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My Financial Machine

Money is a delicate topic. It's important, however, to start a conversation about it. I want to democratize access to what I've learned while optimizing my personal finances and empower others to do the same. The best way I know how is to outline how I manage my money and why I manage it that way.

While optimizing personal finances, it's important to consider what you are optimizing for. This is unique to everyone. Tailor your financial machine to fit your goals and lifestyle.

I think about money as a function of three buckets:

  • Money in (how much you make)
  • Money out (how much you spend)
  • Money left (how much you save)

The financial industry places a lot of emphasis on investment returns. When it comes to personal finances, however, investment returns don't mean anything if you have no money left to invest. The amount you invest is what matters most so you can take advantage of the power of compounding.

Much of personal finance is more about getting the unsexy things things right such as having the right accounts, a high savings rate, and making sure to have enough money in an emergency fund for a rainy day.

Specific practices I've implemented to optimize my personal finances are:

  • Avoiding credit card debt and building credit
  • Having a high savings rate (> 40%) and living within my means
  • Keeping a 6 month emergency fund
  • Max contributions to IRA (backdoor Roth conversion)
  • Max contributions to Roth 401(k) (mega backdoor Roth)
  • Max contributions to HSA
  • Dollar cost average into Wealthfront investment account
  • Investing in individual stocks I plan on holding for at least 5-10 years
  • Buying cryptocurrency and lending it out to earn additional interest
  • Investing in myself by building my own startup
  • Automating everything

Here's a rundown of my financial machine:

Caveats:

  • I'm not a registered investment advisor. All opinions are my own. Nothing discussed in this post should be relied upon for investment decisions nor is it investment advice. This is for informational purposes only. Please work directly with an investment professional.
  • For privacy purposes, I don't dislose real numbers, but percentages are reflective of my net worth.

Cash

  • Wealthfront Cash: (< 1%)

    • My Wealthfront Cash account is the brain of my financial machine.
    • It allows me to organize my cash into categories and automate my finances.
wealthfront self-driving moneyWealthfront Self-Driving Money
Source: Wealthfront
  • Schwab Checking: (2%)

    • My Schwab account is glue of my financial machine.
    • I use it to pay my bills and fund my taxable investments.

Investments

Tax-advantaged

  • Vangaurd Roth IRA: (6%)
    • I max my annual IRA contributions ($6,000 per year in 2021) by making a non-deductible contribution to a Traditional IRA and then converting it to a Roth IRA (due to income restrictions).
    • I invest the entirety of the balance in a total stock market index fund (VTSAX)
  • Schwab Roth 401(k): (10%)

    • I max my annual 401(k) contributions ($19,500 per year in 2021) by funding a Roth 401(k).
    • My 401(k) plan offers an additional savings opportunity up to $38,500 in 2021 for employer contibutions + after-tax contributions. This enables me to contribute up to $58,000 in 2021.
      • I'm allowed to contribute up to 90% of my eligible pay in after-tax contibutions.
    • I opted for a Roth 401(k) because I expect to be in a higher tax bracket when I retire.
    • I invest the entirety of the balance in a S&P 500 index fund (VFIAX)
  • HSA: (1%)

    • I max my annual HSA contributions ($3,600 per year in 2021).
    • I invest the entirety of the balance in a S&P 500 index fund (VFIAX)
  • Vanguard Rollover IRA: (9%)

    • This is my traditional 401(k) rollover from my previous job (another reason I opted for a Roth 401(k) at my current job is to diversify tax exposure).
    • I invest the entirety of the balance in a total stock market index fund (VTSAX)

Taxable

  • Wealthfront Investing: (10%)

    • The three pillars of investing are diversification, low fees, and minimizing taxes. Wealthfront delivers all three. They offer a wonderful service that provides a suite of diversified, low-cost index funds paired with a tax-loss harvesting strategy that lowers my tax bill.
    • Wealthfront recommends a portfilio constructed using Modern Portfolio Theory and personalizes it to my risk tolerance. I currently have my risk tolerance set to an 8.5/10.
    • Holdings:
      • US stocks (VTI): 45%
        • US stocks include companies based in the United States. They’re core to most portfolios since they can provide significant long-term returns.
      • Foreign developed stocks (VEA): 17%
        • Foreign stocks include companies based in developed economies outside of the United States, like Europe, Australia, and Japan. They tend to provide lower returns and higher risk compared to US stocks. However, when paired with U.S. stocks, they help diversify your portfolio by providing exposure to foreign economies.
      • Emerging markets stocks (VWO): 16%
        • Emerging markets stocks include companies based in developing economies like Brazil, Russia, India, and China. They help diversify your portfolio by providing exposure to foreign economies. Compared to US stocks, they may result in higher returns, with a potential increase in risk.
      • Municipal bonds (VTEB): 12%
        • Municipal bonds are debt instruments issued by local and state governments in the United States. If you’re in a high tax bracket, they’re a viable way to obtain tax-efficient returns, low risk, and diversification.
      • Dividend growth stocks (VIG): 10%
        • Dividend growth stocks include companies in the United States that have a history of increasing dividend payouts over time. They typically offer an income stream, growth potential, and are lower risk than general US stocks.
  • Wealthfront Strategy: (< 1%)

    • Wealthfront also allows me to build my own portfilio and manage my exposure across a diverse set of asset classes.
    • I'm currently in the process of constructing a portfolio to fill in the gaps of my current holdings.
  • Vangaurd Brokerage: (10%)

    • I have a brokerage account with Vanugard to hold more index funds as I'm a big fan of Jack Bogel and the Bogleheads' simple investing philosophy.
    • I invest the entirety of the balance in a total stock market index fund (VTSAX)
  • Individual securities: (3%)

    • I think a balanced portfolio can have a smaller portion to invest in individual stocks that you plan on holding for at leat 5 years.
    • My largest individual holdings are:
      • $PTON
      • $SHOP
      • $SQ
      • $TWLO
      • $ETSY

Cryptocurrency

  • Gemini: (26%)
    • Gemini allows me to earn interest on my cryptocurrency holdings. They do this by partnering with accredited third party borrowers like Genesis. Gemini collects part of the spread between interest paid on the crypto and interest Genesis charges on its loans to institutions.
    • My largest individual holdings are:
      • BTC
      • DAI
      • BCH
      • AAVE
      • YFI
  • Coinbase: (19%)

    • Coinbase was my gateway into cryptocurrency. They continue to offer a wonderful suite of products with a clean, functional interface.
    • My largest individual holdings are:
      • ETH
      • SOL
  • BlockFi: (3%)

    • BlockFi offers a tiered interest rate structure (paying higher interest rates at lower balances and decreasing as holdings increase)
    • Holdings:
      • BTC
      • LTC
      • USDC
      • ETH
  • MetaMask: (< 1%)

    • I have a small amount of cryptocurrency in a MetaMask wallet to play around with NFTs and other projects I find interesting.
    • Holdings:
      • ETH
      • WETH

Debt

Loans

I am fortunate enough to not have any loans.

Credit Cards (ordered by usage)

Credit cards can be a powerful tool to help build credit and earn cash back on spending, but they could also be detrimental to financial health if not paid in full each month. It's important to note here to not spend money that you don't have and to make sure to have autopay turned on. If not paid in full, credt card companies charge high interest rates (> 20%) on balances which can add up quickly.

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited

    • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
    • 3% on dining including takeout and drugstores
  • Citi Double Cash

    • 2% cash back on all purchases
  • Apple Card

    • 3% cash back at Apple, Walgreens
    • 2% cash back on Apple Pay purchases

Recommended Books

Money is a complicated thing. Don't judge others for how they manage their money. People are playing different games with different goals. Something crazy to one person makes perfect sense to another.