TGIF: My Problem with Stuff

\"I_have_too_much_stuff\"A while back, as I sat in my office thinking super deep and awesome thoughts, I happened a glance on a bookshelf with textbooks I’ve gathered over the years.

I saw the two books you see pictured here and did a little double-take. For a Friday “Where’s Waldo” exercise, do you see anything interesting about the two books?

OK, “interesting” is a stretch, but you probably noticed: they’re the same book! One is the first edition, one is the second. I was rather surprised and pulled them both down.

I have barely read either book. One was for college, the other was given to me by my first employer (you can blame me for not saving my company money, but I didn’t remember I had the first edition).

Here are some sad facts:

  • Despite them both being powerful references on my desk, despite me lugging them both thousands of miles over multiple moves, I hadn’t opened either for over 20 years. Not even once.
  • The likelihood of me ever cracking EITHER book again was pretty close to 0.0%.
  • The likelihood of me ever cracking BOTH books again was lower than an asteroid destroying the earth later today.

And yet, after my curious “Huh!”, I was just about to put them both back on the shelf.

Something made me pause and ask why I needed a first and second edition (of a book now on its 11th…). The only answer I could think of was doing a detailed academic analysis of all of the changes from the 1st to 2nd edition, which I’d get to right after I had achieved immortality and had finished doing every other possible activity ever.

Step 1 is to admit you have a problem.
Step 2 was to get rid of the 1st edition, which I did (yay!).
Step 3 is to accept that 1) I’m never again actually going to need help with some arcane corporate finance question; 2) even if I had a corporate finance question, I wouldn’t consult this book; and 3) I won’t be bequeathing this valuable historical tome to a grateful child. I should just chuck it. Still working on Step 3.

My Problem with Stuff

I sadly don’t have the “watch me as I get smarter” chops of many a personal finance blogger who have dug out of one jillion dollars in debt or who have just discovered compound interest (“it’s awesome!”).

But if having, and then overcoming, some flaw is the only way to really have credibility, then my troubled history with stuff definitely qualifies me as an expert. I’ve made big strides in recent years, and in the weeks to come you’re going to hear all about them. Stay tuned!

Major Personal Finance News: I Have a New Phone

In my quest to stay at most 3-4 years behind current cell phone technology, I “upgraded” my phone last week. Now I have an LG K10. Eat your heart out, iPhone 7.

It cost $79, and while I’m having trouble identifying any improvements over my old LG Optimus L9, I’m sure it has some.

While many will snicker at my outdated technology, I simply shift my frame of reference by a few years and remember I’m enjoying state-of-the-art technology from just a short time ago. I own one of the greatest phones – and technologies – in all of human history. Plus it’s cheap.

Travel Hacking Is Getting Harder

I’ve taken a little break from credit card hacking, but with the 2 year anniversary of my earning a signup bonus with IHG and Marriott, I was ready to dive back in.

I got the (Chase) IHG card a few weeks ago and just hit my $1,000 spend for the 80,000 bonus. Boom!

I then went for the (Chase) Marriott card, and yesterday got my decline letter for “too many credit cards opened in the last 2 years”. Yep, I finally fell afoul of Chase’s new “5/24 rule”, where they apparently limit you to five new cards every 24 months. The Points Guy mentioned it, but I had to see for myself. I certainly don’t blame Chase – I think it’s ridiculous they give these startup bonuses at all, much less multiple times. 

No worries – my spreadsheet is now updated to optimize the 5/24 rule, and I just went with Barclays for a different bonus.


U.S. universities have given us some great terms in recent years: safe spaces, trigger warnings, and now, microaggressions (“comments, snubs or insults that communicate derogatory or negative messages that might not be intended to cause harm”). It is shocking that I’m far less worried about the cost of college for my sons than I am the academic freedom and intellectual environment they may find there.

However, there is another option. Andrew at Asset Builder writes about going abroad for your university education. Turns out there are places with extremely cheap or even free education for Americans. Oh and they teach in English (but don’t consider microaggression a word). Yes, this sounds too good to be true. Yes, it’s probably a setup like the movie Hostel. But it’s free!

I have a hazy idea that someday I may teach financial literacy at a high school or something. I would be the bestest teacher ever, and all of my students would embrace an asset-based life, make awesome decisions forever, and spread my legacy across the land. Negative Nancy Nelson, as always, wants to rain on the parade and writes how financial literacy education doesn’t work. He may not realize it, but he’s just committed a grievous microaggression against me.

We’re not that clever, really. Not you – you’re brilliant, and I’m pretty OK too. But as a species we’ve got some problems. So reports the Economist on a study where financially-savvy people couldn’t maximize money (and some even went bust) betting on a rigged coin. The strategy of modest bets seems obvious, even if you don’t employ the Kelly Criterion to optimize the size of your bets.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Kelly Criterion (who isn’t?), PK at Don’t Quit Your Day Job has used his magical powers to create a calculator using it for general asset allocation. It’s an interesting application of a theoretical system to the real world.

The Market for President


The FBI re-opening an investigation on you typically doesn’t help your odds of being President, and we see that this week. The odds still imply Clinton is a heavy favorite, but I love that the Electoral College madness means that Evan McMullin could be our next President. That would be fun to explain to the rest of the world.

My son brought home his 4th grade Scholastic magazine the other day, and it covered the Presidential election.

It was the most positive, inspiring, democracy-defending periodical that I have read covering this year’s election. Both candidates were presented as very reasonable people with moderately different opinions on several key issues.

While we were reading it, my two boys asked for whom I’d vote. I used the Scholastic magazine to highlight the differences, talked about the qualities that would make a good President, and then asked them who was better. My Kindergartener said he would vote for his teacher, Ms. L. My 4th grader laughed and laughed but stopped when I said, “That’s a very good choice.” Confused, he asked, ““Is she better than both of them?” “Yes, I think she is.”

I think we’re all ready for the election to be over, and it’s worth bearing in mind that every candidate wants to serve the country (well, not Ms. L. – she doesn’t know she’s a write-in) and would try to make it better. Go vote on Tuesday, and we’ll hug out our differences Wednesday.

Teaser for New Posts

Next week will conclude the series of financial lessons from my HVAC. I’m as excited as you are!


Happy Friday everyone!


2 thoughts on “TGIF: My Problem with Stuff”

  1. Really enjoy the writing style in this blog! Glad I didn’t see this until today or I may have been tempted to write in Ms. L as well!

    1. Thank you!

      Ms. L. would have been an awesome President. She handles a Kindergarten class (or Congress) like a maestro, teaches teamwork and respect for others, and has zero tolerance for bullies. I’ll see what I can do to get her focused on the next election.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *