Chautauqua 2013: A Week of Dreams

Chau - crater_lake-300x170

Lake Cuicocha:  Where we had lunch and a boat ride in the crater of a volcano.

First, thank you for you patience. I always feel a bit bad closing down the blog and leaving you with only past posts while I wander about during my summer travels. Not bad enough to stay home and write, or to lug along a laptop, of course. But bad.

Still after roaming around Ecuador for the better part of the summer, this past Sunday I returned, exhausted and having to relearn a few things about living here in the USA. Such as flushing the toilet paper down the toilet. See, in Ecuador nothing gets flushed that doesn’t, ahem, come directly from you. Used toilet paper is placed in the basket conveniently provided. Yep. Even the paper soiled that way.

Seems the septic systems can’t handle it. This despite the fact, as Mr. Money Mustache explained to me, septic systems “like” toilet paper.  It never occurred to me that they’d like anything but, when you consider the rest of what the systems deal with, a little TP is likely a step up.

But anyway, I’m back just in time for what is starting out as a drop-dead gorgeous fall season here in New England. As I told somebody recently, if I didn’t live in New Hampshire it would have to be on my annual travel schedule each year for these couple of months. Tomorrow my pal Barry, who has been storing my Triumph, is coming by to pick me up. Shortly after we’ll be in the wind, riding the back roads around these parts.

Ecuador, as always, was a magical trip. Seems I’ve been often enough now that upon my return the border agent felt the need to quiz me closely on just where I live. Jeez.

But the final week was the most magical of all. It was a week of dreams. It was the week of the Chautauqua.


Chautauquaians giving the newly created Mustachian Salute:

Finger mustache, arm gun displayed.

It was the premier event for Cheryl’s company, Above the Clouds Retreats and the realization of her dream to launch her company, sharing Ecuador and her Happiness and Passion path.

It was the realization of the dream of a local family who, after over a year of living in a chicken coop, are now about to move back in to their newly renovated house. Earthquake damage repaired with funds provided from the revenue this Chautauqua generated and channeled thru Cheryl’s Project One Corner.

Chau - the_family-300x198

The four of us with the Ecuadorian family and their refurbished home.

Listening to this Ecuadorian woman describe what being able to return to her home meant for her family had tears streaming down Cheryl’s cheeks as she translated. Mr. MM and I were sitting together on a low concrete wall. He leaned over and whispered something to the effect of “It is taking all my manly badassity to keep the tears at bay.” I was glad it wasn’t just me.

It was a dream realized for the kids at the orphanage we visited as they received the backpacks and other goodies attendees provided. Including the piñata that when finally burst showered them with goodies.

chau pinata

It was a boost to the realization of the dreams of every attendee. I know this based on my many personal conversations and by the fact that on every evalutation form we recieved, the answer to this question —

Would you recommend this Chautauqua to a friend?

— was “Yes.”

It was the realization of my dream to create a “Chautauqua” (one of my favorite old-timey words) where I could discuss the ideas on this blog personally with readers and in the company of presenters like Cheryl, Mr. Money Mustache and JD Roth, from each of whom I was eager to learn. They did not disappoint!

Cheryl is one of the most relentlessly happy and joyful people I’ve ever met, and not because her path has been an easy one. No one was listening more closely than I as she discussed her secrets.

From the moment Cheryl and I began discussing this Chautauqua, I knew we needed Mr. Money Mustache on board. If you read his blog you already know why. What you might not know is that he is every bit as formidable in person and an extraordinarily gifted speaker to boot. Fun to hang around with too.

Mr. MM also deserves the credit for whistling in JD Roth. JD’s presentation on “Fear, Flow and Freedom” was the one I was personally most anxious to hear. Remarkable stuff and at the end it even inspired me to do what ordinarily I would never have done: Ask the group directly for help.

See, for literally decades people have complemented my voice. While I did have the chance to do a bit of radio work, serendipity has never led to doing voice overs. I’ve always thought that would be fun and so I put it out to the group. As JD said, in effect I had just bought 26 lottery tickets.

Now, by extension and further using JD’s principles, I am buying many, many more by sharing this with you, my readers. If you want to hear what I sound like, you’ll find a link to my podcast with The Mad Fientist here. Another Chautauqua dream in the process of being fulfilled.

There is a certain process that occurs in pulling an event like this together. The concept is created. The speakers lined up. The destination chosen and secured. The P&L spread sheet created. The costs analyzed. The week planned and arranged. The endless details attended to. And finally the invitation to attend is offered. It is not unlike planning a grand party and then holding your breathe hoping the guests will actually come.

Chau - me pete jd

Fine tuning the Chautauqua at Cheryl’s farm house the day before the event.

We need not have worried. All 25 slots sold out in three weeks. Unfortunately, life intervened for a few people forcing them to cancel. Come arrival time at Quito International Airport we had 22 attendees plus the four presenters and Cheryl’s husband Rich, who handled the logistics and served as master of ceremonies. 27 people.

And what an amazingly diverse group it was. Not just in race and sexual orientation, although we enjoyed both. But in:

  • Age – ranging from geezers like me to folks in their twenties.
  • Occupations – including a corporate lawyer, doctor, banker, a couple of CFOs, a librarian, two US Marines, entrepreneurs, a fellow blogger and IT folks just to name a few. Some already FI, some on their way. Even a Wall Street money manager and a former stock analyst. Amazingly, given my views on Index Funds and Investment Advisors, both were still speaking to me after my presentation.
  • Wealth – ranging from multi-millionaires to people just breaking out of the grip of debt and on their way.
  • Geography – they came from all over the US and Canada, and one from Mexico.

You might think such a wide-ranging group would be a recipe for conflict. You would be wrong. As the Wall Street guy said to me towards the end, he and his friends amuse themselves at conferences with assessing the “AQ” of the various groups. That would be “asshole quotient.” His AQ score for this group: Zero. I’d have to agree.

chau - party time at Pete's

Mr. MM hosting one of many impromptu parties at his Hacienda Cusin casa.

In fact, it was absolutely stunning how well everybody got along. No matter how we mixed up the group (something we did very intentionally during the week) at meals and between events the conversations were universally robust, friendly, engaging, humorous and enlightening. These are all people who are fiercely independent and who are following their own unique paths.

On reflection, all this is not surprising. For all their diversity, getting to the Chautauqua required a couple of potent filters.

  1. Nobody signs up for a week in a distant country with a bunch of strangers without a pretty strong sense of adventure.
  2. All came to the Chautauqua thru one of our three blogs, and if you enjoy one the chances are good the others will resonate with you as well.

At a very fundamental and core level, we were all kindred spirits. In fact the comment I heard most often was how refreshing it was for attendees to be with other people who “get it.” If your goals involve FI, intentional living and personal freedom, in most circles you’re the odd one out. Talk about this stuff to most of your family, friends and co-workers and they’ll look at you like you have two heads.

But at the Chautauqua, almost by definition, these were core values everybody shared. The people there built, expanded and drew support for them with every encounter.

Associating with all these dynamic, smart, accomplished, positive and independent people was an endless joy for me. I learned far more than I taught. In this I can say with great confidence I was not alone.

So, to all who attended:  Thank you for making this event one of the best trips and best weeks of my life. Truly a dream realized. I salute you:

chau wine toast

To those reading, I only wish you, too, could have been there.

For other takes on this event:

Mister Money Mustache

JD Roth

Johnny Moneyseed

One life, many adventures

Carlos reports on the ERE forum

Unfortunately, we were unable to video tape the presentations as planned. But in their posts both JD and Mr. MM provide links to their slides for your reference. As for me, I’ll provide a recap of mine in a soon-to-come post.

A note on the photos in this post:

At the Chautauqua we had three expert photographers in Rich, Mr. MM and JD. Since this is one of the many skills I lack I’ve shamelessly cribbed those you see here from them. Cheryl also tells me she plans to put a bunch up on the Above the Clouds website. When she does, I’ll post the link. The embarrassing ones are sure to be included.

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Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
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  • Betterment is my recommendation for hands-off investors who prefer a DIFM (Do It For Me) approach. It is also a great tool for reaching short-term savings goals. Here is my Betterment Review
  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Josh says

    Jim, I wanted to congratulate you on pursuing your goal of voice work. You have done much more than you realize in helping others through your blog, and I’m sure will have no lack success.
    I can’t wait for more of these Chautauquas in the future, some hopefully in the North West that I can attend while still saving up my F-You money.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Josh!

      A little voice over work on the side would be great fun. We’ll see!

      JD was talking about doing something like this up in Portland. I don’t know if he’ll invite me, but I’d be game!

      As much as I’d have liked to meet you in Ecuador, your goal of F-you money is the right priority!

  2. AspiringYogini says

    Hi Jim!

    What a lovely post full of gratitude (World Gratitude Day is Sept 21 — you are already there)! I’m so happy to hear that everyone had such a nice time. I’m excited to hear that you have made and will make new dreams come true!

    I would love to visit Ecuador, but when I see some of you all bundled up in sweaters, I’m not so sure.

    Yo voy a continuar estudiando mi espanol y mejor mi sangue sin el clima. Una dia, voy a visitar Ecuador! Quiero ver Los Galapogos!


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks AY…

      I never knew there was a gratitude day! Very cool!

      If you don’t like bundling up, you can visit Ecuador. Just head to the balmy coast or tropical Amazon instead of the Andes!

      Yo también continuaré mis estudios de español y uno de estos viajes deberán incluir los Galapogos! Creo que no muchos toursist han visitado tres veces y perdido!

  3. Mr. Risky Startup says

    You picked the wrong career then. Being able to write as beautifully as you do, and having a nice voice to boot – you should have gone to politics. America could use someone like you calling the shots… I bet national debt would be gone in 5 minutes 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      You are too kind.

      Well,OK, maybe as absolute monarch.

      One of the comments about my Chautauqua talk. was that it was too “dogmatic.” (guess they don’t read this blog. Heh!) So I’m half way there.

      But the real job I’d like is being an ex-President. Trouble is you have to go thru that pesky part about actually being the president for a few years….

  4. Dividend Mantra says


    Seems like an amazing time! It appears to me that you’re falling more and more in love with Ecuador with each passing day. 🙂

    I wish I could have made it! Staying in a place above the clouds is quite appropriate for living out dreams. You guys are actually changing the world. Really awesome stuff!

    Best wishes.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep. It is a special place that speaks to me. With all the places to see in the world i’ve yet to see, I seldom return to even the coolest. Now that I’ve developed some friendships there the pull is even stronger.

      It would have been awesome to have you there. What a cool Index v. Dividend Stock discussions we could have had!

  5. Johnny Moneyseed says

    Jim — Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed up for this event. In my head I’ was saying “Jim JD and MMM seem like cool guys online, but god only knows what kind of audience they’re going to attract”. I was wrong in worrying, because I met 26 of the coolest people from North America (and Mexico). Thanks again for a great week. It definitely wouldn’t have happened (or been the same) without you.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah. That’s a natural concern. But the group exceeded my wildest expectations!

      Thanks for the kudos. Wouldn’t have been the same without you and Mrs. Moneyseed either, my friend.

      I look forward to spending more time with you at FinCon.

  6. Menon says

    Hi Jim
    I was one of the fortunate attendees and, it was a superb, life changing event for me – thank you for your presentation 🙂 I have already subscribed to your blog and would definitely stay in touch – keep writing and good luck with your voiceover projects! 🙂

  7. Karl says


    I had a great time! Monday I felt inspired and optimistic, a wonderful carry over from the Chautauqua I’m sure.

    I’m so glad I went and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet you and spend time with such an amazing and enthusiastic group of people. To be honest, I’d rather be back at the hacienda having a Mustachian Rosé than cleaning out my cluttered work email. Saludos!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Ha! I knew I should have tried that!

      For the benefit of my readers who might not have read my comment on MMM…

      Since I was there at the birth of “Mustachian Rosé” let me tell you all the full story.
      The glasses used at Hacienda Cusin for drinks are all the same.

      One night Mr. MM was sipping a bit of whisky neat. A waiter, mistaking it for wine, filled his glass.
      Once he realized his mistake, the embarrassed fellow whisked it away, Mr. MM protesting that he wanted to try it. It took all my broken Spanish and no small amount of hand gestures to convince him that the crazy Gringo, far from being offended, couldn’t wait to down the new concoction.

      Reluctantly he set it back on the table.

      Down Mr. MM’s gullet it went in a single gulp and history was made.

      • Mark W says

        Long time reader, first time commenter…

        Any help in the type or brand of whiskey and what kind of wine (besides “red”)? Thinking it could be a signature drink at my wedding next year!

        Much appreciated!

        • jlcollinsnh says

          Mr. MM bought the whisky and the wine was a Cab from Chile, I think.

          But the Mustachion approach, my best guess would be, is use whatever comes to hand.

  8. Robb says

    This sounds like an amazing retreat, I wish life had been more serendipitous to me so that I could have come! 🙂 I’m still a teenager in the Financial Independence life-cycle, but like most teenagers, most of the people I know won’t listen to me when I talk about this stuff. Finding my tribe really resonates with me, and I hope you guys will hold another Chautauqua again sometime.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      We’re all still catching our breath from this one but, speaking just for myself, I’m definitely game!

      It would be great to meet you Robb. Hope serendipity gets you there next time. Personally, I used Delta.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Would have been/will be great to have you there DbF!

      Helping launch other folks dreams was every be as much fun as realizing some of my own. Maybe more.

  9. Insourcelife says

    It’s great to read different perspectives on the same event from 4 different writers. This is one of the rare occasions where all participants seem to be equally excited about the way everything went. Nice sense of accomplishment for you guys/gals to pull it off, not like anyone doubted of course!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Actually, I’d not thought of that ISL. Maybe because we were so universally thrilled with the event.

      Actually, quite a few folks doubted. That’s no real surprise. What did surprise me was the active hostility to the idea that appeared on some forums. Including one in the comments of the post where I announced it back in February.

      I can understand some, maybe most, just not being interested. I can understand some not being able or willing to spend the money — and as we said, some shouldn’t until they are further on the FI path.

      But why some people got angry that we offered it, and that others happily signed up, continues to baffle me.

      Ah well.

  10. Mr. 1500 says

    Wow, this sounds like it was great. I regret not going. Can I be first on the list for the next one? I’m serious.

    I see from your comment at Johnny Moneyseed that you’ll be at Fincon. Can’t wait to meet you and JM in real life!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      It was and it could only be better with you there, Mr. 1500. Pop over to the Above the Clouds website and let Cheryl know.

      Yep, after some glitches the path has cleared and I’ll be at my first FinCon next month.

      JM and I seemed to be pulled in different directions during the Chautauqua and didn’t get to spend as much time together as we’d have liked. We’ll correct that in St. Louis!

      I’m looking forward to meeting you there too!

  11. cgk says

    Sounds like a lovely time was had by all. Maybe someday you’ll host one in the US?
    Thanks for sharing the experience with us, it seems it was a very special gathering. 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      My pleasure, egk, it was indeed.

      There is talk of doing one in the US. The challenge I see is that things are so much more expensive here even after airfare it might be cheaper to do it in another country and get the exotic location to boot!

      As for me, anytime anybody invites me anywhere to speak and hang out with cool people, I’m there!

  12. Mrs EconoWiser says

    Good to have you back and thanks for pointing out Johnny Moneyseed’s blog.

    Oh, how I wish I could’ve joined you guys. Well, since I’m pregnant I would have missed out on MMM”s rose anyways…so maybe next time?!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thank you Mrs. EW and congrats on the pregnancy!

      Personally I still prefer my whiskey and wine in different glasses and separated by time.

      It would be very cool to see you at a future event. One of my few disappointments was that we didn’t have anyone from your side of the pond!

      Start lining up the babysitters now!

  13. The Kechi One says

    Glad you are back! I’ve been going through your archives since you’ve been away and still, after reading them for the tenth time, I find something I’ve either missed or forgotten. You’ve got a great body of work here!

  14. Darrow Kirkpatrick says

    Sounds like a fascinating and inspiring week. I’ve found that the people who read our blogs and are truly committed to FI are some of the most fascinating and alive people on the planet. It doesn’t matter where you are on the path. Something about that mindset just leads to interesting lives. This event proves it!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Very true!

      For all the diversity of the group, each person without exception is consciously charting their own course. That can’t help but lead to interesting places.

      When we did Cheryl’s Passion Test, one of the personal goals I wrote was “to meet new and interesting people.” Writing this blog has opened up contact with a whole range of folks fitting that description. You, for instance!

  15. Linda says

    Welcome back Jim! The event sounded like a great success, thanks for sharing your experience.

    Only wish we could have come, but we’re a bit too far away in little New Zealand 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      It would have been very cool to have some Kiwis like you there, Linda!

      Organize o Chautauqua in NZ and I’ll come to you!

  16. Giddings Plaza FI says

    Thanks for sharing this! I’ve read J.D. Roth’s story also, and looking forward to a couple others. You are 100% right when you wrote “If your goals involve FI, intentional living and personal freedom, in most circles you’re the odd one out. Talk about this stuff to most of your family, friends and co-workers and they’ll look at you like you have two heads.”

    My friendship group is pretty extensive, and mostly involves people with good incomes doing whatever they can to spend said incomes. It gets tough trying to live a more sustainable life, and I don’t like talking about it much because people often feel judged…I’m still figuring out to to successfully keep my great friends and live the “less stuff”, sustainable life I believe in.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      My pleasure, GP.

      This is a tough issue and has I’ve said, the most common thing I heard from the folks attending was how refreshing it was to be with people who “get it.”

      For my part, I try to take my friends as they come and relate to them in the areas where our interests intersect.

      Most have zero interest in this stuff, and that’s OK.

      But I will say that one of the most satisfying things about having started this blog is that it has put me in contact with so many people who are on the same path. Getting to hang out with a bunch at the Chautauqua was the pinnacle. At least so far.

      As Darrow said above, “… people who read our blogs and are truly committed to FI are some of the most fascinating and alive people on the planet. It doesn’t matter where you are on the path. Something about that mindset just leads to interesting lives.”

      I’m just honored I get to associate with them!

  17. PFgal says

    Welcome back! I’m disappointed I had to miss it, but I’m thrilled to hear that you all had such a wonderful time. And like you said, you got to return to what I think is the best season in New England. I can’t wait for apple picking, hot cider and baking, though I’m sure there’s something to be said for visiting the Andes, too 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks PFgal!

      It would have to great to have you with us. Every time I’m there I pause and think, “Man. I am in the bloody Andes!”

      Riding the motorbike yesterday we passed thru some apple orchards and the smell was just intoxicating. Plus the fall colors are yet to come.

      There is no place in the world I’d rather be in the fall than here. Which is why I am. 🙂

  18. Clint says

    First off, I wanted to thank you for the service you are providing by sharing thoughts on your blog. Personal finance is something I’ve become very interested in in the past few years, and your take on it is far and away the most coherent, simple, and well-written information I’ve ever found. I’ve read every post many times, and I’m constantly sharing it with my friends and family. It’s my go-to for solid answers on how to structure my financial life.

    I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d read your work earlier. I spent my 20s saving nothing but a paltry 5% in a 401K, in which I chose a fund completely at random. I then spent the early part of my 30s trying my hand at everything from futures trading to stock day trading to following Jim Cramer’s calls, all to complete dead ends. Luckily, I was always pretty conservative with these things, so I never lost much money, but I certainly never made any. I cringe, daily, to think of how much more money I would have if I were to have saved more, and put everything in VTSAX.

    But at least I’ve woken up now, and I’m on track. And that’s because of you. This is the serious gift that you are giving the people who are willing to pay attention.

    A question:

    At 34, I’ve traveled a fair amount in the US, but I’ve yet to leave the country, which is pretty embarrassing. There are so many places I want to see, but with only $80K saved and the pressure to make up for so much lost time, the idea of taking a yearly (or every other year) vacation to an exotic land seems like regular huge steps backwards.

    That said, there’s no telling what the future holds, and if I plan to keep my head down and not leave my house until I’m financially independent, who’s to say I’ll live that long? What’s the balance?

    Essentially, I’m asking a micro question and its greater macro brother:

    How do I think about travel?

    How much did I hobble myself by not saving more and understanding the right way to invest until now? Am I too late?

    Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions on the blog. I can’t say I won’t have more in the future!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Clint…

      Thanks for the very kind words. I’m very glad you’ve found the stuff here of value.

      Let me start with your last question first: You are at 34 certainly not too late. In fact, starting now, you will vastly eclipse anything I’ve achieved.

      The truth is, if I know anything about this investing stuff it is because I spent decades making expensive mistakes. When I was in my 30s I still had the impossibly naive notion that the secret was picking individual stocks and/or active mutual fund managers. Today I cringe when I here people tout this stuff. It is painful hearing my own flawed arguments played back.

      Sounds like you got such nonsense out of your system much earlier than I. Kudos!

      Let’s look at that 80k a moment. Just for fun, let’s assume the market returns an average of 10% a year going forward, about what it has done in the past. At that pace your money doubles about every seven years. That gives you:

      age 41: 160k
      age 48: 320k
      age 55: 640k
      age 62: 1280k
      age 69: 2560k

      $2,560,000. This if you just leave it alone and never add a dime. Which you most certainly will, and should.

      Of course, reality will unfold differently. Inflation will reduce the spending power of this money. The market could have lower average returns. Or they could be much higher. That’s not the point. The point is the power the years will bring.

      As to your first question about how to balance investing with savings, here’s my thought.

      At our recent Chautauqua during my presentation I made the following confession:

      I’ve spent every dime I’ve ever made.

      Thing is, I spent a lot of them buying investments which in turn buy my freedom. So for me, it has never been about deprivation. Rather it has been about buying what is most important to me: Freedom. Fancy cars, houses and the like were distant and far less appealing choices.

      Travel, however, has always been a close second and I’ve never regretted the money I spent on it. But then, I enjoyed my work and never had the burning desire to retire.

      To have F-you money so I could step to the side when I wished, yes. But that takes much less than what you need to retire and never work again.

      One of the more interesting concepts to me these days, is the idea of building a stash that you can let ride and then switching to work that, while it might pay less, is more fulfilling and still covers the basic bills.

      Whether you use your money to buy travel or investments or anything else is a very personal call. But I’ve always found that understanding that buying freedom was a purchase that could be compared to any other alternative choice was a very useful way to look at it. Hopefully it will help you strike the balance that best suits you.

      Finally, no need to be embarrassed that your travels haven’t taken you out of the USA. This is a huge and stunningly beautiful country. Anyone could spend a lifetime exploring it and still not do it justice.

      For anyone to judge the degree to which you are a “traveler” by the number of stamps in your passport is nothing but ego. All that matters is the experiences you enjoy.

      Hope this helps! If your USA travels bring you out to NH, coffee is on me!

  19. Laurie says

    Wow – this sounds like the coolest event. So glad you guys had a great time. What better time than to discuss PF and other dreams, and to help others at the same time. Very, very cool.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      You know, Laurie, it really was.

      Looking back, it was one of the best and most fun weeks of my life.

      Thank you for your generous spirit in celebrating it with us even though you couldn’t be there. You would have made it even better.

  20. Menon says

    Hi Jim
    The Ecuador trip has brought about a massive change in the way I think. As per your advice, I have already closed my fidelity account and etrade accounts, opened vanguard account and moved majority of my fund to VTSAX. I am also investing a small portion in VEMAX. I also closed a VUL account that I had got suckered into a while back and moved the funds to vanguard.

    Thank you again for giving solid, simple advice. Now that I am hooked to this stuff I am attacking each of my personal finance areas one by one.

  21. tom erceg says

    Hey Jim I thought I’d finally get around to giving you an update on my situation. The Executive Summary: “Thumbs Up!”

    I justified going to Ecuador with the idea that one new investing idea would pay for the trip. That turned out to be true! I think I was about 60% in cash when I first reached out to you. I’d invested some more before going down there, but after our talk I finally got off my butt and am now about 90% invested. I’m sure I have more cash on the sidelines than you would, but I’m comfortable holding onto some dry powder. It helps me sleep at night.

    So I took your advice and consolidated my IRA to be 100% in VTI. My brokerage accounts are also about 50% in VTI. It’s interesting how my attitude towards stocks has changed now that I’m mostly in the total market. I’m actually much less interested in how stocks are doing. I’m watching CNBC as I type this, listening to the Talking Heads yammer about how this is now a “stock pickers market”. Needless to say, I find that amusing. The decision-making is now out of my hands! I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    I left the Chautauqua quite inspired by the idea that I hopefully only had two years left to work. After the current market melt-up I’n now looking at needing maybe another 10% market rise before I can (mostly) pull the plug. Woo-freakin-Hoo! I’ll revisit the spending model after the first of the year. Basically I think I can hit the eject button from corporate work once my portfolio can cover everything except heath insurance and vacations. I can work part-time at starbucks or a golf course or something like that to cover those expenses.

    I do have a question for you. I still have about $200K in individual stocks. I’ve sold some dogs and re-invested the proceeds into VTI, but the stocks I’m still holding have pretty substantial capital gains. They also all pay out nice dividends, averaging close to 5%. So I’m conflicted about how to handle them. If I sell them I’ll have pretty substantial capital gains, along with distribution recapture from the MLP’s I own. It’s a big ouch. I see a couple of options.

    1) Hold them, enjoy the dividends, and hope their performance tracks the market

    2) Slowly sell them over the course of a few years so the tax burden isn’t too bad

    3) Bite the bullet and eat the tax consequences

    So any thoughts on that?

    Hope things are going well in snowy New Hampshire. We hosted the family Thanksgiving party and it was 70 degrees outside. That’s what we call “mortgage weather”!

    Take care,


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Welcome Tom….

      Glad the Chautauqua provided such value and it great to hear you are within 10% or so of plug pulling time! Well played! Nothing wrong with keeping some powder dry, either.

      And it sounds like you are cultivating exactly the right attitude toward Mr. Market and the likes of CNBC. Once you can watch, laugh and know it is of no more consequence than any other sit-com you have snatched the pebble from my hand, GH.

      OK, all that said, time to toss a little ice water. As you observed the market has been “melting up” in fine fashion. Trouble is the more it melts up the closer we are to the next drop. So plug pulling while melting up is inherently more risky than plug pulling during a melt down. Assuming, of course, adequate assets in place for plug pulling.

      Don’t take this as a bear market prediction on my part. I don’t know when it will come and the bull could easily run much, much longer. Just a word of caution and an urge to consider a bit of “what-if analysis.” That might mean storing up a bit more, planning that alternative job and/or planning lifestyle adjustments if needed.

      As for your three questions, a lot depends on how much of your total stash 200k represents and how many stocks you have-more equaling more diversity. Personally I’d use a combination of your options 1&2. The smaller the percent 200k represents of your total the more I’d tilt to #1. If you need more $$$ for expenses over the years I’d then slowly turn to them first. But definitely don’t feel like you have to run out and sell them, especially with that tax hit loaming.

      No real snow yet here in NH, but we had our first 1″ dusting and winter is in the air. Over T’day you were only about 50 degrees warmer than us.:)

      BTW, I might make a quick trip out your way in January. Seems I have a fan club in LA at Dreamworks. Who knew? 😉


  22. Lisa R says

    I do contract work with Brilliance Audio in Michigan. Brilliance is the largest independent audiobook publisher in the US and uses a lot of voice talent–in addition they are owned by Amazon. There are many non-fiction authors that record their own books there as well (Gloria Gaynor and Tim Ferriss being two notable examples). When you finish your book, I’d look into recording it there for experience. Who knows what could happen? Best of luck.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks Lisa…

      Good to know!

      Once I get the book done, I do hope to produce and audio version. Do me a favor? When you notice the book is out, ping me again?


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