Our Net Worth (as of 3/31/2017)

We were surprised by how many personal finance bloggers publish their net worth numbers. J. Money over at RockstarFinance maintains the world’s first and only (to our knowledge) blogger directory and out of almost 1,000 bloggers, over 250 publish their net worth. So, should we publish ours? What good is all that stealth wealth business (see the excellent posts from Physician on FIRE and The Retirement Manifesto) if I post our net worth on the blog? Well, if someone were to find out who we actually are then with or without the precise number it would be pretty obvious that we’re well off. Whether our net worth is $500,000 or $5 million, what’s the difference, then? People get mugged on the street every day for much less. So we might as well show our numbers, right?

Soooooo, where in that $0.5-$5m interval is our net worth?  It turns out that our net worth is pretty much in the middle: $2,873,234. Here’s a more detailed breakdown:

NW update 2017 Q1 Table1
The cat is out of the bag: Our net worth!

The net worth numbers in detail

  • Checking account and credit cards: Since this is the month-end and right when the paycheck rolls in and right before the mortgage and credit card payments are due we have a lot of cash sitting around. Throughout the month, we try to keep the checking account balance at around $1,000-$1,500.
  • A brokerage account with Fidelity is worth just under $300k. 100% in low-cost Fidelity index funds!
  • Our account with Interactive Brokers to implement the options trading strategy we wrote about before holds just under $580k. It’s not exactly an equity investment but most of the risk certainly comes from equity fluctuations. How do we deal with the fact that we hold about 70% of the principal in Muni bond funds and Preferred Shares? We still call that a 90/10 split between equities and bonds because the bonds and bond-like investments are held purely to squeeze some extra yield out of the margin cash. Essentially all of the fluctuations come from futures and options on futures that are all traded on margin.
  • 401k, IRA and Roth/HSA accounts are just over $900k. All invested in 100% equity index funds.
  • Deferred compensation is a plan that’s available at work for voluntarily deferring already vested bonus payments. The actual number is quite a bit larger, about $250k (all invested in equity index ETFs), but we already take into account that we’ll get hit with a large tax bill when I quit my job and cash out the deferred comp plan. Unfortunately, all the income tax will come due at that time and it will be at our high federal and state marginal tax rate. Ouch!
  • The small 529 (college savings) account for Little Miss ERN (3 years old) has about $22k, all invested in an equity index fund. We expect to contribute more over the years but won’t go overboard with the contributions. The objective is to fund a college education at a decent state college, not an all-expenses-paid four-year vacation. I was debating whether to include this account in our net worth. The reason it belongs in the net worth calculations is that, as our blogging friend Green Swan pointed out, it could serve as a last resort liquidity reserve in case our retirement plan doesn’t work out. We hope it doesn’t come to that but if it does… sorry kiddo, you’ll have to rely on student loans in that unlikely event!
  • We have about $300k in private equity investments. Most of the funds are in real estate ventures, specializing in multi-family housing. We spread $270k over three LLCs and I count the combined book values of the funds. All funds have already announced that they see sizable capital gains on the current real estate investments but out of an abundance of caution, we don’t adjust our book value until the gains are actually realized. We also have a small $30k investment in a venture capital deal (a long story, more details in another post). If this turns sour it won’t be the end of the world. There were a few bad days in the stock market when we lost more than $30k in a single day, so we consider this investment our “play money”
  • Our home equity: We take the Zillow estimate of our condo, knock off 7% (5% broker commission plus other fees when we sell our unit next year) and subtract the first mortgage and the home equity line of credit (HELOC).
  • Other assets: A hodgepodge of other small accounts, mostly fixed income or fixed-income-style investments.

In case we haven’t mentioned this often enough: We don’t like bonds too much. Equities aren’t cheap either but we just can’t get ourselves to invest more in bonds in the current environment: still very low bond yields, and the prospect of rising yields and more losses in the bond market. But, you may ask, don’t we want diversification? As we wrote before, diversification with bonds is overrated, you don’t want to own bonds when you still have a mortgage and the current equity volatility is so low that we don’t even notice the high equity weight. When was the last time the S&P500 dropped by more than 2%? September 9, 2016!

Where do we go from here?

It’s pretty obvious that we will not be able to retire right now right here in our current city. We have over half a million dollars sitting around in (dead) home equity, though still have a huge mortgage payment every month. But the income we could generate from our investments outside of the retirement accounts would not suffice to finance the mortgage payment and the high living expenses in this mega-metro area.

So, together with some modest capital returns, some more savings and especially the annual bonus to be paid out in early 2018 we hope to grow our net worth to about $3.1m by 3/31/2018. We’ll then sell the condo, move to a cheaper locale, cash out the deferred compensation plan and plan for the following split in our assets (rough estimates, rounded):

NW update 2017 Q1 Table2
Our plan for the next year: Grow our net worth to $3.1m.
  • $1m in retirement accounts, not to be touched until later when Mr. ERN turns 60.
  • Our income engine in early retirement: $2m in taxable accounts (about $1.35m at Interactive Brokers, $350k in private equity, $300 in public equity). Over time, we will shift some of the funds from the options trading strategy and into real estate.
  • We plan a withdrawal rate of around 3.25-3.50%, based on our research. Make sure you also check out our white paper, posted at the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). It was recently ranked #9 of all recently posted papers!
SSRN top 10 list
As of 4/11/2017, we made the top 10 list of recently posted papers!
  • We also plan to have $30k in the 529 plan and another $70k in other investments, including a small cash cushion of a few months worth of expenses. This will be a very small cash cushion. Why? Recall our post from a few weeks ago where we wrote about the futility of keeping a large cash cushion to shield against an equity market drop.
  • Notably absent from this list: we will most likely not own a home in early retirement, at least initially. We’ll rent for a while and weigh our options about when and where we like to settle down. Maybe we’ll even catch the travel bug like GoCurryCracker or Millenial Revolution for a while.

Conclusion

Wow, I can’t believe I just spilled the beans on our finances! It’s a bell we can’t unring now. I could have done the click bait thing where I dangle “Our net worth is …” in front of you and then after the WordPress “Read More Tag” just write:

“… easier to calculate than our savings rate

or  “… none of your business.”

or  “… almost sufficient to retire early.”

or  “… the result of careful planning and wise investment decisions.”

But what the heck. If 250 other bloggers can post their net worth, so can we. As we pointed out in our post a few weeks ago, our blogging community seems to be a pretty nice crowd. We’ll keep updating these numbers quarterly from now on, so stay tuned!

We hope you enjoyed today’s post! Have you published your net worth numbers already? Do you think it’s a good idea to share the exact numbers? Please share your comments below!

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52 thoughts on “Our Net Worth (as of 3/31/2017)

  1. Great job on that net worth! I don’t overtly share my net worth because we’re still significantly in the red. It’s not all that interesting since we’re just paying down debt. But I think it’s better to publish net worth once you’ve crawled out of debt. I started using Personal Capital just for tracking net worth and it’s actually been really cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A few of my coworkers and family know of my blog. As such there is no way I’d publish my numbers on my blog. Sure reading through the lines makes it obvious I’m not a pauper (in fact we have an upcomming post on years of income that reveals some in abstract terms) but I really don’t want my coworkers knowing what I have. I also am not sure its of much value. I enjoy reading posts like yours as the private equity and options strategy relative size is unique and interesting. But by and large I’m not that interested in the average bloggers net worth if they invest like me. I.E. investing in index funds is smart, but kind of boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, understand! So far, only my in-laws know about the blog. But they know about our plans to FIRE in 2018, so they shouldn’t be too surprised either.
      And agree: Just the number is less informative than the asset allocation and the FIRE plan.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  3. Congrats on the SSRN feature — that Early Retirement series is fantastic!

    Also, it’s great to see your numbers — the grand total is very similar to ours, as are our retirement timelines. Cheers to your success!
    -PoF

    Liked by 1 person

      • Well done ERN, love your stuff. Your work on SWR is first class. I’ve referred a few people to it already when I talk about FIRE at work (and I do a lot!)

        I’m not a fellow blogger, but age, family, NW, and plan to FIRE in 2018…check. I’m counting on both you and POF to follow through to help me make the leap into that pool! I still have a traditional pension that ramps up in time so I’ve got a bad case of OMS syndrome.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s great! And good for you that you can share your FIRE plans at work so freely. I try to stay under the radar at the office and give out only pretty generic personal finance advice. 🙂
          And, yes, there will be quite a few of us pulling the plug in 2018. Let’s hope the market cooperates!
          Cheers

          Like

  4. Big ERN,
    Congrats on what you have achieved!!! Your are another “millionaire next door” kind of a guy who is a solidly confirmed member of the Double Comma Club!!!

    And, even better, another morning of productivity frittered away thanks to an email from your blog. I am starting to wonder if anyone around w*rk has actually noticed my lack of productivity since I stumbled on your site. Hehehehehe.

    Gotta run…time for another coffee break.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m seriously impressed, had you down for a little bit less, albeit not much 😋 . Brave thing to do, revealing your net worth. We have not, but I’m not sue why not anymore. If you read our blog, and you know how to work a calculator, it is nog that hard to find out. But it does take a bit of effort. Looking forward to see how you will be doing wise ERN.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nicely done ERN. We have a lot in common, an awful lot in common. ….. 😉
    Congratulations and July 2018 can’t come quickly enough for us and I think you guys also. Cheers to that.

    (PS work has kept me from commenting over the last few months but I have enjoyed reading your stuff immensely.) Another cheers!!🍺🍺

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great job ERN. I think it’s always good when people are able to show real numbers. It breaks through the general advice of save more, waste less, invest simply. Real numbers show what is possible when the advice is followed. We haven’t set up our blog to be completely anonymous, so haven’t shared any big picture numbers, but I try to include as much detail about spending and decision making as possible so it can be related to an individual situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. BIG ERN!! Good for you, you’re close to the top of the Blogger’s Net Worth ranking. What really impressed me is your $580k option portfolio. Holy smokes! Then again, with your math skills, why does that not surprise me in the least? Great post, congrats on “putting it out there”!

    PS – THANKS for the shoutout on “Stealth Wealth”!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Fritz! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, the $580k is a pretty good chunk. And it will grow to $1m+ in FIRE. Income is king in retirement. That said, what I count here is the value of the account: Margin cash + bonds + Preferreds held as collateral. The options themselves are just peanuts: just a few thousand dollars in (gross) premium I generate for each roll.
      Cheers!

      Like

  9. You are killing it!!! I find it inspiring seeing how well other people are doing. I’m not quite ready to share with the world where we’re at but once we get closer to retirement like you all we’ll definitely have an unveiling 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing. Humble brag is inspiring. What is your expected yearly income from a $1.3M options account? I would love more posts and information on trading options. I have a large cash account that I would like to trade options with.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, ‘Open kimono’ season in the PF blogosphere! 🙂 But seriously, well done ERN. Your net worth is close to where I imagined it would be. You can guess a lot by the quality and content of the articles on a PF website. Somehow, I haven’t had the temerity to post my NW data online. Maybe that will change in the future but for now, given the unique risk factors I have, it is better that I don’t share. Still, people can get the broad contours of it from my site and comments I leave on other sites. Ultimately, it’s a purely personal decision and I am glad that you reached the clarity to share it publicly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks TFR! Well, your target sum is in your name, so eventually people will know. But you’re right, until you post the actual number there is always a level of plausible deniability, despite all the evidence out there. 🙂
      Cheers!

      Like

    • Hi WCI! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, you’re right, home equity affords us to live in a very expensive city for a relatively low out-of-pocket price. But I still can’t wait to get rid of this albatross of a home (gross value in the 7-figures!) and move to a cheaper place.
      Cheers!

      Like

  12. Awesome job, ERN! It’s wonderful to see more PF bloggers sharing their NW so openly. Your sum is quite impressive. Thanks for sharing your knowledge here. Your posts are quality reading. 🙂

    I’ve been sharing our NW for a little over a year now semi-anonymously. There’s nothing that beats real life data, so I’m trying to do my part in the PF community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I might publish some more papers under my alias. Funny thing is that the papers I published under my real name have fewer readers. But then again, they are about some boring Econ topics 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

      Like

  13. great job all around. And i’m over here hiding in the closet hoping no one sees me when it comes to publishing my net worth.

    Like

  14. Great post, ERN! Thanks for sharing the details and also mentioning The Green Swan! There are plenty of unknowns about the kiddos college and if they even end up going. Maybe I make them pay me half back via a loan so they have skin in the game…Until I’ve fully committed those dollars to them for that purpose and I’m still the owner of the 529 account, then it’s still mine! That’s my rationale. 🙂

    Anyway love your plan for FIRE. I would have guessed its around $3 million given the comments you’ve left over time on my site. Glad we are thinking along the same lines! I just have a few more years to go…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I echo everyone’s congratulations on the high net worth. I publish our debts, but not our net worth, but you can see it on Rockstar Finance, which I am not sure who many people would go on. So it is out there I guess I don’t publish more of it because I am so open about the blog, we are still working and the like. I hate to admit I wish we were at the two comma club. That will come in time, but just wish it was a little sooner. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Really enjoy your blog–very helpful! I’d love to hear more about your use of Margin cash + bonds + Preferreds as collateral for your options trading. I also trade futures & options at IB and would love to enhance the yield on my collateral a bit. Would you mind sharing: 1) What muni fund do you use that counts as collateral on IB? 2) What ratio of cash to muni bonds to preferreds do you use as your collateral? 3) Is there a reference page that shows which funds IB counts as collateral and what the haircut is? I can’t seem to find a good resource for this. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for sharing, that was really interesting. I’m trying to debate whether to include the capitalized value of our traditional pension benefits. On the one hand they are valuable, on the other if we have high inflation they could be worthless. But they are about a third of my wealth in NPV terms.

    Liked by 1 person

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