bostonimproper's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

If the USD collapses, you'll need real assets. $300 worth of actual purchasing power then (assuming that is what you can sell it for in the future) might be better than $4000 now which erodes to $10 later. It's a small part of your net worth so whatever decision you make won't break the bank, but if you keep it, you keep optionality.

What would you do with the cash if you sell it? You might consider investing one month's savings into that, e.g. buy half a bitcoin or some tools. How's the plastic eating compost worms? can one buy those yet? bribe yor friends :D :D

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

The optionality is probably why we'll keep it, or at least that'll be the story I tell myself. I wonder though if another form of hard currency would be better to have on hand, like a couple krugerrand of gold coins or something. In any case, status quo in lieu of actually making a decision FTW!

Still waiting on the plastic eating worms. I'm pretty bearish on that one.

Peanut
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Peanut »

Definitely keep it. Are your parents still alive? How would they take it if they found out? There's a chance it will go up in value over time, also. And your kids might want to wear it even if you don't.

Some gold is good to have too.

AxelHeyst
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@bostonimproper Have you read John Michael Greer? All his stuff's good but in particular The Retro Future?
Along similar lines, have you read Entropia by Samuel Alexander?

I just caught up on your journal (I'm new here - hi!) and got the sense that you've either already dug into those authors, which would explain a lot, or would probably get some ideas and/or solace from their work. I also struggle with a lot of the issues you related, I could have written some of your posts.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@Peanut My parents are still alive. I don't know that they'd ever notice we sold the watches. My father certainly wouldn't care though my mum might be miffed about it, but I'd have to explicitly bring it up. They kept the watches for decades thinking my brother or I might wear them, but we don't. For some reason Cartier market isn't as robust and appreciative as, say, Rolex. Don't know why. The other watch has declined substantially in value over time. Not all antiques go up, sadly. We'll probably still keep them, but I'll leave the option open. I'm too novice at the watch market to figure out how to get best price for them anyway.

@AxelHyrst Never heard of either, but they sound like interesting reads. I like the idea of considering what alternative visions of a functional post-post scarcity world might look like.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Dafuq going on with the stock market?

I might be the last person on earth to notice the recent melt up madness. I keep feeling like everything is overpriced, which may just be because of low interest rates. But if near zero or negative rates are the norm, is this just the new equilibrium?

I don't know what changed, but in the last month or so I noticed a worrying level of exuberance in investing circles. Things have felt expensive for a while, but only just recently have I been getting real frothy bubble vibes.

I have been thinking about what our household could do to prepare for a recession or a correction. And I'm not sure these two things are the same. It's kind of jarring to think that my view of what a recession is and can look like will forever be colored by 08/09. When I think recession I instinctively think downward correction of equities relative to the dollar.

But what if the next recession is different? Instead, I wonder whether an environment of across the board low interest rates plus sluggish true GDP growth can get us into an inflationary recession, especially if there's a shock in commodities, e.g. through oil disputes, bad crop seasons because of climates change, etc.

So if you are at a crossroads where you imagine there may be both an equities correction and conditions might be right for accelerated inflation, but you don't know which will strike and in what order, what can you do? Sit on commodities futures as part of your asset allocation and hope they perform better than they have the last ten years, is that all there is?

Measuring progress

In other news I am halfway to FI by net worth. Or 35% if you just include invested assets (i.e. ignoring home equity). Or 65% if you base it on the time it is projected for us to hit our goal.

On not being charming

The last couple weeks I've spent a lot of time around random people I don't really know at work. I am an okay interlocutor, but I am by no means great. I can push through my shyness if I need to, but my extreme introversion is unmitigated.

I like asking people about their children, mostly because I like hearing funny stories about kids. Or their hobbies, because that's sometimes fun to learn more about. I can make a self-deprecating quip or two to break the ice.

I falter most with people my age, childless, ambitious, and without the biting cynicism that is needed for a good banter. Honestly I find a lot of these people to be boring and difficult to relate to, even though in a lot of ways I am just like them. I lack the ability to fill that empty space where our personalities are supposed to be with pleasantries.

It's hard for me to convincingly make someone else feel good about themselves unless I really like them. Like, a good friend or my partner, but literally nobody else. I am bad at both giving and receiving praise. I can be witty, but that wit tends to be very, very mean so I've learned to keep it to myself. I listen mostly because I am trying to learn and I know I come off as aloof and awkward often.

The reason I'm worried about this is because my job involves a lot of making other people like and want to work with my team. I worry my lack of personableness and charm is getting in the way of that part of my role. I'm not sure how much of this I can train myself out of or is even worth trying to do.

AxelHeyst
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

I've made a lot of progress on the 'being charming' front with just focusing on asking questions of people, even if (particularly if) I find the people boring on the surface. I used to think to be charming and engaging I had to have witty things to say about myself, or about the socio-political situation (which is desperate, as usual), or whatever. If you can do all that, cool. I can't. I spent a *long* time being a social non-entity. But I learned to ask questions of people, and get them to talk about themselves. Almost no one is actually boring if you dig deep enough and keep an open mind, and they'll think you're super socially adroit. It's that whole "people think you're intersetING if you act interestED" thing.

The trick is to not come off like an interrogator or like you're grilling them. Ask a question; listen to the answer; no, but really listen; probably something they said will spark another question; ask it; repeat. You can charm the hell out of people just by showing interest and asking questions that drop them in to some profound answers. To break it up so I'm not just peppering them with questions, I'll sometimes say something like "Wow, cool, so you're a rare books restorer. I've got this mental image of you in your workshop, and there's a potbelly stove, and it's snowy outside, and you've got a pot of tea, and you just get lost in the detail work of the books - ahh that's straight out of a movie, is that even close, or....?" That sort of thing a) is feedback to see if you're accurately picking up what they're putting down, and b) it just makes people good to hear stuff like that.

This still takes effort for me. I'll still realize a conversation is nose-diving halfway through, realize I haven't asked a single question, and struggle to rescue the thing. Listening to *good* interview-style podcasts is a good way to pick up question-asking skills if you're paying attention to that aspect of them. Oh, also, I try to ask questions that lead to them reliving positive experiences. If they start going negative, I acknowledge and move on towards positive stuff.

ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

@AH, in general social interactions, yes, but the question was specifically about workplace interactions, specifically with this one type of corporate drone whose job always makes them joyful happy and excited, and look at how much they love their job and how productive and energetic they are; they fit! so! well!! with the corporate culture!!! and are such!!!! a team!!!!! player (!-6) you feel like punching them in the face.

@bi, these shits are like this because they want to advance and they want to be seen as paragon manifestations of corporate culture. Therefore, ask them about anything that will stroke their ego as active and interesting people (where they traveled, what they hiked, their crossfit goals). Also suitable: how excited! you both are!! about the office secret santa!!! Anything ego-strokey about their job performance, too. Sports, too, if male.

But yes, I know who you are talking about and they top my punchable faces chart, too. Idk how important it would be in your particular workplace to expend precious introvert life juice cozying up to them, I guess it would be a case-by-case thing. Good luck, though. Joyful happy unsarcastic people are the worst and they should go die, especially early in the morning / before my third cup of coffee.

AxelHeyst
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

@ertyu ah yeah, now that it's morning I see how my response was a bit tone-deaf. My apologies, @bi.

I've worked remote for the past 4 years in large part due to my spiritual burnout dealing with office bs. It's much easier for me to handle it now that I pop in to the office once or twice a quarter, and I can forget how soul-sucking the daily experience is.

I'll just leave with a reference to Venkatesh Rao's "Be Slightly Evil" blog series/blook.

7Wannabe5
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

It might help to remember that primary extroverts also have their own introverted functions. For instance, I am often consciously, quietly in Ti mode while simultaneously unconsciously projecting Ne/Fe. IOW, I am often giving off a highly realistic semblance of charm/empathy with whatever some other is communicating through behavior or conversation, while my mind's eye is on something entirely different. Kind of like I can naturally run a sequence of smiley/suitably concerned emoticons across my face on the same sort of auto-pilot that applies to habitual tasks like making a pot of coffee. What I mean by naturally is that I don't do it like when somebody stiff/angry is obviously faking a pleasantry. This is my true range of emotional response; I just often have no clue what the other person is actually saying when I evince it, because I am not actually giving them any focused attention. This seems to work best with arrogant people and worst with young children.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@AxelHeyst: Thanks for the book recommendation!

@ertyu: Yes, those are definitely the sort I mean. Most emails include at least one emoji. Except, and this is a twist, they are bland and peppy until they talk to me, at which point they are bland and visibly disinterested in spite of my efforts to engage them. I get the sense I may be too new to be "useful" so people don't put in their usual effort. But idk. It's weird.

@7w5 I envy the ability to decouple your facial expressions from your thoughts. I find I emote less when I'm concentrating, and I often make the mistake of actually trying to listen to other people. If guess that could be easily remedied. ;)

ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

bostonimproper wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:41 pm
they are bland and peppy until they talk to me, at which point they are bland and visibly disinterested in spite of my efforts to engage them.
Yeah, I don't think it's you. Sounds like they know how to schmooze if they want to, so if they are standoffish it means they'd probably rather not for whatever reason. I'd dial it down and stay friendly (greeting, smile that reaches the eyes, open body language), and leave it to them to escalate. Now, whether it's your job to try and butter them up regardless, idk - i think this is the sort of thing that's specific to your job situation. Is there a mentory type person with more experience you could ask? In either case, doesn't sound like it's personal even if it feels rejecting.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Why does work bother me so much?

Anxiety has been flaring up. Not in an acute, overwhelming way. Mostly a nagging, sticky, baseline of dread sort of thing. I've been gaining weight from the free, not very healthy food. And the corporate politics are getting to me in a way that feels like I can't trust other people to just be honest and say what's on their mind. I'm a very frank person so I find the overcompensating friendliness and unresolved tension of misaligned incentives between coordinating teams off-putting and difficult to navigate.

My current company reminds me a lot of college. Lots of type-A overachievers, loudly sharing their accomplishments and giving plaudits to one another. I find the self-congratulatory stuff off-putting. It's also hard to get a sense of what and who is actually doing things well, because everyone is shouting at each other look at this awesome thing our team did! without providing clear metrics showing their import (or purposefully obfuscating the metrics, which has actually made me angry a couple times). And this sort of behavior is explicitly incentivized, while just doing your work is considered insufficiently visionary. I don't know. Corporate politics are weird.

The problem is I get too emotionally invested in it all. I really shouldn't, but it's hard to both try and do a thing well and not let it seep into your self-conception and identity.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Emergency preparedness update

I've taken this opportunity (that's what I'm calling my acute anxiety around covid-19) to finish our generalized disaster prep.

Food: We stocked up on a year's worth of olive oil and flours/rice/grains, which we would normally do this time of year anyway. Have about four months of prenatal vitamins for one person which I originally bought so that we could conceive soon, but I thought also might come in handy if we lose access to fresh produce for a period.

Water: Got the water bricks, though I'm unsure whether to fill them now. If I do, I'll probably want to add some diluted chlorine to keep out bacterial/fungal growth. I may just wait until disaster lead up since we have a 50 gallon water heater always stocked up.

Masks: Have six disposable P100 respirators. I bought them for a trip to California during wildfire season, but never ended up using them. We also have respirators from painting way back when, but the cartridges need to be replaced and obviously everything is sold out.

Other: Stocked the cupboards with six months to a year's worth of consumable toiletries-- soaps, shampoos, deodorant, toothpaste, floss, and the like. I've also asked my husband to see if he can get a double refill on all his prescription drugs. No idea how severe covid-19 really is, but a prolonged period of supply chain disruption leading to lack of his heart medication would be very, very bad.

What we're not getting: I had an old list to buy--
metal water bottles, water bricks, mylar blankets, insulated foam containers, chemical hand warmers. Maybe throw in a solar electronics charger (eh, maybe not if it's overcast) and small external power banks
I decided we don't really need most of those things. Instead, I plan to take some nalgene bottles from my gym's lost and found and use them as hot water bottles for heating only, i.e. not for drinking in lieu of metal water bottles. Instead of foam containers, I've been stashing away insulated food bags that sometimes come with frozen/refrigerated items in our grocery orders. Everything else was redundant/gravy anyway.

Hypochondriac

Been dealing with a very mild respiratory infection for a week now. Annoying cough, but no other symptoms at the moment. Meanwhile, a couple of my colleagues ended up with a pretty bad flu-like illness-- both of them have gone to see the doctor since. We all caught these things around the same time, a few days after a team dinner at a popular Chinese hot pot joint. Boston has a confirmed covid-19 patient, but is not doing covid-19 screenings alongside the flu like in Seattle, California, etc.

On the one hand, I'm definitely being a hypochondriac and everything is totally fine. On the other hand, something something long incubation period something delayed onset of severe symptoms something cytokine storm something. I don't seem to have a fever or, at least, nothing more than a very mild one. My husband doesn't seem sick at all, and he's been interacting with me as normal all week.

Nothing like a lack of certainty and solid information to get the conspiracy theory / hypochondriac worry brain going.

Fear versus behavior

I have been going to the office, eating from our buffet-style lunch spread, taking the subway, etc. as normal. Taking the same precautions as I normally would out and about-- always wash my hands as soon as I get to work/home, avoid touching hand rails/door knobs/etc. with my bare hands (usually wrap a sleeve around my hand), sleeping well, eating well. But in spite of my internal fear, my private actions (stocking up for an emergency) doesn't comport with my public action (same old, same old).

I mentioned to my husband the other day we had the P100s in case he wanted to wear one to work. He just gave me this look and I knew there was no way to take above-normal precautions at this stage of the outbreak without becoming a social pariah. The inclination to conform, even if you feel it has the potential to lead to a bad outcome, is so very strong. Unless and until we see evidence of community transmission, I am unlikely to change my public behavior. Which feels both extremely rational and extremely irrational.

Financials

One thing I will say about this outbreak: I am less bullish on emerging market indices than I was before. I'm realizing the importance of free speech and institutional trust when it comes to reacting to black swan events. Further, I understand better the need for own-country capabilities to provide in the realm of utilities, basic materials, telecom, etc.

My US equity allocation is 2:1 with emerging and 4:1 with developed. I'm tempted to go all-in on the US for all future contributions. On the one hand, I worry greatly about the political environment of our country. On the other hand, we are probably not the most at-risk as we pull away from our European counterparts in this pivotal moment. In the long-term, I think the brunt of this frayed relationship will hit Europe as they develop deeper ties with top-down authoritarian regimes that more intimately intertwine with their political systems.

Friends and Money

On a lighter note, one of our friends is running for local political office (far away from where we live) and we're trying to figure out how much to give as a donation. This is an honest, progressive, well-informed, and organized person who I think would be a good representative. Max contribution is $4k, which we could easily afford but also I don't really want to give that much? I was thinking maybe $1k. Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing?

Speaking of friends, it's been jarring to see how different our financial circumstances have become. One of my husband's friends, fresh from his PhD, is working three part-time, barely-above-minimum wage jobs and he and his wife are clearly sweating the financial stuff right now. Meanwhile, another couple we know who are essentially trust-fund FIRE'd-- the husband comes from money-- is talking about where on the Cape they want to summer for two months. It's strange as all of us where basically in the same living situation-- lots of roommates, working long hours, simple lives with simple luxuries-- just a few years ago. None of it feels like a product of frugality, nor of foresight, resourcefulness, or intelligence. It all seems to come down to some combination of family wealth and field (i.e. all our CS friends have plenty of income). Strange how things have diverged.

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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by jacob »

bostonimproper wrote:
Mon Feb 17, 2020 1:59 pm
Water: Got the water bricks, though I'm unsure whether to fill them now. If I do, I'll probably want to add some diluted chlorine to keep out bacterial/fungal growth. I may just wait until disaster lead up since we have a 50 gallon water heater always stocked up.
Fill them now, otherwise what's the point of having them? Suppose your first problem is a contaminated water supply. What then?

1/8 tsp chlorine per brick should be good and plenty to kill whatever lifeforms. (It's a bit on the high side, but I have a Berkey filter that will take it out again.) I rotate every 6 months.

The bricks could also come in handy during a fire, so keep a few in the bedroom to pour over a blanket to escape.

Peanut
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Peanut »

How likely is your friend to win her election? That would be the biggest factor for me I think. If she's either very likely or not likely at all, the money doesn't do anything. If she's right on the fence it would have the biggest potential to impact the race, and I would give more.

If you have to give something regardless to sort of preserve the friendship and it's worth it to you I would give whatever minimum amount that would be--1k seems fine.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@jacob That's fair, I was mostly thinking of them as waterBOB alternatives. I don't love the idea of drinking chlorinated water, which is why I'm pretty hesitant to put it into our regular rotation. Maybe I can use them to water my plants?

@MEA I'm not terribly worried about zombie scenario or anything, but 3% is quite a high case fatality rate (especially if it ends up infecting 50% of the world or whatever it might be). It's certainly high enough that China has thought it a good idea to shut down a large segment of their economy because of it.

@Peanut I have no conception of how likely she is to win. It seems not implausible to me, but clearly not a shoo-in. We ended up putting in $1K. It's not so much a need to preserve the friendship (I think she'd be perfectly understanding if we didn't give anything), but we like her obviously and we hope she wins so we're happy to give the support.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Turning point

Don't know why, but today just felt like a turning point. I'm seriously considering selling the entirety of my Vanguard stock and bond indices Monday. Not in like a panicked way, but my gut says it's time now. I will probably roll everything over to Schwab or Fidelity for individual stock trading. XKCD reminding me that while I'm not likely to be any better than the market, I'm equally likely to be no worse.

Part of it is that I want to liquidate everything because of coronavirus-related market timing-- it feels like we're right on the cusp of a real upswing in cases and major geopolitical and economic turning. Everyone's assuming supply chain disruption will be temporary and pent up demand will still be there when this is all contained. But given current corporate debt levels it feel like the dominos from supply chain woes -> increase in bonds and debt for govt/corporate float -> higher interest rates + prolonged disruption -> cascading collapse (of some major companies, not our entire economic system) is nearing. Not to mention this is all happening while the 2020 cycle is live and headlines are ablaze about election meddling, again.

Geographic diversity

My husband recently got his Irish citizenship. I think it's time to get him his Irish passport and for me to renew my US one. Plus get us both on Global Entry because security lines at the airport are awful. Apparently it's difficult to get a foreign bank account while not in-country. If we'd managed to get one, I'd be staying under FBAR reporting limits anyway. Instead we may just buy some gold. Shares/certs instead of physical, probably? I honestly don't know how I'd liquidate physical gold in real life anyway.

This is a weird nagging feeling I'm having.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@bigato Fair enough. I feel like I'm taking relatively moderate measures, but trying to keep level-headed about everything as well.

Financials

I am kind of sore all my transactions didn't clear until Monday evening though I had them at the ready Friday night. Damn you Vanguard and your skepticism of market timing. I'm willing to bake in the 3% hit or whatever. Ultimately I decided to sell all my emerging equities and half my domestic equities. I'm rolling about half into VUIAX (utilities index), a quarter into VIPSX (TIPS index), and I'm still figuring out what to do with the other quarter.

What is the worst case scenario?

Been thinking through what the likeliest worst case scenario for COVID-19 would be, and I think it goes something like this:

Wave one (years one & two):
  • Around 15% of first round cases become "severe", defined as developing at least viral pneumonia. About a fifth of those patients reach critical stage.
  • Mortality rate ends up being between 0.5-3%, including asymptomatic cases, depending on how hard hit hospitals are in a region. This is heavily weighted toward the elderly.
  • Some combination of slow testing and response causes disease to rapidly spread and induces lack of trust and, ultimately, panic.
  • Government responds with prolonged "containment" measures such as travel bans instead of moving to disease mitigation. This exacerbates shortages in medical supplies and other key goods (food, drugs, etc.), which is made further worse by panic buying.
  • At this point, health outcomes bifurcate. Some governments promote quarantines (event cancellation, cessation of commerce in worst case) while others continue business as usual. Depending on level of strictness, virus may slow its progress.
  • In areas with the greatest spread, mortality asymptotically approaches critical patient numbers as hospitals are full. Patients take up beds with long recovery times.
  • Ultimately, after months of clinical testing, antivirals will be identified which limit the progress of the disease.
  • Multiple millions or tens of millions end up dying in wave one.
  • Outbreak slows in summer and jumps to Southern hemisphere.
Waves two+ (years two+):
  • Virus becomes endemic, flourishing in the wintertime like the seasonal flu. It mutates slowly, but enough to stay in the population.
  • Like SARS, virus is able to use antibody dependent enhancement pathway, causing second infections of COVID-19 to be even more dangerous than the first, especially for the young, and induces cytokine storms. This also makes vaccine development very difficult.
  • Further, respiratory damage from initial infection worsen the outcomes on second infection.
  • Millions end up dying every year from COVID-19 and its progeny/variants.
What does that mean for our own preparations?

Wave 1

Ultimately I think all this means our first priority is for our household to prepare to hunker down if needed during wave 1 while clinical trials are ongoing. I think this is relatively easily done, as it is very easy for me to work remotely and we have sufficient emergency supplies at this point.

The next thing to focus on is developing a communication strategy for family and friends to alert on status. In particular, making sure my parents and my grandmother are sufficiently stocked up on supplies to hunker down. Unfortunately, my mother has chosen for years not to buy health insurance and is stubborn and refuses to get ACA subsidies even though she qualifies. Fucking hell. So, yeah, that'll be a nightmare if she gets infected.

Waves 2+

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Apparently utilities will trend with other equities during a panic. Also REITs for some reason? Expensive lesson, I guess. Our portfolio is down 7% from last Friday. Our net worth is back to where we were Dec 31, though that was after front loading a bunch of retirement contributions for the year. -_- Losing two months gains and contributions aren't the worst thing in the world.

Planning to liquidate VUIAX for now and use the money as barely-dry powder when the market decides to stabilize. I think we have a ways yet to go, though it'll take a minute. I don't think this selloff will be over until at least after the first US casualties are recorded and we get to see effects of a bungled White House response. Also I dunked some money in SLV and split some of my US equity between US and other developed markets. Still nothing in emerging. Kind of surprised VEMAX is not dropping more.

Anyway, this means my asset allocation (not including our house and emergency fund) is roughly:
  • 12% VAIPX (TIPS)
  • 9% VUSTX (long term treasury bonds)
  • 6% VTMGX (REIT)
  • 5% VEUSX (Europe equity)
  • 4% VPADX (Pacific equity)
  • 12% VTSAX (US equity)
  • 16% private stock
  • 8% SLV (iShares Silver)
  • 28% Cash
Obviously this is not my ideal in the long term, but I'd rather not take much more of a beating from this correction.

I've also learned that I'm not a big fan of keeping all my money in Vanguard in times like these. Not being able to set a stop loss order, being tied into end of day market price for a mutual fund-- not great. Like, I know it's all tied to the baseline rule that one should believe in Buy And Hold 5ever (TM), but I don't. So.

Timing the market: probably a bad idea, but I'm doing it anyway.
Last edited by bostonimproper on Fri Feb 28, 2020 6:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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