Should You Invest In Tesla Summer Of 2020?

You guys saw it happen today. Tesla has hit $1400/share as of July 6th, 2020. That is a 13% increase today alone and an astounding 40% increase over the last 6 days. Tesla has strapped the company to a SpaceX rocket heading to Mars at 18,000 mph.

At such a high entry price, should you buy into Tesla? Yeah. If you are going to hold this stock for the next 5 to 10 years, then I think you will be very pleased. At least your bank account will be pleased. This will continue to be a volatile stock that will go up and down. But I think in the long term this will trend upwards.

Here are a few reasons why I think the stock will continue to trend up:

  1. SP500 Inclusion – If Tesla has 4 cumulatively positive quarters, then it will be on its way to SP500 inclusion. Once it is part of the SP500 then all the SP500 index funds will carry Tesla. Institutional and retail investors will buy Tesla along with their purchase of SP500 Index funds.
  2. China Model 3 – Tesla sold about 3x Model 3’s in May 2020 as it did in April 2020. Just the China piece could be worth $1,000/share to Tesla.
  3. Tesla Semi – “It’s time to go all out”. This is what Elon told employees via email. Perhaps Elon said this in response to Trevor Milton’s Nikola truck aspirations.
  4. Q2 2020 – Elon, again in an email, told employees to keep working hard as they may break even in Q2. Who knew they would be close to profitability in dismal Q2 2020.
  5. Battery Day 2020 – This has been pushed back to September 15 on the same day it will do its Tesla Shareholder meeting. Elon will release some amazing news on its batteries.
  6. New Battery Patent – Musk has some amazing news to give us on a new battery. It is a “Cell with tabless electrode”. You can check out more of the patent related info here.
  7. CATL – This chinese company has devised a battery that will last 1 Million miles. No this does not meet it will go 1 million miles on a single charge. It means that the odometer on a Tesla car will read 1 million before the Battery needs to be completely changed.

Should you buy this stock? Yes….because Tesla is going to morph not only into a huge electric car company, but a huge energy company that may power cars, trains, planes, ships, homes and what not.

What To Do With Your Money During The Coronavirus

The entire world is at a standstill right now with the virus situation. The economy has been completely shut down, but the markets have made an amazing recovery in April. As of April 13th the markets are back up 50% from February highs. Businesses, restaurants, malls, concerts, cafe’s are all shuttered up. I can’t even take my kid to a park as the playgrounds have been taped off. Literally no money is being transacted. Hotels, airlines, vacation cruise companies, and banks in particular are in a lot of trouble.

Let’s take a look at what needs to be done at this point in time (Mid April):

Savings

This is literally one of the most hated, most painful topics that people actively avoid talking about. The reason is simple, most people can’t find two dimes to rub together after they pay for the necessities (mortgage, rent, food, utilities, cell phone, car payment etc). If your basics equal your take home pay, naturally there are no savings.

Everyone is dealing with a slightly different situation, but for heavens sake you should be able to live for 6 months on nothing but your savings. Find your monthly figure and multiply it by 6. If you need $3k every month, then you should have $18K saved up. More money buys you more time. As I’ve mentioned so many times, go through the painstaking exercise of building out a full budget. At least once. And you’ll see what part of your paycheck goes where. If you have no savings you are doing something wrong.

Smarter Spending

People are being forced to be less wasteful. Everything is closed and so people can’t go out and throw away money. Cutting back on latte’s won’t make you a millionaire but cutting costs all around is definitely smart advice these days. Use this crazy once in a lifetime period to build out habits that you will use once the Coronavirus situation is over.

Investing In The Stock Market

They say you aren’t supposed to time the market and “time in the market is more important than timing the market.” These are all sage advice. But honestly, if I had money in the stock market when the whole virus situation began, I would have sold off everything and then jumped back in at the bottom. The problem is buying at the bottom is too difficult.  You would wait for the bottom only to find the market racing up quickly.

There are two factual statements we can make about the stock market: 1. No one knows where the market is headed. 2. The stock market always trends higher over time.

Based on these two statements, it is best to enter the market by DCA which is Dollar Cost Averaging. This means that you buy stocks bit by bit on a periodic basis and average out your risk. So for example every two weeks you buy $500 worth of stock. This will let you average out your buy prices which is great in volatile markets. Even now in mid-April equities are on a bit of a discount. Buy the dip and hold for a long time.

The Coronavirus has decimated Airline revenues. Q1 and Q2 earnings will be crushed this year so there is more pain to come. It is unlikely that the government will let them go bankrupt so they are a risky investment albeit with a massive reward. As the virus eases people will get back on planes and increase revenue.  Hotel stocks are also suffering but will eventually bounce back up. Vacation cruise companies are the most affected in the world. They are very low and offer massive rewards. Tread with caution.

Honest questions to ask yourself before investing: Will I need this money in the next few years? How much money am I ok with losing? Am I able to have the same resolve when my portfolio is down 25%? Am I able to withstand the pressure? It really is a psychology game and long termers are rewarded more than people who cash out. Having the right temperament helps.

Please note, the market could have a massive selloff in 2020 and stocks could drop massively from here. Although that is unlikely. This is why it is important to ask yourself important questions and dollar cost average your way in.

Income

Consider yourself lucky if you still have a paycheck and you can pay your bills. Me and my wife are very grateful. For those who have lost their jobs it is all about cutting back and paying for the basics. Filing for unemployment is the obvious thing to do here although processing times may be longer with so many others filing.

It’s also a damn good time to completely revamp your resume, LinkedIn and pick up a skill online or think about a business you can run from home. It’s difficult but worth investigating.

Retirement

If you were planning for retirement this year then I am sorry to hear. 401k’s and IRA’s have inevitably been decimated as equities have dropped. The hope is that most people converted their retirement accounts into cash as soon as the virus broke out. If you have not pulled out, then the market already has made some recovery and you are best off holding. You should continue to plan for your money even after you have retired.

Best Money Moves For 2020

2020 always seemed like a futuristic date that was decades away. But 2020 is now well upon us and we should all be asking the same question: What should I be doing with my money? Let’s take a look at the most critical things you should be doing right now.

Keep On Padding Your Savings 

I am mind blown at the number of people who haven’t even saved a $1,000. Living one mishap away from poverty is living on the edge and is an unstable way to live life. Even if you earned $10/hour and worked full time  it would take a month to save $1K. There just isn’t any excuse. The older you get the more savings you should have. Making big purchases like a house can definitely drain the savings account and that’s completely fine. I would work on that $5k today and would have at least $5K in cash saved.

Get An Online Savings Account

When is the last time where you had to compare two options where one was 100 times better than the other? That is exactly the difference between a terrible savings account at a big traditional bank vs an Online Savings Account. Your savings should always be accruing as much interest as possible. .03% isn’t good interest. Sorry traditional banks. 

Are You Still Carrying Debt?

Carrying credit card debt and school debt and car debt is insanely crippling. You are wasting money by making high interest payments. You need a plan to pay off the highest interest debt first. Credit card debt is the worst since the interest rates are double digit high. If you carry a credit card debit from one month to another you are paying finance charges. This is like taking your dollars and lighting a match to it. Get rid of the car payments and buy a used car on cash. 

Invest In The Stock Market

It’s 2020. If you haven’t invested in the stock market you need to ask yourself why: Is it because you don’t have extra money to invest? You know nothing about investing in the stock market? You don’t know how the stock market works? Are you too nervous to invest your money in the market? Whatever heck the reason is, figure out what your reason is. Stocks have been on a bull run for the last 11 years, so it may not be the best time to invest. But you should sure as heck be thinking about it. You should invest for the really long term.

You can buy a long term index fund from Vanguard and be set. The younger you are the more aggressively you can invest. A portfolio allocation may look like this: 70% index funds, 20% bonds, 10% individual stocks. 

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Traveling To Montreal

Being married to a Montrealer means I get to visit this city really often. Over the last 5 years I’ve traveled to Montreal 9 times. Here’s my take on what it is like visiting this North Eastern Canadian city:

  1. This city is old. Really old. Streets, buildings, concrete, bridges, and roads are definitely on the old side. This place started becoming official in the early 1600s, but has been inhabited by Native Indians for Millenia.
  2. Montreal is truly an European city. If there is a city outside of Europe that has mimicked Europe it’s Montreal. This is more of an older, cultured city that has a patina of Euro gently smothered over it. Think old and historic not new and sleek. 
  3. The city is named after the only large mountain on the island, Mount Royal. Downtown sits at the foot of the mountain. Generally speaking the island is pretty flat. Mount Royal is the only topographically salient structure.
  4. Old Port is situated in the Old part of Montreal. Its cobblestone streets and small eateries and cafes give it a distinctive European tinge to it. If you come all the way to this city you need to get on foot and stroll up and down Old Port.
  5. The infrastructure of the city is ancient as anything. All the plumbing, pipes, sewers, concrete are ancient. But the most egregious offense is surely potholes the size of typewriters that are littered throughout the city. Hit one of these at a decent rate and you may loosen up your suspension a bit. If you live here, you should probably buy a tank. Or a raised SUV at the very least.
  6. It’s so cliche to talk about traffic in a large city. I get it, every city has bad traffic. But Montreal has traffic because the roads are so narrow and haphazardly planned. There are 2 million people who live on this island. Throw in some snow and ice and it’s ruby and diamonds all night long on the highways.
  7. The police are strict. They aren’t messing around. I knew a friend in Montreal who got stopped for running in the middle of downtown. “Hey why are you running, what’s the problem?”. If you have rust on your car, you can have your car impounded by the police. Police strongly enforce minor infractions like using your phone while driving, not locking your doors when parked, parking on the side of the street for a 2 min Dep stop. The Montreal police force is ready. Are you?
  8. Montreal loves construction like no other city. Almost every time I have been there, a chunk of the island is dug up. My wife’s neighborhood was literally dug up 10 feet deep. I have no idea what they are doing, but shutting main lanes on a major road creates insane traffic. Last year I went and huge chunks of St. Catherine street were missing. They are digging and digging hard. For what, I do not know.
  9. Montreal has a ton of gyms. I can’t explain the phenomenon, but I noticed that the island is rife with good gyms. Powerflex, World Gym, YMCA, Gold’s, etc. Choose a gym and lift three ways till Sunday. 
  10. Montreal does stores and plazas well. They have a large variety of grocery stores, produce markets, dep’s, and their Carrefour mall in Laval is a monster. Shopping is great in Montreal. Go to St. Catherine’s in downtown and you have shops lined up for a mile.
  11. Montreal is very multi-racial and multi-religion: Arabs, Jews, North Africans, Quebecois, Chinese etc. All of this helps Montreal offer a wide spectrum of food. I love it.
  12. Naturally Montreal is very French. It is the official default language and culture. All menus are in French. Signs and print can be in French too. Many people speak French and yet many people speak English. 
  13. Montreal has a ton of cafe’s. They have chains like Second Cup and Cafe Press. They also have a variety of individually owned cafe’s like Premiere Moisson. Grab your laptop and get coffee and pastry. That’s exactly what I do when I go.
  14. My experience tells me that Montrealer’s are not particularly the warmest of folk. They are pretty functional and transaction oriented. You would expect to see more pleasantries exchanged in general but I didn’t see a whole lot of this. People here just want to get stuff done. 
  15. People in Quebec pay high federal and provincial tax sales tax. 
  16. Drivers in Montreal are not afraid to honk you for any reason. Stay sharp on the road.
  17. I noticed that the younger generation in Montreal, say under 40, aren’t glued to their smartphones. It’s actually rare to see people stationery scrolling through their phones. It doesn’t seem to be a thing from what I can tell.
  18. Montreal has some amazing houses. Bois Franc neighborhood has amazing condos and townhouses not to mention an insanely beautiful park. Nouveau Saint Laurent truly has some of the nicest brick and stone mansions that I have ever seen. The vast areas around Mount Royal are older and have a lot more character, think brick houses with vines growing on it. Kind of like the main house that the X-Men live in.
  19. As for the weather, the winter obviously is punishing and the summer can be very hot. But it’s really the winter that you have to look out for. It is easily on par with Chicago’s winter.

How I Reduce Spending Every Month

I wrote a quick off the cuff comment on Quora which answered the question “Why are most people broke?” As of today, my answer has been viewed about 250,000 times. Since it’s received so much viewership, I decided to write a more expanded version of it.

There’s always been the two groups: “group save” vs. “group make more”. But today I want to focus on how we can get more efficient with our money and stretch it out a bit more. I’ve put together a quick list that I personally use to reduce my own expenses. Some of these may hit close to home for you and some may seem like an outlandish suggestion. Feel free to pick and choose:

Rent

This is the biggest expense item on everyone’s sheet. It’s also where you can save the biggest amount. Living in an affordable part of town, or outside of a gated community, or an expensive apartment means you can put back hundreds or even thousands of dollars back in your savings account. You can take the extra saved money and invest it, pay off debt or splurge on it.

Groceries

My shopping list predictably includes meat, nuts, coconut milk, veggies, milk, bread, eggs, sugar, cheese, coffee, and high quality ice cream. I have significantly reduced my bread, rice, sugar, and dessert intake. I rarely buy anything that is packaged so no $4 Kudos bars or $4 Tropicana Orange Juice. Buying raw food and non-packaged goods reduces my bill (also keeps my belly reduced too). I avoid high retail types of grocery stores like Safeway and Albertson and the ilk. They are there primarily to sell you pancake mix, sugary yogurts & cereals and granola bars. Thanks Safeway, but I’m on to you.

Cars

I’m a car guy. Over the last 15 years I’ve owned some nice machinery and have always paid for my cars on cash except for my latest which is financed. I’m not wasting money on cars for now. If I hit it big, I’ll be sure to park an Italian Stallion in my stable. But until then, no to fancy cars and cars that depreciate very quickly. Every time you go and sell your used fancy car you lose thousands of bucks. Also, I’m not buying a German car more than 5 years old and it’s also going to have an extended warranty. Stay safe and get a used Japanese car. Pay it in cash. 

Flying

I’ve been traveling international since I was 3 years old so it’s become a part of my identity to get on a plane and explore. Traveling is a splurge that I will never sacrifice. It’s what I live for. But there’s no way I would spend 3x or 5x the money flying business or first class. I would never use my credit card points on them either. I’d much rather spend the extra money at my destination. It’s way too much money for slightly more room and better food for a flight that lasts just a few hours. Economy class all day every day.

 

Hotels

Are you the Airbnb type or hotel type? There are pros and cons to both. But for a price conscious consumer like me, Airbnb is an option that has worked out more than a couple of times. Airbnb worked out for me in Austria, Italy and Switzerland. I got nice places at nice prices.  If I really want to live it up I go the hotel route. Airbnb gives you pretty good stuff in nice locations for not a lot of money. Try it.

Entertainment

I don’t go to live concerts (rarely), I don’t pay extra to watch movies in 3D or IMAX, unless they are truly amazing movies. And I definitely am not interested in purchasing to watch sports games at a stadium. And to add to that, you won’t see me paying $200 to watch an expensive play or a musical tour.  

Drink and Drugs

This is simple because I don’t indulge one bit in alcohol or any type of drug. They aren’t good for you and they drain your funds. More money in my bank please.

Clothing

As I get older I don’t want tons of clothes. I don’t need 9 pants, 20 dress shirts and 16 tshirts. What I do want is fewer clothes that are really higher in quality. For example, You can get a $9 tshirt from Old Navy. Or you can go to Banana Republic and get a $30 tshirt that has been made with a higher thread count of fabric. It will also last you thrice as long.

Owning fewer clothing means less confusion in the morning when running out the door. Branded clothing is more expensive and usually just a price gouge for no reason. I avoid brands and especially brands with massive logos. I actually hide clothing brands if I can. Buy less, but when you do, buy really high quality.

Toiletries

No fancy luxury cosmetic products for me that come in shiny beautiful packages. The point of soap is to break oil apart. Everything after that fact is a nice to have. I don’t buy fancy shampoos, fancy lotions, fancy hand soaps and no $25 hair pomade gels. The less products you douse your body with the better. A simple shampoo, body gel and basic conditioner are good for me. To be fair, I use a slightly upper scale shaving cream, because you know, Barbasol.

Credit

I never ever keep a revolving balance on my credit cards. I charge them and pay them off immediately. I do not carry credit card balances from month to month. Ever. When you do this you pay a toxic finance charge which is calculated using daily interest. You are better off taking cash, rolling it up, and torching it to warm your hands on a cold night. Complete waste. Say no to wasting money on interest.

Eating Out

This is a big one for everyone. I refuse to go to restaurants for the ambiance, or super upscale places. You won’t catch me dining at a place that is even $40/head. I skip appetizers and get the main course. I stick to simple places known for making excellent food at digestible prices. But I like my desserts so I’ll make a twice a month run to Cheese Cake Factory to try a new flavor.

Airplane Food

Being hungry on a plane is expensive. There was one time where I had to order food on a flight because I was feeling sick with hunger. Always eat beforehand. I personally have Priority Pass lounge access so I usually can eat at any airport in the world for free. In April 2017 I took a vacation to Iceland and Sweden. When we landed in Sweden, I found an amazing Priority Pass lounge and we went in. We must have eaten $100 worth of food before heading into the city, for free. Food in Sweden is slightly pricey, and food prices in Iceland are insanely pricely.

Gadgets

I don’t replace my phone frequently. Most smartphones purchased within the last 3 years are capable of doing everything that I need. 5G is coming out, and soon 6G, then 7G…it will never end. I’m using 4G today so I’m not going to refresh my phone for a 5G one. Forget it. Also say no to cheap gadgets that you play for a week and then throw away. Only buy the stuff that really really appeals to you.

 

Useful Gadgets On Amazon Worth Splurging On

If you’ve been following me on my journey so far you’ll know that I advocate of spending money on things you really love. It’s a tough deal to deny yourself all the things that you really want throughout your life. Man doesn’t live on water and bread only. Rather than buying mediocre nonsense across the board, figure out what you really can’t live without, then get it. If it’s painful to live without it, then go get it. For those folk who get what I’m saying, I’m not advocating purchasing a used Ferrari on a credit card on a $56k salary. Your splurge shouldn’t bankrupt you, or even hurt your financial position. If a splurge bankrupts you, then it’s not a splurge, it’s a suicide. No suicides please. 

And so today, I’ve put together a list of gadgets that are useful and that you can splurge on. No dumb trinkets that you use for two days and forget about. The word “gadget” usually implies a useless device that is sensational and not useful. But not today…today we are going for the useful stuff that can actually improve the quality of your life.

True Wireless Ear Buds (Earphones But Without Wires)

I think we are at a point in time in technology where we don’t have to put up with wires anymore. We’ve been tangled up in wires for the last 3 decades which started out with the walkman. Those days are long gone. It’s time to move to a slightly more refined way of living. Say no to cords and go wireless! Grab a wireless bluetooth connected ear bud. Once you try them it’s really hard to go back to the caveman days.

The Tranya T2  is the choice that I made for myself. It was like $40 and does the job just fine. You can use the earbud to control volume, skip songs and movies, activate Google Assistant etc. I also found out they were durable the hard way. I left them in my sweater pockets and sent them for a wash. Then to add insult to injury, I put it in intense heat in the dryer. Also, coincidentally while at the gym, I was walking up the stairs when the right ear piece popped off and went crashing 10 feet below to the bottom story. Still working like a champ and I recommend them.

Here are a few other options that aren’t crazy expensive but offer good value.

RAYCON E50 

G-WACK J29 

JBL 

SoundPeats

Pasonomi

For the most discerning and demanding customer there are premium options available like the WF-1000XM3 and Apple’s AirPods. The Sony will also offer noise cancelling functionality. But why spend 3x when you can get most of the benefit for 40% of the price? Save a few bucks and splurge on something else.

Tile Mate (Locate Your Lost Belongings With Your Phone)

Everyday, I spend a cumulative of 10 minutes searching for my TV remote, wallet, my watch, my keys and my phone. It’s gotten to a point where it’s driving me crazy. I know I should be more mindful of where I put stuff. But that’s where the Tile Mate helps out so much. It helps you locate your items.

AnkerPower Core (A Portable Battery To Charge Your Phone)

I don’t know what kept me so long from purchasing one of these. Again, my wife was ahead of the game and got to this before I could. It turned out to be an amazing buy when traveling, especially international trips. We could charge our phones up to 5 or 6 times without having to worry about finding a charging outlet in a random city. Here is the 10,000 miliAmp and the more powerful 20,000 miliAmp.

Samsung Micro SDXC (Give Your Phone More Storage When You Are Running Low)

One of the biggest issues I’ve had is to constantly dump all the photos off my phone to my laptop to free up memory. Or, if I am going on a long trip, I’m careful on how many pictures and videos I take for the fear of running out of space and being stranded. Call it storage anxiety. I solved this anxiety by just getting a micro storage card. It’s tons of extra space whenever you want it. You can get a card with 32G, 63GB, 128G, 256G, 512G. 

Amazon Echo Dot-3rd Gen (An Assistant To Help You Out)

I picked up an Echo Dot (3rd Gen) and I’m finding it more and more useful as I interact with the device over long periods of time You can ask it a variety of commands and questions:

Alexa, what is the Stock Price of Facebook?

Alexa, what will the weather be like tomorrow?

Alexa, read me the news headlines for today.

Alexa, play me a lullaby.

Alexa, can you set the temperature to 70 degrees?

Alexa, how many teaspoons are in a cup?

Alexa, please set a timer for 10 minutes.

Alexa, set my alarm for 6 am tomorrow.

Alexa, give me some ideas for breakfast.

Alexa, please call my phone.

You get the idea, this hockey puck looking device is getting super useful.

Yootech Wireless Phone Charger (Charge Your Phone Wirelessly)

Using a wireless charger is a quick way of charging your phone. You don’t have to fiddle with the wire to connect it. Just drop it on the charger and it starts charging. I usually use the Yootech Wireless Charger at night before heading to bed. It’s charge is on the slow side, but you don’t have to fiddle with cords and aligning the plug with the socket at night. 

Wireless Bluetooth Speaker (Powerful Speakers That are Controlled By Your Phone)

These bluetooth speakers provide a lot of sound power and can be used outside at the beach, at a park, at a picnic, or when your simply in your backyard entertaining and BBQ’ing. I also use these to listen to podcasts when I’m taking a shower. Super useful. Here are the most promising brands that give the most value.

Anker Bluetooth speaker

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

JBL

BOSE

SmartWatch (A Phone On Your Wrist, Almost)

Hardware devices are progressing as time passes. Technologically we are moving forward. We’ve gone from the PC to laptops to tablets to smartphones to wearables. Wearables undoubtedly is the future. I believe within the next 20 years we will be wearing glasses that act as an unifying device. Everything will be overlayed over your real vision. The device will become us. Augmented reality at its best.

Smartwatches are a step in this direction. When it comes to smartwatches, I don’t settle on the cheapest model, I would personally go for the best. As an android user the Galaxy gets my choice.

Samsung Galaxy SmartWatch

Apple Watch Series 3

Google Wifi Wall Mount-3 Pack (Increase Your Wifi Power Around The House)This is a great device to get strong wifi around your house. Just plug these puck looking devices into an outlet around your house and you should be covered by an invisible mesh of connectivity. No messy wires sticking behind your wifi hardware. It’s clean and simple. Check it out here.

Conveniences Worth Spending Money On

As we age we have more money and our savings account gets a bit more padded. But age also brings a certain level of jadedness and reduced patience in all of us. We’ve had the time to make plenty of mistakes, so we know what we really like or hate. The point that I really want to get across is that convenience has a cost that can absolutely be worth it. You just have to spend money on the things you really like, and forget the rest. Sounds familiar? Focused spending is what we need to do. Splurge on the stuff that you truly love and cut back on all the other junk. Let’s take a look at some things that might be worth spending money on.

Rideshare Services 

If you live in a metropolis, then using Uber and Lyft can be insanely useful. Just imagine all the benefits you get by getting someone else to drive. Avoid the stresses of driving, the frustrations of finding parking, the risk of getting parking tickets, the pain in stopping to pump gas. All of these are bad stressors. Instead, you can press one button on your phone and hail a driver to do the dirty work. It makes so much sense. 

For example, I have to sometimes pick up my wife from the train station during rush hour. Most of the time I do. But for those days that are hard, I just have her Lyft it. Just a few added bucks and that saves me a round trip ticket to the train station during rush hour. I used to land at SFO and bug my sister to come get me. Poor form, I should have taken a Lyft/Uber. Today, that’s exactly what I do. $10 gets me to her house so she doesn’t have to leave hers. As I get older and as life has its ways of getting more complicated, I just want something that can simplify it. You can save a few more bucks if you want to share your ride with other riders. The choice is yours.

Food Delivery

Spending money on apps that deliver food to your door is a new thing for me. And boy do I love using it when I really need it. My wife, being the proactive type, introduced me to the insane convenience of Postmates, Grubhub, UberEats, Doordash and the ilk. I remember one day I told her that I was craving a banana split as I lazily sat and watched a movie on the couch. I didn’t want to take out half an hour of my evening, walk down three flights of stairs and drive 3 miles to Baskin Robbins. So I passed on it. Twenty minutes later I get a random knock on my door. My wife covertly answers it, and accepts a vague brown bag from the delivery man. She magically pulls out a banana split and displays it with a “Tada!”. She had used technological trickery for this amazing convenience. Yes, this Banana Split cost me $14, but I got something that I wanted super badly without exerting any effort. It was 100% worth it.

Grocery delivery apps is another convenience to make your schedule less hectic. Uber has now gotten into the business of delivering food. Check out their Uber Eats Delivery Card. No hassle driving to the store, going up and down food aisles on an easter egg hunt, getting in the checkout line and then hauling yourself back home. Surely there is a cost to expending all that energy. At the minimum, it may make sense to deliver your cyclical purchases like milk, butter, eggs, bread and sugar. 

Subscription Services

Netflix gives us hundreds of movies, shows and documentaries at our disposal. To anyone who watches more than an hour a week, this is an awesome subscription. Sign up, and get access to a universe full of content. Check out the Netflix Gift Card here. If you prefer watching the latest shows right now this minute, then Hulu is an alternative. Check out the Hulu Gift Card.

But maybe you have a 90 minute commute each way. If so, why not join Scribd so you can listen to audiobooks on a variety of topics to learn and kill your commute at the same time. Just $9/month gives you access to a myriad of books. Remember, you can read books using Scribd too, not just audio books.

Texture was an amazing app for people who loved reading a variety of magazines but who didn’t want to manually subscribe to each one. A mobile app that allowed you to subscribe to multiple magazines all from one platform. My wife was crazy about this service until Apple acquired it.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is a subscription service by Amazon that gives you free shipping and access to free movies, photo storage and music. It helps in getting your products from Amazon faster to your door. Take a look at the full list of perks here.

Non Stop Flights

As a dedicated flight hacker, I try to save on the airplane tickets first as they are usually the biggest or second biggest expense. My tactics involve flying in the off season (remember my $400 round trip to London in Feb?), choosing less busy days like Tuesday/Wednesday, leaving at odd hours (early, red eye), and making the additional stop.

But as I get older, and generally speaking less patient, I just want to get to my destination without the fuss. No crazy restrictions or extra stops. Gone are the days of going for the absolute cheapest prices. What’s important to me now is the duration of the entire trip, how many stops I have, and good take off times. I never book anything with two stops anymore. It is unbelievably tiring especially when you are coming back home. It saps my soul. Non-stop flights gives you back the most precious commodity: Time.

Premium Credit Cards

In my eBook, I talk about the benefits of using Premium Credit Cards. I literally couldn’t imagine my life without my premium credit card. This is a big one for me. Because of my 750 credit score, I was approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. This card was the first one to give out an amazing 100,000 bonus points. With the Bonus points, I traveled with my wife from SFO to Europe for free. I even had enough points left over to travel to the east coast. When’s the last time you got anything for free, let alone thousands of dollars worth of flights? Another perk that I can’t live without are the airport lounges. Just a couple of days ago I was leaving SFO. We were hungry so we accessed the Priority Pass lounge in Terminal 3. We had access to two restaurants. We got $28/person allowance. I ordered $56 worth of food…for free. I think you are beginning to understand. My only fee is the $150/month annual membership fee. It’s a no brainer.

Think of something that could make your life convenient. Spending on it may be one of the best things you ever did.

The Ultimate Financial eBook (2020 Edition)

Bay Area Guy Readers,

For 2020 we have completely revised our financial eBook. This financial ebook is one of the most informative and concise documents that can be found on the internet today. It’s purpose is to help people get their financial life on track for 2020.

We Cover An Incredible Amount of Information In This eBook:

  1. The Psychology Behind Money
  2. Making A Budget
  3. Automating Your Bills
  4. Online Savings Accounts
  5. Credit Score & Credit Report
  6. Negotiating Fees With Banks
  7. Redeeming Credit Card Rewards
  8. Introduction To Investing In The Stock Market
  9. Mutual Funds vs ETF
  10. Target Date Funds
  11. Best Index Funds For 2020
  12. Best Individual Stocks For 2020
  13. Portfolio Allocation
  14. Choosing An Online Brokerage
  15. Buying A Home vs. Renting A Home
  16. Financing or Leasing A Car
  17. Retirement Planning

This isn’t a traditional 300 page book with crazy graphs and complicated nonsense. It’s been distilled down to only what you need to know to make things right in your financial life.

Click on the link below to get a closer look to see what this eBook is about.

The Ultimate Financial eBook

Bay Area Guy

Vacationing Cheaply In Europe

Traveling is definitely one of the luxuries of life and can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. I developed a penchant for being on a plane back when I was 8. My dad was always busy at work and so sending us along with mom out of the country always worked out. We had a ton of relatives to meet in different countries anyway. I quickly developed a love for jet fuel, airports, baggage claim, and eating food at 30,000 feet.

Fast forward 30 years and my appetite to fly hasn’t abated even one bit. Actually, my love for travel has become more obsessive with age. My wife and I came to the conclusion that we wanted to spend a good chunk on traveling since we craved to see new countries. During the typical year, we travel 4 times domestically and once internationally. After rent, traveling expense is our largest expenditure.

Choosing A Cheap Destination

The quickest and most logical way to save a buck on ticket prices is to travel during bad weather which is the least popular time to travel, hence when demand is low. There is a darn good reason why people avoid England in February. But that’s exactly when we decided to go. Europe is pretty cheap September to June and is really cheap December to March as the weather is fairly hopeless. And that’s why a round trip ticket from SFO to Heathrow set me back only $420 taxes included. The tradeoff was that it was a bit wet and grey, but we also lopped off $800 per ticket. This was our biggest savings of the trip.

Spending Money On Attractions

When we visit a new country, we spend our time checking out architecture, buildings, public squares, outdoor food markets, cafes, retail streets and general places to walk around. Most of this stuff is free so there is no outlay of cash. One of our favorites activities in a new country or city is to get on the double decker open air bus and just scope out the city to get the lay of the land. 

We aren’t big museum, art, theater or musical people so we save money on admission fees, museum fees and opera/theater costs. Going to a museum and looking at impressionist era paintings would be a total waste on us. Heck, I’m guilty of flying to Florence and coming back without seeing the Statue of David. 

Lodging

Before getting married the only lodging I was familiar with were traditional hotels, like the Marriott, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Sheraton etc. Staying overnight meant staying in a proper hotel. There was no second option. But the internet has long changed that with the advent of AirBnB. I have to admit I started using this service very late in the game as the idea of living in someone’s house seemed way too intrusive. But I took the chance and let my wife book some spots. It turned out to be really good. We ended up getting legitimate rooms and most of the amenities you would expect in a hotel. It may have not been quite as polished of an experience, but then again you were paying half the price of a hotel. That’s a lot of savings over a 10 day trip.

Food

We are bona fide foodies and adore desserts. But spending $65/a head on esoteric fine dining is something we have never spent money on. We like good food, in good quantities at good prices. Good flavor is mandatory, fancy dining optional. Also, if you are traveling on a dime, a sure shot way of keeping expenses down is buying food at the super market. For breakfast you can get yogurt, croissant, coffee, milk and breakfast sandwiches. For lunch, there are tons of pre-made sandwiches or high quality frozen microwave meals. For example in Vienna, we grabbed breakfast and lunch items from Billa, and in Switzerland we went to Migros. Lunch ended up costing us eight bucks rather than thirty. You don’t have to do this for every meal. But eating out in Switzerland everyday is insanely expensive. We spent more on eating desserts frequently and venturing into nice cafes.

Transportation

Logic tells you that you don’t need to rent a car when visiting a major city center. London and Vienna both have excellent subway systems. It would be a major liability to rent a car. If you are city hopping or driving between countries or have a super customized travel schedule then renting a car makes a lot of sense. The downside is that driving in Europe is difficult for the average American. The streets are narrower, the street directions are reversed. If you are a nervous driver, then definitely not. 

Also another hassle with car rentals is crazy gas prices in Europe and tolls on the highway. Filling up my empty tank in an Audi A3 in the UK was around $70. I racked up $50 worth of tolls driving across Italy. Didn’t plan on that and I also didn’t plan on the speeding tickets that captured me speeding on camera. As a local, you won’t know where they are hidden so always check the speed limit. All these costs add up. But if you are a seasoned traveler then you know that renting a car gives you the ultimate flexibility.

What To Pack

Making a list solves many problems, including what to pack. For my 10 day trip to Europe I packed the following: 

  • 5 t-shirts / 2 shorts / 1 pant / 5 pairs of socks
  • Packing Cubes (roll-up your clothes to save space)
  • Phone / Charger / Universal Converter to plug in the walls (You HAVE to get this)
  • Toothbrush/paste, floss, shaving equipment, moisturizer and face wash
  • Sleeping pills for my flight, melatonin gummies, band aids
  • Laptop
  • One reading book
  • Slippers so I don’t have to walk barefoot in people’s bathrooms and houses
  • Eye mask for a nice sleep, neck pillow when in my long flights
  • Ear plugs so I don’t become deaf from the airplane engine and air friction noise
  • One swiss army backpack to put everything inside

We traveled with only one backpack per person which was super refreshing and light. It made the entire trip much more pleasant.

After spending a lot of time deciding on what to do and where to go our itinerary looked like this.

SFO–>Zurich–>Lucerne–>Interlaken–>Bern–>Luscherz–>Lausanne–>Annemasse–>Geneva–>Florence–>Bologna–>Venice–>Verona–>Milan–>Vienna–>Zurich–>SFO. 

15 CITIES, 10 DAYS, 700 MILES OF DRIVING, 6 AIRPORT CONNECTIONS AND 34 MILES OF CITY WALKING.

One epic trip.

My Favorite View In Switzerland
Saleve Mountain Geneva
Florence From Michelangelo Square
Our Airbnb In Switzerland

The Realities Of Living In Silicon Valley

It’s the amazing sliver of land that extends from San Francisco to South San Jose, nestled in between two big mountain ranges with a big body of water in the middle. Insanely great weather is virtually perennial. Access to the beach, access to the snow, access to the mountains, access to hiking…Silicon Valley is the place to be.

Twenty five years ago life in The Valley was peaceful as I remember the halcyon days of the 80s and 90s. But the landscape is completely unrecognizable from the past as everything is so much more developed now. The bay has undergone a nuclear tech explosion.

But as technology has grown, day to day life has become more unsustainable. I’ve come to the realization that the bay is a tough place to cut it. As much as I love the soil that I grew up on, I had to come up with a list of things that make it harder to thrive in the Valley.

Real Estate

Let’s just mention the obvious here, the big elephant sitting in the middle of the room. This place is punishingly expensive. This is single handedly the biggest drawback about this place. It’s a subject near and dear to any Siliconites heart. We’ve talked about it so much that we just don’t talk about it anymore. It’s trite to even mention it but the problem exists.

The median price for a home in Santa Clara County is slightly over $1M. That means 50% of the houses are even more expensive than that. Mind you, in the Bay Area a house at the $1M mark looks indistinguishable from a glorified hut. A 20% down payment on an entry level single family home in the South Bay would be a staggering $200k. That’s cold cash we are talking about guys. Just the mortgage and property tax alone on the house would be over $5,000/month. That’s just mortgage. Tack on another grand, or two, or three for other expenses.

According to Bankrate, here is what a mortgage looks like on a $1M house with $200K down:

Since many of the younger people and first timers can’t afford to buy here, we resort to renting. And we still blow a big part of our paycheck doing that. A rundown, two bedroom apartment in an average part of San Jose is going to cost you $2,500 per month. Paying top dollar for a dump gets old.

This is what a $1,000,000 “house” in Sunnyvale looks like. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:

The Population Keeps Growing

I remember watching one of my many childhood videos as my family and uncle took a day trip to Monterey from San Jose. It was a weekend day circa 1985. We filmed the drive down. I think I counted 6 cars in the footage. Do that today and it’s more like sixteen thousand cars.

You will be severely penalized for doing basic daily errands if you do them at the wrong time. Watching movies on a Friday night? Have fun in the nosebleed seats if you don’t come 45 minutes earlier. Do you want to go to the mall at 2pm on a Saturday? Great, 8,000 people also had the same idea. Did you want to grab brunch Saturday morning? Have fun waiting in line for 25 minutes before you get seated. Want to play tennis at the courts at 7pm on Thursday night? So do 200 other people. Get in line. Interested in replenishing your kitchen on a Sunday evening at Costco? There’s a thousand other families who want to do the same thing. You will not escape this if you live in the Bay Area.

Traffic is another obvious issue linked to a bigger population. Usually the South bound highways are worse in the evenings and North bound worse in the mornings. Highways 880, 101, 85, 237 are all bad. 280 is somewhat decent but has started to become a parking lot about 7 years back.

The Employers Are Ridiculously Picky

Insane amounts of talent means that employers are picky. You can get a sense of this by checking how many people already applied for a position on LinkedIn. Any career fair, or corporate open house event is absolutely flooded with people.

You may be the best candidate but if you are not familiar with one software listed on the job description the employer won’t blink an eye before they toss your application in the trash. Being in the Bay Area means that your job is likely highly specialized and the requirements very specific. No corporation or startup needs to interview 30 candidates for a single position. Something seems broken here. Choices spoil people and choices have spoiled employers.

Interviewers will throw out obscure situational questions like what would you do if…such and such. One developer at a premier Bay Area hardware company asked me, “You are trying to figure out the breakdown of how the Marcom team spends their money on advertisements in China. This team is not open to disclosing this type of information to you. How do you get this data? ” My first thought was, how the hell do I know, and how will the answer to this question prove to you that I will do this job well? You can answer this question in so many ways. In another interview I had with a major company, I answered one question incorrectly. That was it. I had to pack my bags and go home. You’re getting the idea of how insane employers are here.

Once in a while employers have the gall to ask candidates to complete a project before being brought on for an onsite. This startup made me do a a tedious project after passing the phone screen. The task was to compile a database of AI employers in Atlanta. For each employer, I had to come up with a person to contact, list their name, and explain why would they would be a good resource to the company. This was essentially me doing free business development work for this company which was guised as an interview. That was the first and last time I ever agreed to do any type of project as part of an interview.

Lack Of Diverse Views

California is a blue state, and most people that are part of city centers are blue and democratic usually. Many people here are liberal, insanely liberal. SF is probably even more liberal than the South Bay. And so people here tend to have very similar beliefs. People here are not necessarily open to diversity of thought.

The Pressure To Perform Is Insane

Everything is a deal, everything is about funding, everything is about disruption, everything is about solving a problem, everything is about venture capital, everything is about seed money, everything is about growth, everything is about development, everything is about product roadmap, everything is about millions and billions, everything is about out bidding people on a house, everything is about stock price and most importantly everything is about yourself.

People are super absorbed in their first world problems. I have $400k in cash savings and I already own a home, should I buy a secondary property or buy stocks? That’s the type of conversations you have here. Whether you are sipping coffee at Starbucks or taking a walk in the park you will invariably hear people talking about their startups and funding or some deal. It all is a bit much sometimes.  

It’s hard to stand out when everyone is so well educated, accomplished and so brilliant. Whether someone is getting a PHD, seeking startup funding, selling their startup or just working at a FAANG, it’s hard to stand out. The bar is high. You are a small fish in a big pond here.

Public Transit Is Not Stellar

Bay Area is not known for its public transportation. That’s just how California is. We use our cars 95% of the time. Caltrain runs from San Francisco to Gilroy and we have BART that goes from Millbrae to SF and branches off to Richmond and Antioch. It is decades old and we are about 20 years behind on schedule. Both Caltrain and BART are connected to SF downtown. You just have to make sure you live close enough to one of these stations if you commute to the city.

Related: 15 interesting facts on the Bay Area.