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The Best of Million Dollar Journey – 2014 Year in Review

It’s been a while since I’ve written an update about my personal finances so lets dive into an annual update. What a year 2014 has been – we’ve achieved a major milestone, sold a significant private business asset, all while facing decreased household income and limping through a significant oil correction.

I started this blog in 2006 with the intention of recording my progress towards achieving $1M in net worth by the time I reached 35 years of age (in 2014).  Our family started off with about $200k in net worth at the end of 2006 and managed to hit the $1M net worth milestone in June 2014.  You can read a summary of our financial journey here.

A number of readers have asked what has happened since achieving the $1M marker and honestly, not a lot has changed.  While I’m deeply grateful to have hit the big milestone, being a “millionaire” hasn’t really changed how we live.  We are still frugal, we live in the same house, I still have my 9-5 job, and my kids still go to public school (well one goes to public school, the other is in pre-school).  A million in net worth is simply a gate that we have passed through on the path to financial freedom.

Coincidentally though, while our net worth has continued to slowly increase, our household income decreased this past fall.  Our typical income structure is that our monthly expenses are covered by my salary, and we put away my wife’s part-time salary.  For some time though, my wife has wanted to reduce her hours further to spend more time with the kids while pursuing other interests.  We decided that this was as good a time as any, so she made the leap and arranged for a leave of absence for a year.  While this has squeezed the household budget a little, it has been more than worth it by adding to the overall happiness in the household.

Now, onto the financial markets!  Right up until the September 2014, the bulls were in control of the TSX. Then trouble ensued with energy being the instigator.  News of oversupply of oil in the world along with OPEC refusing to reduce oil production.  High production + lower demand = lower prices, and that’s exactly what happened to the price of oil.  Oil dove from a high of around $110 during the summer to a recent low in the $50’s, taking energy stocks along for the ride.  With significant energy exposure in my portfolios, they have taken quite a hit, but thankfully,  there have only been a couple of dividend cuts – Canadian Oil Sands and BayTex Energy.  On the bright side though, this correction has allowed me to invest some of the corporate cash that has been sitting around for quite some time.  The S&P500, on the other hand, has remained rather strong in 2014 with a 12% gain thus far (not counting dividends) which has helped level out the relative Canadian weakness in  my portfolio.

That’s my update for 2014, please leave a comment if you have any questions.  In the meantime, here are the top posts on MDJ for 2014.

MDJ’s Top Posts for 2014:

Credit Cards

Here is an updated list of the best “free” cash back credit cards in Canada.  There are some new contenders on this list, including a card from RBC.

Big credit card news this year that Costco Canada has dropped Ameircan Express and now has an alliance with Capital One (MasterCard).  Here are my thoughts on the top credit cards for Costco Shoppers.

Aeroplan is the most popular loyalty program in Canada with rewards that lead to free flights within the Star Alliance (Air Canada and others).  One of the best ways to maximize points is to funnel spending through an Aeroplan creidt card.  Here are some of the best available Aeroplan cards in Canada.

Saving Money

Hidden fees are one of my pet peeves.  One hidden fee that few investors notice is the FX fee when going from CAD to USD or vice versa.  This fee can often add up to 2% on the trade – imagine that you’ve been paying a hidden $200 fee when moving $10k from CAD to USD.  Forget trading commissions which range from $7 to $10 per trade, focus on the FX fees!  Here is an article that will help eliminate foreign exchange fees.

With winter arriving, it’s time to get the snow blower up and running again.  Here are some ways to save money on snow blower maintenance.

Maybe it’s the engineer in me, but I’m always interested in ways to make things more efficient.  Electricity usage is no different!  Here are some ways to save on electricity usage, and how to calculate how much electricity is costing you.

Investing

For those who are aggressive savers with a goal of early retirement, your nest egg will need to last a lot longer than a conventional retirement.  We fall within this camp, so we are building a forever money portfolio that will hopefully produce dividends throughout our lives and beyond.

From my investing experience, here are some important investment philosophies long term investment success.  The key words being “long term”.

If you are anything like me, you often have cash sitting around in portfolios earning very little interest.  However, I have discovered “high interest rate funds” that you can buy without any fees and will pay you an interest rate similar to saving accounts (right now around 1.25%).

Retirement

A very popular article this year was about how much money you really need to retire in Canada and that it’s not as much as you think.  Then I wrote a followup article on how much you need to save today to hit your retirement number.

Most assume that people with a defined benefit pension are on easy street when it comes to retirement.  However, there are risks to employees that are contributing to such plans.  If you are contributing towards a DBP, here are some ways to reduce your risk.

Success Stories

Here is a reader that reached $1M by age 40 and $5M by age 50.  Here are some factors that has led to his success.

The truth is that for a large part of the high income demographic, the more you make, the more you spend,  This lawyer has bucked the trend by being frugal despite his high income.  This has led to achieving a $1M net worth by age 34. 

Have a Safe and Merry Christmas!

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Captain Cash December 22, 2014, 5:29 pm

    MDJ,

    Congratulations again on reaching the million dollar milestone. Any plans on setting a timeline of when you would like to reach two million or reduce your hours at your current job? Glad to hear your wife is able to spend more time with the kids! That is always time well spent.

    Happy Holidays and best of luck in 2015

    Mr. Captain Cash

    • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader December 22, 2014, 9:24 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Mr. Captain Cash. If all goes well, the plan is to reach financial freedom within 5 years, or by the time I’m 40. At that time, I’m not sure what I’ll do, perhaps scale back my 9-5. Ideally though, I’d work for myself in some capacity.

  • SST December 22, 2014, 9:44 pm

    FTs MDJ took ~7.5 years with an average annual growth of ~24%.

    To hit the $2 million mark in 5 years his growth would only have to be ~15%.

    Now you know how financial proverbs originate (e.g. you need money to make money, the rich keep getting richer, etc.) ;)

  • My Own Advisor December 23, 2014, 7:33 am

    Congrats on so many great milestones FT. You and your wife have worked hard, saved hard and will soon be able to enjoy all the fruits of that labour.

    It’s inspiration to the rest of us, including me.

    Happy Holidays to you and family and chat more in 2015,
    Mark

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader December 23, 2014, 6:05 pm

    @SST, thanks for running the numbers. I am hoping that the growth continues.

    @Mark, thanks for the kind feedback and Happy Holidays to you as well.

  • nobleea December 25, 2014, 1:04 am

    Unfortunately, I think it’s more challenging than that. Most of your gains came from savings I believe, which was ~107K/yr for the first million and would have to be $200K/yr for the second million. For sure you’ll get growth from some of your investments, but I doubt you’d see 15% a year growth in your home value, for example.

  • Andrew December 26, 2014, 9:59 am

    It will be interesting to see the next phase.
    Will the net worth graph continue to grow linearly?

  • SST December 26, 2014, 4:30 pm

    @nobleea: something is amiss with your assumptions. If FT started his MDJ with $200,000, spanned over 7.5 years, with your savings rate he would have lost money on his investments.

    I don’t know FT’s actual savings rate during his first million, but assuming it’s $50,000/yr (too high?) over the next 5 years, his investments would only need return 11% annually. Considering the average 5-year S&P returns is very close to 11%, the $2 million goal seems quite achievable.

    Factoring out principle residence — 1/3 of net worth, calculated at 2-3% annual growth — remaining contributions and investment returns would need to be up around a total of 17%.

    Regardless of rate of return, FT’s next million will be built on very different grounds than his first — RE, raging bull markets, business sale. Will be interesting.

  • SST January 2, 2015, 9:56 am

    Wow. An entire month without new content.
    (How long is that in internet years?)
    Passive income indeed, and the culmination of a trend.

    Happy 2015!

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