Sunday Summary 19 June 2022

Top Five Threads

  1. The 1st step is EASY
  2. Bike Session (30/30s and Power Singles)
  3. When you feel you are behind financially
  4. Give your Self something useful to Prove Right
  5. I’m back on Strava // Post_COVID week summary

High Performance Habits

Workouts & Working Out

Wealth and Consumption Part Two

Part One Here

Group your spending into buckets:

  • Essential
  • Discretionary
  • Luxury

The most “costly” part of the pie is whatever you happen to believe is “essential.” It usually doesn’t feel this way => you truly believe you need this stuff. I feel the same!

When you suffer your first serious setback, you’ll be surprised how little is essential. In 2009, I cut my “essential” in half, overnight.

Similarly, as we age, we may find we were giving time, money and attention to things that don’t seem to matter anymore.

Know your buckets – they will help you think more clearly.


Remember => I think of wealth in time

Specifically, Net Worth expressed in “years spending.”

$1,000,000 / $125,000 = 8 years

As we change the spending, we change the years.

Risk, and INFLATION, are easily mitigated when you understand how easily you can change spending.


Risk Concept => not all spending, or financial obligations, are created equal

Be most aware of:

Debt, including contingent – an obligation where non-payment can force the sale of an asset

Spending that comes with spending – large HOA/Club fees come to mind here – put plainly, a hotel visits feel just the same on an ego, yet, don’t require an annual membership fee

Going further => Don’t Capitalize Luxury Spending => the “luxury bucket” from above, if you turn it into a capital obligation then it can bite you, especially when combined with debt.

We don’t need to own the hotel to receive the services offered to a guest.

Same with… plane, waterfront, ski chalet… whatever you find inside your “luxury” bucket.

Staying flexible with the ability to stop spending can feel like a “waste” – even more so when highly-leveraged peers appear to be making easy money.

This feeling is false!

  • We over-estimate the value of current spending
  • We adapt very quickly to any level of spending
  • We notice changes, not absolutes

You are paying for the flexibility to: (a) stop paying; (b) change your mind; and (c) keep your capital invested productively.

Also remember, the generation that follows will build upon your spending.

The choices of family leaders scale.

++

This concept is important as we age:

  1. We will want to spend on different things
  2. We will want to “do” different things
  3. The generation that follows us:
    1. they will INDIVIDUALLY want to spend differently
    2. they will certainly want to do different things
    3. they will have a thirst for more

For your future self, and your legacy, give maximum flexibility to change.

You will most certainly change your mind later.

Sunday Summary 22 May 2022

Top 5 by Engagement

  1. SuperVet Fitness – blog tomorrow
  2. Things to try before swimming harder
  3. Training Nutrition
  4. Ditch your alarm, with AC
  5. Train the payoff – also with Jené at Triathlete

Workouts and Working Out

High Performance in the Real World

Supply of Money and Interest Rate Transmission Mechanisms

BoCo in May

Feels like I’m getting to the end of my Thursday finance series!

Things I’ve noticed in May 2022:

  • Stablecoin instability
  • Pain at the retail level
  • Step-down price adjustments of stable businesses with mkt cap >$1 billion (disappearance of margin trade on reliable dividends, perhaps)
  • Buyer of my sale was 95% debt financed with a payment of 3x the gross rent I was receiving
  • Market down 19%, as I write

What I haven’t seen:

  • Widespread pain
  • Institutional capital destruction
  • Anything, anywhere, that looks cheap

Given the money creation of this cycle, those are key words to watch:

  • Pain
  • Capital Destruction
  • Cheap

Until those arrive, I’m going to be patient and live my life.


A reminder.

The Great Recession of 2008/2009 first got my attention with trouble in the interbank lending market (Early Summer 2008), this was after ~20% market decline.

There was a long way for the bear market to go, and its effect on real asset prices had years to run.

Great deals were available 2010-2012 => the equivalent of 2-4 years from “now”

Same thing in the UK Recession of 1990, my first out of school.

  • If we’re in a blip then rebalancing will be just fine
  • If we’re in for something more serious then it takes time to develop AND it takes years for price expectations to adjust

Live a life where you don’t need to be right.

Strategic Family Capital

Couples trip to Vail last week – we skinned to the top of Ptarmigan, two days after closing.

Back in Feb, I laid out ideas for Multigenerational Capital, it included my strategy of Sell, Buy & Hold.

Last week, I completed the Sell Goal for 2022. There are two numbers I’d like to revisit:

  • Gross Yield of 43 years, 2.3%
  • Net Yield of 64 Years, 1.6%

I gave up ~2% yield on capital to add to my Strategic Reserve.


From wsj.com 5/5/2022

Snapshot from last week:

  • 2Y to 30Y yield ~3%
  • 30-year mortgage 5.25%
  • VTSAX Dividend Yield ~1.5%

By the end of 2022, short-term margin debt is expected to cost more than index equity yields. Medium-term debt is already more expensive.

These changes mark an end to the free-money policies of the last few years. This is a big change – it is unknowable if the change will prove sticky.

So… wait and see. I did a minor rebalance this week.

The rebalance was a repeat of the “buy less” strategy I shared in Feb.

In March 2020 I increased equity allocations to 72% of my Vanguard portfolio. 

Allocating additional capital in 2022, I made a reserve for “an investment that benefits the present”…

…then rebalanced to 60% equity allocation. 

This reduced the size of the new investment and got me past decision paralysis, driven by a fear of near-term loss.

The reserve now sits at ~15 years Core Cost of Living.


Looking pro

We’ve been looking around for a place in the mountains.

Coming off a year of AirBnB skiing, I know our cost to rent implies a gross yield of 0.75 – 1.75%.

Alternatives to buying:

  1. Stick the Strategic Reserve into VTSAX, rent through AirBnB and let dividend growth hedge rental inflation
  2. Stick the Strategic Reserve into a medium term bond product (VBTLX @ 3%) and earn a margin over my cost to rent
  3. Pursue either of the above, double my discretionary spending and run the capital down between now and my wife’s 85th birthday

For now, I’m taking Door #4

  • Rebalance after large (down) moves
  • Watch the Federal Reserve increase rates
  • See what happens

A 35% market decline implies a dividend yield over 2.25%, which would let me lock in the equivalent of three-months cost of living (after tax, forever).

I tossed my idea of buying a Sprinter Van for camping. The shift towards “assets for fun” doesn’t come naturally.

The Choices That Define Your Financial Life

  • Act as if personal finance is a game where you only get ten tickets to play.
  • Invest as if you are holding a checkbook with only a dozen checks inside.
  • Speak as if you’re holding a six-shooter, is it worth one of your bullets to make the point that’s on your mind.

I’ve been hearing versions of the above my entire life. It’s been great advice and encouraged me to:

  • Slow down
  • Resist the urge to interrupt compounding
  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on the big decisions
  • Treat small movements like noise

So, we started your kids with the allowance game.

Then, we moved onto discussing the family’s allocation of capital towards education.

With that, we considered the impact, across generations, of borrowing.

What next?

Teach your kids their financial lives will be about no more than a dozen choices.

Here are mine:

  • Study finance (class of 1990)
  • Save 50% of my take home (1990-2007)
  • Partners investment scheme (late 90s, all in then, equivalent of 1 yr spending now)
  • Work to build a startup (2000)
  • Sell into the frenzy (2005-2007)
  • Move into a low-cost Vanguard portfolio (2008 onwards)
  • Boulder real estate (2010 & 2012))
  • Downsize (2012-2013)
  • Borrow long at 3.25% (2013)
  • Debt free (2007 & 2020)
  • Have kids with a kind woman from a humble background (on going)

Every other choice turned out to be noise. What to do?

Focus on actions, not outcome.

What does that really mean?

Do what moves you forward and have faith. Sport, marriage, money, all things… daily action is the fundamental force moving you towards “better.”

Education matters => I was given a chance in Private Equity because I had high marks in a useful field. Between my high school graduation (1986) and my youngest’s (2031) the nature of “useful” will have changed. However, the need for skilled people to “do” will endure.

The most useful part of my degree wasn’t finance! It was financial accounting, programming and mathematics => I learned fundamental knowledge in college. I learned my profession on-the-job. You learn the valuable part by doing work, for the best people you can find.

This keeps popping up over and over again (professors, partners, coaches, mentors, twitter follows). At 53, I’m learning from people less than half my age! Do work to learn.

Avoid Ruin => studying, then working in, financial accounting helps you learn when a situation doesn’t feel right. Embezzlement is an old game and it’s useful to learn the patterns. Financial fraud happens, and will continue to happen. Take steps to reduce your family’s exposure to ruin.

With the accounting, I learned the most with 9 credits spread across three courses. Financial Accounting 1, 2 and 3. Small investment, huge return. Do it when you’re young. Being forced to rely on others to do your financial math is a disadvantage that will cost you.


Let’s pull it together for you…

Starting your working life (in a useful field, with your financial accounting courses done)…

You are at least a decade away from making the shift to lifestyle sustainable, so you focus on:

  1. Learning by doing with the best people who will hire you
  2. Savingget that first $100K banked, you will be grateful when you’re older
  3. Waiting for the fat pitch – once in a lifetime investment opportunities happen once a decade
  4. Turning yourself into the sort of person you’d like to marry, the friend you’d like to have, the parent you aspire to be => meaningful connection is true wealth

Your mind will try to trick you into thinking it’s the investment choices that matter.

It is not.

It is the four habits I outlined above, and avoiding substance abuse.

Sunday Summary 3 April 2022

High Performance & Productivity

Athletic Performance

Wealth

When One Dollar Costs You Ten

My kids won’t fully appreciate my choices until after I’m gone.

My #1 financial goal for my kids is debt-free education in a field that enables them to get paid.

With the very best of intentions, the US Government has completely screwed up both (a) the cost of college education and (b) the financial lives of the students they were seeking to help.


Debt isn’t free.

Every market juiced with easy money gets screwed up.


Explanation below – my life mirrors the blue line – graduate early, debt free, start saving

I googled up average debt at graduation and average graduation age.

$40,000 and 23 yo.

So let’s make three simple scenarios:

  1. Debt free early graduation (21 yo) => McGill 1990 finance grad
  2. Debt free at 25 yo
  3. Debt free at 30 yo

Let’s run it forward assuming:

  • Investment return of 5%, prior year close
  • $20,000 per annum savings

The late-start saver

  • who saves at the same annual rate
  • who earns the same return

ends up ~$1 million behind at 60 yo.

This is not the whole story, not even close!

In my demographic, families can burn ~$250,000 of capital to help a kid “get started” => 529 accounts and parental support. Even more if you roll private from Kindergarten.

What’s the 30-year cost of this choice?

$250,000 * (1.05)^30 = $1,080,000

Million bucks gone, you never see it.

  1. You burned the capital
  2. The kid figures life out by 30, and spends most of their 20s pissed at you (for tapering their support) 😉

$2 million opportunity cost, spread between two generations.

You assume it was what you were supposed to do and are grateful you finally got them off the payroll.


A possible alternative…

Our default position is in-state education and I’ll buy whatever’s left of your 529, at $2 on the dollar, once you save $100,000 of your own money.

What do we want to have happen?

  1. conserve family capital
  2. use debt sparingly
  3. build a habit of saving

Everyone pays their own way.

The #1 Mistake Financial Professionals Make

…is not leaving


Living!

Let’s start with the best money advice I’ve seen in 2022:

Don’t build a plan that requires your death to succeed.

Yes.


Rather, create a life that supports how you want to live.

How are we going to do that?

Get some money off the table.

How much?

5x “last year’s cost of living”

This is Core Capital – it is a function of your spending as well as your savings.

Once you have Core Capital, protect it.

The return on Core Capital doesn’t matter. Keeping it does!

It’s the most valuable money you will ever have, there are rapidly diminishing returns beyond this point.

Core capital doesn’t free you from the ability to stop working.

That’s OK.

You don’t want to stop, ever.

That’s another mistake the financial services industry makes => selling you a dream that you won’t enjoy.

You want the freedom to choose, to take chances with your time, to stay in the game.

You want this freedom to choose as soon as possible. Not late in life.

INVERT: You want the freedom to choose “not to.”

Not to deal with:

  • other people’s BS
  • fast money schemes
  • worry
  • golden handcuffs
  • creeps & crooks

Two weeks ago, in asking five questions, I gave you a nudge to start thinking about life.

  • Learning & Peers
  • Travel & Exploration
  • Values

That article introduced the concept of Lifestyle Sustainable => a low-cost base of operations where, ideally, you can live for free. The idea is to remove cost-of-housing from your financial concerns.

That’s the core financial asset for your portfolio. It cost me US$110,000 in 2000.

This is a great place to park your Core Capital.

Removing housing from your list of concerns gives you more than a financial return.


Alongside your key financial asset, I hope you have a loving, lifelong partner. This person is the most important decision, financial or otherwise, you’ll be making.

The highest return investments I made in my 30s & 40s, were not financial in nature. With a low-cost base of operations, & marketable skills, I was in a good place.

Many high-earners fail to see the value of what I just pointed out.

  • Low-cost base of operations
  • Marketable skills

Beyond that, most everything is lifestyle enhancement and ego.

Thankfully, I had a major setback in my early-30s (divorce) which gave me pause.

In 2000, I saw my future in front of me… lifestyle enhancement and ego… and I made a change.

A big one.

I became a world-class athlete. With (athletic) success came the realization that something was lacking.

So much success, still lacking!

  • If you’re good at making money…
  • If you’re good at playing the game of “career”…
  • If you are nearing the top of your field…

…then you’ll be tempted to keep doing what you are good at.

I’d encourage you to establish that low-cost base of operations, then try something really challenging…

The highest return investments I made were improving my suitability for marriage and learning how to parent. Most of my learning happened after I was married and my kids were born.

It is never too late to invest in the human capital of your family.

If you get these investments right then you might not notice the benefits. Honestly, a big driver in my life has been a fear of getting divorced again (not-divorced, winning)

Fear that drives positive action is useful.

I’ve been paid by less drama, and less problems (we don’t see all our wins).

I’ve also de-risked some of the challenges my future self will face (companionship, engagement, dementia). Study (the problems of) who you are likely to become.

You’ll notice my portfolio advice (still) doesn’t talk about asset allocation.

This is deliberate!

Asset selection is not the differentiating factor for a life well lived.

  • Marketable skills
  • Low-cost base of operations
  • Fixed-rate mortgage, if you like
  • Target date fund for your future self

Then focus on living your life and creating the friends/family with whom you’d like to share it.

World War Three Portfolios

One of my favorite things is skiing with my wife.
I’ve made a decision to keep living.
Reality is going to catch up with me at some point, I know.

When stressed, you are going to be tempted to shuffle your asset allocation.

Churning your portfolio isn’t the answer.


Geography, Citizenship & Right of Abode

I’m parked in the middle of the American Empire => by choice.

I naturalized to the US and don’t need anyone’s permission to stay here.

Being born Canadian, I have the option to live in Canada. It’s a valuable option to a wonderful country (with a different political system).

I also have the right of abode in New Zealand (a third political system). I like to think of it as a smaller Canada, on the other side of the world.

My Kiwi visa doesn’t expire. Unfortunately, I can’t pass the visa to my kids. However, each of my kids has a Canadian Citizenship certificate.

Three political systems, two hemispheres, all English speaking.

Hemispheres, continents, countries and political systems.

The location to start from scratch.


Monetary Environments

Who regulates the custodian for your financial assets?

Unsure what I mean?

Who has the ability to lock your money inside a political regime?

Where can you send money, with a single instruction, that’s outside of your home regulatory environment?

The capital to start from scratch.


Income Streams

  • Do you have an alternative source of income?
  • How long might it take to develop one?
  • Are your skills marketable internationally?
  • Might you be able to develop a set of marketable skills?

The skill set to start from scratch.


Look at the above on an individual, generational and family-wide basis.

The unimaginable happens once a decade.