January 9, 2015

Year 2015 Thoughts

It has been a long time since I posted last time on the blog. I was busy last year and also I wasn't sure if I had anything new to say on this blog. I felt that the blog posts I had on finances were really the end of what one needs to do to achieve the financial freedom. In reality, that is true. Buy your investments and hold them until you retire.

Contrary to that wisdom, I took certain steps last year. These steps are mostly to simplify my finances further. I was holding a number of mutual funds representing different market slices. Instead of the individual slices, I've consolidated those into essentially three Total Market Funds.

In my taxable account, I'm now holding - Total Stock Market Index, Total International Market Index, and Tax Exempt Intermediate Term Bond fund. In my Roth, Traditional, and 401(K) accounts, I'm holding Target Retirement Date fund.

I also went ahead and opened a 529 College Savings Plan for my kids' education. I was initially holding their investments in a taxable account in a Target Retirement Date fund for flexibility purposes. But, I'm at a point where additional flexibility isn't necessary. If an emergency arises, I can cover for that through my taxable account. Besides, with a 529 plan, the savings will grow tax-free.

Over the whole last year, we made some much needed renovations to our house -- added laminate floors, added granite counter tops, and removed some trees from the backyard. We had also been overspending occasionally and our months expenses were higher than our targets. This year, our goal is rein-in on those expenses. One thing we had realized was when you use a credit card, you don't go back and check how much you've spent in that particular month. Also, credit card statement cycles don't exactly start and end at the beginning and end of the month. That completely distorts the picture.

To help us stay within our budgets, we've now just gotten started with a Walmart AMEX Blue Bird. We'll add a fixed monthly budget to this pre-paid card and spend only that amount that is available in that month. Hopefully, we'll succeed in this experiment.

At the beginning of each year, I document habits I want to develop/improve upon. I don't always succeed, but for what it is worth, here are the habits I'm trying to develop in 2015.

  • Listen attentively.
  • Focus and direct attention to only one thing at a time.
  • Create blocks of time for certain activities - work, reflection, leisure.
  • Only listen to podcasts and meditation talks while driving (no more radio with news).
  • Only 20 mins of reading news online.
  • Only 30 mins of blog reading.
  • Finish books that get started.
  • Only speak our native language at home to help kids learn it.
  • Meditate for 30 minutes everyday.
  • Read a book for 30 minutes each day.
  • No casual web surfing.

Wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.