COVID Finances

Local fires make for dramatic sunsets. This was last night at swim drop.

What strikes me most about COVID is how little we’ve been asked to do.

For those of us who avoided unemployment:

  • Stay at home
  • Wear a mask
  • Spend a lot of time with our children

I embraced all three, eventually.

Seven months in, our youngest can run her home school:

  • Print daily schedule
  • Follow links to online classes
  • Turn in her work
  • Make lunch and snacks

It’s not ideal but it’s good enough given the underlying reality.

An interesting part of the underlying reality is how well the top of tier of our society has been doing.

The noise of the election has been drowning out this story.


2 out of 3 kids returned to in-person learning on Tuesday and I hit the road for a day trip to the Collegiate Peaks. COVID has enabled me to feel grateful for things that appeared unreasonable at the start of 2020.

I made three financial decisions this year.

  • Sale & leaseback of my house (January)
  • Roll two years cash flow from bonds to equities (March 18-24)
  • Ski local, reallocate ski money into a new car (Q4)

Similar to 2009-2012, I expected to do a lot more.

However, I’ve done enough. Enough to set up the next decade and enable me to focus on what matters.

That’s a lesson.

If you’re focused on “what matters” then there’s not going to be many decisions to make. Most of your focus is going to be on the day to day (exercise, family, admin, relationships, marriage).

If, like me, you are someone who likes getting stuff completed then you’ll do well to create an outlet (other than churning your portfolio) for this aspect of your personality. Otherwise, you’re going to run up a lot of expenses, pay excessive fees/taxes and greatly increase your chance for unforced errors.

In your larger life, if you don’t give yourself something useful to do then politics, social media and petty pursuits will fill your time.

I need to watch out for these distractions => they bring out of the worst aspects of my personality.

Pay attention to who, and what, brings out your best.


The best investment I made this year was the month I spent weaning myself off social media.

It’s difficult to see the net negative return of Facebook/Instagram until you are outside of their feedback loops.

At its core, Facebook makes it easier for bullshit to reach me.

For others, Facebook makes it easy to argue.

For all of us, the algorithms reinforce confirmation bias and reduce our ability to think clearly.

The algorithms are everywhere – they live in every web interaction we have.

Instagram stimulated my desire to buy stuff and reduced my satisfaction with who I am.

Both platforms are pleasurable but what’s the source of the pleasure? The source is external validation on appearances.

Far more powerful is an internal validation for the actions I take, daily, for myself and my family.

True power is the capacity to create a feeling of goodness for the actions you take, daily, in your own life.


My biggest fan

What was your biggest problem of 1, 5 and 10 years ago?

Can you even remember?

I can.

The biggest challenge of my last decade was a little girl who doesn’t exist anymore.

She’s gone and has been replaced by someone who’s an absolute star.

The difficulties of COVID enabled her, and me, to shine.

Parents, children, teachers, students, superiors, subordinates…

What we see, as a problem, will disappear over time.

…and time is the most valuable asset in our portfolios.

Spend it wisely.

Making My Life Work Better

2019-11-27 16.58.34You’ll find a lot on my site about strength training. It’s a habit that’s served me well for 25+ years.

This year saw some changes. I went stale in my tried-and-tested program. I recognized my mojo was flat and wasn’t making much progress.

A few years back, a friend had done a backcountry ski program with Mountain Tactical. So I bought the latest version of that program, got to work and learned a few things. Currently, I’m using their in-season ski maintenance program. I’ll skip observations about the plans themselves and focus on general points that might apply to you.

How am I allocating my time and where is that likely to take me? Athletics, relationships, every single thing.

What is the purpose of your protocol? These days: (a) enough stress to get the benefits of exercise (cognitive & mood); (b) vanity; and (c) maintain my ability to ski & hike at a very high level.

With the MTI program, the sessions were so challenging that I needed to drop all other exercise. Dropping supplemental training probably seems obvious but, in my demographic, it’s common for people to do 1-2 extra sessions per day, and still think they are not doing enough!

The results were great. Even the nights with total exhaustion were “fun” => they made me feel like I was doing something.

Giving myself a full 24-hours to recover between sessions boosted my recovery AND reduced the mental stress of having to grind out a lower quality session when tired. It reminded me of my single-sport focus periods when I was an elite triathlete.

Within my training, I made a big demand on myself (for about an hour, 3-4x per week) then backed way off for the rest of the day. If you are finding, like I was, that all your sessions are blending into mediocre performance, with limited gains, then this tactic might help.

Seems obvious but it takes a lot of courage (for a compulsive exerciser) to back off. For example, I have a fear of weight gain and can use cardio to enable excessive eating.

Each one of us has blindspots. Mine are range of motion, quickness and coordination => fundamental components of high-level skiing. The program I bought contained box jumps, lateral jumps, side-to-side jumps, dynamic lunges, stretching and body-weight hip extension exercises. The act of seeking help gave me a nudge to do things I’d skip on my own. This works in our larger lives:

  1. Notice when your protocol stops working
  2. Seek expert advice
  3. Trim non-essential components

As an elite athlete, my “recovery” included 12-15 weekly hours of easy cardio. Easy cardio isn’t easy but that’s a different topic!

My easy-training hours have been replaced with walking, time with my wife and housework. This shift makes it easier (and more likely) to succeed within my larger life, which aims at a world-class marriage, thinking better and educating my kids.

What I value is reflected in where I allocate my time.

Eulogy From A Life Well Lived

I spoke at my Nana’s memorial this morning. Highlights…

I feel blessed to have my last grandparent die when I was 44. I learned so much from the experience of helping Joan with her last two years.

Little gestures mean a lot, particularly to the elderly – Joan gave a lot to her community, and the community gave it back when she needed it. To honor her memory, I’ve signed up to volunteer at our local hospice.

In life, everyone has a simple thing that makes them very happy. Search for that thing, when you find it, pay attention to it. Joan’s thing was telephone calls – she loved them. To create a double-whammy, we also paid her phone bill.

Favorite Memory – we used to tease her that she’d put the¬†broccoli¬†on the stove at the same time she’d put the roast in the oven.

Life Lessonwe can change late in life. Joan quit smoking in her 60s. More importantly, she changed her attitude in her 60s and 70s. This transformation to acceptance served her very well in aging, and in death. She was joking with all of us two days before she died (at 88).

Favorite Memory – helping her clean out her kitchen and finding canned goods older than me!

Joan loved her Dad, Wren. She was a reserved woman and the closest that I saw her to sadness was thinking about his early death. The love she held for her father has made me a better man, and a better father to my children. I’m the bridge from Joan to her great-grandkids (five total, three in my family with Monica).

Favorite Memory – Joan would track the price of gas all over the city. She always knew the best location and day to purchase.

Joan’s Values:

  • Self Sufficiency – she prided herself on independence and not being a burden on anyone
  • Humor – she had a great sense of humor, especially in private – she enjoyed many jokes, even on her death bed
  • Discretion – she was reserved
  • Family – her home and her support was always welcoming to family – she helped many people without any expectation of return

Favorite Memory – she loved to track the USD:CAD exchange rate to the 1/100th of a cent. It was a BIG moment for her when we hit par. “You know dear, we’re at PAR, now.”

What did Joan teach us about aging:

  • Growing old is unpleasant (and isn’t made better by complaining)
  • She aged, and died, very well
  • Why?
  • She came to accept life – a particular watershed moment was her 75th birthday, she felt grateful for the party that was organized

Two years ago, she told me that she had had a wonderful life and had been able to achieve everything she wanted. At 44, I try to bring this attitude of gratitude to my own home.

How do we make peace with time? Joan taught me:

  • Be open to friends and family
  • Contribute locally
  • Live within our means

I love you, Nana.