February Wall Chart and Net Worth Report

I missed last month. Life happened, but we’re moving on! 

I was in Denver Colorado the last time I was supposed to publish this, and it just didn’t happen. The lack of intentionality bled over to other aspects of my life, but we’re on the up and up. Just like the stock markets have been this year 🙂

The Wall Chart is borrowed directly from Your Money or Your Life, which is one of the cornerstone books of the FIRE movement. By consistently keeping track of all of your money coming in and out, you can start to make better decisions as to how you spend your life energy. I use the YNAB software for all of my budgeting, which makes keeping track of what comes in and out SUPER easy.

February’s Wall Chart Report:

This month I come back down to earth a little. But I expected this. A couple things entered into the equation here.


The numbers:

Income: $3390.98

Spending: $3296.91

Margin: $94.07

I’ve been officially keeping with this wall chart for 5 months now, and I’ve been enjoying the exercise. 5 months in a row, and I have yet to go negative on my margin! This month tested me though.

My trip to Denver for a retreat was more expensive than I had budgeted. 

It’s time to start trying to push that income number back up a little!

Net Worth as of 1/1/2019 : $80623.58

Mr. Market helped the net worth expand this month. 

One of my goals for this year is to build another 20k into my net worth, I want to do that through mostly debt repayment. I have a credit card I’ve let stick around for too long, as well as some student loans left. This isn’t a sexy way to increase networth, but it will make my monthly expenses go down over time, which makes it more stable to be self employed. 

Investment Study Update 2. Rebounding stronger than Lebron

Damm Daniel.

Life has happened pretty hard to me over the last few weeks, and I’ve gotten terrible about keeping to my posting schedule here on Margin Studies. Huge workloads combined with travel and then the related panic of catching up with work after a month of travel definitely has me reeling!


It was fun to dive back into checking in on the status of the investment study. I’m a complete nerd about it, but it’s fun to see how these different portfolios are reacting to the different market conditions.

If you haven’t read up on the investment study, feel free to check it out here, otherwise, lets move on 🙂

Current Score Cards: Investment Study Version 2/27/19

Static Investment Study:

The Midwest portfolio was trailing the mattress by about 200 dollars last update, and because it was the closest to the top, it gained the top spot while posting a modest gain of 7% in the two months. Worth noting, and probably worth being excited about: The mattress is no longer the smartest choice.

Dollar Cost Averaging Study:


Last month, I made the point that the influx of $1000 that these portfolios were receiving would likely cause different results as we go in the study. And after two months we are already seeing a difference in the standings of the Dollar Cost study vs the Static Study. The Midwest portfolio still retained the top spot, but the Risky Robots aggressive robo-advisor based portfolio as well as the Simple path are not far behind. This is will be an interesting study to watch over time and perhaps use to help you decide what path you want to take with your own finances, as this models an average investor’s Monthly 401k / IRA contributions.

A look into each portfolio…

If you’re interested in learning more about each specific portfolio, they are described more in detail on the Original Investment Study post.

The Ivy League Portfolio

The Ivy League Portfolio vaulted forward with a 12.3% gain to $10,345.36 over the last two months. Because it’s a balanced portfolio, it wasn’t able to see the same gains that the more Stock Heavy portfolios saw over the last two months. (Static Study rebalance) However, because of the success of the stock markets, in order to keep balanced, one share of VTI and VNQ were sold to buy more bonds.

The Midwest

The Midwest Portfolio, a portfolio comprised of ETFs and modeled after Ray Dalio’s All Weather Porfolio, is still the champion among our non mattress portfolios. It’s worth noting that it’s holding onto the top spot while having the least impressive gains over the last two months. (Static Study rebalance) The big transactions that took place to rebalance was taking some stocks off the board (VTI) to purchase more long term bonds (TLT)

The Risky Robots

This aggressive robo-advisor based fund came roaring back thanks to it’s heavy emphasis on US, Foreign and Emerging Stock Markets. It’s holding the number two spot behind the Midwest in both the static and the dollar cost study. If we have another profitable couple of months, this portfolio could very well take the number one spot, however, it will be hard to keep pace with the next two portfolios in sunny weather. (Static Study rebalance) to rebalance, the Risky Robots portfolio also took some money off the table and sold a couple shares of US and Dividend Stocks to increase its holdings of Bonds, but also poured some extra money into the Non- US stocks.

The Simple Path

This portfolio is made up of 100% US stocks, and while this portfolio took the largest hit over the first two months of the study, it’s come back in a wild way! A strong recovery in the US markets brought this portfolio up nearly 20% to reach $ 10,317.43. I’m not a unicorn within the FIRE community, and I have a lot of faith in the Simple Path to Wealth that Jim Collins writes about, this is both the simplest portfolio for me to manage for the investment study, it also happens to be where my money is.

The Smoother Path

Because the Smoother Path is weighted 89/11 US stocks and US bonds, it has experienced some of the bigger whiplashes of this investment study, pretty similar to what we’ve seen with the Simple Path, it gained about 17% to reach $ 10283.82 — it’s a big gainer, but

Don’t call it a comeback

We did it. all of the portfolios are back to positive numbers! I’m more excited about the future of this investment study than I was in december, It’s exciting to see the way these portfolios are handing differences in market conditions.

I scheduled the next update of the investment study for April, 24, 2019.

How are you doing? How are your investments doing?  Are you along for the ride, too?

New For 2019 The Great Acorns Trial of 2019

I spent part of December simplifying my banking situation, I’m hoping to leave my longtime National Bank relationship for a local credit union that offers a checking account that bears 3% interest. … It seems like a no brainer!

As I transition my spending to the debit card at the new institution, I want to see if I cant find a way to stimulate some savings without it making too big of a splash on my normal budget. I’ve decided to give Acorns a try for the first 6 months of 2019.

Acorns: Round up your debit card transactions!

Acorns is a Financial app that syncs up with your bank account to round up the transactions from your debit card as if you were throwing your spare change in a coin jar. I’m really curious to see what sort of impact is has on my savings in 2019.

Because I’m an extremely active user of YNAB so we will see how using this service actually works in practice. Acorns tracks the amounts of your rounded up transactions until the total reaches 5 dollars, and then they pull the 5 dollars from your account, because of this, I’ll likely have to do small adjustments to my budget as the withdrawals happen.

Once money is in Acorns, you can select between 5 different portfolios:

  • Conservative (20% stocks, 80% bonds)
  • Moderately Conservative (40% stocks, 60% bonds)
  • Moderate ( 54% stocks, 6% REITs, 40% bonds )
  • Moderately Aggressive ( 72% Stocks, 8% REITs, 20% bonds )
  • Aggressive (90% Stocks, 10% REITS)

I’ve selected the Aggressive portfolio. The stock market right now is a wild ride, but I’m not looking to retire in the traditional sense with purely stock investments and dividends, so I’m ready for a long ride!

More ways to add to your account

You can add money to your account via a direct deposit- like a traditional investment account, but there’s also a program called ‘Found Money’ which is essentially a list of companies that if you purchase things with your Acorns Activated Card, they will add more money to your account, there are Found Money deals from:

  • Hulu
  • Moosejaw
  • Nike
  • Sam’s Club
  • Thrive Market
  • Zappos
  • and many more.

I am going to take a look and see if any of these are potential places for me to funnel my purchases towards, but right now I’m not spending a lot of extra money outside of groceries.

My plan for Acorns is to spend the first 6 months of 2019 optimizing purchases to leverage the Acorns platform, and then transition to a new experiment for the end of 2019. — I’m currently thinking about doing a credit card churning experiment for the second half of the year!

Do you have any experience with Acorns? What do you think?

Do you do cool things with your spare change?

What is Financial Independence?

Much of this blog revolves around my journey to Financial Independence. But what does that even mean?

Simply put- a person has reached financial independence when the income that’s produced by their assets can pay for their living expenses indefinitely.

Or put even simpler.

They no longer have to work for money again in their life.

This is the goal- and the primary focus of the FIRE community- they want to reach Financial Independence, and then Retire Early. That’s music to my millennial ears.

Personally, i’m most interested in the Financial Independence portion of the definition. Because i’m self employed and i’m always coming up with some other idea to make some money, I don’t know that i’ll ever truly retire. That being said, I want to get to the point AS SOON AS I CAN where my decision to work every day is coming from the desire to do that work, rather than feeling like I need the money.

Me being an absolute nerd.

I’ve mentioned Rich Dad Poor Dad a few times on this blog already in the 3 months I’ve been writing for Margin Studies. The definition of wealth he used in the book was fascinating to me.

Wealth is a person’s ability to survive X number of days forward.

R. Buckminster Fuller

That begs the question: How many months forward can you survive?

Last week, during a 30 minute drive to go visit a client, I became obsessed with this idea of creating my own type of retirement calculator. Essentially, I listed out the amount in my bank accounts and retirement accounts, and calculated how many months forward I could survive given my current investment and passive income, as well as my current level of expenses.

In theory (one with many nearly false assumptions like…. What happens if my health care costs go up in the future? Not accounted for… so yeah. ) , if I can get to a point where I still have money left in my nest egg by the time I hit age 100, I should be good to transition into a state of ‘retirement.’ Even though there are a lot more factors to build into my model in the future, I know that as soon as my assets are covering the rest of the months of my life, that I’m close to the end…… but I’m not close to the end at the time of this writing.

I hit my centennial birthday in over 800 months, and right now my level of wealth only projects me forward 8 months. So there’s room to grow. The beauty of this model is that there’s a few ways for me to extend this runway.

  1. Have a higher amount in liquid savings and retirement. — This model does NOT figure in the value of my house, but it does figure in the fact that I have roommates. By adding to my investment accounts, it not only adds to my total for investment income, but it also provides a larger balance to chip away at as this runway gets longer and longer.
  2. Increase my passive income. — If I can find more ways to have income come in month after month after month, my runway gets longer MUCH faster. If I can find a way to add just 200 dollars a month to my passive income, my current runway goes from 8 months to 10 months. I can think of a TON of ways to make another 200 dollars a month.
  3. Decrease my monthly expenses. Similar to point number two: finding an extra $200 dollars a month extends my current runway from 8 to 10 months.

This sounds a little like Margin Studies to me 🙂

Chris Guillebeau, in his Side Hustle School Podcast had a guest on his podcast during his first year of shows, and the person he was featuring had a really cool alternative definition to financial independence, and it went as follows:

Create 5 independent businesses, that are each spinning off 2000 dollars a month.

Essentially, if you had this level of income producing business assets, you’d be Financial Independent as long as you’re not spending over 100k in a year!

If I were to look to build a couple side business assets, I could hit a form of this financial independence assuming i could attain another $1500 in passive income.

What are you doing to move towards Financial Independence?

December Wall Chart and Net Worth Report

A new year brings a new month, and a new month brings another update to the Margin Studies Wall Chart and net worth report series!

The Wall Chart is borrowed directly from Your Money or Your Life, which is one of the cornerstone books of the FIRE movement. By consistently keeping track of all of your money coming in and out, you can start to make better decisions as to how you spend your life energy.

I use the YNAB software for all of my budgeting, and I LOVE it. I’m currently resisting the urge to tell all of my friends. I’m sure an official review of the software will happen in the coming months.

December’s Wall Chart Report:

This month I come back down to earth a little. But I expected this. A couple things entered into the equation here.

One. I’m no longer paying myself my self employment taxes

When I first started using YNAB to track my budget, I had this brilliant idea to combine my business budget onto the same worksheet as my personal budget, but after I spent some time reading Profit First.

The business finance system laid out in the book involves opening up different bank accounts, and distributing your income a couple times a month into the different accounts.

I loved the book and implemented the system right away, but it was going to make my budgeting VERY messy. So I split up my business and personal budgets, and because I’ll be paying my taxes from my business, I’m not paying myself that extra amount.

Two. My old business is officially shut down.

As of this summer, I transitioned into a single owner LLC, and me and a business partner decided to close up our existing business. As of last week, i’ve received my last disbursement from that business. So i’m no longer collecting two job’s worth of income 🙂

Three. Seasonal depression is a thing.

The amount of gray that we’ve lived through in Michigan the last two months is ridiculous. I’m attempting to fight this by getting to the gym 5 days a week, and cutting out fast food. I know it will work… I’ve lost a good amount of weight in the past, and a lot of it has crept back, but I feel pretty determined to start making better and better decisions. FI is about the aggregation of marginal gains, right? Well, health is too.

Four. Spending was up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My house insurance bill came, so that was a bigger expense that I had been saving for. I also had some Christmas Gifts to purchase, as well as the seemingly endless opportunities to meet friends for beers or coffee or dinner. It was a rough month for my entertainment budget.

The numbers:

Income: $5,390.60

Spending: $3,460.17

Margin: $1,940.43

I mean… I still saved some… I’ve also decided to start putting in the 4% calculation, the calculation when, once that number reaches my expenses number, we can say I’m officially financially independent.
We’re aiming for up and to the right. so we’re still winning.

Net Worth as of 1/1/2019 : $76,997.86

This number is an increase of $1,127.07 over what I had calculated in last months’ Wall Chart / Net Worth Report. Given that we saw a big shift in the stock market over the last month, I was pleased to still end up ahead. I plan on creating a Goals post later this week, as it’s a very new years kind of thing to do. I think this is the year where my net worth reaches beyond 100k! I know other net worth trackers around the internet tend to go into how each account fluctuates to reach that number. Is that something that interests you guys? I could see it being helpful!