Lessons Learned in 2018

1.  Cord cutting step 1 – Replace DirectTV with streaming service(s) – As one of millions who decided to ditch cable and/or satellite TV providers, our move to YouTube TV (w/ local channels, 6 accounts and unlimited DVR) was one of the best decisions of the year. While a plethora of options exist for your replacement, be prepared for the shyster-y tactics of the behemoth providers to keep you hooked on their overpriced offerings.

2. Cord cutting step 2 – Replace landline with VoIP – A major benefit of converting our landline number to Google Voice (using ObiTalk) was NO MORE SPAM CALLS! We retained our home number of almost 20 years and now have phones (along with 911 service) in almost every room of the house. As a bonus, our voicemail is always transcribed into an email, and our “landline” can now send/receive texts.

3.  Cord cutting step 3 – Replace security system with Nest – While I shouldn’t be documenting this on the Internet, the Nest experience (Secure w/ Hello) is well worth the extra $$. The camera and alarm combo is quite useful for deliveries and visitors, and the built-in cellular option with battery backup allows operation even if the power and/or Internet are out.

4.  Hanging pictures with ease – The hands-down easiest way to hang something on the wall is with the Beehive picture hangers (available via Amazon). Two tiny screws attach the hanging bracket, and leveling is accomplished by making tiny adjustments of the picture frame. Long gone are the days of tape measures, stud finders and sheet rock anchors as hanging becomes a hassle-free 5 minute task.

5.  Curtailing identity theft – Over the past few years, we’ve had our credit card number hijacked more than a dozen times along with a falsified tax return filed in our name. With a few simple tweaks, we’ve minimized our risk and the associated headaches.

a.  Have you been hacked? Look yourself up and fix your identity on the dark web.

b.  Freeze your credit report at all three credit bureaus. Yes, you can temporarily unfreeze it as needed, and no, it won’t affect your credit score.

c.  Get a separate travel credit card. Use it exclusively when out of the country (or w/ small vendors in the states). First, you’ll have a backup while traveling, and second, there’s no need to re-establish all of those recurring charges on your main card, if/when your travel card gets jacked.

Lessons Learned in 2017

  1. Online banking is a no-brainer.  We never realized how unnecessary (and fee driven) the bricks-n-mortar banks were until we switched to an online bank. For those occasional in-person events (need some Euros or cash a bond), keep a few dollars in a local credit union and get access to on-premise services.
  2. 2 factor authentication – DO IT TODAY!  Ever wonder how your friend’s Facebook or Google account was hacked? It’s because they didn’t have two-factor authentication enabled. It’s a simple setting, and you should do this on your prized Internet accounts before finishing this post.
  3. Global Entry is a traveler’s dream.  After 4+ years of using this magnificent system, we can attest to its ability to save hours of standing in lines – both TSA and US Customs. The program ensures TSA Pre-check along with a simple hand scan to get back into the country, and now, there are some lighter-weight options if flying domestic primarily.
  4. Scrap those scrapbooks with digitization.  After fires destroyed ~25 houses in our neighborhood during a dry spell, we determined our photos were the only non-replaceable item of importance. Pro tip #1: Use a service to convert those hard copies. Pro tip #2: Put those pics in a digital frame, so you actually look a them. Pro tip #3: Do a little at a time.
  5. Allergies and cough – be gone!  Neti pots have been around for literally 1000’s of years, and they still work wonders today in simplified form. At first sign of a sniffle or sneeze, start using this daily to induce a significantly retracted symptom duration.
  6. Life’s schedule doesn’t follow conventional patterns.  There are traditions and then there are milestones. As a family, we strive to never confuse nor confound the two.

Uncertainty & Stock Options

Stock Option Tips for Startups

Diversification Simplification

After reading 100’s of articles and discussing with various brokers and investment bankers, I’m convinced that the perfect mix for an investment portfolio will be a never ending debate. After this many years of stocks, bonds, real estate, etc., one would think a universal equation would have been derived that would take into account one’s asset amount, age, risk tolerance and investment timeframe. In the absence of such an equation, I’ve decided to publish yet another proposed “magic formula” to simplify the thought process of diversified investing. While none of the individual rules are original, they do represent a mix of various opinions and suggestions on the topic.

Rule 1: Percentage invested in stocks: 100 minus current age.
Rule 2: Percentage invested in fixed income: everything else not invested in stocks.
Rule 3: Use future investments to keep the first two rules in check and avoid transferring money to and from investments as much as possible.
Rule 4: Point at which readjustment should be made: when the first two rules are off by 5% or greater.

London City Lights 2

Some FAQs for the equation:

  • An example for a 35 year old: 100-35=65% invested in stocks. 35% would be in bonds and/or other fixed income investments.
  • The equation does not account for investments one might have in their primary residence. A future post will discuss this matter.
  • The stock mix could (and most likely should) include mutual funds and individual stocks in a variety of sectors.
  • An additional method for keeping the first two rules in check is to use money from the fixed income and/or dividends to fund the lagging area.

Mobile Marketing

If you ever watched a NASCAR race, one question quickly comes to mind: Was this sport created by car enthusiasts or by brilliant marketers? This is the only sport (and I use the term loosely) where the souvenirs and even the sport itself represent the sponsors more than the people involved in the sport.

Pit row - 1

To my knowledge, this the only sport where people would actually purchase an orange $500 leather jacket covered with Home Depot logos, while the term “NASCAR” is hidden on the inside tag. The sponsors of this sport have an ulterior motive in selling this paraphernalia than say the average Fortune 500 company buying a sign out in center field. The NASCAR sponsors are literally “allowing” people to pay to become walking billboards. In fact, it’s no wonder the drivers are awarded points for being in first place the most laps. Guess which car, I mean logo, is shown on TV the most?!


Why haven’t companies pushed other professional sports onto this strategy and to this extent? While the target audience might seem restricted to some, it’s actually quite diverse. I can’t speak for all readers out there, but I can’t wait to start wearing my Southwest Airlines blazer to the next family dinner.

Cables of gold

While running cables through the wall for my new TV, the decision about which cables to buy came up again. Every time I hook up any new audio/video equipment, there is always this moment at the electronics store trying to decide if a $200 Monster Cable will really make a difference. First it was the optical fiber, then came the component video, and now the all-inclusive HDMI cable.

Thanks to my good friend Brandon, I subscribed to the online version of Consumer Reports (CR) more than a year ago, which provides all the information from the magazines in a searchable online format. As luck would have it, CR had an article titled “HDMI: the new jack on the box”, and in the article, they strongly recommended against purchasing “premium-grade” cables for hundreds of dollars. Good to know, I thought and headed to local bricks-and-mortar electronics store not wanting to wait for the cables to be shipped.

TV Remote

At ~$200/cable and needing 2-3 cables, the premium grade cables were going to add quite a bit to the project, so I asked the friendly sales rep at Best Buy what he suggested. As you might have guessed, this guy knew more A/V acronyms than I know computer acronyms, and that’s saying a lot. I mentioned the CR recommendation, and he bluntly said that CR was dead wrong. He explained a bunch of experiences with interference and how the TV actually becomes an antenna, attracting even more imperfections for that perfect high definition picture.

Knowing that rewiring all of this was not worth the effort, I caved and bought a fancy HDMI cable and went middle-of-the-road for the other cables. Everything looks great, but I wonder if I was taken or if I got lucky. Thoughts?