Financial Update – Aug 2022

Another month, another update. A few random comments.

Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • I finished Better Call Saul, which was great. It is the end of an era.
  • Not much else comes to mind.


  • I took a trek to Peru (this one).
    • We had three dedicated staff supporting us: our guide (who mercifully spoke English), our cook, and the horseman in charge of the four mules.
    • The staff cooked three meals a day for us, carried our gear, and set up our tents.
      • I don’t think I’ve eaten better in my life.
      • It is going to be difficult going back to conventional backpacking…
    • The scenery was great. The bugs were less so.
    • The hike was fairly challenging. The highest we got was 15,250 ft, which kicked my butt.
    • I’d highly recommend it.
    • Total trip cost was ~$2,500:
      • Flight: $1k
      • Guide: $1k
      • Other: $500
  • The kids started school again. It’s amazing/frightening how fast time is flying by.


Day 1: Hike down to river, cross, then back up.

Day 1: River crossing.

Day 1: Camp 1.

blankDay 2: Choquequirao.

blankDay 2. View from Choquequirao.

blankDay 2. Llama terraces at Choquequirao.

blankDay 2: More terraces at Choquequirao.

blankDay 2: Camp at base of Choquequirao.

blankDay 3: Hike down to river, cross, then up the mountain (a common theme on this trip).

blankDay 3: Camp 3. Bless these mules.

blankDay 3: Eating like kings at Camp 3.

blankDay 4: Hello bugs. The sand flies somehow got me through my shirt.

blankDay 4: Views along trail.

blankDay 4: An intense soccer match with guides at 12k feet. It about killed me.

blankDay 5: Beautiful glacier views.

blankDay 5: This 15,250 ft pass kicked my butt.

blankDay 5: Camp 5, glamping at Salkantay Trekking owned property.

blankDay 5: (More) Eating like a king. Lomo saltado with spinach quiche.

blankDay 6: Aguas Calientes (town at the base of Machu Picchu).

blankDay 6: Aguas Calientes.

blankDay 7: Machu Picchu (we ended up hiking Huayna Picchu, the hill behind Machu Picchu).

blankDay 7: Sunrise at Machu Picchu.

blankDay 7: Sunrise at Machu Picchu.

blank Day 7: Sunrise at Machu Picchu.

blankDay 7: Machu Picchu.

blankPost-trek: San Pedro Market, Cusco.

blankPost-trek: San Pedro Market, Cusco.

blankPost-trek: View from the door of my $28/night hostel, a ~15 minute walk from the Lima airport where I had an overnight layover. I couldn’t bring myself to spend the $140 to stay at the Holliday Inn Express a block away.


This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • $4,641 in property taxes.
    • ~$1k (more) in Peru expenses.
    • $496 for alternator + battery replacement on our beater car (thanks Costco for the great battery).
    • $407 for future Disney cruise for Mrs FP (this is becoming an addiction).
    • $365 retainer.

Full version downloadable here (link).



  1. Fidelity unambiguously has the best HSA on the market. $0 admin fees + $0 expense ratio funds.
  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 due to Admiral shares, etc. And it’s not hard. Plus, a DIY portfolio allows one to tax-loss-harvest more easily.
  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 continue to own VTSAX rather than FZROX and in my taxable brokerage account because it is more tax efficient due to lower capital gains distributions. Bogleheads discussion here (link).
  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.

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12 thoughts on “Financial Update – Aug 2022”

    • After staying in Peru for a week and a half, my perception on what constituted fair pricing was definitely skewed. In hindsight, perhaps the Holiday Inn was the right move. But the hostel was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget!

    • Included in the $1k/person was:
      * Transportation to/from the hike from Cusco
      * 3 staff (guide, cook, horseman)
      * 4 mules
      * All meals (3x/day)
      * All permits (Choquequirao, Machu Picchu)
      * Use of tents, etc

      The only things not included in the $1k were:
      * The optional $60 ticket to Huayna Picchu
      * The optional $34 train from Hydroelectria to Aguas Calientes
      * I rented a sleeping bag for $30 to avoid checking luggage
      * And tips to the staff

      Amazing value. I couldn’t be happier with our experience with Salkantay Trekking. That said, however, I think our guide (Alex) was exceptionally good. I’m not sure how well that generalizes.

  1. Awesome trip! I’m looking forward to your tutorial on setting up an original pixel to allow you unlimited high quality photo storage in Google Photos.

    • Tutorial coming. It is working out well so far. However, I have no contingency plans for when the device inevitably fails in a few years.

  2. Peru looks fantastic! We just returned from a 7 day Disney cruise in the Caribbean… it was well worth the money spent, especially with the kids.. they had an absolute blast.

  3. Awesome pictures! Sounds like an incredible time.

    How many total people total were in the group, beyond what looks like 4 of you. And what was the mileage/elevation change per day?

    Always enjoy the update.

    • 4 people total (plus three staff). All friends from undergrad where we met in 1999. No one else in the group.

      I’m not sure what total mileage/elevation gain was. A typical day was about 4-5k ft down, 4-5k ft up. Maybe 8-10 miles a day. Pretty challenging, but certainly doable. At times, however, I was lamenting my near-sea-level midwestern red blood cell count.


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