Where to begin. I have a number of ideas for blog posts floating around my head, but haven’t found the time to put pen to paper. Given the multitude of things that have happened both personally and professionally over the past few weeks I have decided to do a little journal/blog update. Some of these ideas are topics that I plan on diving into further.
The biggest news for me personally, beyond recently paying off my student loans earlier in July, is that I went on a short vacation. I ended up staying with my good friend Andrew up in Montreal. Andrew has been bugging me to go up there for years now, and this summer we finally decided to make it happen. I am glad we made it happen because it was an excellent trip and I had an awesome time.
I am not a big traveler. Since starting my law firm in late 2012, I haven’t taken more than 2 business days off (last year I believe I took a Friday and Monday off). This time I did Thursday, Friday AND Monday. I know, holy shit, what a massive amount of time away from the office. In the past it has always felt very stressful to take the time away, and the ensuing shit-tornado of returning was always stressful. This trip I was taking the time off without an assistant to hold down the fort so I was really unsure of how things were gonna go.
Oddly enough this was the most relaxing trip I have gone on. Maybe it was due to the high volumes of exercise, food, and alcohol, or maybe I just got lucky with a short lull in my practice, but I flew home Monday night and got into the office around 10:30 Tuesday morning, and while there were a pile of voicemails to contend with I managed to work through everything quickly and even left the office a little early (around 5 or so?) that evening. Spectacular.
It was a great trip and it has me thinking about a number of things, including travel, and living in a city. Montreal is just a tremendous and beautiful city (at least in the summer) and it was so nice to be somewhere completely different for a few days. What amazed me most was the amount of young people. Here in S.W. Florida everyone is old and limping around, exercising poor situational awareness, and generally getting in the way. To be surrounded by so many young people and the hustle and bustle of a city made me feel as if I were in another world. Just an awesome trip.
Reflecting further on the student loan situation, I was never hit with a wave of euphoria. I don’t think anyone jumps for joy when a debt gets paid off. Instead, I just feel relief really. I am relieved to have that obligation behind me and I look forward to money piling up in my checking account and being diverted to assets, not paying off liabilities. I’m relieved to read a forum post about someone’s student loans and realize I am no longer in that situation. It’s great to own my degree “free and clear”.
I have been reading quite a bit, shooting for my 2 books a month goal that I set for myself at the start of 2016. Over halfway through the year and I have done a good job keeping my nose in a book and have read some cool stuff.
The past few books have mostly been fiction, including 3/4s of Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion” series, a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe book (awesome books), and some Charles Bukowski (not the best influence honestly, but always an interesting read).
After stalling out on Dan Simmons’ series after finishing Endymion, I decided to switch over to some non-fiction. I read Anthony Robbin’s “MONEY: Master the Game” book, which is the subject for a stand alone review (it was actually pretty good), and I am currently reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari. I am maybe a quarter of the way through it, but so far Sapiens is proving to be an interesting read. Evolutionary biology has always interested me, especially after reading The Selfish Gene in college. That book really helped provide some perspective and I think Sapiens is a novel that will have a similar effect.
Anyhow, books are being read so that’s good.
The Affiliate Site
My main affiliate site / money making blog is lumbering along. I have published weekly for all of 2016 and while traffic has slowly petered out since the holidays, the site seems to be gaining a regular audience and I have received feedback that people are enjoying the regular content and additional authors that I have brought to the site. In the past I wrote every single article, and probably averaged 1-2 posts a month. Now I post every week.
While I haven’t seen a huge payoff in traffic or earnings yet, I am laying the foundation and think that eventually the site will turn a corner and all of the excellent content I have added will pay good dividends. At the very least, it will sustain the site’s current earnings (around $1,500 a month gross in the off season) with a minimal amount of work on my part.
The Law Firm
The last time I blogged about my firm was in mid March. My assistant of 1.5 years (and my first employee ever) had just left the firm. I immediately hired a new paralegal. She was literally the first person that I could interview. She represented that she could do the job, had decades of experience, and seemed a little quirky, but in a fun way. So I hired her on the spot.
In retrospect that was a huge mistake. From the first day I knew that this lady was not my best hire. But I tried to make it work. After 2 months of trying I had to let her go, and I had no one lined up to replace her. This time around I patiently interviewed candidates for a couple months. I never found that elusive “perfect hire”, but did bring someone on board this past week. She is totally different from my previous 2 paralegals (who were much older), but I am hoping this one will stick.
Otherwise my law practice is chugging along, at least as much as it can chug along with me being my own paralegal. There is a lot of administrative and busy work in the practice of law (especially in litigation), and I was doing all of it. So I felt busy (extremely busy), but wasn’t terribly efficient. But I would rather be in that position than hire the wrong person again, so I slugged it out.
I have a couple cases that are bothering me (there are always a few), but I am trying to get smarter about case selection. Proper case selection has a huge impact on your practice and quality of life.
After reading Tony Robbins’ book I decided to liquidate some of my U.S. large cap index funds to establish a small position in bonds. Previously the only bond exposure I had was through my position in target funds, and was less than 5% of my portfolio. Plus I was over-weighted in U.S. large cap stocks. So I now have a small (~$2,500) position in Vanguard’s Total Bond Index Fund. My bond holdings are still under 10% of my portfolio, and I’d like to continue to bolster that in the future. I figure at the very least this will give me some ammo to use in the event of a major market turn, plus it should reduce volatility. I am not 100% sure what percentage of my portfolio I want to be in bonds, but somewhere between 10-20%.
This business with Brexit has been interesting, and like everyone else I’ll be very curious to see what happens in the next few weeks. I already have a good chunk of my small portfolio in international index funds, so I don’t know if I necessarily want to buy more, but will continue to contribute to those funds through dollar cost averaging. I’ll be watching the markets closely and may scoop up some additional stock if the markets take a big hit.
My investment in silver has done pretty well, and only appears to be doing better in the face of this market uncertainty. I think it’s a good idea to have some level of exposure to precious metals and I have increased this position slightly via Vanguard’s Precious Metals and Mining Fund.
My investment in Lending Club stock hasn’t tanked yet, but I am considering selling some of that off. If the U.S. markets take a huge dump I’ll hold off on liquidating for the time being.
I have tried to post at least once a week, and have been pretty good about that (with the exception of last week while I was on vacation – didn’t have the time or brain cells available to write much). The blog sees virtually no traffic, but I am not surprised. I have done nothing to promote it, and most of the content isn’t terribly valuable or amazing. I haven’t done a particularly good job editing these posts either. Even if I were taking this more seriously, Google has a sandbox that takes months to get out of.
So there are a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day I am not disappointed because I am having fun and taking things at my own place. I have no real expectations beyond the goal of writing at least once a week. I have experience blogging and know how much work is involved to experience any level of success – a ton. This blog is unfocused, rambling, and self absorbed. I haven’t put in the effort and I don’t think I have created much value in the content for readers.
This has been more of a thought experiment, and the very act of writing has been cathartic and doing things like writing out goals, chronicling my progress, and forcing myself to form semi-coherent arguments about financial decisions has been valuable. I enjoy writing these posts, and I am treating this as more of a glorified journal than anything.
We are over the halfway mark through 2016. Time is flying. Generally I feel like I am heading in the right direction. Things aren’t perfect (they never are), but one thing I am trying to do a better job of is practicing gratitude. It’s very easy to look at what you don’t have, when the truth is if you are able to read this, then we are all incredibly blessed and fortunate for so many great things in life.
In pursuit of a debt free lifestyle and ultimately financial independence it is very easy to simply focus on the destination. If you only focus on the destination then I think the end result is hollow. You can’t just live for tomorrow, but must learn to appreciate what you have today. You have to be present, and you have to be thankful.
On that note I am going to go to the gym and head into the office to get some work done. Until next time.