Another month, another update. A few random comments.
- GoCurryCracker on the NYT Trump tax exposé (link).
- The Daily (NYT) podcast episode with the authors of the NYT investigation (link).
- Bogleheads on Investing podcast episode with author Morgan Housel (link).
- My Octupus Teacher (link).
- The Dangerz, the inspirational full-time van-dwellers turned full-time sailors, recommended it on their Instagram feed so I had to check it out.
- It’s a documentary about a man who falls in love with a wild octopus in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s basically a cross between Planet Earth and a romance movie. My whole family enjoyed it, though I felt slightly uncomfortable with the cross-species love story.
- Surfwise (link).
- A documentary about a Stanford-trained physician who has a midlife crisis, quits his job, becomes obsessed with surfing, and raises 9 kids in a camper-van while training them to be surfing phenoms.
- It had a lot of similarities to the fictional film Captain Fantastic (link).
- It’s available for free (with commercials) at a few sites as shown on the ReelGood link.
- My family has started watching Season 2 of All Around Champion (link).
- It’s a great family show.
- Steven Levitt, the Chicago economist best known for Freakonomics, has a new podcast called People I Mostly Admire that I really like (link).
- Levitt has always been my favorite part of the Freakonomics enterprise.
- Speaking of Freakonomics, Dubner has a podcast with Angela Duckworth that I enjoy called No Stupid Questions (link).
- Planet Money (link) and PBS Frontline (link) on the failure of plastic recycling.
- This related Rob Greenfield video is great as well (link). I like Rob a lot.
- Hidden Brain podcast on how the fee-for-service healthcare model is broken. Shankar interviews Vivian Lee, Harvard/Duke trained radiologist with an impressive resume (CEO of University of Utah Health, Dean of University of Utah’s Medical School, President of Google healthcare venture Verily).
- Vivian also has a book that’s worth checking out if you’re interested in that kind of thing (link).
- How I Built This podcast episodes:
- Planet Money podcast on the controversy surrounding Apple’s app store (link).
- NYT infographic on migration across state lines (link).
- GoodRx went public a week ago and now has a market cap of $22B (Barron’s article).
- Holy crap!
- My claim to fame is that the CEO emailed me after somehow coming across my rambling, incoherent GoodRx articles (link1, link2).
- I remain confused at how they make money. The Barron’s article says “GoodRx makes money every time a customer uses one of its codes to fill a prescription at more than 70,000 U.S. pharmacies.” Why do drug companies reward GoodRx for allowing consumers to buy drugs at up to ~50% less than they could using their traditional insurance?
- Comparing their business to Groupon, Groupon is indeed compensated while giving consumers discounts. However, this strikes me as a different since Groupon helps direct these discretionary dollars towards businesses. In that sense, Groupon is just an alternative marketing channel, where the discounts + Groupon commissions are just the cost of acquiring customers.
- Since drug expenditures are largely non-discretionary, I’d imagine that consumers are going to buy the drugs with our without GoodRx (i.e. via their insurance). If true, why would drug companies pay GoodRx for these referrals for drugs that were doing to be purchased at a higher price anyway?
- We ended up closing on a 2.25% 15Y refi with Better.com and $1,299 lender credits. The total closing costs (A + B + C + E – Lender Credits) came out to a net credit of $421. From start to finish, the process took about 2 weeks. Better was unbelievably slick to work with; they have a great website. For those still considering a refinance, my recommended sequencing strategy is documented here.
- If you’re trying to hit the Dec 1 deadline, you should still have time. Lenders might already be pricing the 0.5% fee into the refi costs, but I’ve read on Bogleheads that Better will refund the fee if you close in time.
- I’ve started playing frisbee golf regularly with a group of friends every Saturday morning. It is an unbelievably fun sport that I was first introduced to 20 years ago during undergrad. It’s like real golf – but free and way more fun. The fall weather has been unbelievably spectacular so I also convinced the family to go a few times.
- There are likely several courses near you. Google “frisbee golf courses near me” to learn where.
- Something like this $20/person starter set is all you’d need to get started. Over the 20 years I’ve played the game, I don’t think I’ve ever lost a disk (though I’ve had to go swimming a few times to retrieve them, including several times this past month).
- Speaking of the currently beautiful fall weather, it reminds me of the saying “A broken clock is right twice a day.”
- The midwest is too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, but twice a year during the all-too-quick transition from one extreme to the other, it is a really enjoyable place to live.
- I bought an almost-brand-new ebike on Craigslist. I rode it to campus at an average speed of 25mph and didn’t break a sweat (the bike tops out at 35mph if you really pedal hard). It felt like cheating and I missed the endorphins from doing a hard ride. I think I’m going to sell it.
- It was a moderately cheap midlife crisis — significantly cheaper than a Tesla.
Made me Smile
- Compilation of wives pranking their husbands with the Monday Night Football theme music before football came back in real life (link).
- It’s like watching Pavlov’s dogs.
The only way Mrs FP could get FC4 to come with us on our frisbee golfing excursion was to allow her to listen to an audiobook. Parenting irrational little people (including a teenager now!?!?!?) is the biggest challenge I’ve faced in life.
Beautiful fall weather.
Unsuccessfully trying to block FC3’s three-point attempt.
While biking to campus, I saw the Ghostbusters Car (the Ectomobile). If the Weinermobile was an omen last month, seeing the Ectomobile this month is surely a double-omen.
The midlife crisis — a poor-man’s Tesla — that wasn’t meant to be.
This Month’s Finances
- The good:
- Still employed…
- The bad/abnormal:
- $1.5k on ebike that I’ll end up selling.
- $117 on teaching certificate fees (fingerprinting, transcripts, etc) so Mrs FP can substitute teach.
Full version is downloadable here (link).
- Fidelity unambiguously has the best HSA on the market. $0 admin fees + $0 expense ratio funds.
- I lazily approximate home value as my historical purchase price.
- 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.
- ~$0 cell phones described here.
- All expenditures at Costco & Walmart are classified as “Food at home” for simplicity (even if it’s laundry detergent, clothing, medicine, toys, etc).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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. With a simple index fund, you don’t have to deal with either of these issues. Bogleheads discussion here (link).
- 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).
- The one blight in my expense ratio analysis is my 529 plan. The underlying Vanguard fund is almost free to hold (0.02%), but the high administrative fees bring the total cost of holding the fund to 0.29%. I abhor fees and would likely avoid 529 plans if I didn’t get to deduct up to $10k of contributions per year on my state return, saving myself $700/year in state income taxes.
- 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.
- I own one share of Berkshire Hathaway (B Class) for the sole purpose of getting 4 free tickets/year to Berkshire’s annual meeting.
- I bought 100 shares MoviePass for $0.0127/share to be able to tell my students that I held a stock that went to zero. So far, the stock price stubbornly remains above zero.
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