And Another Side Hustle

Never say never, I guess. I’ve somehow managed to have a side hustle practically fall into my lap. This side hustle is based on my professional area of expertise and I just couldn’t say no.

My main fears about dedicating myself to a side hustle is that I won’t be able to consistently perform due to health reasons. So any side hustle that requires some sort of schedule is always out. Also I don’t have the energy to establish myself amongst new clients or within a new field. Admittedly, I never thought about writing in my current field because that requires things like grants and that’s very time consuming. In this case I was approached by a friend from grad school, to join them on their grant project. They knew I was familiar with a particular area and I said I’d be interested in helping.

This side hustle isn’t anything earth shattering, it’s essentially a freelance reference written report. My understanding is that income generated from such reports is roughly $200-$500 per page.

Goals: 2017 Quarter 2

I forgot to outline/project my second quarterly allocation goals for 2017! So here it is albeit 5 weeks late.

Although I have a monthly budget and yearly end goals, I also like to plan my incoming paycheck allocations towards three broad categories: my Roth IRA, 401K and savings goals.  I do this to make sure that I’m meeting my goals on a quarterly basis despite slight deviations. These deviations may include changes in investment strategies; going over budget some months and not others; and changes in income.

The Details

Some differences between my first-quarter goal post include:

  • Decreased allocations to my Roth IRA. This is due to contributing $300+ ahead of schedule.
  • No savings in April and part of June. Because of my vacation and an upcoming trip.

Here are some past and upcoming distributions:

Date Roth IRA 401K Savings
9-Apr $195 $738 $0
23-Apr $195 $738 $0
7-May $195 $738 $125
21-May $180 $738 $125
4-Jun $180 $738 $0
28-Jun $180 $738 $125

Based on all of this, my goal is to have $6,500-$6,750 in illiquid/liquid assets outside of my retirement accounts by the end of June. According to my April net worth post, I had a little over $6,300 in these asset categories two weeks ago.

I’m still well ahead of where I need to be at this point in the year. My April net worth post certainly showed me that. At a third of the way through the year, I already met 80% of my Emergency Fund goal; contributed over 40% to my Roth IRA; and also started a new vacation fund which is also 40% complete. I am a little behind on my 401K contributions but that doesn’t bother me.


Net Worth Update – April 2017

My vacation came and went smoother than expected. I had been padding my “Short Term Savings” account in the months prior in anticipation.  When I started saving for the trip, I failed to consider that I would not be buying the usual groceries and daily necessities whilst away from home. This resulted in saving too much, which is not a bad thing.

If I don’t count the extra day, the cost of the vacation over and above what I usually spend in a month was $0. So I still have $500 in my short-term account remaining.

The rest of the month involved some extra spending. However I did this knowing it was either reimbursable or within my adjusted budget. I adjusted my monthly budget because, following my vacation, I had a business trip. My employer provides a meal per diem when I have a business trip, so I increase my food budget accordingly.

Here is where my accounts stand:

Liquid Assets Mar-17 Apr-17 $ Change
Cash & Checking $600 $522 ($78)
Emergency Fund  $3,026  $3,043  +$17
Short Term Savings $500 $605  +$105
Long Term Savings $154 $165 +$11
Illiquid Assets Mar-17 Apr-17 $ Change
Brokerage $287  $287 +$0
Savings Bonds $1,445 $1,700  +$255
Incoming $76 ($76)
Retirement Accts Mar-17 Apr-17 $ Change
Roth IRA $14,492 $14,870  +$378
Traditional 401K $17,157  $19,163 +$2,006
Net Worth $37,737 $40,355 +$2,618
% Change +6.9%

I do have a bit of a cash flow issue.  My Cash & Checking balances are much lower than I’d like. If I can stay close to my budget this month I should be fine. I’m slowing down my contributions to my Emergency Fund and Short Term Savings accounts.

What would really help me is getting my vacation expenses reimbursed. Since my vacation reimbursements are somewhat uncertain, I’m not entering it into the “Incoming” asset category.  But I did all the necessary paperwork, and anticipate a reimbursment of about $200 at some point. It would be great if everything gets processed before June.

Oh, and I surpassed a $40,000 net worth!

Goal Progress:

Fund/Goal Contrib. Total  Goal Progress
401K $1,476 $5,468 $18,000 30.4%
Roth IRA $195 $2,225 $5,500  40.5%
Emergency Fund $271 $4,742 $5,500  81.3%
Vanguard Fund $10 $160 $3,000 5.1%
Vacation Goal* $100 $600 $1,500 40%

* – This is a new goal

I’m still on track for meeting all of my goals! And I even have a new goal. I’ll go into more detail on the new one later. But first I’m going to break down my spending. Using my usual categories, this is how my budget went


Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Rent $1,650 $1,650 $0 left
Fixed Expenses $100 $88 $12 left
Medical $- $240
Food $633 $482 $151 left
Everything Else $546 $696 $150 over
Total  $2,929  $2,916 $13 left

I paid the usual: a lot. I choose to live close to work.

Food: Usually I budget $200 food, but this was increased due to my business trip and my travel insurance reimbursment.  I think I did relatively well, My understanding is that most spend a bit more than I do on food and eat $300-$500 worth of food during a typical month. This month was atypical for me, and a third of the food costs come from my 5 day business trip.

Fixed Expenses: No surprises here.

Everything Else: I usually budget $250 here. But I increased it mostly due to my vacation (i.e. hotel). I went over budget because I did some excess spending before and after my trips.

Medical Expenses: I don’t include medical expenses in my total monthly budget (I am reimbursed with my FSA). But I had sizable bills this month which I was anticipating.

My Next Trip:

I’m already saving for my next trip, and I have $600 to start me off. I am looking to vacation in South America. This time I’d like to do a 2-week Spanish immersion course. I hope to take this trip in January 2018!

The Costs of a South American Vacation

I’m back from my vacation to South America and I had a great time! I am documenting the vacation expenses this time around, which is something I regret not doing last year.   The one thing I love about South America is that it’s very affordable. During this trip the most I paid for a meal was $15. This was at an upscale formal-attire restaurant. In the US $15, may not even cover an appetizer at a similar restaurant.

Now to summarize my spending:

Day 1: Travel Cost Description
Food $37 No lounge access, a delayed flight and stomach problems resulted in sizable food purchases.
Uber $15 I Ubered to the airport due to Metro construction
Day 2-10: Fun Cost Description
Credit Card Transactions $127 These were mostly food purchases but I did buy some souvenirs.
Cash Withdrawal $195 I withdrew local currency from my checking account
Currency Exchange ($135) But I didn’t use all of the currency I withdrew. I ended up having free lodging for my entire trip!
Day 11: Return Cost Description
Food $7  I ate breakfast in the lounge ($0) and for lunch I was only charged for my drink due to an error with my entree.
Souvenirs $12  I bought some last minute souvenirs at the airport.
Day 12: Delay Cost Description
Lodging $157 About 4 hours into my 5 hour layover on Day 11, I learned my second flight was cancelled. I ended up with an extra day of “vacation”. Since I insured my trip, I got a hotel.
Food $33  Eating is a thing that I tend to do.
Ubers $15  Prior to my departure I made a pharmacy run.
Pharmacy Run $36 I had an ear infection. I bought extra toiletries since I knew these were reimbursable.


  • If I don’t include the extra day of travel, I spent $258 on my vacation. Or $122 below my stretch goal.
  • My extra day bumped up my vacation costs to $499. Which was $119 above my stretch goal but $118 below my realistic goal.
  • I anticipate spending no more than $110 the rest of this month, meaning I’ll easily stay within a typical month’s budget (if I don’t include the costs of the extra day).
  • I need to start the claims process with my travel insurer to be reimbursed. I’ll never second guess purchasing travel insurance again!


Pre-Vacay Check-in and Budget

I haven’t been successful with the 9 no-spend days before my vacation. I ended up spending $82.74. I don’t plan on going anywhere else before my trip so that should be the end of the money leakage. Here’s how things went down:

  • $2.85 – UPS – merchandise return
  • $40.22 – Food  work function and I also treated myself on numerous occasions.
  • $6.67 – Target Item Subscription – I forgot to cancel this, but I would need it eventually.
  • $33.00 – Credit Repayment – I’ve been paying back a small purchase at 0% interest. I have been tracking the payments as if they were small purchases due to the small cost. This was the last payment.

Even though I didn’t reach my goal, I’m pleased with my performance. It was hard!! I really wanted to buy some things, but I was able to hold back. Had my spending trajectory continued, I’d spend ~$180 on food and everything else by months end. This is $270 below my usual budget.

My Vacation Budget

So I guess I should share where in the world I’m heading! I’m going to South America for 10 days. I will be spending time in 2 countries. I have three numbers in mind when I think about how much I want to spend on this vacation:

  1. $380 – stretch goal My “stretch” goal would keep my spending within my usual $2,200/monthly spend budget.
  2. $617 – realistic goal My more realistic goal is to limit my spending to what I spend and save in one month excluding the Emergency Fund savings!
  3. $750 – absolute threshold This is my absolute upper bound and it’s what I’d usually spend and save each month including emergency fund savings.

I wish I had kept track of how much I spent on my 2 week vacation last year. But I remember wanting to spend $500. I also remember it being difficult to spend $500 even after spending $200 for a last minute excursion that required a plane ticket and lodging. We’ll see if this trip is similar. So far I know I’ll be spending $110 on lodging.

Net Worth Update – March 2017

I have this horrible habit of throwing my budget to the wind when I notice that I’m falling off the wagon. I figure if I’m already screwing up, I might as well have a good time doing it.  March was one of those months. I went over my budget in several areas, and then I decided to stop tracking my budget altogether.

All things being considered, things didn’t end nearly as horribly as they usually do when I have months like these. I’m at a point in life where I don’t have many things that I want or need to spend my money on, at least not that I can afford. All the things I really want are in the $200+ dollar range and require budgeting, planning and adulting – meh.

Here is where my accounts stand:

Liquid Assets Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Cash & Savings $1,425 $600  -$825
Emergency Fund  $3,009  $3,026  +$17
Short Term Savings $300 $500  +$200
Long Term Savings $144 $154 +$10 
Illiquid Assets Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Brokerage $197  $287 +$90
Savings Bonds $1,315 $1,445  +$130
Incoming $0 $76  +$76
Retirement Accts Feb-17 Mar-17 $ Change
Roth IRA $13,600 $ 14,492  +$892
Traditional 401K $15,364  $17.157 +$1,793
Net Worth $35,354 $37,737 +$2,383
% Change +6.7%

Goal Progress:

Fund/Goal Contrib. Total  Goal Progress
401K $1,476 $5,462 $18,000 30.3%
Roth IRA $810 $2,030 $5,500  36.9%
Emergency Fund $147 $4,471 $5,500  81.3%
Vacation Fund $200 $500 $500 100.0%
Vanguard Fund $10 $154 $3,000 5.1%

I’m still on track for meeting all of my goals! My vacation fund was a super short term goal that I easily met over a span of two months.

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Rent $1,650 $1,650 $0 left
Fixed Expenses $100 $87 $13 left
Medical $- $600
Food $200 $286 $86 over
Everything Else $250 $314 $64 over
Total  $2,200  $2,337 $137 over

Rent: I paid the usual: a lot. I choose to live close to work.

Food: I paid only $150 on groceries this month, but I ate out more than usual. I took a friend out for her birthday ($30) and overall was feeling lazy in regards to food preparation.

Fixed Expenses: No surprises here.

Everything Else:

Some extras this month include:

  • $40 in gift purchases for the friends I am visiting next month.
  • $35 for new floor lamps

Medical Expenses: I don’t include medical expenses in my monthly budget (I am reimbursed with my FSA). But I had a couple big expenses this month all of which are related to my health problems.  I still have a sizable FSA, but may have to wait another year to get my wisdom teeth removed. My health costs this year are a little higher than I had anticipated. Still, they are on a downward trend in comparison to last year.

But the way things are going I may have to start a new treatment that would require monthly infusions.  If it works I’ll need it for the rest of my life. This will be fairly expensive. We’re trying one more thing in hopes that I don’t have to go that route, but it looks likely.

Coming in April:

I’m buying no groceries. And will have absolutely no spending for the first 9 days. On the 10th day I’m going on a 10-day international vacation!

My hotel/lodging arrangements are set, and much cheaper than I expected.  I have a general idea of how much I want to spend on this vacation but I’m not trying to make a big deal about it.

If I can manage no spending in the first 9 days, I will have a $200 food budget and a $250 miscellaneous expense budget to use for my vacation. This would be ideal because I may not even have to dip into my savings for this vacation! A business trip soon after means that I won’t be home for most of April and won’t actually need any groceries this month.

Side Hustling?

One thing that I promised myself after I earned my PhD was that I would never work harder than my body would allow. My health is very precarious. I have some pretty serious health issues that affect me daily. These conditions are potentially life threatening. Fatigue and pain are major components of my illness, and if I push myself too hard, it can lead to worsening health. Because of this, I’ve been avoiding pursuing a side hustle.

I got a PhD to make my life easier. It made me a competitive candidate on the job market. I have an awesome job, with my desired employer. I’m working 9-5 and no more. My earning potential in my current position is $100,000+. Work doesn’t make my life very stressful. These are all things I knew  a PhD would get me. And I’m very thankful for that, and that was exactly my goal.

That being said I’ve been approached with a side hustle opportunity and I have accepted. The great thing is my life shouldn’t change all too much. I’m currently active in the health community mostly dealing with patient engagement. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years on a voluntary basis. A group of friends are now looking to branch out and make this a non-profit organization. But in general, it is something I’m already passionate about and already do on a regular basis without compensation.

Keeping Track of My Personal Savings Rate

One thing that I didn’t do a good job of last year was keeping track of how much I was saving and spending month to month. Because of this, I was unable to determine my personal savings rate, or the percentage of income saved.

I am now outlining my budgeted expenditures in all of my net worth updates.  And while, I don’t directly mention how much I save, I can extrapolate this number by looking at my goal progression.

In order to calculate my personal savings rate I take the following steps:

  1. Calculate the amount of income saved
  2. Determine total income earned
  3. Divide income saved by total income

When I do this, I get a savings rate of approximately 45% of my gross income. This is for the first 2 months of 2017. This is quite a bit higher than I was expecting, but I did have three paychecks in January and  received a tax return.

I live in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the nation.  I make enough money to live comfortably, but I’m pretty far off from a six-figure salary.  Given that I live by myself, due to my health condition, I’m pretty happy with this savings rate.

As a statistician, I like graphs, so I broke down my spending a bit further to better illustrate my savings and all other categorical expenditures. As you can see, most of my income goes towards taxes and deductions, rent, and my 401K contributions.



I know some calculate the personal savings rate based on net income, which is defined as gross income minus taxes. If I were to use net income my savings rate jumps to 60% so far in 2017.

Personally, it’s easier for me to use gross income. Additionally, since I will be paying taxes in retirement, it doesn’t really make sense to look back on net income statistics. For example, knowing that I saved 27% of my gross income towards retirement tells me I could most likely live comfortably on 75% of my current income in retirement, even if it’s taxed.  The fact that I contribute to a Roth IRA should shelter me from some of the tax burden, but I’d rather overestimate the money I need as opposed to underestimate.

Net Worth Update – February 2017

It’s number time!

Liquid Assets Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Cash & Savings $1,200 $1,425  +$225
Emergency Fund  $2501 $3,009  +$508
Short Term Savings $75 $300  +$225
Long Term Savings $43 $144  +$101
Other $303 $0 ($303)
Illiquid Assets Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Brokerage $197  +$197
Savings Bonds $500 $1,315  +$815
Retirement Accts Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Roth IRA $12,824 $13,600  +$776
Traditional 401K $13,126 $15,364  +$2,238
Liabilities Jan-17 Feb-17 $ Change
Medical ($100) ($0) +$100
Net Worth $30,472 $35,353 +$4,882
% Change +16.0%

My net worth increased by close to $5,000 this month!

The increase was mostly due to my tax returns. I’m not aiming for a sizable tax return next year. I only did so this tax season because I knew I’d be tempted to dip into my emergency fund during my first year of work. So I let Uncle Sam hold onto my emergency fund. Now that I’m through the rough year, I won’t have to resort to such measures.

I love how my net worth went from $20K  to $25k to $30K over the past 3 months. It was a good run, but I don’t anticipate on keeping that momentum going.

Goal Progression:

Fund/Goal Contrib. Total  Goal Progress
401K $1476 $2,510 $18,000 13.9%
Roth IRA $398 $1,219 $5,500  22.2%
Emergency Fund $1,323 $4,324 $5,500  78.7%
Vacation Fund $225 $300 $500 60.0%
Vanguard Fund $101 $144 $3,000 4.8%
February Stretch $- $6,390 $5,570 111.1%

I’m on track for meeting all of my goals, and I’ve started two new ones. My vacation fund is in my short-term savings account and my Vanguard Fund  is in my long-term savings account. My vacation funds need to be accumulated by April. I have no specific timeline on my vanguard fund.

Oh and I surpassed my February stretch goal of having $5,750 in liquid and illiquid assets.  I even met my March stretch goal.  Using my goal post trajectory, I also surpassed my April goal.  This allowed for my vacation in April which was a spur of the moment decision I did not budget for.

So how did my budgeting go this month?

Category Budgeted Actual Remaining
Rent $1,650 $1,650 $0 left
Fixed Expenses $100 $146 $46 over
Medical $- $73
Food $200 $163 $37 left
Everything Else $315 $286 $29 left
Total  $2,265  $2,252 $20 left
  • Rent: I paid the usual: a lot. I choose to live close to work.
  • Food: I was $37 under my food budget!
  • Fixed Expenses: I went over $46 because I decided to trial Sling TV (not keeping). I also kind of wanted the Roku that came with the trial.
  • Medical Expense: While I don’t budget for medical expenses, I finally received a medical bill that was long anticipated.
  • Everything Else: I gave myself an extra $65 to spend on “Everything Else” due to $65 extra income. Notables for this month include purchasing 4 plane tickets for 2 vacations and also partially funding a hostel stay. Thanks to credit card rewards I didn’t spend a whole lot on any of this.

Even with the overage in the Fixed Expense category I still managed to come $20 under my budget.  The $20 has been transferred to my long-term savings account.

March should be another straightforward month. April may be a bit more interesting since I’m going on my first vacation. This is a 10-day international trip. I would love to keep my spending on this trip under $500, but I think $750 may even be a stretch. We will see!

A Slow and Steady Portfolio Rebalance Explained

Now that my 401K and Roth IRA are decent sizes, I realize it’s time to evaluate my portfolio and rebalance accordingly. For a while I had my entire Roth and 401K invested in target retirement accounts. I decided to do this until I felt a bit more comfortable with investing in general. Now that I do, it’s definitely time to change my investment strategy. I’m not going to do this all at once, instead I’ll do this slowly as I make my biweekly contributions.

My 401K has some fairly limited options so I have to balance it out using my Roth that is through Vanguard, using a weighted average of both my 401K and Roth retirement accounts, my current retirement assets are allocated as follows:

  • US Stock – 63.8%
  • World Stock – 24.0%
  • US Bonds – 8.4%
  • International Bonds – 1.4%
  • US Real Estate – 2.2%
  • Cash – 0.2%

I’m pretty happy with this allocation considering that I’ve pulled myself out of my employer’s target retirement account and created my own mix. I’m roughly 10% bonds and 90% percent stock. And my stocks are split 72% US and 28% foreign.

Goal #1

My first goal is to increase my US Real Estate holdings so that it comprises 5% of my portfolio.  I hope to have this goal accomplished by the end of the year.

Goal #2

My second goal is to get into the habit of evaluating my portfolio and investment strategy biannually. I think February and July are good months to do this. It’s highly probable that my real estate investments may grow at a different pace than my stocks and/or bonds, so it’s important that I do this.

Of course the general economic environment will also guide my investments. A market correction may lead me to pour more into the stock market, for instance.

Goal #3

I would then like to start investing in International Real Estate until it makes up 2.5% of my portfolio. Hopefully this goal will be accomplished by the end of 2018.

Goal #4

My fourth goal, is to have enough to purchase a Vanguard admiral share. I’m still investing in a target fund at this point. Once I have enough money to do so, I can then move into a world stock mutual fund and mutual funds for bonds. Until then, this system works well enough. I think it will be 3 years before I can get to this point.

I did some calculations and I will eventually have to balance out my 401K with my Roth by having my Roth be:

  • 43% International
  • 31% Real Estate
  • 19% US Stock
  • 7% Bonds