Financial Update – Apr 2023

Another month, another update. A few random comments.

Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • Guy Raz interviews OpenAI’s Sam Altman (link).
    • It’s hard to wrap my head around how much the world is about to change.
  • Speaking of AI, I found these 60 Minutes clips to be pretty interesting:


  • The end-of-school is always a busy time of year. We went to a million games, concerts, and performances.
  • We saw Ben Rector in concert!!! Jordy Searcy (on guitar/harmonica) and Jake Scott (on guitar/keyboard) accompanied him. They were all incredible.
  • I bought a $500 M2 Mac Mini on sale from Costco (also available for $500 directly from Apple with EDU discount).
    • It’s the first time I’ve used a Mac since high school in the 90’s. There was a bit of a learning curve to overcome as a Windows guy, but I’m finding MacOS to be pretty intuitive.
    • It’s a fun and capable computer! I currently have it hooked up permanently to my TV. When combined with a Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, it makes for a great media center. Great for watching YouTube, playing video games (primarily Jackbox), etc. We’ve always found ourselves plugging in laptops to our TV for various purposes, but it’s nice to have a computer permanently attached.
    • Now that I have a computer that doesn’t suck at video editing, perhaps I’ll put together some content for YouTube.
  • Our kids’ orthodontist treated all of their patients’ families to see the new Mario movie. It was pretty fun, particularly for me as a child of the 80’s.
    • The orthodontists host a party like this annually, probably to numb the pain of the $200/month orthodontia payment I’ll be making until I’m dead (assuming only 1 kid in braces at at time). Surprisingly, it’s working!

For FC5’s birthday, our incredibly generous neighbor let us borrow their original Tesla roadster for the afternoon (one of four Tesla’s they own — 2 original roadsters (including the 60th ever sold) + 2 Model S’s). They say money can’t buy happiness, but I’m not sure “they” ever floored a Tesla convertible on a glorious spring day. Ever since my colleague let me test drive his brand new Model Y a couple of months ago, I’ve been fighting the urge to buy one on a daily basis. The recent price drops haven’t helped my cause. Even the revered Mr Money Mustached finally succumbed and bought a Model Y. Once you experience the elegance of an EV, it’s hard going back to a clunky internal combustion car.

We hung out at the zoo.

The (free) Ben Rector concert!!! Even unfrugal dog tagged along.

This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • $4,632 in property taxes (the first of two payments this year).
    • $3k for new fridge to replace our dying one. While expensive, it seemed better than the alternative of going without.
    • $290 annual premium on $1M 15Y-term life insurance policy. At the end of the term in a few years, we’ll self-insure.

Full version downloadable here (link).




  1. Fidelity unambiguously has the best HSA on the market. $0 admin fees + cheap investment options (e.g. FZROX, FZILX, FSKAX, etc).
  2. I lazily approximate home value as my historical purchase price.
  3. I have a 15Y mortgage which results in much larger principal payments than a 30Y mortgage. Since principal payments are simply transfers from one pocket (assets) to another (debt reduction), I treat such cash flows as savings.
  4. ~$0 cell phones described here.
  5. All expenditures at Costco & Walmart are classified as “Food at home” for simplicity (even if it’s laundry detergent, clothing, medicine, toys, etc).
  6. Nobody knows the perfect asset allocation. Just pick one and run with it. Use a target date retirement fund as a benchmark if you want some guidance (link). If you prefer to DIY (as I do), then a three-fund portfolio is great (link).
  7. My low portfolio expense ratio is the primary reason why I don’t hold target-date funds, which have expense ratios anywhere from 0.16% to 1%. I can achieve a much lower expense ratio on my own, and it’s trivially easy to manage. Further, a DIY portfolio allows one to tax-loss-harvest more easily. Lastly, a DIY portfolio can help avoid the dreaded cap gains distributions caused by a fund-of-funds (e.g. Vanguard Target funds in Dec 2021).
  8. ETF’s are slightly more annoying to hold relative to index funds. With ETF’s, you must deal with bid-ask spreads as well as the inability to buy partial shares (Fidelity now offers fractional shares). With a simple index fund, you don’t have to deal with either of these issues. Bogleheads discussion here (link).
  9. I hold VTSAX in my taxable brokerage account because its tax efficiency (no cap gains distributions thanks to its patented technique).
  10. CA’s 529 plan has the lowest expense ratio US equity index fund of any in the US (link). I’d have 100% of our 529 money there if not for the state tax deduction we receive in our own state.
  11. My Collective Investment Trust (CIT) version of Vanguard’s Total Int’l Stock Index has a 0.059% expense ratio, yet produces 0.15% of “tax alpha” due to reduced foreign tax withholdings. Vanguard implemented this change around 2019. Therefore, I report the effective expense ratio of negative 0.091% for this holding (=0.059%-0.15%). The “tax alpha” shows up in the performance differential in the fact sheets here (CIT vs MF) and is more thoroughly explained here. Unfortunately, this 0.15% of “tax alpha” is not available in the mutual fund version.

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4 thoughts on “Financial Update – Apr 2023”

  1. This is a fantastic blog with so much to learn! The transparency is incredible.

    I wish I had found it a lot sooner; I would have been in a much better financial position.

    I watched your YT video: Now, thanks to your new Mac, you can bless us with Youtube Content.

    Your students are really fortunate to have you in their lives.

    I learned so much from it and will watch it a couple more times and take notes.

    Keep up the great work; my present and future self are forever grateful.

  2. Once again a good read. I was in the same boat as yours last year , fighting urge to buy Model Y. I bought it in September and by now the prices have dropped by 8k. Its a great ride but I feel it is hard to justify the costs. With Teslas , one has to live with the anxiety of the price changes, having to deal with their service centre and fear of any software glitches. Unless the daily commute is 50miles , I wish I would have just leased it a few times from Turo for weekend drives.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Model Y. I’m sure it’s frustrating seeing the price drops.

      We live just over an hour away from the nearest service center (and 3 hours away from a delivery center). While the mobile servicing would help, I still have reservations about what to do if I were to run into major problems.

      With a newly minted teen driver in the house, insurance costs on the vehicle would be quite high as well. I think the current plan is to drive both of our current (>10Y old) cars to the ground, then replace with a Tesla. I’m curious to see how the technology evolves over the ensuing years. My dream purchase would be a cyber-van. The practicality of a minivan (comfortable seats lots of passengers) with the form factor of the cybertruck (cheap, simple, ugly, & indestructible).


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