Portfolio and Other Updates – Q2 ’23

It’s been a year since our last update.

The S&P 500 fell by ~19% in 2022.  At 4446 today, it is 7% below it’s zenith at 4796 (Jan 3, 2022), and 24% above it’s lowest last year at ~3577 (in Oct).

As such, as of the end of Q2 2023, our nest egg (401k/457/403a/IRA + taxable brokerage accounts) has grown. Our portfolio rose by ~14% to the S&Ps 16%. The delta has to do with our our position in VYM (high yield dividend fund). Take that out, and our nest egg slightly outperforms the S&P 500.

I’m under no illusion that this is merely coincidental. I’ve long since appreciated the benefits of buying and holding the S&P 500 index funds. Indeed I believe it is the best approach for almost all folks – for 95% of investors per Charlie Munger.

As such, 87.5% of our investment holdings are in S&P 500 index funds. As for our Net Worth allocation, 37.5% is in real estate (primary residence and a rental property) and rest is in stocks.

We do not hold any bonds or international funds at the moment.

We need to strengthen our cash position to 3-6 months of expenses. This will take some doing given the rise in our expenses. Much of it is due to inflation and our new home.

But I’ve also had a philosophical shift with regards to spending. I turned forty last year. My daughter is three, and my wife has been very understanding of our need to live below our means for many years. So it’s time.

A lot of ‘older’ folks regret not spending when they were younger. With that wisdom, and the fact that we do not actually think we’ll ‘stop’ working anytime soon, we believe we can sustain a life style upgrade that still allows us to save a healthy 30-34% (just not the 55% we were between 2018-21).

The big downside of this mindset shift is that we now rely on both our incomes.

So where’s the money going?

We’ve had things we couldn’t avoid – plumbing, dental work, taxes, gifts (including charity, how wealthy?).

We also indulged in a few ‘fancy’ things. I learnt skiing last year (black diamond in my 8th trip to the mountains). I’m planning to teach my wife and daughter this winter. I hope they take to skiing as much as I have. It’ll be a wonderful family activity. I got seasons passes for all of us for this winter.

We got a new SUV in March. With my wife’s nursing schedules, we’ve needed an additional car for a while. We also need a stronger car to keep us safe. There’s a surge in reckless driving, and driving our small Honda Fit on the interstates is nerve wracking.

We made a refundable deposit on a Toyota Rav 4 (Hybrid, XLE Premium, Lunar Rock, $45K) last December. However, Tesla decreased the price of its Model Y in January from $66K to $55K, qualifying it for federal tax credits ($7.5K) and state tax credit ($2K for CO). That lowered the total cost of the Model Y to ~$48K (after charger installation, and Xcel Energy credit ~$500). So we cancelled our Toyota, and got the Model Y instead.

This is a significant upgrade for us. Our old and faithful Honda Fit has driven us all over the country and even to Canada in the last 12 years. I will forever be grateful for it’s services, and continue to believe that it is the best car in the world.

As a side note, my wife has never filled gas in a car. With the Tesla, she never will need to. I’m not sure I know of any driver who has never filled gas. Do you?

We also plan to travel every year. We’re going to Dublin and Amsterdam in Sept. I was willing to go anywhere outside the US so long as the tickets were cheap. About a month ago, I saw a few options – Lima (Peru), Santiago (Chile), Mexico City and Dublin (Ireland) – all priced around $1350 for three. We choose Dublin, then realized we can get to Amsterdam from Dublin for $234. So now we’re doing both in 9 days.

These are the searches from this morning. Remember, this is for a family for three.


All in all, we upgraded our lives. We’re still saving at a healthy rate, buying and holding S&P 500 index fund,  and we are still not spending needlessly.

Case in point, after nearly four years of remote working, I do not have a single pant that now fits. I refuse to part ways with them because I’m determined to fit back in. I’m very comfortable in my shorts and tracks.

Other then a $30 running shoes I got last year (which is very comfortable and looks like a thousand dollars when I step out of the Tesla), I don’t remember the last time I bought any clothing item. I’ve had my main winter jacket since high school, which makes it about 22 years old and it still looks new.

Did I mention I do my own haircuts? I only wish my wife let me do hers and my daughters.

Portfolio and Other Updates – Q2 ’22

I accepted a new job a week into our new home. It was a though call – leaving a comfortable job (and a good manager). But I’d been with the old job for over five years, and not having any managerial aspirations meant that there wasn’t any place higher to go. I was also not in the right industry. In that, I was measuring things no one should really care about, like internet speed.

After two years of promising interviews, I finally had an offer from the city – if there were jobs left and right, as was written all over the place, I did not see them. I have a title that fits what I do, and launches me in the direction I want to take. So even though the pay is only marginally better, the growth potential is superior. Most importantly, I’m working with such diverse and relatable metrics like crime rates, water treatment and cost of french fries.

The job comes with a 457 and a 401a plan. We also have a high deductible health plan that makes us eligible for the HSA. These can significantly lower our taxable income.

While this is great every year, it is particularly beneficial this year. We sold nearly 100K of VTI for our down payment, generating roughly $27K in capital gains. This translates to ~ 5K in taxes (per smartasset calculator). We’d really like to lower this, while simultaneously investing in our retirement accounts because:

    1. We want to keep investing, particularly now when the market’s down
    2. We’ve maxed our retirement accounts for the last 4-5 years, and don’t want to break this good habit, and forgo this incredible benefit
    3. We want to lower our taxable income
    4. We have rental income (a few hundred dollars this year, if that). I’m not sure how that’ll impact our taxes.

However, there are a few obstacles:

    1. We need money for our day to day expenses.
    2. We’ve been planning of a vacation in India and Nepal for later this year, since last year – so there’s no turning back now.
    3. We used up our emergency fund for down payment, some furniture and home repairs.
    4. Our rental property needed some repair. We are counting on it paying for itself now that these are done.
    5. Unexpected expenses.

I half thought of taking out a HELOC to cover some of our expenses. Then I came across this post:

How I Borrowed Over $250,000 at 0% Interest

I’ve decided to sign up for a 0% APR credit card to fund the rest of the year. This should allow us to contribute to our tax saving accounts and lower our taxable income. We’ll pay off the credit card next year, and then cut it up. The post explains this strategy in detail if you’re curious.

I haven’t calculated how much this will save us. But I think it is prudent to do whatever one can to hold on to ones capital in this economic climate.

Our investment portfolio is down by 15.23% (as of 07/21). We continue to maintain an aggressive position with ~98% in stocks. Our investment portfolio is approximately 50% of our net worth, the remaining 50% is in our primary home and rental townhome.

Ideally, we’d want most of our net worth in our investment portfolio – the more the better. But ~85% per Ilyse Glink on this Morningstar podcast (at around the 34 minute timestamp) feels about right.  I listened to this super episode many times, and thoroughly appreciate Ilyse’s tact/views/advice/wisdom.

Our stock portfolio is 86% broad market index funds (VTI, VTSAX, FXAIX).

I rolled over my 401K (with my old job) to an IRA (at Vanguard) a few weeks back. The process was surprisingly simple:

    1. I completed the 401k to IRA rollover form in Vanguard. Vanguard emailed me my IRA account details that I needed to provide my 401k administrator (Principal, in my case).
    2. I called my 401k administrator and told them that I wanted a “direct rollover”. This basically means that they’ll mail the check directly to Vanguard, and not to you – thus ensuring there is no tax consequence of any kind. The call lasted a friendly 6 minutes.
    3. Principle mailed Vanguard the check with the entire 401K amount within 2 days.
    4. The amount showed up in my Vanguard account in about a week, but I could not use it for another week.
    5. Once the amount became available for use, I immediately put it to work even though the market has been falling – into VTI and VYM (there’s something about dividends that I like).

Our (extremely optimistic) goals for the rest of the year (we’ll most likely miss them, but we’ll give them a shot):

    1. Max Mrs. Gofi’s 401K and my 457 ($20,500 * 2 = $41,000)
    2. Max our HSA ($7,300)
    3. Get a 0% APR credit card to fund our expenses for the rest of the year
    4. Start building an emergency cash fund, if possible

We’ve had big changes this year – a new home, a new job. However, our financial plans for the next couple of years remain the same:

    1. Max our pre-tax savings accounts – 401k ($20,500), 457 ($20,500), 2 Roths ($6,500 * 2), HSA ($7,300) for a total of $61,300. Given our new home payments, we’ll be happy if we save half those. However, once our daughter starts kindergarten in 2025, that should free up daycare costs (~$21,000).
    2. Build an emergency cash fund – we experienced high unexpected expenses this year, so we want to be prepared.
    3. Once we hit those, we’ll buy VTI with what we can spare – we want to build up our non-retirement accounts.
    4. We’d like to buy a hybrid SUV at some point. We love our Honda Fit, but the interstates feel rough and unpleasant. There’s also a small desire to hit the ski towns in the winters.

Portfolio and Other Updates – Q1 ’22

We closed on our new home in March, after a two years search, a hundred plus home tours. We saw prices swell, rates increase and buyers go berserk, shelling out tens of thousands over asking, snapping homes sometimes without seeing them. If a Tesla passed a home we’d just seen, we knew it was lost.

Even after we cast our net wider, our ‘forever’ home – a three bedroom, single family with a small backyard – felt distant. Perhaps if we waited another year, the frenzy might subside. Except we didn’t know if waiting was the right thing to do.

Because the one question I could never reasonably find an answer for was if they were even homes, the kind we wanted, in our price range, in and around Denver. Further out, new developments cram taller structures next to each other for significantly higher property taxes and absurd final prices.

By sheer luck, and there’s no other way to call this, perhaps God’s grace is more humble, and some bravado, we managed to get quite possibly the best home for us. How it came our way, I’m not sure, except we offered the most we could. But it should’ve still gone for a much higher price.

The home feels just right for us. It is larger, but not too much larger, prettier, but not too pretty, and sturdy. The neighborhood is clean and quite, and the schools are good. The only two downsides are Mrs. Gofi’s commute to work which now increases by 15 minutes, and our savings rate which decreases by 50% for the next three years. The latter should recuperate once our daughter starts kindergarten in 2025, and daycare is no longer required.

This purchase makes us ‘accidental’ landlords. The rent just about covers the mortgage payment, HOA and property management. We are not expecting any positive cashflow, but the equity should grow by ~$700/month or $8400/year. Our current equity on the home is about $200K, so that’s akin to a 4.2% ROI ($8400/$200000). Add home value appreciation to this rudimentary metric, and we can assume a reasonable total return. If, in a year, we feel like this is a drain, we will sell it.

In Q1,our investment portfolio dropped 3.31%, slightly less then the S&P500 which fell by 4.2%. Our net worth fell by 1.14%, despite 3 months of income added. Our asset allocation of ~98% stocks is as aggressive as it gets. But the stock position dilutes when home equity is added to the mix, to become ~61% stocks, ~38% home equity/real estate, ~1% cash.

We finally closed our Betterment accounts, and used the funds to get small positions in VXUS (International), VNQ (REIT) and TSM (Individual Stock) in Vanguard – goals we set last quarter.

Our plan for the next few years remains, in order:

  1. Max our Roth IRAs (done for the year)
  2. Fund our 401Ks, as much as we can
  3. Build a cash buffer equal to about six-seven months of expenses, ~$45K
  4. Once we hit those, we’ll buy VTI with what we can spare, irrespective of the market – we’ll dollar cost average

Where does all this leave us? I think we are in track for FI. In ten years, if we’re still working, it should be out of choice, not necessity. And that has always been the goal, to build a portfolio that will give us options to do as we please.

We also have a change in our outlook this quarter. My father passed away last year, and he could’ve enjoyed life slightly more, in a better house perhaps. It was sudden, just a month after his physicals for a trip to visit us. He uplifted many lives, generously giving away (about half his wealth, to be precise). He didn’t quite fit the mold of his contemporaries, preferring to always shoot straight. He was strong and incredibly stoic, enough to convince me that he’d beat the ailment that took him to the surgery room.

My father was one of a kind, sometimes even godly. I know I will never be able to fill his boots, but I will try to live the fuller life he missed, starting with going bold on the new home. Because, well, why not. Because in the end, we are all dust and spirit. And his, our Buddhist monks have confirmed, now lives with his deity.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, and Warren Buffet says it with better wit: “It’s nice to have a lot of money, but you know, you don’t want to keep it around forever. I prefer buying things. Otherwise, it’s a little like saving sex for your old age.”

That said, we will be careful and prudent. Perhaps, a bit more active. I don’t think that’s too unreasonable.

Portfolio Update – 2021

We trailed the S&P500 24.09% to 26.89% in 2021. Take our cash positions out, and the gap shrinks further. 2021 was an incredible year to be in the market.

Our net worth increased a whopping 42% (savings rate + market gains). Market returns exceeded our savings.

Our strategy is simple and has worked for us. We:

    1. Save one income. We’re a two income household.
    2. Maximize 401 K and Roth contributions
      1. 401K reduces taxable income and there’s a small company match
      2. We maxed our Roth contribution for 2022 last week. Before you think we make serious dough, realize that the fact we’re eligible for Roth contributions means we don’t. We used cash in our emergency funds. Waiting for the interest rates to rise would’ve been better, but we wanted to get this done.
    3. Our asset allocation sits aggressively at 90.5% stocks and 9.5% cash. Our stocks are 100% in index funds.
      • We park our emergency funds in VMRXX (Vanguards money market fund) and in  I Bonds, which yields 7.2%, adjusts for inflation, and is a no brainer.
      • While we’re not dividend investors, VTI has a 1.14% yield. We also have a very small position in VYM. Naturally, we track them ‘rudimentarily’ (this does not include dividends in our 401Ks).
      • Our daughter’s CO 529 plan is invested entirely VITSX (VTI’s institutional variant). We want to fund this aggressively initially to give it more compounding years.
    4. We track our expenses, but don’t budget. We spend where we must.
      • We spent $72,203 last year (inline with previous years), a steep $6,000 a month. We need to trim this down, somehow. Smarter folks manage this a lot better.
      • We completed some dental work (see “Misc” in the charts).
      • We are providing monthly allowance to two boys in India, both orphaned young. One wore a croc he’d found in the trash last winter. We’ll try to see them through college. This is not a cheap pledge, but it’s manageable given the dollar’s strength and India’s relatively low costs. Consider this investing in the karmic space. In fact, we want to add two girls to make this even.

5. We do not hustle, play credit cards, individual stocks, or crypto/nft/DeFi/blockchain (although I’m curious and open to ideas – here’s why, why and why).

Along with that,  I’ve been particularly curious about the Metaverse. Imagine grocery shopping on Walmart’s 3D produce aisle, entire social networks set up in 3D, sporting events, concerts, consulting experts – this could really stretch. Fortunately, VTI includes companies already dabbling into the space, including one that even changed it’s name to fit the bill, Meta.

Vanguard’s economic and market outlook for 2022 that came out in Dec states the following:

Given such projections and given that we are at a stage where we can explore a little, if only to learn, we will be a little fancy in 2022. We will:

    1. Increase our international position by buying more VXUS
    2. Get into REITS. I looked into Fundrise, but I like VNQ better for the convenience. In particular, I prefer the easy access to our funds with VNQ.
    3. Get a single family home. We’ve been looking for more then a year, but the markets swung unfavorably. Our small townhome is a room short. We need more runway. A new home will improve the quality of our lives.

I am excited about the future. The market may not yield the same returns. It might even revert to some lower mean. But we have been very fortunate with the gains we’ve had these last few years.

A few fundamentals will never change:

    1. We will remain unshakably VTSAX in the core.
    2. We will never stop investing in stocks.
    3. We will never sell. We never have.

We still need a lot more to be truly ‘FI’, but I am happy and content. What gives me joy is that we are on track, that we are taking the right steps. What gives me joy are my wonderful wife and daughter. I will continue to keep my feet on the ground.

To that end, to toil, prudence and humility,
A Happy, Safe and Active 2022 to all.

Quarterly Update – Q3 ’21 – time and tide wait for none

A few weeks back, my mother sent me a family picture that included an uncle I hadn’t seen since 2011. My uncle struggled for many years before he became prosperous, enough to build a sense of entitlement, and even strain ties when they didn’t suit him.

I’ve seen fortune change many close relatives over the years. Money seems to sway my kind, from traditionally less affluent cultures, effortlessly.

I’ve seen fortunes come and go, and ties break in a manner no repair can fully mend. Over the years, I’ve learnt not to linger on these events. I intend to stay grounded. I like stealth.

Instead, I focus on how incredibly fortunate I have been. I read a while back that the face you take into your forties is the face you keep for life. I’m determined to take a happy, positive face into my forties. And why not? I have a wonderful wife, healthy parents, and a happy daughter who is quickly becoming her own person.

Perhaps, I’m already as rich and happy as any man can be.

We’re at coastFI, and don’t intend to actually retire, not early early. We’ve saved aggressively since 2016 and we can afford to take our foot off the pedal every now and then.

We should not have to wait till retirement to live the life we want.

As such, we plan to buy a bigger house to give our daughter more runway, a reading nook and us some space. We’ll travel a few times a year. Our Honda Fit is probably good for ten more years, but I wouldn’t mind a Honda CRV-hybrid.


Our net worth increased by 3.7% in Q3. Even with the S&P 500 dropping by 4.7% in September, our net market gains YTD exceeds our actual savings. It is important to note that the true gains come more from the dollars we invested early on than those from recent times.

YTD, we trail the S&P500 14.7% to 13%. But take our cash position out, and our performance almost mirrors the S&P500 at 14.34%.

Our investment allocation is 92% stocks and 8% cash. Our stock portfolio has:

VTSAX / VTI / FXAIX / Wells Fargo’s variant (no ticker): 75.9%
VYM: 3.9%
VGT: 2.4%
Betterment 100% stock allocation: 9.6%

Our aggressive allocation is a result of maximizing our retirement accounts. Since they’re invested entirely in broad market index funds, we’ve ended up owning more stocks than any other asset class. We maxed both our Roths ($12,000) and 401Ks ($39,000) for the year. We are probably done buying stocks for the year.

We make an exception for our daughter’s Colorado 529 plan (all in VTSAX). We contribute $400 towards the 529 every month, with an occasional additional contribution. The idea to build it up significantly when she’s young and let that compound.

We intend to further add to our cash position for the rest of the year.

We spent $52,160 YTD, less YTD than in all previous years. But take out $31,332 that go into our mortgage and daycare, our expenses are a measly and unbelievable $20,828. This includes a trip to Cancun, several other outings, and a fully well lived YTD. We track our expenses because I enjoy looking at numbers, but do not keep a budget.

Our plan for the rest of the year is to is to build up cash. We’ll use most of it max our Roth IRAs in Jan 2022.

We want to travel every year going forward.  We’ll start with international cities that Denver has direct flights to. We did London and Paris in 2019, Cancun this year, and Puerto Rico in 2016.

We’ve done lots of road trips stretching every which way in our trusty Honda Fit. Come of think of it, I should really log these. It’s incredible how many we’ve done and forgotten.

As for our trips going forward, I’m thinking we’ll start with a package tour to either Japan, or Europe in 2022.

(make what you will of this), but count your blessings

“Tomorrow’s my day off,” Alberto mentions as he serves me my morning coffee. So in case I was leaving that weekend, he was most likely indicating, may be leave him a good tip.

We were at an all inclusive resort in Cancun last week. Our first. Cancun is a hot and humid place. But if you wake up early enough to sit facing the sea with your reading material and coffee, it is lovely.

As the day heats up, folks fuel themselves with alcohol and kids behave as kids do, the pool feels suspicious. I find it best to relax, and chat up with the resort employees if they can spare the time.

Aaron, 53, stands on one side of the beach to keep trespassers away. He lived in St. Louis for fifteen years before, I guess, he was forced back. He made $15 an hour in St. Louis. He makes $1 an hour now.

“Have you tried running over?,” I ask, after we’d talked a while.

“8 times”, he says, laughing.

He points to a deck some 100 yards away and says, “sometimes that’s how close the US interstate was”.

“May be you practice running,” I joke.

It takes a while for the $1 to sink in. Imagine working for a week and making $40. No wonder he tried several times. I certainly would.

He used to be a therapist. “But now you also have to do other things like hair dressing, and I don’t have a certificate for that,” Aaron tells me.

“What about retirement?,” I ask.

“I want to start a business with my son in Mexico City,” he tells me.

“What business?”

“Pigs, we will raise pigs.”

I hand him $5 and tell him to take a half day off.

At dinner, Karina has been our waitress the entire week. She has 2 kids, works from 1 to 10 PM and commutes an hour each way.

Alberto and Felix, who’ve served us breakfast this week, are probably in their sixties – as old as my father.

On our flight back, I ask my wife’s nephew what he was doing the next day. “I’m buying a phone”, he says indifferently. He lost his phone on our last day in Cancun. He’s in high school, works part time at a mall.

On Upwork, I came across a profile from Pakistan offering the same services that I do at work. His rate? $2 an hour.

I’m not sure if Bill Gates actually said this, but it resonates: “It’s not your mistake to be born poor, but it is your fault to die one (in America)”.

Assuming no unexpected misfortunes, like health issues, one really has to question why one would be poor in America. With the opportunities we have, hard work can really go a long way. But even God, I read as a child, helps only those who help themselves.

On my way to Costco this morning, I pass several homes in a not-so-desirable neighborhood. Still, parked on most driveways are multiple SUVs and fancy cars.

We are incredibly fortunate that with some planning and hard work we can achieve FI. For a lot of people in the poorer world, there is no such thing. Life can be incredibly unfair.

I really hope Aaron is able to raise his pigs. And Karina’s 17 year old son goes to University. As for Alberto and Felix, they ask me to leave a good review on Facebook.

I do that, and leave the two $50 each so they can enjoy their day off.

Portfolio Update – Q2 ’21

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck – Dalai Lama

One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through resumes of college professors. Somewhere in my subconscious still dwells dreams I once had of becoming a college professor – of the prestige and recognition (of being smart).

Now I’m not sure if it is shallow to want prestige and recognition – to each his own. But low profile and stealth can be just the ingredients needed to build an unassuming happy life. There is something to be said about the kind of sobriety and level headedness low profiles bring.

In hindsight and for all practical purposes, not getting that PhD was probably a blessing in disguise for me. I have to say that, right?

A friend, who’s been on and off “doctoral” jobs every few years, messaged me just the other day saying she was struggling to find her next job. Another friend (and his wife) are both professors at a rural college making less money while working more than they like. That’s not to say they aren’t happy. But could they be better positioned? I had a colleague who sat next to me for two years doing similar work which certainly did not need a PhD.

These anecdotes are not meant to dismiss the highest degree there is. I admire the life of learning they lead. Deep down, I aspire one myself. Their constant push for results to publish. A friend published six times every year in as many years, while I spent my six years bumbling.

The thing with a PhD is that once you have it, it’s hard to bend down. You wouldn’t buy a Tesla to go shopping at Walmart, would you?

In a strangely detrimental way, FI has allowed to me take it easy. May be FI is for the less ambitious, for those desiring less. Or may be that’s just me. I’ve never had to be on full throttle.

I am extremely grateful at the way my life has unfolded. I have a wonderful wife and daughter. We are incredibly fortunate to have a steady life. I’m not sure a PhD would’ve done that for us, at least not at the same pace.

For the last two years, our market returns have exceeded our savings. Much of that has to do with our aggressive allocation in a really good market. 89% of our net worth is in broad market index funds (primarily VTSAX / VTI FXAIX, and small positions in VYMVGT, and VTIAX).

These track the market, and as such, we see the same gains (minus the expenses). We benefit from the minds and progress of great companies and ambitious people, even when we may have little of both ourselves. A 6.37% gain in a single quarter for a cubicle dweller feels unreal.

We spent less YTD than in all previous years. Our annual expense seems to hover around $70K – about half of which is our mortgage (we made some extra payments in prior years, but don’t anymore with Day Care coming into play).

Our 401Ks are almost maxed out for the year. We maxed our Roths in the first quarter. And unless there is a sharp decline in the markets (compelling us to buy more VTI in our non retirement accounts), we intend to cash up on a down payment for a bigger home in a year or two – once the frenzy sobers down.

the thing about greed

I’ve started walking again. But more then the walking, I enjoy daydreaming during these walks – on how my world would’ve changed if – and lately it’s been all about AMC – if we had all our emergency fund in AMC when the year began. Especially after we’d already seen GameStop earlier.

Our $40K would’ve grown by 2837.31% to become  1.1 million.

Then again, given my track record on holding individual stocks, I would’ve been out of the game a lot earlier.

Before I discovered index funds, I held a few stocks – Tesla, before it split 5 ways. I’m not even going to bother checking what they’d be worth today. Suffice to say, it’s grown over a 1000% since. I sold them at a 100% gain.

If only I hadn’t been greedy.

Around the time I had Tesla, I also had China Digital. It doesn’t even have a ticker symbol now. I could’ve sold this at a 100% gain as well.

If only I hadn’t been greedy. You see, the thing with greed is that there’s no escaping it. You’re greedy if you sell. You’re greedy if you don’t.

(I actually still have this in my brokerage account and I’m not sure how to sell this given it is $0)

I don’t regret these losses (and there’s a few more like that, one where even the company website just vanished). I’m just grateful these experiences came early for me to realize I was not going anywhere with stock picking. I mean, what do you make of someone who holds both Tesla and China Digital? I’m just grateful that these failures led me to Index funds.

With index funds, it’s a different game. Our bet is on American resilience, in the hope that everyone does well. I believe this to be a better game to play, and worth staying in the field (to say nothing of the fact that they actually perform better is almost karmic).

One must believe in Warren

The 2021 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting is on Yahoo Finance. For those uninterested in SEC filings, annual reports and the likes, or like me are without financial wiz/acumen/moat, Buffett recommends buying the S&P 500 Index fund, and staying put.

He shows the zero overlap between the largest 20 companies now and in 1989 (30 years ago) to make his point. By owning an S&P 500 index fund, you’re basically ensuring the next 20 largest companies are in your portfolio 30 years on (or actually, at every given point in time).

On a personal note, our own portfolio has an all in tilt on US stocks, and while we’ve benefited from that, there’s no telling what the geographic make up of the next largest companies will come from.

Jack Ryan shares a similar view, if you need more validation.

Much about nothing

How disconcerting is the market? I’d take 12% gains for the year, any year. But the same in the first quarter is something to think about. I’m hoping I’m mentally prepared when the next fall comes. I held on last march – in fact, I’m surprised how little it bothered me.

Much of that has to do with reading and watching enough Bogle, Buffett and the likes of them.  We bet on American resilience. We realize that over a larger time horizon, a year or two of recession is a blip, an opportunity, a sale. Of course, one has to be prepared – an emergency fund, a secure job (make yourself as indispensable as possible), a prudent lifestyle.

We’re incredibly fortunate we’re participating in the market. Not every one is. I have friends and family who aren’t – either because they do not appreciate how incredible it is to have your dollars working for you, or because they simply don’t make enough to save.

But to a large extent, I think it’s because, and I heard this from a wise person recently, it used to be that Income – Savings = Expenses, now Income – Expenses = Savings.

On a more philosophical note, I really like this from Einstein:

“A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.”

If you like this, you’ll like these as well.

When I first started this post, it was going to be about how I’ve noticed the market surge most mornings. VTI was up 0.41% within the first hour, having ended the prior day up by 0.36% (see VTSAX).

I actually like that VGT (the tech etf) fell as VTI rose. It tells me that the non-tech companies in VTI are doing well. Likewise, I also like VTI and VYM (dividend etf) outpacing the S&P500 index. They are indicative of small cap companies and value stocks doing better then the index.

Of course, all that changed a few hours later.

If this volatility is unnerving, it is perhaps best not to look at the individual companies that make up these funds.

Update, next morning: The market surges again, first thing in the morning.


These are the funds we own (except VBTLX and VTIAX). We also own FXAIX, which is Fidelity’s version of VTSAX. I like seeing both VTSAX and VTI together because VTSAX shows me what happened the previous day, while VTI is live. I also like to see how bonds and int’l are doing so I have VBTLX (bonds) and VTIAX (int’l) on the watchlist. 

Portfolio Update – Q1 ’21

I was pleasantly surprised to find an additional $3,500 in my bank account this morning. Just last week, we had guests from NY who told us they didn’t get any stimulus checks. And here we were, getting most it. Were we poor?

It turns out that because we maxed out 401ks, our taxable income lowered to where we qualified for the checks. We also made less in 2020 and they’d based the initial stimulus checks on our 2019 returns. So the IRS made the adjustment, which also included a belated but generous birthday gift to our little Gofi.

A while back, I read about how earnings and savings are key to net worth in the initial stages of wealth accumulation. At a certain point, your investments pick up and exceed your income and savings. The idea is to get to that mark as soon as possible. And the earlier you start, the earlier you get there.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and I don’t have any aptitude for individual stocks. We have faith in America, and we buy that instead. Every now and then, when a Gamestop happens, I allow myself to dream. But we don’t really need to play that game anymore.

We invest, as and when we can, in spite of the market. We maxed our Roth IRA earlier in the year, and intend to max our 401Ks by fall. Our allocation remains aggressive, with over 88% of our net worth in S&P 500 tracking index funds (primarily VTSAXVTI , FXAIX, and small positions in VYM, VGT, and VTIAX). We trailed the S&P 500: 5.73% to 5.77% this quarter.

VTIVX (Vanguard’s Target Retirement 2045 Fund), which at 88.4% stocks resembles our allocation exactly at this point, grew by 5.18% this quarter.

We hold nearly 10% of our net worth in cash. We’re hoping to use it towards a down payment in the future or buy more VTSAX during a downturn – whichever comes first.

We spent $17,062 this quarter. More than half of that go into day care and mortgage.

Our plan forward remains unchanged. Once we max our 401ks, we’ll divert the spare funds into our non-retirement accounts and buy more VTSAX.

We are incredibly fortunate to be where we are. The hope is to be of use to others once we’re FI.

Portfolio Update – 2020

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – who else but Dickens.

One reason why I’m a history fan is because it helps put things into perspective. It helps us understand ourselves as human beings, and appreciate our lives. We’ve been incredibly fortunate this year. We’ve been healthy, and we held on to our jobs. Many others have not been as lucky.

Perhaps there’ll be no better time then now to reflect back on what we could’ve done to position ourselves better. We could start looking for better jobs, for greater stability and pay. Both these will require us to be really, really good at what we do. So we need to keep learning to make ourselves the best we can become.

We must save. This year has shown us how helpless uncertainties can make us. The least we can do is to save as much as can, while we can. If you’re two income household like we are, can you save one income? Can you live in a smaller home, or move to a cheaper city? If you flip burgers, does it make more sense to move out of San Francisco. Texas probably consumes more burgers anyway. Could you do with one car? A cheaper car? As a country, housing and automobiles are our biggest expenses, so a handle on those go a really long way.

I’ll add one more to this list – daycare.

Our savings were very small just a few years ago. The gains on those felt insignificant. But we kept saving. We are every-day people making regular income. But for the last two years, we made more money from the market then we saved. In other words, it feels like we now have a third person in the team working harder than we do.

We trailed the S&P 500: 15.18% to 16.26%.  The trailing has to do with our allocation, which is 86% stocks, 10% cash, and rest in bonds and other unclassified positions. Perhaps we should track our performance against Vanguard’s Target Retirement 2045 Fund (VTIVX) which is 89.5% stocks (but at 16.30% YTD, we trailed it as well).

Our stock positions are in: 90.8% S&P 500 tracking index funds: VTSAX / VTI / FXAIX / Wells Fargo’s variant (no ticker), 5% VYM, 3.4% VGT, and 0.7% VTIAX.

We have very small positions in VTIAX and VBTLX. VMMXX holds our emergency fund and is currently 10% of our net worth. The yield on this is abysmal (and I should really move this elsewhere).

All said, our current savings is almost 53% in retirement accounts (401K and Roth IRA) and the remaining 47% in non-retirement accounts.

We track our dividends even though we aren’t dividend investors (other then the 5% invested in VYM). It is just nice seeing them come. We averaged $394 in monthly dividends this year.

We saved almost the same amount as we did last year.

We spent $69,509 in 2020. $32,525 (46.8%) of that in mortgage.  And $36,9936 on the rest. In other words, it wouldn’t take much to live if we didn’t have a mortgage.

We live in a small townhome in Denver, drive a Honda fit (my wife occasionally takes Uber/Lyft). The biggest change for us this year has been the arrival of our daughter. We expect to pay over $20,000 in part-time day care in 2021. Day care is expensive.

Our plans remain unchanged for 2021. We’ll max our Roth IRA and 401K accounts, and invest the remaining funds in our taxable accounts, primarily VTSAX. Should we have any money to spare, we will also buy more VYM, VTIAX, and VGT every time they fall by 1% or more.

We also started a Colorado 529 plan for our daughter. All of it in VTSAX.

Financially, it’s been a good year for us. We were disciplined with our savings. We didn’t sell when the market fell in March, and kept dollar cost averaging through the year. Covid has made us appreciate the pursuit of FI even more. If everyone stocked up on their savings, like they did food and supplies this year, we would all ease our difficult times considerably.

And as we age, we will all find it increasingly more difficult to compete with the younger and smarter generation. Our jobs are not guaranteed. So it is paramount that that we act now when we can – get better at what you do, and save. Only the fit will survive (well).

Summer is around the corner, and I have a lot of hope for 2021. May we all be better tomorrow than we are today. Happy New Year.

what gofi has in mind for 2021

Years ago, an incredibly successful friend, I’d met after many years, revealed to me how he thought I’d have reached much higher grounds by then. He meant well. I had meandered in my ways. Many years on, I still take the easier, less risky path.

Much of it has to do with my upbringing. My folks are sober, quite people who shun flamboyance. I’ve inherited those qualities. So when footballers celebrate touchdowns (they way they do), I find those exaggerated and distasteful.

Over the years, I’ve learnt not to judge, and to keep an open mind. Get on with the game, will you? Or dance, if that floats your boat.

So while I have healthy roots, I have not grown wings. I’m setting a few attainable goals to rectify this. And tracking them to keep me straight. I’m not shooting for the stars.

I plan to sleep earlier (9:30), eat more fiber, less carbs and walk more (then run, baby permitting). I must weigh 155 lbs by year end, and a runner in a few years.

We plan to max our retirement accounts: 2 Roths and 2 401Ks ($12,000 + $39,000 = $51,000). Then push whatever remains to our taxable non-retirement accounts. In sum, one income must be saved, and then a bit more if it’s not hurting. See portfolio updates for our allocation breakdown.

I must learn everyday, on all things data – machine learning, better techniques, best practices. This is my long term investment. I must have done some machine learning work by year end.

I’ll spend more time with my wife and daughter, call my parents regularly. I’ll smile often, listen more, talk slowly and clearly, and watch less TV.

I will not fear change, switch jobs if that advances long term prospects. And I will certainly not compare myself to others.

To grit, guts and ambition.

I track my goals here.

Stealth, and what’s in a few years?

I’ve seen a few promotions at work this month. They’re all driven and friendly people – able to maneuver through the politics. There’s some grind, but their focus is partial – a lot of it self serving .

I say as I see it. Your experience may be different. Their projects are promising but incomplete, and will probably remain that way until either the requirements change to suit them, or it gets handed down to an unexpecting subordinate.

I am not good at making promises. There are many hard working folks who don’t get the spot light. I am one one them.

My last raise came a year and a half ago, after much deliberation – even after my manager had six months previously told me that he’d do the talking. As much as I like him for the good person he is, I’m convinced he won’t bring it up unless I don’t engage him first.

I have a few dilemmas. Firstly, I’m not sure how much I’m worth. One of the promotions came to a guy who basically sourced my files (without asking me) and built several dashboards around them. The more difficult and clever part is the scrubbing I do. That work is invisible.

I do not envy his promotion. I actually like the guy, and he does work hard. But surely if the rewarding was on merit, I should’ve been rewarded as well.

(Those others who were promoted, by themselves, don’t really do anything – but I guess that’s the nature of their jobs. Or is it? It’s just a skill I don’t have.)

I could jump ships. I could even bluff, tell my manager I have another offer. That’d scare him into making amends. But I want to play it safe when FI is on the horizon. I think it is wiser to finish the game well, while I have it beat, and save these fights for my post-FI career.

I also have a daughter now. And that’s made me more risk averse.

That said, I may be underestimating my worth. I’m better at my job than all my peers with similar titles. I do more, and more complex work. A colleague who sat next to me moved on to a much advanced title last year. To think I used to help him with very trivial things makes me wonder how he’s managing now.

The one thing that all these people have in common is a natural aggression and drive that I lack. They can also talk. I keep a low profile. I like my feet on the ground. The millionaires next door, everyday ordinary folks, are my heroes. But I sure don’t want to be that guy in office space (the guy with the staplers).

I’m also beginning to feel a certain lightness. I’m less bothered by what I feel are unfair. I’m less bitter. I do not feel the need to fight – not that I was, but I would, internally. I’m not FI, but it’s on the horizon and already unfolding its many benefits. There’s more contentment, a bit more sense of security, and positivity. I’m basically a more pleasant person.

I do want to keep growing, especially in ways that are currently risky and uncomfortable. I’m saving those for a post-FI life. That should come, if the market stays steady, in 3-4 years.


Update (12/18): A 5% raise has come. Just last week, a recruiter called me for a slightly higher position that pays 30% more. I told her I was interested. I’m going to have to make some bold decisions in 2021.

Have you seen a better chess game?

I had to post this. How about this, eh? Thrilling. I took almost all the opponent’s pieces at a loss of a pawn and a bishop.

I’ve been playing chess (the blitz games) on lichess  (awsome app, no ads) for many years now. I am not a trained player. I do not study games. I do not think about it. And hence my rating is what it is. But there are life lessons I take from it everyday.

There are many times where I’ve won from hopeless situations. Sometimes it’s fortune, other times it’s a move I wouldn’t have known I had if I had quit, most times it’s just (stubborn) grit – to finish what I started. Perseverance is probably a better word but I prefer grit. It wears more sweat and salt.

Of the three, fortune, skill and grit, grit is also really the only trait we can control. And my experiments with chess keep reminding me of the maxim we all know but need constant reminding: that the harder I practice, the luckier I get.

And by extension, the more I know, the more luck I have.

To quit robs away the chance of a come back, of the valuable lessons to take to the next game. Because there is always a next game. To truly appreciate grit and it’s power to unfold incredible “luck”, one has to play.

My own incredible chess game is a great example of this. Despite my thrill at decimating my opponent, s/he did not give up, played time instead to eventually win.

The other thing about grit is that often times a loss does not feel like one. My own personal experience of spending hours on reports that do not see light validates this – with my skills just a bit more enhanced.

Angela Duckworth does an infinitely better job at inspiring us on this topic – more scientifically than my anecdotal experiences. And you could also read these lovely quotes to begin a wonderfully productive weekend.

Portfolio Update – Q3 ’20

How things turn, from the lows in March to new heights, and the recent corrections. We can make guesses as to why these happen but if you ignored the noise and kept chipping in, you’d still be on the up.

That’s been our story since we pursued FI in 2016. We buy the market with a portion of every paycheck, irrespective of where it is. We place our faith in the US economy, and grind on.

We are firm on the few things we can control.

We don’t keep a budget, but track our expenses. Housing and daycare aside, our other expenses at ~$23K YTD would suggest we’re frugal. We are not. We do not deny ourselves for the sake of saving. But there aren’t many things one really needs once the basics are covered.

Though there are some things I think make no sense.

Like owing two cars IF/when one could do. I understand some households may not have a choice – work locations and schedules may not sync. However for those whose vehicles sits parked in the garage most of the time, they could probably make do with one vehicle.

My wife drives to work. I biked to the light rail station, then took the train to work (before covid). It’s environmentally friendly, and supports public transportation (which, by the way, we should all support).

We’ve owned a Honda fit since 2011. 90k miles and almost ten years on, she can easily drive us for ten more. The Fit is a practical car – pocket friendly, minimal, and has a surprisingly large cargo space.  Almost everyone we know have two or more cars – usually a sedan and an SUV. That’s two times the payment, insurance and maintenance.

That said, I must confess that I’ve always wanted an SUV. And now that we have a daughter, I can even justify owning one. I can imagine driving my daughter to school and to all her activities in one. I can imagine family trips and cross country drives (starting with one to Canada). But I’m not sure I can part with $40K at the moment. Call it delayed gratification, but someday I will enjoy a higher vantage point.

The same goes for housing. I’ve always believed in living close to work, but don’t see why we have to anymore. With the option to work from home and with job security being less of a concern the closer one gets to FI, a move to a bit more openness for our daughter to run and play in is in our 3 year realm. We want a single family home in the suburbs when our daughter starts school. She’ll need her space, and we will as well.

One of my dreams is to have a small backyard office/space/retreat where I could read, watch games, write poor poetry, and contemplate.

The plan, once we’re FI, is keep our FI dollars at work, and take more fulfilling jobs to cover our expenses. The focus will shift to family and personal development.

Finally, after all that diversion, this is what did in quarter 3.

We refinanced, to 2.74% from 4.25%, to 20 years from 30 and our payment is a $100 less. We have decided not to make extra payments. Given the low rate, it makes more sense for our dollars to work elsewhere.

We maxed our 401Ks this quarter, and our Roth IRA last quarter. We’ll funnel our savings into our taxable non-retirement account for the rest of the year, splitting between VTSAX, VBTLX and cash.

Our allocation remains aggressive at about 84% stocks, invested in S&P 500 tracking index funds, primarily VTSAX. We hold small positions in VYM, VGT and VBTLX.

We have a healthy six month emergency fund parked in VMMXX. The yield is abysmal, and we could do better with a little research.

YTD, we trail the S&P 500 because our allocation includes our other positions – mainly our emergency fund.  Take those out, and we’d be in line with the index.

On the non-financial side, we’ve hardly had any personal time since our daughter was born.

Between my wife and I, one of us is either working or taking care of our daughter at any given time. I look after her when my wife works – nights and weekends. My wife sees to her when she’s not working (and I am). We still need to send her to daycare for 2-3 days a week.

I miss the hours I used to have, when I read blogs, watched YouTube to learn and enhance my skills. I became a smarter and a better worker. My progress has plateaued this year given how little time I’m able to give to this aspect of my personal growth. It has been a source of some bother and I’ve decided to be ‘selfish’ to rectify this.

I’ve always given more than 40 hours to my work and set unreasonable expectations. I get paid for only the 40, and the extra hours have not resulted in more pay, just more work. As such, I’ve decided to give the extra hours I used to give my work to myself.

That said, I am grateful and happy to have a job I enjoy. I could be making more, but between my wife and I, we make enough to make FI possible in 5 to 10 years. And when that comes, I want to move on to more meaningful works.

Portfolio Update – Q2 ’20

We’re down 3.04% for the year which isn’t so bad considering we were down 22% in Q1. That was a quick recovery – one I thought would take two years. It’s almost as though it never happened. So in my head, I’m thinking that a recession is still overdue.

We’re not conservative in anyway – we’re about 87% stocks. But there’s more at stake now – a bit more money than in years past and a baby that’s brought about an increase in expenses and a decrease in income with Mrs. Gofi working slightly less. The baby starts daycare this week, and that costs about the same as our mortgage.

We increased our cash holdings this quarter to about 12% of our net worth. We sold out the non-retirement portion of Mrs Gofi’s Betterment account. It was a 70% stock allocation over the last few years that didn’t meet our expectation.

Besides, we want to keep it simple and move everything to Vanguard. So now only a part of our Roth IRA accounts are still with Betterment. We’ll move those to Vanguard too, as soon as I start working from my office where I have access to a printer. It is a poor excuse for not having done it already.

The cash holding does a few things for us. We now have some fodder in case the market dips again, this winter, should covid strike back, and after the elections.

We are also not averse to buying a single family home in the suburbs. We are currently in a 2 bedroom town home with no space for the baby to run around. Also, our town home would be our first foray into rental territory. We’d just about break-even after expenses and property management. Our initial plan was to start looking once the baby turned 3-4 years old. And that is still the plan, but should we come across something that suits us, the cash holding will help.

A rental property would also diversify our asset allocation.

Compared to past quarters, our investments in Q2 slacked a bit. Mrs. Gofi was on maternity leave so only a part of my income went into my 401K.

So what do we have?

My retirement account is 100% invested in WellsFargo’s S&P 500 tracking index fund (no ticker symbol). Mrs. Gofi has hers with Fidelity – 100% FXAIX. We have our Roth IRAs in Vanguard (100% VTI) and Betterment (pending roll over into Vanguard).

Our non-retirement investments are 82% VTI/VTSAX (82%), 10% VYM (10% ) and 8% VGT.

Our cash holdings are parked in VMMXX.

We do not have any bonds, or international exposure (other than those that come via VTSAX) at the moment. There is a case for strong home bias, but we believe the US to do well on the long run.

I am a little vary of covid, and how it’ll behave this winter. The year is already half over – and we still don’t have a remedy.

Our plan for Q3 are to continue saving as much as we can. It won’t be the same as before, but we should be able to max our 401 Ks by Q3 end. We’ll then split whatever remains between VTI and cash.

The priorities of an everyday man

Our daughter turned two weeks yesterday.

For two weeks, I woke up at 6, having woken up at least twice during the night, to begin a daily grind – prepare breakfast, store dry dishes, wash everything in the sink, tidy the place, help wife feed baby, prepare lunch, run around trying to find something, move things, prepare dinner, wash one thing or another through the day, prepare to go to bed, make a few more runs, move more things.

In my old life, I woke up, washed up and left for work. When I returned, I cleaned up, put something together and settled with my iPad.

My wife asks for as little as possible. But with a 3 degree tear, I’ve had to do some running in the house. At night, she lets me be except she’s hardly had any good sleep herself. But there’s little I can do when the baby wails. The baby’s inherited my appetite and temperament. Fortunately for me, my wife’s a fighter.

I’m not sure I’ve managed the last two weeks efficiently. My old life had time. I’m at the mercy of a baby now. I realize I must not allow myself to settle just because we have a baby. That I list things I must absolutely keep.

Because what gets listed gets done.

I’d like to be healthier and leaner:

  1. I’ve had a sudden urge to run ever since my daughter was born. I’m not sure why. In my head, I imagine leading a very active life with my wife and daughter. I’ve never ran, not as a runner. In fact, I didn’t think I could do distance until last year when I went from not being able to run a mile to running five.
  2. I want to bring my weight down from 175 lbs to 155 lbs.
  3. I’d like to eat less carbs, more fibers. That’d also simplify our eating habit – less time to prepare, less dishes to clean.
  4. I need a better sleeping habit. I’ll stop going to bed with my ipad.

I’d like to wealthier. There’s really three things anyone can do – earn, save and invest (ESI). All three if possible.

  1. We’ll continue towards maxing our 401ks and funding our taxable investments when we have any spare – regardless of the market.
  2. If you look at our expenses, the two areas we can curb on are on eating out and gift giving. The only time we ate out this year was on Valentines day. The gift giving is a sensitive issue for my wife. We gave away $13,354 in the last two years. That’s $556 a month. I say that’s steep.
  3. I want to side hustle, but only if it makes sense. I drove Uber for three days to realize it wasn’t worth the money and my time could be better spent.

I’d like to be very good at what I do. I have a good job. My manager is a reasonable person. My annual reviews are excellent – 8 on the 9 block performance rating – twice in the 3 years I’ve been with the company. I’m told it’s a real feat, ‘very rare’. My pay, however, has changed marginally. I feel the folks who decide don’t exactly see the level of complexities I fight to get their clean reports.

I’m not sure if I should squeak, or be content. I’m not sure I want to risk seeking greener pastures either, not in the current environment, with a baby on board. I’m also not sure if I’ll make the same pay. I don’t have a barrage of ‘hot’ skills to list (or fake). And Rambo with a knife is just another person with a knife.

I think I should continue working hard to up my game. My manager recently hired another person to do what I’m doing – my back up, he said. Just in case (he didn’t say that).

There’s a lot to learn and catching up to do. I lost 10 years after college to bit-of-everything-but-leading-to-really-nothing kind of ‘office’ jobs. If I didn’t think I could do a particular aspect of a job, I didn’t even try exploring the job. I wasn’t brave enough. Less smarter friends moved ahead in the meantime. I’m still not able to fake it.

We moved to Colorado in 2017 after I took the first job I got. The hiring manager didn’t know exactly what he needed, and I’m still not sure why he hired me. Fortuitously, I discovered that I was decent at the reporting side of it (it wasn’t much), and the more I did it the more I was asked of it, so I stayed in it. I also got lucky I had a good data-driven manager.

I want to push this forward and see where it takes me. The money can wait. My plan is to use one more year to learn as much as I can. For far too long, I flung myself wide. I now want to do a few things well.

On that note, the list, on all things Data Science:

  1. Python data libraries and coding techniques
  2. Statistics, Data Modelling, bits of Machine Learning
  3. SQL and Microsoft power tools (Excel, DAX, M, Power BI)
  4. One YouTube tutorial everyday

There are other things I should really add – like improving my guitar skills and blogging more often. I’ll keep these at the back burner for now.

I’m happy that the pursuit of FIRE does not demand for much. The higher your ESI, the faster you reach FI. But a decent level of ESI does the job as well. Possibly my favorite FIRE couple is wherewebe for that very reason.

Portfolio Update – Q1 ’20

We’re down 22%. That would’ve paid half our mortgage – fifteen years of payments.

But I’ve been surprisingly calm. I’ve inundated myself with the FI tenet of staying the course for so long that this has yet to unnerve us. I’m not sure it will. After all, what can anyone do? The only way to realize the loss is by selling, so we stay put.

Our plan was to nibble bits of VTI every time the market dropped ~1%. That happened so frequently earlier this year that by the time the big drops came, we ran out of what little cash we had set aside to do just that. We also want to be careful and build some more cash reserves at the same time.

More is at stake now – my wife and I had our first child, a daughter on 3/27. Our greatest gift to her will be to ensure she grows up in a happy environment. We hope she grows up curious, hard working and good. While we’ll always guide her, we hope she finds her own way. Over the last few days, I’ve felt like my days of carefree living are now over. That said, the need to improve is greater now than ever.

A colleague (and his wife) recently retired after 32 years at the company. Last year, when his father passed away, he told me, he began to question why he was still working. He’s a steady, good-old-fashioned sort of a guy. He could’ve retired a lot earlier.

I am very happy for him. He managed to somehow cling on to his job for 32 years. As much as I like him, and as much as he tried, a lot of what he did required post audits.

I’m not sure if he ever truly enjoyed his work. His greatest virtue was his old-fashioned-I-can-grind-through-32-years attitude. His actual parting words to me were, ” I’m happy I’m leaving on my own terms before anyone fired me”. There was a sense of relief in his voice, as though it’d been an ordeal. He managed to somehow weather and ride all the turmoils (at work and in the market) of the last 32 years and I can only imagine how well that has probably placed him (and his wife who’s worked equally long) today.

And early too – at 58. His wife and him are planning to do lots of RV’ing once this crisis is over. There was even a trip to Italy planned later in the year. I’m guessing that’s been pushed a year or two.

I’m not sure I’d like to work till 58. I love what I do, but things keep changing. People change. I’ll probably want to continue working after FI, but not if the nature of the work changes in ways that is not conducive to my intellectual growth. I do not want to be copy-pasting, or ensuring that lines on the charts are size 5 and green.

I want to create. I think that’s what gives people most fulfillment.

So after all the diversion, what’s changed for us this quarter? Our net worth fell by 22.12%. Our allocation remains aggressive at 86% stock. Our bond position has fallen to 4.3% of our net worth. This was due to us downsizing our Betterment portfolio (and moving them to Vanguard) which gave us all our bond exposure.

We hold 9.7% in VMMXX – this is our emergency fund.

Most of our taxable investments are in VTSAX/VTI. We have smaller positions in VYM and VGT. We are 100% invested in low cost index funds and ETFs. My wife’s 401k is with Fidelity so she has FXAIX. My 401K is with WellsFargo’s S&P 500 tracking index fund (no ticker symbol). We maxed our Roth IRAs when the market was on still on it’s way up, in January. We plan to max our 401Ks by year end.

My faith in the US economy remains strong. Businesses seek growth and our positions with the index funds ensure that we get a share of it, without really doing anything.

What I’m fearful for at the moment is what the Covid-19 might do to all our older parents. Other then being home bound, our lives have really not changed all that much. We can still shop, move about, and our day to day life remains unchanged. I’m incredibly grateful to all the brave people who make this possible. The same cannot be said of other countries. Things are dire in poorer countries, and they’re basically waiting for the more advanced countries to come up with a solution. And if that’s 18 months for the US, we can only hope that the fix does not take too long thereafter to reach them.

I have always believed that if we are able to invest (as we normally would) through one good recession (as in one really bad one), it would really boost our positions. For that to happen, we’ll need to ensure we hold on to our jobs. As such, our plan forward remains unchanged: nibble at VTI every time we get a paycheck – after a bit of it has already been channeled to our 401Ks.

gofi lists podcasts that’ll change your life

I am a podcast addict. In fact, I could probably do without a smart phone if not for my podcasts. I know this because on weekends, when I’m home, my phone usually does not get any love.

I use a $15 Panasonic ear phones. I’ve used the same kind for years. The one I have right now is in it’s third year. I’m not sure I’ll ever own a wireless one, although I could totally use one. The day I own one, I know I’m either FI, or nuts. 

On that note, we own OnePlus 5 phones that we got for about half the price of a Samsung or other android brands.  

Back to my list, sometimes I wonder if I’d grasp my work and readings better if I didn’t have them on ‘all the time’. Then again, I learn a lot from them. I stay current. And my cube is not exactly surrounded by like-minded-agreeable-folks. My tribe resides elsewhere. They say you’re the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with – hence, the podcasts.

I’m not sure if any of these need my validation. This is just my way of thanking them. So, the list (in no particular order):   

  1. The Stacking Benjamins Show – They’re fun. I enjoy the wit. But they’ve got to learn to say Pant the right way – ask Paula. And may be go easy on Dave. 
  2. Millionaires Unveiled – I really, really like this show. They’re crude, but to the point – no BS. I love the millionaires who come to the show. Like Jeff, the millionaire custodian.
  3. Motley Fool Money – I’m a Boglehead, but it’s important to know what’s happening, how folks are thinking, and why. 
  4. The Clark Howard Show – He’s a little easy. 15% savings is not ‘fantastic’, but I like Clark. 
  5. The Dave Ramsey Show – I won’t cut my card, but I like Dave. I like the folks who call into his shows. But I don’t listen to the show when he’s not there.  
  6. Fire Drill Podcast – the two (now one, why?) are young and ambitious. I’m older, and I’m keen to see where this goes.  
  7. ChooseFI  – This one’s serious – the old school way. Respect. 

There are other non FI podcasts I enjoy – mostly NPR and BBC stuff. All good. See the screenshots below for the complete list.   

gofi’s fear and plans to tread lightly, but brightly

Over Christmas dinner, a friend asked me what I feared the most. I could think of many things, but most were beyond my control – my parent’s health for example. Seeing me stumped, he went ahead – being broke, I fear being broke the most, he said.

He was speaking from experience. He’d moved to Denver from NYC to be with his girlfriend (now wife) with nothing. She booked him a room at a cheap motel because her parents were not very keen. She got him a job at a restaurant – that was about ten years back. He’s a machinist now. I’m not sure what kind – but he’s now happily married with two kids, a suburban house and with enough to be financially savvy.

He’s ‘typical’ – as in the kind that eventually become millionaires.

We’ve met a few times over the three years I’ve been in Denver, and our shared interest in personal finance has secured a bond I think will last. I mentioned FIRE a few times, but did not over indulge him because he seemed in control of what he was doing – 401k plans, roth and some trading. I did tell him how he might want to get into index funds because it is just so much safer (and better) – but one really has to appreciate these things on their own. It cannot be forced.

For me, it is about asset allocation. S&P 500 index funds for stocks, some bonds and some cash reserve (when credit cards are not viable) – properly allocated.

I’ve had a few days to think over what I fear the most. And it became quite clear this morning. Of all the things I fear, I fear not reaching FI in time. The question is not if, but when we’ll get there. There are many good reasons why one may want to get there sooner than later.

To start with, it’s easier when we’re younger. It’s easier to find jobs, switch jobs and change careers when you’re young. I’ve had many old colleagues – good, honest men and women. But I do not want to be another old man in a cube. I want to be secure – and a job is just a job until it’s not. Older folks have a more difficult time finding and keeping a job. And companies don’t care that you’re old when they plan to trim down. So get there when you’re younger, then go climb the mountain if you want, or join the Trader Joes crew – whatever floats your boat.

I also want a second shot at success. I grew up with a lot of promise – more than my friends who’re now doctors, engineers, professors, even fancy civil servants. I do not envy them. I’m happy. Their success validates what hard work can do. That, some guidance, and luck (being at the right place at the right time). I also realize comparing where I am to where they are is to my own detriment. My goal is to make the most of myself. I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. And FI is my first validation point – a proof to myself that I can grind and reach. Money is not my measure. Many late FI success stories will tell you that one of their mistakes was not knowing when to stop.

You can stop to smell the rose. Or better, delay it a bit. But not till either the rose withers or your sense of smell does.

Lastly, we’re having our first child in March which is all the more reason to pursue FI more aggressively. I tell Mrs. Gofi if she’d like to be one of those lovely ‘still-young’ ladies who participate in all their children’s activities – take them to school, to swimming practices, then go for runs in the middle of the day on weekdays.

Mrs. Gofi tells me that those would be lovely.

In reality though, our little girl will delay our FI by a few years. And few years means not just time, but all the uncertainties that those years may bring.

We’re expecting our savings rate to fall by 50% in the next few years. Mrs. Gofi will need to give up a quarter of her working hours because a full time day care is out of question for us. Even the part time daycare that we’ve decided on is like a second mortgage.

To lower our expenses, we’ve decided to cancel all vacations till it starts making sense to the girl. We’ll significantly cut down on restaurants and gifts. That should save us about $6K – nearly half the part time daycare cost.

I know we will eventually reach FI. The goal was to reach FI by 2026 i.e. to have enough to not worry about our jobs. I’m not keen on retiring – I would be bored if I didn’t do anything. 2026 though seems a little ambitious at the moment – but if we need to add a few years, it will just those few years and not one more.

Mrs. Gofi likes reminding me that our girl will bring her own luck when she comes. I’m looking forward to that – and to becoming an awesome father. She’d run wild in the rain, and laugh at me for falling in the mud. That, dear friend, is the plan.

what gofi has in mind for 2020

Perseverance, guts
because anything worth doing is worth doing well
I’ll keep learning, because the summit will never be in sight.

And that’s ok –
I’d like to be smart, in all ways, in the best of ways.

I’d like to be healthier
cut down on sugar and chips, fast intermittently
sleep enough, salads and fruits
walk, exercise, perhaps even get back to sports
shed ten pounds to get to 155 by year end.

I’d like to be great at what I do
more python – machine learning even
dig deeper into excel – dax and M
and I must make room for SQL, may be GIT
there are techniques and statistics to open to
I need to dig deeper and spread wider – both,
It will be difficult but it is necessary.

I’ll need to write more, read more,
make new friends and call on old ones,
rebuild bridges that were once so strong,
and move on from those that shouldn’t matter
the Joneses must be let go.

I’ll love my wife, my parents
I’ll smile, I’ll listen
I’ll sing, pick my guitar,
learn to sketch
cause I have that feeling I’d be ok.

I must make the most of myself
because there is just so much
that to waste any of it would be tragic
and because there’ll always be more for next year
It’s time I build steady steps.



Past Goals: 2019, ~2012 (I think)
And some inspiring quotes to go with those.

Portfolio Update – 2019

Happy New Year, Friends. If you didn’t make good last year, you probably did something horribly wrong. Reflect back on the gaps that need filling, and understand where you erred, and why.

We trailed the S&P 500 – 22.44% to 28.88%. For the first time, we made more from the market than we saved. The trailing has to do with our allocation having some bonds and cash, and not being 100% stocks.

We averaged $467 in monthly dividends – which is nice just knowing even though we’re not exactly dividend investors.

We saved almost the same amount as we did last year. We earned slightly more this year, and used that to make some extra mortgage payments, and fund a ten day vacation to London and Paris in June. Despite our frugal ways, I think our $72,463 annual expense is very high. But take away housing expenses and our expenses look rather impressive. Our non-housing expenses add up to $37,281. I’d say that’s pretty swell. Only our gift making and recreation expense need some curbing in 2020.

Our plan in 2020 is to max our Roth IRA and 401K accounts, and invest remaining funds to our taxable accounts in VTI. We will continue to push small amounts to VTI every time the market falls ~1%. Our taxable investments are now fully parked in VTSAX / VTI and VYM. I am tempted to look into VGT, but I think that ship has sailed for now.

We are 100% invested in low cost index funds and ETFs. Our Roth accounts are in Betterment with a 90% stock and 10% bond portfolio. We plan to open Roth accounts in Vanguard going forward. We hold S&P 500 tracking index funds in our 401Ks. Our emergency fund is in VMMXX and good for 3-4 months. But we want to add one extra month’s expense in my wife’s checking account because VMMXX is not immediately available.

Our asset allocation currently stands at 81% stock, 6% bonds and 10% cash. The remaining 3% is unclassified (but you could dig into it if you’re using personal capital).

Lastly, we are having our first child in March so we will alter our plans accordingly. We will try to commit to our strategy of living on one salary and saving the other. But Denver has high daycare costs, and my wife will not be able to work has many hours as she has in the past. So I’m not sure if this will hold. But thanks to our pursuit of FI, we’re better placed then we would be if we hadn’t pursued FI.

I didn’t think I could run

One of my goals this year was to run a mile without break.  I was always fast. I played soccer growing up. But running came to me in burst. I could never do distance or time. I’d spend an hour on the steps or the elliptical easily but on the treadmill, I’d just walk. I thought it was a combination of my flat foot, shin splints and genetics. I’ve since discovered I do not have flat feet.

I ran a mile without break for the first time on 9/17, and 2 miles on 9/23.

9/23, 2 miles / 25 min.

I ran 3.5 miles yesterday – 45  minutes  non-stop.

9/28, 3.5 miles / 45 min.

And today, I ran 5 miles. I have never been able to run more than a few minutes. Today I ran for more than an hour. It is an incredible feeling. The trick was to run slowly. In the past, I’d go 9/10 speeds right away and immediately get tired.

I think it helped that I didn’t eat before running. I ran around 11, on an empty stomach – other than 2 cups of tea. I also began by walking the first 5-10 minutes and not rushing to high speeds. I ran between 5-5.5 for most of the run, before increasing slightly towards the end to reach the 5th mile before the treadmill stopped.

9/29, 5 miles / >1 hr. 

Portfolio Update – Q3 ’19

We’re still decent YTD – up 13% to S&P’s 18.82%.

Our stock to bonds splits at 80% to 7%. Our holdings continue to be in index funds – VTSAX/VTI for our non-retirement/taxable accounts and US Stock Index Funds provided by our 401K providers – these will not change. We increased our cash reserves (VMMXX) to a healthy 10%. 

We maxed our 401Ks in Q3. We’d maxed our Roth IRA accounts earlier this year. For the rest of the year, we’ll contribute to our non-retirement accounts, splitting evenly between VTSAX and VMMXX.

Non-Financial updates:

I set a few goals at the beginning of the year. I try to learn something new every day – these are usually minute, but compounding works with knowledge as well. 

I picked up Python in March, and immediately started applying it to my work. I’m happy with my progress and I could not part with it now. I continue to hold on to Excel. I think it is the most underrated of all data tools,  and underrated mostly by those who have either not used it or know how powerful it is. Often things that look easy are discounted. I will always be grateful on how it has opened a whole new world to me. 

At the start of the year, my wife and I decided not to pay for gym since our neighborhood has some nice parks to walk around. I also started walking to work (2.5 mile one way, 5 miles a day). But that started to be a little inconvenient (walk in the sun, change in office, etc). So I joined a gym and I’m very glad I did. There is a lot to be said about being in the right environment.

Update: 9/17, I ran a 12 minute mile non-stop for the first time. 9/23, I ran 2 miles / 25 minutes for the first time. I was always a fast runner, but I could never do the distance and/or time. I realize I just need to run slow (for now). 

A few things are still amiss – I’m still not blogging enough. I’m not side-hustling, writing, playing the guitar or a sport. I used to do all these. I need to re-start these. 

In the end, I want to make the most of myself – not because I want to be better than someone else, or make more money. These are a lot sweeter when they just happen. There will also always be people better than me and keeping a competitive mindset is ultimately unhealthy. 

Portfolio Update – Q2 ’19

Our YTD numbers look good. We rode the market that’s up a magnificent 18.25% YTD. While our 13.57% YTD increase still trails by 4+%, we’ll take what we got and carry on with our Bogle ways.

Our stock to bond split stands at an aggressive 83.18% to 7.91%. Almost all our stock holdings are in index funds – VTSAX/VTI for our non-retirement/taxable accounts and US Stock Index Funds provided by our 401K providers (WellsFargo for me and Fidelity for Mrs. Gofi).

We have smaller holdings in VYM and Betterment (70%-30% split). All our bond exposure come via our Betterment allocation.

We hold 6.35% of our net worth in VMMXX – this is our emergency fund. But we’re willing to use it sparingly whenever the market’s down a percent or near abouts.

We maxed our Roth IRA accounts earlier this year. We’ll max our 401Ks mid-way through Q3. Once those are done, we’ll contribute to our non-retirement accounts, splitting evenly between VMMXX and VTSAX.

Non-Financial updates:

I want a side hustle. I’m not quite sure how to go about free lancing, and I’m not convinced if Uber’s good on the long run. I want to build on the skills I have, build an intellectual wealth that’ll help me at my work today, and something I can consult or freelance in the future.

While I see value in doing something that is completely unrelated to work, I don’t want to stretch myself thin at the moment. I want to do a few things, but do them well.

I haven’t been very good at blogging either – because better (and motivated) bloggers have already communicated all aspects of FIRE, from all possible angles. For now, I keep this blog to log our progress (expenses, dividends, personal goal).

I’m hoping that someday I can re-direct gofi.io into something more eager and engaging.

Portfolio Update – Q1 ’19

If you’re a Boglehead, you’re probably up 10-13% YTD. We continue to track the S&P 500 through both our retirement and non-retirement accounts. We trail the market by 3% — 10% to the S&P 500s 13%. Our stock to bond split stands at 79% to 8.81%. The rest sit in VMMXX that we call our emergency fund.

Our retirement accounts hold US Stock Index Funds provided by WellsFargo (for me) and Fidelity (for my wife). We maxed one Roth IRA account for the year and will max the other by year end. Betterment holds our Roth IRA accounts and our allocation is split at 90% – 10% (stocks-bonds). Given these are retirement accounts that will remain untouched for a few decades, we are comfortable with the aggressive split.

Our non-retirement (taxable) savings is primarily in VTSAX. We have smaller holdings in VYM and Betterment (70%-30%).

All our bond exposure come via our Betterment allocation. 

Our plan forward is to max our retirement accounts again. Then split the rest between VMMXX and VTSAX.

Portfolio Update – Q4 2018

Happy New Year, Friends. We hope you had a wonderful 2018 (despite the recent slip) and hope future years are steadier.

As for us, we were diligent savers this year. We lived on one income and saved the other (more or less). We maxed both our Roth IRA and 401K accounts, and while we don’t reveal our numbers, this one’s easy to calculate: $48,000.

We looked well set to exceed our savings goal for the year before the correction (?) set in last month. According to Personal Capital, we’re down 6.63% for the year (which is in line with S&P 500 that fell by 6.24%).

We didn’t sell – we’re not going to. We did, however, pull away from investing to start an emergency fund (VMMXX) earlier this year.

Our plan forward is to max our retirement accounts again next year. Then split the rest between VMMXX and VTSAX.

Our stock to bond split stands at 77.6% to 10.4%. All our bond holding comes via Betterment (see stock to bond split in the picture above). Almost all our funds are in low cost index funds (allocation breakdown is also in the picture above).

what gofi has in mind for 2019

A sharp mind and a healthy body, in short. I’ll walk, read and write.

In 2019,
I want to be able to run a mile without break, be leaner than I am
We’ll hike, the Mrs. and I – 3 14er’s the goal
We need to learn to love the outdoors.

In 2019,
I want to be great with Data – DAX, M, SQL, Excel
and end the year with some degree of comfort in Python
I want to be creative and unafraid

I also need to read. I read 12 books this year – I need to up that by a few more.

I certainly need to write – a story a month to make it to 12 by year end and call it my first book.
I finally have a story that ends.
I’ll write it in the spirit of Rule 17, Principles of Composition, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White: “Omit needless words” (I’ll need to follow the grammar as well).

All through,

We’ll FIRE along, as true Bogleheads
We’ll make more friends, call on old ones, and be closer to our families.

In queue for next week, Q4 portfolio.

The hair of the dog (that bit you)

The remedy, Mrs. Gofi exclaimed, is that I give it a shot.

For all our growing years, most of us know what it is about us that makes us, us. Few fortunate folks are tall and slender. A few look intelligent, which is a real tragedy when they’re not. Few look scarred, in a raggedly sexy way. Few look honest, and a few unfortunately don’t.

Of course you judge to you own peril.

I am, and there’s no other way to put it, sort of round. I am ethnic and round. Some may say quite correctly that I eat well – which I do. It is my favorite hobby.

And I have wonderful, full hair. The genes seemed to work out a better blend for me. My parents have thick and dark hair.

And they grow thick and fast.

I absolutely detest my monthly trips to the local Great Clips. It’s really not great, or local for that matter. $20 a month can feed a family of four for a month in some parts of the world. Or if only Colorado Public Radio also gave hair cuts, I’d gladly take two a month. They keep asking for contributions and they sound like they’re talking directly to me. I’ve free ridden for far too long that it’s making me feel a little guilty.

May be I give it a try, my wife has mischief in her voice. Some secret malice even.

I’ll show you what you get on a stringent budget, she’d say, but does not.

How hard can it be? I’ll youtube first, don’t worry.

She’s actually pampered, Mrs. Gofi is, I tell you. If I could just stop talking about FIRE and all it’s possibilities, she wouldn’t think we’re keeping it tight – which we really aren’t.

But I am a true believer. I walk the talk. I’m prepared to let her have her way (because that, my friend, is almost always the right way).

We’ll see some action this weekend, when the garage is warmer. Unless of course you can chip in <figure out a way to insert a paypal donation link here>.

Where we are on Kids

We are in our mid 30s and we’re thinking of kids. In many ways, it’s looking like writing a paper a day before it’s due.

This is the year to have one if we want one, my wife tells me.

I’m not sure about next year, she says.

She would know. She’s a neonatal nurse.

But I’m not sure why we need kids.

I know we’d be incredible parents, if that’s reason alone. The kid’d have a great childhood, and if she’d be anything like her mother (I’d like a girl), she’d be pretty cool, and incredibly good looking (everyone sort of is thesedays). May be that’s reason enough.

I’m hesitant. I’ve been unsure for months. For one, my parents haven’t really put any pressure on me. They did, on my brothers, and they gave them four grand children.

I’m sure they haven’t forgotten me? But I don’t want to ask them.

I think of my friends who have kids. Two of my more recent friends do, two each. They’ve followed the typical template – get great education (phds), work work, marry well (phds), keep working, then kids (two at least, bang, bang), keep working, retire at sixty, play with grand kids.

Now that doesn’t look too bad. May be a little tiring just thinking through it. And if you’re impressed by their phds, don’t. It’s like choosing the most difficult route to climb a mountain when we (the FIRE tribe) know better.

But that’s coming from someone who does not have those credentials (so sometimes disgruntled). And who’s to say what experiences we’re after. It’s the journey, they say, and the sweat is always more uplifting, more lightening. Comfort and growth don’t go together says Ginni Rometty, and she must know.

But she has no kids.

Of my classmates from high school, only five have kids. A few aren’t even married. We’re all in our 30s. Surely they know what they’re doing. They’re all incredibly smart. The girls, in particular. All of them.

I think of my cousins. And some of them aren’t married either.

Surely I’d be okay.

When we’re old, I’ll look after you, I’d tell them.

In that, I’ll call on you, I clarify.

You do the same. Can we make a pact?, I’d tell them.

Please sign here.

We’re of one blood. Or close enough. We’ll even move to New York (or Toronto). New old folks in cold cities. Now that’d be something. I tell my wife she must start preparing.

Can you learn to start enjoying hot tea?

On our drive to the mall yesterday, my wife asked about adopting in the future. We’d always spoken of it, but this felt like an alternative.

I felt a sense of relief.

I’m not sure if I’m being fair. My wife deserves everything that she wants. If she’d push me just a little harder, cry, make a scene, beat me – may be that’ll strike some sense.

Or may be not – I’m not sure.

Portfolio Update – Q3 2018

We are a two income household. We try to live on my income and save my wife’s income.

We’re looking to max our individual retirement accounts for the first time this year. We maxed our Roth accounts early this year, and will max our 401K next month. In all fairness, this is only the third year where one of us have had a 401k account.

We make average salaries (we are a regular office dweller and a nurse, in a fairly expensive city). So meeting all expenses on one salary is not feasible every month. We also make generous gifts to our families.

Setting a savings goal at the beginning of the year has helped us stay in line. We’ve completed 80% of our goal so far and are likely to surpass it by year end.

We plan to continue funding half of our investable income into our emergency reserves (VMMXX) and the other half in VTSAX (and VYM). We want to “always be investing“, while also ensuring we don’t have to sell those should the economy turn south.

We also want our emergency fund as a down payment on a rental property if, when the economy turns, we’re both holding on to our jobs (and are relatively comfortable) and property prices fall.

Our Stock to Bond split remains unchanged at an aggressive 80% to 10% of our net worth. Almost all our funds are now in low cost index funds – see Vanguard and Betterment allocations below.

Jeff, the Millionaire Custodian

Jeff’s obviously frugal, but the guy’s bright in the best of ways – rooted to the ground, and fully aware of where he stands and where he can be. Jeff confirms the basic FI tenets – always be investing, in low cost index funds, keep them there especially in the worst of time and be true to yourself and to the world. 

Listen to the him speak on the Millionaire Unveiled podcast.

Another similarly admirable guy is Ronald Read.

Bullshit Jobs (I’m yet to climb my mountain)

This one’s wonderful – NPR’s Hidden Brain on BullShit jobs

May be why we have open offices, and hypocritical (of me) to post it on a Tuesday morning. But I actually wrote this yesterday 🙂

I’m all for efficiency – and I’m learning to space my work a bit. Weather it does anyone any good in the office (of the regular kind) is a purely subjective matter. Suffice to listen first, then act on it. Best to be efficient but refrain from burning down.

It looks like you have bandwidth this week – may or may not be a good thing coming from my manager this morning.

What do you say?

While I’m (sort of) settled now, my take was this once:

A new bout of existential crisis
amidst my labor
that is not entirely misplaced
nor entirely misguided
treads slowly still.

A reformation is overdue,
no, not doctrinally –
but to accept and surrender
may be the truth.

Or not –

I’m yet to climb my mountain.

Seriously, Amundsen –

My themes these last few days have been rather serious –

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai
Dr. Una Kroll

I came across Ernest Shackleton last week. I spent the entire weekend reading on the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration. And how incredibly they lived – then Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. Their struggles, and that of their forgotten men, their will to plow through enormous obstacles, and their losses unmask of our own inherent, often hidden strength to traverse our personal journeys – to FI.

Our introspection never end.

On the parking lot of our remote library sits a solitary truck with its driver nowhere to be seen. A beautiful older woman browses through books on a Monday morning. My socially affluent friends on Facebook jump on beaches and travel to places like Azerbaijan on their weekends. The wife of a childhood friend abandons him for a smarter guy.

We make our strides towards FI. It is a wonderful diversion while we’re at it – call it Karma, instant Karma. No rebirth required.

On a more serious note, an unexamined life is not worth living. I’ve decided to examine my life on Saturday mornings, and focus on implementation on other days.

Fire in the belly

A small town could steal a life. Dennis is a small town man. He’s lived in one all his life. He’s been to Florida a few times. New York is just a day away, but he hasn’t really felt a need to see it. He tells me that he’s never been on a plane.

Dennis is a good man. He takes care of over two hundred units. Mine is one. He works all the time, gets no holidays or insurance from his work. He tells me he paid over six thousand dollars the last time he went to a hospital. That he took a beating on that one.

I ask him why he isn’t the property manager. I’m not good with numbers, he tells me. I suspect he never had fire in his belly. He’s never needed it. He’s hustled all his life, uncomplainingly. I guess he didn’t think it was a big deal. I guess he just didn’t see it all. A small town can do that.

I’ve never had great fire in my belly myself. I am efficient in my ways. And there were things (and there still can be) –

“With the things you could do, you won’t but you might
The potential you’ll be that you’ll never see
The promises you’ll only make” (Between the Bars, Elliott Smith)

I feel a small speck of some fire lately – in a light sort of way. I hope that I have the hustle for it.

You see, – I’m an idea man, a story man, a man with a song,
on Whitechapel, the hero turns the light switch a 150 times
I have my own creations –
I check my locks and gas – should they move, but how?
spit, lightly, 4 sets of 11s when I pass a cross on the road
a good 3 set needed, but I do the 4th to back the first 3, just in case
I kiss my wife 4 sets of 11s as well

I can do without these –
You see, I’m a steady man, an incisive man, a man with a mind.

This is what I have

Exhibiting FI qualities, by circumstance and design, circa winter 2012.

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck – Dalai Lama.


This is what I have

On a hard floor lifted by air
a sock here, a sock there
and three bananas on a red bag

In the freezer,
frozen noodles and dumplings
a fist of bok choy and two large red onions
and thank god for the frozen gyozas
and eggs and cheese and coffee
and a loaf of bread and oranges, if only someone would peal them I’d eat them.

In a rather large closet (the largest I’ve ever had)
stands a wicked, full length mirror that makes me look real sleek
a bottle of complete multi-vitamins,
more noodles,
three formal shirts, three formal pants,
t-shirts, towels and more socks
an oversized jacket, two sweaters
two tight jeans, and a new yellow corduroy pant I got yesterday to wear this Friday –
and hopefully when I see the girl, whenever that happens, where ever
O’ destiny, please intervene – and make it a lovely girl please – lovely eyes, slender fingers and all
a heart of gold, real friendly and happy to complement my sometimes somber fallings
A pair of boots, three times more expensive than the most expensive I ever bought before I bought it –
my old and faithful tennis shoes, and the converse I never thought I’d wear
one never knows what one may, will,

And the laptop and the iphone that have been the best of friends
my light in the dark –

And of course, the mind that is in two roads,
one in bhakti, devotional surrender,
the other in fighting through it all, no submission.
There’s victory either way
and how wonderful is that
that I have a choice,
that wisdom and experience is a blessing
and my scars only end up looking edgy
and real sexy.

everyday life must do

I made this list a few years ago. Here’s where these stand today:

  1. No podcast at work: I listen all day. They keep me in line with all that’s there, or was, and stirs the mind. I’ll list my favorites on a separate post soon. Some of the FI podcasts I like are here.

  2. Low carb, greens, fibers: I love greens – cooked, not raw. But I need to get better at it. You see, I really, really like meat.

  3. Calculus, Modelling, stir the mind, Betsy is an old programmer for god’s sake: This one’s ongoing. The idea is to stir the mind and to keep learning. I’m keen on becoming better at working with data. I’ve sort of started learning Pandas on Python.

  4. Put phone away at work: This one’s easy. I don’t have any social media apps on my phone. My phone is for podcasts, messaging my wife and talking to my parents.

  5. Read – no more fiction: I’ve read seven books this year. I’ll list them on a separate post. I spend much more time reading online – some FI blogs I follow are here.

  6. Listen to one good song everyday – get inspired: This gets me nostalgic, and I think of all that could’ve happened.

  7. Sing a few times a week, to cleanse the internals: I don’t play the guitar often enough. I’d love to get better. I finger pick.

  8. Run, run, run – sweat it out – feel light, the skin must glow again: I used to be athletic. I haven’t played any sports in two years – partly because we moved to Denver and we had other things to do. I do not have any excuses now. I bought a rowing machine last year that I need to start using. I rowed for a half hour this morning, and will row a half hour everyday.

  9. Smile, thank you, please, everyone, absolutely no bars, but restrain and take it slow and steady: This is inherent. I intend to be good in all ways. I read sometime back that you are what you are at 40. So if you’re a grumpy man at 40, that stays for life. I’m still a few years away, but I’d like to take a happy man forward.

  10. Sleep deep, enough and a little more: I need to work on this. I’m usually in bed by 10, but I watch YouTube on my IPad to sleep. I’m replacing that with podcasts starting today.

  11. talk clearly, cleanly, slowly enough – express, express: I’m a sucker of folks that barely speak, and gifted with silence in return so that they’re heard. Now that’s respect (and power).

  12. a paragraph every night to clean the soul, unburden and go lightly to bed: I should start writing everyday. To think one can (if one ever could) and to actually be able to are different. I need to keep practicing.

  13. finance, other plans, lay it out and patiently move forward: Yes, this one’s done – hense gofi.

And now these:

There’s a lot I want to do.

Get the gruff – but the love handles need to go first.

Write, but my days of melancholy have vanished.

Ditto for my songs.

And Sports.

Be awesome at work – everything seems to be possible.

All to bring out the magic that a mind is. 

“I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other’s good” – Shakespeare.

Random Quotes

Some random quotes saved as draft many years back. 

  1. Edna O’Brien: I think by nature I am lonely, in that I wouldn’t be a writer if I were not lonely. I think most writers [are], if you read their letters and sometimes read some of their lives. I’m not recommending it, but I know one has to be — to remain writing, not just to start as a writer, to remain faithful to it — one has to live so much of one’s life alone. And reflective. Certain people, I think, are kind of born lonely. I can tell lonely people when I see them, and I’m very often drawn to them, because I feel that they might have some secret to tell me.
  2. A hindu poet on Struggle: For one to see heaven, one must die oneself. 
  3. Einstein: A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.
  4. A BBC Podcast: Inspiration comes from knowledge.
  5. Newspaper article: His thoughts and actions were one.
  6. An aunt: You don’t want to climb a mountain if you’re not going to reach the top.
  7. Ahmet Rasim: The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy.
  8. A friend – we must remain true to our values regardless of where society goes.
  9. Nature of Existence: A Chinese guy: Happiness comes from Hard Work.
  10. Kahlin Gibran: The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
  11. T.S Eliott: Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
  12. Humboldt: I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life, than on the nature of those events themselves.
  13. HG Wells: I can’t bank on religion. God has no thighs and no life. When one calls to him in the silence of the night he doesn’t turn over and say, “what’s the trouble, Dear?”
  14. Florence Nightingale: To-day I am 30 – the age Christ began his mission. Now no more childish things. No more love. No more marriage. Now Lord let me think only of Thy Will, what Thou willest me to do.
  15. Epicurus’s idea of “the good life“: It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably and justly without living pleasantly.
  16. Robertson Davis: A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.
  17. A friend: Where does the faith come from, he asked … From events that seem life shattering, but a boon in retrospect
  18. Dalai Lama: Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  19. Maya Angelou: There is no greater agony then bearing an untold story inside you.
  20. Kahlil Gibran: Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
  21. Unknown: You’ll waste a lot less time worrying about what others think of you if only you realized how seldom they do.
  22. Albert Camus: To be happy one must not be too concerned with the opinion of others. One should pursue one’s goals single-mindedly, with a quiet confidence, without thinking of others.
  23. Unilever: Humility to create awe
  24. Our Idiot Brother: I like to think that if you put your trust out there; if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.

Portfolio Update – Q2 2018

Our stocks to bonds split stands at an aggressive 81% to 11%. We started an emergency fund (VMMXX) late in the quarter. We will continue building it up until it equals a few months our expenses. This has temporarily halted our non-retirement investments. We continue to contribute towards our 401K and should max those by year end. We maxed out our Roth accounts a few months back.

Our expenses continue to be quite high to my liking. There’s not much we can do to cut cost, other than moving someplace cheaper. That is unlikely at the moment.  

Uber’s not for me

I drove Uber for a few days last year – just for kicks, and quickly realized my time was better spent elsewhere.

I drove for 8 hours, spread across 4 days and made $151. Shockingly, only 3 of the 17 riders tipped.  The tippers included a nice lady from New Mexico, a younger woman from Connecticut, and a young accountant from Ohio. Non tippers included seemingly well to do professionals – two consultants in suits, start up guys, hipsters, and IT consultants.

I’m not sure if Uber makes any sense for drivers who use their personal cars. 

Portfolio Update – Q1 2018

Asset Allocation, Q1 2018  (as of Apr 18)

The spread between our taxable and tax-adv accounts currently stand at 61% and 39% respectively. Since we will not be accessing our tax-adv accounts until later in life, we are comfortable with this mix at the moment.

Our stocks to bonds split stands at a moderately aggressive 83% to 12%.

We hold a few stocks in our Merrill Lynch Edge account, which we mean to liquidate over time. We recently filed our taxes, and took the opportunity to liquidate some of it to pay our taxes. We’ll probably do the same next year.

We also had replace some appliances (washer, dryer, refrigerator) which were all over 12 years old.

Our 401K accounts hold target dated funds (2040 and 2045) even though we’re looking to “retire” a lot earlier. Since we will not be using it until we’re 60 +, we  figure it’s best to keep it stock heavy. I’ll be 58 in 2040, so this is actually not quite as aggressive. My wife, of course, has decided to always be thirty.

We have a tendency to move spare funds to one of our investment accounts. So our emergency funds are almost zero. Then again, smarter folks have agreed.


Asset Allocation, 2017 – Year End Update

Our allocation was passive (and automated) through the year. We did not max our 401(k) and Roth contributions. But we managed to save all of Mrs. Gofi’s income. We plan to continue living on one income.

We use Personal Capital to track our personal finance. According to Personal Capital, our investments gained 19.46% in 2017 – this is in tandem with the S&P 500 which gained 19.42%. Our stock/bond split currently sits at an aggressive 83% to 12%.



Conversations with Mrs. Gofi

Do you want to go the mall tomorrow?

Sure, it’s been a while.

Great, it’ll be fun. But lets not buy anything.

I know. Next time don’t say it before we go.

(We actually don’t keep it too tight. Just in case you’re curious, out clothing expenses are included in HomeExp. We averaged $434 a month this year, which isn’t too shabby I say. That included a refrigerator, a washer and a dryer.)


My sisters are visiting us over thanksgiving.
How long are they staying with us?
Three days.
Can they sleep on the floor?


I’d like to set aside some money for when I go out with my sisters, she tells me.
That, sexy girl, has to come out of the 2% we’ve allocated for recreation. You can probably go out a few times. Choose wisely.
Can you take them to the Chinese buffet?


Would you do this if you had a million dollars?, asked my wife as she came home from work this morning.
Yes I would, I tell her. I’m staring my the spreadsheet.
How about ten million?
Yes, I would.
I’m going to sleep now, you incorrigible boy.


The Alternatives –


My wife had a conference call with her sisters a few days back. Someone they know had recently made good on Bitcoin and was celebrating in Hawaii.

We could’ve been in Hawaii, she tells me.

We could’ve paid off the house.

Looking back, I’m not sure if missing the bull was all that bad. If I had struck gold when I was younger, I would probably not have been what I am today.

I would not know who my true folks are –

I’m wiser today. My resolutions (on people and events) stand on firmer ground today. A few things are important to me. Those are honest and must be met.

That said, we reached our financial goal for this year earlier this month, and we want to walk with the times (we don’t want to be left behind – which, by the way, was also the reason why I joined the lottery pool in my last job).

This is our gold rush – We’re mining on CoinBase and Bittrex.

The need for relevance killed Gatsby, not love –

I read of Huntington Hartford of the now defunct A&P supermarket this weekend. Leading me to Hartford was an article that implied how inheritance and windfalls generally make less overall good to the inheritor (and by extension to the world) than to those who’ve accumulated their wealth over a long period of time. The grind and toil are necessary if anything is to become of the wealth.

My personal observation and experience confirms this. I’ll start with a disclaimer: I am an Asian. I have many relatives who went to the most expensive international schools, then to colleges paid for by their parents, all while living an Instagram lifestyle in houses paid for by their parents.

“A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life” (Robertson Davis) that by the time they come to their senses (a full thirty, sometimes forty years later), there’s a supposed shame and embarrassment of starting at an entry level position. That the first step must be taken to reach the second is missed on them.

Contrast that to my Tibetan neighbor – thirty-two, registered nurse, owner of a nice townhome (on a fifteen-year plan, 20% down), but also a refugee, who shielded his younger sister from bullets while on their escape to India through the Himalayas. Once a yak-herd, he entered his first classroom at thirteen, and is now an accomplished nurse.

He defined himself in humbler ways than did my privileged relatives who had a “sense of entitlement”, and so prospered over time. His younger sister, he ensured, also became a registered nurse.

All that aside, the guy’s pretty hip – drives a Subaru. He recently left for India to see his mother after nearly twenty years.

Theirs is a confirmation that the American dream is alive. Why the same can’t be true for everyone else most certainly has to do with the different ways we live and the perspectives we keep. “The most massive characters are seared with scars,” said Gibran – talking of people much like the Americans that saw through the great depression and made successes of themselves.

I grew up in one “Asian” country that does not do working while in school – and you wouldn’t be in school if you were poor. There’s a clear class distinction. Over the years, the internet has drastically changed perspectives, and made the world more homogeneous – but the idea of waitressing is still frowned upon. There’s a family name to uphold.

Just the other day, I wrote about my $35 wedding, and my mother’s insistence on a “real” wedding. I do not blame her – it is difficult for her, especially since my parents are still part of a community where the Joneses must be beaten, in more glitter.

This is how marriages in my community has evolved in my lifetime – the first wedding I remember was my uncles. I was about ten. There was (and still is) a reception hall in town where everyone got married. Weddings were a communal event. Every wedding had the same people, and the same food. The same men got drunk. 

That changed when few marriages moved to hotels, and to five-star hotels. The precedence was set. Now everyone who’s anyone marries in a five-star hotel. Often times weddings are held on separate days, for the different sets of guests – the subtle placement is not missed on any of the guests.

I left my community for college many years ago. The years and the distance has steered me towards ways that made sense to me.

They no longer call on us – my mother speaks of an uncle, who for years circled around my parents.

Money dictates – she tells me. I feel for my parents, once prosperous, now decent, but on lower rungs to their peers – financially middle class, socially upper middle.

Sensing that it bothered me, she adds: These don’t bother us. You remain humble and steadfast. These will change as well.

I believe my mother’s calm conviction, and I sleep well that night. My parents are wise to realize they shouldn’t be bothered. I want my parents to be immune even to inconsequential prangs like these. I want my parents to be relevant, even in the superficial ways I don’t adhere to.

For myself, I try to cultivate my belief that there is more to life than my relevance in my community. Our pursuit of FI helps our cause – our true calling is to the greater good of more than ourselves, in our own small ways. That will define who we are, and our relevance in the truest.

In the end, the need for relevance killed Gatsby, not love. 

Our $35 wedding needs more telling –

My sisters are visiting us over thanksgiving.

How long are they staying with us?

Three days.

Can they sleep on the floor?


Earlier this week, we documented our $72 K savings goal for next year. Our plan is to max our retirement accounts early, then hit our taxable accounts. We’ll be on a tight budget, but we feel equipped for it.

Then just the other day, I came across Mustard Seed Money‘s post on the average American’s top 10 financial goals based on a recent NerdWallet study. The NerdWallet study found that most people (71% of those surveyed, across income levels, age and gender) regret how they have managed their money. 89% have one or more of the following financial goals (in bold below). Taking the cue from the list, I wanted to check how they stack up for us (and how we’ve dealt with them).

The goals (% of Americans saving for the goal) and our position:

Saving for a wedding (8%)

We never did. We married in court, for $35 – a college friend and two sisters-in-law witnessed and signed. They paid for a dinner at Johnny Carino. I even worked a half day before we married. My mother pestered me for a year – for a “real” wedding. A few folks called, messaged and sent us money. They now get a yearly card from us. One uncle (whose story needs telling) sent us $500 Canadian, just about his weeks’ pay. We intend to give it back when his daughter marries, with whatever the money gains and compounds in the time.

A $35 wedding is perhaps the best way to filter the people you should have in your life. The rest can be an afterthought, for when you’re feeling particularly kind. 

An average American wedding in 2014 was $31,213. This insanity is universal – an Indian Colleague spent $60,000 when he married two years back. The Chinese are also going berserk, as the BBC points out here, here and here. A Sudanese man was about 20 cows behind on payments for his wedding.

Saving to have children (8%)

We do not have any children. We all have our own reasons for why we want or not want children – a beyond belief episode explored this issue a few months back. That said, one of our motivations for pursuing FI is so that we can adopt two children later. FI will allow us to dedicate ourselves to them, and to our other noble pursuits.

Starting a Business (10%)

Does a rental property count? We want to invest in a rental property when the Denver market cools down. The numbers do not work in our favor at the moment.

Buying a Home (23%) 

We bought our first home this year. We put 25% down and went slightly over our initial budget. It is just the right size and structure for us. The neighborhood’s not bad either.

a suburban feel in a city

Buying/Leasing a Car (27%)

Our beloved Honda Fit has given us so much and asked for so little.  We’ve traversed much of the country (baring the northwest), criss-crossing it twice (DC to SF, and back) and even venturing into Canada once. The beloved has averaged about 10k miles a year, and currently sits on 70k. She should continue running for a long time. We use public transportation for our daily commute.

Starting/increasing retirement contributions (28%) & Saving more in general (53%)

The generally recommended 10% – 15% savings will give you a retirement when you’re 65. Retiring earlier requires a more aggressive approach. Dave Ramsey’s investment calculator can help you determine how your savings will grow based on what you intend to save.

We live on one income and save the other. That, if the market remains steady, should allow us to be FI in ten years. We are not frugal, but we live within our means.

We have not maxed our retirement accounts so far, but we intend to next year.

Saving for Vacation (31%)

Vacations are great, and we’re looking to do that to perpetuity after we reach our FI. For now, we’ve allocated 2% of our gross pay towards our recreational expenses that includes eating out, movies, vacation and the likes. We have a few trips planned for next year – and those will have to stay within the allocated fund.

While the 2% seems low (and it is), we actually travel quite a bit. We feel we’re better traveled than most people we know.

Not accumulating any/more debt (42%) & Paying down debt (58%)

We live within our means. We do need an emergency stash, which we intend to build up next year. We carry two credit cards, but pay them off almost immediately. So I’m not sure if we’re using our credit cards the right way.

We have a thirty-year mortgage, but we intend to pay it off in twenty. Refinancing to a fifteen year is an option we want to explore next year.

For all the rest, I’d create a budget. The money map is a fun exercise to trim away the fat.


Living ordinarily is key – we certainly do not feel we miss out on anything. Learning to love where we are in life and what we have, if those do not come naturally to you, is critical to a happy life.

My Money Map, Sir!

Would you do this if you had a million dollars?, asked my wife as she came home from work this morning.

Yes I would, I tell her.

How about ten million?

Yes, I would.

I’m going to sleep now, you incorrigible boy.

But this, the official money map chain gang, is a wonderful exercise. Thank you Apathy Ends and  Budget on a Stick. And thank you Good Life. Better for pointing me to PowerPoint – at last some good use.

So here’s mine – the money map – someday to be worth something.

And following the customary tradition that is now 34 links strong –

The Official Money Map Chain Gang:
Anchors: Apathy EndsBudget on a Stick
#1: The Luxe Strategist
#2: Adventure Rich
#3: Minafi
#4: Othalafehu
#5: The Frugal Gene
#6: Working Optional
#7: Our Financial Path
#8: Atypical Life
#9: Eccentric Rich Uncle
#10: Cantankerous Life
#11: The Retirement Manifesto
#12: Debts to Riches
#13: Need2Save
#14: Money Metagame
#15: CYinnovations
#16: I Dream of FIRE
#17: Stupid Debt
#18: Spills Spot
#19: Making Your Money Matter
#20: Life Zemplified
#21: Trail to FI
#22: The Lady in the Black
#23: Smile & Conquer
#24: Her Money Moves
#25: Full Time Finance
#26: Abandoned Cubicle
#27: Freedom is Groovy
#28: Millennial Money Diaries
#29: All About Balance
#30: A Journey to FI
#31: Present Value Finance
#32: [HaltCatchFire]
#33: Good Life. Better.
#34: gofi


Middle Class or Middle Income*

A surge of articles on “middle class” hit my Feedly yesterday. I grew up in a middle class family, without quite knowing what it was. My father made sure I had everything I needed – but that was probably because I didn’t ask for much. I remember asking my Economics teacher back in high school what it meant to be middle class. What I actually wanted was a number – that threshold where you left middle class and entered upper class or upper middle class at least.

Being of any particular class, of course, has nothing to do with being happy. My parents are certainly happier today, in their restricted budget, than they were when they were working and had disposable money. The happiest being in the world is a monk. But to the rest of us, the average beings, the true utility of belonging to any class is completely comparative (and irrelevant).

This Washington Post calculator and the Pew Research Center posits my wife and I in the upper income tier.

<Caption: I like them a lot – how quickly flippant, you say>

In reality, we are town home dwellers living among single family ones that cost a half million and more. I don’t feel particularly middle class when my long serving Honda Fit parks next to any of the other cars in the neighborhood. My neighbors include a retired teacher and a registered nurse who is also a single mother of two excitable boys.

I think we’re mixing middle class with middle income. And perhaps why the Pew Research cites “upper income tier” (not middle class) on the article about determining if you’re middle class.

One of my heroes is Ronald Read. For as much as is known about him, I find him refreshing and philosophic in infinite melancholic ways – more on that on later posts.

The middle class, the Pew Research Center posits, is the spectrum between 2/3 of the median HH income and twice the HH median. Using the median annual household income in the U.S. which was $56,516 in 2015, the middle class spectrum for the year was $37,677 to $113,032.

Anything higher, which I suspect is the bracket most FI seekers fall under, would place you in the “upper income tier”.

Your working salary, though, is short lived and temperamental to the market, the self, and a whole host of external forces. Just about the only way FI works is if our salaries are reinforced with the way we live, our outlook and an honest goal. How long we sustain these determine whether or not we succeed.

There are a few practical things we’ve done (but previously shared by a hundred others). Before I list, please note: We are not hippies. We lean both left and right, to choose the best of all worlds, usually for the best of more than just us.

First off, marry well. Choose wisely – a frugal, employable spouse. My wife and I live on one income. We married in court for $12. I took a half day off. While we’re still not maximizing our 401k, we are saving over 50% of our gross pay – significantly higher than the national savings rate that, depending on the source, hovers anywhere from 5% to 15%.

We don’t do Whole foods, and Trader Joes is awesome.

Choose a degree that pays. If that’s done and not done well, choose a job that pays. I’ve worked with people from all educational background and attainment. If you don’t have the degree, get the experience.

I’d like to say Never Settle. But I’ve sort of settled into a semi-stress free job, where I dream of someday working for Google without the fear of loosing the job.

Save and invest, wisely. For us, the less sophisticated majority and somewhat young, the most potent vehicle are time (start early, start young), maximizing all available tax-advantaged retirement plans, than some more. Our portolio is here, if you’re keen.

Where you live will greatly impact your savings. Our housing expense quadrupled after we moved to CO (from KY). Magnify Money lists ten top places to live for six figure households. Cities in Tennessee loom large (I once interviewed for a small company in Chattanooga – but didn’t get the job). Avoid the usual suspects (SF, DC, Honolulu, and  Boston that make the converse list) – especially if you’re flipping burgers – I’ve never understand why as is evidenced by this and this).

Find alternate sources of income, best if completely passive. I’m trying my luck with this site, but there’s a lot to learn.

In gist: Status is irrelevant, avoid the coasts, save and invest, find passive means, never settle, get that degree (and job), marry well and be humble (in reverse order) – those, my friend, should make you FI.

And finally, just for kicks: a million is more or less what most people aim for (after which they get insecure and postpone). But if you were good with a million, the 4% today places you at:  


*The title is adopted from this Pew Research article that is a more thorough write up on the middle class.

Minimalism, in a few things 

Our lifestyle shapes our financials. We like our space light and airy. Our room is all space and a mattress. Welcome to our Crib!

Our clothes dry in the sun. We’ll slip those in the dryer now that winter’s near.

For vacuuming, we use this. Fellow readers, if you can show me how I can become an affiliate on this or anything else, please. It is great on the carpet, and not so much on the hardwood floor. But our homes 65% carpet, and our primordial broom can sweep away anything on the wood.

We run the dishwasher and the AC occasionally (to ensure that they are working). We hand wash everything. The fans become redundant when the windows are half open in the summers.


We have “normal” expenses.

We bought a town home this year. We upgraded from a one bedroom in Kentucky to a two bedroom now. We pay four times more now than we did in Kentucky.

We travel – weekend getaways and week-long ones. We’ve traversed the country, length and breadth. Our beloved Honda Fit now runs only on weekends and when public transportation is absent.  She’s logged 70k miles since 2011, and is good for more than a decade. She is (with my old guitar and my recently retired I-Phone 4) my dearest attachment – companions of my dark days.

We eat out once or twice a week. We always share the drink. On proposing that she and her husband do the same, an older colleague working overtime retaliated with absolute amazement: “But I want my own drink”.

When seriously starved, the China Gardens and the India Palaces make for better deals. If at MacDonalds, a dollar is all you need.

But we cook. We cook every day. My wife takes the leftovers to work. I did carrots for a year (so much so that one colleague “replied all” to team lunch email that said “gofi, you are not a rabbit”). I’ve since progressed to Oat Meals (for ~$3 for a box of 8 packets, and with 2 packets/lunch => $0.75/lunch). My wife prefers home meals and I just want a light lunch (so I can dinner like a pig).

Because we cook, we’re now able to dish out a few high quality meals, that when plated properly look all the more desirable (should there a need to impress).

note to self <insert better pic – that steak>

I fight my greatest battles in the mornings – three Starbucks scattered strategically on my way to office. I’m not a sucker I tell myself. I count my days and walk on. The mediocre coffee in my office is good enough.

We buy what we need. We have everything we need.

The public transportation is great for getting to work. I enjoy people gazing, imagining what they do and how they live. It is a wonderful diversion and is the fastest hour of my day. I remind myself to be grateful for all the wonderful things I have, that I smile, and remain humble.

The light rail to work stops at the Union Station. I refuse the free mall rides to office and walk instead. A mile to and a mile back make my 2 miles a day exercise.  On most evenings, my wife and I walk the extensive network of walking paths that run through our neighborhood, and the sight of good looking people (in Thule and Patagonia) is always mentally  rewarding. Please keep consuming. We’ve added a Rowing Machine for the winter, and for my lungs and stiff bones.

I should end now. It’s 10:20 PM. Please comment. If nothing else, let me know how your dog is doing.