financial review

Financial review – How do I do it?

Every month, I conduct a financial review for myself. I go through what I spent in the last month, making sure that I recognize all transactions and categorize them into different sections. From there I plan my spending for the next month, and have a better forecast for my finance over the next year or so.

Tl; dr;

The steps that I go through (should take less than an hour to do)

  • List out all bank transactions
  • List out all credit card transactions
  • Put the transactions into several categories.
  • Put the final numbers into a spreadsheet.
  • Split the income into the same categories, and move them to corresponding bank accounts.
  • (Quarterly) Review investment portfolio.

You can’t control what you can’t measure

If you aim to achieve financial freedom one day, you need to control your finances. And the only way to control it is to measure what you have done over a period of time. I get paid monthly, so that’s why I do this once a month. I encourage you to do it in conjunction with your pay day.

It is even more important to me because I one day will work full time for my own company, and at the beginning, my income will drop significantly to keep the funding inside the company for growth. That’s why I do need to know how much my expenses are; and from there determine how much I need to take out of my company for living.

I begin the financial review with listing out all bank transactions within the last month in a text document. You don’t need to have the bank statement, just transactions history is fine. Don’t forget your credit card transactions as well. I myself have quite a few bank accounts, so pulling all of them together requires me to log into each and everyone of them at least once a month. I just copy and paste them into a text document. Below is an example.

bank transactions
Bank transactions
transaction text
Transaction list

If you do this step, you’re probably ahead of many many people in terms of financial control. At least you have a rough look at what you spent over a period of time. Therefore it triggers something in your mind, and every change begins with the mind.

Categorize transactions

So, when you have a list of transactions, it’s time to put them into several categories. For me, I follow the Barefoot Investor categorization. You can read more about it in his book.

The categories are as follows:

  • Income: all your income sources (you can split it into salary, reimbursements, side income, etc. if needed)
  • Daily expense: all your necessary living expenses, e.g. food, electricity, gas, water, home loan mortgage payments, etc.
  • Splurge: all your optional expenses, e.g. eat out, TV/internet subscriptions, coffee, etc. Anything that you can live without, but choose not to.
  • Investment: all your investment expenses, e.g. putting money into stock market, purchase of something for work, charity donations, etc. Basically anything that potentially making you money, or at least can claim back on tax.

Note: I don’t count my investment income in this calculations, since I would like to reinvest all of them back into the market. So I keep them in an investment bank account, and only look at that once every 3 months.

The Excel spreadsheet for financial review will look similar to this. I also attach a sample file at the end of this section for you to try out. For people who can use accounting software, I’d recommend Akaunting because it’s free and should be enough for this.

Excel spreadsheet showing financial calculations
Sample Excel financial sheet

Here is the link to the sample document. Each month you just need to add another column to the right, and continue the calculations. Overtime, you can see what’s the average spending is; and from there, calculate your own financial plan. Every year I change to another sheet for clarity purposes.

Plan your expenses

Now you know how much you earn in the last period, it’s time to plan your expense for the next month.

Following The Richest Man In Babylon, I immediately pull 10% of total income into my investment account.

For the first time, I have no average number to plan my expenses, so I can only estimates how much do I spend for each categories. Your last expenses total is a good place to start. The average numbers should be around 6-12 months accumulations to be accurate, which means you need to adjust your plan every month until it becomes stable.

So let’s say your income is $3000.

  • 10% to investment ($300) – put this in a separate account, and review/plan it every quarter.
  • 30% to rent/mortgage ($900) – I split this because I need to measure whether I can move to another rental place, or move back into my own place. You can just put it together with the daily expense.
  • 30% to daily expense ($900) – You will have $900 to buy food and pay various necessary bills.
  • 30% to splurge ($900) – You have $900 to buy all the things you want to buy, no question asked.

The percentage will change based on your own spending habits. However, the aim is that no matter what you spend, at least 10% will need to go into investments for the future. Once the planning is done, move the money into each of their own bank accounts.

Congratulations, you have finished reviewing your financials for the month. In future posts, I’ll share my way of determining the expense a bit more accurately, so that you don’t trip on unexpected bills.

Summary

Financial review, in my mind, is what you must do, not what you want to do. It has to be done regularly so that you have a chance of having a better future. The hard part is doing this repeatedly over a long time. I have done this for almost 2 years now, and my numbers are getting better and better everyday.

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Week 2

Following up on my week 1 post, this is my experience about knowing-doing gap when I am in the middle of week 2 materials of Thinking Into Results course.

Tl; dr;

Week 2 is all about learning what I can do and what I actually do. Being aware of them helps me to close the gap between what I know and what I do.

  • Most people know a lot but not doing anywhere near their knowledge level.
  • People do things they do not want to do, hence getting results they do not want to get.
  • Only by changing paradigms, you can change your behaviour, which will change your results.

What is the knowing-doing gap?

Bob Proctor introduces the idea of knowing-doing gap, which is the difference between how much a person know, i.e. his/her knowledge, and how much that person is doing. We learn a lot about different things in life, but how often do we actually do it?

For example, I know a lot about the theory of sales and marketing, but am I a good salesman? Far from it. This is my knowing-doing gap that I need to close. There are 60 trillions in US dollar per year that corporations spend on training their staff, helping people to know more. However the missing link here is that we need to help people to DO more.

Why people do what they do?

Imagine someone who needs to get in shape, they have just started dieting and exercise. Then they see their favourite cake. They know that it is not right to eat that cake, it will not help them achieving their goal of getting into a good shape. However most of the time we observe that they will eat the cake anyway.

So why do people know that doing something will harm them, but they do it anyway?

The answer lies in our subconscious mind. It is the way we are programmed to do. Imagine you have been eating excessively in the last 10 years, now suddenly you want to stop doing all that? How would your mind react to it? The subconscious mind resists change. It does not like doing new things. If the current way is safe, why doing something different?

Well, the answer here is that we need to implement a new programming into our subconscious mind, getting it to perceive another way as “safe”. Because only by changing ourselves, we can get different results.

What do I need to work on?

Firstly, I need to work on my concentration ability. I find myself easy to be distracted by mobile phones. So what do I imagine my life will be if I am able to concentrate?

  • I concentrate on the task at hand, and will keep going until it is done.
  • I only access my phone 2 times during work hour, 11am and 4pm.
  • I still have access to the phone to answer phone calls and text messages.
  • I turn off most notifications except phone calls and text messages.
  • I get more done during the day and be more productive.

Secondly, I want to work on my organizational skill. I am aware that I do not have the cleanest apartment in the world. So let’s do something about that.

  • I clean the dishes after cooking and eating.
  • I vacuum the apartment at least once a week.
  • I keep the desk organized with labeled items.
  • I throw away boxes that I no longer need.

Summary

This lesson help me figure out the knowing-doing gap: what are my undesirable results and how to address them. I can see the clarity in my actions now and will follow the new way that leads me to the result I want.

“Do everyday things in a new way to get the brain thinking in new ways.” – Jesse Itzler

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Week 1

As stated in my previous blog post, I start week 1 of Thinking Into Results program on Monday (31/08/2020). And it is harder than I thought. First lesson is setting a worthy goal, which turns out to be much challenging than expected.

Tl; dr;

  • Setting a clear vision of a goal involves how I feel about the outcome.
  • Being able to clearly “see” the goal proves to be challenging.

Setting a C type goal

3 different types of goals

According to Bob Proctor, there are 3 types of goals.

  • A type goal: something that you can do. For example, you bought a new car 5 years ago. Now you have a desire to purchase another new car. For this goal you already know how to do it. Therefore there is no personal growth attached to the outcome.
  • B type goal: something that you think you can do. For example, your salary is currently $50,000 pa. You set a goal to make $60,000 pa. But this is so small that you already map out steps to be able to achieve it. Negotiating salary, working harder, making yourself noticed by the manager, etc. The point is, you already think that you can do, therefore you have no motivation to do it after a while, and often end up not achieving it.
  • C type goal: something that you want. This does not involve you knowing how to achieve. The point is to clearly see the the target and direct your actions and emotions toward that goal. The path will be laid out along the way.

Vision a goal

The goal has to be in the fantasy realm. I need to use my imagination to “see” this goal. It is easy to say “I want to make 1 million a year in income.” It is much harder to imagine how my life will be when I reach there. The workshop exercises require me to describe how I envision what I want, down to minute details.

The objective is to push my vision down to the subconscious level, which I will learn how to do in future lessons. I will need to repeat the process of finding and defining goals for the next 2 weeks.

Dr. Jordan Peterson has a great view on why do we need to set goals in our lives. And I think it aligns with what I am studying at the moment.

Summary

Starting to know what I want, and envision them in details makes me feel like I have more control. Control over my life and my circumstances, I feel more powerful and can take on responsibilities for getting what I want, no matter the circumstances.

I will continue on this path and see how it turns out.

“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” – Napoleon Hill

By Tuan Nguyen

Discussion – Pareto distribution

Recently I came across a lecture from Professor Jordan Peterson. In this lecture, he talks about Pareto distribution and comparing it with the Normal distribution. There are massive distinctions between these two and I think it is interesting to note down some of them.

Tl; dr;

  • Pareto distribution deals with creative domains, or human creativity. Where the majority of work is produced by a small number of people.
  • In a domain, the square root amount of people produces half of the product.
  • Given a randomized trading environment, the trading activity always end with one player holds all the money.

Pareto distribution

In contrast to the normal distribution, where most activities occurs in the norm, Pareto distribution argues that the most activities occurs around a very small set of units.

Galton board
Normal distribution visualized
pareto distribution
Credit: mode.com
Visualize the 80-20 rule with Pareto distribution

One thing that we may have heard before, 80% of the work is produced in 20% of the time. This is the most common example of the Pareto distribution. One thing to note is that this distribution works best in creativity domain, where things are not certain.

There is a formula, called Price’s law, is used to determine the amount of creative work. This formula is derived from Pareto distribution theory. The formula states that given X people working on a creativity project, square root of X people produce half of the progress, while others produce the remaining half.

For example, if 10 people are assigned to do a project, then 3 people will deliver half of the project, and 7 people deliver the other half. This does not make sense when I first read about the theory, but experimental results clarify the point. An amazing thing about this law is that if 10,000 people work on a project, we only need 100 people to deliver half of the project. It becomes ridiculous at a large scale.

Applying Pareto distribution to the Game of Money

With the same understanding of the distribution, and project it to how wealth are concentrated only in a few individuals. We can clearly see the Pareto Distribution at work.

Professor Peterson talks about an example, like Monopoly, we start with 4 players, and at the end, 1 player ends up with all the money and wins. And even if we start again and again, only 1 person is the winner. With Pareto distribution theory, in a randomized environment, and we apply randomized trading rules, the game always end with 1 player having all the money.

I did not believe it.

So, I decided to write a small web app to test the theory, what’s programming is for right?

To my surprise, it always end with one player holding all the money. Which player is not important, the important thing is that we know the end result will take a shape like that.

You can access the game here https://lightbringer1991.github.io/trading-game/

Summary

Knowing about Pareto distribution, I finally have an answer to the question: “Why can’t we distribute wealth evenly to everyone, would the society be better off that way?”. The simple answer to that, is, even if we do the distribution, over time all the wealth will concentrate to a small number of people anyway.

“The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” – Aristotle

By Tuan Nguyen

Experience – Thinking into Results – Prologue

Last week I decided the participate in a personal development course called Thinking into Results from Proctor Gallagher institute. Below is a recording of my activities after I signed up, but before starting the course.

Tl; dr;

  • Waking up earlier is not an easy thing, but it frees up a lot more time to work with.
  • Start thinking about my long term goals proves to be the hardest thing I have ever done.

Why start my day early?

early bird gets the worm

Throughout various books about success building and personal developments, there is one thing that resonates with me. “If you want to be like other successful people, you need to mimic what they are doing.”. It was repeated to me by the mentor and apparently one habit that the successful people I read about is they start their day much earlier than other people.

The mentor proposed waking up at 5am in the morning, however I have only managed to waking up at 6am for the last few days. Slowly but surely transitioning to a lesser goal of starting my day at 5am.

Thinking about long term goals

short term, long term street sign

Have I ever thought about what I wanted to become in the future? Maybe, but I did not have a vivid picture of the future me. And I still don’t. People take quite a bit of time to develop the image and that is why the first few weeks of the course I will learn how to do that.

I attempted to start building my ideal image and it turned out to be much harder than I expected. Surely imagining myself being a successful person is easy, but how to imagine what that persona (he) think, what he eats, how he treats people, what exactly his day is going to be like. That is a real challenge.

Summary

Starting to know the importance of growth is quite revealing for me. Personal development is a vague topic that is not discussed in households. Only by knowing that you need to improve yourself to make your life better, you start looking for answers. And I hope Thinking into Results will deliver that answer.

“You can have more than you’ve got because you can become more than you are.” – Jim Rohn

By Tuan Nguyen