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13 Rental Car Rules

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.

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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Lost Abroad

Michael Flack  |  Jan 15, 2021

ONE OF THE GREATEST business books I’ve ever read is Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, he postulates the idea that, while things that become damaged by stress are considered fragile and things that resist stress are considered resilient, “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile,” things that become stronger due to stress. So, he coined the word “antifragile” and then wrote an entire book about the subject.

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Making the Call

Michael Flack  |  Dec 8, 2020

WHEN I NOTICED my iPhone 3—that’s not a typo—had a small black spot on its screen, I started thinking that maybe I needed to replace it. Maybe. It was a difficult decision. It was the first smartphone I’d ever owned and, since 2010, it had served me well.
I liked it because it was small. It had a cool retro steampunk vibe that occasionally turned heads. “Is that an iPhone? That’s the smallest phone I….” Best of all,

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Trading Places

Michael Flack  |  Oct 12, 2020

MY WIFE AND I decided at the end of 2016 to sell our house. Selling a home is the biggest transaction most of us will ever make, and yet—in my experience—almost all home sellers spend too little time trying to find the right real estate agent.
Folks might interview two agents at most and many interview none at all, instead hiring based on a friend’s recommendation. I realized there must be a better way.

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