A few years back I “fondly” recalled my parents’ compost pile.  That was during the Texas years.  It wasn’t fun.  I vowed to never force the experience upon my own kid.

And I have indeed stuck to that principle, though I’ve admittedly since started composting anyway.  But in fairness, there’s a lot of organic waste that needs to be disposed of, and why fill up the trash bins with it?  And we have gardens.  So fine–there are advantages.  But I won’t go crazy with it.

No, I’ll create a quaint and reasonable compost pile.

Right side: last year’s yard waste

Plus, I have a tiller to mix it up, so no manually turning with a pitchfork.

And so far, I’m impressed with how well it’s breaking down.  As new kitchen waste gets added to the pile (something I do make the kid take care of), I simply pile leaves on top from the edges to keep the stink down.

Apparently it’s possible to do these things non-obsessively.  Who knew?


Index Funds

Oh goody!  Please let this be another article from a self-proclaimed “expert”, blathering on about long-term plans and investing wisely.

It is not, to be clear.  You are safe here.

So what the hell am I going to talk about?  Why, it is indeed about investing, and probably wisely, and definitely with the long-term in mind.  But I am not an expert.  There’s the difference, I suppose.

FidelityMy employer migrated our 401ks to Fidelity.  I poked around in there for a while, using their retirement score projection algorithm to make some adjustments both to my investment strategy and my contributions.  It was really riveting stuff, but necessary if I ever want to leave cubicle life.  Then they gifted me some restricted stock units (stock I don’t get until I add another 2 years to my tenure), which got me interested in exploring Fidelity’s full site, and not just the dumbed-down version the company maintains for retirement snapshots.  And I admit, it looked cool, in the way a well-designed spreadsheet of data does.

I had never consciously invested for a variety of reasons:

  1. I never had the liquid assets to buy stock shares
  2. I knew very little about how the stock market works
  3. I was afraid
  4. It looked like a lot of work

But then I heard of Index Funds.  Well, I had heard of them before but never gave them much thought.  Their mention tended to pop up on podcasts and news segments, so the seed had been planted well before I seriously considered buying them outright (I don’t consider my 401k to be that granular–though it technically is investing in index funds under special tax benefits, albeit about as hands-off as you can get).

And after some rather very basic research, discovered that:

  1. Many of them required no minimum investment and have very small fees
  2. I didn’t need to know much to benefit from them
  3. Risk could be mitigated with preference–how safe an index I was willing to buy
  4. The investment strategy for them is passively managed and I could auto-invest, requiring almost no effort on my part

Okay, sounded kind of fun.  I searched for Fidelity-owned index funds that matched these qualifiers.  I decided to “diversify” with 3 of them, ultimately choosing 4 so I could have a dividend-paying index to add to the mix:

index funds

I linked my savings account for EFTs and bought $10 of each, then configured their auto-invest feature to automatically perform an EFT and buy $10 for each one on a rotating weekly basis.  I was an official investor!

Then COVID-19 struck and I subsequently lost 17% of my investments.  Ah well, I suppose they’ll go up again eventually (I won’t even mention what it’s done to my 401k!).

My investment of $50 is now worth $41.26. Awesome.

But stocks are up today!  I might make a buck or two back!  Time will tell how well this works over the long term.  And I now have one more old man hobby to occupy my hours of solitude in the basement.

Liz has threatened to tell her father I’m investing so we have something to talk about.

Oh god.


Bad Times

My Grandmother died, and Coronavirus COVID-19 is officially now a pandemic.  These events are, fortunately, unrelated.  She died of late-stage dementia.

COVID-19 itself has a low mortality rate, but 3% of the world’s population is a lot of people.  Schools have disbanded.  Liz and I have been sent home to work.  And I’ve lost 15% of my retirement with the stock crash.

Things will no doubt recover.  But for posterity, these are bad times.

Nostalgia (Part 2): The 1990s

This is part 2.  For part 1, go here.

Ah the 90s.  In all honesty, I didn’t much care for them, but that’s because I was a kid and being a kid sucked.  Then again, as I discussed in the prior post, nostalgia is part missing something that can never be reclaimed, not simply the state of mind I was in at the time.  So, what’s been lost to the annuls of history, or will one day be lost, yet iconic to this decade?

I enlisted Liz’s help for a list (this is not a list post–I hate those).  Here’s what we came up with:

  • Shopping malls: The family day trips with acquisition objectives.  Someone always needed shoes it seemed, and there was never a dedicated trip to a shoe store.  No, instead the clan was loaded up and sent off to the South Plains Mall (AKA “The Piece of Bread and Three Candy Bars” mall–my sister though that’s what the sign looked like), where mom and dad would divide and conquer, dragging us to multiple outlets for everything else that was running out or no longer fit.  Socks, bras, and jeans were the common items, and the proper brands for each were never at the same store.  On second thought, this might not be nostalgia at all.  Then again, there were the stops at the aquarium store, the nature store, and the McDonald’s–all in the mall.  Maybe it’s the idea of actually shopping that’ll be missed, replaced by the instant online ordering and one day shipping.  Searching for the right item was miserable, but allowed for instant gratification.
  • Cash: My dad still pays with cash.  I find it cumbersome now, yet it’s tangible.  At one brief point in my life I worked for tips, and while the pay was paltry, the envelope of $1 bills in my lockbox sure seemed like a lot of money.  Cash was fun, and exciting, and still somewhat of a mystery.  How did they get that security strip in there?  And a fat wallet sure made me feel rich.
  • Driving: I don’t see us as a society ever fully getting away from personal automobiles, but with the advancements of autonomous vehicles, it’s well within the realm of possibility.  And ride-sharing programs will fill the gaps.  In short, there will be far less of an immediate need for personal cars in early adulthood.
  • Bookstores: Once upon a time these were the only place to get books.  We were at the mercy of whatever they stocked, but that also made finding a certain book more exciting.  Now we can buy whatever suits our whim, and with endless choice comes decision anxiety.  Maybe this is more of a commentary on ecommerce as a whole, but the bookstore especially was such a fun place to explore endlessly.

I realize now that much of what defined the 90s was the technological advances, specifically the internet; or rather, the calm immediately preceding the technological storm.  The 90s was the last truly tangible decade, before the digital world.  It wasn’t necessarily disconnected, but the connections were slow.  Navigating the world in the 90s was more deliberate and time-consuming.  I daresay that it was a simpler time as a result.