Home » General » 2015: Year In Review

Self-reflection is a continuous process. The self-aware individual is constantly assessing what they’ve done and what they’re doing to figure the best way to proceed going forward.

The end of the year, however, serves as a logical place to take a breath and actually take stock of how the preceding twelve months have gone. The victories and the defeats all serve to offer up their own lessons.

Given our focus on personal finance on this site, we’ll look first at the income side of the equation along with detailing new stock positions added before also considering which articles we most enjoyed writing.

Passive Income: Dividends and Interest

The bread and butter of my investment strategy is to generate passive income. This income is the sort that rolls in whether I am working or sleeping. It’s the juice that keeps flowing whether I decide to read a book or punch the clock at a job. It’s ultimately the secret sauce of financial freedom.

Most people base retirement planning on pensions which are typically some far-off destination to be granted once they reach a certain age. The vast majority of people don’t realize that you can manufacture your own pension plan! The dividends and interest I receive from my investments and savings is no different than putting money into a pension plan (which I do through my work, regardless). The difference is that this money is available to me now and, hopefully, will grow to a larger sum than my pension far before I turn 55.

In 2014, I was able to earn $1,576.38 from dividends which was a 22.4% increase from 2013. This year, in 2015, I’ve put together a whopping $1,986.65 in dividend income. From a larger base, I was actually able to increase my percentage gain which came in at 26.0%.

I attribute the larger gain this year to my willingness to invest more liberally and be a bit less price sensitive than I have been over the past two or three years. I was really spoiled by the financial crisis of 2008-2009 when prices were at bargain basement levels. After that I started being a bit more timid to invest at higher price points. In 2015, I decided to really just start putting the capital to work which had been stockpiling on the sidelines earning relatively low levels of interest.

As a result of deploying additional capital this year, I have seen my earnings from interest drop off a bit. Fortunately, my bank offered me 3% on new deposits for a period of time which bolstered my returns somewhat on lower levels of savings. I only count interest from two accounts which tend to hold the bulk of my savings and this year (through November) my total is $194.40. I will add another $20 for our purposes here as that is what I roughly expect December to round out to. So, $214.40 in interest this year, added with my dividend income from above comes up to a grand total of $2,201.05 in passive income!

Divide that number by twelve and it will show that I have $183.42 rolling in each month whether I put in any extra effort or not. One thing I often do when motivating myself to achieve financial targets is to simply “add a zero” in my mind. If that number had another zero attached to it, I would ultimately be financially free. Anyone with spending restraint is able to make life work on around $2,000 monthly, particularly if they don’t need to commute back and forth to a job most days.

Nevertheless, I am where I am on this journey and I’m all the more motivated to keep pushing forward for 2016 with plenty of steam already generated from the year past. In my Five Year Plan article, I indicated that I was hoping to be around $2,000 from passive income through the end of 2015 and I’ve already significantly crossed that mark by 10%. I am not going to amend my projections going forward as I prefer to make conservative estimates and surpass them if possible.

Favourite Articles

One of the great joys of maintaining this website is being able to look back at how my thought process has grown. I can see when exactly I was thinking about a given subject and see my thoughts distilled in a coherent fashion.

From writings on Get Rich Brothers, here are a few favourites from 2015:

Take a Penny Leave a Penny examines the elimination of the Canadian penny.

Build Your Own Pension Plan details how anyone can put their own pension plan together by investing intelligently. This is important for everyone and not just people who do not have a workplace pension, particularly when you consider how many pension plans have gone bust over the years and left people ruined after a lifetime of toil.

$1,000 Freelancing In a Month: How I Did It shows how I was able to generate a four-figure sum in a single month from a side hustle. I believe pretty much anyone has the ability to do this. What it comes down to is then figuring out how to get paid for what you’re good at and, far more importantly, having the discipline to follow through and actually do it.

The Get Rich Investment Plan describes exactly what we invest in and what we avoid. We believe every person should have an investment plan to help guide them in the right direction and also prevent them from falling into any traps; there are plenty of ridiculous get-rich schemes which are more like money-loss-guarantees.

Financial Proverbs 1.0 and 2.0 take a look at some common proverbs/quotes. I provide my spin on what they mean and how to find value in them for one’s own personal situation.

Seeking Alpha has also been a great resource for me through 2015. I published 31 articles for that site and definitely recommend SA to anyone interested in getting up-to-date opinion pieces from writers around the world. The Transcript section itself is a huge value and worth signing up for on its own.

Although it is not (yet) my most popular article by pageviews, “The Big Five Banks: What’s The Difference” is still getting +100 views per month and has been rising steadily on my Stats page. It’s one of my favourite articles I’ve written because it really takes a comprehensive view of the Canadian banks and demonstrates the differences. Feedback from readers has been hugely positive as well which makes it that much more rewarding.

I wrote “The Philosopher Series” which examined twenty philosophers and hypothesized what they might invest in were they around today to do so. You can start with Nietzsche in Part I if you’re interested and continue from there. I was glad Seeking Alpha agreed to pick up this series and let me run with it. Again, the readership was very active in the Comments section and I enjoyed the interactions.

Personal

Baby GRB

Our biggest announcement around here came in January with the arrival of Baby GRB. He has really put life in perspective as we realize that while it’s nice to build passive income, the greatest gift in life is family with whom you are close. Without someone to share the journey with, what the hell is the point?

Since a picture can do a better job showing what a joyful little guy he is than my words ever could, here you go:

IMG_0082

Health/Running

I also set personal bests with a marathon time with 3h36m and half-marathon time of 1h38m. I figure with additional training and a greater focus on nutrition, I should be able to shave some serious minutes from these times going forward.

Work

I believe in striking a balance between remaining financially solvent and funding my investments while also not working too much. I’ve been reading some interesting material lately and in one article, a palliative care nurse shared some regrets of the dying and one was “working too much” which, apparently, most every patient felt. I don’t want to be that person who looks back and wishes they spent more time with the people they love.

Every day is precious and you can never get back what’s gone. I will never be this young again and it’s no given that the people around me will always be there. In fact, it’s a certainty that one day they will not be. Even if they’re all alive ten years from now, when you add a decade to someone’s life, oftentimes they’re not the same person as they were in the past. I know I’m not the same guy I was at 18. I’ve grown and changed over the course of time and while I’ve always been enthused about life and the opportunities present, I’ve become aware of the time going by. Work is important and I will continue to do my best in any venture I take part in, just not at the expense of those who depend on me and expect me to the best version of myself possible.

Conclusion

The past year has really been a successful one on all fronts. New addition the family and surging passive income all point to optimistic reasons to welcome 2016 with open arms.

Taking this look back has been instructive in showing me where I should best focus my efforts for next year. In the following article I will be setting some goals for the New Year.

Thank you for reading.

Ryan

How did 2015 turn out for you? Where would you like to focus next?

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

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