Saturday Linkage:

4/3/2021

  1. Is it time to ditch bonds (millennial revolution); I’ve asked myself that question before.
  2. Work Life Balance or Success (Steveark): Having a good work-life balance pretty much precludes you from being a CEO, Top Coach or top Politician
  3. The Cost of a Comfortable Retirement, by country (Frugal Wheels); This is pretty subjective, but interesting!
  4. What can investors do in the face of low returns? (Monevator); A lot of folks are predicting lower than normal returns for the next 10+ years, especially after the latest run up.
  5. The Generational Wealth Gap (The irrelevant Investor); Boomers have historically held a higher percentage of household wealth over the years (no surprise); The later generations have definitely been hit by the financial crises in the past 20 years.
  6. US Active Managers Flopped again in 2020 – Morningstar (the Evidence Investor). Big Surprise! Not really…
  7. Finally Bought My Beachfront Dream House! (Financial Samurai); A lot of folks have this dream.
  8. Money Lessons Not Taught in School (the frugal expat); Some very basic financial information isn’t taught, and it would help a lot of people if it was
  9. How to separate your self worth from your Professional life (Tis but a Moment); This is the curse of my Baby Boomer Generation – we tie up our identity with our jobs
  10. 5 Behaviors I Thought Meant I Loved My Job, But Were Actually Unhealthy (the Financial Diet); Do you really love your job? /
  11. How To Prevent A Layoff From Destroying Your FIRE Plan (Costa Rica Fire): For those still working towards FI, words of wisdom to prepare.

Saturday Linkage:

3/27/2021

  1. The 2021 Early Retirement Update (Living a FI); A long story, filled with ups & downs after achieving FI. A must read.
  2. Couples First year in early retirement (the dragons on fire); Interesting reading for those of us approaching the big day  
  3. Travel Hacking: How We Escape the RV and Vacation for (Almost) Free (Heath and Alyssa); Cute stories about travel hacking
  4. 10 Wise Investments and Other Uses for Your Stimulus Check (retire before dad); Better than spending it on a big screen TV
  5. Get Rich Quick vs. Get Rich Slowly (the FI journey); Good advice on going wither route.
  6. The Easiest $486 I’ve Ever Made: How To Use Cash Back Credit Cards To Your Advantage (Frugal Woods). Excellent use of cash rewards to make some spare cash
  7. Invest in Index Funds and Gamble a Little (Even Steven Money); Maybe 10% of your portfolio is “play money”
  8. How no student loan payments changed my life (Richful Thinker); Some people used the loan moratorium to greatly improve their financial situation
  9. Health Incentive Programs: A Lost Benefit Raider (Budget Life List); Another frugal way to earn cash & prizes!
  10. The Five Hour Workday (Four pillar finance); Only spend time of tasks that “move the needle” instead of meetings, socializing, etc.
  11. My life philosophy: 52 lessons from 52 years (Get Rich Slowly)

FI is great when life throws you a curve ball!

Well, last night was fun! Yesterday, my town tore up some of the streets around us and shut off the water to our local houses. Not sure the reason, probably just repairing something, now that the weather is getting nicer. By late afternoon it was back on. When they turned the town water back on, our toilets and sinks burped and popped a bit as the air was let out of the system. Just around dinner time, we found that the area around our water heater had a small puddle around it. We cleaned it up, put a pan underneath it and watched it. We figured that the disturbance from the water coming back on may have loosened a valve or something.

No such luck. Our water heater is 15 years old, and after 10 years, they start wearing out. That was this one’s problem. It turned out that our tank had a small crack in it that wasn’t fixable, and was only going to get worse. We were having to clean up every hour or two – not the sort of thing you can live with.

Luckily, we were able to get a plumber out to remove/replace the water heater (with my work schedule the next couple of days, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it). While the cost was pretty expensive ($2,300 with permits!) we knew it was an expense we were going to have to pay pretty soon – and we’d been saving up for it.

So we plopped the money down, had an expert do the work, and got it all fixed by dinner time. That is one of the hidden joys of FI – it leads to a much less stressful life, because you can be prepared for this minor emergencies.

Stay Healthy!

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:

3/20/2021

  1. It’s Good to Be a Little Obsessed with Early Retirement (Retire by 40); “A little obsession is a good thing…”
  2. How to Prepare for Prosperity (his and  her money); Good advice on steps to take to gain prosperity
  3. We Have a Lot of Cash in Hand Now… Too Much! (Route to Retire); what to do when your cash equivalents get too large.
  4. The impact of covid on budgeting (Full Time Finance); Just about everyone’s budget have been thrown for a loop due to Covid
  5. Fixed and Variable Rate Loans: Which is better? (The simple dollar); as usual, it all depends on the situation.  
  6. Get Rich versus Stay Rich (The Belle Curve): How do you go about keeping what you’ve saved
  7. The Power of Low Expectations (Get Rich Slowly); The First Rule of a Happy Life is low expectations.
  8. The Illusion of Control (Financial Superstar); Never be afraid to ask for help
  9. How Dollywood gave me a glimpse of retirement (X Ray VSN); Cute story!
  10. Changing Financial Goals (just baggage enough); As Covid continues and life changes, your financial goals change as well
  11. Four Life lessons from the Pandemic (Life outside the Maze); Simple, easy to remember lessons.

What will you regret at the end of your life?

I was taken with an article recently that linked back to Bronnie Ware’s blog post (and eventual book) about the top five regrets of the dying. For those who don’t know, Bronnie worked for many years in palliative care, with patients who had gone home to die, usually within 3-12 weeks. From her comments:

“ People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.’

‘When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.”

She then goes on to list the top five regrets of the dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I looked back at these and thought about what I could do to reduce/eliminate these regrets:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me: While I have enjoyed (for the most part) the work that I’ve done and the life we have built, I have always wanted to do two things: Travel and research/embrace history and remodel houses (at least one house). While we had the chance to travel a lot when I was in Europe with the Army, we haven’t been able to travel anywhere near as much as I’d like. Current plans
    1. With Covid ending, the plan is to do at least one major trip a year, and other side trips, to national parks, historical sites, etc. While I may not be able to visit everything, I’ll visit a lot
    2. I’ve saved up a significant chunk of $ that I could use to fund the purchase and remodel of a home. When I decide to retire early, this will be one of my post-FIRE projects. Looking forward to it.
    3. Continue to work on my “side hustle” (TKD Woodworking) that I can enjoy once I retire
  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard: Not sure this is a major regret of mine. While I have worked hard, moved up the ladder, and been successful, Mrs. 39 Months has pretty much ensured that I didn’t become completely wrapped up with work at the expense of our lives together. The work has enabled us to build a tidy nest egg while still enjoying life, and now we are in a position of financial independence.
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings: OK, this is a regret, somewhat. While I’ve never had a problem expressing affection and love to Mrs. 39 Months (lots of hugs & kisses) and telling my family I love them – I have issues in expressing my opinions in situations at work and with others. I’m a middle child, and apparently we typically try to be the peacemakers in the family. I’ll subsume my opinions and feelings for the group in order to make it peaceful. One of the results of this is an explosive temper at times, which is a real issue. Current plans:
    1. Need to start daily meditations to deal with anger
    2. Need to speak up more when I have issues with friends & family – in a polite way
  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: Big problem with me. I typically don’t form close bonds with others, and usually once someone drops off, I don’t seek them out. I have one (only one) friend from high school/growing up, and we talk maybe once/quarter (if that). No college or military friends (which is odd, if you think about it), and only 2 real friends now. No work friends. As you get older, it gets harder and harder to build friendships. Current Plans:
    1. Increase frequency/number of phone calls to friends
    2. Try to schedule times to get together with local friends
    3. Make concerted effort to add to friends in current list of hobbies/professional organizations
    4. Attend college reunions, when possible, in order to try to reconnect with friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier: Not sure about this one. I believe I’m fairly happy, for the most part. Part of that is my embrace of Stoicism, as I am getting less interested in things I cannot control. Stopping to look at the news and politics has helped this a lot. Current plans:
    • Continue to practice Stoicism and enjoy what I can control
    • Keep away from areas that just “wind me up” (politics, social media, etc.) with no real impact on my life
    • Pursue areas that will make me happier (see #1 and #3 above)

So what are you doing in life to reduce potential future regrets?

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:

3/13/2021

  1. When you can afford to retire but are afraid to quit your job (CostRica Fire); The eternal struggle of all FIRE folks!
  2. The Simplicity of the 50/30/20 Budget rule (dividend power); A simple form of setting your budget – great to start with!
  3. Frugal vs. Cheap (Bellawanana); Which are you?
  4. Ten Biggest Money Mistakes (Dollars and Data): the blog post that launched a reddit avalanche!
  5. Fifty Reflections on Life after FIRE upon turning 50 (retire by 45): Some obvious, some not so obvious
  6. Make Fewer things in life matter (the finance buff); Excellent advice on how to reduce your stress level and concerns by taking steps to make the minutia matter less. Plays into my Stoic attitude.
  7. How much money is enough? (Rinky doo Finance): Good analysis and questions on how to get a handle on “the number”
  8. Money can buy happiness after all (visual capitalist); Apparently it doesn’t plateau at $75K – it does continue to increase as you make more.
  9. Why FIRE people can sometimes be short sighted (save, spend, splurge); There are all sorts of levels of FI, and all sorts of variables that may impact you as you travel along your post-FI journey.
  10. Why retirees go broke (the retirement café); No surprises, but not items which most FIRE folks haven’t considered.
  11. Being Rich – What would change in life? (Route to Retire): Hopefully nothing in your “core” would change.

Should you plan for inflation in 2021?

There have been talks for the last several years about the potential for inflation, and the effects it would have on individuals spending, investments and lifestyle. The inflation rate has jumped around significantly throughout the 20th century, and it wasn’t until Reagan and Volker (in the 1980s) took the steps to “slay the inflation dragon” and get it to a more controlled level, without the wild swings in the past (it went from 4.7% in 1976 to 13.3% in 1979!).

Since the 1991, the inflation rate has stayed under 4% every year, and average around 2% for the last two decades. Whole generations have grown up without the threat of watching their purchasing power melt away over a short period of time. Some argue that the CPI (Consumer Price Index) is not measuring accurately, and that the key items for living (shelter, food, transportation, etc.) have been going up at a much higher rate than the CPI index shows. This is similar to the Monevator’s article on personal inflation rate I noted earlier in the year.

Now with the huge amount of government spending over the last year (added to the large amount of government spending since the 2008-2009 crash) has led to renewed articles on the potential for inflation in 2021 and its effects. Stocks continue to rise well above all levels of base P/E ratios, and more people are talking about a bubbles. So what can you do?

I’ve written before about having a SHTF plan and what you can do to prepare. The key is to look at the items that will increase in value, and do things to ward off the effects of rising prices.

  • Invest in stocks vs. Bonds. Bond rates typically don’t keep up with inflation rates, so you can lose buying power, while the stock price of companies tend to go up at a better rate
  • Invest in hard assets to hedge (gold, oil, etc.). As the purchasing power of a dollar goes down, these items will increase in value.
  • Real Estate: Inflation typically makes real estate values shoot up (see house prices in the 70s). They’re already on the rise now – which lends to the belief that we are already experiencing inflation

The last bit of advice I have in regards to this is the opposite of what you typically should do in times of high inflation. The base suggestion would be to take out loans (especially low interest loans) with today’s dollars, and then when the dollar inflates, you can pay the debt off with lower value dollars. My suggestion in times of high inflation is to pay off your debt – not take on more. High inflation times are uncertain times, and job losses and economic disruptions happen. Having little or no debt will help you to weather through these tough times.

My hope is that we don’t see anything major happen in the next decade or so. However, I am very concerned at the out of control spending at the federal level. It just isn’t sustainable.

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Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:

3/6/2021

  1. Ditch your Scarcity Mindset to create an abundant life (our life on fire); Diagnosis and tips on how to improve your mindset
  2. How owning assets is better than a job (frugal expat); one of the eternal lessons from rich dad, poor dad.
  3. Strangers took in a delivery driver for 5 days after she was stranded in the Texas storm (CNN): feel good story.
  4. The Market Value of My Father (wealth simple); Father’s are very undervalued in today’s culture.
  5. A false sense of purchasing power (becoming minimalist); One of the roots of our personal (and countrywide) debt crisis is the ease of borrowing money
  6. The Secret Essential Geography of the office (Wired); While the article says office work isn’t dead, I still wouldn’t want to own office real estate right now.
  7. Positive Feedback Loops (Zen habits); A great way to move towards your objectives.
  8. Why are we panicking again? (Dollars and Data); The author asks why the market is down 4.2% from its highs? I think its overvalued.
  9. Financial Compatibility: Balancing Money And Love (one frugal girl); the most important financial decision you will ever make is your choice of spouse.
  10. How To Increase Your Net Worth: 4 Steps To Follow And Repeat (reverse the crush); Its not rocket science.
  11. Is Your Side Hustle Worth the Time? (vital dollar); Something I ask myself a lot since starting it.

Investment Update Jan 2021 – they did it again!

If you remember, at the end of last month, I noted that the market appeared to take a small dive right at the end of the month. In January, the market dropped about $40K in the last week, leaving me from a +3.0% to a -0.5% return for the month.

In February, I checked the market on Thursday, Feb 25th in the morning, less than 36 hours before then end of the month, and I was ups over 5% for the month. Yeah, baby! By Saturday morning, however, when I went to check it, the market had dropped close to 3% again, and I was only up 2.8% for the month. Still up over $41K, but not the $70K plus that it was on Thursday. They did it again!

In talking with some folks in the community, we all agreed that it was madness to be checking the market continuously. It is s also to be noted that all these gains/losses are just paper gains/losses. Until you sell the stock/mutual funds/ETFs, its all on paper, so it doesn’t do you any good to cry over a loss or crow over a gain. Just track it and see how it does over time.

So how did I do for the month of January? Overall, pretty good.

My allocation remains pretty much the same as when I set it back in July 2020:

  • 20% Bond Index Fund
  • 20% S&P500 Index Fund
  • 20% International Index Fund
  • 20% Small Cap Index Fund
  • 20% REIT Index Fund

My 401K doesn’t have REIT option, so it’s just 25% for each.

  • Bonds were down about -1.8%
  • S&P was up 2.8%
  • International was ups 2.3%
  • Small Cap up 6.1%
  • REIT Index up 3.4%

I also have a Vanguard value fund (VVIAX) where I put in my after-tax investment money. That was up 5.0% for the month. Maybe 2021 will finally be the year value investing starts beating the growth stocks? Who knows.

My dividend account new allocation (as of Jan 2020) was:

  • 50% Dividend Stocks
  • 50% REITs

The dividend paying stocks were up an average of 1.5%, and the REITS were up an average of 3%. These specific REITs really starting paying off in February, after a couple of months of almost nothing. It will be interesting seeing them in the months ahead.

Again, wow. The dividend account has been down all year and hasn’t recovered anywhere near what the 401K/IRA accounts have. Now its come roaring back. Hopefully it will end the year in the black.

Again, my intention is not to alter my asset allocation or “get out of stocks” but I am mentally preparing myself for a very bumpy 2021.  As I stated in January, I think the market is overvalued right now. We will see.

Hope everyone is healthy and your market returns for the rest of the year go up!

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Mr. 39 Months