Monthly Update

January 2021 Update

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January 2021 Update

The tax forms are starting to trickle in. Probably won’t start reviewing them until mid-February once the brokerage statements all land. We’ll see if we have any drastic changes to the tax code to account for in 2021.

Covered Calls Update

I’ve written before about the covered calls that I’ve been writing for the past couple years. In October, I sold calls against 85% of my position in DumpsterFire Inc., staggering them at $17, $18, and $20 strike prices. DumsterFire was trading around $15 at the time. And then, what do you know, the price jumped to $22 over a couple days in mid-December and stayed in that range until mid-January when the options expired and my shares were called away.

I came away with $3.33/share on average (ignoring the premium), but without my experiment, could have had twice that much. But as I wrote before, I’m happy because I expired myself out of a position that I was having a hard time letting go. Look for future posts on cognitive biases.

I plan on putting the freed up capital towards my 529 catch up plan.

Midnight 529 Contributions

Speaking of which, I made some last minute 529 contributions on December 31st and watched Virginia 529’s website meltdown. 

My first issue actually occurred several days before the 31st. Virginia529 has a user-unfriendly policy of requiring a two factor code emailed to the account on record every login. Every time. No “remember this computer for 30 days”. Once logged in, they start a fifteen minute timer that logs you out automatically, even if you are actively in a transaction. No “I’m still here” button. Oh, and the code they send expires within twenty minutes, which doesn’t help if the email arrives twenty five minutes later. And if you hit the “resend me the code again” within that window, it’s not hard to get the codes confused and enter the wrong one. And you get locked out after three bad codes, requiring a phone call to unlock the account. What a pain!

Luckily, this occurred several days before I wanted to make the contribution, so I had everything ready to go. I hadn’t settled on making the final contribution, but after thinking it over, I decided to do it. Imagine my horror when the server started timing out with 500s after hitting the “confirm contribution” button. Yikes! Did it go through? Who knows! Since it was only a fraction of my contribution limit, I tried it again two more times, with the same behavior each time. And there was nothing in the transaction history that showed any of them went through. So I walked away, disappointed that I couldn’t make the transaction.

The next day, I got an email that one of the three attempts had gone through. No idea which one. It really wouldn’t have been a big deal if all three tries had gone through, but what a crazy dumpster fire.

Slowing Down 401(k) Front Loading

This year, for some reason, I feel there is a lot more risk to my 401(k) front-loading strategy. To help mitigate some of my concerns, I’ve slowed down my 401(k) front-loading. Instead of having my 401(k) funded by the end of March, instead it’s going to be the end of June when my annual 401(k) is maxed out. I also switched it over to 100% Roth, a change in strategy from prior years. I’ll let you know next December how I felt it went.

Gamestonk

All the financial world is in a flutter because some Redditors have pushed some hedge funds into a short squeeze. However, I suspect that there is enough riding on this that the hedge funds will be able to call in enough capital to keep the little guys at bay long enough, especially when they have the help of Robinhood to keep the little guys from buying more. It will be interesting to see how it plays out today.

I’d be lying to say I didn’t wish that I had a little position in GME. But I can’t bring myself to throw any money at this. Complete gambling/speculating.

Google Photo Storage Getting Kneecapped

I’ve really enjoyed the ability to not worry about my Google Photo storage limits. Storing an unlimited amount of photos in pretty good quality was great. That’s all changing and Google Photos will now start counting against your free 15gb of storage, starting June 1st, 2021. It was nice while it lasted. I suspect I’ll just start storing my phone’s photos with the rest of my non-Google photo storage.

From the Bookshelf

I have a pretty high tolerance for books, willing to pick up almost anything. I usually have four books going at a time. This month I finished the following:

  • The Price We Pay; What Broke American Health Care–And How to Fix it by Marty Makary. This book really opened my eyes to the insides of the medical system. It’s broken, and that’s someone coming from the half of the country who has medical insurance paid for by my employer. What I took away is that we need more transparency, less for-profit middle men, and reduced overtreatment. We’re reading it for our family book group and it’s been great at sparking conversations. He does have a bit of arrogance that can be off-putting, but I still highly recommend reading it.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. At work, my current team is working well. But we still have room for improvement and as the organization grows, we’ll have to work hard to keep the culture from slipping into dysfunction. Highlights included a definition of “politics”–changing what you say or do because you are concerned about how others will react or behave–and the format of a fictional account. Having previously read The Personality Brokers by Merve Emre, I did roll my eyes a little when the author labeled the Myers-Briggs as “scientific”.
  • Beyond the Goal: Theory of Constraints by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. This is a series of lectures that Dr. Goldratt gave as a follow-up to The Goal, which I read in December. I’m still trying to think how this maps to my role as a software engineer, but I did find it a quick listen. He’s way of speaking reminded me of at least one college professor that I had when I was working towards my master’s degree. Highlights included
    • The dangers of local optimization to the health of the whole 
    • Most problems come from a mismatch between having responsibility for something and not having the authority to change it
    • The danger of measuring the wrong thing: “Tell me how you will measure me and I will tell you how I will behave. Measure me in an illogical way, don’t complain if I behave in an illogical way”
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. I didn’t find this book that impressive. To echo another reviewer from Amazon, this book was a pamphlet stretched to book-length. And Simon is a true Apple fanboy. Which was a little much for me. But the core idea of focusing on why you do something over the details of how and what is important. Bonus video of Simon reminding us how mobile phones can be relationship harming.
  • The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by Mary Robinette Kowal. A “what-if” science fiction built around a female protagonist putting us on Mars in an Apollo-era setting, all without modern computers. I enjoyed it, but does have quite a bit of innuendo.

My current read is Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. I’ll write up my review next month, but so far I’m really enjoying it.

I’m also reading the classic Ben Hur to the kids in the evenings. Started this story around Christmas and we’re about 50% of the way through. A little dense for the kids but still enjoyable for me and the older ones.

More Games We Played

We have some additional games that we got post-Christmas that we’ve had fun playing:

  • Splendor: Cities of Splendor Expansion: An expansion to Splendor. This is a fairly simple game where players compete to collect gems and cards that produce gems, with the first to collect the most points by the end of the game. While simple, I find that the constant evaluation of the other players’ tableaus is what gives the game complexity. The expansion is actually a bunch of expansions that are not meant for simultaneous play and all give a new twist to the original game.
  • Azul: Turn-based game where players draft decorative, colored tiles and score points on their placement on the player’s board. Take too many tiles or tiles you can’t play and you score negative points. Simple enough for a seven-year old to play. A certain satisfaction with building a custom arrangement.

Conclusion

How has your 2021 started? Read anything interesting this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hasta luego!

2 thoughts on “January 2021 Update

  1. The Gamestop debacle has been interesting indeed. I’m excited to see how it plays out. It’s amazing how widespread the interest has been

    We own Splendor but not the expansion. I like it. My family has played Azul several times with the inlaws but I don’t think I’ve ever personally played. We’ve recently gotten into a game called Century Spice Road. It reminds me of Splendor but I think it’s a bit more interesting.

    Glad you liked the healthcare book, despite the arrogance. It makes me so sad to think of the dysfunction.

    I’m kind of devastated about Google Photos. I first read about that a few months back. I hadn’t worked out the details yet. Do old photos count against the quota or just stuff uploaded post June 2021? It’s a great product, but I don’t want to pay for it (famous last words). Amazon photos is “free” if you’re a prime member, but surely inferior. I pay for Dropbox through work (and have plenty of unutilized space) so maybe I can start utilizing that? Or maybe I’ll just end up paying Google……

    1. We’ll see how GME ends. Probably in tears for both the hedge funds and the vast majority of people who have climbed on the bandwagon.

      Thanks for the Century Spice Road suggestion. I’ll check it out!

      Yeah, the Google Photos is a bummer. My wife is the one who takes most of the pictures and she actually doesn’t use Google Photos, so it’s not a huge impact, but a bummer for me. I think older photos before June 2021 are grandfathered in without affecting your quota. That’s my read.

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