Q1 is in the bag and 2018 is a 25% over! Time flies, doesn’t it? How did you do with your finances in Q1? Overall, we did okay. The stock market was volatile in Q1 and our net worth bounced around quite a bit. At the end of Q1, our net worth is back to about the same level as it was at the New Year. That’s not too bad considering the S&P 500 was down 2% over the same period. Anyway, we’ll focus on passive income today. That’s different than net worth. I’ll go over how we generate passive income, recap our expenses, and share my outlook for the rest of 2018.
The 2020 Passive Income Challenge
One of our long term goals is to generate enough passive income to cover our expenses. The challenge is to reach 100% FI ratio by 2020 so Mrs. RB40 will have the option join me in early retirement. In theory, she could retire right now, but she is not quite ready to pull the plug yet. She wants a little more financial security. She is also worried about healthcare. There is just too much uncertainty with healthcare right now. Her employer-sponsored health insurance plan is working really well for us, so she wants to keep it for now. Currently, we support our moderate lifestyle by a combination of these income streams:
- Mrs. RB40 works full-time.
- I blog part time and generate some online income.
- We have passive income from the stock market, rental properties, and other investments.
This is working very well for us and we continue to save and invest over $50,000 per year. If Mrs. RB40 stops working now, we’d probably stop saving and may need to withdraw a little money from our nest egg every year. Our passive income was great in 2017 and it surpassed our annual expense for the first time. That was awesome, but we might not be able to repeat it this year. Our passive income in Q1 was lower than expected. Our expenses are also higher this year. It might take a few years to consistently exceed 100% FI ratio.
That’s okay, though. We don’t need 100% FI ratio because I have supplemental income from blogging. 80% would give plenty of margin for her to retire. We could cover the rest with my online income. However, she just isn’t comfortable with any withdrawal, so she is determined to continue working until our FI ratio is 100%. That is – as long as she enjoys her job.
FI ratio = passive income / expense
The FI ratio is a simple way to track our progress toward total financial independence. Once we reach 100%, then it would may give Mrs. RB40 enough financial security to stop working full-time. Personally, I think 100% FI ratio is overkill, but I suppose it’s better to err on the side of caution. Normally, financial independence means having about 25-30x your annual expenses, which we already achieved in 2012.
*Caveat – I’m not going to worry too much about tax at this time. We’ll deal with it when we hit 100% FI ratio. At this level of income, tax should be minimal.
Passive Income 2018
First, let’s look at the numbers. Q1 wasn’t good. Our passive income was low and our expense was high. That’s the recipe for low FI ratio.
- 2018 FI ratio: 62%
- If we add blog income, FI ratio becomes 187%. This is cheating a bit because blog income is not very passive.
There are a few glaring problems here.
- The rental income is off pace. This is due to the vacancy in one of our units in January and February. It’s rented now so the rental income should be much better for the rest of 2018.
- P2P lending is in the red. We saw quite a few defaults in Q1. The amount isn’t large, but it’s not good to see red anywhere in passive income.
- Our expense was high in Q1. We’re going to Iceland this summer and it is an expensive country to visit. I already spent over $4,000 on flights, rental car, and lodging. It should be a fun trip, though. Some years will be more expensive than others. 2017 was a very good year on the expense side.
Now, we’ll go over each passive income stream in detail. Sorry, this one is a little long. You can skip some of these if they are not relevant to your situation.
Real Estate Crowdfunding (target $5,000)
I started investing in real estate crowdfunding with RealtyShares in 2017. My experience has been positive so far. You can read more about how I got started with real estate crowdfunding here. There are also more details there about what type of investments you can make in real estate crowdfunding – debt, preferred equity, and joint venture equity.
This year, my goal is to increase our investment with RealtyShares to $100,000. I expect real estate crowdfunding to generate about 7% income annually and an additional 5-10% whenever a project wraps up. This is assuming nothing goes wrong, of course. I’d like to try PeerStreet at some point as well.
YTD Real estate crowdfunding income = $353
Currently, I have $38,000 invested with RealtyShares in 5 projects. The first three are generating passive income for us and they are doing well. The last 2 are still in progress and they haven’t sent us any income yet. I expect payments from all 5 in Q2.
- A strip mall in Arizona($8,000.) This was an equity investment. The estimate cash on cash return is 7% per year. After 3 years, the property will be sold and should generate about 10% (per annum) more. Payments have been on time so far.
- A fast food restaurant in Florida($5,000, 1 year holding.) This one is a senior debt loan and the payments have been on time. The interest rate is a flat 9.5% per year.
- An apartment in Texas($5,000.) This equity deal is going well so far and the first payment came through in January. The estimate cash on cash return is 10% per year. After 3 years, the property will be sold and should generate about 6% (per annum) more.
- An apartment in Arizona($10,000.) This deal is WIP and we haven’t seen a payment yet. The estimate cash on cash return is 10% per year. After 5 years, the property will be sold and should generate about 6% (per annum) more.
- An apartment in North Carolina($10,000.) This deal just closed in January and it will take a few months before we see a payment. The estimate cash on cash return is 8% per year. After 4 years, the property will be sold and should generate about 9% (per annum) more.
Sign up with RealtyShares
RealtyShares has been excellent so far, but we need to stay invested to see if the income can be sustained over the long haul. One bad project can really derail our total ROI. I’ll have to be careful and pick the projects with good management.
You can sign up with RealtyShares to browse the various projects and see if real estate crowdfunding is a good match for you. Currently, you need to be a U.S. resident and an accredited investor to invest with RealtyShares.
If you’re not an accredited investor, you can try Fundrise. They have low minimum investment starting at $500 and are open to non-accredited investors. I haven’t tried them so I don’t have direct experience. From my research, RealtyShares and PeerStreets are the best 2 platforms.
Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you sign up with a service through a link on this page. The content contains testimonials from Joe. Actual experience of other customers may differ from the testimonials. The testimonials do not represent guarantees of future performance or success. Moreover, no person nor any other entity assumes responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the testimonials.
Rental properties (target $10,000)
Currently, we have a small duplex and a 1 bedroom condo in our rental property portfolio. The 1 bedroom condo was vacant in January and February. I finally found a good tenant in March. Yes! It is so much more difficult to fill a unit in the winter. Now that all units are occupied, our rental income should be much better for the rest of 2018.
The future of my landlord career is uncertain, though. We plan to move into our duplex when the tenants move out. My mom lives with us about 9 months per year and our 2 bedroom condo is too small. We will need more space soon to preserve our sanity. Eventually, we’ll consolidate down to just one property. Portland real estate market is getting too expensive for me. At this point, I prefer invest in heartland real estate through real estate crowdfunding. Being a landlord is a great way to build wealth, but I want to be a more passive investor in the future.
I’m not sure how long this move is going to take, though. The rental income is good and I don’t plan to kick out our great tenants. I think they’re planning to buy a house at some point. Once we move into the duplex, I plan to remodel the unfinished basement and turn it into an Airbnb unit. From what I heard, an Airbnb unit in that neighborhood could pull in $50,000 per year. That would fund our annual cost of living and life would be easy then. It will take a while to get everything done, though. Being an Airbnb host also isn’t very passive. We’ll see how it goes.
New investors should read this – How to Start Investing in Rental Property.
2018 YTD rental income = $1,365
Dividend (target $12,000)
Dividend income is my favorite form of passive income. Investors own a small part of these public companies and they work for you. These days, I focus on companies that consistently grow their dividend income over the years. This strategy will ensure that our dividend income keeps growing even if we don’t add new money. Currently, we reinvest all the income from this portfolio, and we’ll use it to pay our expenses once Mrs. RB40 retires. If you’re new to dividend investing, here is a helpful post – How to Start Investing in Dividend Stocks.
As for reinvestment, I don’t DRIP in this portfolio. I just accumulate the dividend and invest in a stock or real estate crowdfunding whenever I see good value. I’m not sure if I will purchase more dividend stocks in 2018. The stock market is very volatile and I don’t think we have seen the bottom yet. I’ll keep my eyes open for a good deal.
Here is a chart of our dividend income since 2012.
2018 YTD dividend income = $2,757
You can see our current holding at the end of my Dividend Stocks page.
P2P Lending (target $400)
I’m slowly pulling our investment out of Prosper.com. I’m just not a very good investor there. You’d probably have better luck if you have time to carefully screen the loans. Our overall ROI is about 6.5% which isn’t bad. However, these unsecured loans won’t perform well when there is an economic downturn. P2P loans will be the first thing that borrowers default on when they run into financial problems. The economy is doing quite well at the moment, but I’m just getting out while we’re ahead.
Unfortunately, P2P lending hasn’t done well for us this year. We had quite a few defaults and it drove our returns negative. Let’s look at the details in Q1.
- Principal payment = $806.51
- Interest payment = $135.51
- Service and collection fees = ($11.6) This goes to Prosper.com.
- Defaults = ($226.31) This are loans that have gone bad.
As you can see, the defaults and fees were more than the interest payment this year. We’re still getting the principal payment, but our ROI is negative. This is the problem with P2P lending. You have to keep reinvesting to keep the ROI high. If I reinvest the principal payment, then the new loans would generate interest which will mask the defaults. We probably would be positive for the year if I reinvested. However, I prefer to invest in real estate crowdfunding. The loan is secured with real estate so the investors will get some money back if the project fails. With unsecure lending, investors usually get no more money back after a default.
2018 YTD P2P lending income = -$100
Interest (target $200)
This one is just boring old saving and checking accounts. Most of our cash is in a reward checking account at our credit union. We get 1.57% for up to $10,000. Anything over that, we get 0.16%. We usually keep about $10,000 in our checking account as an emergency fund.
2018 YTD interest income = $43
Tax advantaged accounts (target $30,000)
These are our 401ks, Roth IRAs, and traditional IRAs. The money in these retirement accounts isn’t easily accessible at this time (I’m 44), but they still count as passive income. Once Mrs. RB40 retires, we’ll build a Roth IRA ladder to access our traditional IRAs so we don’t have to pay the 10% early withdrawal penalty. All of the investments in these accounts are invested in low cost Vanguard funds. The dividend income here will be reinvested via DRIP (back into the funds). You can see our YTD income in the spreadsheet below.
Currently, most of our retirement accounts are at Vanguard. We pay no transaction fees because they are invested in Vanguard funds. If you don’t use Vanguard funds, I recommend Firstrade. Firstrade is a great discount brokerage that I used for many years before moving to Vanguard. Their fees were recently lowered so now investors pay just $9.95 per trade on no load mutual funds. That’s really good for mutual funds.
Everything looks fine here. Many of these funds pay out more in Q4. That’s why Q1 doesn’t look so good.
YTD 2018 tax advantage accounts income = $5,327
Blog income (target $75,000)
Blog income isn’t passive income, but I’m including it here for completeness sake. I spend 20-30 hours per week writing, networking, responding to comments, and maintaining Retire by 40. Someday, I’d like to cut it down to around 10 hours per week. That goal is many years off, though. I enjoy blogging so it’s a good way to spend time in early retirement. The blog income is a huge bonus. My goal when I started Retire by 40 in 2010 was to generate about $500/month. It’s been much better than that and I’m very grateful for your support. Thank you!
You can see more detail on how I generate income from blogging at my Blog Income page.
YTD 2018 blog income: $19,621
Starting a blog is a great way to build your brand and generate some extra income. You can see my tutorial – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should. Check it out if you’re thinking about blogging.
Q1 Expense: $15,659
Here is a nifty Sankey diagram so we can quickly see how we did with passive income and expense in Q1.
As you can see, our passive income isn’t enough to cover our expense in Q1 if I remove the blog income. This is okay for now. I’m still growing our passive income and I’m confident we’ll get there soon. Meanwhile, the blog income can help cover any short fall.
Big expenses in Q1
- Housing: $7,074. Housing is our biggest expense at 45%. At this point, we really can’t do much to reduce this expense. We live in a good school district and we don’t want to move.
- Travel: $4,460 (28%.) We’re going to Iceland in June. I already paid for the flights, rental car, and lodging. It’s going to be an expensive trip, but it will be worth it. We’re going with our college friends and we’ll have a great time. Next year, we’ll visit a cheaper country.
- Groceries: $1,483 (10%.) I think this is pretty good for 3 adults, a kid, and a cat.
Our expenses look okay in Q1. It’s higher than normal due to the upcoming Iceland trip, but everything else is under control. However, the rest of 2018 doesn’t look great. I’m planning to replace our HVAC and that will cost around $8,000. It’s been out of commission for over 5 years and it’s time to get a new system. This system is very old and the tech said it can’t be repaired. We need a functional HVAC system before selling so this has to be done before we move. Anyway, 2018 looks like it is going to be an expensive year for us.
Passive Income Outlook
I’m optimistic about our passive income for the rest of 2018. We had a slow Q1, but things are looking up now. Our FI ratio should improve quite a bit in Q2. Here are my outlooks for the rest of 2018.
- Real estate crowdfunding – All 5 projects should pay out in Q2. I also plan to invest in one or two more projects in May and June. This passive income stream should increase nicely for the rest of 2018.
- Rental properties – All 3 units are rented now so that’s good. I need to talk to our tenants at the duplex to see if they plan to move out this year. This one is uncertain.
- Dividend stocks – The stock market is volatile this year, but the dividend income should be relatively stable. This is why I like solid dividend stocks. I don’t have to pay much attention to the stock market gyration because I know the dividend will keep coming.
- P2P lending – This one isn’t doing so well in 2018. The economy is still very good so I don’t know why there are so many defaults. I don’t have a good feeling about this one. I have 223 loans left, a little over $3,000 in value. Hopefully, I’ll get most of that back.
- Interest – Cash is king! I’m planning to keep $10,000 in our checking account as an emergency fund. I’ll invest in real estate crowdfunding and dividend stock when we have more than that.
- Tax advantaged accounts – These are all index funds. I’m not worried about them at all. They are long term investment. Even if the stock market crash, it will recover at some point. We’ll keep contributing to our tax advantaged accounts as long as we have extra money. Once Mrs. RB40 retires, we will stop adding to these accounts. The passive income will fluctuate with the market, but that’s okay here.
- Bonds – We have bond index funds in our tax advantaged accounts. I’m nervous about this one because I don’t understand it very well. Is there a bond bubble? What’s going to happen if it bursts? I need to do more research on this one.
- Blog income – Blogging isn’t passive, but I’ll put it here anyway because it is part of my early retirement strategy. The blog income is looking really good this year. I think we’ll do even better than in 2017. I’m bullish on this one.
Overall, I’m happy with our passive income. There are more uncertainties than last year, but we will keep investing. Our passive income should continue to grow and eventually it should comfortably cover our expenses.
If you plan to track your passive income, you should consider signing up for Personal Capital to help manage your investment accounts. They are very useful and I can get all my passive income data from one site.
Do you have passive income? Is your passive income enough to cover your cost of living?
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.