Category Archives: Finance

Switching from AT&T after 10 years

AT&T is such a greedy company that I’ve finally decided to “un-carrier” myself from it and switch to T-Mobile in 2017. It’s been a 10-year relationship and I figure at my current spend of about $205/month (with a 23% corporate discount in there), I’m worth almost $25,000 to them in revenue for the next 10 years. But they’re greedy and I’m just sick and tire of them. Why?

1. A $20 upgrade fee whenever you buy a new device from them. It’s not a big number but when you can buy the EXACT same device next door and just plug in your SIM card, that’s just a rip-off and GREEDY.
2. A poor unlocking experience. They should make it so that your devices are automatically unlocked when they’re paid off rather than this process where you have to request it, confirm it and then wait. What a hassle.
3. No choices anymore on devices. Want a new device? You’re on their stupid NEXT plan whether you want to or not. Sure, you can pay it off early after you’re on the plan but they just make it too complicated.

Sorry for the rant but it’s one of THOSE videos! ūüėČ

Anyways, T-Mobile has a great deal right now for no contract, no extra fees, etc. and unlimited data to boot. Do yourself a favor and switch!

Portfolio performance check-up

It’s been a few years since I’ve done one of these but this caught my eye this morning. The green dot represents my portfolio performance vs. risk for the last 5 years. Notice anything strange? Yes, I’ve had a good run with annualized returns of 20.38% over this period but I was also taking on a lot more risk than is prudent. Suffice to say I’ve taken some actions over the last 20 months or so. Now I’m sitting just above the Moderate risk portfolio and I gave up perhaps 3-4% of return to do so. I’ll keep monitoring it over the next few years but I think that’s a good trade off and didn’t want to push my luck. Don’t let things go on auto-pilot… take a look once in a while!

Brexit is wreaking havoc on my 401K

Ok UK citizens, why do you have to wreak havoc on my retirement investments?¬† It’s not a surprise to anyone how the markets reacted to the shocking news of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union – it tanked globally.¬† British markets were hit particularly hard, with some shares in the FTSE suspended from trading and the pound sterling at its lowest against the dollar in over three decades.¬† My own 401K fared just as worse, taking a hit of around 3.5% the first day and continuing to do so until just last night when it rebounded just a bit.¬† A lot of this is fear of the unknown but I think Brexit itself is containable and things will recover.¬† It’s what happens if Brexit threatens the break-up of the rest of the EU that people should really worry about.¬† Before this, I was so sure Brexit would be a non-event that I took my 20% cash holding and went into equity… I should have waited.

Stock charting program in Python

 

I just took up a new hobby… programming in Python. I must say, compared to C++ or Java, wow… Python redefines rapid development! I did this basic Windows GUI program in about a day and a half. It does some cool things as is but I’m calling it my version 1.0 so there’s still room for improvements. On my tablet it runs pretty decently (a Microsoft Surface Pro 3) and it flies on my desktop. The back end of Python and many of its modules are implemented in C so it can be pretty quick, although nowhere close to C++ or Java. But when you can whip together something usable this quickly, I’d take that trade off!

My experience with Apple Pay

I had my first experience with Apple Pay yesterday. ¬†My wife & I had gone to Macy’s to look for an overcoat for our upcoming trip to Washington DC. ¬†We found very nice gray overcoat from Michael Kors that got a lot of compliments even when I was in line waiting to checkout.

I hadn’t intended to pay using Apple Pay at all. ¬†Rather, I had my phone out because I was busy checking on my village in Clash of Clans as I waited. ¬†Lo & behold, a message popped up as I got close to the register to touch & pay. ¬†After the total was rung up, the cashier didn’t even asked me for a payment method. ¬†I simply touched my thumb to the Touch ID button and voil√†, the coat was paid for! ¬†The only additional thing I had to do was give her the last 4 digit of the card that was on screen. ¬†I don’t think I even had to sign!

It was painless and required absolutely no effort. ¬†I think Apple may have a potential winner here. ¬†Of course, the whole thing is kind of like the chicken & egg problem. ¬†Right now there are so few merchants accepting it that you almost have to go out of your way to find someone that accepts it. ¬†I’m just going to try at other NFC enabled point of sale and see what happens. ¬†If it becomes saturated though, I’m certain it’s going to overtake other payment methods.

My personal net worth

Recently I’ve begun to worry about whether I’ve saved enough (probably but I can always save more!) and whether I’ve accumulated enough to retire later at this age. ¬†It’s a minor obsession of mine to see how others in a similar situation are doing just so I can gauge how I’m doing myself. ¬†That of course puts me into dangerous territory where I may be completely satisfied with just being average rather than doing the best I can. ¬†Some folks are even worse than average given their station in life due to a variety of personal situations. ¬†Everyone understands that. ¬†But I think it’s important to do these check up once in a while just to see how you’re doing generally.

So where am I? ¬†I’m just about average. ¬†I suppose it could be worse. ¬†It’s good to know that at least I’m not behind my peers. ¬†I always have the nagging feeling I should save more but it’s just so hard with all of the expenses of ordinary life. ¬†It does take true discipline to be able to consistently sock away as much as you can. ¬†I do admire those few folks who can do it and strive to do better myself. ¬†But I suppose being average is not a bad place to start from. ¬†There are worse places to begin for sure!

Have you done a check up of where you stand financially? ¬†If not, just do a Google search and get a rough idea. ¬†It’ll get you started on thinking about your finances at the least. ¬†If you’re lazy, here’s a very general formula to get you started:

NET WORTH = [ (Your average income over the past 10 years) – ($15,000 + $5,000 for each person in your household) ] x Your Age / 8

So for example, if you’re age 35 and your last 10 years of income averages to $75,000, your net worth should be in the neighborhood of $262,500 if you’re single. ¬†(That’s $75,000 minus $15,000 times 35 divided by 8). ¬†If you’re a family of 4 in the same situation, your net worth would be less: $196,875.

Refinancing with National Bank of Kansas City

Finally. ¬†That’s all I can say. ¬†I probably should have done this about 1 1/2 years ago but I’m refinancing my house. ¬†It all started with a visit to Zillow where I thought they did such a poor job of estimating my house value with their so called “Zestimate”. ¬†What a load of crap that is. ¬†They were a full 15% off, which is huge. ¬†Unless you’re in a completely homogeneous neighborhood, this estimate will provide absolutely no value. ¬†Two houses next to each other with everything exactly the same can have wildly different values according to Zillow.

But what did intrigue me as I was fuming about this was the ad to refinance. ¬†I figured why the hell not? Rates are still very low. ¬†It’s not as low as it was a year ago but they’re still at a level that we won’t see for decades. ¬†And I’m convinced they’re about to rise. Part of the refinancing process includes an appraisal. ¬†The professional appraiser came out and pretty much confirmed my suspicions about Zillow – that they’re full of crap. ¬†In any case, now I’m on my way!

I’m working entirely online and through the phone on this one with National Bank of Kansas City. ¬†I’ll admit I’ve never heard of this bank before and save for this transaction, I’ll probably won’t see them again. ¬†But what do I care if they sell my mortgage or not? ¬†They are an FDIC bank and so far it’s been a total pleasure dealing with them. ¬†The loan office maintains regular contact throughout the process and keeps me updated. ¬†They’ve been responsive and more than fair with their rate and costs. ¬†I should know; I shopped around after reaching out to them. ¬†I would heartily recommend these guys if you’re in the market to refinance before rates jump. ¬†So far so good with this one. ¬†ūüôā

Done with taxes!

I just filed my taxes and both Federal & state returns were accepted.¬† The online filing process was even easier this year compared to last year.¬† The government accepted the returns within minutes of my submission.¬† It’s pretty crazy how far home tax preparation has gone.¬† I used TurboTax but I would think any modern package would get the job done for most people.¬† I only picked it by virtue of being able to import my information from previous tax years.¬† I’m glad I got done (relatively) early.¬† This year I had to wait bit since some tax forms that I needed weren’t released by the IRS until late into the new year.

Many people are intimidated by taxes and doing it by themselves would not even enter their mind.¬† However, there’s really nothing to be concerned about with these modern software packages and really no need to pay anyone to prepare them for you.¬† The key is to have all your documents ready (W-2, 1099’s, charitable donation receipts, etc.).¬† The rest of the process is straight forward with the software walking you through every category.

So what are you waiting for?  Get going and cross filing your taxes off your list!

YTD Return

Speaking of retiring, my retirement account is sitting at -2.5% YTD.¬† I always thought this year was going to be flat in a sideways range or down.¬† Comparatively speaking, that’s better than the general market, the NASDAQ excepted.¬† Klarman says not to compare your performance to the market, i.e. don’t put too much stock in relative performance – think absolute performance, and he has a point.¬† You should always judge an investment on its own merit.¬† I hate being down, even if better than the market as a whole.¬† But since my time horizon is long, I’m still feeling great about the investments that I’m holding.¬† I do have a large position in cash and that’s OK.¬† But if things are going to go south, I hope they go big.¬† I want to do some bargain hunting.¬† Analysts are calling for a 10% correction, but what do they know?¬† I’m hoping for a little panic so I can pick up stuff cheap.¬† Not a big, herd wide panic that will put a halt quickly to everything, but just enough so quality issues become undervalue enough that they’re a good pickup.

Once recent pickup for me has been Target based on the same rationale.¬† The whole credit hacking debacle really did a number on Target.¬† I believe their response is right on the money.¬† They didn’t shy away or make any excuses and accepted responsibility.¬† The exposure for them should be manageable.¬† Yet the market beat them up pretty bad, putting them at a new 52 week low.¬† Even if they can get halfway back, it’ll be a nice return.¬† In the meantime, I’ll collect my dividends and hold onto a quality retailing company.