2019 couchfi year in review - life, money and career

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I can't believe it's been another new years. 2019 was a mixed year of highs and lows for both my personal life and finances; and a look ahead for 2020.


My daughter's transition to toddlerhood - My daughter is now 2 years old. This time last year, she just barely learned to walk. It's facinating watching her grow physically and mentally, walking turning into running and blabbering turning into words and now two word sentences.

Moved to a new home with a 2.375% mortage rate! - I moved! Bought a new home with an amazing rate on a 10/1 ARM in the sunset district of San Francisco with ocean views. We got a 10/1 ARM because we were able to secure a 2.375% interest rate vs a 3.125% 30 year fixed. Why do it for such a small difference? That's for another post, but my bet is that we're in a low interest rate environment for the long haul.

Our networth (minus primary residence) grew by 13% - 2019 was a phenominal year in stocks, the S&P 500 grew 29% this year, partly thanks to a 17% drop in December 2018. This doesn't seem significant in comparison, but I recorded my networth in November 2018, so this number does not take into account the December drop. A significant portion of my networth is illiquid or cash, and having it perform with market (but not beat it) makes me think I should just dump everything in a total market fund, but then I won't sleep well at night with the lack of diversification, particularly since I didn't lose 17% in December 2018, or at least none of it was realized.

Our assets are more diversified than ever - in a previous post, I shared Mr. & Mrs. CouchFi's

2018 asset allocation
Stocks & Bonds31.42%
Retirement (stocks & bonds)13.23%
Education for children0.33%
Crypto currencies0.99%
Startup equity38.10%
Real Estate Equity9.92%
Real Estate Crowd funding2.22%

Here's what it looks like now:

2019 asset allocation
Stocks & Bonds41.70%
Retirement (stocks & bonds)15.78%
Education for children1.08%
Crypto currencies1.75%
Startup equity0.00%
Real Estate Equity24.84%
Real Estate Crowd funding5.70%

The large increase in stocks & bonds was mostly due to startup equity becoming liquid due to an IPO. I plan on putting that money to work, which you can already see from the increase in Real Estate Crowd Funding.

My goal is to have 30% of our networth in real estate, 60% in stocks & bonds, 5% cash and 5% as "play money" e.g. moonshoots like crypto currency or a scalable side hustle that could turn big over the long run.

I got a green card - yes, Mr. CouchFi was living in San Francisco on a work visa. This is a big deal to me because it provides extra security for my family to remain in the country, and I can legally start a business while employed, which will help build equity away from a 9-to-5 career. This is an important milestone for building towards financial independence.


Didn't continue my blog - for about 3 month in 2018, I was gun-ho about how great a business a blog can be thanks to this post by one of my favorite bloggers Sam Dogen of Financial Samurai. Unfortunately, I failed. The first rule of building a blog is never give up. Commit to writing 3 posts a week. I wrote 1 post for all of 2019 on Jan 3 and stopped. 9 posts for the entire blog's history! This has to change. For 2020, I'm committing myself to 3 posts a week, no matter how short or worthless they are.

Failed to sell my condo - we're fortunate enough to be able to afford two mortgages, but that wasn't the plan. We tried to sell our condo from Oct through November 2019, and received no offers! It seems the San Francisco Bay Area housing market has significantly cooled. There's a glut of new condos in recent years and the homeless situation isn't getting any better, so instead, we're renting it out for a year or two to wait out the cooling market. Fortunately, the rental market is still strong and we received several qualified applicants within the first few days.

Startup equity did not perform as expected - There were several IPOs that performed poorly in 2019, and yours trully was part of one that underperformed even my most conservative estimates. Hence our total networth growth only grew by 13% instead of 28%! That's a bummer and it just goes to show that startups are risky and valuations aren't real until they're realized. People all tell you this and even then I was delusional about its valuation until it happened. Would I jump into another startup? Maybe not at this stage of life with young children. The steady income from my career will provide enough growth for gunpowerder for now as we diversify our networth into realestate crowd funding. If a business opportunity came up and I could build significant life changing amount of wealth in 3-5 years without a huge sacrefice to work life balance, I would take it up even if it means making no salary for the first 2 years.

Looking Ahead

I find that having more than 3 new years resolutions becomes overwhelming and more often than not, I stop tracking all of them and give up and become discouraged, so this year I'm only going to have 3. No fitness or social resolutions this year. Just 3 goals around family, wealth and career (in that order).

Have another child - Having 2 children is the optimal number of kids for a family in western culture. It also happens to be the number of kids Mr. and Mrs. CouchFi want. While it's hard to predict we'll be able to have one next year since it can take several months of trying before conceiving a child, we hope to have another little one on the way in 2020.

Earn $1 from a side hustle - My goal this year is to earn $1 net from something other than my job, real estate or passive investing. As an additional challenge, I want to earn it as a recuring source of revenue i.e. doesn't take additional time to generate income (so drying for Uber or Lyft is out). The only scalable way to build wealth is to own equity. There's 3 ways to get it, inherit it, steal it or build it. I didn't win the birth lottery and

A new job? - I've been at the same company for more than half my career. Unless your career is going extremely well and you're being overpaid, it's time to look around and get a feel for the market. In 2020, Mr. CouchFi will be on the lookout for a new job. The job market for software engineers in San Francisco is still hot, and it's common for Senior engineers to make between $300k - $500k before tax. It would take a tremendous amount of work to build enough passive income to replace that even if the passive income is more tax advantaged, but that won't stop me from trying, so while I'm looking for a new job, I'm also looking for opportunities to increase my passive income so that one day I can quit my 9-5 job for good.

And that's a wrap folks, 2019 was a mixed year, here's to hoping for a great year for 2020!

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