Saturday, August 29, 2020

July 2020 Reading Review

Yet again, I finished the month having read 8 books. Some were short and one was an audiobook, but in future months I'm aiming to read fewer titles. Here's a run-down of what I read, in the order I enjoyed them with the best listed first. 

    I really enjoy Bethany McLean's writing and her choices of topics. If you follow my reading, you'll know I read a ton about the financial crisis so it's rare to find something that offers a new perspective or detail. This one went into some interesting background and detail on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that I either didn't know, or hadn't thought about in the way it was presented. 
    Besides finding it fascinating, one of the reasons I read so much on this topic is to better understand the inter-connectivity of our economy. They say that history doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes, so the better I know history the better I feel equipped to understand the present.

    It was only coincidental that right around the time I was reading this, CEO's of four of the largest tech companies in the world were testifying in front of Congress to discuss antitrust matters. I really liked that it was short and to the point, and it gave me some things to think about. Tim Wu was also a recent guest on The Prof G Show Podcast if you'd like to get a taste for the content in podcast format.

    This book really causes you to think about things that you may consider to be 'common sense' and to question how you know what you think you know. For example, in the Army they were trying to determine whether recruits from cities or rural areas would fare better in training. The original hypothesis was that those from rural areas would do better since they may be used to the living conditions more that those from cities. After doing a study though, they found that recruits from cities actually did better and they attributed it to comfort with hierarchy stemming from more familiarity with the hierarchies of large companies or organizations.  
    Sometimes I've found myself reading the results of a study and thinking "did they really even need to do a study on that? It seems so obvious." This book helps shed light on the fact that what may seem like 'common sense', still needs fact checking and validation. I really like behavioral economics and this one was a similar style, but not focused on finance. Definitely an interesting read. 

    The Great Depression left emotional scars on the psyche of the generation who lived through it and influenced the investment behavior of an entire generation. Likewise, those who lived through the high inflation periods of the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's have formed beliefs and fears that influence their behaviors today. This was interesting to read more about all the different ways inflation impacts our behavior and the economy, and gave me some things to think about as we plan for our future. 
    Inflation is one of the biggest risks for early retirees, which we planning to do. No plan is without risk, but it is important to me to make sure we are planning for things like inflation as best we can.

    This came recommended to me from some co-workers while on a business trip to India a while back and I just now got around to reading it. I wish I had read it before I had my trip since it really gives new perspective and who knows when I'll ever be able to get back. I knew that England had colonized India, but I had no idea the that the colonization was largely done by a private company and militia sanctioned by the government. 

6. Enemy Contact (Jack Ryan #27) - Mike Maden 
    Lumping these two together as they were equally enjoyable, and most all the same characters. These are predictable and always seem to wrap up loose ends way too quickly, but I really like the characters and can read one of these books in ~3 days. No one can truly replace Tom Clancy but the Jack Ryan books that keep coming out do a good job of honoring his legacy. 

    I really wanted to like this one, but really didn't get much out of it and won't be recommending it to anyone just getting started. I know the author has inspired a lot of people in the personal finance and early retirement community, it just didn't do much for me. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

July 2020 Net Worth Update - another all-time high

Even as the global pandemic continues to rage, our net worth continues to climb. We ended July at a new all time high, crossing over $1.1M to end at $1,117,400.


CASH

Our cash balance dipped a bit as we made our semi-annual car insurance payment, had some car repairs/maintenance, and new windows for the bathroom remodel that is still ongoing but nearing completion. August will also be an expensive month but we should be able to get up to $40k in the not-too-distant future. Above $40k we will likely add more to our taxable investment accounts.

We generally don't keep much cash on hand, but I did withdraw some cash early in the pandemic to have on hand in case there were a shortage. I hadn't been counting that cash in these totals and had honestly forgotten about it until I found it while cleaning out my closet. In July however, I spent this cash (and a bit more) on a bicycle. This is something that I've been wanting for a while now, but for years has always been a 'not until after we pay off the house' type of purchase. Of course, as soon as we pay off the house a global pandemic hits that causes a lot of people to spend a lot of time at home. Nationwide it seems like everyone wanted to buy a bike all at the same time so it has been hard to even find anything besides the most expensive models. I finally found one that I like a lot and now have been biking most days when I previously would have gone on walks.

INVESTMENTS

Our investment accounts are about as boring as it gets. The bulk of our portfolio is in index funds, and we don't plan to touch it for 10+ years. The part that I am excited about though is watching the taxable account balance creep up. We might use some of this within 10 years, but don't have any real plans so we'll keep it invested and be comfortable with any downside risk we may have. 

Our next big milestone is to get our Liquid Net Worth to be $1M. This will take a few more years but we're well on the way. Now without a mortgage we're able to invest even quicker than before when we were only doing enough to get the company match on my 401k.