Weeknote for 2/28/2021

Blog

🙂

To make these weeknotes easier, I’m writing parts of them in advance. Specifically, when I finish a book, I’m making myself write about it before I start the next one. Writing a weeknote segment is part of my definition of “done” for a book. The idea of writing about events as they happen has come up before, but I was never organized enough to make it happen. It’s worked well with books this past week, so maybe this technique can be a model for other weeknote topics.

Sleep

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I need to move my bedtime up to 10:30. For the most part, my elastic habit has been getting me more sleep and keeping me from naps, but I’m sort of cheating. Working from home means I can wake up later, so I can push my bedtime later. But that won’t work when I go back to the office, and I tend to wake up at 6:30 against my will anyway, so I’m figuring out how to get to bed earlier.

I finished my big tub of Beaumont Classic Roast Coffee, and I rate it 1 out of 5. I wasn’t a fan of the flavor or the aroma.

Finances

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To help me manage the flood of tasks in my finance project, I grouped them into categories. To come up with an initial task list, I surveyed my personal finance books and added whatever else was on my mind. Then in my task manager, I grouped the tasks by category and moved them into new projects so I wouldn’t have to look at them all at once. I ended up with thirteen categories: budget, current status (net worth and cash flow), goals, emergency fund, retirement accounts, management (mainly organization and scheduling), additional insurance (especially disability), charity, expense reduction, income, advisors, estate planning, and active investing.

Adding my bills to Quicken reminded me of how many I have, and not all of them are necessary. Quicken has its bills feature to remind you to pay them, but most of mine are paid automatically. I’m using it as a convenient list to remind me of my recurring expenses and help me refine my budget. I can save about $100 a month if I drop a bunch of subscriptions.

The Elements of Investing is a surprisingly helpful little book. From the table of contents, I assumed it would be a simple, bland rehash of the basic investing principles I’d picked up from the other books. But no, it was engaging and practical, with specific recommendations for funds, allocations, and further reading. They even suggest strategies for dealing with bear markets and the lower returns on bonds we can expect right now. Not bad for a two-hour read. And I was pleased they give us permission to do what I’d been planning, to keep some money on the side for “fun” investing, as long as we’re using more secure strategies for our core investments.

The Bogleheads’ Guide to the Three-Fund Portfolio gives practical advice on a simple retirement plan, but it takes its time getting to it. The three funds are chosen to be as broad as possible: total market funds for US stocks, US bonds, and international stocks. The book spends most of its time trying to convince you of the plan, which I’m sure is necessary for many readers. If you’re already convinced, the advice you can find for free online may be good enough.

In The Investor’s Manifesto, William Bernstein tells us how to handle the massive risks of investing. My dad had the print version of this book and gave it to me a few years ago, but I didn’t know enough about investing to feel ready to read it. Now I have enough of a clue that I could mostly follow it. Bernstein is like a slightly less crotchety and more practical Nassim Taleb. But his main contribution for me was his historical perspective. Financial markets are a lot older than I thought, and the dramatic events we see today have happened before. I especially took note of Eugene Fama and the efficient market hypothesis, which will be relevant if I get around to exploring technical analysis.

Stock Investing for Dummies was a very worthwhile listen even if I’m not its target audience. It’s a book for investors who want to pick individual stocks, and I’m left wondering what John Bogle would think. But even if I stick with mutual funds and ETFs, the book still gave me a lot more detail on how the stock market works. He even explained short squeezes. So I found it valuable. Speaking of which, the book also told me what value investing is, and if I did pick stocks, that sounds like the route I’d take, so I’ve added those books from the bundle to my reading list.

Online Investing for Dummies is just what I needed, an annotated bibliography of the investing web. I thought the book would be a repeat of Stock Investing for Dummies with a few instructions on placing orders online, but I was wrong. It’s a guided tour through the vast realm of online information and tools you can use to research, choose, execute, evaluate, and discuss your investments. It told me even more about how the markets work, such as how a trade makes its way from your order to its execution. And I finally learned the names for the conflicting investing styles being advocated in these books—active and passive. Krantz doesn’t take sides and shepherds you to resources for whichever style you prefer.

Spirituality

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Immanuel Prayer hasn’t been happening, so I’m rethinking my plans for Lent. Immanuel feels a little too time consuming right now. Two alternatives come to mind: (1) listening to some books on spirituality, as I have in the past, and (2) adopting a practice of praying in everyday circumstances, such as while going to sleep or preparing food. This practice dovetails with the kind of habit formation I’ve been working on. One way of establishing a habit is to piggyback it off another habit you already have, such as when you’re eating a meal.

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