Survival Tips For A Sad Parent

2015-09-18 19.23.04A father with two young children asks, “Is there anything you could recommend to make my family life less awful?”

I can’t wave a wand and make it enjoyable. However, I take comfort in the knowledge that there are many people that enjoy young children.

Let’s start with some tips for maintaining your personal sanity and your marriage.


2015-09-09 18.36.01Perspective

Listening to parents talk about their kids, and the scars of their own childhoods, it’s universally reported that little kids are challenging people to live alongside.

My current experience is one day out of ten is very tough. If I want to get dramatic, then I can extrapolate to 40 days a year that are awful… more than a month a year in suffering!

However, if I look deeply then it is closer to 100 hours a year, and I’m with my kids a lot.

Looking even deeper… I break it down to a couple “moments” each day where I need to resist my urge to retaliate and settle a sensation of internal panic.

Five years ago, it was closer to ten “moments” a day, and I spent far less time with the kids.

It’s important to recognize the positive trend line in our lives.

So what seems like constant bedlam (to my remembering self) is, more accurately, twenty moments a week when I need to be skillful, or simply not make the situation worse!


2015-09-10 11.40.34A Hard Truth

From the time your oldest turns two until your youngest enters first grade — it’s not about you.

If you were the prettiest girl in high school, the captain of your varsity sports team, or the highest achiever in your firm then this reality will come as a shock.

I understand that you are shocked by your situation.

I was also shocked.

We should both set a date to get over it.

Your kids are going to present you with an opportunity to become better than you are.

Take the opportunity because a self-serving attitude will become one of the key regrets of your life.

Ask around.


2015-09-12 18.48.03All We Have Is Time

Most of the pain I felt in the early years had to do with a conflict of choice => further external validation versus doing what’s best for my family.

So I jettisoned the easy stuff – anything that cost significant time and money – went.

What has worked is redirecting the additional spending towards childcare that enables me to spend time with my spouse and alone (in nature, in silence).

You might find it tempting to let your spouse get overwhelmed – losing health, embracing addiction, breaking down mentally.

Make a pact that you won’t let each other go that far. The kids will grow up and neither of you will want to be married to that sort of person.


What You Control

What changes can I make to offer my family a better version of myself?

  1. Say no to non-core
  2. Practice not-response

I work on a small scale and life consistently gets better.

Real Estate – Should I buy or sell?

2015-09-14 13.55.37

In May 2014, I shared a template for reviewing your real estate. Let’s revisit that property – (prior values in parenthesis).

  • Today’s Zillow value $1.2 million ($850,000, +26%)
  • Recent Assessment value $1.05 million ($830,000, +27%)

Zillow and the county assessor have revised values up by more than 25%. You’re wondering if there is a bubble. You receive an offer of $1.1 million, should you sell?

In the article from May 2014, the “owner’s value” was $925,000. This offer is ~20% higher. Seems straightforward to sell, but pause to consider…

  1. How has the investment changed over time?
  2. What are you going to do with the money?
  3. What are the tax consequences of selling?

2015-09-11 15.25.11Investment Review

The big story in Denver/Boulder real estate has been increasing rents. The current rental income for the property is ~$60,000 per annum. Taxes, insurance and repairs cost $10,000, so the net cash flow is $50,000 per annum.

Previously, cash flow before interest and depreciation was closer to $25,000 per annum. So there has been a near doubling in the annual cash flow from this investment, but pause to consider…

Is the cash flow sustainable?

In this case, the cash flow is not sustainable. Houses wear out, roofs need replacing, plumbing needs repair and appliances break down. So let’s adjust the $50,000 per annum to $40,000 to reflect sustainable cash flow.

The offer is $1.1 million to buy $40,000 of sustainable cash flow. That is an implied yield of 3.6%.

How does that stack up?


Alternative Uses of Funds

US Treasury Yields

  • 5 year, 1.6%
  • 10 year, 2.3%
  • 30 year, 3.1%

Vanguard Select Fund Yields

  • VTSAX (US Equity) – 2.0%
  • VBTLX (US Bond) – 2.2%

If you are the seller then you should ask yourself “What am I going to do with the sales proceeds?”

If you sell real estate that yields 3.6% to buy bonds that yield 2-3% then the value of your investment is likely to be eroded over time. Most obviously, because rental income tends to increase over time, while interest payments are set for the duration of the bond.

High-quality assets with growing income streams are attractive.



If you sell at $1,100,000 (to a buyer without an agent) then what’s your net realizable value?

Using numbers consistent with the May 2014 article, you would net about $1,025,000 (before any mortgage pay off).

You’d also want to adjust the sustainable cash flow from the property to reflect taxes you pay on the income. To make things simple, let’s assume a sustainable cash flow after taxes of $32,500 (yielding ~3.2% after tax).

The above numbers would change, possibly significantly, based on the size of mortgage payoff and your personal tax position.

It’s worth having a professional walk you through the detail.



When I look at the above, I see a market that has increased 25% in value. Seems like a lot.

  1. Rental growth is in line with the increase in value.
  2. Alternative investments are yielding less than this asset.
  3. The asset is located in a zip code with real-economic growth that is higher than the US average.

So the market seems fairly priced – at least to me, today.

What should the buyer and seller do? In these market conditions, they are likely fine either way.

What’s going to happen to future rents and prices? I would be suspicious of anyone that claims to know.

Family Financial Review

2015-09-10 11.53.28August/September is the time of year when I do my life review. I’ll be writing about the various components over the next few months.

2015-09-04 19.00.49Fear Impairs Judgement – you’ve certainly felt financial fear in the last three weeks. However, the lesson runs deeper than short-term volatility.

The financial media tempts me to:

  • frequently tweak strategy
  • aim for the perfect asset allocation
  • act impulsively to avoid future losses
  • seek superior returns

Strategically, I want to avoid all of the above.

Tactically, I want to manage family expenditure and execute a reasonable long-term financial strategy to the best of my ability.

Being good enough is good enough.


Sell Illiquid Assets Into Late Bull Markets – in 2014, I decided to sell land, art and jewelry.

Our illiquid assets cost money to hold and I realized that the cash would be better spent on childcare and pre-K education.

Despite selling for less than expected, the net result has cut the family’s core cost of living by 4% and enabled my wife (and me) to work less.

The question to ask yourself is not “is this my best price?”

The question to ask yourself is “are we in a late bull market?” If the answer is “yes” then it’s a good time to sell illiquid assets.


2015-09-06 17.06.43-1Asset Allocation is often a distraction from what matters – with good wealth habits, you can ignore the small stuff.

Here’s a post from December 2010 on asset allocation. Five years along, I’m making progress at following my own advice.

This post from April 2012 (about my future asset allocation) reminds me of the folly of forecasting.

For the benefit of my future self, here’s a snapshot from 2015.

  • 30% – investment real estate
  • 25% – low-cost, diversified equity funds
  • 25% – fixed income in home currency
  • 15% – family home
  • 5% – cash and other

There are historical and family-specific reasons for the above. Not a recommendation to your family.


2015-09-06 20.04.16Time and Health – Am I acting in harmony with my mortality? with my values?

If you find that a self-serving bias isn’t generating satisfaction then consider shifting your focus towards taking better care of your health.

The shift towards health will surface conflicts between your values and how you allocate your time.

No step is too small with regard to positive self change.


Give A Minute

minuteA simple way to reduce the noise in your head.

  • When you can feel yourself closing off,
  • or anger rising,
  • or have been asked to do something that you’re rather not…

…give a minute

2015-08-30 18.20.58

  • When my kids aren’t listening to me…
  • or I think they aren’t complying…
  • or they are arguing with each other…

…give a minute

2015-08-20 17.02.24By giving bits of time, I immediately removed half the conflict out my life and was able to leave the past, in the past.

It’s wonderful.

2015-08-30 19.43.37

You are going to tell yourself that you don’t have the time to give a minute.

I can feel rushed as well.

Perhaps you can start small.

I started by giving seconds away when driving.


If you start then pay attention.

Pay attention to what happens after.

By giving time I feel less pain.

Yes, I am a little slower when we are together but this is more than compensated by peace of mind when we are apart.

You’ll be surprised at how little time it takes to transform yourself.

Stay open.

Alpha Child

2015-08-25 18.50.26If you have a high-energy youngster living under your roof then this might prove helpful.

The first thing I remind myself is there’s nothing, and no one, to fix. My kids are happy and the feedback from the outside world is positive.


I ask myself, “With this child, what’s my role?”

My role is to avoid becoming the problem.

Which implies…

  • taking care of my sleep, my body, my mind and my habits
  • ensuring that I get enough silent time (alone and in nature)
  • steering away from the urge for revenge, aggression and anger


All Day Engagement – a bored alpha child makes everyone miserable, including herself. While some kids can putter and amuse themselves (see below), our oldest does best with a structured day with unstructured breaks.

2015-08-26 13.24.41Ritual & Routine – from birth, my wife has done an excellent job of conditioning the kids to relax when their heads are wrapped in a soft cotton blanket. It works so well that our oldest will resist when she doesn’t want to relax. Ritual and routine are soothing to an anxious child.

2015-08-27 07.55.36Parent Like Dora – if you’ve watched Dora the Explorer then you’ll know that each show features three steps.

To give my kids something to latch onto, I’m always explaining the next three steps…

  • Dinner, Bike, Shower
  • Bath, Pajamas, Story
  • Socks, Shoes, Car

2015-08-23 18.51.51Spread The Energy – I use high chairs, assigned seating, cold drinks and air conditioning to reduce stress when we’re packed together.

  • For drives, my Sienna is set up with staggered seating so the kids can’t whack each other. Throwing things in the car is highly frowned upon!
  • As they develop, we find that different kids push our buttons. To dial down the house, I’ll take a little “disrupter” on a trip. The trips last anywhere from an an afternoon to a week. Sometimes I take more than one kid.

2015-08-21 09.53.08Do you know your parenting preference?

Mine is a shared activity with one person – I sign up for that a lot.


It’s proven much easier to change my attitude, habits and approach than the core personality traits of my children.

Be Skillful.

A Collection of Moments

2015-08-23 09.08.27This week marks the start of the school year and that should enable me to get back to blogging.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to knock out 13 hours of cycling and 13,000 vertical feet.

Even better, I got to visit with an old friend from New Zealand, Scott Molina.

2015-08-22 11.58.47Above are a couple of local characters out for Rollyfest – happening halfway between my house and the Continental Divide. I stopped in, both days, for a large pourover. Yes, those are pipes (below).

2015-08-22 11.27.10

I was thoroughly blasted when I arrived in Winter Park (elevation 9,100 ft) and got a kick out of the Kiwi recovery set-up…

2015-08-22 17.53.24

I opted for the toast.

You learn a lot about a guy when you train together. Scott’s one the nicest people I’ve ever met.

One of Molina’s quirks is that he likes to get dressed for the first session of the day, the night before. When we shared a room, he’d sleep in his run gear (and have his morning coffee pre-brewed).

True to form… here is with his mountain bike shoes on the night before…

2015-08-22 21.38.02

It was made clear, by Erin (Scott’s wife), that this wasn’t an “epic” camp, which suited me fine.

However, I was the only one that had done their final route in the last twenty years (!) and knew they had some surprises heading their way.

Kiwis don’t complain…

They don’t complain when the planned route is detoured up a 100-year old wagon track above the pass…

They don’t complain when they double-end-o down the rough descent…

2015-08-23 12.43.18

And they certainly don’t complain when they have to hike-a-bike over a collapsed tunnel at 11,600 feet (red jersey over my shoulder)…

2015-08-23 11.25.00

I was soooo grateful that the route wasn’t my idea!

In addition to the temporary hardships, we had remarkable views…

2015-08-23 11.44.29

Such a pleasant change to focus on helping others, rather than my next session.

2015-08-23 09.59.45

Life is what you focus on.

2015-08-22 14.33.56

What are you doing when you’re thinking about love?

A Young 46

boatingSomewhere beyond your 30th birthday the world might begin to tell you that you look young for your age.

If you say this to me, I might smile and reply, “This is what 46 looks like.”

Likewise, many people say… “but I don’t feel my age.” To them I note, that’s what your age feels like.

They might follow that up with… “I wonder what 50, or even 75, is going to feel like?”

It’s going to feel like right now.


The practice of accepting my age helps me accept all phases of life…

  • The overtired toddler
  • The anxious teen
  • The sociopathic 20-something
  • The fearful cancer patient
  • The crabby elder
  • The grieving spouse

If we are fortunate to live a long life then we will move through most these phases of experience. At midlife, they surround me.

If we happen to be “young for our age” then it might take a few more years for us to arrive at the phase where we “look old.” But it’s coming.

So I will try to enjoy this day and I will try to accept whatever day you are going through.

And when I am scared, or angry, or tired…

I’ll pause, try not to pass it on and remember to live as best I can.