Financial Update – Mar 2022

Another month, another update. A few random comments.


Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • I watched an interesting video of the mayor of Emeryville, CA who is transforming his city into a biking utopia (link).
    • It is pretty inspiring.
    • It is understandable that nobody wants to ride a bike when it is so easy to get killed by cars.
      • It is too bad our cities and infrastructures are entirely built around cars.
      • I am grateful that our city is the most bike-friendly city I’ve ever lived in.
    • Ebikes are certainly transforming the accessibility of biking.
  • NYU Prof Aswath Damodaran lambasts ESG investing:
    • Video 1
    • Video 2 (conclusion starts at 17:40).
    • I think ESG is fundamentally flawed as well, but ESG will surely dominate the investing landscape for quite some time.
  • It has been interesting seeing mortgage rates double over the past few months:
    • 15Y
    • 30Y
    • I’m happy with our 2% (15Y) refi last year.
      • At a 4% rate, my monthly payment would increase 15% from $1,500 to $1,724 — not entirely trivial ($2,700/year).
    • It’ll be interesting to see how mortgage rates and the real estate market continue to evolve.
      • Since buying our (first) home 6 years ago, it is nice to finally be hedged against increases in housing prices. That said, since our local market has appreciated at a much slower rate than many areas (like UT), so we are certainly not fully hedged.


  • Our family recently became addicted to the Amazing Race. We watched the most recent season (our first) and have watched a few more via a free trial of Hulu. It has been quite enjoyable.
  • I played a lot of disc golf.
  • FC4, and to a lesser extent FC5, have started to enjoy climbing. I’m unsure why my other kids don’t like it as much.

FC5 on the auto-belay.


FC4 hanging out on top of the bouldering wall.


This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
    • I finally finished redeeming the last >100k of our previously unused Chase CC points.
      • Through signing up for two Chase Sapphire cards last year, Mrs FP and I paid for a trip to Banff and received a tax-free wad of cash. Not too shabby.
      • We’ll downgrade the cards before the renewal fee kicks in to a no-fee card.
    • After a four-month hiatus, we started filling up our brokerage account again. Our tax-advantaged accounts are full (or almost full in the case of the 403b & 457) for the year.
      • This year, I especially enjoyed selling our brokerage positions at a loss to fund our IRA + 529 contributions for the year. This tax-free (in fact negative tax) liquidity was nice to take advantage of. I’ll plan on doing so in the future if the same opportunity arises.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • Our recurring gym/fitness expenses have recently gotten out of hand ($344/mo), but it is some of the best money we spend as a family. We’d go crazy without the physical activity; particularly over the winter. I think we’ll cancel many of these over the summer months.
      • $196 for ninja gym classes for FC3, FC4, & FC5.
        • The gym opened up within the past year and our kids love ninja more than anything.
      • $75 for YMCA membership for Mrs FP and kids.
      • $41 for on-campus climbing gym membership (my kids are included).
      • $32 for bouldering gym membership.
    • I spent $300 for battery-powered snow blower from Costco.
      • I seem to be the only schmuck in our neighborhood without one.
        • A few years back I was feeling unusually charitable, so I laboriously shoveled our neighbors sidewalk after a heavy snowstorm. As I was finishing up, his garage door opened and he came barreling out with his snow blower to clear his driveway. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized he owned one. Suffice it to say, I haven’t shoveled my neighbor’s sidewalk in a long time.
    • We took a trip to visit the in-laws, so gas expenditures were higher than normal.
      • I’ve been lusting after electric cars for quite some time now, particularly for their promise of lower maintenance and greater longevity. That said, we drive so little that the electric premium would be a tough pill to swallow (a Model Y, for example, is almost twice the cost of a Sienna). Since starting the blog 5.5 years ago, we’ve spent a total of $8k on gas, or $116/mo. Fingers crossed, our >10Y old cars will hopefully last another decade.
    • Overall, our rolling 12mo sending numbers are drifting upwards. Surely some of that is inflation, but a lot is discretionary as well.
      • The chart shows pretty well how our housing expenditures are falling over time, thanks primarily to lower interest payments due to lower interest rates and our shrinking mortgage balance. This reduction in housing related expenses is certainly providing a nice offset to increases in other categories.


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 – Mar 2022”

  1. Two questions:
    1. How is it possible you’ve already fully funded your 6? tax-advantaged accounts for the year? I tally $70,300.
    2. Somewhat jokingly, how is it possible to have a loss in an investment account from last year? What did you buy,

    • 1. I sold $20,000 of our taxable brokerage account at a loss around January 1st. That provided some nice liquidity to help front load retirement contributions. Also, our net pay has been about zero for 3 months now.

      2. I bought a bunch of us equities in our brokerage account throughout the last year. Tax lots purchased near the end of the year had experienced modest declines when I sold early this year.

  2. You are still 0% on bonds. What is your plan when you get close to retirement? To minimize impacts of sequence of return risk, I have started to build a 10 year buffer with cash, I bond and bond funds. As I also own dividend paying stocks, the tax drag is building. However, I will be keeping the amounts under taxable brackets so that I pay zero tax in retirement. I feel this gives me a peace of mind with the disadvantage of paying taxes. Curious on what your plans are when you get closer to retirement.

    • While I’m getting closer to FI, I don’t think we’re particularly close to FIRE. If I were, I’d be a lot more thoughtful about my bond allocation.

      Like BigERN concludes on his blog, having a high (~50%) allocation to bonds at the onset of one’s retirement is a prudent way to manage sequence of returns risk. It sounds like you are doing something similar and I can’t find fault with it. Particularly if you are buying inflation-protected bonds.

      • Thanks. I have concluded it is better to have cash/bond allocation as #of years in net expenses instead of it being a % of portfolio value. So I am gradually building to it. My goal is to have it at 10-15 years of net expenses when I retire. This way it does not fluctuate based on market movements.

  3. I have a question about the scope of the wash-sale rule. Do you think it includes 401k, 401a, and 403b? Specifically, would the rule apply if one TLH VTSAX in a taxable account and contribute to something substantially identical in their 401k/401a/403b within 30 days? There’s a debate about this on

    • The nice thing about my setup is that my taxable accounts are invested exclusively in Vanguard funds, and my tax-sheltered accounts are exclusively invested in Fidelity funds. Even among Total US Stock Market Funds, for example, Fidelity and Vanguard use slightly different benchmark indices (e.g. Dow Jones vs CRSP). As a result, I’m not worried about it.

      • I have another question about the rule. Say I have never invested previously, invested $1000 each day in March, and stopped putting in new money. Say all the positions are under water on 4/18.

        1. If I sell my lot from 3/31 on 4/18 at a loss, I would have violated the rule, because of my purchases in March before 3/31, right?
        2. If I sell all of the lots, then I wouldn’t be violating the rule, right?

        Thank you very much!

        • 1.) Correct. You need to wait 31 days from the time of last purchase. In your example, the earliest you can sell is end of March + 31 days.

          2.) Incorrect. If you plan on TLH’ing, you cannot sell ANY lot until end of March + 31 days. At end of March + 31 days, you can sell all positions.

          (at least that is my understanding)

          Also, be sure to turn off dividend reinvestment if tax-loss harvesting because it can screw things up.

  4. Really enjoyed the Emeryville bike video. I’m in the Bay Area and wasn’t even aware that the mayor was so bike-friendly. Makes sense, since I’ve biked over there and had good experiences (the Bay Bridge trail is great–too bad it doesn’t go all the way across to San Francisco!).


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