Contain Yourself

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.

Contain Yourself

Michael Flack  |  Jun 30, 2022

MANY YEARS AGO, I read an article that posited that U.S. income inequality is due, in part, to the unwillingness of unemployed and underemployed Americans to move to a new state or city to take a better job.
It mentioned three reasons for this reluctance. First, folks didn’t want to sell their home, which may have decreased in value due to the recession that caused the bad job market in the first place. Second,

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Troubled Water

Michael Flack  |  Jun 19, 2022

I RECENTLY MADE a good decision, all thanks to director John Frankenheimer’s penultimate film, Ronin. In it, Robert De Niro plays a mercenary who, early in the movie, refuses to enter the roadway under Paris’s Pont Alexandre III because he’s wary of getting caught in an ambush. It’s a decision that saves his life and that of his colleagues. When he’s later asked about the decision, he replies, “Whenever there is any doubt,

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Material Difference

Michael Flack  |  May 27, 2022

A RECENT ARTICLE on HumbleDollar, which detailed the economic and moral shortcomings of commodity producers, reminded me of a conversation I had in 2004. I was in my study reading Security Analysis or watching The Sopranos—it was a little while ago—when I heard a knock at the front door. I opened it to find an earnest but scruffy sandal-wearing young man trying to raise funds for the Sierra Club.

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Agency Problem

Michael Flack  |  May 19, 2022

MOST PEOPLE THINK that selling real estate is the flip side of buying. But in most cases, selling is a very different enchilada, and that should drive who you hire as a REALTOR®—and, yes, that is the preferred style.
Buyers face an almost infinite list of potential properties to purchase. Initially, almost every house is a possibility. As the buyer and agent review the buyer’s requirements, the list is whittled down until the dream home is found.

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She Finally Said Yes

Michael Flack  |  May 10, 2022

I’VE BEEN GIVING salient and sagacious financial advice to HumbleDollar readers for coming up on two years. Before that, I’d shared my wisdom for as long as I can remember with family, friends and—in a few cases—complete strangers. Sometimes, though, you need to listen.
Recently, I attended a presentation given by Carlson Financial, where various personal finance issues were discussed while I ate a complimentary eight-ounce filet mignon. One of the issues raised: When determining the total cost of a financial advisor,

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Stocks and Steaks

Michael Flack  |  Apr 17, 2022

I WAS OFFERED a “free retirement review” by Carlson Financial a year ago. The review would—among other things—”help me answer the five biggest questions I have about retirement.” I didn’t realize I had only five questions. Still, I decided a financial review might be in order.
I then forwarded an uncomfortable amount of personal information, financial statements and tax returns to a man I’d never met. Scott seemed like a nice enough guy, but hey,

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Getting Out the Vote

Michael Flack  |  Apr 5, 2022

JERRY SEINFELD tells a story about visiting the post office and noticing a wanted poster on the wall. He looks at the poster and checks the guy standing behind him. “If it’s not him,” he says, “I feel I’ve done my part.”
I own some individual stocks, so it’s that time of the year when I vote my proxies. I do the best I can at trying to understand the issues. Sometimes, I wonder whether I’ve really accomplished anything.

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Off the Hook

Michael Flack  |  Apr 2, 2022

ONLINE INVESTMENT advisor Personal Capital offered me a $25 Amazon gift card to open an account and then link it to one of my existing financial accounts worth more than $1,000. As a bonus, it also offered a complimentary financial checkup.
I duly signed up and linked one financial account. I then dodged the complimentary checkup and subsequently used my newfound wealth to purchase a portion of a good-enough HP computer.
I thought I was home free until I inadvertently answered a phone call from a member of my “Personal Capital team,” who again offered me the complimentary financial checkup.

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Cashing In

Michael Flack  |  Mar 18, 2022

A FEW YEARS AGO, I fulfilled a lifelong dream and traveled around the world. It was fascinating to see how people lived, worked and—more important—ate.
I sampled the cuisine of every country I visited. There was goulash in Hungary, hummus in Israel and escargot in France. In each location, I tried to learn how to ask for “the bill, please” in the local language. It’s “kérem a számlát” in Budapest, “חשבון בבקשה” in Tel Aviv (pronounced “khesh-bon be-va-ka-sha”),

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No I for Me

Michael Flack  |  Feb 22, 2022

OVER THE PAST FEW months, we’ve been inundated with articles touting Series I savings bonds and their 7.12% yield. More than a few HumbleDollarers have written about them, including here, here, here and here. It’s gotten so bad that, if I hear one more mention of Series I bonds, I’m going to scream.
Sure, at first glance, 7% sounds enticing. But after a detailed review, it all sounds like a marketing pitch worthy of Uncle Ron Popeil rather than Uncle Sam.

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Check Mate

Michael Flack  |  Feb 17, 2022

WHEN I WAS IN the Navy, the checklist was a way of life. Everything from a radiation leak to starting an air compressor required one. In emergency situations like flooding, you were expected to take memorized “immediate actions,” and then use a checklist to ensure all the actions were accomplished. For more routine procedures, you would follow the checklist line by line—deviations were not allowed.
While this wasn’t conducive to a creative working environment,

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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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