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My financial life, in a line chart

June 30th, 2012 at 01:10 pm

Among other questionable uses of my time, I created a rudimentary line chart some time ago. It tracks my net worth each January for the past 17 years, from 1996 through 2012.

I bought my house in December 1995 and used a good chunk of my savings as a 45% down payment. So 1996 seemed like a good time to begin the chart since my life savings were the lowest they'd been in a while.

What's interesting to me is how much I can read into this chart about the ebb and flow of my financial life, my career, unemployment and a few windfalls.

Let's take a look....



As you can see at the bottom left of the line, there was a nice, steady, upward trajectory in net worth from about $67,000 in 1996 to $221,000 in 1999. Those were the latter half of the good money days when I worked as a financial copywriter for a firm that sold mutual funds and annuities, but they were also high stress years with a long commute and not much of a social life. I socked away the maximum 15% in my 401k each year, contributed the maximum to my IRA and saved a few thousand more each year in taxable savings.

From 1999 to 2000, you can see an even steeper climb in net assets. It was in 1999 that I lucked out and sold some stock options. My two grandmothers both passed away around that time, around a year or so apart. I inherited from both.

From 2000 through 2003, I didn't seem to make much headway. Maybe because, burned out and tired of the long commute and demanding hours, I left the well-paying job in 1999 for a start-up financial publisher in my hometown, only to see that job, and its income, go kaput when the company folded a year-and-a-half later. A period of unemployment followed while I tried to make a go of freelancing full-time, as well as full-time, but low-paying work and some consulting.

From 2003 through 2007 there's another sharp climb in net asset, from $227,000 in 2003 to $437,000 in 2007. Those were bull market years, plus I was working full-time with no interruptions. (Even if you're unemployed for just a brief period between jobs, changing jobs has its penalty since many employers won't let you begin contributing to a 401(k) for 6 months.)

The big drop in 2009 was of course due to the stock market crash. That was also the year I was laid off. But as you can see, I've recovered net worth nicely in the past few years.

This is the big picture snapshot. There were a lot more fluctuations in the months between each January. My highest net worth, not really reflected in the line chart, was $525,000 in May 2011.

I was down about $25,000 in January 2012 compared to January 2011, but I did withdraw about $14,000 for vinyl siding last summer and I threw at least $15,000 at my mortgage around the same time. Because I'm not working steadily, I've been unable to replenish the funds taken out, which bothers me.

I've also plotted out my net worth on a monthly basis, and that reveals even more nuances than the year by year chart.

3 Responses to “My financial life, in a line chart”

  1. Jenn Says:

    Thank you for sharing! I find this really interesting too. I began to track my net worth on networthiq just a short while ago.

  2. snafu Says:

    I too chart net worth bi annually to help with planning and goal setting. It's surprising how life events and choices attach to successes and misses.

    If we all prepared a statement of net worth as part of our Income Tax procedure, would people make different choices to avoid financial pitfalls.

  3. ceejay74 Says:

    That is astounding that you've held onto your net worth throughout this long un(der)employed period. Thanks for sharing!

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