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A Great Year for Dividend Mantra

Wow. 2013 is almost behind us, and I almost wish it wasn't. I secretly want 2013 to last forever. It's been a truly amazing 52 weeks. I couldn't ask for more.

I wanted to review a little of what transpired over the last year for me, and I'm also going to include the first-ever "greatest hits" of Dividend Mantra - the five most popular posts over the last year as voted by you the readers (via pageviews). 

I think the biggest and most surprising success in 2013 was the exposure this blog received both in the mainstream media and throughout the investing community. Of course, that all wouldn't have happened without you guys behind me supporting my journey to financial independence. I truly appreciate it! I think some of the exposure actually started at the end of last year after Mr. Money Mustache was kind enough to allow me to guest post over at his blog and share the concept of dividend growth investing with his readers. 

Early in 2013, my story was then first featured in USA Today and shortly thereafter I was interviewed by the Today Show. If that wasn't enough, I later was included in a piece on financial independence over at Yahoo!. Although the mainstream media attention was appreciated because it allowed me to expose my message to a broader audience, I think my favorite interview was done by Matt over at Dividend Monk as it allowed me to say exactly what it is I'm after, how I'm going to get there and why it matters.

Of course, with all that attention you're going to face some detractors. I certainly found myself with plenty of curiously spiteful email and a slate of posts within the blogosphere both positive and negative. There was the post over at Darwin's Money that basically called me a math-challenged hippie, but on the flip side I enjoyed the positive spin over at Dave Ramsey's blog as well as the interview I was featured in over at MoneyPlan SOS.

But fame is fleeting and my 15 minutes in the limelight is over now. However, what's far from over is my journey to financial freedom or my thirst to acquire it. As well, you'll see me continue to share that thirst and desire on a regular basis here. And while I appreciate the opportunity to spread my message, I appreciate the inspiration I find in both my success and the success of you readers on a daily basis even more. 

And speaking of success 2013 was wonderful in that regard. I'm going to let a secret out - I exceeded all of my goals that I set out for myself at the beginning of the year, and I'll be reviewing each goal separately and in-depth in the coming days. The Freedom Fund is currently kicking some serious ass, with a value north of $145,000 as of today - well over the ~$88k I started the year with. And although the value of the Fund is nice to look at on paper, the dividend income is really where it's at. The passive dividend income my portfolio generates is what will ultimately determine my ability to be financially free, as the dividend income will feed my wallet on a regular basis to satisfy my liabilities. And the dividend income is going to come pretty close to $4,000 throughout 2013. An amazing feat, in my opinion, as I started from $0 at the beginning of 2010. $4,000 ends up being almost $11 per day 365 days per year. That may not sound like much until you realize that you're getting paid on weekends, holidays and even while you sleep. Not too shabby.

But not everything went fantastic this year. Kraig and I from Create My Independence started a podcast titled: The Chasing Financial Freedom Podcast. Unfortunately, I just didn't have the time necessary to continue this project. Kraig has decided to continue the CFF Podcast without me, but I hope to be a guest from time to time. I've also had to unfortunately increase my expenses as the year has progressed. I now have a car, although I landed perhaps the greatest car deal of all time. I also have health insurance now due to both the individual mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act as well as the fact that I now have substantial assets to protect. Such is life, but these are really first world problems.

And finally, as promised, I'm going to highlight the five most popular articles from 2013:

Why I Hold 100% Of My Equity Investments In A Taxable Account
This was not only the most popular article of 2013, but it's generated the most pageviews of any article I've written to date. Although it's a bit controversial, I don't really see it that way. And I actually plan to revisit this subject at some point in the future as it came to my attention later after the post went live that the case for a taxable account is actually a bit stronger as I didn't factor in a personal exemption or standard deduction. Factoring that in, the amount one can earn from dividends before having to answer to the taxman is closer to $46k for a single earner in 2013.

Why I Vastly Prefer Dividend Growth Investing To Index Investing
Another controversial article. I promise, that's not my strategy. However, again I don't really see my stance as particularly cutting-edge or different. I've been open in my opinion that I believe index investing is the best strategy for most retail investors due to the time demands inherent in dividend growth investing. But I happen to enjoy researching individual companies, reading through financial statements and managing a large portfolio. The time constraints don't really bother me. Call me weird (or boring). Furthermore, if you're interested in dividend growth investing as a strategy, you'll find that you can invest in the same companies that index funds do but without the management fees. So I get paid (by paying myself the management fees) to do something I enjoy anyway? I call that a win-win.

Scottrade's FRIP And Diversifying Brokerage Firms
I wrote this article mid-year to share the revolutionary service Scottrade rolled out. Called FRIP - for 'Flexible Reinvestment Program' - it allows investors to reinvest dividends in whatever securities he or she feels fit to without any commission fees. You want to reinvest the $100 dividend from The Coca-Cola Company (KO) into Philip Morris International Inc. (PM)because you feel the latter offers better value? Well, you can do with FRIP because it doesn't require you to reinvest the dividend back into the security that paid it out in the first place. However, it should be noted that the program doesn't allow for partial share purchases. And on the brokerage front I still haven't diversified, but that is coming.

Dividend Income Update - September 2013
This post was one of my monthly dividend income updates, but this one stands out because September's haul still stands as a record for me. $640 in dividends. For one month. How can you not enjoy dividend growth investing?

DGI Case Study - $5K To $100K In Three Years
Lastly, my favorite post of 2013. This was my manifesto, showing how I started from nothing three years ago and crossed the six-figure mark early this year. Of course, a strong stock market has certainly provided a lot of wind to my sails but I wouldn't be where I am today if I couldn't persevere or remain consistent. A strong stock market wouldn't mean a thing to me if I didn't decide to change my life a few years back. Don't make excuses. Make resolutions. And then stick to them.

Full Disclosure: Long PM, KO

How about you? Did you have a great year? 

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