Settling Down

Michael Flack

Mike is a former naval officer and 20-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. Born on Long Island and trained as a nuclear engineer, he tries to write with a little New York skepticism, an engineer's sense of logic and hopefully some humor. Now retired, he enjoys traveling, blogging and spreadsheets.

Settling Down

Michael Flack  |  Dec 15, 2023

THESE WORDS STRIKE fear into the heart of any husband: “Honey, the [insert: A/C, heat, refrigerator, roof, foundation] doesn’t seem to be working.” But from 2017 to 2021, they were mere words to me, no different than, “Honey, let’s go out for coffee.”
For four glorious years, my wife and I traveled around the world and the country, unfettered and unburdened. If we ran into any equipment issues, they were immediately referred to the landlord for rectification.

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On the Road to Home

Michael Flack  |  Oct 18, 2023

WHEN MOST PEOPLE retire, they have a good idea where they’ll live. It might be where they currently reside, or where they vacation, or a place near their children or grandchildren. Whatever the case, there’s usually a limited number of possibilities.
But what if you move to a new city for the last two years of your working life, never vacation in the same place twice, don’t own a vacation home, are childless and—upon retirement—sell your home,

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Stick to the Classics

Michael Flack  |  Sep 18, 2023

THERE’S ONLY ONE THING I like more than writing about personal finance, and that’s drinking a salubrious cocktail. When I realized I could combine both, this article almost wrote itself.
Two decades ago, I read the best cocktail book ever written, The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks by Dale DeGroff. He thought so highly of my bartending skills that he even inscribed my copy, though that’s a whole other article.

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Not Cool

Michael Flack  |  Aug 31, 2023

SHOULD A REASONABLE real estate buyer expect the multiple listing service (MLS) to provide a reasonable description of the property being purchased? What if it doesn’t?
All the previous times I’ve purchased real estate, the MLS accurately described the property I was buying. I realized that disclosures were also provided by the seller, and those specified the finer points of what was being purchased. Still, I’d come to expect a certain amount of integrity from the MLS listing itself.

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The Frugal Flaneur

Michael Flack  |  Jul 28, 2023

MY WIFE BELIEVES travel is an adventure filled with new food, new adventures and new friends. Others believe it’s a never-ending series of negotiations, surcharges, taxes and exchange rates, and these need to be painstakingly managed to minimize cost and the deep-seated shame associated with overpaying.
I guess I lean a little more in one direction, as evidenced by my recent travel adventure: a road trip to the East Coast followed by a flight to Chile.

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The Proof You Need

Michael Flack  |  Jun 23, 2023

I HAVE WRITTEN THIS article about bourbon because, when HumbleDollar’s editor previously asked me to write about my travels, I thought, “Hey, if someone wants to pay me $60 to write about travel, I’m in. I’m hoping he’ll next suggest I write an article about drinking bourbon.”
Sadly, this site’s editor didn’t ask me to write about bourbon. But I went ahead anyway.
I “spiritually” came of age when I was 19 years old.

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Other People’s Money

Michael Flack  |  May 30, 2023

ACCORDING TO OXFORD Languages, the word invest means to “expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit.”
I like this definition better than some others because it includes the word “expectation,” which therefore should exclude casino gambling and sports betting. But what if you have an expectation of winning? Couldn’t casino gambling and sports betting both be considered investments? As Zach Galifianakis’s character said in The Hangover, “It’s not gambling if you know you’re going to win.”
How can one create this expectation?

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Beyond the Obvious

Michael Flack  |  May 12, 2023

I JUST FINISHED rereading a book every serious investor needs to reread: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. It was written by Michael Lewis in 2003, but it’s still quite relevant to baseball—and to investing.
It’s the story of the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, and his struggle to create a competitive baseball team on a limited budget. How does this relate to personal finance? Well, first let me explain my connection to Moneyball.

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Did It My Way

Michael Flack  |  Apr 11, 2023

“I DON’T LIKE BEING too much of an example for people who just want to make money. If you wrest a fortune from life by buying little pieces of paper, I don’t think that’s enough. I never consider it enough of a life to merely be shrewd at picking stocks. If you’re good at just investing your own money, I hope you’ll be good at something more.”
What Charlie Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway,

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Worldly Wisdom

Michael Flack  |  Mar 17, 2023

A FEW MONTHS BACK, this site’s editor suggested I write an article about the “10 things I learned about money from four years traveling the globe.” I thought, hey, if someone wants to pay me $60 to write about travel, I’m in. I’m hoping he’ll next suggest I write an article about drinking bourbon.
Starting in September 2017, my wife and I traveled the world for four straight years. Travel can be wondrous. Filled with new tastes,

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This Is Only a Test

Michael Flack  |  Feb 19, 2023

I RECENTLY READ AN article in Barron’s that inadvertently revealed two more reasons investing in broad-based index funds is the only sensible course of action.
The article, titled “This ‘Crazy’ Retirement Portfolio Has Just Beaten Wall Street for 50 Years,” touted the “All Asset No Authority” (AANA) portfolio. This “simple portfolio” consists of splitting your money equally among U.S. large-company stocks (S&P 500), U.S. small-company stocks (Russell 2000), developed international stocks (MSCI’s Europe,

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House in Order

Michael Flack  |  Feb 6, 2023

“I WOULD SAY TO the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering…. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs—victory in spite of all terror—victory, however long and hard the road may be,

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Death to Dividends

Michael Flack  |  Jan 13, 2023

KIPLINGER’S HAS TOUTED using dividends to “Fund 20 Years of Retirement,” Forbes insists they’re useful “For Sleeping Well At Night During Turbulent Times,” and Seeking Alpha declares “I’m Living The Retirement Dream, Paid With Big Dividends.”
Morningstar has an entire monthly newsletter devoted to the subject of dividends. I even vaguely recall HumbleDollar praising the virtues of dividend-paying stocks.
Investing in such stocks is perhaps the oldest investing meme in the world,

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Clear as Knight

Michael Flack  |  Dec 9, 2022

GOOGLE THE WORD “annuity” and you’ll receive 97 million and one results. Is there anything left to be said?
Yes, I think there is.
About 11 years ago, my 89-year-old mother asked me if she should invest more money in her Knights of Columbus annuity. Unbeknownst to me, she and my father had purchased it many years earlier. It earned a guaranteed 3.5% annual interest rate, which was better than every savings account or certificate of deposit available,

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Bought to Be Sold

Michael Flack  |  Nov 17, 2022

I’M STILL AMAZED WHEN I speak with friends and neighbors who have no idea what their home is worth. They tell me they might sell in the near future. When I ask them how much they think they’ll get, they say something like, “I’m not sure, I’m meeting a real estate agent next week.”
Homeowners always need to know how much their home is worth. You can’t wait until your boss tells you about a great opportunity in Honolulu to start determining your home’s value.

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