2023 Review — State of the Blog & Life

First, a 40,000 ft overview of 2023:

  • Life flew by, as always. Increasingly so as the years go on.
  • I played many rounds of disc golf and climbed a bunch. I love the competitive, outdoor, social, and physical aspects of disc golf. I like the physical, mental, and social aspects of climbing (mostly indoors, unfortunately). Without those outlets, I would be adrift. Particularly not living next to mountains.
  • I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
  • Life is pretty much on auto-pilot, for better or worse. Finances appear to be trending in the right direction. No gigantic strategic changes coming that I’m aware of. Mostly staying the course.
  • Life highlights include climbing trip with family to Vegas & Provo, backpacking trip with family to WY, backpacking trip with friends in WY, and climbing trip to CO with friend.
  • I need some goals. Without them, I’m a bit adrift and rudderless.


Blog update next

Here are some historical state-of-the-blog posts:

  • My 2022 edition is here.
  • My 2021 edition is here.
  • My 2020 edition is here.
  • My 2019 edition is here.


2023 Blog Stats:

  • 444 WordPress / email subscribers
    • 3.5% growth from last year (429)
  • 345 Feedly subscribers:
    • 4% growth from last year (332)
  • 54,788 pageviews this year:
    • 2022 pageviews: 63,855
    • 2021 pageviews: 92,017
    • 2020 pageviews: 137,594
    • 2019 pageviews: 78,266
  • Posts/month: ~1.
  • 2023 Profitability:
    • Amazon affiliate revenue: $64.13
    • Blog costs (digitalocean hosting + google domain): ($72+$12)*(1-5.25%) = $79.59
      • $6/mo VPS hosting at digitalocean
      • $1/month for domain name at google domains
        • Google domains is dying, unfortunately. I guess I’m migrating to porkbun?
      • 5.25% cash back for “online” category at BoA
    • Profit (ignoring home internet costs, etc): loss of $15.46
    • Profit/hr (assume 1 hr/post): negative $1/hr.


A few screenshots for the curious


Blogging conclusion:

  • I still don’t know what this website is or what it is supposed to be. For better or worse, in its current form, it is the compilation of some random thoughts of a dude trying to figure out life (with mixed levels of success). Some of the thoughts I write down are surely more helpful than others. Some of the thoughts I write down should have surely not been aired publicly.
  • Despite its flaws, it is kind of fun to write stuff down occasionally. It obviously isn’t a great time commitment (~1hr/month?). I like the discipline that writing instills. I like trying to organize thoughts into coherent arguments (again, with mixed degrees of success). I feel like that writing (even my feeble attempts) helps discipline the mind into better thinking.
  • I published a single YouTube video in 2023 on the BoA credit card stuff here. 896 views over 7 months.
    • Unfortunately it has yet to surpass the infamous video of me unknowingly stumbling into two sheep dogs while mountain biking, which is at 520k views.
    • Alas, it seems I’m not destined to be a YouTuber. My kids will never forgive me.
      • When I recorded my most recent BoA YT video, my kids were really excited. However, when I showed them the final product, they almost died of boredom. It was almost incomprehensible to them how something so boring could end up on a platform that they loved so dearly.


Reader poll:

  • How was your 2023?
  • What are you excited about in 2024?


Thanks for joining me on this random corner of the internet. Have a wonderful 2024!

42 thoughts on “2023 Review — State of the Blog & Life”

  1. I’m a long time lurker of your blog, and I truly hope you keep posting. For me, the low metrics do not match the high value of content. I also found your “incomplete rough draft” of a book very valuable…perhaps pushing that to a “complete” published status would be a worthy goal? It seems you have a wealth of data from your own personal finance journey that you could perhaps mine for insights for the rest of us. What percentage of your success (and you are very successful at $2M+ net worth with a large family) can be attributed to tax shielding, frugality, 100% equity exposure, international exposure? At what point or age would you predict a portfolio shift into bonds? You personal insights into these questions would be fascinating and useful for a family like mine. If you published a book, even better! Perhaps you can get your marketing colleagues at your business school to lend expertise on making it a best seller? I know I would buy it!

    • Glad you found the “incomplete rough draft” useful. I was pretty happy to have spent 2 days writing that, but for some reason I lost steam with it and never really picked it up again. I think it could be a fun project to pick up again and finish.

      What percentage of my success can be contributed to the different components?
      * Tax shielding: a decent percentage. Probably the most important thing we do.
      * Frugality: Scratch that. 100% of it. Probably the most important thing we do.
      * Equity exposure: 10%. A target-date-fund would have been allocated to ~90% equities for my age, so I’m only marginally more risky than that.
      * International: negative 37%. It seems like our international exposure has been hell-bent on destroying us financially.
      * At what point do I anticipate transitioning to bonds: Good question. Given my relatively secure employment (post tenure) and “relatively” young age, I’m perhaps more comfortable taking investment risks than others. With bond yields now coming back from the lunacy of the past few years, I’m more open to investing in bonds. I could see myself taking a 20% position in the next few years. I’ve been giving this topic some thought the past few months and will continue to do so. That said, the high yields on money market funds begs the question of why someone would bear the interest rate risk (e.g. bond prices fall when bond yields increase) from investing in bonds when they can get >5% without bearing interest rate risk.

  2. I too was a user of Google Domains but moved to Cloudflare and pay $9.15/year for my .com domains. Unless you’re willing to get more technical, drop WordPress, and build/deploy your own site on something like Netlify, I can’t tell you how to get much cheaper there.

    In 2024, I plan on upping my game with respect to tracking my personal finances. I’ve been a Quicken user since 2001 and rebought the software in 2011, which I’m still using today. However, I want a little more rigor and there are questions that Quicken reports have a tough time answering (e.g. “how much more money can I take out of my 529 accounts this year?”). Plus, my version of Quicken is getting slow, probably because it has 23+ years of data in it. Instead of moving to another service (that I probably won’t be satisfied with) or buying Quicken again, I’ve decided to go down the double-entry accounting route using the open source beancount. It’s been a great learning experience so far but I still have a way to go before I can get my wife on board. My next step is to add my investment accounts and start tracking my cost basis with them. As I get older, I want to spend less time counting my beans so if this becomes too onerous, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

    • I think cloudflare was my current second choice for domains if I don’t go with porkbun. I’ll have to look more into the comparision of cloudflare vs porkbun. Thanks for the suggestion!

      On the blog migration point, the $6/mo hasn’t bothered me yet since the blog mostly breaks even. But if there are secondary reasons to ditch WordPress in favor of Netlify, I’d be interested. But WordPress is so easy and it handles comments pretty well (e.g. automatically filtering out the many spam comments I get).

      Best of luck with tracking your finances better in 2024. I find it to be a fascinating endeavor. People on Bogleheads have mentioned GnuCash more times than I can recall. Not sure how that compares to BeanCount.

      Have a great 2024!

  3. Have you ever checked out Cal Newport? He has a great podcast about what he calls the deep life. It touches on goals, productivity, and a lot of other related topics. I love your blog and I think you’d be a fan of Cal. Also – keep it up. You are impacting more people than you realize, I am sure. And I am one of them. The BofA system is effortlessly giving me thousands of dollars per year – never would have found it without you. No one blogs about it because there aren’t referral links for those cards.

    • I’ve read some of Cal’s books. They are indeed good. However, they inevitably make me feel worse about myself. He’s a world-class researcher, writer, and presumably teacher / husband / father. His books make me feel like my life is a disaster since I’m not on track to win a Nobel Price in my early 40s.

      I resonate much more with flawed humans than I do flawless humans. This is true in real life and the media I consume.

      Glad you’ve gleaned something useful from these jumbled thoughts.

  4. That’s a shame about your hourly blogging rate. Looking at my BOFA rewards summary, I might be making $100+ an hour from reading your blog! At this point of my FI journey, I only read MMM and FP blogs.

    My 2023 was pretty productive. It was my first full year of “retirement”. I use the quotes because I had several sources of earned income including some carpentry and working at a summer camp. I also managed to forage and hunt a significant amount of food, which feels like a job sometimes (albeit an awesome job). I’m up to 4 baskets on my home disc golf course!

    For 2024, I’m excited to continue increasing my time spent outside. I’ve got 14 years of corporate life that needs washing away!

    • Congrats on your first full year of “retirement”!!!! Sounds fantastic to spend more time outside. It is so good for the soul. I can relate, so deeply, to the comment of needing to wash away 14 years of corporate life. The 4 years I spent in a cube farm at Boeing still haunt me to this day…. Luckily, my current gig is much less confining.

      On the foraging front, that sounds pretty fun. Maybe I’ll retire to live off the land some day. Learn to grill up road kill, etc.

      On the hourly blogging rate, the disclosure wasn’t meant to induce pity or anything. Just to promote transparency and to demonstrate that this particular PF blogger isn’t doing it for the money. I kind of like this stuff intrinsically. The things I write are my own thoughts not biased by profit incentives.

  5. I hope you keep up the posting as well. I enjoy seeing your thoughts and appreciate your unique methods of frugality and financial prowess. I’m sure there are a bunch of people who don’t post but really enjoy your content.

    Cheers to 2024!

  6. For what it’s worth, I look forward to reading the update every month. I always find something valuable in your Costco or entertainment recommendations, I’ve stolen a lot of your data formatting for my own net worth tracking, and we just switched to the B of A cash back rewards card based on your recommendation. I appreciate the blog – it’s like having a conversation with a smart brother/friend. Thanks.

  7. Congrats again on life as a tenured professor. Enjoy it for what it’s worth in universities these days!

    In my experience, it takes a couple of years to decompress. And then the game starts again: new opportunities, new expectations, etc. And career longevity takes on new meaning.

    I wouldn’t worry about what you’ve made with the blog. It won’t replace the career, but it can be a meaningful contribution. Maybe it’s just a way of scratching itches.

    The bigger question now is whether you want to avoid university admin roles? That’s a real potentiality.

    • The blog has certainly helped scratch a few itches that the job doesn’t.

      Who knows what the future of my job, or higher ed broadly, will entail. Probably more service. The few committee’s I’ve been a part of so far have been incredibly fulfilling (helping to introduce HSA for the first time, revamping retirement plan, and helping to select health insurance provider). The older I get, the less I tolerate meaningless paper pushing. But helping to enact meaningful changes gets me pretty excited still.

  8. I can see that – he’s quite impressive. But he’s also pretty realistic, self-deprecating, and full of practical ideas on goals, depth, etc. His podcast has especially been focused on goals and “the deep life” recently, and his book slow productivity that comes out this year looks interesting.

  9. great as always. I’m a silent reader, just wanted to say hi. — do you know, whenever i receive an email update from the frugal professor, first thought: “… a month, gone? already?”

    happy new year!

  10. I would like to second the request to complete the incomplete rough draft. It is the most digestible overview of income tax I’ve ever seen.

    • Joey! Long time no interaction. Google tells me you’ve had a productive last many years! Congrats to your accomplishments!

      I should probably finish that book one of these days. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  11. Hi FP,
    Your blog has been great for me in formulating the CC rewards strategy and also becoming a Costco convert! Keep writing! Life on autopilot is the best life. I wonder whether I can enjoy life without any goals – just ‘being’ without striving to ‘ become’ something. If life is on autopilot, you are already driving towards your goal (auto), don’t stress out to improvise too much! :-). Happy New Year!

    • Glad I converted at least one soul to the church of Costco! This is much more meaningful to me than converting someone to the BoA cult.

      I think being comfortable with autopilot is indeed a worthy endeavor. That said, I have a few friends in similar situations to mine (a friend of mine texted me recently on the topic, calling our situation “the curse of moderate success.” note the emphasis on moderate). We pushed so hard for so long to achieve big objectives that it feels disorienting to come out the other side after having reached major life goals. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent Smartless podcast talked about the importance of continued goals for mental health. I have personally found that to be true in life, so I guess I need to figure out what’s next for me. A reason to get out of bed in the morning.

  12. You have one of the last blogs that I regularly read. Probably because I check in once a month and my RSS feed reader was mothballed years ago. There isn’t a lot I get that’s actionable anymore since I moved to BoA CC rewards but I just like tracking your progress

    • Blogs are indeed a dying breed. Sorry nothing is actionable any more. That’s kind of the “problem” with being on a good trajectory. Nothing to do but kick up the feet and stay on auto-pilot.

      From an author’s perspective, there’s not left unsaid. 1.) live below means, 2.) invest wisely, in low-cost vehicles. 3.) rinse, repeat.

  13. Long time reader, first time commenter. This blog has been a great resource in my personal finance journey, I came across it when I was looking to refinance my mortgage in 2021. Your advice is very practical and easy to follow and implement. I am still contemplating moving to BoA Credit cards…the only things stopping me are 1) the simplicity of having all investments with Fidelity 2) the fear that as soon as I move 100K to Merrill, they will cancel the 5+% cash back program. Maybe 2024 will be the year I pull the trigger 🙂

    I would love to hear more on your thoughts on the future of academia…I received my PhD ten years ago and work in corporate R&D, but I am on the advisory council for the department where I got my degree and I can’t help but think that many universities would benefit from your practical approach to finance and spending (especially improving the retirement saving options). For state schools we have seen mostly flat funding from the state government, but budgets have increased putting more burden on tuition and wonder how that changes the cost benefit calculation for students and what that means for future faculty. Wall Street Journal did an interesting breakdown on the budget changes at Auburn University, my take away was budgets for buildings, utilities, and servicing debt had ballooned while faculty pay mostly just kept pace with inflation https://www.wsj.com/us-news/education/breaking-down-spending-at-one-of-americas-priciest-public-colleges-2d74ec48?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

    • Glad to hear you’ve gotten some use out of the site. I’ve also feared the nixxing of the 5.25% cash back for some time, but so far those fears have been unwarranted. We’ll see how long the gravy train lasts. I agree the startup costs are non-trivial, especially if you live in a state without BoA services (like me).

      Great to hear that you’re serving on the advisory committee for your alma mater. We have one of those committees as well, but I’m not really privy to the workings of it.

      Broadly, I share your concerns with higher ed. Rising costs. How are we responding to AI? Sometimes antiquated curriculum that doesn’t always map to real-world life skills. For example, we give people 4-year degrees (even in finance) without them understanding the most basic functions of the tax code or retirement investing. It seems like every student deserves to be introduced to these topics before venturing out into the real world, but we fail to teach them these skills.

      My university, like many others, is facing large budget deficits (shrinking state funding, rising costs, negative demographic trends at the state level leading to shrinking enrollments). I’m unsure what the future will bring, but I am glad to be increasingly financially hedged against doomsday scenarios.

      I think I could be quite happy doing retirement plan consulting for other universities. It seems to me that there are a lot of self-serving actors in the space, combined with general ignorance of decision makers, driving up costs for plan participants across the country. To the tune of tens of millions of dollars of excessive fees for a single university system. Extrapolating to all universities, and to all employers across the country, it’s truly mind-boggling how big of an opportunity is out there.

  14. Underdog CC:

    Shop Your Way CC.

    Consistently getting 15% off offers per month for restaurants gas grocery.

    Found it on bogleheads. At first you don’t get any offers then they start pouring in.

    • I’ve been meaning to get this card for quite some time now. I’ll finally bite the bullet. Thanks for the continued prodding!

  15. Hi FP,
    Former student of yours who graduated back in 2018 (wow it’s been that long?). Just wanted to hop on and say I very much enjoy the regular updates and insights you have. Back pre-covid your blog posts were a fairly regular point of conversation between us actuaries while at work during lunch breaks. In this post-covid, hybrid working world it’s a little less common to have those lunch break conversations, but you still come up occasionally!

    Your finance class was probably one of my favorite classes I took, and certainly continues to be of value to me, which you can’t really say about too many college courses. Have recently been doing a lot of thinking about my finances/investments and have been leveraging your “rough draft book”, which funny enough I think you passed along to us as students back in the day. I’ll echo what others have posted – continuing that book could be a great 2024 goal! I hope you keep up the posts, meanwhile I’ll keep living my quiet, frugal lifestyle. Thanks for the many years of continued education and entertainment!

    • Justin,

      Great to hear from you! Your comment put a smile on this old man’s face. Glad that something I taught you stuck and I hope that life is treating you well!

      I think it’s official. I’ll commit to finishing that “rough draft” book in 2024. It’s been a bit, but I’m pretty sure I wrote it for my students and then dumped the draft on the blog for the heck of it.

      Take care, and thanks again for reaching out!

  16. Im an ardent follower of the blog and I’d love if you continue writing the blogpost. I find your articles well researched and have data backing them. I’ve implemented a lot of strategies that you’ve mentioned both tactical like BofA card as well as strategic like doing back door Roth and mega back door Roth

    I have been busy analysing benefit of adding leverage via real estate to improve net worth. Would love to get your thoughts on it

    I can share my analysis if needed

    • Glad you’ve found the site helpful.

      I’m familiar with how leverage amplifies investment gains. 20% down on a $500k property, implies $100k of equity on day 1. Property goes up by 20% from $500k to $600k, resulting in a new equity of $200k. Realized return on invested capital is 100% (started with $100k equity, ended with $200k equity) even though the asset return is 20% thanks to the 5x leverage multiplier (the inverse of debt/asset).

      Leverage is wonderful when markets go up for obvious reasons. I have friends who were leveraged up to their eyeballs on real estate transactions pre-covid, only to experience gigantic gains through the real estate boom over the past few years. If you had a crystal ball and could predict (dramatically) rising real estate prices (or any asset price) with certainty, the smartest financial thing to do would be to leverage up to your eyeballs and buy the most real estate (or asset) as you could.

      That said, leverage cuts both ways. That same $500k property with $100k (20%) down dropping 20% to $400k would completely wipe out the investor’s equity (realized return of -100%; started with $100k, ended with $0k equity). Leverage in a down market is an investor’s worst enemy. I observed a lot of people adversely affected by that in the 2008 crisis when I first started my career in Seattle.

      If you’re playing with leverage you must understand that it cuts both ways and is therefore much riskier than avoiding leverage.

      That said, I certainly have the financial means to pay off my mortgage tomorrow. But I don’t because the interest rate is 2%. My mortgage does allow me to invest $200k more into equities than I would without one. And yes, this mechanically increases my exposure to equity returns. But it’s a risk I’m consciously making. In 2023 that bet worked out favorably for me. In 2022, less so.

  17. Hello FP, Im a ardent reader of your blog. I look forward to your posts. most importantly i have learned a lot of stuff related to finance and tax from this blog. Also I’ll always look forward to your listen/watches/recommendation section found lot of gems from that section. Thanks for writing and inspiring us.

  18. Love the blog. You inspired me to take the Machu Picchu tour this May. Hoping my knee is up for it as well.

    Also, love the net worth tracker you posted. I’ve adapted and had my own fun with it, but the basic function is still there. However, no matter how I run the numbers, my cash vs predicted never evens or is all the close (usually off by $100+). Any suggestions?

    Keep up the good work, FP.

    • What hike/trek/route are you doing in Peru? The same one I did (including Choquequirao)? I hope you enjoy Peru as much as I did.

      For Machu Picchu, I have two recommendations: 1.) if you can get up at the crack of dawn for the first dibbs on entry, you’ll avoid most of the crowds and see a sunrise you’ll never forget, and 2.) I enjoyed the excursion up Huayna Picchu.

      Getting my financial statements to balance has certainly been a learning process, but I’ve dialed it in to the penny for a few years now (which is quite satisfying). When I first started the blog, I was ~$100 off each month too. I eventually identified the cause, which was pending transactions that hand’t cleared yet were affecting my account balances but not my income statement (e.g. budgeting) in Personal Capital. Once I recognized this discrepancy, it was an easy fix. I still get the occasional bug I have to figure out, most often due to a transaction categorization error in Personal Capital (e.g. miscoding ATM transaction as “transfer” rather than an “expenditure”).

      My recommendation is to update the sheet more regularly than 1x/month. If you keep up to date on it (maybe weekly?), it becomes a very quick process and errors can be quickly identified.

      I can’t quite articulate why, but I think this process is truly empowering and illuminating. If you find similar value out of your spreadsheet, can you articulate why?

  19. I think we ended on a slightly different trek than the one you took, hiking in on both the Salkantay and Inca trails. Other than Dead Women’s Pass, it avoids the most strenuous climbs, but is still all camping. Very much appreciate the recommendations. Looking forward to the hike of a lifetime. Here’s the trek: https://www.salkantaytrekking.com/trekking-in-peru/cusco/salkantay-trek-inca-trail-machu-picchu/

    As a side note, it was sort of exciting to get to redeem all these Chase UR points for travel (the way the internet wants me to) with transfer partners.

    With regards to tracking finances, my original inspiration was to solve the age old question, “where the heck did all my money go?”, and it’s been a steady downward slide since then. Partly it’s control, partly it’s the optimizer in me (who can’t appreciate pure efficiency?). But really, for me, when I began my career I was on a pension plan and following the crash in ’08 that was negotiated away leaving me to figure out (for the first time) the retirement landscape. One day, I did the math and I realized this process needed more than autopilot. As a financial novice, I loved the challenge, and ultimately the spreadsheet is confirmation that I’m doing my job correctly.

    Balancing the cash is the last challenge on the spreadsheet. Since every purchase I make is on a credit card, it’s definitely there that the error is occurring. I know that when I go to the granular level of tallying each debit it gets really close, but I’m trying to automate that (they way you seem to have). I’ll have to try a more frequent update, though I’m not sure my wife will think that’s healthy.

    Really appreciate all the work you’ve done and how much you’ve shared on this blog.

    • That trip looks amazing! Salkantay is the premier guide in the area. A good friend recommended them to me (he took his teenage daughters). It’s unbelievable how much value you get for your dollars there. Prepare to eat like royalty. An unreal experience.

      Your route looks great, but the max elevation of 16,732 ft looks intense!!!! The highest we got on our trek was 15,256 ft and it destroyed me. I thought I was in reasonably good shape for that trip, but that day was quite humbling.

      Glad to hear that the spreadsheet tracking is helping in some capacity. I agree that it really gives me the feeling of being in absolute control of my financial life. And it has evolved into a weird hobby of brutal honesty and self-reflection.

      One the automation front, all I do is categorize each transaction that flows through on Personal Capital. If everything is categorized correctly, then the process is essentially automated. A few copy + pastes and the report is done. In a prior life I would have written a Macro to automate the process, but I don’t mind the manual nature of it these days.

      Good luck figuring it out. And good luck in Peru!!! I’m jealous!


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