Net Worth Update: 2019 Mid-Year Review

I started posting my net worth updates several years ago with the audacious goal of reaching $1M in net worth by the end of 2020. It’s motivating to see this goal becoming a reality with each passing update.

Last year ended with a net worth of $691,000, falling short of my goal thanks to the stock market nose-dive in the last quarter of the year. Thankfully the markets bounced back early this year, once again posting new all-time highs.

I made a portfolio change this year, selling my two-ETF solution of VXC and VCN in favour of Vanguard’s new all-equity, globally balanced ETF called VEQT. This fund is now my lone holding inside both my RRSP and my TFSA. So far this year VEQT is up 6.43 percent – not bad!

Finally, I got a raise at work for the first time in five years! The modest increase added about $3,500 to my annual salary – not life-changing income but certainly a step in the right direction after years of wage stagnation.

Before I get into the numbers here’s a quick recap of my 2019 financial goals:

  1. Contribute to RRSPs – I’ve set up automatic monthly contributions to max-out my small RRSP contribution limit this year. My wife made a $10,000 contribution to her RRSP to help lower her taxes owing for 2018. She now only has about $8,500 in available room, which we’ll tackle next year.
  2. Contribute to TFSAs – We’re in catch up mode with our TFSAs and so I continue to put $1,000 per month into my TFSA until it’s fully maxed out (a few more years to go).
  3. Continue to max out RESPs – Another goal that’s on auto-pilot with continued automatic contributions of $416.66 every month. Our RESPs are invested in the TD e-Series funds.
  4. Don’t take on any new debt – One reason we are able to save at such a high rate is because we have no debts or monthly payments outside of our mortgage. We’ve kept it that way for the first half of the year and still don’t plan on borrowing anytime soon.
  5. Create my own raise – I’ve had to get creative with my income the past few years and find ways to create my own raise through selling used items, earning credit card rewards, and taking on extra freelance work. Getting an actual raise at work puts the icing on the cake, since I’ll just bank the extra income.

We also wanted to travel more and, in addition to our 32-day trip to Scotland and Ireland this summer, we have booked the following travel plans:

  • Seattle – 3 days in October
  • Vancouver – 5 days in October
  • Maui – 7 days in February
  • Italy – 17 days in April

We’re able to increase our travel budget specifically due to goal number four – don’t take on new debt.

Now, on to the numbers.

Net worth update: 2019 mid-year review

Total Assets – $967,946

  • Chequing account – $1,500
  • Savings account – $15,000
  • RRSP – $198,175
  • Defined benefit pension plan – $212,009
  • TFSA – $35,385
  • RESP – $46,877
  • Principal residence – $459,000

Total Liabilities – $207,565

  • Mortgage – $207,565

Net worth – $760,381

Now let’s answer a few questions about the way I calculate net worth:

Credit Cards & Banking

We funnel all of our purchases onto a couple of different rewards credit cards to earn points on our everyday spending.

Our go-to card is the now discontinued Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard. We have a grandfathered version that pays 2 percent back on every purchase and comes with a 10,000-point bonus each year. Our secondary card is the new American Express Cobalt Card, which pays 5 percent back on ‘eats & drinks’ so we use it at any grocery store, restaurant, and liquor store that accepts Amex.

We each have no-fee chequing accounts at Tangerine, which we use for bill payments, email money transfers, and the odd debit purchase. The rest of our banking is done at TD, including our mortgage, line of credit, and investments.

Pension

Each month I contribute roughly 12 percent of my salary to a defined benefit pension plan that my employer also matches. The amount listed above is the estimated commuted value of the pension if I were to leave the plan today.

The plan pays 2 percent of your highest average salary multiplied by the number of years worked. So that means if I retired at 60 with an average salary of $100,000 I’d receive $60,000 per year from the pension plan.

RRSP / RESP

The right way to calculate net worth is to use the same formula consistently over time to help track and achieve your financial goals.

My preferred method is to list the current value of my RRSP and RESP plans rather than discounting their future value to account for taxes and distributions.

I consider a net worth statement to be a snapshot of your current financial picture, so when it comes time to draw from my RRSP and distribute the RESP to my kids, net worth will decrease accordingly.

Principal Residence

We bought our home in 2011 for $425,000 and developed our basement a few years later, increasing its value to $450,000. Last year I bumped up the market value by 2 percent (which is still less than its city-assessed value), but the local real estate market has since flattened and so I’ve left the value at $459,000 this year.

Final thoughts

It’s been easier to put our finances on auto-pilot now that we have fewer goals to fund. In the past we struggled to fund multiple financial goals simply because resources were finite. Now we have a laser-like focus on maxing out our RRSP / TFSA / RESP – which is simple to automate.

Our million-dollar net worth milestone is well within reach by the end of next year. I’m projecting a net worth of ~$830,000 by the end of this year and, barring a major market meltdown, we should cross the million-dollar mark by the end of 2020.

Of course, this goal is just an arbitrary benchmark to strive towards on our true path to financial freedom. We’re still on track for financial freedom 45, which is now just five years away. In fact, we’re at a point where I could realistically make the leap to full-time freelancer in the next two years. We’ll see how things go.

How have your finances fared so far in 2019?

Weekend Reading: Update From Ireland Edition

Greetings from Ireland! We’re on day 11 of our two-week stay on a beautiful farm in Kilkenny, Ireland. Our trip has been amazing so far, with stays in Edinburgh and Inverness, a day trip to the Isle of Skye, and an overnight road-trip to Killarney National Park.

Along the way we’ve visited castles and cathedrals, wandered through mythical standing stones and circles, got lost in an ancient forest, kissed the Blarney Stone, driven across the beautiful Scottish and Irish countryside, and drank way too much local beer. Our holiday concludes with a five-night stay in Dublin before flying back to Alberta.

We’re enjoying the much slower, relaxing pace on the farm in Kilkenny. The owners have horses and one had a foal just after we arrived. The girls can wander around the farm, feeding the horses and playing with the dogs (a golden retriever and a St. Bernard) who come to say hello each morning.

I’ve done a lot of reading, finishing both Annie Dukes’ Thinking in Bets, along with David Epstein’s Range. I highly recommend both. We even managed to binge-watch the new season of Stranger Things in a couple of nights after the kids went to bed.

The trip has been a learning experience. For one, I was hesitant to ‘hire a car’ as they say over here. Driving on the left in an unfamiliar country sort of freaked me out. We certainly didn’t need a car in Edinburgh, but in Inverness much of the beautiful Scottish Highlands and landmarks like the Culloden battlefield are within an hour’s drive.

We finally rented a car on day five in Inverness and had a great time exploring Culloden, as well as Cawdor Castle. Driving was totally fine once I got used to being on the left – although there was a few harrowing moments passing large vehicles on those narrow roads.

I enjoyed driving so much that I hired a car twice since we’ve been in Ireland – one for convenience of getting to our farm and loading up on groceries for our stay, and two so we could take a road trip and explore the country.

This leads to our second learning experience, which was to avoid group tours. Our trip to the Isle of Skye was on a group tour on a mini-bus with 15 people. While we saw a lot from the bus, and made a couple of brief stops for pictures, we would have much rather explored on our own with our own time-table. I regret not renting a car and driving on our own because Skye was amazing and I wish we had more than two minutes to look up at the Old Man of Storr.

Edinburgh is hands-down my favourite city that I’ve ever been to and we’re so glad we connected with a company called Flytographer to get our family pictures taken there. Flytographer is a Canadian company that connects you with a local photographer anywhere around the world. Check them out here.

Flytographer Edinburgh

This Week(s) Recap:

Many thanks to the guest authors who provided such terrific content over the past few weeks while I’ve been away. In case you missed any of them, here’s a recap:

First we had Nelson Smith from Financial Uproar with an inside look into private mortgage lending.

Next we had Stephen Weyman from the newly revamped How To Save Money blog with a great guide to save money.

Barry Choi from Money We Have explained how to maximize your American Express Membership Rewards points. Learning about this has been the number one way that we saved so much money on our trip overseas.

Then we had Frugal Trader from Million Dollar Journey sharing how to use the Smith Manoeuvre strategy on cottages and investment properties.

Jonathan Chevreau from the Findependence Hub shared what he’s learned so far in retirement.

PWL Capital’s Ben Felix stopped by to explain the pros of renting in retirement.

Stephen Weyman came back, this time under his Credit Card Genius moniker, to share 5 sneaky credit card marketing tricks and how to beat them.

Finally, we had Dale Roberts from Cut the Crap Investing here to explain why retirees can sell most of their stocks as they approach retirement.

Weekend Reading:

I mentioned the newly revamped How to Save Money blog, which was smartly organized into eight money saving categories to fit your lifestyle.

How fast will your portfolio shrink in retirement? Michael James on Money explains.

Million Dollar Journey blogger Frugal Trader shares the biggest risk of super early retirement (FIRE) – sequence of returns.

Just starting out? My Own Advisor blogger Mark Seed has a guide to get started on your investing journey.

The New York Times has crowdsourced your best tips for managing the family money. I liked the intro:

First we’re told that the best things in life are free. Then we’re told that you get what you pay for.

First we’re told that money talks and makes the world go ’round. Then we’re told that money isn’t everything and can’t buy happiness.

Should we conserve money, because a fool and his money are soon parted? Or should we spend it, because you can’t take it with you?

This one hit home for me. Here’s how much money I’ve lost by waiting on a non-existent raise for three years.

Another piece of advice that’s close to my heart (or wallet): The road to riches is this simple – drive a crappy car.

On the subject of travel, here’s my former Toronto Star editor Adam Mayers with lessons from a travel emergency down under.

Stock markets continue their upward trend and here is Michael Batnick to warn us when all we feel is reward.

Batnick’s podcasting sidekick Ben Carlson explains how to win any argument about the stock market:

“Using precise price points with specific start and end dates are a wonderful way to make a point when discussing markets. But no one actually makes all of their buys and sells by top-ticking or bottom-fishing in the markets.”

Ben Felix’s latest Common Sense Investing video addresses the age old investing question, Is the market efficient?

Nelson Smith looks back on some things he’d do differently if given the chance – in particular moving to a more exciting city when he was younger.

Finally, here’s a great entrepreneurial story of a couple who built an online store that now makes more than $1M per year.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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