Monday, May 25, 2015

Finding Value

As most of you know, I've grown fairly infatuated with the stock market and have devoted quite a bit of time to studying various securities for research and investment purposes. Initially, I'm not gonna lie, I wanted to make a quick buck. I actually got my 'start' in trading OTC stocks about 2 years ago when my baby brother was making loads and loads of money in a 'pot stock boom'. Being this was my first foray into investing at all, it was hard to contextualize what was occurring. I want to write a detailed post regarding my feelings at the time but suffice to say, "Shit was fucking crazy". Each day obscure securities which may or may not have been real companies that offered any tangible good/service were exchanging volume in the billions. Of course their share prices were often a penny or less, but these 'companies' would move as much as 100% over the course of a 6.5 hours of trading.


Obviously, this boom, like all others, was short lived and while I did make a quick buck, I subsequently lost more than my fair share as well. All said and done I maybe broke even, and would've been better off just stashing the cash in the bank.

But then I wouldn't have such incredible memories and experiences to share and reflect on.

Anyway, you can see that there's been a marked shift as I've approached the 'old' age of 30 and that now I am more focused (where I wasn't whatsoever previously) on finances and planning. Tipping my toes in the water trading pot stocks served as a catalyst in my life to examine 401 (k) plans, IRAs, home equity and loans, even my election as a board of director for the credit union I bank at.

It spawned this massive interest that I never could've foreseen.

One of the most interesting thing I found, (about myself) is that I value time and travel more than things and stuff. Day to day expenditures are now scrutinized at a level that would make chemists blush. I went from being basically ignorant and flashy to frugal and practical.

Where I once wanted a Tesla (and I suppose on some level I still do), I now scoff at those who pour money down the drain on vehicles. Part of that thought was not-so-eloquently expressed in my previous post. I wrote that post without focus or time that was warranted and what resulted was a sloppy product that many of you rightly pointed that out after the fact.

Perhaps this post will shed some background light on where that post came from.

We have cut our cable bill by 60%. Our water and power bills have dropped significantly. We stopped paying for garage parking. I've been reading magazines and books at the bookstore or library and not purchasing them. And the biggest change implemented is that we eat out significantly less than we used to. All these changes have enabled us to save at a higher rate than most others, as well as given me more money to pursue my travel interests. Especially before we have a team of rugrats to put in our outsized SUV ;).

Back to the SUV post for a moment - while I stand behind many of my claims against owning one, I do respect that others have a different value system and for a select few they may actually need one. But for far too many, they're wasting their hard earned money on a liability that is depreciating and draining their limited resources. I suppose I should've artfully expressed that but I did not.

The overarching point is not that I'm a scrooge nor that I think being a tightwad is virtuous. I think an individual should examine what things in life bring the greatest joy and which smaller joys can we forego so as to allocate more resources into the things we love the most. So if we really, really want to buy a condominium in the heart of Manhattan, we can't be simultaneously dining at 5-star steakhouses twice a week. Unless you work on Wall Street in which case you probably do both.

But for the rest of us, we need to make sacrifices in order to accentuate our passions. Because what we don't want to do is complain and point fingers elsewhere about how we can never get ahead and can't do the things we want to do because we're not making the requisite sacrifices necessary in order to do so. By saving just a couple hundred dollars per month, I can afford a pretty luxurious trip in less than a year to many places across the world that many others would only dream of.

In the meantime I am not attending the happy hours, getting tickets to baseball games, or buying $5 lattes. For me, that sacrifice is worthwhile because (like many people) I'm on a budget and if I want to do what I really want to do, something's gotta give. This has been a lifestyle shift and while it may not be permanent or perfect, it has served me well in the past year.

Striking a balance between enjoying the present and preparing for a better future is not easy. It's not black or white and I think it's important not to get bogged down worrying about each and every purchase to the point where guilt is consumptive. Set some limits and be done with it. Set some goals and achieve them.

Moreover, what you find with the less you spend, is that value, and I mean bang-for-your-buck, takes time to find. No matter whether you plan to spend a lot or a little, you want to make sure you get a good value for your purchase. So, purchasing an SUV on credit is rarely a prudent fiscal move. Nor is eating Chipotle everyday a thrifty way to enjoy Mexican food. Occasionally I will eat Chipotle, but I'd prefer to sample some burritos in the hills of Bogota, Columbia, (during a vacation) from local eateries than by overpaying for it at a chain day after day.

Obviously our goals and passions are not the same. Variety is the spice of life, and I can respect other's choices even when they directly conflict with my own. So it is not that my way is superior, only that when you spend the time to really dig deep and discern what's meaningful to you, can you really live your life to the fullest. No matter what 'full' means to you.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

When to Buy an SUV


Next post, please.

Well, let's actually dedicate a few moments to this topic as it's been one of interest around my neck of the woods. See, if you were to drive in Arlington, Virginia, you may stumble across some apartment complexes that are semi-luxurious and give people the illusion they are rich.

They aren't. Even though they sure as hell act like it.

It cracks me up to see 55k Range Rovers with owners who can't afford to garage their car. Think of how loony that is. Garage parking costs maybe $50. Not only that, what kind of person who is purchasing/leasing (more likely) would waste money on a vehicle while throwing money away renting?

If you can afford a car worth $55k, I assume you're making about 200k per year. I think you'd still be overpaying but that would be my guess. In truth, we know these people are merely borrowing the world's number one depreciating asset, a car that literally drains your pocket book day after day.

It's a status symbol. But anyone with half a brain knows that the only status that it says is, "I like to waste fucking money!!!!" For the life of me I cannot understand why someone would buy/rent something so impractical.

You can fit 5 people fairly comfortably in almost any mid-size vehicle. 5 people is a lot - mormon style family. And rarely are all 5 passengers in the car simultaneously. If you need space for your gear/bags, you either aren't packing efficiently or you aren't using the hitch/other aerodynamic advantages available to the industrious folk who commute with big crews/gear all day.

And yet, with short-term gas prices hitting lows near $40/bbl people have been rushing to buy these things.

So let's get back to the big picture. You live in an apartment. You buy a car worth approximately 3 years of rent and keep it outside succeptible to theft, errant soccer balls, passer-bys, and it you have to move it all the time to avoid tickets/towed. Plus other drivers resent you for taking up two spots and making it harder to see around corners and park.

Then whenever you do get around to driving the thing, you have to stop and fill up your tank all the time. Isn't status enlightening!

It may seem like I'm bitter or my wife went off and fucked a dude with a lifted F150 but you'd be mistaken. I'm just flummoxed by the decision making skills of some people. And amazingly, these are the folks who can even afford to buy/lease a car that expensive. Makes you REALLY wonder about all the other fools out there....

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Shots from New York - Catskills and Woodstock

Ash and I and Leroy traveled north Friday night about 7PM to the long trek to the Catskill area of New York. I had been once - a couple years before, but this time we were staying in a lakehouse rented by her folks with them and her sister and her beautiful daughter Abbie. Ashley's uncle lives (and the Town Supervisor) in Bethel, and her grandpa lives in Jeffersonville. We were up there for their annual or biannual family reunion but this was a big one b/c it was "The Boss" (her grandpa's) 80th birthday. So this is my new family and while I know most of them over the past decade or so in one way or the other, it was nice to actually have a few days and make it more exclusive. Below are some pics from the trip. Enjoy. 

Shots from right outside our house. Amazing view, eh?
 Outside her Uncle's house. Abbie is playing with Leroy and Kelly, one of Ashley's cousins. 
 Dog was loving it. We kept receiving compliments the whole trip about how lovely he is. Was really nice, he definitely takes after me ;). 
 He gets pretty fixated on the frisbee...which by the way says, "Re-elect Sturm". Awesome. He runs the town where Woodstock was. How cool is that? 
 Speak of the devil. There's the politician himself with his father whose birthday we were celebrating. 
 The Boss was an amazing trumpet player. He was a professional. Doesn't really play anymore unfortunately but we have some music on CD's and records and it is fantastic. 
 As loquacious as he is, he didn't like the limelight dancing. 
 Here's the birthday boy receiving his cake (his daughter, Ashley's mom is blocking the view!)
 Ah....there's the cake. 
 Ya, 80 candles woulda been a lot. So 8 would have to do. 
 Techno-obsessed even the older generations. Ashley's Pops and other uncle. 
 We were at a cool little diner which was adjacent to a whiskey distillery. Great spot. 
 So the Boss and his wife, Kathy. Ash's folks behind them. The mayor and his wife Dina. And Andy and his wife Marilyn. The Sturm clan. 
 With the kids in the picture too. Can you spot me?
 It's worth another look!
 The Boss and his kids. I called him the Boss like 6 years ago when I first met him and it just stuck. So I still call him that. He's incredibly witty and laughs constantly. Truly vivacious dude. 
 "Little Falls" 
 Great spot to cool off on a hot summer day. 
 To be truthful...I love DD coffee. 
 At the Woodstock Museum. Wifey and her Mom. 
 Yeah, baby! 
 Me and Mom. 
 Grew my beard out for this trip. Either going orthodox or going hipster. Or jihad. Which one should I choose? 
 What's amazing about this shot is moments before she was swaying elegently jamming out to some Jimi Hendrix. And by the time I got the camera out...this is the shot I came away with. 
 Apparenly, Ken's got it going on. 
 Uber being repped in Woodstock. 
 I REAAALLLLYYY wish we got to try some shrooms. I asked Ash's Mom for some narcotics to share but she wouldn't have me my percocet. 
 If you ever get a chance you must visit this place...amazing stories and an amazing period in U.S. history. 
 Jamming out in the gift shop. 
 The grounds where the beatnicks roamed. 
 Now it's impeccably manicured. They still host concerts there but in a separate stage nearby. The original spot is preserved but does not have a stage. Just a big hill where the music boomed. 
 I wanna be a rock star. 
 I REALLY wanna be a rock star. 
 Yeah...well...when you do a lot of drugs just don't know what kind of scene you'll wind up in.
 Maybe you'll trip and wind up on a bean bag staring at wallflowers. 
 No monument would be complete without devout patriotism. 
 The real monument. 
 The left spot in this shot is where the concert was held. The hill is where all the 400k people watched. And fucked. And danced. And did drugs. 
 And it was being vandalized right before our eyes. 
 I was the only one that was like, "Um, dude. What the fuck are you doing?"
 Erasing history was what it seemed like. 
 Cool art. And more patriotic bullshit. But..the kicker here is this place is home to the best bagels in the entire planet. And that is a fact. 
 At the Bagel Shop in Monticello. 
 NY bagels. Can't beat 'em. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

More Pics

Has anyone else ever tried this flavor of HD? Holy fuck it's good. There was ants covering my spoon when I left it out overnight and I legitimately ate the fucking ants cuz I didn't want to waste any.
True story.
 BK within walking distance. Clutch.
 Worth repeating...BK. Walking distance.
 The view from our suite.
 Retire early???
 Dusk swims in the bay. I would LOVE to LIVE in a place where I could do this in my backyard. Anyone know a good spot??
 Is that a shark...I'm very afraid. Very, very paranoid and afraid.
 Swam at least 4x while I was out there. About a mile each time.
 Ye' man. Post-swim sipping some water and listening to some blues.
 Carib Beer. Somewhere in the West Indies. Not too bad really.
 Beautiful storm. Palm tree was just getting pummeled. Felt really bad for this guy. No repreive.
 Relentless wind.
 Literal sheets of rain.
 Ash was really, really concerned about the palm tree. He does the best he can.
 Champagne and anniversary cards.
 Just the bottles.
 Uhhhh. Wife. Why. Blocking. TV. Move. K. Thank. You.
 Self. Why Blocking. TV.?
 If you can't tell from here they're seersucker. Yep.
 I'm riding a carousel. Ash didn't know about how you 'win'. Do you???
 She won!
 Candid shots are the best.
 That shake be from BK. It was dank too.
 I had one job. Fry to mouth.
 My dream breakfast. Some coffee/latte. Something sweet or w/ chocolate. And a great view and a great book.
 Makes me REALLY think about retirement.
 The next few are from all over the island the day we rented a car. And I def broke it going over some curb and bottoming out. Would not want to be in the car rental business.

 In case you had forgotten Saint Maarten is home to the famous (or is it infamous) SUPER low plane landings. Check out the sequence.

 Ash snapped this pro shot. People 30 feet below. Insane.

 Not low enough!

 With all the coke you guys told me not to drink I'd figured I'd share this one...
 Mountain Biking. What they don't say is NOT for beginners.
 Ya if this were a ski hill they'd all be double-blacks.
 We did navigate past some steers.
 They were mostly unperturbed.
 Dutch or French???
 Getting ready for triathlon season baby!
 Look - a mini Washington Monument.
 Words. Words. Words.
 Final parting shot...