September Wrap-Up

Welcome to the September edition of The Smart FI Wrap-Up.

This is a behind the scenes look into a humble personal finance blog. An opportunity to see what The Smart FI has accomplished in the past month and a chance for me to share with you, the progress our family is making as we march towards financial independence.

If this is your first time to and you are not familiar with our story, click here to read all the details of how we try to save 50% of our income in an attempt to reach financial independence.

The Smart Fi September Wrap-up

September is a month where the malaise of summer is replaced by the structure of our children’s school schedule. Unlike most years, the start of this school year had an unwelcome hiccup.

After the teacher’s union and school district could not agree on a contract a strike ensued delaying the beginning of school by 10 days. By the middle of September though, the circadian rhythm of life had returned to The Smart FI Ranch.

The Smart Fi Traffic had 1292 page views in September. This was a month over month increase of 525 page views from August. Coincidentally September ranks as my 2nd busiest page view month after June, which is currently my high water mark at 1746 page views.

With my two children back in school and work vacations gone like the summer sun, I have had more time to write. There is a direct correlation between the amount of blog content I publish and the number of monthly page views. Simply put, the more posts I publish, the more my pageviews increase.

There is always a rub. Here it is. With a full-time job, there is a limit to the amount of content I can create. There is a cost to publishing more posts and that is my sanity.

I have decided to publish two blog posts per week going forward-Tuesday’s and Friday’s. This feels like a compromise between time and sense.

Twitter And Instagram

  • Current Twitter followers 1,676. Follow me on Twitter here. 
  • You can also follow me on Instagram here. I post to my 890 followers about food, running, money, and family.

The Smart FI Income Report

In September I made a whopping $1.66 from Google Adsense. Oh boy! Income was down 70% for September. Let me explain why.

I use Google Adsense to automatically place advertisements in my blog posts. In return, I receive a small (very small) financial payment in return. Over the past several months I have been cutting back on the number of ads I allow on my site. Like a kid in a candy shop, Adsense, left unbridled, would litter my site with ads. That makes for a poor reading experience for you.

Last month I removed the ads that were mixed in with the text of my blog. I didn’t like the way they looked. This is what caused the drastic trimming of my income. The good news is that going from $5 to $1.66 is not really a big deal.  It may put in danger my goal of making this blog financially self-sustaining.

My one income goal for this blog in 2018 is to cover the cost of operating The Smart FI into 2019.

Because of the decrease in Google Adsense income, I created an Amazon Affiliates account.

This is the way Amazon Affiliates works. I place an Amazon link in a post to help describe something I like or something I purchased myself. You click on that link. If you buy something on Amazon after clicking my link I get a small commission.

So far I have earned $1.48 from Amazon Affiliates.

If you want to support The Smart Fi and you are going to buy something on Amazon, please consider using my link below. There is no cost to you. I need one more purchase from my link in the next 60 days or Amazon will cancel my account. EEK!


5 million Step Challenge

After 3 months of exceeding my step goal (June, July, and August) of 500,000 plus steps per month, I came up short in September. I am without remorse though. I finished September with 436,410 steps and that is about average for me.

Cumulatively for 2018, I have 4,029,959 steps. This put beyond my pace and within striking distance of reaching my goal of 5 million steps for 2018.

Angela, From Tread Lightly Retire Early has outpaced my step count most months and has been a great motivator to keep me active. Did you know she runs to work at least once per week. Damn impressive.

I have been asked (mostly by runners) why I keep track of my activity with steps and not miles. Since receiving an iWatch for Christmas last year, I find having an activity tracking watch makes tracking steps the easiest way to measure overall activity.

Steps can be converted from other activities like biking, swimming, and even skiing. Sure, most of my steps come from my daily trail runs. But If I just measured miles ran, I would miss all of the steps that I accumulate throughout the day.

This is especially true at work where, as a nurse, I average about 9,000 steps in a 12-hour shift. Measuring steps helps me to capture that activity.

I set a daily step goal that is slightly higher than what I would accumulate in a normal day without exercising. Rest assured even on days I work 12-hour shifts at the hospital, I am running the stairs or hitting the treadmill to stay active and healthy while I build wealth.

What is wealth without your health~I said that

2018 Financial Goals Reviewed

One 2018 financial milestones completed. 

January first, I laid out my lofty financial goals for  2018. Here they are:

  1. Max out both Mrs. Smartfi’s  and my  401 k’s = $37,000*
  2. Max out both Mrs. Smartfi’s and my Roth IRA = $11,000
  3. Max out family HSA = $6900**
  4. Contribute $10,000 to taxable brokerage account at Vanguard for my hybrid mortgage payoff plan. Goal Completed
  5. Add $300 dollars per month to the mortgage payment. This gets me to $20,000 of mortgage principle pay down per year. Current mortgage balance $224,200.

* 401k and 403b contribution limit increased $500 for 2018 to $18,500 in 2018.

** HSA limit increased $150 for 2018 to $6900 for a family for 2018.

Let’s add this up

37,000 + 11,000 + 6,850 + 10,000 + 3,600 = $68,450 savings/investments in 2018

In September this is where I allocated our family’s capital:

  • $1,645.07 to wife’s 403(b)
  • $846.12 to Roth IRA’s
  • $440 to HSA
  • $1360 to taxable brokerage accounts
  • $1,664.57 paid towards mortgage principal

*My personal 403(b) is maxed out for 2018. You can read How I maxed Out My 403(b) In 6 Months to see the details.

 September ContributionRunning 2018 Total Contribution2018 Goal
Roth IRA's
Vanguard Taxable account
Mortgage principal$1,664$18,209$20,000
monthly savings rate (%)40%

September Investment Purchases

I broke the cardinal rule of FIRE. I purchased an individual stock in September.

These purchases were made in my nonqualified  (taxable)  brokerage account.

5 Shares of Apple (AAPL) stock

Years ago I embarked on the long process of building a dividend investment portfolio. Over the years I have accumulated dividend-paying stocks that I think represent a good value.

I am most definitely, not the next Warren Buffet, but with a long time horizon and stable dividend payouts, I think the odds are in my favor for a decent return. More importantly, future income is what I am after.

Currently, I receive approximately $100 per months in dividends from my dividend portfolio. In the grand scheme of things, this $100 won’t keep the lights on in retirement. However, it will be just one more income stream I can count on in retirement. One of these days, I plan to write a post on my dividend portfolio.

Recently AAPL increased its dividend by nearly 10%. I don’t know about you, but I have never received a 10% raise from my employer. These compounding dividends purchase more shares and keep the snowball rolling.

With a forward P/E of less than 20 and an earnings growth rate north of 20% for next year, I have no reservations purchasing Apple shares for the long haul.

The dividend yield is around 1.3% currently. This is low for by traditional dividend stock standards but the yield has been pushed down by a year over year return of 40%. Capital appreciation and dividend growth, I’m in.


4 shares of VTSAX

2 shares of VTI

VTSAX is the mutual fund cousin to VTI, which stands for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index. When you buy this mutual fund you, in essence, are buying a very small sliver of every publicly traded company in America. This is to say you are making a bet on the entire US economy.

Warren Buffet, with all of his investment wisdom, once said, “Why try to find the needle in a haystack when you can buy the haystack.”

I am buying the haystack when I buy VTSAX or VTI.

These two versions of the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSAX and VTI) represent the core of my taxable portfolio. I am betting that the historical returns of the stock market for the last 100 years will continue.

VTSAX is set to automatically purchase every payday. VTI shares I manually purchase if I come across some extra money after all the bills are paid.

The Conclusion to the September Wrap-Up

There you have my rambling wrap-up. LOL. These posts are kind of like a yard sale. They are all over the place. A little bit of blog stats and a little bit of our family’s financial stats sprinkled with a fitness challenge update.

But, the question is, do you find value in a post like this? Let me know what you think.

One thought on “September Wrap-Up

  1. Yes, I do find value in these type posts. It’s always so interesting to see other people’s numbers, and I thank you for your transparency. And of course it’s always a way for me to learn from others….how people are thinking of their money and what they are doing with it. Excited for you to make your financial goals for 2018! Cheers, Dragon Gal

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