Realistic Personal Finance Hacks

All of the content in this week’s The Distillery has been said before, however, I’ve never heard it expressed so curtly. It’s for that reason I believe, that the author’s message is easier to internalize and relate to. At least that’s how I felt as I thought through my own personal financial choices in life.





Hacks are hard because shortcuts rarely exist. Prizes take time and effort. The personal finance industry – filled with advice that sounds and feels good without moving the needle – needs to recognize this. These aren’t fun hacks, but no one said this was easy. Read more.

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When Does Market Timing Work?

This week’s The Distillery addresses an age-old question, does market timing work? Well of course it does, if you can actually time the market at its’ tops and bottoms! Nick Maggiulli of, Of Dollars And Data, goes a bit deeper though, and quantifies just how precise you need to be around predicting the tops and bottoms to provide any value at all over a standard Buy and Hold strategy. The results are certainly surprising. Enjoy the read!



I know you have probably heard it all before: You can’t time the market.  Give up.  It’s too hard. While I don’t disagree with this advice, it doesn’t actually address what conditions you would need to meet in order to be a successful market timer (without using quantitative approaches).  So instead of writing off market timing, let’s ask, “When does market timing work?”

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What Expenses Can Be Paid from a 529 Plan?

Often times we get questions from clients with kids near or in college asking, what all can be paid for from a College Savings 529 Plan. In this week’s The Distillery Joe Messinger of Capstone College Partners provides a nice summary of which expenses qualify, as well as a helpful tip to keep in mind when considering the sequence of spending your 529 savings.   We hope you enjoy!     Your clients have planned for this moment. Their child is starting their first semester in college. They have saved what they could in a 529 savings plan. Now is the time to pay the bill. What expenses can be paid tax free from the 529 plan? What exactly are “qualified expenses”? What things can they NOT use their 529 funds for?.… Read More >

James Harden and Alpha

Although the title and reminder that the Rockets are down 0-2 to the Warriors doesn’t quite bring a smile to our Houstonian faces this week, the central analogy of today’s blog piece is not only timely, but a good reminder of how little advantage anyone truly has when investing in a marketplace crowded with millions of other investors. Many of which spend all day attempting to gain some competitive advantage over you. At the end of the day, it comes down to can you stay disciplined enough to adhere to your chosen investment strategy over long periods of time.   Enjoy and go Rockets!   I played high school basketball in Indiana.  I won a few honors, but was broadly mediocre, and certainly not NCAA D1 material.  My brother and I were watching the Rockets play the Jazz this past week, and were commenting back and forth on the advantage James Harden gets when the referees allow him...   Read More >

The Advocates Letter – Understanding the Recent Trades and Quotable Quotes

This week’s The Distillery is brought to you by Kurt Box of The Advocates. As CIO, Kurt’s job is to develop an investment strategy to help families live their values by earning a consistent, long-term rate of return in excess of inflation, as required in their wealth plan. His latest piece takes a more in depth look at our recent trades, and provides a few quotes to apply context to the often paradoxical world of investing.   Enjoy!     Before we move into a deeper explanation of the trades that occurred for our clients in the first quarter we’d like to quote ourselves!  It’s pertinent here because the trade itself might not be intuitive at first.  Last quarter we wrote: “When things are not working, whether it’s our specific strategy or, like this year, investments in general, every instinct tells us to act, and the longer we resist that urge the more difficult it becomes. It’s completely normal to… Read More >

College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street

This week’s The Distillery presents an interesting alternative to student loans. Instead of taking out loans, students can instead agree to hand over part of their future earnings in return for an investment. The student would essentially become one of many risky “small-cap stocks” in a portfolio, whereas the student has the opportunity to potentially avoid high-interest student loan debt. Additionally fascinating (to me) is that the interest rate varies based on the student’s college major selected, and their previous work experience. Brilliant!   We hope you enjoy, and if anyone happens to know someone who has done this, we’d love the opportunity to connect with them and hear about their experience. You can read the full article here. Read More >

What It’s Like to Grow Up With More Money Than You’ll Ever Spend

This week’s The Distillery is a fascinating look inside the mind of Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, co-founder of The Walt Disney Company. She shares rarely-heard details regarding how money has changed not only her view of the world, but how it changed her families’, as Disney stock continued to increase their net worth over the past several decades. Even for all of us “normal” people with less zeros attached to the end of our net worth, her message at the end is crystal clear: “If that [money] is your primary measure of success or value in life, then good luck with that, because it will never feel good.”   We hope you enjoy! You can read the full article... Read More >

Guide to Retirement – 2019 Edition

This week’s The Distillery is a smorgasbord of financial data related to planning for retirement. Every year J.P.Morgan produces a wonderful “Guide to Retirement”, which includes everything from savings rates, to the triple tax benefit of an HSA, to life expectancy probabilities. Whatever interests you about retirement planning will be here, plus more! ... Read More >

Lifestyle Creep: The Biggest Threat to Financial Planning

While in a meeting yesterday with a very nice and financially responsible young couple, Kurt and I were asked the following question: “What’s the biggest financial planning mistake young people make?” While we both gave similar answers, they ultimately boiled down to one single word, Lifestyle. Where you decide to begin your lifestyle in your 20’s and 30’s, and the rate in which you allow it to creep higher through your 40’s and 50’s, has a huge impact on where it ends up as a Retiree. This ultimately determines the amount of money you need in your portfolio to sustain your retirement lifestyle.   Enjoy this wonderfully crafted article on Lifestyle Creep.     For the median person making $57,000 a year, it sounds ludicrous that others making $500,000 feel like they’re ‘scraping by.’ However, they’re humans just like us: we might find ourselves in a similar position in the future. How can we avoid excessive spending ruining our future?... Read More >

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 >