Dan Ariely has a knack for helping us understand ourselves as humans and delivering science in an approachable way. Probably best known for Predictably Irrational, a well-named tome about how humans behave irrationally (but in a predictable way), Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics. Basically, him writing a book about humans and money was bound to happen one of these days!
This time around, Ariely teamed up with Jeff Kreisler, a comedian and writer. The tone of the book did seem noticeably different and written in a lighter way. Dollars and Sense, as a result, comes across as even more approachable to the casual reader.
There’s a little something for everyone in Dollars and Sense, but it seems most applicable to someone fairly new to thinking about personal finance, or to someone who has struggled to stick to budgets and saving.
As I’m writing this, Fergus, Fluffster, and I are currently sitting (and one of us is whining) in a Red Roof Inn wondering what the weird sound coming from the bathroom is. [Future Felicity here: still no clue what that sound was…]
What do two nerds who don’t celebrate Christmas do with holiday time off? A mini hackathon, of course! Fergus is hard at work finishing up a custom WordPress theme, because wow are we particular. We’re getting a new layout, and even some new commissioned art that we are so psyched about! Meanwhile I’m taking care of the writing backlog and basic SEO upgrades for the site.
In the meantime, take a read of our Two Cup House guest post! We’re proud to have shared our story and participated in their 25 Days of Personal Finance series. Just a little bit of a teaser to get your interest piqued:
About three years ago, our dog, Fluffster, suddenly started dry heaving on a walk. Less than an hour later at the emergency vet, we were told he had bloat and were handed an itemized bill for roughly $5k.
We started this year dedicating ourselves to $2,680 in charitable donations, ten times our previous, pitiful contributions. Just a few days ago we officially fully funded our donor-advised fund, meaning we could theoretically maintain that $2,680 each year for the rest of our lives (we haven’t touched on too many specifics of our spending on here, but for context, we live on a little more than $36k a year, including rent, and additionally give $10k to family each year).
According to the 4% rule of thumb, we’d need $67k, but we rounded up to $70k for good measure. Coincidentally, my starting salary as a new engineering grad six years ago was $67k! Due to the magic of compounding returns and some nice salary bumps along the way, this contribution only delays financial independence by about six months for us, and we should still be able to reach our goal of 2019!
FinCon is an annual conference for money nerds of all sorts, meaning I was with *my people* for four days (even longer, actually, as the wonderful Kara from Bravely put me up in Austin for three nights)! Two separate podcasts interviewed me (the Plutus award-winning Stacking Benjamins, and the soon-to-be-Plutus-award-winning Fairer Cents), I have half a dozen projects and/or inquiries to follow up on, my closet is now 100% stocked with workout shirts courtesy of exhibit hall swag, and I am pumped full of inspiration and drive.
If you read enough self-help or management books, after a while they all seem to be just the same message repackaged over and over again (Not that anything can be totally original, but you know what I mean).
I watched Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk about “multipotentiality” close to a year ago on the recommendation of one of my best friends and deeply connected with the message. I’d read the book The Renaissance Soul years ago, and I figured How to Be Everything was just going to be another repackaging of the same idea. So wrong.
My condolences. Seriously, car shopping sucks. Here are a few lessons we picked up to make it less sucky, mostly focused on buying from a dealership (for Craigslist shopping, LifeHacker has you covered).
We love to shop around for the best rates, and dealers love to spam with calls and emails. I initially inquired about new car prices just for the hell of it on TrueCar (meaning I had to give an email and phone number), and I instantly got six different emails from four different dealerships. Months later, and some of them still haunt my voicemail. Take a note from drug dealers and get yourself a burner phone.
So we just spent $1150 on car repairs… oh, and the trade-in value for our car is roughly $500 (from a dealer; we could surely get quite a lot more selling it ourselves, but probably still less than $1150). When does spending more money on repairs than the value of the car make sense financially? Let’s explore [cue evil laugh].
Hey, all! Felicity here, announcing a guest post from Troy of Market History. Troy’s site is a treasure trove of detailed, historical market data. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive source, short of paying Bloomberg half of an average household’s income. Additionally, Troy explains historic market actions for those of us who are a little more clueless. Ever wonder why the dollar peaked in 2001 and 2002? Or a quick summary of all the peaks and valleys, with corresponding news events for any given year? Troy’s got you covered.
Troy also goes a bit against the grain compared to the typical early retirement / Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) blogs, in that he doesn’t put all his investments in index funds and walk away. He thinks it’svery possible to have above average returns by doing your research and timing the market based on fundamentals. While this is likely not a viable approach for everyone (we can’t all be Troy), it seems to work well for him. This post is keeping it simple with advice for everyone, though!
Take it away, Troy!
It’s hard to say exactly what investors SHOULD do because there are so many different investment strategies. There is no single “best” strategy that will outperform all the rest. However, there are certain things that no investor should ever do, regardless of his or her investment strategy. Once you know what you shouldn’t do, the field of things that you can do becomes much narrower.
In my freshman engineering seminar, there was one phrase forever drilled into my head: “Engineers Solve Problems (ESP™).”
ESP was the one thing that brought all the disciplines together – from six sigma-ing industrial engineers to code monkey computer engineers (engineers can be super cliquey).
So how can you be like an engineer? You guessed it – by solving problems. Why would you want to? Oh, man, because engineering is cool? No? Okay, how about saving money, time, and sanity? Yeah, I thought so.
Step 1: Destroy Mental Barriers
“But everyone solves problems,” I hear you groan, “What makes engineers special?”