Getting Out the Vote

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.

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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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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