Money Basics

“Continual Growth and Progress”: Quarterly Update Q1 2021

Let’s be honest: as popular as ergodicity is, you want content you can relate to. This post will be the first in a regular cadence of relatable quarterly updates. I’ll dive into the past three months of:

  1. my personal finances
  2. blog and podcast updates
  3. and even show our recent foster dogs

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

-Ben Franklin

You’ve got to read to the end to get to the dogs. And I’ll know if you skip over the other stuff. I’ll know! 🙂

Money: Some Good, Some Bad

The first quarter of 2021 was a mixed bag for my personal finances.

Budget

Personal finance starts with the budget, so let’s begin there.

I spent much more money in January-March than I expected to. Not good!

For the past 30 months, I’ve spent ~$3100 per month on average. But in the past three months, I spent $3900 per month. Overspending by $800 a month is not a good thing. But I have some silver linings.

I worked some overtime (ok…a lot of overtime) in January and February. OT money is a big boost that evens out my overspending. I banked ~$15K in these past three months (against ~$12K spent). So I pass rule #1 of personal finance—spend less than you earn!

But here’s another important factor: I “pay myself first” via my 401(k). The ~$15K that hits my bank is in addition to money going into my 401(k). Even if I spent all $15K, I’d still be saving a little money. That’s the importance of paying yourself first.

Also important: my emergency fund is already full. Remember the financial order of operations? It says that you should ensure your emergency fund is full (and do a few other important things) before overspending your budget like I did. Thankfully, I meet that bar.

And you might be wondering…how did I spend an extra ~$2400 in three short months? The answer rhymes (kind of): dogs, blogs, and Steve Jobs.

Dogs: a couple vet trips for Sadie + fosters in the house adds more expenses here and there. Nothing huge, but it all adds up.

Blogs: I’m investing in the Best Interest because it’s starting to “turn the corner” as a business. I’m spending money to get professional help to do things I can’t do (design a nice logo, increase the website speed, etc.). In the long run, I think that investing in myself and my business will pay off. Fingers crossed!

Steve Jobs: Well…Apple. I’ve been saving for a few months, and I finally pulled the trigger on a nice MacBook Air. I’m writing on it right now. It’s a great machine.

So, I spent more than I typically do. Not ideal.

But I spent less than I earn, I spent the money on useful items, and I pay myself first—all good stuff.

Investing

While my active budgeting didn’t go according to plan, I still have my passive investments sitting in the background. Markets go up, markets go down. My investments are (mostly) going along for the ride. And I’ll share a fun little change I’ve made to my portfolio recently.

I’m leaving out details here. If you’re curious, I wrote this article describing exactly how I invest.

My boring, lazy investments are up ~$25K in the past 3 months. It makes me feel a little better about over-spending my budget by ~$2K. These are just paper returns—I haven’t sold anything. Remember: investing is a long-term game.


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Of the $25K increase, about $9K is added principal—my personal money and my employer’s matching 401(k) contribution. The other $16K is growth—a nice reward for the past decade of “lazy,” boring investing.

And if you feel a decade behind, don’t worry. Start now.

Bitcoin?!?!

I want to tell you about a fun little change to my portfolio. It started by writing this 7000-word monster explaining how Bitcoin works. I was open-minded going into it the article, and the process of writing it taught me new ideas. To wit:

  1. I don’t know if the world will ever wholesale adopt crypto (more thoughts in that article above)
  2. But crypto is here to stay, at least in a role similar to gold. It’ll act as a hedge against traditional fiat currency and as an alternative to other asset classes. It is unlikely that crypto will ever “go to zero” or disappear.
  3. The blockchain is cool. Full stop.

With those thoughts in mind, I decided to take ~1% of my investing nest egg and invest in the Osprey Bitcoin Trust, or $OBTC.

So far, I’m down 15%, so the egg’s on my face! But I’m in it for the long-term. I’m not interested in short-term crypto craziness.

A few Q&A’s that you might be thinking about:

  • Why OBTC? First, OBTC handles all the wallet transactions for me. I don’t want to handle (and potentially lose) my Bitcoin wallet key. And second, OBTC is traded on Fidelity. I use Fidelity to invest. It couldn’t be easier. It’s as easy as buying any other fund. These two facts give me psychological security.
  • Why ~1% of my portfolio? If I lose that entire 1%, I won’t be devastated. And if Bitcoin increases by 10x, I’ll feel like I’m in on the party. Win-win.
  • Isn’t Bitcoin supposed to be decentralized? And here’s Jesse investing in “the man,” a fund that holds Bitcoin? Yes and yes. I don’t believe Bitcoin will achieve the decentralized libertarian utopia that it thinks it will. But I’ve been wrong before.

Things are good. I overspent but still saved money. I lost money in Bitcoin (Warren is pissed), but a minimal amount. I’m ok with those trades.

Blog and Podcast Updates

More decent months of readership on the blog. Google continues to be a fairly fickle master. I’ve had days of 1500+ readers from Google but more recently had days of < 300 readers.

The only solution is to keep writing articles that are 1) good and 2) fun. Good content eventually rises to the top, whether by Google or by others sharing it. And fun content keeps me interested.

In non-Google traffic news, the past few months have been amazing. I’ve had multiple articles published by MSN, the Motley Fool, and The Good Men Project. Five years ago I was reading these sites, now I’m writing for them. Lesson? A lot can change in a few short years.

And there’s no better feeling than seeing a Best Interest article show up on Reddit or Facebook or Twitter. Thank you all for sharing my work. It means a lot to me.

If you’re looking for my favorite/best articles of the past few months, I will point you to:

Update: Monkeys and Dartboards

We’re three months into the 2021 Monkey Dartboard Investing Invitational. Here’s the backstory.

As of this typing, the market is up 7.0% on the year. Not bad. The so-called experts are up 6.35%—not even beating the market.

But my monkeys are kicking ass! These simians are up 10.35% on the year. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Wall Street!

Remember: these “monkeys” (actually my unknowing readers) picked stocks 100% at random. And here they are, beating the market. Just goes to show, stock picking is not necessarily an act of skill.

Podcast?!

Yes, I started the Best Interest Podcast in early February. It’s eclipsed 1500 listeners in six short weeks, far surpassing my hopes for it.

If you like my writing, I think you’ll enjoy my speaking. And let’s be honest: listening to a podcast asks far less of you than sitting down to focus on a blog post.

The Best Interest Podcast is available on all popular podcast apps. If you don’t see it on your preferred app, let me know.

Dogs

We started fostering dogs in 2020. Here’s an article about those pups.

So far in 2021, we’ve helped out four more dogs.

Ivy was a 60-pound labrador/terrier mix. She was a good girl but a grumpy sleeper. Like many of us, she would growl when we tried to rouse her. We all need beauty rest!

Squirrel!

She was also protective of her food. Every time I fed her, she’d spend the first 15 seconds of her meal growling at Sadie from across the room. “This is my food—you stay away.” Message received!

Mabel was a scared young mutty mongrel. The dogs that cower are the saddest. They associate human contact with pain. But Mabel now has nice humans in her life, so she’ll bounce back!

Mabel (L), lying low…

Sunny and Tula—these sisters were such cute pups! We had them for three weeks and watched them double in size.

Puppies Day 1 – Sunny (blonde) and Tula (grey). Sadie on watch while the family naps.

Tula was headstrong, athletic, smarter of the two, and better at going to the bathroom outside. Sunny was a cuddler, a sweetie, but a little dumb. It’s ok, Sunny!

Both sisters were builders. They turned the underbelly of our couch into a cave/hammock.

Sunny, Canine Spelunker

And here they are right before they went to their forever homes!

In summary, these four dogs reinforce my crack theory of dog fostering. The adults are easier but are likely to have behavioral tics (e.g., Ivy’s growling, Mabel’s cowering). Some of those tics might never go away. The puppies take a lot of effort (e.g., the worst kind of accident at 3 a.m.) but are behavioral blank slates.

As usual, Sadie did a great job being a friend and/or surrogate mom to these dogs. Nice work, Sadie!

Until June…

I’ll write the next update in June. Here’s to a great Spring, and may you get safely vaccinated soon (I sure am!).

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

If you enjoy podcasts, check out the Best Interest Podcast! It’s getting some rave reviews!

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

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About Jesse Cramer

I’m Jesse. I’m an engineer, a new owner of an old home, and an avid reader/writer. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@BestInterest_JC) or on Reddit (u/BestInterestDotBlog). Many of my posts have been directly influenced by my readers. It’s the most fun part of writing this blog. And as always, thanks for reading the Best Interest.
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