I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s just a few weeks left before we close out this decade. As with any new year, we’ll rush into it with all kinds of hopes, plans, and dreams. However, before we get caught up in that rush, I thought it would it be helpful to look at the past decade.
Blogging has many advantages, but being able to look at my financial thoughts on almost any given day is perhaps the biggest. I can’t think of any of my blogging peers who still have almost of their original content in place going back a decade. Let’s hope that there wasn’t too much cringe-worthy stuff from back then.
Much of my blog is about my personal financial journey. So while I’ll be covering life events, I also will be highlighting the general personal finance articles as well as the news of the time.
At the start of 2010, my wife and I were still living in Silicon Valley – just a couple of DINKs. Our dog was celebrating his first birthday. I had left full-time work a few years before, but I had just taken a contract job doing technical customer service.
I was (and am) still dedicated to “making my money work for me, so I don’t have to” (my long-time slogan), but this job paid very well. Step one of making your money work for you is always, “acquire the money.”
I’ll go month by month and cover a few of the articles that are still interesting today:
I started off the year with a guest post that foreshadowed much of the decade. It was about the single point of failure financial plans. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would become the victim of 4 strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPPs). We’ll get to those in a future article.
For most people these single point of failures can be avoided by having comprehensive insurance coverage.
I also started to read Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Work Week, which was roughly the idea of my website back in 2006. It got me thinking about whether it is better to Maximize Strengths or Minimize Weaknesses? Ten years later, I still don’t have the answer. Let me know what you think in the comments.
One of my friends asked me a simple question, “How much should I save each month for college?” This was more than two years before my wife and I had our first kid. We did a lot of math together and realized that saving for college is an exercise in depression. At the start of 2010, there wasn’t nearly as much coverage of the student loan crisis. Obviously things would change over the next decade.
I closed out the month writing an extremely short update that we hired a cleaning service. Despite being very frugal people, the value was amazing. It is one of the best ways to make a marriage last in my opinion.
I started this month roasting a Public Storage Commercial that suggested that couples moving in together should put a bunch of stuff in storage instead of throwing it out. They want you to pay a fee every month to ignore the underlying problem. No bueno.
I then showed off our room that Craigslist and Yard Sales built. We still have most of the stuff today. That even includes the hidden red Ford Mustang that you can see through the window. The candle stands went back in storage because of the kids, but I think it’s almost time to bring them back out again.
I had a random musings article, which gives some historical view into what 2010 was like. For example, I wrote about buying extended batteries for my netbook and my Palm Pre. I also wrote that the only thing that could challenge the Pre on Sprint seemed to be the Nexus One.
Finally, I noted my dog is a financial guru. I caught him burying bones and retrieving them later. I thought that was something from children’s books like a stork dropping off a baby. Who knew that dogs developed a budgeting and banking system for their most valuable currency?
I began the month with a guide on how not to lose your shirt in Las Vegas. I’m not sure if the tips are still valid today. I know that if I go back to Vegas, I’d start by re-familiarizing myself with those tips.
Next, I adapted my favorite Paramore song at the time into a financial warning Build Your Financial Home Brick By Boring Brick. The lesson was that you should avoid get rich quick schemes and use the tried-and-true method of boring bricks like 401ks, Roth IRAs, and emergency funds. (The video is worth the click too.)
When I was in the 5th grade every elementary school in my city took a trip to Washington D.C. Every one except mine. At age 34, I finally got there and took a Washington D.C. tour. There’s so much that I haven’t gotten to see, so that’s going to be a project for future family vacations.
Finally, I gave some advice on how to be more productive using Firefox Profiles. I still use Firefox profiles today to focus on certain businesses.
I strongly hinted that I won the lottery, but it was April 1st. If you do win the lottery (or have a windfall), there are some investing ideas in this article. Today, I’d put more money in dividend stocks and skip the annuity.
I posted some alternative income reports, which was mostly how much I made from blogging and peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. The main focus was reiterate that I don’t like to trade time for money. I got away from publishing the reports until around 2017 when I brought them back.
I wish Mother Earth a Happy Earth Day. People have been writing about environment concerns for a long time, much longer than I have. It’s important to me to write about it a few times a year even if it doesn’t seem directly related to personal finance.
In April of 2010, it was difficult to get your credit score. You often had to pay for it. I made my case for credit score transparency. Nowadays, every financial institution seems to want to tell you your credit score. That’s excellent progress!
I invested in a 529 Plan because it was giving away free money. We didn’t even have kids at the time. I got some affiliate commissions from that promotion and that’s added up to around $3000 with the investment gains over the years. With 10 more years before the kids get to college, we might have $7,000 or $8,000. Hopefully that will buy a book then. The lesson: It’s never too early to plan for your financial future.
By this time, I’ve been working from home quite a bit, so I wrote some tips to stay focused working from home. Lifehacker liked my tips and linked to it. In retrospect, that’s really surprising, because it wasn’t close to my best work.
I had an expert chime in with 8 tips to maximize airline miles. I don’t know if they existed at the time, but today there are tons of websites laser-focused on airline miles.
Have you ever wondered What is a good credit score? You don’t have to wonder any more.
I wrote for the second time about how I might cut cable TV. Nearly 10 years later, I still haven’t cut cable TV. The first time I wrote about it, Netflix didn’t have a streaming queue and Hulu didn’t exist. Some company named YouTube was just two years old. Nowadays, there are a lot of people doing a lot of cable cutting. Our TV habits have changed over the years, but there’s usually a few things that keep us into cable. One of the big ones is that, without the bundle, broadband is almost as expensive.
Of course, you don’t want to miss this one: How to Become a Millionaire.
You might want to bookmark these frugal Father’s Day gifts for a few months from now.
They aren’t very common, but you can save money at a drive-in theater.
I roasted the Sex and the City movie and its focus on spending. A Buffy the Vampire quote helped drive the point home.
I explored the Pros and Cons of Solo 401Ks and SEP-IRAs. In the end, I went with a SEP-IRA because I didn’t make enough money to take advantage of a Solo 401k.
I also wrote that I’m not a fan of internet marketers. The simple reason is that marketing can, in many cases, just be misinformation intended to make you a victim of fraud.
I was asked about the how the market was going and I didn’t have a clue. It’s interesting to look back on the stock market 10 years ago. After the Great Recession, I had no faith in the market in the short term. In fact, at that time, we had just experienced a “Lost Decade” of no market gains. There are so many FIRE bloggers today who have no idea of what that is like.
I bought a new laptop. I find it fun to go back 10 years and read about how ground-breaking that hardware was. It turns out that the move to Windows 7 from Vista wasn’t so bad.
Is it better to earn more or save more? I believe that you should do both, but not everyone agrees. This article was a whopping 1000 words, which at the time was twice as long as my typical articles.
I explored a new career of stealing cars, because Oakland police said they wouldn’t pursue such crimes due to budget cuts. My “career” in grand theft auto didn’t go beyond writing a satirical article. I didn’t even play the video game.
I explored whether you should invest in what you know, which made Peter Lynch famous. My investment in Palm hadn’t paid off. People with iPhones were wowed by how incredible my Palm Pre was. However, I didn’t know about the inner distribution deals.
A friend asked me how to choose between buying two televisions. Both were 46 inches, but one was $1500 and another one was $1000. My advice at the time was to buy the cheaper television because the football game will look fantastic on either. It’s like comparing diamonds, you only notice the difference in color when they are next to each other. I’ve since spent a lot on an top of the line OLED LG television and feel like I should have listened to my own advice.
I then suggested that he save the $500 and put it towards a 3-D television, when they are cheaper.
I got an email threatening me about my MonaVie article. This was just one of the times that people in pyramid schemes threatened critical analysis because it makes it difficult to recruit people. MonaVie went out business around 2014 when its pyramid collapsed. I think any historian would conclude that MonaVie was definitely a scam
Before there was MoviePass, we saved money on movies the old fashioned way. Now that MoviePass is gone it’s worth revisiting these tips that still work.
Even though I love USAA, I roasted their marketing of the Top Fund of the Decade. Because it was the Lost Decade, precious metals did well and USAA’s precious metals did the best with an annual return or nearly 25%. I cautioned investors that it isn’t always to chase after the top funds. If you had bought the fund (USAGX) at the time of writing you would have paid $40 a share. Those shares are worth $15.66 today… a loss of 61% while the S&P 500 is up 175.29% over that time.
I encouraged people to create their own inflatable slide after JetBlue employee Steven Slater went viral after he got so frustrated with a customer that he grabbed a beer and took the inflatible slide out of the plane. We’ve all been there. Having alternative income gives you the power to do exactly that without looking back. Steven Slater would get back in the news in 2019 after going missing in Mexico. I couldn’t find if they found him.
You might also want to book these tips on how to save money on back to school shopping.
I started off the month with a bang – Ignore Your Personal Finance Guru. It’s true… Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey were just as bad back then. There were even articles about how bad David Bach’s math was with the Latte Factor. Of course, we’d revisit that in 2019, with Suze Orman taking the reins.
I even found a reason to trash the awesome (in my opinion) Jean Chatzky. Her publicist contacted me and offered to answer 5 reader questions. I got the questions and then the publicist ghosted me. I don’t even think ghosting was a term in 2010. I still like Jean Chatzky’s financial advice though.
For much of September I was on vacation and not writing anything noteworthy. I had a guest post that encouraged people to Swing Away. Or as Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
September ended with another bang, as I reflected with a friend about impending layoffs. We’d both been software engineers around the “dot bomb” era of 2000 when there were no jobs available. We agreed we were in pretty good shape. I was particularly relieved that I had diversified my income with the website income stream.
This was the month that I made the mistake of checking Zillow on the Boston suburb condo that I bought in 2005. I paid $287,000 then for it and at this time it was $193,000.
Even today, in 2019 my condo is only at $265,000. Never depend on real estate appreciating. It usually happens, but in this 15 year period, it’s gone down in value.
The media brainwashed me into thinking, “If you don’t buy now, you’ll never be able to buy. Prices will just keep going up and up forever.” With this strong evidence showing that is not the case, I compared it to my local (at the time) Silicon Valley market. With the hindsight of 2019, Silicon Valley’s prices have continued to go up forever.
I also wrote an extensive review of Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw. You can learn a lot from just the quick 3-5 sentence summaries I wrote in the review.
If you ever wondered what was in my wallet, now is your chance to find out. I’ve been thinking of updating this for 2019. There’s a bunch of new credit cards that I like better now.
We also saved 33% on our cable bill. Turns out we were paying for things we didn’t use and simply needed to cancel them. The major lesson here is to periodically review your bills and see if there is a reasonable way to lower them.
I reviewed Safeway’s Just for U rewards program. Later, they’d invite me (and some other bloggers) to tour the corporate office. I think I was the only male of around 20 bloggers. I’m used to not fitting in anywhere in life, but I didn’t even fit in among the world of bloggers back then.
After more than 10 years I broke up with Sprint. It simply wasn’t worth paying $70/mo. when I could get the same value from Virgin Mobile for $25/mo.
I also wrote about that it appeared to be a great time to buy a vacation/retirement place. In the article, I tossed the idea of either buying in Jacksonville or Newport, RI. We’d buy a home in Newport, rent it out for a year, and then move there when my wife was able to transfer duty stations.
Looking for some ideas to make make your money go further? Of course you are. And here you go!
I wrote about how fantasy football is like personal finance. I played fantasy football for just this one year (2010). I scored more points than most in the league, but I ended up losing most of the games. I did pick up two extremely late round players that no one thought would be very good: Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Are you thinking, “What is Quantative Easing?” Of course you are! It’s a day that ends in “y”, right? So get clicking on that link and scratch that itch.
I also reviewed Kimberly Palmer’s Generation Earn. It was a great personal finance book with a rare surprise: incorporating the idea of making the world a better place into the book itself.
I also bought our first Kindle. These e-ink tablets were originally nearly $500, but finally came down to $89 on Black Friday.
I had a moral dilemma with with buying a new television. I got upset and and ranted about Fry’s website practices and finally bought the cheapest flat panel at WalMart. That savings allowed me to buy a fancy OLED television guilt-free later in the decade.
The CEO of a company called NerdWallet offered a guest post addressing whether payment protection insurance is ever a good idea. I guess NerdWallet is a big company now. I should have been writing guest post for them!
I admitted that I have mild face-blindness, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to make new friends. I find it especially hard with the other parents at my kids’ school. Two of them in particular look exactly the same to me. They were in the same place at the same time and I said to my wife, “Even looking at both them at the same time, I can’t tell the difference.”
Final Thoughts of 2010
The above 3000 words are a lot to digest (and a little exhausting to write).
I wanted to end with a financial summary. I was very inconsistent with my net worth spreadsheets back in 2010, but I was able to piece together some numbers from February of 2010. We had a net worth of a little less than $450,000. The vast majority of it was in retirement accounts and equity in paying off the condos we each bought when we were younger.
We had a lot of life events from 2010 to 2019. I hope you’ll follow me as we continue to year 2011.