Financial Update – July 2022

Another month, another update. A few random comments.

Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • This Bogleheads Live Podcast episode on tax planning for early retirees was moderately interesting (link).
    • The above podcast is different than Rick Ferri’s Bogleheads on Investing Podcast (link).
      • Confusing, I know.

Life

  • Despite being vaccinated and boosted, 5/7 of us got Covid for the second time in 6 months.
    • It knocked me out pretty good for a day or two.
  • We shuttled our kids around town to various camps (swim team, golf camp, soccer camp, etc.).
  • Our kids became addicted to billiards at our YMCA and have played it incessantly. I’m tempted to buy one for the house.
  • My neighbor — the biggest Tesla fanatic that I’ve ever met (an early investor who purchased the 70th Tesla ever produced (a roadster) — let me test drive their 2017 dual motor Model S.
    • It was fun. I would like my next car to be electric.
      • However, I hope our current cars last another 10-15 years. I’m in no hurry to buy another vehicle any time soon.
    • If you haven’t seen this drone footage of Tesla’s German factory, you ought to (link).


Trying to survive the oppressive summer heat by cooling off at our friend’s pool.


Biking in the woods. The closest thing we have resembling mountain biking in this state.


Pool. Unfortunately, we were using the table so frequently that the YMCA temporarily banned our family from using the table until the daycare summer camp ends mid-August. I guess it was too distracting for day care kids?

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Fun times at golf camp.

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This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • We bought two new Pixel 6a’s directly from Google for $450/each because they offered to trade in our aging Pixel 3a’s for $300/each, leading to a net cost of $150 (plus tax) for the new phone (link). It was too good of a deal to pass up on, even though it went against one of my main principals of never replacing something unnecessarily.
      • We bought the open box 3a’s for $175/each 2.5 years ago and they were still working fine enough.
      • With the trading in of the 3a’s, we are forfeiting Google Photo’s free storage for life for any new photos/videos taken.
        • However, I think I’ve found a workaround that I’ll share in the future if it works as hoped.
      • Xfinity Mobile is giving away the 6a for free as described here (link).

Full version downloadable here (link).

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Footnotes:

  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.

Disclaimer: This site is for entertainment purposes only, as disclosed here: https://frugalprofessor.com/disclaimers/

14 thoughts on “Financial Update – July 2022”

  1. I’m curious about your google photos trick. I’m using a Pixel 5a and was bummed out that the free photo storage gravy train ended before that iteration.

    Reply
    • I ordered an original Google pixel on eBay from Hong Kong. It gets here soon. I’ve read that this phone supposedly gets free photos for the life of the device. In fact, it gets original quality uncompress photos for life. There are apps that allow for pretty seamless transfers across devices. So the idea would be to transfer photos from the 6a to the original Pixel and sync to the cloud from there. Apparently Google doesn’t care which device took the photo; only the device where it initiates the sync. I have already been utilizing this feature with my 3a by transferring my SLR photos to the 3a, then syncing from there.

      Reply
      • I’d be a little worried about the long term viability of relying on Google for photo storage. I’ve wrestled with this issue quite a bit myself. I don’t think I have an ideal solution, but I did decide that this is something where I feel it’s worth spending some money rather than trying to do it all for free.

        Reply
        • Are you paying for google photos or using an alternative solution? Either way, do you have a single family account or multiple individual accounts?

          I’m not sure what my longer-term play is. I used to back up via external hard drives and it worked okay. But the cloud backup with incredible search ability is super convenient.

          Reply
          • I’m keeping local, duplicated copies of our photos, and backing them up to an online service that I pay for. For local, I’ve considered using a Synology NAS device as Synology provides a mobile app that automatically transfers photos to the local device. Currently, however, I’m using Dropbox to sync our photos from mobile devices to a RAID array on our main desktop computer. The photos on the desktop are then backed up to an online backup service as noted above.

            I guess I don’t like the idea of relying solely on Google because I have read too many horror stories of Google account suspensions with no recourse. I’m also not confident that the Google photos service will be around long term, and I don’t know about being able to export all the photos from Google at some point in the future. If you have alternative backups of the photos you are uploading to Google then fine, but if Google is the only place those photos exist I would be a little worried. Just one person’s thoughts.

          • I like your solution. It’s similar to what I was doing a decade ago.

            I share some of your concerns with google photos. However, I think you can mitigate those concerns a few ways:
            1.) My wife and my photos are synced automatically across accounts. I set this up years ago. If one of our accounts gets banned, then the other will still be around.
            2.) You can periodically download the entire library of google photos using this method here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKKS7R2gWaQ. Pretty cool, in my opinion.

            For as imperfect as Google Photos is, I have yet to find a better tool to back up and instantly access so many pictures. I love the search features, which I use all of the time. In fact, I last used it in an email I wrote about 2 minutes ago. So handy to query & share.

          • I guess I’m a decade behind the times.

            So are you doing your free photo storage trick x2 so it works for both you and your wife, or are you paying google for storage on one of the accounts?

          • My old solution = redundant google photos (via the Pixel 3a’s).

            My new solution (yet to be implemented) = redundant google photos (via the OG pixel XL). A bit more hassle because it requires an additional step of syncing to OG pixel, but I’m used to that step since it’s similar to what I’ve done with my SLR to Pixel 3a.

            I have no confidence that the above will be viable for decades to come (since it depends on the continued life of the OG pixel), but it’s at least kicking the can down the road. When the viability of this option fails, I’m not sure what I’ll do yet.

            I’m pretty sure this is how I synced google photos across my wife and my accounts: https://support.google.com/photos/answer/7378858?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid

          • I agree that Google photos is the best… the organization, facial/object recognition, and searching just can’t be beat. I utilize the “space saver” option for uploading, and it is telling me I still have 4 years worth of space on my free 15GB at the rate I upload. After that, the yearly Google One plan for 100GB is only $20 a year – well worth the value that Google Photos provides in my opinion.

            My file backup strategy is to pull the full resolution photos off of the phone itself and backup to Unraid server I have in the basement (it is actually an old PC so it costed theoretically nothing). I do this for mine and my wife’s phone about once a year, so the time investment is minimal.

          • Thanks for the comment. 100GB for $20/year certainly sounds reasonable.

            I’m utilizing 17gb of my free 19gb google storage. Don’t ask me how I got an extra 4gb of storage (I’m sure it was a promotion or something I did a decade or two back).

            I’m sure I’ll end up paying for google storage eventually, but I’m (probably irrationally) clinging onto the hope of free storage over the near term.

    • I’d love to hear more about this too! Your post a few years back about the Best Buy Pixel 3a deal led me to getting one for my then girlfriend (now wife) so thank you very much for that.

      I just recently helped her upgrade to a new Pixel 6 (used from Swappa for $450) right before the 6a came out with the great 3a trade in value.

      How much did you pay for the original Google Pixel? What app do you use to sync photos etc?

      Thanks for all the tips and life hacks you share, they really do make a difference!

      Reply
    • The $64 golf camp exceeded expectations. They even threw in 2 rounds of free golf for the kids.

      I wish I’d been an early investor in Tesla too. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

      Reply

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