Free My Mind

monsyWhat’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

Time, perhaps.

My friend, and his father, are both surgeons. The older doctor shared that ‘half of everything I learned, turned out to be wrong.

When I think back to my formal education, a good chunk appears to have been wrong. Of course, studying economics in the 1980s gives one an edge in the search for academic humility.

Why does this matter?

Knowing that most my knowledge will prove meaningless helps me decide where to focus thought. Some questions that I ask myself when I’m wound up…

Could I be having this discussion 10, 100 or 1,000 years ago?

– Nutrition, exercise protocol, the body fat percentage of myself and friends… All are recent phenomena. Not worth devoting much share of mind towards.

– Living well, meaning, time allocation… These questions track back to the ancients.

How long has this problem persisted?

– I love this question with regard to young children. They have been a challenge for parents across thousands of years. My odds of transcendence are long!

Under what conditions is the opposite opinion correct?

– This one is a loaded question because, once you realize that there’s always a situation where the opposite applies, it’s easier to develop tolerance for those who oppose us.

Am I sure?

The benefit of experience is that I’m not sure about much. However, there is a small list of traits where I am quite sure.

Quarterly Review

boat2Completed my quarterly review last week and wanted to pass along a few observations that could save your family money.

My default stance with personal expenses is “stay variable.” Renting, rather than owning is a good way to live. In-and-out of a property costs you a minimum of 15% of the gross capital value and being tied down geographically reduces your human capital.

That said, the best deal that I’ve done in the last few years was the purchase of my current house. It’s a half block away from a great public school and my mortgage/taxes/insurance cost me 65% of my owner’s equivalent rent. While I have a large amount of equity tied up, it’s increased 30% in the last two years (see – how I value real estate for a calculation method).

Three factors dominate my cost-to-own being less than my cost-to-rent:

Mortgage interest rate – these remain historically low. My rate is fixed for another 28-years – a valuable asset for my young family.

Cost to insure – Ten months ago, I realized that my home was grossly over-insured. As part of a 2nd mortgage restructuring, my place was appraised. I used the appraisal value to get a more realistic level of insurance in place.

Local Taxes – In 2013, the county reassessed my property at a 30% increase in value. I reviewed the county assessor’s website, pulled together more appropriate comps and requested a do-over. The assessor agreed with my comps and cut my taxes significantly.

The above, combined with an incorrect escrow calculation, means that my monthly payment has been resetting downwards all year. Starting October, I’ll be paying 20% less than two years ago.

The lesson is to be pro-active with checking the components of your mortgage payment. It takes times to get things right but there’s likely money to be saved. Everywhere I poked, I could save money.

Be patient with property purchases – great conditions happen once a decade and it’s nearly always better to wait.

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In my portfolio, three main adjustments:

  • Sold US Equity Index to rebalance and raise funds for a property deal. This came out of a taxable account and I’ll pay CGT on the sale. Normally, I’d avoid the CGT but the account is a minor custody account that we’ve decided to spend on the kids before they’re 18.
  • Exchanged International Bond Index for US Bond Index to simplify my portfolio, lower my total cost and because the fund manager wasn’t able to convince me of any benefits of the product. Non-taxable exchange.
  • Staying the course with asset allocation ratios but will tweak if I sell an investment property.

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Our long-term care insurance provider increased Monica’s premiums by 45% so we dropped the policy. Due to my cycling, it will be a tougher decision if they seek the same with me.

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Our largest discretionary expense is preschool and childcare. We started tracking this weekly and comparing against my spouse’s gross income from working part time.

  • This calmed my mind because it showed that we were more in balance than I thought.
  • It gave us a weekly snapshot of how we were doing with cost control.
  • It showed us the trade-off between more work and more childcare.

 

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Overall, we keep chipping away at making our family a little more efficient each month.

It Wasn’t Good For Me

gnomeA number of my pals triathlon’ed from Vancouver to Calgary over the last two weeks. They did the journey as part of something called Epic Camp and I highly recommend Scott Molina’s blog about the trip. I’ve been chuckling along as the crew drill themselves daily across the Canadian Rockies.

In reading Molina’s diary of their adventure, I’ve been feeling three emotions…

Joy that Scott is able to keep on trucking. The guy’s 54 years old and he’s still able to love training at the edge of human endurance. Epic Camp is about the mental component of performance and Scott personifies joy from suffering.

Continuing amazement at what people can accomplish. It’s tempting to put ultra-athletes into a separate category as genetic freaks. The reality is most ultra-athletes are fairly normal physically. The differences arise in their capacity to embrace obsession and the way they experience fatigue & suffering.

Finally, I experience a deep sense of gratitude for my life in Boulder. When I was living my life of extreme athletic performance, I couldn’t see the cost of my status quo.

By the way, lots of people talk about the health risks of extreme exercise. I think that you are right but you’re missing the point. See the camp for what it is… a binge. I’ve always enjoyed a good binge. It’s something I need to watch. Also, so long as you don’t go banana’s with the running, the main short-term risk (to your kidneys) is limited.

Scott knows, and shares, the requirements for athletic success. He’s far more open than any other triathlon writer, myself included.

What’s yet to be published is the total reality of seeking our ultimate triathlon potential. Outside of triathlon, Sam Fussell gave it a shot with bodybuilding. His book, Muscle, is an entertaining account of the life of a full-time amateur (AKA a life similar to most tri-pros). Leaving the extreme drug use to one side, the parallels with my life are many.

I’ve often wanted to write the “whole truth” about my life. I’m most open with the non-racing spouses of my training pals. They know enough about my world to be entertained but aren’t so invested that I challenge their identities with my observations.

I looked deeper into my motivation and saw a desire to protect my children from my near misses. However, my children’s obsession is certainly going to be different than my own and they will resent being told what to do by their, ultimately, sixty-something father.

Here’s where Sam’s book comes into it’s own. The hero in Sam’s book is his mom. She keeps the lines of communication open, accepts Sam for who he his and frees him to change his mind on his own timetable.

As we ascend to the top, we can lose the goodness of our youth. It’s no accident that the highest-achievers had very difficult childhoods. It’s a rare person that becomes more kind under extreme stress – at Epic Camp, Bevan James Eyles is the best example that comes to mind. He was always part of the solution. The rest of us acted like wolves, or hyenas.

What helps everyone is encouragement to hold onto a piece of goodness and stay open when the little voice says, “this isn’t good for you.”

…and while I have no idea who is doing the talking… I know that following that voice has led me to a wonderful life.

Lex