My elastic habits are still going well. I’ll get into specifics in the finance and housekeeping sections. To keep the blog from getting too repetitive, I’ll make this the last Elastic Habits update until something changes.
I updated my budget spreadsheet to reflect my current spending. Not surprisingly, I spend more on books than I thought. My next step is to set up the budget in Quicken, and then I’ll start working through the advice in these financial books.
I got a sense of the big picture of personal finance from Douglas McCormick’s Family Inc. In contrast with the piecemeal way I’d been thinking about the issues, McCormick systematically applies the tools of corporate finance to the household, treating your whole financial future as a unit and strategizing to optimize and protect it. It felt like a revelation, and McCormick’s book quickly became my favorite in this project so far.
I started reading the OpenStax textbook Principles of Economics. This is partly to get a general understanding of how money works, but mostly it’s because I’ve discovered I think a lot in terms of economics, which I’ve learned isn’t so much about money as about decision making under scarcity. So this book is part of my decision making project, along with Making Hard Decisions, which is about decision making under uncertainty.
I extended tendrils of understanding into finance by reading many articles.
- I tried to wrap my head around the GameStop short squeeze from last month. It’s what I’m calling a keyhole, a topic or source that feels arcane enough to be a good entry point into an intermediate or advanced knowledge of its larger subject area. I usually find keyholes to camp near when I’m exploring a subject. Wikipedia has an article on the short squeeze, but Business Insider’s explanation was the most helpful. Paranoid Enough had interesting commentary.
- My friend Kenny, who trades as a hobby and is another keyhole, pointed me to an article on Boomer vs Millennial investing, which was a gateway to several other concepts:
- The wallstreetbets activity I was hearing about seemed to fit under the category of day trading, which I first heard about from a TV news story in the ’90s about how stressful it was. So I looked into what the deal is. Is it just gambling? Is it a bad idea?
- I found an update on another keyhole, Qplum, a robo trading firm I heard about on The AI Podcast back when I was introducing myself to futurism.
- Kenny is always pushing cryptocurrency on me, so I looked for opinions pro (one from Coinmonks on Medium and one from Coindesk that I barely understood) and con. Mostly con (CFA Institute, Motley Fool, Motley Fool again, CNBC).
- I used to hear Suze Orman on talk radio back when I listened to it. Eric Tyson, the author of some Wiley personal finance books, has a dim view of her ethics.
- How about Dave Ramsey? I think of him as the more-charismatic successor to Larry Burkett. Here’s a colorful report on his business and its audience. The reviews I found mostly agreed with his advice but had some disagreements on the details.
- My boss introduced me to the recommendation site Five Books, where I looked at some of the very interesting finance interviews.
Last week’s housekeeping project was digging my car out of my parking space. I had an office party at work to drive to on Friday. We’d had a couple of snowstorms in the past few weeks, and since I hadn’t moved my car at all in that time, the plows had surrounded my car in a mountain range of snow, not to mention the foot-thick blanket covering the car itself. I spent three half-hour sessions brushing and shoveling away the snow, but at the end of all that, the car would barely budge.
My friend Tim saved the day with his snow removal skills. I called him Thursday night once I knew I couldn’t do any more for my car. He does this kind of thing for a living, so I knew he could help. I was going to get a ride to the work party with a coworker and worry about my car later, but Tim said he was free that night, and he came over soon after. His first idea was to tow my car out of the space with his truck, but after not finding a good hitching point on my car, he tried putting salt behind the tires. That’s all it took. I drove my car to a temporary spot, and we spent a while shoveling away the extra snow around my space. We weren’t expecting to get together till the weather improved, so my conundrum worked to our advantage.
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Friday was my work department’s delayed Christmas party. This was the reason for all the shoveling. We ordered from McAlister’s Deli, which I’d never heard of but immediately added to my list of places to eat with friends, and congregated in our floor’s large conference room so we could spread out. While eating we guessed which answers were whose to some ice breaker questions. My alphabetically ordered guesses scored surprisingly well. Then we played charades with titles of books we’d published. I found out I don’t mind charades as much as I thought, which I partly attribute to my interest in visual memory techniques. Finally was a gift exchange, which due to circumstances I wasn’t able to contribute to, but they gave me something anyway, a steering wheel desk for my parking lot picnics. It was a fun time.
For Lent I’m going to self-facilitate some Immanuel prayer, possibly via Immanuel journaling. Lent goes from Wednesday the 17th to Easter on April 4. It’s been a long time since I’ve conducted Immanuel, so I’ll try it this week and then decide whether to continue or switch to some other practice.