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My Journey to Financial Independence

Hi reader,

I am a happily married Asian with two wonderful kids and a loving wife. We live in beautiful but unaffordable California! However, we have both been blessed with stable careers but have reached our mid 40s and realized that the rat race/maze is something we would like to stop in the near future.

I decided to write this blog to document our journey to financial independence but also remind us (and perhaps teach others) about the mistakes we have made in the past in order to avoid doing so in the future.  As it is often said, “History repeats itself.”

I hope to discuss a variety of life lessons throughout this year regarding our journey including:

  • Retirement investing
  • Budgeting/spending
  • Real estate investing
  • Credit cards/credit scores
  • Raising a family
  • Educational resources

Wife comments: Holy cow! You think anyone is going to read this? It put me to sleep in just two minutes!….

I guess that can be a positive? 

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Tax Season…IRS scams and phone calls

I just received a “wonderful”, roller coaster pounding phone call yesterday….

“Dear sir, do not hang up this is the IRS calling to inform you that you are under criminal investigation for not paying your taxes.  Please contact us at XXX-XXX-XXXX so that we can correct this otherwise you will be arrested within the next two weeks.”

Not to make fun at the caller but it would help that their accent wasn’t so thick and hard to understand…Not to say that this would have made the call more legitimate.

Anyways, it is the beginning of the Tax filing season.  Perhaps you have heard about the newest and coolest way of scam phone calls.  If not, I copied the response from the IRS website for you to read up on for future reference.

First, IRS never make phone calls about your taxes..

Second, if they did always search for the official IRS phone number (you can Google it) and call the IRS directly to ask about your situation.  No one likes to talk to the IRS, go to the dentist, see the doctor, get your flu shot but you eventually have to do it.

So climb up your saddle pardner its TAX SEASON…Yippee Kai Yea!

Continue reading “Tax Season…IRS scams and phone calls”

Disaster… Are You Prepared?

Fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes…Oh My!

Are you prepared?

santa rosa fire before after

Santa Rosa, CA – Coffey Park (Courtesy: youtube.com)

On October 9, 2017 I was awoken with a phone call at 4 am..Who would be crazy enough to call me at this early hour?  If it’s a telemarketer be prepared for hell on Earth I thought….Little did I know.  Hell coming to Sonoma and Napa Valley, the capitals of America’s wine industry – Paradise on Earth as I like to say to my friends.

My brother’s voice wakes me up instantly from my grogginess..he’s screaming into my ear, “Get out now! The fire is coming!”  Now he was known for sleepwalking when he was a child, so I said,”Okay.” and went back to bed.

Wife comment: Seriously, he went back to bed!!!

Again I get another phone call and my brother yelled, “Get out of bed! Go outside and you will see what I am talking about!”  This doesn’t sound like sleepwalking… So I go open up my upstairs balcony door.  What greets my is a pungent, acrid burning wire smell that assaults the senses.  In front of me in the distant, eerie orange sky is a wind sweeping, giant claw shaped plume of smoke coming straight towards our neighborhood.  I am fully awake now and my primal chicken liver is yelling,”Ruuuuuun!”

By the time I got this phone call the northern part of the city I call home was on fire. I am now a part of what is called the greatest fire that California has had in its history. As of October 30, 2017:

  • Close to 200,000 acres burned.
  • 42 people dead, the latest a young girl who succumbed to her burns as her family tried to outrun the fire after their car caught on fire.  Dozens of people are still missing.
  • Some 8400 structures destroyed. An estimated 5,500 homes completely destroyed with an additional 4,000 partially burned.
  • Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes.
  • More than $1 billion in losses, with the figure likely to rise.

I am writing this post today after a month of having had to evacuate my home, work and finally returning to a somewhat “normal existence”.  I am blessed that we did not lose our home and have nothing to complain about given the many friends and acquaintances who have lost everything.  I am also blessed to experience the reality of a true emergency and experiencing what it means to evacuate in minutes…

Wife comment: My husband always told me we were prepared. By the way….we failed miserably.

I’m not the one who asked, “Do I have time for a shower?”

The question I want to ask you the Reader is, “Are you ready to evacuate in 4-10 minutes?”  If not…then you truly are not ready for a disaster.

Continue reading “Disaster… Are You Prepared?”

Vampire Squids of Humanity

The recent Toys R Us bankruptcy filing has brought up unpleasant flashbacks of the financial crisis and this uncomfortable feeling that I think many of us have regarding how this economy is “rigged” against the little guy.

In 2009, Matt Taibbi in his famous article about Goldman Sachs wrote that Goldman was “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Wife comment: This sounds rated R, is this a finance blog or horror film?

Well me dear…it’s a little bit of both and its also in honor of the Halloween season!   Investment banks like Goldman Sachs, venture capital firms like Bain Capital and KKR, and activist investors like Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman are said to provide added value and increased efficiencies to the companies that they try to take over. Have you wondered why so many companies they purport to help end up saddled with debt?  Again they argue that they help employees and shareholders, yet employees end up losing their jobs and shareholders end up with nothing when the companies declare bankruptcy…

Does that mean Bain, Ackman and their ilk end up losing money as well?  Nooooo…..They end up saddling the companies they acquire with debt which is often used to pay themselves back.  These same companies are temporarily taken private and then “improved” for a public offering to allow naive investors like you and I to invest and lose our shirts later when these same companies are unable to service the debts.

Case in point. Toys R Us is actually a profitable concern – generating between $500-600 million a year in profit.  However, a horse that has to drag a wagon of debt can never win a race against a horse without the cart (Amazon anyone?).  This story is a familiar story for a number of companies that are profitable but end up getting in trouble when these vulture…I mean venture capitalists and activist investors take over.  The winners end up being the few individuals of these investment firms, while the losers are the employees and the mom and pop investors.

What’s your opinion on this?

Needs vs. Wants Part 2

In my last post, I have been discussing examples of how our daily wants become needs that affect our goals of financial independence.  I had discussed our daily lunch and coffee breaks and how cutting back can put money into your nest egg. How much so far? About $92,000 saved from finding alternatives to your average coffee and lunch!

Wife’s comment: Now who says gettin’ to a million dollars in the bank is impossible?  Booyah!!

Continue reading “Needs vs. Wants Part 2”

The Powaah of Compoundin!!!! Needs vs. Wants Part 1

I have read a variety of investment and savings books the past 30 years and a few nuggets I have gleaned from them have helped motivate me in my journey to financial independence.

 If you have never played around with an online compounding calculator, get right to it! One site I have recently been playing around with is:
One of the most recent rants I am on with myself is the daily cost of my “indulgences” vs. what I really need.  Perhaps you have the same “vices”.  Years ago when I started to use Mint (www.mint.com), I noted several spending categories that happened consistently and that also added up:
Activities  Daily cost  Monthly cost  Annual cost  20 years
Morning coffee  $           3.50  $             105.00  $       1,260.00  $    25,200.00
Lunch out  $           7.50  $             225.00  $       2,700.00  $    54,000.00
Gym dues  $           3.33  $             100.00  $       1,200.00  $    24,000.00
Smoking  $           3.50  $             105.00  $       1,260.00  $    25,200.00
After 20 Years of Livin’ the Life:  $  128,400.00

Wife comment: Dang honey…you are so expensive to upkeep! Why didn’t I just get a Ferrari???

Cough! Cough! Go write your own blog and quit writing in mine.  The costs presented above is just basic expenses not taking into account inflation.  What it helps show is that simple savings and cutting out certain expenses can allow us to find the money we need to put into our retirement or savings accounts.

Now this blather is what all the retirement gurus will tell you, but heck no will I give up my morning coffee! Besides study after study says that drinking coffee can extend your life.  Black coffee that is…don’t be adding no sugar, milk and all that extra stuff!

The gurus love showing you if you took all that money you are spending on your coffee, lunch, drinks, etc.. (you know…the quality of life stuff that makes life fun..) – save it for retirement, you would be Riiiiiiiiiiiich!

However, I would like to look at a better scenario of cutting back or finding alternatives that would allow me to have these indulgences without giving it up wholeheartedly.

I am sure that you all can come up with one or two things that you indulge and justify as necessities.  Now don’t get me wrong, Life is about living and not just sacrificing – otherwise, why isn’t it called Sacrifice? Sounds like a bad horror flick… Stay with me though.

Continue reading “The Powaah of Compoundin!!!! Needs vs. Wants Part 1”

Be Pavlov’s Dog!!!

Since graduating from school and no longer playing active team sports.  I realized that my nature requires that I keep a scorecard of how I am doing.  Case in point, the periodic updates on our financial situation.

I found that keeping a scorecard of our savings, income, debts and net worth helps motivate us to continue our journey. Similar to weighing yourself on a scale.

Wife’s comment: The scale does not define me!!!

We use both http://www.mint.com and http://www.personalcapital.com – if you read financial blogs I am sure you have run into both in the past.

Continue reading “Be Pavlov’s Dog!!!”

The American Dream for the Other

America the Melting Pot the Salad Bowl or the rancid Potato Salad????

I believed and still believe that America is still the envy of the other countries and that so many people do wish to come here and pursue “Life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

We have all from a young age been indoctrinated with the motto: “Pursue what you love passionately, dedicatedly – do not let anyone or anything stand in your way”.

This is bull larky!  I believe this has led many of us astray or provided an excuse to pursue castles built on sand.  History has shown Revolutions have displaced people from safety and security and left many behind.  We are going through such a period today and it’s called the Technological Revolution.  A revolution that is replacing many working and middle class jobs but also opening up a new era of freedom, communication and self actualization.  The question is:

“Are you one of the beneficiaries of this revolution or are you or your loved ones being left behind?”

Continue reading “The American Dream for the Other”