August Investment Income – $91.96

My August investment income rose slightly to $91.96 from 90.62 the month before.  I did add $150 to my IRA which accounted for most of the gain.  My stocks have not gone up much this year but the S&P 500 is down for the year so I guess I should be happy that I have a gain at all.

Disclaimer: This is not my actual investment income. To get this figure I first add up my retirement savings, emergency fund, and any other money I consider permanent savings. What the total of my savings would earn at 6% interest for a month is my monthly investment income. My goal is to get this amount to $1000 a month. If I have $1000 in monthly passive investment income I will be able to retire early.  You can see what my actual investment income for the month was by looking at my monthly income report and adding the interest and dividend amounts.

Tracking Passive Income

To keep track of how I am doing in my quest for early retirement I have decided to add another monthly financial measurement. I will be tracking my passive income. For the purposes of this measurement my passive income will be my online income, interest, and stock dividends. My online income is only partly passive but to keep things simple I am counting all of it. Since I will likely keep blogging whether I need the money or not it doesn’t seem too inaccurate to include my online income in my passive income total. My online income, interest, and stock dividends can vary quite a bit from month to month so I am going to measure my passive income by my trailing twelve month average. This should smooth out the peaks and valleys a little. Hopefully the overall trend will be that of rising passive income.

Over the past 12 months my passive income has averaged out to $412.04 a month. My goal is to have this consistently over $1000 a month. At that point I will consider myself retired. Even once retired I will continue to participate in money-making activities of my choosing so it wouldn’t be the traditional form of retirement.

My Stock Portfolio

photo credit: kevinzhengli

Some of you have expressed interest in what stocks I own. I’ve been reluctant to share this since I’m not a stock expert and I don’t want my portfolio to be seen as advice on what you should buy.

I currently have twelve stocks in my portfolio. It would be better to have more but this is what I can afford at the moment. These are the current holdings in my stock portfolio: Bemis (BMS), British Petroleum (BP),Consolidated Edison (ED), Great Southern Bank (GSBC),Johnson and Johnson (JNJ),Coca-Cola (KO),McDonald’s (MCD),Realty Income (O),Pitney Bowes (PBI),Power Shares International Dividend Achievers (PID),Ship Finance (SFL),Universal Health Realty Income Trust (UHT).

Most of these stocks were chosen because they had a consistent history of raising dividends or had a nice dividend yield. Ideally they would be like O and have both. An 8.4% yield and a consistent history of increasing their dividend since their listing on the NYSE in 1984. I don’t particularly like investing in funds but I have PID since I am under diversified and need more international exposure.

My return on investment since I started investing last October is 4.9% or 7.2% annualized. The actual ROI is higher than that since I didn’t invest all my money at once, I’ve been slowly adding to my portfolio since then. I just calculated this figure for this post and initially thought this wasn’t a very good performance. Considering the S&P 500 index lost 22.56% the last quarter of 2008 and is down 2.67% this year my performance looks pretty good.

This performance would be a lot better if I would have been quicker to unload GE. On the other other hand if I hadn’t bough GSBC, which more than doubled, my performance would be a lot worse. That is how diversification works. If one stock sucks, there should be some others that pick up the slack.

My initial plan for this portfolio was to eventually have enough dividend income to cover my monthly expenses. I’m no longer sure if I’m going to pursue that plan since I’m looking at having a wider variety of investments. I’ll still have stocks they will just be a smaller percentage of my investments overall.

November Investment Income- $39.17

November was another bad month for my retirement savings.  My monthly investment income went down from $41.34 last month to $39.17 this month.  I actually made more money in interest and dividends last month than what I’m projecting as my income.  This is because I received a quarterly dividend payment and I earned interest on accounts that I don’t consider part of my retirement savings.

Disclaimer:This is not my actual investment income. To get this figure I first add up my retirement accounts, emergency fund, and any other money I consider permanent savings. What the total of my savings would earn at 6% interest for a month is my monthly investment income.

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Changing My Investment Strategy

I have decided to change my investment strategy for retirement.  My previous strategy was to max out my retirement accounts first before setting aside any additional savings.  Since my plan is to retire at 50 though it doesn’t make sense to have most of my savings in retirement accounts where it will be difficult for me to access them without paying penalties.  The main benefit of having your money in retirement accounts is that it is allowed to grow tax-freee.  This isn’t much of a benefit to me due to my short time frame and low tax bracket.  I expect to stay in a low tax bracket for the foreseeable future.

I’m also not happy with the performance of the mutual fund in my Roth IRA.  I know the stock market is taking a beating but I don’t like the idea of paying a management fee to lose money.  I could lose my money myself.

My new strategy is to invest in dividend paying stocks.  I won’t go into too much detail since this isn’t an investment blog.  Right now I have a portfolio of five stocks and I plan to expand that to ten to fifteen stocks.  I’m more concerned with yield than capital appreciation.  I want companies that will continue to increase their dividend.  This way I can use the dividends to pay my expenses and still have a hedge against inflation.

So far my results have been pretty good.  I’ve had the stocks about two weeks and I’m up a small amount and I should receive about $250 in dividends for the next year.  This represents an almost 10% yield but that is skewed due to one very high-yielding stock.  Most of my stocks are paying around 6%.  If anyone wants to know how I chose my stocks I’ll do a post on that.  My selection process is somewhat based on guessing though so I wouldn’t recommend anybody follow my picks.  I feel I’m taking an acceptable risk to have a good shot at retiring early and am willing to live with the consequences if this strategy doesn’t work.