Investment Study – Update 1. Things are going to get interesting.

I first wanted to start publishing the Investment Study on margin studies when I first purchased the domain back in September of 2017, so I’m kind of kicking myself for not starting sooner, as it would be really interesting to have seen the performance of these portfolios over the last 15 months. That being said, I did not expect to be so interested to see how these portfolios have performed over the last two months.

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

… I don’t know if you’ve seen the news. Or heard your Uncle Lester moan about his retirement accounts. Or heard the boastful cries of the crypto police as they’ve come out of hiding for the first time since last Christmas.  For the first time in a decade, we appear to be moving towards a bear market. A bear market is a period of time with falling stock prices. Not ideal, but ultimately if we believe in the strength of the United States economy, these are just hiccups on our way towards retirement.

On the heels of a Government Shutdown, our US stock market has been experiencing decline over the last few months, and that decline has taken a sharper turn toward over the last couple weeks. And this makes this investment study MUCH more exciting. Changing market conditions will give us the opportunity to see how different portfolio compositions react over time.

Before I get to the scorecards, I have a couple notes I want to make.

The Dollar Cost Averaging Study.

Since November, I’ve decided that I’d like to look at the effect of Dollar Cost Averaging on this study. Dollar Cost Averaging is splitting up an investment deposit into multiple smaller deposits, this is to reduce the risk of investing all of your money at the top of the market. Some experts argue, that if the overall trend of a market is up, the sooner you get your money in, the better. However, Dollar Cost Averaging is exactly how most of us invest in these markets. We invest our money as we get earn it.

So as of this update, the Investment Study now has two parts:

  1. The original study — how does a one time investment of 10,000 perform over time?
  2. The dollar cost study — how do these portfolios perform while also receiving smaller deposits every two months. For simplicity, I’m adding $500 a month to each portfolio’s balance, or $1000 every two-month update.

With the addition of the Dollar Cost Averaging Study, I’ve also added a sixth portfolio, mostly for the peace of mind of Uncle Lester.

Introducing The Mattress Portfolio:

This portfolio is …. if you just took all of your savings and hid it under your mattress.

100% dollar bills y’all.

Hopefully over time, each of the other portfolios will far exceed the performance of the Mattress Portfolio, but for this update, those who would have hidden money in their granddad’s grandfather clock would have permission to strut around and look important.


Current Score Cards: Investment Study Version 12/26/18

Static Investment Study:

The Mattress is winning and I hate it.

Dollar Cost Averaging Study:

If this looks familiar, it should. However, as these portfolios continue to receive an influx of cash every two months, I believe that at some point the Dollar Cost standings will look different than the Lump Sum standings.

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 experienced a 7.9% loss to $9,211.63 over the last two months, largely driven by the large losses in the US stock market, as well as foreign markets. To rebalance the portfolio back to the portfolio’s original allocation, two shares of IEF ( US intermediate term bonds ) were sold to purchase additional shares of US and Foreign ETFs.

The Midwest

The Midwest Portfolio, a portfolio comprised of ETFs and modeled after Ray Dalio’s All Weather Porfolio, performed the best over the last two months with a loss of only 1.98% to $9,801.63. To rebalance, shares of Bonds were sold to purchase additional shares of US stocks as well as additional commodities shares.

The Risky Robots

This aggressive robo-advisor based fund experienced a loss of 9.33% to $9,067.12 since the first of November. For rebalancing, shares of emerging market stocks, corporate bonds and emerging market bonds were sold to increase exposure to dividend yielding stocks (VIG) and foreign stocks (VEA).

The Simple Path

Because this portfolio is made up of 100% US stocks, this portfolio took the largest hit over the last two months.  The portfolio value dropped 13.91% to $8,609.17 since November 1st. That hurts. I know this is the allocation of many of us within the FIRE community and even though I agree with many of the arguments behind the portfolio, it struggles during these types of events.

Because this portfolio is only made up of one stock class, no rebalancing will ever be needed throughout this study. (… and honestly that’s so nice and simple)

The Smoother Path

The Smoother Path portfolio also experienced a heavy drop, falling 12.35% to $8,765.38. To rebalance, one bond share was sold to buy an additional share of VTI

Things have gotten interesting!

I’m really intrigued by how the Midwest Portfolio endured the last couple months, even though the portfolio still lost money, it performed 6% better than the next best portfolio. This update has me more excited about the investment study. This information is not meant to be investment advice, this isn’t even meant to show my opinion on the best way to invest. Now I just want for these portfolios to beat the mattress.

I scheduled the next update of the investment study for February 27, 2019.

How are you doing? How are your investments doing? … you’re not selling are you?

What is Margin Studies? Start Here.

I started writing Margin Studies because I wanted to share some of the things I was passionate about, but do it in a way where I was comfortable exploring all aspects of my finances and entrepreneurial journey. I decided to start the blog in a semi anonymous way and start publicly tracking both my net worth as well as my journey down the path to financial independence as laid out by Vicki Robin in Your Money or Your Life.

Margin Studies graph

As I looked at ways for me to improve my finances, I imagined a graph that showed both my income and my expenses. Can you tell i’m a numbers guy? (Insert cliche millennial sweat emoji) I realized that improving my finances came down to these three things.

  1. Increase my monthly take home income
  2. Decrease my spending.
  3. Find ways to invest as much of the difference as possible

These three things are essentially the core of Margin Studies. Enter your email address below to be added to the Margin Studies newsletter- this will allow you to be notified when I publish new content!

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1. Make More Money

The amount of money you make is ultimately your decision. Nobody else in your life has control over how much money you make, except for you. If you want to make more than a barista, take a new job! If you want to make a million dollars, you can! … You just might have a few skills to learn along the way.

As you look to optimize your monthly cash flow in and out of your accounts, you will likely find a point where it’s very difficult to find additional things to reduce or remove from your budget, but there’s always room for you to increase your earnings potential.

Because I’m self employed, many of the things I write about in regards to making more money pertain to starting new projects, side hustles, and increasing sales.

Explore posts about making more money.

2. Spend Less

When you first start down the path to Financial Independence, one of the best things you can do to get some quick wins in building up your monthly margin is finding ways to spend less money.

It’s easier to find an additional $100 of margin money every month by finding ways to save money, rather than finding an additional $100 of income. Why is that?


In order to find an extra $100 in your budget, you just simply need to reduce your spending by $100. In order to earn an extra $100, you actually have to earn $130, have donald take 30 of it, and then you have your $100 to invest.

There’s a lot of room for me to still spend less money every month. These posts detail out the ongoing process.

Explore posts about spending less money.

3. Invest as much of the difference as possible.

Once we have money left over every month, we need to put that money to work somehow! These posts will discuss the investment strategies that I’m exploring further.

According to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the biggest difference between rich and poor people is that rich people spend their money on assets that ultimately pay for their day to day living expenses, where poor people waste their money on things that end up costing them more money (vacation homes, xboxes, car leases, iPads).

Explore posts about doing better with the difference.

4. Bonus Features:

Aside from the three categories of posts listed above, I’m also currently featuring two sets of posts that will track progress over time right now. These two sets are:

  1. The Margin Studies Investment Study.
    I am currently tracking a number of different investment portfolios with the hopes of studying the way each of these portfolios responds to the marketing conditions of the next few years.
  2. Monthly Wall Chart and Net Worth Reports.
    I am diligently tracking my net worth and also publishing my Income / Expense numbers to share my journey down Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life process.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey! Enter your email address below to be added to the Margin Studies newsletter- this will allow you to be notified when I publish new content!

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How do I calculate net worth when I can’t even bake a cake?

One of the things I am publicly tracking on my Net Worth / Wall Chart posts is net worth. Here I want to explain what net worth is, and also how you calculate it.

To calculate net worth, all you need to do is add up your total value of your assets, and subtract the total value of your debt.

Why Track Net Worth at all?

Before I go into the details of how you can go about calculating your own net worth figure lets talk about why it’s important to track net worth in the first place!

It gives you an accurate look at what your wealth looks like today.

You might have student loans still, but your checking and retirement accounts are growing because of your great new job. Net worth helps you cut through the clutter and see a simple reflection of your current financial state.

Tracking it over time is a great way to see progress.

If something happens and your net worth number has gone down in the last 6 months, you can figure out what you’ve been doing and how you should best react. Have you taken on new debt but don’t have any assets to show for it? Has the stock market taken a hit? (it has here at the end of 2018!I) But on flip side, seeing positive changes in Net Worth suggest that you’re doing something right…. Or you’re experiencing the benefits of a stock market boom!

It’s not all about income.

Calculating net worth takes the pressure off of securing a high income, and places importance on what you can do to make sure you KEEP that money. That’s really what the margin studies blog is all about!

Puts your assets and debt load into perspective.

You might be proud of your $300,000, but if your mortgage is still $290,000, the house is only adding $10,000 to your total net worth number.

Calculating Net Worth.

Alright, let’s actually calculate this thing. There’s nothing to really worry about here. The number might not be large, but knowing where you are today will help you make decisions about where you move towards tomorrow.

Add up the value of all of your assets.

For me, assets are anything you own that have a monetary value, however some people argue about what’s actually an asset and what isn’t.

Robert Kiyosaki, in Rich Dad Poor Dad, says that an asset is anything that you own that puts money into your pocket. Put a different way, anything that you own that pays you over time or produces cash flow.  This is the definition I like to use as I look to build website properties or look for ways to spend my budget’s margin every month. For calculating net worth, however, I like the expanded definition that calls it anything of monetary value.

Assets are what you own that have a monetary value, that can be broken down into a few different categories.

  1. Cash — Add up the amount of money you have in Checkings, Savings, or CD accounts, as well as any cash you may have in your wallet, or under your mattress.
  2. Physical Assets — Add up the value of the THINGS you own. Things like your house, your car, the gold bullion that your paranoid uncle finally convinced you to purchase, your collectible pokemon cards, beanie babies and old ipods that you never threw away. This category can be pretty expansive, but go ahead and put a rough estimate on these things.
  3. Investments — Add up the value of your investments. This can be your 401k, 403b, brokerage accounts, but also the cash value of your life insurance, failing cryptocurrency coffers, and other business equity investments you may have.

Ok, so add up all of those, and then celebrate. Congrats you have things! Next we get to see how long we are actually able to celebrate.

Adding up what you owe.

So this one isn’t as fun. But it’s time for us to take a look at our debts, and how that’s affecting our total financial picture.

So Add up your:

  1. Mortgages
  2. Student Loans
  3. Car Loans
  4. Credit Cards.
  5. Money you still owe your rich uncle, or your parents.

You did it.

Putting it all together.

So now you have an assets value, and a debts value, so now we can finally calculate net worth.

Asset Value – Debts Value = Net Worth!

Even this lion is excited to calculate net worth

So that was great an all, but is there an easier way to do it?

Funny you ask that…. yes.

Get Rich Slowly

JD Roth, who blogs over at Get Rich Slowly,  has created this spreadsheet that you can use to easily run the calculations that we walked through above. This is actually the tool I use every month to update my net worth, I just have adjusted a few of the columns to reflect my current needs, and also added a section underneath to track the progress.

Personal Capital

I have logged into Personal Capital a few times, however, at this point it isn’t my go-to place to track my finances.  It definitely seems to get the attention of many of the financial bloggers, I intend to look into it further over the coming months, and I will report back to you on what i’m finding!

Mint is a financial software that will look at your transactions and automatically calculate out a sample budget for you, once you’ve connected your bank accounts, as well as information regarding loans,  mortgages and retirement accounts, it will display a pretty simple net worth calculation for you.


If you’re a YNAB user like I am, you will see that there’s a report you can run that will calculate net worth, but in order for that to line up with what we’ve previously calculated, you’ll have to add in the non-account based asset values you have ( Houses, pianos, grandma’s cookie cutters).

If you’re not a YNAB user yet, what’s stopping you?

How to improve your net worth

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your Net Worth, but ultimately it can be distilled to this: Buy more assets and reduce your debt.

If you look at JD Roth’s Spreadsheet, you have a clear breakdown of what goes into the formula as you calculate net worth.

Add more money to an asset category to make your number go up!

Pay off your credit card to make your number go up!

Decide to go around the world vacation without an income in place, and watch your number go down!

When you’re looking for ways to make your net worth improve, I think this is where the Rich Dad Poor Dad definition of asset is most important. Assets are things that put money back in your pocket. Spend your money on things that put more money in your pocket. Examples of Rich Dad type assets are: Paper Stocks, Index Funds, rental real estate, and business ownership.

I hope that this was helpful for you! It’s important to recognize that this isn’t a race, and even if you aren’t happy with your current net worth, at least now you know where you currently stand. From here you can start making the right decisions that lead to a greater net worth.  Continue to calculate your net worth over time to track your progress!

It’s a process. Whether you’re currently at day zero of the process, or 15 years in, cheers to you and cheers to the process.

November Wall Chart and Net Worth Report

Last month, I kicked off my first ever Wall Chart Report on the Margin Studies Blog. These reports are modeled after the simple personal finance system found  in Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life. This month i’m going to publish my first ever Net Worth Report so that I can remain accountable both to my self and to you all!

According to the book, each month, you track the money you make and the money you spend. You then take those numbers and plot them on a graph that you hang prominently on the wall so that you can see them and are reminded of your progress every time you see them. I have roommates, so I’m hesitant to actually hang up a physical chart.

I use the YNAB software for all of my budgeting, and I LOVE it. If you haven’t heard of it, or decided on how you want to track your finances, I have it on my list to create a full review for you, don’t worry.

November’s Wall Chart Report:

So this was another big month for my income- but I threw a majority of the extra income at a credit card balance that got a little out of hand this summer. I think my income will cool off for a few months, as I had an extremely busy summer, and being self employed definitely has periods of feast and famine! I felt that I could have reduced some of my spending, as I traveled and ate out pretty frequently, but I guess there’s always next month?

The numbers:

Income: $15,460.30

Spending: $2139.99

Margin: $13,320.31

Margin Studies November Wall Chart
Now that there’s more than one point, lets actually publish a graph 🙂

Net Worth as of December 2018: $75870.79

This number is an increase of $9,816.61 over what I had calculated in on November 7. It’s quite the jump! I don’t anticipate these kinds of months being the norm, but having more of these months would certainly put me on the fast track to being debt free and later financial independence!

November Net Worth
If only i would have kept track of this monthly the rest of this year, this chart would actually be helpful…

How did November go for you? How are you going to continue to work towards your goals even though the holidays can be expensive?




Am I still playing catchup?

So at this point, I’m taking one afternoon a week, to dedicate time in within the business day to work on the Margin Studies blog. It’s been a BLAST so far. My work is in digital marketing, so sometimes it’s hard to force myself to productively stare at a screen when it’s time to head home for the night, but by carving out an afternoon and dedicating it to me and my my own side project, I’ve been able to remember that i LOVE doing this kind of thing, and learning ways to build out this project has been fun.

Letting the guilt creep in.

Last week, I wrote out a bit of my money journey, and it was very hard to do. I guess I’m not trying to parade myself as a guru on this website, but to clearly lay my cards on the table and talk about shortcomings isn’t easy! I also found that revisiting some of the bodies in my financial closet made it easy to feel a sort of imposter syndrome to write for this website. Who would want any sort of financial advice from me? … Well…. carrying on.

While I was writing out last week’s article, I went to look up a statistic that I had heard while i was in my post-graduation slump. The one where it said that half of the students of the university class of 2010 were either unemployed or unemployed.  I ran into this article.

Many college grads from the Great Recession are still trying to catch up

In the article, Tami Luhby talks about the fact that many college grads that graduated during the Recession following the financial crisis of 2008 still feel like they fell a little behind. Some of us still feel like we’re just playing catchup

I’ll admit, while reading it, it brought back a lot of my hard feelings around the job search market. I didn’t like the way it made me feel. It validated a lot of the victim mentality I had from 2011 through 2014.

Life was hard, but we’re past that!

I’ve been fully supported by my own business for just over a year and a half, and I can safely say that I’m further from needing a new job than I was when I started.

Do I feel like I’m behind my peers? or the people a few years younger than me? Sometimes! I tend to relate well with people younger than me anyway, so I tend to think of them as peers anyway.

The Great Recession may have made it hard for my generation to get their start, but diving into the fundamentals of personal finance will help us finish well ahead of the pack. That’s why this website exists!

Let’s work on ways to improve our skills and make more money.

Let’s take an active look at our spending regularly and find ways where we can save.

Let’s create a big margin between what we make and what we spend every month, and then let’s do smart things with that money, so that money can work for us.

If we work hard at this, it will be everybody else will be playing catchup to us!