Sunday, February 19, 2017

Changing My Retirement Sleeping Schedule

"Early to bed and early to rise." ~ Benjamin Franklin

When I was working, I would go to bed at midnight and get up at 5AM.   After retiring, I slowly evolved to going to sleep at midnight and getting up at 8PM.   I'm consciously thinking about gettng up earlier (about 5-6AM) and going to bed earlier (9-10 PM).    Even on weekends and holidays.

This may be challenging since I am more of a night person.  However, getting up early may allow me quiet time to put significant effort against some projects, before the family is awake.  Also, I've learned that even though I'm retired, there are still some things I need to do only during normal business hours.

So tonight, I'll be to bed by 10PM.  Tomorrow, I'll be up by 6AM.

For more on  New Beginnings, check back Sundays for a new segment.

This is not financial or sleeping advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Returning to Periodic Posting

With this post,  the number of 2017 posts (77) is equal to all the posts from 2014 through 2016.  I guess I had a lot of pent up posts ready to go.  It's been fun.  However, I think I used up all my material ready to post in the near term.

So I am moving back to periodic posting of at least once a month, which is what I did for most of  2015 and 2016, after taking a sabbatical in 2014 .  

For more on New Beginnings, check back Sundays for a new segment.

This is not financial or blogging advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Places I Like to Shop

First, I admit I am an technology Neanderthal.  I don't have a cell phone, I don't have a Facebook account, and I don't shop online.

I still prefer to shop at brick and mortar stores, where I can still touch and feel the item(s) I am buying.   Still I have a preference of stores where I make purchases.  Here is my top stores list:

  • Costco -  First, I know Costco is charging a minimum markup price.  So I know I am getting a good deal.  Second, I like the items the Costco buyers choose.  There selection is not wide, but it is good.   Third, Costco has a lifetime satisfaction and return policy, except for computers, cameras, and TVs.  So I can try something out for a while and decide.   The downside is the emphasis on bulk purchases, leading me to buy a several months worth of some items.

    I like buying specialty clothing, seasonal gear, and staples (like batteries) at Costco.   Occasionally, I find something that I really wasn't considering, but thought it would be fun to try (e.g. a gazebo kit, which took me a couple weeks to assemble).

  • Lowe's -  This is my go to store for household maintenance items.  I can usually find what I need or they will direct me to a place that my carry the item.  Also, several of the associates are long time employees and are very knowledgeable.  The prices are also very good.  I applied for the Lowe's credit card, since it gives an automatic 5% discount.  Lately, Lowe's has been giving out an 11% coupon randomly when I make a purchase.

    We purchased our last two kitchen appliances there.  We found new handles to upgrade our cabinet look.   We just purchased electrical plate covers to replace the brass ones.  Our next purchase will be to replace the faucets and sinks as needed.

  • Whole Foods - Yeah, they're expensive.  However, often they are the only grocery store that carry some of the prepared vegan, no oil added foods that are part of my diet.  Fortunately, these products go on sales sometimes and I stock up.

  • Trader Joe's -  Good healthy food and great prices.  An excellent opportunity to try new foods.   Also, it has a great selection of staples that help me maintain my vegan, no added oil diet.

  • Kroger's -  This is our local grocery store.  They have been expanding into the organic foods market with their own private label brand, which is very cost competitive.  Also, we buy a lot of our produce here.
These stores are where I probably spend 80% of my funds.   So I really don't need the online purchasing capability.

Disclosure:  We own Kroger in our personal accounts.  One of our managed accounts owns Costco.  Also, I received no compensation for writing this post.

For more on Reflections and Musings, check back Saturdays for a new segment.

This is not financial or shopping advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

A Lesson from Crashes I've Lived Through

I've lived through four major stock market crashes, and I was invested in three of them.

1973 - 74  -   I wasn't old enough to invest, but I do remember this crash.  This was the same time as oil embargo/gasoline crisis.   The stock market lost 45% of its value.

1987 -  On October 19, 1987, the stock market lost 22.6% of its value in a single day.  This was the first crash during which I was invested.

2000 - 02 -  From the September 11, 2001, the date of the WTC terrorist attacks, the markets declined then recovered in early 2002 and then fell sharply again.  The Dow declined 35% from its peak and the Nasdaq declined 44%.  This happened after the Internet bubble in stocks that occurred up to 2000.

2008 - 09 -  This was the latest stock market crash due to the financial crisis of 2008.   The stock market fell 54% from October 2007 to March 2009.

Subsequently after each crash the stock market rose to new highs.  It's hard to remember that fact while in the depths of a downturn.  But it's one worth remembering since I expect to live through at least three more market crashes.

For more on Reflections and Musings, check back  Saturdays for a new segment.

This is not financial or investing advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Friday, February 17, 2017

Not Feeling the Love of New Highs

Yesterday, the Dow had sixth day of setting a record high.  Wednesday marked the fifth day in a row tht all the major indices closed at a record high at the same time.    This has not happened since 1992.

I should be ecstatic, but I'm not.    Although our accounts are at or near all time highs, individual stock performance is very mixed.   Some stocks are near 52 week highs, while other are near 52 week lows. It's very discomforting to have this bimodal performance.  I don't feel this market advance is sustainable.

So I am selling some investments and raising cash.    We will put the funds back into the economy by spending them on home improvements and a vacation.  For now, I feel these options feel will get a better return on our retirement savings than being invested in the stock market :-)

For more on Reaping the Rewards, check back Fridays for a new segment.

This is not financial or retirement advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eating Out is Now an Expensive Norm

CNBC highlighted the high expense of extreme eating out an article on how one couple spent $30,000 last year on away from home meals.  That's $82 a day for their three person family.

When I was growing up, eating out, even at McDonald's was a rare event.   My mom cooked most of our meals from scratch.  TV dinners, as frozen prepared meals were called back then, were also a special occasional treat.  

From college forward, I became used to eating out.  There was the company cafeteria, quick meals in the evening, and entertainment with friends.  I don't know how much I spent since I didn't keep track of the amount.

We don't eat out as much anymore since I am on a strict vegan no added oil diet.   Still, we do go out occasionally as a family for special celebrations, such as birthdays, at an average cost of $120. Also, we'll go to a fast food restaurant if we are out a while with the kids, which costs $10-$20.  So, we might spend $80 average a month eating out.   Even then, that adds up to about a $1000 per year.  But we would probably easily spend at least $600 a month  (or $20 a day) eating out if we both working and I didn't have a dietary restriction.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back  Thursdays for a new segment.

This is not financial or food advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Appliances Don't Last as Long Anymore

When I was growing up, household appliances seemed to last forever, or at least I don't ever remember replacing them.  While growing up, we had the same refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, range the entire time.   Also, my mom had the same vacuum cleaner until it became too heavy to use after 40 years.

Nowadays, household appliances seem to have a much shorter life.  Recently, we replaced a 25 year old dishwasher and double oven.  The sales representative told us the life of the new dishwasher was about 8-10 years.  The working life of the double oven was also 8-10 years.  The quoted lives are based on standard usage.  Since we use our dishwasher three times more than the standard, we may get a shorter useful life.  We use our oven less than the standard, so it will probably last longer.

So even though we just replaced our kitchen appliances, we'll probably need to replace them 1-3 more times during our retirement years.   There is silver lining benefit to the short replacement cycle.   Although I'd prefer to keep the same appliance, I must admit the newer appliance are function much better, and in the case of our dishwasher, much quieter.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

This is not financial or appliance advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Don't Forget Maintenance Costs

I used to just look at the purchase price before deciding to buy something.  Over time, I learned that maintenance cost is also an important component in the decision making process.   Sometimes, since maintenance is an ongoing cost, it can be a major factor in determining the financial feasibility of a purchase,

Here are some rules of thumb that I have learned about maintenance costs:
  • Everything has a maintenance cost.   From clothing to a house, everything requires periodic cleaning and repair.  We may choose to defer maintenance to reduce costs, but the lack of maintenance with eventually cause an issue.
  • Higher complexity = higher maintenance cost.    A motorcycle costs more to maintain than a bike.  A car costs more to maintain than a motorcycle.   A luxury car costs more to maintain than a standard car.
  • More stuff = more maintenance cost and effort.  I used to think that owning things was cost efficient.  Having our own pool would save membership fees.  Having a vacation home would save rental costs.  That is true, but then the hidden cost and time of maintenance needs to be considered.   Nowadays, I think it's sometimes more cost efficient to rent when needed and let someone us handle the maintenance.  
Not only does maintenance incur costs, it also takes time to get it done, even if someone else is paid to do the maintenance.  Nowadays, I think less (complexity, cost, stuff) is better.  So that we can spend our time and money on more important things.

For more on The Practice of Personal Finance, check back Wednesdays for a new segment.

This is not financial or maintenance advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Looking for Signs of a Correction

Someday this bull market will take a substantial pause.  Unfortunately, I don't know when that will be.   In the meantime, it is prudent to anticipate this inevitable correction of unknown timing and duration.  Here are some signs I'll be looking for:
  • Exuberance - This is when everybody is excited and talking about how well they are doing in the stock market.  I don't see much of this happening yet.
  • FOMO investing -  This is when people start investing more in stocks because they're afraid of missing out on what everybody is exuberant about.   It seems to me there is still a lot of cash on the sidelines.
  • All stocks advance -  This is when good, as well as bad stocks keep going up.   There is no differentiation as investors put money into index funds/ETFs, driving up the valuation of all stocks.  Not happening yet, since there are a number of stocks still near or at the 52 week lows.
Net,  the current administration has not yet taken any concrete actions that would justify the optimism of the stock market.  If we seen part of all of the three above points in the next few months, I will start expecting a correction to be coming soon.

For more on The Practice of Personal Finance, check back Wednesdays for a new segment.

This is not financial or investing advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Renting Skis Makes Economic Sense for Us

My daughter and I have a season pass at the local ski resort.   We also rent ski equipment instead of purchasing our own.  I didn't do the economic calculation when we first decided, because I didn't know if we would ski more than a couple years.  But now that we've been skiing 3 years, it may be worth considering purchasing skis.

On the internet, current late season sale price for  a ski package (skis, bindings and boots) is about $800 for adults,  and $350 for kids.   Assuming my daughter will need 5 sets of skis before she is an adult, that would be $1750.  

Renting for the past three years has been $100/year for the entire season.    An additional benefit is that we don't need to store or maintain the skis.   Also, our rental package allows us to use skis or snowboards, and we can change our ski length at any time.

As I see it, it's probably a better financial decision to rent, instead of purchase.  First, I don't know how long I or my daughter will be skiing.   Second, we don't need more stuff to store at our house.  Third, I like the flexibility of being able to ski or snowboard.  Finally, $100 seems awfully cheap for a season of use since a day rental is $25.   In past seasons, we would ski about 12 times, which works out to a cost of $8.50 per rental.

This year, we've already skied 15 times and expect to get out 20 time, for an average of $5.00 per rental, which seems like a great deal.  The downside is if we ever try skiing at a resort out west.  Since ski rental could run up to $100/day, owning skis may make sense for multiple vacations to distant ski resorts

For more on Ideas You Can Use, check back every for a new segment.

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2017 Achievement Catalyst, LLC