It has been two and a half years since I put my passive income goals down on paper. Setting a Five Year Plan involves three key components:
1) A clear understanding of where you are currently.
2) A clear understanding of what you would like to achieve.
3) Knowledge of a path that will lead in the proper direction.
My stated goal of achieving Semi-Financial Freedom (SFF) involves, on the investment side of the equation, accumulating high quality dividend growth stocks and reinvesting the income. Likewise, I intended to maximize the interest earned on cash sitting on hand.
My Five Year Plan to SFF concludes December 31, 2020. I’m two full years into the journey and have been progressing as I would have hoped. I have had strong tail winds with very few setbacks. Truly, it has been a blessing to have this plan to guide my investment decisions and keep me motivated.
Here is the table I am using to guide my progress:
|Year||Age||Annual Income (Dividend + Interest)||Monthly Income (Dividend + Interest)||% Increase YOY|
Through the full year of 2017 which just finished, I earned a grand total of $3,343.46 in currency neutral terms. This combines $2,911.46 from dividends and $432.00 from interest. This represents a 23.3% increase over my passive income total of $2,713.16 in the 2016 period. Money compounding at that rate doubles in just over three years. While I am cautiously optimistic about expecting such returns going forward, I did actually achieve 23.8% YOY from 2015 to 2016 as well.
Part of this large gain came from negotiations in interest rates that I was able to achieve by speaking directly to my online bank, Tangerine (owned by Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS)), over the course of the year. I typically am able to get three-month promotional rates but I have not been diligent to call every time the period ends. Currently, I was able to achieve 2.3% between now and the end of March by speaking with representatives from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM). This should provide a solid foundation for my interest income through the first quarter of 2018 and motivates me to keep the momentum going at that time as well. A short phone call can often have a lasting impact on one’s financial life.
Further, I spoke with my telecom provider and was able to lower my Internet bill by $10 for the next six months while also upping the package to include unlimited usage/bandwidth. I will say this took several phone calls to establish as the service was subpar and included several dropped calls without them calling me back to resume the discussion. Still, $60 in savings over the next six months with a better package is worth it. In early July I’ll need to call them back to work on another promotional rate.
I will also be free of contract on my iPhone this March. Rather than “upgrade” my phone (which for me would simply represent taking another contract for no added benefit), I am planning to give the company a call to have my monthly bill reduced. I did this years back when I was still using my old BlackBerry. I’d rather see $10-20 come off my bill than take on a new contract at this stage. Part of living a rich life involves knowing what you need and not getting sold on the idea of more is better. My phone serves me well and I don’t feel the need to change it just for the sake of change.
The Cannabis Theme of 2017
The biggest change in my investment philosophy this year came by way of the cannabis investment craze. California legalized recreational marijuana use on January 1 and Canada is slated to possibly do the same on July 1 of this year. As a result, companies in this sector have been absolutely on fire. I acquired three cannabis companies with the following percentage gains at the time of writing –
Aurora Cannabis Inc. (OTCQX:ACBFF): 415%
Canopy Growth Corporation (OTCPK:TWMJF): 80%
Nutritional High Intl Inc. (OTCQB:SPLIF): 163%
How long will the frenzy last? Will it last? If it lasts, are the valuations on the companies sustainable or will they eventually come crashing back down to earth? The jury is out on these questions. Still, as I watched my brother make an absolute killing in this market, I decided to jump on board and have been enriched for doing so.
While I’ve been on holidays over the past two weeks I have enjoyed watching the volatility in this industry as stocks would routinely be up or down 20% in a trading session. We are currently witnessing new ground being broken and so this is to be expected as new legislation is rolled out over time and the investment landscape is shaped.
I intend to remain as a long player in this industry as it develops. Investment in WEED from Constellation Brands (STZ) is just one indication that the huge beverage companies are turning an eye toward this market in hopes to get in on the ground floor. Consolidation is likely to continue while new players apply for licenses to get their slice of what is to offer.
The Cryptocurrency Theme of 2017
This year also saw the parabolic rise of Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency, which is based on blockchain technology, has attracted huge investment dollars. Just about anyone you talk to about investments wants to know whether you’ve grabbed a slice.
I did look into what it would take to grab some crypto, but from what I could tell it required linking my bank account to Coinbase to establish a “wallet” and go from there. While other options may come about, at this stage I wouldn’t be comfortable putting my banking information in the hands of a company I hadn’t even heard of previously. When it becomes easy and transparent to add crypto without my discount broker without paying huge markups, I’ll take another look at this market.
Passive Income Growth
All of this to say that as much as I have enjoyed the huge gains listed above in the cannabis section, it does stagnate my dividend growth since these companies do not pay regular cash flows to investors. When I put money into this industry, I do not see my passive totals rising month over month, year over year. In light of this, I believe it will be necessary to find a balance so that as I dip my toes in these waters I also set myself up with growing, recurring income.
As mentioned last year, I have continued to enjoy my work and the earned income it produces. I don’t see myself needing or wanting to scale back in employment at any time in the foreseeable future. I intend to continue working as I have been and developing within the framework of the electronic health record I currently help maintain.
As I’ve said before, SFF is not about “retirement”. It is about gaining control of my financial life and by extension, my life in general. I am fortunate to be in the position that I am through both good timing and hard work which is coming to fruition bit by bit over time.
I am optimistic about the next twelve months as I look forward. There will be challenges presented and opportunities to be reaped from them. By maintaining a prudent, conservative approach, I hope to be in line to make the most of what is to come.
Thank you for continuing to follow my journey.
What plans have you made for the next five years?
Full Disclosure: Long ACBFF, BNS, CM, SPLIF, TWMJF
All companies owned in CAD on Canadian exchanges.
Disclosure: I am/we are long ACBFF, BNS, CM, SPLIF, TWMJF. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: All companies owned in CAD on Canadian exchanges.
Editor's Note: This article covers one or more microcap stocks. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.