Financial Update – Dec 2021

Another month, another update. A few random comments.


Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • The Rescue on Disney Plus (link).
    • Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (from Free Solo, Meru, etc).
    • Perhaps the best movie I’ve seen since Skid Row Marathon a year and a half ago. Great movie to watch with the kiddos.
  • 14 Peaks (link).
  • The Alpinist (link).
    • Free Solo with icicles.
  • Ron’s Gone Wrong (link).
    • Pretty good family movie.
  • Steve Levitt’s People I Mostly Admire continues to be my favorite podcast.
  • Great Jason Gay WSJ article about the grumpy lobster boat captain (GLBC), Bill Belichick (link).



  • I took a quick climbing trip to Vegas. It was great.
    • We climbed:
    • Total price was $331:
      • Flights: $120
        • I cannot believe how cheap flights to (and from) Vegas are.
      • Rental car: $139
      • Gas: $28
      • Costco pizza + caesar salad: $20
      • Chipotle: $9
      • Airport Parking: $15
  • Christmas and new years came and went. Another trip around the sun. Another year closer to death.


Sunrise at Red Rocks. I’ve been to uglier places.


Armatron as viewed from the start of the climb.


Pitch 1.


Pitch 3.


Top of Armatron. The infamous Rainbow wall shown in background.


Sport climbing on day 2. It was pretty epic. Unfortunately, we were rained out after about 4 hours. My Eddie Bauer down hoodie purchased for $20 on clearance from Costco remains among my favorite pieces of outdoor gear, alongside my $22 Walmart Wrangler pants.

After getting rained out on day 2, we went on a several hour hike in the rain. It’s hard to imagine that the trailhead to this hike is about 15 minutes away from the Summerlin Costco.


blankIf this dinosaur-decorated Bitcoin Las Vegas Bitcoin physical storefront doesn’t instill confidence in the future of the digital currency, I don’t know what will. Equally confidence inspiring is hearing young twenty-somethings in the airport talking about crypto and day-trading strategies. I have my popcorn at the ready to see how this will all end. My guess is that it won’t be pretty, but who knows….?


blank Executive Dog… Costco is really pulling on my heartstrings with this one!!!


Speaking of Costco, this puzzle was the favorite thing I’ve ever seen. $7.99 Christmas gift for FC1. She loved it.

We played some Jackbox games over the break. The prompt for the question was “name something boring.” My 9 year old FC4 said that listening to me explain marginal tax rates was the most boring thing in the world. Ouch!


This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • $1,078 on six pairs of prescription glasses at Costco, which I somewhat arbitrarily categorized as “healthcare.”
      • EyeMed insurance will reimburse $63*3=$189 of that.
      • I realize I could have gone cheaper at Zenni optical, but we’ve been very happy with Costco glasses over the past decade.
    • $730 for new tires ($470), tire pressure sensors ($180), and alignment ($80).
      • Our previous tires were 9 years old, so I guess this was long overdue.
      • Cars are more expensive to maintain than bikes. Luckily, our relatively low car usage (thanks to bikes and living close to places we like) helps reduce the operating expenses of our vehicles.

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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14 thoughts on “Financial Update – Dec 2021”

    • Thanks for stopping by.

      Growing net worth by 8X is easy if the denominator is close enough to zero….

      The market has indeed been friendly as of late. Who knows what the future will hold, though. Asset prices seem high, so it would stand to reason that expected returns will be substantially subdued going forward — particularly on an inflation-adjusted basis.

  1. I am convinced that I will be paying for Disney+ for the rest of my life… considering my wife and I sometimes watch it more than the kids. If any of your kids have a remote interest in science or math, we just watched the movie Hidden Figures. Would highly recommend if you haven’t watched already! Thanks for the hard work on the blog – it has been invaluable!

    • As far as “Disney taxes” go, at least the Disney+ subscription is relatively cheap! 🙂
      We’ve had it since it launched, but don’t watch it that much — I wish Disney would add more of its older content to the channel. If the price were higher, we’d likely cancel, but it doesn’t seem like that much of an indulgence at the current price.

      • @David, I’m grateful that the Disney+ subscription is relatively inexpensive. I see that BoA is offering 20% cash back on my renewal as one of their one-off mysterious CC cash-back offers. Oddly, my wife doesn’t qualify for that offer. We have young kids who devour that stuff. I’m okay with it, especially in the winter months where we have fewer outdoor recreational opportunities. It is negative 20 degrees today with wind chill. FC1 rode her bike to school and her bike lock broke because of the cold.

        @Tyler, you and I are in the exact same boat. There was a small part of me that briefly considered the initial Disney+ membership to be a temporary splurge. Little did I know that it would transition to the third-most-important utility I pay for, after internet & electricity. My kids would rather go without water/heat than Disney+.

        I saw the movie Hidden Figures a while back, but thanks for the recommendation to show it to my kids. I don’t think they’ve seen it yet. I remember liking it quite a bit.

  2. Do you carry a credit card balance? Your credit card liability and credit card reduction do not seem to zero at the month’s end. If you’re carrying a balance, I’m genuinely curious why are you paying a high interest rate?

    • My financial statements close at the end of each month. My credit card payments are made on the first of the month. Consequently, the CC balances look inflated each month because they have two months’ worth of consumption.

      I’ve never paid a penny of credit card interest in my life.

      I think it is prudent to maximize CC rewards and float. I think it is imprudent to pay CC interest.

  3. Thanks for such a detailed summary. I like how meticulously you track the expenses. It feels challenging for me as my expenses are spread across 3-4 banks and brokerages.

  4. Been a follower for years! Opened a brokerage to dump extra cash last year and was surprised when I got a tax bill for the dividends. How do you manage the additional taxes from your brokerage account? Any strategies to minimize this?

    Do you have any explanation of your “estimated annual dividend tax drag” line? I’m assuming it’s related.


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