Thursday, September 26, 2013

How Should FIRE Timeline Affect Asset Allocation?

I was reading an interesting post over at Save & Conquer about the risks inherent to investing, and in the comments Bryce suggested that I consider a glide path for our asset allocation as we get closer to retirement age. We currently use Bernstein's Simpleton's Portfolio, consisting of equal parts of US large company stocks, US small company stocks, foreign stocks, and short term US bonds. Bryce indicated that asset allocation would be fine for now, but as we approach retirement age, we should probably reduce risk.

This got me thinking. We are supposedly seven to eight years away from early retirement, making us the financial equivalent of a typical fifty-eight year old. In retirement years, we're flipping old! Is our asset allocation appropriate for our retirement age? More importantly, with the especially short acquisition time frame & correspondingly longer period of retirement, does the typical glide path asset allocation logic apply? That is, can we afford to get conservative if we are planning to live off our nest egg for sixty years, instead of the typical thirty?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Football, Losing, & Bad Behavior

It's Sunday, which means I'm about to watch my Steelers lose, again. They cannot run, they cannot pass, and, just to keep a healthy balance, they've built a team that cannot score, either. This week they're scheduled to lose to the Bears, and you can watch it yourself since the game on national television in prime time. I have come to terms with Pittsburgh's ineptitude this year. They are a bad team, and help is not on the way. Still, I love watching the Steelers, terrible as they are. Just like Carrie Underwood, I've been waiting all day for Sunday night.

But what happens after a loss? You know, besides occasionally swearing at my television and maybe punching a pillow. Might there be some unintended changes to my behavior based on a loss or, worse, an entire losing season? An NPR story provided some interesting insights and it turns out, yes, there are notable consequences for fans of losing sports teams.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Where My Property Taxes Go

As we paid off our home this summer, we are now paying property taxes directly for the first time next month, or so says the bill that came in the mail last week. Along with the preposterously low bill ($762 for one year), the good people from the City of Scottsdale provide a breakdown showing where our tax dollars go. And along with each individual charge, they also included a phone number to call if you wanted to ask questions about how that portion of your property tax was spent. So, naturally, I called around, if only to get more grist for the mill here at the blog.

I was completely amazed at how little we have to pay to get world class amenities in our little city. Below is a full outline of what we pay, and where those dollars go (rounded to the nearest dollar). All the information comes from the pleasant & helpful county & city workers who picked up the phone when I called, and who were probably a little surprised that some random taxpayer wanted to ask about every single line item on his tax bill.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How We Negotiate, Part II

In a previous post on negotiation, we covered the idea that a plan should be established, research performed, interests identified, & a BATNA established, all before you start talking to the other party. But at some point, we have to actually negotiate, and we have to begin the prickly process of talking about price. And this is where we typically get uncomfortable, because we spend most of our lives simply looking for good prices via sales & coupons rather than trying to actually generate better prices via a negotiation.

But how do we do that? I’ll try to cover what we do in our household with negotiations in the post below. For the most part, I am writing from the perspective of a buyer because, as consumers, we are more often buying things than we are selling them. And rather than trying to cover the entire subject of negotiation holistically in the span of 1500 words, this post instead gives some quick and dirty tips that should improve your results.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is it Moral to Let a Sucker Keep His Money?

I know I owe you an article on negotiation.  But in planning out the post, the Mrs. and I got into a good discussion on the ethics of making a purchase or sale, which is way more interesting than negotiating tactics anyway. That article will come soon enough.

Mrs. Done by Forty took issue with a phrase I throw around from time to time: "It's immoral to let a sucker keep his money." I first heard the line in Rounders, when Mike McDermott quoted Canada Bill Jones, justifying a poker hustle he and Worm were running on a group of trust fund babies. Jones is also credited with saying that a "Smith & Wesson beats four aces," which gives a better understanding of the kind of person he was. Canada Bill Jones was a real and true riverboat gambler from the 1800's, who amassed a fortune off of marks using a three card monte scam, and then lost it all back just as quickly to professionals gamblers and short card cons. Jones died broke in a hospital, as Chicago area gamblers had to pay the local mayor for his funeral expenses. I don't know what it means that I agree with the ethos of such a man, but there it is.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lessons from Chip Kelly

Last night Chip Kelly's Eagles picked apart the defense of the Washington Redskins, in a way that I hadn't seen in professional football before. The Eagles were playing fast, moving even faster between plays, going for it on fourth down, and mixing up their attack to the point that offensive linemen were split out wide. It got so bad that Kelly let his foot off the gas in the third quarter and nearly let Washington come back; but the game really wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

In a way, the result shouldn't have been surprising at all: Oregon & other college football teams have been doing this sort of wide open, up-tempo stuff for a while. But the NFL is a bastion of conformity: it's odd when we see someone doing things differently & still succeeding. There is a right way to coach and to play and those who think otherwise will learn that lesson sooner or later. Or so the story goes.