends themselves. Dividends are cold hard cash that a company pays you in exchange for using your capital to further grow their business. This makes complete sense to me. What does not make sense is growth investing, with growth investing the only way you make money is by selling your stake in the company, but once your stake is sold off, that's it, there is no more, the well has dried up. Dividend on the other hand provide a continuous stream of income I plan to use to replace my needing to work.

My least favorite thing about investing is analysis. It makes my eyes blurry and I hate it. I probably shouldn't be a dividend investor and should probably just hold index funds...but why not do a little of both?

3) Why are you fighting for financial independence?

For me its all about freeing up my time. I don't hate working I just hate how much I have to work. I think 40 hours is far too much and overtime only makes things worse. I don't need to earn as much as I do now, I only need to meet my expenses. Ideally I would like to work part time with the freedom to take time off when I wanted to. Or work full time for stretches followed by a stretch of freedom.

I had great reminder recently of what I wanted, I spent a quick weekend with my family. There was nothing exciting about the trip but I had a great time with my family and the trip was very inexpensive. I left thinking "when can I come back again?" and the only issue that came up was time. Time away from work, time to recoup, extra time put in at work to make up for the time away. It always comes back to time for me.

4) What is the favorite stock/financial investment you own?

Probably SPY (a S&P500 index ETF) because it was the first stock purchase I ever made and even though I didn't know what I was doing, I bought it and forgot it and in the intervening years it was earning me money.

5) If you could own one stock that you don’t already own, what would it be? Assuming valuations were ideal, etc.

I don't have anything specific in mind but probably something with a really long history of paying dividends do maybe 3M, Dover, Genuine Auto Parts, etc.

6) I like DH’s question, so let’s ask it again: Someone gives you $10 million and says “Have fun”. What do you do with it? Assume it’s after tax and has no restrictions on how you use it.

I would invest probably 8 million of it (boring right?) to ensure a long life of plenty of money. I would use the other 2 million to buy a sailboat and sail around the world stopping anywhere and everywhere I wanted. I have never sailed before so I would probably need to spend some of the money on a captain and/crew. I have no idea how much such a thing costs so maybe 2 millions isn't enough. I'd also buy a house and a couple of vacation houses (that I would rent out when I'm away, no need to waste money here).

7) What’s your favorite kind of cheese? (I'm from Wisconsin, this is important!)

Probably bree or a smoked guoda both are amazingly delicious.

8) If you could visit any place on this earth for free, where would you go?

Probably Antarctica, not because it is that high on my list of places to go but because its (probably) really expensive to go and I would like to get the most value I can out of it. So suck it who is paying for this hypothetical trip.

9) What was your dream job as a kid?

Easy, paleontologist. I freaking LOVED dinosaurs as a kid, my mom even painted dinosaurs all over my room to make it mine, I have the best mom.

10) If you currently have or want to have kids, what’s the one thing you hope to pass on to them?

My genes; I am tall, good looking (according to my girlfriend but she's biased, I am very healthy, smart, I feel like I would be starting my kids off on the right footing.

11) What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received?

I don't have any that I can think of, I usually brush off praise because I find any attention embarrassing. The best compliment I could receive would be "nice dunk" because I can't actually dunk anymore and even if I could no one would call it "nice".

11 Questions for Nominees

1) Why did you start your blog?

2) Describe your biggest life goals.

3) What is most likly to stop you from reaching those goals?

4) What was your dream job as a kid?

5) What is your dream job now?

6) Favorite book? Why?

7) If you could travel back in time to live permanently, what time period/where would you go?

8) Your dream vacation experience?

9) If you had the skills to be a professional athlete what sport would you play?

10) Your favorite investment?

11) Your worst investment decision?

Finally the nominees:
All of the blogs I follow are not eligible for the Liebster Award, so I had to go looking for some nominees.

Dividend Beginner

Dividend Empire

Dividend Wisp

Forward Dividends

Frugality to Financial Freedom

Thanks for stopping by!

-A Better Me

Saturday, May 9, 2015

April Goals Update

So glad that the weekend is finally here. For the most part work as been busy and interesting for the last year but the last couple weeks and especially this week work has not interesting at all providing an excellent reminder of why I am pursuing financial freedom. Setting and completing goals is the most important step to achieving financial freedom and to keep myself on track I like to update my goals each month to keep myself accountable.

Expense rate under 45% of my net income.  C
My expense rate was 51% of my income, which isn't bad on its own and is actually quite good considering I spent half of the month in New Zealand on vacation. So 51% good all things considered but I had several bad months already this year so I need to be bringing my expense rate down by keeping the remaining months under my goal of 45%.

Establish an emergency fund and automatically deposit some money into it each month. C
Still no progress in this department yet, if I want to open a Money Market account, as I was planning to do, I need at least $10k to open that account with my bank so I am still trying to decide how much cash to save up for this goal.

Invest $2,500 per month. A+
I invested over $2,482 with purchases of NOV and my Loyal3 purchases of Disney (DIS), Kellogg's (K), Unilever (UL), a Pepsico (PEP) this month. Not where I would like to be for the month, but I am up to $10,836 for the year, so I am right now track, if not a little ahead of schedule.
Open a Loyal3 account and start a small amount of automatic investing. B+
In one sense this goal is complete, I opened an account and starting automatic investing, however I don't want to mark this as complete yet, I would like to reevaluate in a couple of months and if all is going well, add to my automatic investing.

Pay for my vacations with overtime.
With being on vacation for half of April I was only able to put in 4 hours of overtime in April, fantastic. I was ahead of schedule last month so I am probably where I would like to be. 

Establish one new source of income. C
No update on this front yet.


Complete the Tough Mudder.
I am already signed up for this one, so it will be happening.

Workout my legs 2x per week.
I definitely did not meet this goal after being on vacation for half the month.

Complete a sprint triathlon. C
No progress on this front yet, but I have been looking for a race I want to join.

Run at a faster Pace: complete a 15K in 1 hour and 24 minutes (9 minute/mile). D
No progress here either.

Reduce my percentage of body fat to 12%. D
I am actually not sure what my current percentage is but I don’t think it is good. 

Track my calorie intake every day and review weekly. F
April was a lost cause on this front.


Read 6 Books from my Reading List. C
Finally started one of the books on my reading list.

Take an online class. D
Nothing here either.

Average one blog post per week. A
I posted 4 articles in April just barely squeezing in this goal.

Travel somewhere new. COMPLETE
We did it and it was great! We loved our time in New Zealand and I wish we had gone for longer.

Try meditation. C
I need to figure out a game plan for accomplishing this goal.

Try out one new hobby. C
I think I am going to pursue mountain biking, but I need to figure how I can try it out instead of diving headfirst into it.

Date night with my girlfriend at least once per month. A
Our whole trip to New Zealand was one long date night..

I am definitely making progress. But my financial goals need some tightening up if I am going to reach my goals, my expense rate in particular.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

April Portfolio and Networth Update

Hope your week is going well. Mine has been good so far, it has been a beautiful spring here in the Pacific Northwest. Well here it is, my portfolio and networth update for April. 

I had only one purchase this month, I purchased 44 shares of NOV  @ $51.8799 a share. I should have written a post when I made the purchase but I barely made this purchase this month and I have actually been posting a lot more recently than I normally do. In the end there was not a whole lot to say about this purchase. I initially bought into NOV in January at $58.2199 so when I noticed that price had dropped it was an easy decision to add to my holdings.

Scottrade offers a Flexible Reinvestment Plan, where dividends from qualifying companies can be used to purchase shares in any other qualifying companies without any commission. So I take advantage of this every month and I usually use it to build up my positions in companies where my positions are lagging.
This month my dividends were used to purchase 8 shares of Kimco Realty Corporation (KIM). As I have been saying for the last couple of month, this feature has been on autopilot for a long time now so I need to evaluated where best to invest these small chunks of money; I was 2 hours too late to change this for the month of April.

My Loyal3 account is going strong, automatically invest $50 of shares in 4 companies: The Walt Disney Company (DIS), Kellogg's (K), Pepsico (PEP), and Unilever (UL). As of March 31st my Loyal3 account stands:

Symbol Shares Total
DIS 1.4441 $157
UL 3.5072 $154
PEP 1.5598 $148
K 2.3192 $147

Total $606

I think I will let my Loyal3 account continue the automatic investing for a couple of months before I reevaluate.

Net Worth
Net worth will always be a secondary goal for me with generating passive income being my primary goal. But net worth is something I have started tracking. Given how much of my net worth is in stocks, my net worth will have a tendency to fluctuate frequently with the market but hopefully my net worth continue an overall upward trend over time.
   - 401k:                   $83,043
   - Investments:        $74,791
   - Cash:                   $5,333
   - Student Loan 2:  $6,695
   - Car Loan:           $8,178
NETWORTH:       $148,379 up  6.5% from last month

Current Portfolio:


Well not much exciting happening to my portfolio this month, just one more purchase. Now that the big trip is over hopefully I will have some more time and money to focus on some solid dividend investing.

How about you? Any good purchases in April?

Photo Credit:

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

April '15 Income and Expenses

It seems like just yesterday I was posting my March update usually its because life is rolling  at hyper speed but this time I was just very slow to post my March update. But now April is over as well. April was an epic month for me because I was in New Zealand for the first half of it. Now that the trips is over and the final damage has been tallied it is back to the grindstone.

Oh and Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! My girlfriend and I celebrated this weekend by attending Seattle's annual Taco Truck Challenge. We have been going for the last 3 year and we have always had a good time. This time was not as fun as previous year though, due to the popularity of the event. All of the food trucks had huge lines and even started to run out of food and in the beer garden it was the same story long lines and they started running out of beer and margarita mix. Given the crowds and the amount of cash I dropped on that one day we'll have to see if we go again next year.

My expenses are listed to the side. On each line I have the budgeted amount per month, the actual
amount spent for the month of April.

My total expenses were just over $2,369, which is just under my planned expenses.

Most of my categories were pretty good but my Groceries and Other categories were fantastic.

My Travel budget was high, but not as high as I was expecting. I spent the first half of the month in New Zealand and all expenses during that time went into my travel budget. But what saved me is that my girlfriend paid me back for her half of the expenses, bringing my travel expenses down.

Paycheck: $4,676. A little lower than the last couple month due to a lack of overtime while I was on vacation.

% Expenses = 51% of income. Not fantastic but not bad. It well definitely help me get back on track but I need some fantastic months in order to reach my goal for 2015.

Dividend Income:
This month I earned $142 without lifting a finger. Not a great month but hey its money that I didn't have before. The following companies paid me this month:



This month turned out MUCH better than I had expected, while it was not good enough to put me back on track for the year, it is still a step in the right direction.

How about you? How was your April?


Photo Credit:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

New Zealand Part 2: Grand Total

The post won't be nearly as fun as the last post, no pictures of gorgeous landscapes, exhilarating activities, or dizzying heights, no videos of adrenaline pumping jumps, and no descriptions of all of the activities New Zealand has to offer. No, this post will be far more boring and far more depressing as this post serves as a final tally of how much our New Zealand adventure costs.

We spent a total of $3,755 per person. Which is in line with what I had planned for the trip, I figured about $4,000 so I suppose I did a little better than I had expected. Below is a detailed breakdown of the trip, including the cost of each activity.

Obviously the biggest expense was transportation, not surprising considering the transcontinental flight. New Zealand is not a country that can be easily traversed without a car only; the population there is not enough to support much public transportation (4.5 million people over 100,000 square miles compared to Great Britain's 60 million people over 88,000 square miles). So, a car rental was necessary but it turned out New Zealand has some inexpensive options. Overall I don't think there was a whole lot of improvement we could have had in the area of transportation.

Our dining and drinking budget could certainly have been better. But when you are traveling it can be hard not eat out with at least some regularity. We did well when it came to lunches, we bought bread, meat, and cheese at grocery stores and made ourselves sandwiches on the fly. Most motels in New Zealand have at least partial kitchens so we could have made use of them to cook for ourselves but after a long day of adventure it is nice not to have to worry about it. We also stopped by quite a few breweries and wineries, which I certainly do not regret but was also not helpful to our bottom line.

We mostly stayed in hotels and motels on our trip, though we had a couple of nights where we camped or stayed with my cousin for free. Hotels are certainly not the cheapest option. We stayed 13 nights in a hotel for an average nightly cost of $38 per person. Hostels would have been the cheapest option but fitting my 6'4" frame into a twin sized bunk bed is not pleasant so hotels were worth the cost.

Most of the money we spent on souvenirs was actually spent on the professional photos they sell you after you complete an already pricy activity. In a couple of cases (the Waitomo Caves and the bungy jumping) getting photos from your own camera is impossible so we really did not hesitate to get ourselves a permanent reminder of the awesome times we had.

New Zealand is a place for adventure so it is only fitting that a good chunk of change went to our high flying activities. The bungy jumping and Waitomo Caves stand out the most. I would say both were worth the cost but I don't know that I would do bungy jumping again and while I would love to go caving again but I wouldn't want to go on such an expensive tour.

Well that is it, what it cost us to take an adventure to New Zealand. It was an AMAZING trip and well worth the cost. There are certainly ways we could have done if for cheaper: less eating out, more booking ahead, more budget hotels, less tours, etc. It is also common for travelers to New Zealand to offset their costs by obtaining a holiday (short term) working visa. But when it comes to a trip like this the experiences were far more valuable to me than the money and my only regret was not giving myself more time.

Inter-island Fight$88.92
Transpacific Flight$1,214.10
Car Rental$145.54
Airport Parking$24.36


Abel Tazman Aqua taxi$33.26
Wellington Cable car$4.63
OGO ("Zorbing")$73.99
Jet boat$81.01
Milford Sound Cruise$111.50
Waitomo Caves Adventure$172.01
Polynesian spa$20.19
Bungy jumpint$214.96
Cadbury world tour$16.65
QUEENSTOWN Gondola, Lunch, Luge$61.97
WANAKA bike rental$23.40
Puzzling World$13.61

GRAND TOTAL$3,755.63

Photo credit: