Taking It Slow

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.

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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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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