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A Tale of Two Stocks

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.

A Tale of Two Stocks

Michael Flack  |  Jan 24, 2022

HI, MY NAME IS MIKE and I’m a stock picker. Actually, I stopped picking a few years ago after I hit rock bottom and finally realized I had a problem. But there’s no such thing as an ex-stock picker.
I still frequent Seeking Alpha, read the occasional Barron’s article and, every now and then, have the urge to buy an individual stock. I still occasionally fall off the wagon, but nothing like the ol’ days.

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Off the Spectrum

Michael Flack  |  Jan 15, 2022

LET’S START WITH TWO definitions:
Specʹtrum, n. a trade name of Charter Communications used to market avaricious cable television, internet, telephone and wireless services.  
Vig’or•ish, n.[via Yid., from R. výigryš, lit., gain, winnings.] interest owed a loan shark in consideration for credit. Abbrev: vig.
I bought a home a few months back and, besides trying to meet the neighbors, I had the pleasure of trying to arrange internet service.

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Mind the Gap

Michael Flack  |  Nov 15, 2021

MY WIFE WILL BE eligible for Medicare in March 2022. To better understand the process, we signed up for a webinar given by Matt, a Medigap insurance broker. Matt did a good job explaining the issues we faced, so we made an appointment to talk with him on the phone—even though he gave off a used car salesman vibe when, at the end of his presentation, he exhorted us to make an appointment before they all filled up.

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Good Enough Tech

Michael Flack  |  Nov 11, 2021

MY BROTHER-IN-LAW just told me about a technology issue that he’s been struggling with. He was trying to get an old scanner to connect with his Mac. The solution required him to upload some outdated software.
When he finished explaining how he resolved the issue, I was happy he could scan again. I was even happier that I had a $250 personal computer. Nothing irks me more than paying a premium—the Mac premium, in his case—and winding up with connectivity issues.

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Betting the House

Michael Flack  |  Oct 7, 2021

ONE THING THAT BILL Gates, Warren Buffett and I have in common is a keen appreciation for the book Business Adventures. Issued in 1969 by The New Yorker business writer John Brooks, this collection of articles is still as interesting, funny and relevant today as it must have been then. The author doesn’t assault the reader with paradigm shifts, rubrics or lessons learned. He simply presents engaging business stories to be enjoyed.

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Neighborhood Watch

Michael Flack  |  Oct 3, 2021

I BOUGHT A CONDO a few months back and have spent the past two months moving in. If I’d moved in before I retired, the process would have lasted no more than a month. But as I’m now retired and my time is virtually unlimited, I am merely halfway through the move-in process and type this sitting at a portable camp table.
While the move-in has been slow, it’s lightyears faster than the process of meeting the neighbors.

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13 Rental Car Rules

Michael Flack  |  Aug 20, 2021

IN SEPTEMBER 2017, my wife and I sold our home, car and almost all our earthly possessions. We spent the next four years driving across four continents. Along the way, I learned a great deal about renting a car that, in this rental-car-challenged world, could make your travels less costly and more reliable.
1. I use Expedia, Kayak and Hotwire to compare rental car rates. When you book, pay attention to whether your reservation is free cancellation or pay now (noncancellable).

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Hammered Home

Michael Flack  |  Jun 24, 2021

ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO, we renovated our entire Washington, DC, home. The memory is still quite fresh. If you’ve ever renovated a house, you’ll understand.
A home renovation has similarities to personal finance: You can do it yourself (DIY), you can pay someone to do it for you, or you can do something in between. This last approach has worked well for me—both with renovations and financial matters.
Our home consisted of a three-level townhouse.

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Picking Problems

Michael Flack  |  May 26, 2021

I RECENTLY READ an interesting article about why you shouldn’t pick individual stocks. The author mentioned the classic reason: “Since most people (even the professionals) can’t beat the index, you shouldn’t bother trying.”
He also mentioned another reason: “The existential dilemma of doing so… how do you know if you are good at picking individual stocks?” The author goes on to mention that, since luck plays such a significant factor in stock-picking, it could take a very long time to determine if you’re good or just lucky and,

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My Best Investments

Michael Flack  |  May 10, 2021

SOMETIMES OUR BEST investments can be a great guide to what not to do—even better than our worst investments. Consider three of my best:
1. Master limited partnerships. In 1999, I read an article by Paul Sturm in the much-missed SmartMoney magazine. It was a comprehensive review of a security I hadn’t previously heard about, namely master limited partnerships (MLPs).
The two decades since have made the unique commonplace.

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Free Money

Michael Flack  |  Apr 28, 2021

THERE’S A LITERARY rite of passage that requires every financial blogger to write at least one article about free money. Far be it for me to break with this tradition.
Titling an article “free money” will catch most readers’ attention. After all, we all want something for nothing. You know what they say: “Money found is twice as sweet as money earned.” It’s also a topic that’s a bottomless well of ideas limited only by the creativity of the writer.

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My Worst Investment

Michael Flack  |  Apr 15, 2021

WHILE READING the great books on investing, studying financial theory and reviewing our investment performance are essential to becoming a better investor, sometimes it can be useful to learn from the mistakes of others—because what not to do can be even more important than what to do. As Otto von Bismarck may have said, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
Which brings me to me.

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Outside the Box

Michael Flack  |  Mar 31, 2021

MY FIRST JOB AFTER college was as an officer in the U.S. Navy. I was an engineer on a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Albuquerque. While I didn’t make the Navy a career, it left one indelible imprint on me: the need to understand how things work.
Before ever setting foot on the Albuquerque, I spent more than a year learning exactly how nuclear power propelled a submarine, everything from how to operate a valve—it isn’t as simple as you think—to how the reactor worked on a sub-atomic level.

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Rental Car Runaround

Michael Flack  |  Mar 15, 2021

IF YOU’VE EVER rented a car, you’ll inevitability have heard the collision damage waiver (CDW) sales pitch. It sounds something like this: “I assume you want us to protect you bumper to bumper on the car, right?”
If you say, “yes, please,” then—for anywhere between $10 and $30 a day—the rental car will be covered for losses due to theft or damage, except for damage to certain portions of the car. Hint: Read the fine print.

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Get a Room

Michael Flack  |  Feb 4, 2021

IN SEPTEMBER 2017, my wife and I sold our home, our car and almost all of our earthly possessions. What remained fit in a storage pod measuring 12 feet by eight feet by eight feet. We then spent the next three years traveling across four continents and staying in more than 200 rooms. Along the way, I learned a few things about booking lodgings that could make your travels a little cheaper.
We used Airbnb 40% of the time and Booking 35%.

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