How many financial accounts do you have that you need to keep track of?
That’s a hard question to answer for most people, myself included. The rich know their money and where it all is and what it is all doing. That is the secret to their success. Let’s try and emulate that success by creating a money map.
I keep track of pretty much every cent that moves around our account web, but never sat down to really analyze how many accounts we have and to detail what they are all for.
Keeping it simple is the name of the game when it comes to financial success and success in life. The more complicated and convoluted a system gets the more chances for failure. If you haven’t gotten a chance yet, check out my post on keeping it simple.
The Money Map
This is the massive web of accounts that I have created to funnel our money through the most efficient means to reach financial independence. The general purpose of my account map here is to show what we have and where it moves. Keeping track of all of it is important, and I use Personal Capital to monitor most of these accounts.
Let’s go through each color block and see what is going on.
First off we have the income area, where we have my salary. As we are a one income family due to the fact that we are expats in China, there is no split between my wife and me. In addition to my salary, I also get annual bonuses that I include in my salary. However, there are 2 other areas here that are a little different due to my expat assignment. First, we have company reimbursements.
First, we have company reimbursements. We get reimbursed for a myriad of different expenses over here for what is not already paid for. Things like utilities, apartment fees, home leave travel and others are all reimbursed after I pay for them. This reimbursement goes into my the specific Schwab account.
Second, I received a bonus from the Chinese local government last year and looks like I will receive it again this year. That bonus requires a specific bank account that I had to open just for that.
We have a total of 4 bank accounts in use, however, we have another 4 or 5 accounts that have $0 balances that I have just not closed. I see no reason to close accounts if they cost nothing to leave open. Our 4 bank accounts are split between 2 banks. While we were in the US, everything was at Ally because I love the ease of their online only system and their highest in the industry savings account interest rate. It recently even went up to 1.2%.
We opened the Schwab account specifically for traveling. I have learned through the years of traveling that it is best to pay in cash, so I searched for a bank account that was free to open that had worldwide free ATM use and Schwab fit the bill perfectly. We had to open a brokerage account with it, but it is not required to fund it, so it sits empty.
China Bank Accounts
Because we live in China we have a Chinese bank account to pay for utilities and Taobao purchases. The Chinese banking system is both great and terrible at the same time. Their integration with almost every service over here makes it very easy to pay everybody. However, their websites and UI and antiquated and reliant on old Internet Explorer technology. They also do not offer joint accounts, so my wife and I share an account in her name. I had to open the 2nd account at ICBC just to accept the bonus payment. I guess ~$6000 is worth the hassle of opening a bank account here 😉
Vanguard Investment Accounts
We love Vanguard, like most people in the financial independence community. I was stoked when my company decided to switch the 401k to Vanguard. When that happened, I then had 100% of my investments at Vanguard which makes it so much easier to check up on. We have his and hers Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and a joint brokerage account in addition to the 401k. We have both Traditional and Roth IRAs after I did an analysis earlier this year and determined that the Traditional IRA is indeed the best one for early retirement situations.
Our HSA got moved to HSA Bank last year because they integrate with TD Ameritrade and allow me to buy VTI, the VTSAX equivalent ETF. This account has treated us well so far and we look forward to continuing to use it more as a tax-shelter IRA, then a health savings account.
I have never had credit card debt. When I exited college and entered the “real world“, I decided to accept every credit card that had cool cash back opportunities. I hadn’t learned about travel hacking yet. So, I accumulated a number of credit cards. Here, I also do not close accounts unless they have fees. I might as well have extras around in case one is not accepted for whatever reason. The latest addition to my credit card list was the Chase Sapphire Preferred card which had an awesome 50,000 point sign up bonus plus 10,000 more for an additional user. I got it last year and paid for return flights to the US that were then reimbursed to me and easily reached the minimum spend.
Living in China, we spend most of our money via cash. Since our credit cards are not accepted over here, we cannot accumulate points, so cash is the easiest method. China is moving forward fast with the mobile payment, and many people prefer this over cash, but we also don’t have phones that are any good, so cash it is. We take out ~$1000 at a time worth of RMB and spend it on everything over several months before we restock from the Schwab account.
Getting the Flow On
So money flows through the diagram pretty much from left to right. I get an income, which gets disbursed to the bank accounts and the 401k at 50%. After covering expenses and credit card payments for the month, the rest is moved immediately to whichever pre-tax account is not maxed out yet. After all pre-tax accounts are maxed, it flows to the brokerage account.
I pondered on automating the contributions to investments throughout the year and making each account reach capacity in December but decided I like to see one max at a time. It makes it seem like you are achieving your goals faster!
I put together this money map to help align my mind on where all of our money is and where it all goes. It also helps to explain our finances to those that do not understand but have an interest in knowing. I know it will help my wife wrap her head around all of our money movements.
Communication is crucial when it comes to money. Having a tool like the money map in your arsenal will help you succeed.
This is part of a Money Map series created by:
Other participants include:
- The Luxe Strategist
- Adventure Rich
- The Frugal Gene
- Working Optional
- Our Financial Path
- Eccentric Rich Uncle
- Atypical Life
- Cantankerous Life
- The Retirement Manifesto
- Debts to Riches.
- Cantankerous Life
- Retirement Manifesto
- Debts to Riches
- Money Metagame
- I Dream of FIRE
- Stupid Debt
- Spills Spot
- Making Your Money Matter
- Life Zemplified
- Trail to FI
- The Lady in the Black
- Smile & Conquer
- Her Money Moves
- Full Time Finance
- Abandoned Cubicle
Edited for Abandoned Cubicle’s advice. China needed to be behind the Great Wall! It really is difficult to get money out of here. China wants money to be kept domestically due to severe corruption in the country.
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