Worldly Wisdom

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.

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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Taking It Slow

Michael Flack  |  Oct 14, 2022

IT’S A QUESTION FOR the ages—or perhaps the aged. Since the day the first pension was promised, someone has wanted to know the answer. If you look hard enough, I’m sure it’s referenced in the Bible.
I’m writing this article not to help you answer the question, but to help me answer it. You see, my old employer, Exxon Mobil, has offered me a “onetime lump-sum opportunity.”
I have the option to take a single lump-sum payment of $335,641.85 starting Nov.

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Losing My Cool

Michael Flack  |  Oct 9, 2022

IF THERE’S ONE THING that causes more marital stress than money, it’s the thermostat. I figured combining both into one article would be nothing less than genius.
As I grow older, I’ve come to appreciate my father’s fascination with the thermostat, because now I, too, am constantly adjusting it. In my case, based on the current and future temperature, humidity and cloud cover, the adjustments are in the most economical direction. My wife is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of gal,

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Whip Inflation Now

Michael Flack  |  Oct 7, 2022

I MUST ADMIT THAT a part of me finds the subject of inflation a little boring and yet endearing, because it reminds me of conversations with my late mother. She’d balk at paying $2.50 for a cup of coffee at Dunkin’—hey old-timers, that’s what they call it now—as she distinctly remembered buying a cup of coffee for a nickel the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Another part of me, though, is feeling a little pinched.

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Looking Not Seeing

Michael Flack  |  Sep 27, 2022

IN THE NAVY, THEY USED to say, “You don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.” Inspections played a major role in how the Navy determined the competency and capability of a warship. For nuclear-powered submarines, the most important inspection was the Operational Reactor Safeguard Exam, or ORSE, which rhymes with horse.
A team of experts thoroughly inspected all aspects of a submarine’s nuclear power plant. This covered everything from material readiness (“verdigris on valve stem”),

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Artfully Dodged

Michael Flack  |  Sep 8, 2022

I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to view Gustav Klimt’s most famous work of art, The Kiss, while visiting Vienna a few years back. It depicts a couple locked in an intimate embrace. It’s an oil painting with a significant amount of gold leaf—quite distinctive.
A few weeks later, I had an opportunity to buy a Klimt. I was in a gallery in Salzburg and came across a drawing of his which was titled Stehender Rückenakt –

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Inflation Nation

Michael Flack  |  Aug 19, 2022

IT SEEMS EVERYONE in the personal finance world is flipping out about inflation. Some are lamenting the cost to fill up their F-150—with the optional 7.2kw onboard generator for tailgate parties no doubt. Others are decrying the $6.39 it takes to buy two liters of ginger ale or the $198 million required for a Rembrandt.
Hey, I don’t like higher prices for bourbon, vermouth, bitters and maraschino cherries any more than the next guy shaking a Manhattan,

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In Praise of Active

Michael Flack  |  Aug 15, 2022

I REALIZE THAT MOST HumbleDollar readers share a similar investment philosophy. They believe in market efficiency, keeping expenses low and holding down taxes, all of which leads them to genuflect at the altar of the all-mighty index fund.
Words and phrases such as Robinhood, bitcoin and active management don’t appear often on this site and, when they do, they’re mentioned with disdain. While this may be a good thing in the main,

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Voyage to Nowhere

Michael Flack  |  Jul 24, 2022

“REGRETS, I’VE HAD a few. But then again, too few to mention.”
What was true for Frank Sinatra most definitely isn’t true for me. I’ve had more than a few regrets, and I want to mention the most recent one.
Late last year, Mark Cuban offered me $100 in bitcoin to download the Voyager app, deposit $100 and make a $10 trade. For those of you who are lucky enough not to know what Voyager was,

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My Proxy Wars

Michael Flack  |  Jul 13, 2022

I JUST RECEIVED an email from TD Ameritrade Clearing, Inc., imploring me to “Vote now! KYNDRYL HOLDINGS, INC. Annual Meeting.”
For the few who haven’t read my fascinating earlier article, I will share my heuristic for voting proxies: “yes” to independent chairmen, “no” to classified boards, “no” to options, and then “yes” or “no” to whatever piques my interest.
I’ll usually spend 10 minutes max thoroughly reviewing the issues for the first proxy I receive in the new year.

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