Tag Archives: inspiration

Atomic Habits: What I Learned from James Clear’s Book

We all know habits are important – whether for our personal fitness or our finances. Yet nearly all of us acknowledge the fact that we don’t have the best habits for our personal development.

This book, which I read and reflected on the last two weeks, revealed just how important habits are. I took away many points – some of which I already knew and some of which were completely foreign.

In summary, I learned that habits are crucial for success. They form by a cue and often are formed in large part by our environment. Controlling your environment is a huge part of success. Making your habits Obvious, Attractive, Easy and Satisfying is what the book was really about.

One thing that really stood out to me was the fact that many of the most successful people got to where they are because of environment and habits. Good habits can come from accountability partners, from creating a good environment or simply working to create the obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying habits the author talks about.

I would highly recommend the book for anyone interested in habits or personal development.

Getting on the Grid: The Importance of Communication

We all like to think, especially here in the U.S., that we’re capable of doing nearly all of the things we set or minds to– and doing them well.

While it’s certainly true that almost anything we set our minds to can be done well, the reality is that we have to pick a few things to become great at. Everything else has to either be left in a mediocre/neutral/average state, delegated or abandoned.

While this might sound like a negative, pessimistic view, it’s actually the truth. There is only so much energy, time and resources in our limited life to do everything we set out to do.

With that in mind, we can understand that facilitating our strengths and weaknesses will ultimately determine our success in life. A big part of this is delegation and communication.

Communication, at it’s simplest level, is just transferring knowledge or feelings from one party to another. And the main way this happens is through connection–through authentic mutual understanding.

Your ability to connect, and therefore communicate, plays a massive role of where you’ll be in 20 years. Take time to focus on it, focus on your strengths, and focus on others.

Are Markets Efficient?

When investing your money you’ll hear many different forms of opinion. Experts like Dave Ramsey will tell you to invest in growth stock mutual funds, others will say that index funds are the way to go. Then there is a group of investors that says you can beat the market by buying “undervalued” stocks.

The question that arises is, is there such a thing as an undervalued stock, and if so, is there a reliable way to take advantage of this “market inefficiency”.

Your investment philosophy in stocks is largely dependent on your opinion on what’s called the Efficient Market Theory (EMT). This theory states that markets are fully efficient. In other words any given price in the markets reflects the cumulative “wisdom” of all investors actings logically on fundamental data regarding value.

Essentially the market, according to this theory, is always acting completely logically based on the current information. So at any given point the market isn’t overvalued or undervalued – it’s priced at the fair equilibrium price given the current information available.

Some practitioners and theorists have brought up concerns with the theory stating that it doesn’t accurately reflect the actual results we see in the real world. For example, in the tech “bubble” of 2000, were investors acting completely logically on the market’s information or was there inefficiency?

Ultimately you’ll have to make your own determination. At the moment there isn’t unanimous agreement by the community.

3 Finance Habits to Improve Your Bank Account and Your Sanity

In James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, he concisely illustrates a very important point. Often we think that we need to design the most optimal habits in our lives. For example we need to have a plan to exercise two ours each morning with the proper amount of cardio, aerobic and strength exercises. While doing this can certainly be a great boost of confidence and personal fitness, Clear points out that most of the time we don’t need complex habits – we need two minute habits.

Creating habits is hard enough. For anyone who has tried to change their daily routine for the better, they know how much of a challenge shifting behavior can be. Yet nearly all of us fail. The reason? Our habits aren’t simple enough.

Clear tells us not only to start with two minute habits but to make the cues and catalysts for those habits almost automatic. After all, “You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.”

An area that I have personally been working on is the area of personal finance. I have thought about this topic a great deal in my personal life and have come to the conclusion that there are three key habits for anyone serious about controlling their money:

1) Pay Attention

Tracking your fitness has been shown to produced fitter people. Watching your personal growth has been shown to produce successful people. And measuring your finances has been shown to make richer people. Many studies illustrate this point. Simply staying on top of your bank balances, credit card balances, credit score and retirement accounts will leave you in a much stronger position. The reason is that we tend to improve things we pay attention to.

2) Plan Ahead

Creating a written plan and sticking to it is actually what separates us from animals. We have the ability to plan ahead and participate in what Ray Dalio calls “higher level thinking”. The plan doesn’t have to be complex. You can sit down with your advisor or do it yourself.

3) Learn

This blog isn’t intended to be the sole source of your financial information. But if you combine regular blog and book reading with input from your financial advisor you can improve your knowledge exponentially over time.

Conclusion: 

Do you want to bolster yourself to the top 1% of Americans? Do you want to experience less financial stress and uncertainty? Follow my three-pronged approach to 1) pay attention 2) plan ahead and 3) learn.

Does Active Management Have a Place in the Modern Investment Portfolio?

As index funds have become more and more popular a rising question has been, does active management still make sense for the average investor? Answer is of course not simple enough for a yes or no answer. However there are a few pros and cons we can look at for the two options. First let’s look at the advantages of passive management:

1) Relative autonomy 

Time is often saved from having passive investments. While of course there is initial research that goes into selecting the underlying ETF’s or mutual funds, once set up your strategy you will have relatively low time costs going forward.

2) Lower expenses

With passive management comes low expenses. Over the long term expenses can eat into  a large portion of your returns so paying close attention to this is crucial.

3) Lower taxes

Active management usually means less trading and less trading means both less transaction costs and less capital gains tax. Both of these add up in the long term.

Now that we’ve covered a few of the pros of passive management let’s dive into some of the pros of the alternative…

1) Potential for greater returns

By definition a passive manager can’t meaningfully beat their respective benchmark. However with active management everything changes. There is also ways a chance for outperformance. Of course the flip side of this double-edged sword is that you can underperform, which is often the case.

2) Lower volatility

Depending on the management style you are able to experience lower volatility in your investments from active management.

So which should you choose? After everything is said and done the thing that matters the most is your returns relative to the corresponding benchmark index. For example if you’re comparing a large-cap active fund verses and S&P 500 index fund.

Once you’ve selected your funds for comparison you need to determine if a) your fund has outperformed the benchmark in the past enough to cover expenses and additional active costs and b) will the fund continue to perform this way or better in the future.

If you can answer yes for both of these questions you may have a great candidate for an active portion of your portfolio.

The last option you have available is to execute the active management your self. This is a whole different story that deserves it’s own separate discussion for a different post. For the time being focus on comparing returns both pasts and potential for the future.

What I learned from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers

Have you ever wondered why nearly all the top hockey players were born in January, February or March? Ever wonder why the smartest people in the world aren’t the most successful? Malcolm Gladwell’s book contains these exact answers and more.

I found his book extremely revealing. I came into the book thinking that success was almost completely determined by intelligence, hard work and intentionality. While these traits are significant parts of making the most with what you have, Gladwell illustrates that much of what determines success is due to completely unpredictable and random factors.

While much of our success is determined by luck – where we were born, who are parents are and their respective network and culture – a lot of these advantages can be recognized and limited. But we can’t just assume luck isn’t impacting these things – it always is.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on my current reads and taking notes to summarize what I’ve been getting out of the books. I did this for Outliers and took away a few key points. Here they are below:

  1. If you see a pattern, don’t assume it’s random, examine the history behind it
  2. Understand your own history and the apparent consequences/indications of what that means for you

I hope these two points are helpful. A key takeaway was to look at the contributing factors and history behind success. This, of course, is consistent with the title of the book!

How I Wrote a Book in One Summer – and How You can Too

Most of us see writing a book as a daunting project – one that could take months, if not years to complete. But it doesn’t have to be this difficult. I began my summer in 2018 with the idea of producing a manuscript that was both clear and comprehensive. And that’s what I was able to do.

I didn’t complete this task out of sheer discipline. In fact I put very little upfront effort into completing the first draft. How?

I all begins with habits. I made a point to start the summer with a new routine. Each morning I would produced about a 500 word chunk that could be added to one of my chapters. As time progressed throughout the summer I began to enjoy the process of writing each morning.

As writing became a daily habit my confidence began to grow. I went from a 10,000 word manuscript to a 25,000 word manuscript to a 40,000 word manuscript. And before I knew it I had completed the first draft of my book.

To be frank I didn’t finish editing the book until the end of the year. What I really did last summer, which I find to be the most difficult part of writing a book, is complete a first draft on little disciplinary effort.

My book, which just came out this January, proves to anyone, including those who hate writing, that book creation doesn’t have to be as tedious as we once thought. The key to success is to start and make writing part of your daily routine.

Getting from Guam to Indonesia – Why Investment Philosophy Matters

There is clearly no one investment strategy that works for everyone. Some buy index funds, others pick their own stocks. Still others buy investment property and a few buy bitcoin. There are many ways to get from point A to point B in the investment world.

Recently I’ve been exploring with the idea of creating an investment model that can predict for stock market bear markets. This investment model would tell me when to buy stocks and when to sell them.

Creating a portfolio model seems daunting. There are many factors that go into developing your thoughts, strategies and relationships between variables. Without properly grounding yourself one might begin to think that there are simple or easy ways to create a model that beats the market while reducing volatility and drawdown.

Believe me, if this were the case I would be reaping the benefits of the hundreds of hours I put into my own model over the last couple months. Even now I’m beginning to realize that it might not be that easy. For those who have experienced success like Ray Dalio, I’ve always wondered what kind of indicators, and inputs they use in their models.

What are your thoughts? Is creating an investment model too difficult or should I give it a try?

What is Personal Finance

What is personal finance? And Why does it matter?

Those are two very interesting and important questions to ask as one either begins their life as adults, or being asking questions they’ve never approached before. For the past five months or so, this blog has predominantly been centered around personal finance, both the investing side, as well as the money management side.

I realized that before I continue this journey with all of you, I need to take a moment to explain what Personal finance actually is. Personal finance clearly deals with how individuals manage their money.

While the topic briefly touches on the analysis and performance of businesses and organizations for investment purposes, it predominantly centers around the individuals’ approach to managing each dollar in and each dollar out.

Personal finance answers questions like:

What are my financial goals? What use do I have for money? What should my investment approach be? How much do I need to be saving? How large should my house purchase be? Should I buy this trinket or save the money?

Many of these questions are simply answered through quiet reflection or by asking your friends and family for feedback. However, some of these more complex questions like how to invest your money, or how to craft a financial plan can often be better answered by a financial advisor.

Why does personal finance matter? 

There are three basic reasons why you should pay attention to your finances:

1. Money has impact

2. Money can be complicated

3. Money is emotional

While we of course don’t have the time to go into the details of Personal Finance in one blog post, I hope this gives you a great picture of what this topic is all about.

Meeting A Different Donald: Real Estate and Ways to Invest

Most people, if not almost everyone, has heard of Donald Trump. As the 45th president of the United States, he has been a real estate developer and the previous host of the Apprentice show.

But have you heard of Donald Bren? He grew up as the son of two relatively successful parents. His father was a movie producer and real estate developer like him. His mother was a civic leader. After majoring in Economics and Business a the University of Washington, Bren attempted at Skiing in the Olympics but had to quit due to an injury. In addition, Bren became an Officer in the U.S. marine Corps.

After that he took a $10,000 loan out in 1958, he began developing and flipping homes until he had built up a business which he sold. He started another one, sold it, and then took the proceeds to buy a third stake in the Irvine Company. He eventually bought the outstanding ownership and now has a net worth of over $16 Billion.

Donald Bren took one path to real estate. But there are others. I want to briefly cover the three main ways you can approach real estate investing.

1. Direct Investment

A direct investment in real estate, like what Donald Bren did, involves purchasing property either directly or through a business entity. Either you focus on property appreciation, resale, or cashflow. With these metrics in mind, you seek to partner with others to produce above-average returns over the long-term. This is what Bren did.

2. Indirect Investment

The second, more modern way to invest in real estate is less direct. With an indirect investment you buy a company that invests in real estate. Usually this is either a REIT (real estate investment trust) or some sort of real estate syndication.

3. Hybrid

The last option is some sort of mix. It involves partnering with others so that you own the real estate but you don’t necessarily control management of it directly. An example might be a partnership between a handful of people in which you own, say, 20% of the upfront investment. You put a shared investment with say, 2 other people. One person is in charge of management, and the other two people sit passively by but provide the capital.

A hybrid between direct and indirect is usually less risky but also less financially rewarding if your investment becomes a success.

Conclusion:

Part of investing in real estate is understanding yourself. How much involvement do you want? Often the answer is not much, but for those adventurous few, you never know, you might become the next Donald Bren.