Amazon Prime Rewards Review: Perhaps the Ultimate Store Card

This week’s The Distillery is a bit random in that it highlights a single credit card, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. The credit card game is one of my favorites, but it always needs to come with a  an upfront disclaimer: If you pay off your credit card when your balance is due, get in the game. If you don’t, continue watching from the sidelines. Once in the game, the rewards and sign-up promotions can be addicting, but well worth the analysis and paperwork.   I thought I had completed my lineup of credit cards in my wallet until I came across Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa credit card. Honestly, I don’t know why it took me this long to discover it. As an avid Prime Member (and this is an important prerequisite to applying) the decision to sign up after reviewing the rewards was practically a no-brainer, especially so, considering we order so many packages from Amazon that my girlfriend is considering buying an industrial shredding machine for our neighborhood to eliminate the space the boxes take up inside our homes.   Here’s to an ever-thickening wallet to sit on 😊     The Amazon Prime Visa Signature card comes with a head-turning number: 5 percent on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases. The card has many of the same features as its predecessor – the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card – and it improves on the regular Amazon Rewards card by offering an unlimited 5 percent rewards rate on purchases.   For current Amazon Prime subscribers, the Prime card is worth the hoopla. Besides the fact that you... Read More >

Just A Little Bit More

This week’s The Distillery is another good read by Michael Batnick of The Irrelevant Investor. He highlights a real life example, NBA player Chris Bosh, of why more money doesn’t automatically equal more happiness. Enjoy!   Chris Bosh, two-time NBA champion, was recently on the Bill Simmons podcast talking about the unhappiness of today’s superstar. Wait, what? It’s hard to imagine how a 23-year old kid who signs a five year, $127 million deal could be anything other than giddy all the time. This type of thing is possible because... Read More >

Killer Vees

This week’s The Distillery glances at the past 9 “Killer Vees” in the S&P 500 since 1970. A Killer Vee is the move that we all just experienced over the last few months in which the market makes a sharp move down followed by an equally sharp move back higher, representing the pattern of the letter “V.” Pretty interesting findings by the author, as well as a nice reference a strategy that we have layered onto our portfolios to help reduce downside risk (momentum). Enjoy!   The S&P 500 just rocketed 18% higher in only 44 days. A bounce of this magnitude makes a mockery of risk management. This is the ninth time stocks have experienced a killer vee bottom since 1970... Read More >

5 Reasons You Need a Financial Advisor

Last week we posted a piece by Chris Mamula, an ardent “do-it-yourselfer” and author of the blog, Can I Retire Yet? He took us through the ups and downs of him and his wife’s journey towards financial independence and the lessons they learned. Prior to posting the blog, I emailed him with a few questions of my own. I was curious to hear what he would do different if he were to go back in time, as well as to find out ... Read More >

Financial Autopilot

This week’s The Distillery is an interesting read from one of my favorite “do-it-yourselfers,” Chris Mamula of Can I Retire Yet? I always enjoy reading Chris’ posts because he writes clearly and provides a non-professional viewpoint of what competent financial planning can look like from someone who doesn’t mind spending a lot of their free time and energy researching and effectively implementing their own personal financial plan. This blog in particular though, made me think even deeper about the true value of our service as financial advisors. Chris, a staunch “do-it-yourselfer,” was able to retire early. However, he admits that it took him at least a decade, and thousands of dollars in missed opportunities and mistakes, to optimize the nuances surrounding the areas of savings strategies, asset allocation, and tax planning. In my opinion, it took Chris a decade of hard work and research to become versed in the six areas of financial planning, without the title of Financial Planner. A few questions I would love to ask him (just emailed him) are: What would you change if you were to do it all over again?” Would you hire a Financial Advisor? Would you trade in the hours of financial planning research for other activities? Perhaps his answer is, “Nothing.” Or perhaps it’s something more insightful that I’ll be able to relay back to the group next week.   In the meantime, happy reading!     In an era of two income households struggling to make ends meet, my story sounds extreme. I retired from my career as a physical therapist at the age of 41 while my wife cut back to part-time work five years earlier at age 35. Some might think we spent a lot of time thinking about money. That assumption would be wrong. We achieved financial independence by our early 40’s because... Read More >

Rental Car Insurance Explained

Can you feel Spring in the air? If you’re in Houston, sort of, as temperatures continue to fluctuate between sunny and pleasant to cold and dreary. Having said that, Spring is practically right around the corner. With Spring comes vacations, and with vacations comes rental cars. Every time I rent a car, I feel as if I have to relearn which insurances to decline. That time is finally over for me, as I will never elect to purchase supplemental insurance from a rental car company ever again! The trick though is knowing which of your peripheral insurances will cover you in the event of an accident, as well as having enough in emergency reserves to cover deductibles in the event an accident does happen. Booking the rental car on a credit card with additional coverages and benefits also helps.   Please enjoy this beautifully succinct and practical guide to rental car insurances by Nerdwallet. Happy travel planning, and here’s to saving money otherwise thrown away on duplicative rental car insurances.     If you’ve ever rented a car, you’ve probably been warned by salespeople at the counter about the possible consequences of walking away without buying their company’s rental car insurance. Put on the spot, you might not feel confident about exactly what your current auto insurance covers. And that’s what rental companies are counting on — along with their commissions for selling you the coverage. Want to be prepared next time you’re renting? We can help you understand whether you need rental car insurance and how to get it before you get to the rental counter Read More >

Investor Behavior Part IV

This week’s The Distillery is the last Part of our Investor Behavior series and serves to wrap things up, per se. In the first 3 parts we ended each with the same takeaway, mainly that we’re all inherently poor investors and because of that we need to implement a disciplined portfolio strategy that allows us to consistently buy low and sell high. But we didn’t really leave you with a realistic call to action. In Part IV, we have that for you. It’s all about perception...   Read More >

Investor Behavior Part III

This week’s The Distillery picks up where we left off in our Investment Behavior series. In Part I and Part II we discussed our physiological responses to up and down markets (dopamine and the amygdala), causing us to react emotionally when making investment decisions. This week we focus on the other major factor affecting our investment decision-making: Heuristics, or mental shortcuts. There are numerous types and examples of mental shortcuts available for discussion, but one that does well in getting the point across that our brain is an efficiency-seeking machine is this classic example... Read More >

Q4 2018 Quarterly Letter – Who Saw that 4th Quarter Coming?

We take an intermission from our mini-series covering Investor Behavior to bring to you The Advocates Quarterly Letter, written by our CIO, Kurt Box. His commentary reviews 2018 markets before turning a watchful eye towards what we believe is the key to capturing positive returns over the next 5-7 years, discipline, discipline, and you guessed it, more discipline.   Please enjoy!     Who Saw That 4th Quarter Coming? Certainly not us!  In fact, you should be aware by now that our investment philosophy does not depend upon making any sort of predictions.  Actually, it’s our belief that making such predictions ends up badly hurting investment returns.  Our philosophy is NOT based on predicting what will happen nor on the outcome of insignificant events (i.e. noise such as trade tariffs) but is instead based on discipline, valuation, diversification, momentum and, we might as well say it again, discipline.  We simply take the data as it comes and apply it accordingly.  Having set the stage… Read More >

Investor Behavior – Part II

This week’s The Distillery is Part II of our multi-part series focused on investor behavior, as inspired by Jay Mooreland of The Emotional Investor. Last week we covered how your amygdala reacts to situations in which it perceives as dangerous (down markets). This week we head in the opposite direction and look at how dopamine causes us to literally act as if we are high on drugs when our brain perceives an event as rewarding (up markets).   Here’s to hoping 2019 causes investors to produce lots of dopamine... Read More >