Sunday, thanks to procrastination, I let my mind wander for quite a while on the web, and I was inspired by two ideas for new hobbies.
I’m adding stormwater management to my local sightseeing. Living in an area that floods fairly often has made me more aware of the way nature encroaches on civilization despite our efforts to keep it at bay, and it’s given me a respect and a bit of awe for the task of stormwater management (interesting and informative video). A while back I signed up for my county department’s email newsletter, but until that Sunday I’d always skimmed over them. This time the strange structure in the email’s photo caught my attention. I decided to investigate, and an epic, hidden world was revealed. Hidden because you barely know it’s there unless you know what to look for. Epic because every day the system stands ready to perform its quiet but massive task of averting floods. Some of it even looks epic—mysterious pumps and large floodgates. And it helps me answer one of the questions in the back of my mind: How does a city work? So now I’m exploring this new layer of my surroundings, and I’ll be making field trips. This will probably get me to revive my practice of visiting the area’s forest preserves, since I haven’t seen them all yet.
I might look into container gardening on my balcony. This one was inspired by my impression that investing is similar to farming: You plant your seeds in the right circumstances for them to thrive, tend them, and wait for them to grow and produce fruit. Then watching one of my streamer friends play Minecraft reminded me that farming is one of my favorite parts of that game, and I thought maybe I should try actual gardening to see what that’s like. I remember hearing at least once in college that gardening is a spiritual discipline, and that’s always seemed right to me. So if my interest continues, I’ll do some research and see what’s involved.
I refined my budget and emergency fund. My budget spreads my yearly expenses across the whole year to make sure I’m saving enough for them. But the expenses are staggered throughout the year, so I needed to calculate the year’s starting budget with some of those goals in progress.
For my emergency fund, I imagined losing my job at the worst possible time and having to pay all my yearly expenses rather than only saving a few monthly fractions of them. This made the total more intimidating, so instead of six months of expenses, I might start with three and build up. Next I’m researching the expenses I’ll only have if I’m unemployed (health and disability insurance, maybe others) so I can incorporate those into the emergency fund.
Penny Stocks for Dummies by Peter Leeds is a nice in-depth primer on fundamental and technical analysis. Penny stocks are more vulnerable to the forces that move prices, so they’re a keyhole through which to view the topic of careful investing and trading. The book’s checklists and flowcharts for making wise trades felt solid. It also sparked the realization that you can base decisions about your own business on the factors in fundamental analysis (how much debt to take on, how much advertising to do, etc.).
The Little Book of Valuation by Aswath Damodaran (Google talk) took me further into the benefits and intricacies of judging the health of a venture. In the context of investing, valuation is the process of determining what a company is worth so you can compare it to the company’s stock price. Some features of the book that stood out to me: (1) It discusses valuation measures for each stage of a company’s lifecycle and offers ways an investor can benefit from even a failing company. (2) It discusses techniques for special cases, such as companies with intangible assets, which apparently accountants don’t evaluate well.
The Little Book of Investing Like the Pros is another rich resource for learning and planning. It puts valuation in the context of an overall procedure for active investing. This book could be a good way to learn about accounting and investing concepts, since I’d have to look up 10 terms on every page. But I got the gist of their approach, and it was the kind of process I would use: Progressively narrow down the stock choices, decide what to do based on the stock quality and my overall plan, then monitor and adjust.
Common Stocks and Common Sense takes a case study approach to its advice, which helpfully gives me a lot to analyze. Hearing about a value investor’s work reinforces my sense that this is the approach I’d take if I were picking stocks. It appeals to my preference for sifting through a pile of options to find the one that feels best based on careful research and weighing the relevant factors. To the other ideas of value investing I’d already picked up, this book added the idea of looking for a large safety margin.
I learned (again) I can go to bed earlier with proper motivation. My bedtimes had been pushing the limit, but Thursday’s was 15 minutes too late for me to count it as a win. In Elastic Habits you get one patch per two-week period to make up for a missed habit. I decided I could patch Thursday’s sleep time if I got to bed a little earlier the next day, and I managed 10:00. This reminds me that it’s possible and just takes planning throughout the evening rather than ignoring my target bedtime until the last minute.
An online friend died. I found out a couple of weeks ago, but I waited to talk about it until I could find more news. Thursday I found an obituary and other confirming information. And I felt I needed to tell the community we were a part of, which forced me to face the situation. It’s been hard. I may have more to say about it next week.