Financial Update – Nov 2021

I’ve been busy so this post is a few days late. A concerned reader emailed to ask if I’d died…not yet.


Another month, another update. A few random comments.

Good Reads/Listens/Watches

  • I finished reading the book Die With Zero (link).
    • If I could summarize the book, it’d be:
      • The point of money is to create positive memories. The benefit of spending money earlier is that you get to enjoy those memories longer (e.g. “memory dividends”).
      • You would think the above bullet should induce you to spend more earlier. However, when you are younger, you have less money available. But your health is also greatest then. This should induce you to pursue activities in your youth that don’t require money but require health (e.g. backpacking).
      • While investing in investments will hopefully produce a positive (real) return, there are obvious downsides: fewer “memory dividends” as you defer the experiences, diminished health (and thus diminished ability to enjoy certain activities) with age, and lost opportunities (e.g. kids have already left the house).
      • As your wealth grows, you should be much more eager to trade money for time (e.g. paying someone to mow the lawn, etc). Time is finite. You can never get back lost time.
      • Try to “die with zero” by gifting/donating money to family/charities before you die. Inheritances received in your 60’s are substantially less useful than inheritances received earlier.
      • It is imprudent to continue to work once you already have “enough,” unless your job fulfills a higher life purpose.
    • As far as actionable steps for me:
      • Look for opportunities to trade money for time.
      • Ensure I’m appropriately trading off the benefits (compound interest) vs costs (forgone memory dividends) of delayed gratification.
        • Thanks to elevated asset prices and correspondingly lower expected (real) returns, it would seem that the interest benefits of saving are going to be diminished going forward.
    • Overall, I guess I’m lucky to have frugal hobbies (backpacking, climbing, disc golf, biking, board games, and geeking out over the tax code / personal finance). In that regard, I don’t believe I’m overly depriving myself or my family of many memories or life experiences. That said, I really liked the book and would recommend it to other frugal weirdos. It is certainly an interesting paradigm shift.
      • The one experience that almost caused me to burn this blog to the ground was going boating with a friend at a nearby lake. The kids were on tubes and kneeboards. We had a great time. It made me question every single one of my life’s decisions.
  • Interesting WSJ article on the history of the Vanguard Total Domestic Stock Fund (link).
  • 30-minute Elon Musk WSJ video interview (link).
  • After months of rumors, Bank of America leaves the 75% credit card bonus tier in tact (link).
  • I bought the complete (original) Wonder Years series on DVD a few months back and I’ve recently started watching it with the three oldest children. It is such a great show.



  • I updated the blog’s VPS hosting server hardware at DigitalOcean to the latest and greatest (link).
    • To do so, I mirrored the server, ported it to the new droplet, then updated the DNS settings. It was pretty easy. Miraculously, I managed to not delete the website this time. It’ll cost $1/month more (a 20% increase, $6 from $5), but the website feels a bit snappier.
  • My 36-month $30/mo promotional rate at Spectrum ended for 450/20 internet. I tried my best to haggle with them, but I ended up having to cancel and switch providers. I’m now paying $45/mo for 45/45 fiber internet.
    • 45/45 is about an order of magnitude faster internet speed than we need. Unfortunately, nobody offers 5 Mbps internet anymore. I spent the entirety of grad school at 2-3Mbps through Spectrum.
    • I’d be tempted go back to Spectrum if they offer another 36-month promotion. That said, I’m not sure it’d be worth the hassle for $15/mo savings to deal with Spectrum again.
  • I helped my parents cancel their cable & satellite package and replace it with YoutubeTV. If you know anyone paying for cable, please do them this service as well. This service is particularly well suited for those with two homes since it is portable, helping to avoid double paying for TV services.
    • YoutubeTV runs particularly well on Apple TV hardware. For as much as I detest Apple, I think I’m a convert to the newest Apple TV.
  • Mrs FP took the kiddos on a Disney cruise with her mother and sister. They had a good time.
    • Disney is perfectly suited to help people “die with zero”…


I travelled last month. I found it ironic that TSA precheck had double the wait time as the normal line. Money well spent! I opted for the shorter line.


Mrs FP and the kiddos at an after-hours Disneyworld party. Die with Zero…




This Month’s Finances

  • The good:
    • Still employed.
  • The bad/abnormal:
    • $2,145 on a digital drum set from Costco for FC2 who was recently joined jazz band. It is almost silent, so it was worth every penny.
      • Die with zero….
    • $500 refundable deposit for future Disney Cruise (not yet scheduled).
      • Die with zero….

I figured out why our grocery expenditures were so high last month. We purchased two pairs of glasses at Costco for FC4. I had mistakenly classified those as groceries. I retroactively fixed that.

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 my money here if not for the state tax deduction I receive in my own state.

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15 thoughts on “Financial Update – Nov 2021”

  1. I think if you had that much fun out on the lake, you might consider at least going somewhere like Minnesota or Wisconsin and renting a boat on a lake for a week each year. We got to a relative’s lake house each year and it is something we look forward to, escaping the heat here in the summer. “Die with zero”!

  2. 1. Whenever relevant, Russ is fond of saying, “The happiest day of a boat-owner’s life is the day he bought his boat. The 2nd happiest day? The day he sells it.” He got that from someone else, but I don’t remember who.
    2. That book (Die with Zero): Does it take into account dementia? There go my dividends!
    3. If someone has two homes, can’t they afford to have cable AND YouTubeTV?

    • 1.) I love it.
      2.) Dementia would certainly reduce the useful life of memory dividends.
      3.) Yes, but why burn money unnecessarily for inferior services? From my vantage point, cable and satellite are far inferior to YoutubeTV.

  3. Happy days w/ boats — I’ve always heard that adage with the two days switched: “Second happiest day is the day you bought the boat, happiest day is the day you sell it.” 🙂

    Don’t recall the book title, but I remember reading once that the ideal boating strategy was a good friend with a boat — buying that friend the most expensive possible “thank you” dinner once a year was still far, far cheaper than owning your own boat.

    • The having-a-friend-with-a-boat strategy is indeed a great one. I’m not really considering buying a boat. Rather, the last time I was on a boat led to an existential crisis; that’s all.

  4. My parents bought a used 16ft. ski boat for $2k a long while back. Kept it in the driveway (cloth covered but not garaged). We water skied, boarded, tubed, etc for about 10 years. Took friends with us too for cheap outings on the lake with picnics on shore. Maybe spent $2k on repairs/licenses/registration over the years and eventually sold it for $600 once all of us were well into college. Took it out mulitple times every summer to the local lake. Owning a boat doesn’t have to be expensive and can provide many years of family fun.

    Our family isn’t doing it since the kids have other interest (team sports) but that boat my mom bought was well worth it.

    BTW, my parents did the same thing with a camper. They bought a basic used camper (tent on wheels) for $300 which was also used for 10+ years. Saved a lot vs staying in a hotel. Dad gave it away once we were all off to college to some deserving soul.

    • Thanks for sharing!

      That book has certainly encouraged me to be a bit more deliberate in thinking about how to trade money for lasting memories. That said, I’m of there are plenty of free ways to make lasting memories. I guess I need to find the right balance.

  5. Glad you’re ok.
    Thanks for a great post. Truly enjoyed the summary notes and self-reflections on “Dying with Zero”. Very engaging to read and ponder.

    After a little bit of a drought in family vacations, due in part to kids schools and sports schedules, our family traveled to Aruba Dec 2019, then to Europe Feb 2020 to ski with a son on his semester-oops-only-three-weeks-abroad right before Covid shut things down.
    At the time, with our kids ages 14, 17, and 19, taking two not-inexpensive trips so close together felt both extravagant, and also an opportunity-gift we couldn’t pass up, knowing that very soon each of our young people will have their own schedules and vacation priorities.
    So we bit the bullet, went and spent.

    In hindsight the trip enjoyment and memories have appreciated faster than the post-Covid equity rally.
    Ok, almost as fast.
    (Ok, I really don’t want to do the math on what those trips truly cost!)

    So worth it, two years on…

    • Thanks for the great perspective.

      FC1 is a freshman in HS. I cannot believe how quickly the time has past. I’ll have to be more deliberate about spending quality time with her. Before I know it, she’ll be gone. Pretty surreal….

    • We did something similar, building our own 12-week DIY study abroad in Spain during Fall 2019 when my oldest was a senior in HS. It wasn’t cheap but the memory dividends continuing rolling in (“remember when we X in Barcelona? Or remember Y in Valencia?”)

      I’m about 1/3rd through “Die With Zero”. Pretty good but a bit extreme on the optimization scale. There’s a lot that I enjoy about the non-consuming lifestyle. Being intentional is the key, but not worrying too much about FOMO, either. My two cents.

      • I was fascinated by your 12-week trip to Spain with the family, which is how you came on my radar. I’d like to plan a similar trip with my family in the not-too-distant future. A brother-in-law just moved to Germany and will surely visit them in the next year or two. It’d be fun to explore Europe a bit.

        I agree that living with FOMO isn’t ideal. I hope I didn’t convey that. Mostly, the book inspired me to be more intentional going forward about the deliberate construction of memories. Especially now that we have graduated from the (almost decade-long) impoverished grad student mentality.

  6. I laughed out loud at your “Disney is perfectly suited to help people Die with Zero” comment. A couple friends of ours and their kid went on a Disney Cruise a few weeks ago and supposedly spent around $7k after all excursions, meet and greets, etc. My wife and her family love Disney (and I like it fine), but we haven’t gone since 2014 due to what I consider ridiculous costs. Our kid is only 3 months old, so we’ll probably aim to go again when he is a bit older.

    The one qualifier I can think of to the “streaming is way better than cable” position is if one is a local sports fan. A lot of non-football sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) are coved by regional sports networks like Bally Sports, which are notorious for having negotiating standoffs with all TV providers, but particularly YouTube TV and other live streaming services. I would have cut the cord long ago if a (too) significant portion of my TV watching was not watching baseball and basketball on the Dallas-area Bally Sports RSN, which is offered on the following services: (i) Spectrum cable, (ii) AT&T Uverse (cable), (iii) DIRECTV (satellite) and (iv) DIRECTV NOW (AT&T’s live streaming service). That’s it, that’s the entire list. So I’ve been FORCED (my wife would phrase it differently) to continue to pay for Uverse. I call once a year and get the total package for cable and internet down to a price that seems palatable.

    • I am coming to view Disney as a taxing entity with as much power as the federal government. Their reach into the pocketbooks of schmuck parents like myself is impressive. If I don’t pay the Disney tax, I’m a labeled a horrible parent that deprives my children of lifelong memories… Or something like that.

      Thanks for the information on yttv sports. That is indeed a limitation that one should consider.


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