Life on the Beach

This FI life is tough, what with all the having to choose between this fun activity and that.

For the last several weeks we have again been ensconced in Shamba, my in-laws’ Lake Michigan beach house which they so graciously let us use.

Traditionally we do this in July, when the weather is warm and sunny. But that would bump up uncomfortably close to this:

Chautauqua United Kingdom, 2017

So we’ve had to make adustments.

Yeah, I know. Poor me.

My life on those past visits was a simple one. I’d arrive, remove my shoes and spend the time walking the beach or hanging in the house. I’d hardly notice anything else outside the door.

But this time of the year sun and warmth are rarer and winter-tinged winds and rain more common. The result is I’ve spent, for the first time, time in the woods behind the house following deer trails and joining Mrs. jlcollinsnh in her trips visiting the small towns around and about.

Mr. 1500, who came to visit, even discovered a small, isolated old graveyard nearby with tombstones dating to the 1700s on one of his runs. We all hiked over to check it out the following day.

Mr. 1500 at Shamba contemplating his next major “investment”

Along with him Brent, one of the Chautauqua attendees from last October came up from Chicago to hang out for the weekend.

Rounding out that particular weekend, The Wealthy Accountant and his lovely wife came down from their vast country estate in the wilds of northern Wisconsin. Maybe to visit us, maybe to just experience electricity.

Yes, this is the same Wealthy Accountant who has referred to me as “a pompous ass,” and that was before he had to spend a weekend with me.

Curious as to how that went? Conclave is his report.

The real reason Mr. 1500 came was not to visit, but to use Shamba as a convenient place from which to stage his next acquisition.

He’d been searching for sometime and this prospect just happened to show up just an hour or so from here. I joined him to take a look, and while promising, it didn’t look like the deal would get done. Indeed, he flew back to Colorado empty handed.

But negotiations continued and cooler heads prevailed. A deal was struck. Two weeks later he was back to close on and retrieve this little sweetheart:

1991 Acura NSX

If this particular car strikes you as not particularly practical, sensible or frugal (but likely reliable being basically a Honda), you’re right. It’s not.

But then, Mr. 1500 is no longer on the path to financial independence. He’s there, and then some.

My council (and yes, he asked) was that we seek FI for the freedom it provides and the now easily affordable options it opens up. If one of those option that attracts is a cool old car, I say go for it. No different than my in-laws’ Shamba or my own two month journey to Asia earlier this year.

Indeed, should he tire of it a year or three down the line he’ll likely be able to sell it on for what he paid. Maybe more. After all, these were selling in 2008 for only $25,000.

Anyway, off he went in (again) this:

And we returned to this:

While here, we’ve had some car adventures of our own.

Upon arriving I happened to notice a rather large puddle of oil under Steve, our trusty 2007 Subaru Forester. I will be forever grateful that Steve chose to hold on until we reached Shamba rather than dumping out his oil on the Tri-State Tollway in the middle of the 80 mph, bumper-to-bumper traffic that is harrowing enough without the engine seizing thank you very much.

Steve, the Subaru

We were all set to take Steve to the dealer when, on the recommendation of my in-laws, we called Carlton Automotive.

Carlton’s swanky new digs

Nick asked all the right questions and I set up an appointment. They gave us a loaner and the next day we picked up our leak-free Forester.

The service was friendly and efficient, and they explained everything clearly. And they invited us to their Saturday brat & burger fund raiser for the local volunteer fire department.

Seemed like the whole town showed up.

We got to meet most of the Carlton team, including Al the mechanic who made the oil leak disappear.

We were so impressed, we elected to have them replace the car’s struts and tires, two items that could have easily been put off for 6-12 months more. (their opinion and mine)

But I figured with our “year-of-hotel-living” US tour coming up this fall, we might as well get the old jalopy ready with folks we’d come to trust and who made it easy.

In fact they were so eager to make a good impression on us, a couple of months earlier they burned down their old place just to have an excuse to build the swanky new one. This might also be the reason they were hosting the fund-raiser for the FD.

Burning down the old place in preparation for our arrival*

Anyhow, if you’re ever in the area and need your car tended to head on over and tell ’em I sent you. They’re sure to respond with an enthusiastic…


Let’s see, what else?

Jake the Wonderdog…

…got a nice lamb bone on his arrival from his Aunt Jo to keep him happy between walks in the woods and on the beach.

When we move on, we’ll head to Southern Ohio to visit Alyssia and Kevin who wrote The Ballad of Chautauqua last year:

(if you have trouble seeing the imbedded video, you can also find it on YouTube)

Between just hanging out, I’ve also fielded some very interesting questions/comments from around the blog. Here are a few you might find worth checking out:

Calidude asked a question I am surprised has never been asked before. Namely, once you are fully FI and the marginal utility of additional wealth is minimal, isn’t the idea of much more heavily weighting bonds in your allocation – as you no longer need to accept the risk of stocks – worth considering? It is, after all, what many financial planners recommend. Here’s our conversation

Fireby35 brought up the in this comment the mistake of mixing insurance and investment, which gave me a chance to share an email conversation on the subject with a friend of mine.

Tim Cullum called me out (as did a few others) on my failure to write the annual Louis Ruykeyser Memorial Market Prediction Contest post this year and I give my excuses

Volwat asked another question I’m surprised has never come up. Basically, doesn’t the huge US national debt scare me? Indeed it does

TheBofaontheSofa (great handle!) asked a question about setting up a taxable accounts and harvesting gains and losses and…

In short becoming paralyzed and not investing at all. A great illustration of the dangers of making this stuff too complex and over thinking it. Plus it gave me the chance to sum up this blog and my book in one sentence:

“Buy VTSAX, buy as much as you can whenever you can and otherwise ignore it; give it a couple of decades and wake up rich.”

The comments around here are worth reading, I think.

Also worth reading are these books I’ve had time for here during the rain:

A sci/fi novel from one of the old masters. Cool concepts and ideas, plus it is fun to see how technology and its future looked from the 1950s.

This history book of the American South West reads like an adventure novel. A remarkably even handed treatment of the conflicting needs and interests of the Indians, Hispanics and Anglos.

If Krueger sounds familiar, it might be because I recommended his series of novels in my last post. This one features an entirely new cast of characters and one of the most interesting and well crafted villains I’ve come across in some time.

Mr. 1500 brought me this one as a gift from the author, who even autographed it with a nice personal message to me. Inside I silently groaned. Most of the time, when I get these books, I find them falling short and not worthy of my time. Or yours.

But Mr. Trench has done a fine job with this one. My book/blog is about what to do with your investable money once you’ve figured out how to organize your life in such a fashion as to have investable money. But often I get readers asking how to do that.

Set for Life provides a well staged and detailed blueprint.

I do, of course, have some quibbles. Trench is a real estate investor and sometimes seems to gloss over the challenges and risks of that approach. He also categorizes retirement accounts as “false assets.” While I take the point he is trying to make, and you will too, this unnecessarily muddies the waters.

Seems I’m not the only one to have pointed this out. The book provides a rather lengthy appendix seeking to clarify the subject.

In my view he, and his readers, would have been better served had he just omitted the reference to them. The book doesn’t need it.

But these are quibbles and small ones at that. This book is well written and well worth reading, especially by those starting on their journey to financial independence. As I read thru it, my recurring thought was it would make a fine companion to my own.

*or just maybe it was an accident


Mark your calendar! June 2nd is this blog’s 6th birthday. Time do fly.


Speaking of flying, the flight of this eagle off the world’s tallest building is amazing

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Important Resources

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  • 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. Mustard Seed Money says

    Wow sounds like Life on the Beach is amazing especially when Mr. 1500 can show up with an NSX!!! Those are sweet cars and I had a co-worker that LOVED his. He said he would never drive another car and was constantly on the look out to acquire more of them as he felt like they would go up in value. Hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation and enjoy watching VTSAX go up!!!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yep, the cool guests this place attracts is part of the fun!

      How many NSXs did your co-worker wind up with?

  2. wendy says

    What a nice sounding chunk of time – family, friends, community… nice walks in nature, good books to read, and the anticipation of further adventures.
    Hmmmm, maybe this FI thing has some upside after all! 😉

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Yeah, it ain’t bad!

      Beats the hell out of working extra decades to lease fancy cars and live in McMansions.

      Or, maybe that’s just me 😉

  3. Mr. 1500 says


    Thanks so much for the mention and for sharing Shamba. That little piece of real estate is a magical place. But, I must firmly object to this statement:

    “The real reason Mr. 1500 came was not to visit, but to use Shamba as a convenient place from which to stage his next acquisition.”

    The reason I showed up was not to visit you or even look at the NSX. I showed up to indulge in your lovely wife’s cooking.

  4. Keith Schroeder says

    What is this electricity you speak of? You never showed me this electricity. What does it do?

    (I did discover a funny cow with spots after drinking the beer at Shamba.)

    Maybe next year.

    P.S. I noticed there are no dinosaur books on your reading list.

  5. Mrs.Wow says

    How fitting, I recently finished your book and am just about to start reading Set For Life. Sounds like the FI life is treating you just dandy… Oh and a few of the chautauqua peeps may or may not be scheming up some musical greatness for this year.

  6. Ed says

    Hi jlcollinsnh,

    when I first read about Chautauqua I thought it sounded interesting. I’m not sure who it’s really aimed at but it seems to be those who’ve already achieved FI. I’m referring to how much it costs. I’ve got a reasonable idea how I’ll achieve FI in <=15 years. After all, we have access to Vanguard funds here in the UK, too. It does seem to be a get-together for those who've long ago got it together, financially. Not people who are on the road to it.
    In the meantime, I'll keep buying the FTSE250 and S&P500.


    • Connie says

      As a past attendee of Chautauqua, I can emphatically say it is not just for people who have already arrived at FI. My group had a whole spectrum, from people just starting out, to those who were just about ready to FIRE, to those already there. The group of people was amazing and I learned just as much from them as I did from the bloggers. Loved it and highly recommend going.

      Of course, it is not for those in hair on fire debt emergency, since attending Chautauqua is most definitely a luxury. But like any travel, or other luxury, it is just a thing we choose to prioritize!

    • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials says

      Hi Ed,

      Another past attendee here. I went towards the beginning of my FI journey and am so grateful I did. I learned a ton, got valuable 1 on 1 feedback tailored exclusively to my situation, got inspired to kick-start my rental property side hustle, and made amazingly solid relationships with the other attendees. This network is still going strong and still providing value years later. I can’t recommend going enough! In fact, I had such a great time I’m going back again this fall and am anxiously counting down the days 🙂


    • Ed says

      Thank you for replies, Connie and Gwen.

      I just seems strange that it costs so much, when one of themes of FI is frugality and simplicity (let’s be honest, passive investment).

      If people are learning other ways to FI then I can understand.


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Ed…

      When I was first developing the concept, I figured it would attract those who were either FI or well on their way.

      As you’ll discover as you close in on it for yourself and the snowball is growing, suddenly what seemed (and was) a lot of money begins to seem much more affordable.

      As I said in the post, regarding Mr. 1500’s NSX (another Chautauqua alum), one of the reason for pursuing FI is the world of options it opens.

      That said, and as you heard from Connie and Gwen, we have had attendees that were much closer to the start of their FI journey than the end.

      • Ed says

        Hi jlcollinsnh,

        Thanks, that answer makes sense. So it was aimed at those closing in on FI or already there. The snowball you mentioned is gathering mass so maybe I’ll be able to justify going one year.

  7. Galen Stevens says

    My brother in-law lives over that way. Nice area. I highly recommend Faye’s Pizza in Sheboygan, yum. Come see the Michigan side of the lake sometime; we’ve got sand dunes over here.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Galen…

      Thanks for the tip on Faye’s; we’ll give it a try.

      We’ve been on the MI side and it is gorgeous, too. But no one there has offered us the use of a free Shamba. 🙁

  8. John @ The Millennial Plan says

    Great to see you guys are enjoying the FI life. Just finished your book – I brought it up enough times over dinner with my (25 year old) girlfriend that even she has set up an equity account, at least as long as I limit the dinner conversation to more exciting topics (for her) for the foreseeable future. I’m calling it a win regardless.

  9. Fireby35 says

    I was feeling sheepish about buying a 1991 Mercedes SL 300 for $10,000. I justified it by saying I’m 32, nearly FI with no plans to quit my high-income job and it is still only 10k. Still, I felt sheepish.

    You and Mr. 1500 make me feel a little bit better 🙂

    • Mr. 1500 says

      Hey Fireby35! I feel completely ridiculous, but I’ll get the car out of my system. Your $10,000 is much better than my $45,000 too.

      The main thing I evaluated before I bought the NSX were holding costs. Surprisingly, it is a cheap car to own. The insurance is under $400/year and it’s reliable.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      On the occasions when I’ve thought about doing such a thing, a ~10k SL was high on my list. Sweet cars!

      But I was always put off by the prospect of pricy Mercedes repairs.

      How has yours worked out for you?

      • Fireby35 says

        Wow – I can’t believe I got both the famous people to answer my comment!

        So far it’s been ok. I actually paid 7 and then put 3 into repairs after purchase. I expected some of that, so not a big problem.

        Pretty cool on nice days to be able to put the top down and take my wife out. Since we have three kids under 5, it is a nice change of pace. It is also kind of amazing all the bells and whistles it had considering it was built in 1991. I like to think of myself as driving a car that cost $90,000+ 26 years ago.

        Although, I still feel embarrassed while driving it so I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep it around.

  10. swedg says

    I am interested in hearing about your Year-of-hotel-living you tossed out there while discussing Steve’s repairs. How do you select the properties where you will “reside”? What about eating reasonably while in temporary digs?

  11. Jerry says

    I thought Blood and Thunder was a great book too. It was recommended to me from a shop keeper in an Indian-American art gallery in Santa Fe. Some of the items talked about in the book were available (>$50,000) in this gallery..pretty cool

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Do you remember which items the gallery had?

      While reading the book I found myself often wondering if this thing or that was in some collection somewhere….

  12. FIRECracker says

    Singing: “it’s a hard knock life…” 🙂

    That view from your window in Shamba is pretty spectacular, I must say. Just make sure you don’t feed the deer…those guys will murder you for a cookie.

    Too bad the timing didn’t work out for us to visit you in Shamba. Oh well. That’s why we’ve got Chautauqua UK! Counting down to EPICness in 3…2..1..

  13. Vorlic says

    Steve the indestructible Jap academy sh**box lives on!

    Tell Mr 1500 that one can buy, for example, a 2005 Mercedes-Benz S Class for less than £1500 over this side of the pond. That will be our next family car when the current indestructible Swedish academy sh**box (Volvo V40) goes to car heaven.

    • jlcollinsnh says


      Don’t let Steve hear you say that!

      Years ago I worked with some sales guys who would buy the big S-class sedans about 10 years old for about 10k. They put another 2-3k into them and they’d have a car that looked like a 100k ride.

      Being a Mercedes, they still felt rock solid.

      But one time I asked about maintenance costs and the reply was that they put aside $400 a month for this. Yikes!

      You can lease some pretty nice cars for $400 a month…. 🙂

      • Vorlic says

        Yeah, car finance is the best thing since sliced bread 😉

        Actually, the good lady says we should be buying a nice VW Transporter for our FI road trips… Can’t argue with that. Or her. Just so long as I’m allowed to strap my Yamaha TDM850 on the back!

  14. Friendly Russian says

    I hope you have more time for riding your motorcycle, sir!
    Every time when I start my motorcycle and hit the road, I know exactly why I am pursuing FI.
    Enjoy your time, it’s please to read your blog. And hope next year I will meet this Jim Collins 🙂

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Job #1, when I get back to NH, is to get the Triumph out of storage and on the road. 🙂

      Unfortunately, Job #2 is to clean it up, photogragh it and put it on Craig’s List for sale in preparation for our “year-of-hotel-living” 🙁

      I’m always up for meeting friendly Russians 😉

  15. Kevin Serey says

    Looking forward to the visit. We are grateful that you are able to make time…and hope you enjoy Ohio.

  16. Scott Trench says


    Sounds like things are going great for you! I just wanted to comment here and thank you for taking the time to read and review my book. I’m so glad that you found it’s overall message appealing and useful. It’s a real honor!

    Thanks so much! I hope to one day cross paths in person!


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks for sending it over, Scott.

      I really did enjoy it and, more importantly, I think my readers will too.

      I, too, hope our paths will cross. Maybe we’ll get you out here to Shamba one of these days?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      I haven’t paid much attention to bitcoin, although I did see this, also in your link) recently:

      “Those who bought $100 of bitcoin at the 0.003 cent price on May 22, 2010, would now be sitting on around $72.9 million.”

      Pretty astounding investment return. Whether that makes makes for a sound currency is another question.

      Still, I think the idea of removing currency we trade stuff in from the control of governments is a intriguing idea and maybe the future as the world grows tighter together.

  17. Dave Mackie says

    An excellent post as usual.

    Clarke wrote “Against the Fall of Night” in 1953 and a few years later expanded it into “The City and the Stars” Both good, but the earlier version was better (imho)


    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks, Dave!

      In the edition I’m reading, Clarke talks about that in the Preface.

      I get the feeling he prefers his second effort and, interestingly, he says he wrote to incorporate changes in scientific knowledge since the first version.

      I should give “Against the Fall of Night” a read.

  18. Catherine says

    Ah rats, my 18-year-old is just down the coast from you, finishing up her first year at Northwestern University. I’d sure love to have you two meet and have her hear from someone besides me about money and time and investing and such. She landed a sweet internship in her field for this summer and the company offers interns their 401K (have yet to determine if a match is offered). I don’t know how hard it will be to convince her to stash some of her earned pot of gold into a 401K. She’s being paid well and she wants to use some of the money to do a study abroad program in her field. Lots of competing uses for money at this age. Or maybe any age. It’s time to share with her the lists you made for your daughter. Thanks for everything you do.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      We would have been happy to have her visit, but we leave on Wednesday. Sounds like she is off to a great start.

      You might suggest a Roth rather than the 401k as her tax bracket is likely very low as an intern.

  19. Matt H says

    Loved the auto theme…I did feel a bit bad about just spending $7K on a fairly rare 2009 Chevy Cobalt SS turbo coupe. I feel a bit better now though, so thanks for that!

    I probably have 10 years to FI, partially due to plans on staying in the high cost SF Bay Area. One of my current and FI goals is becoming more handy repairing cars….

  20. Dave says

    That sounds like such a nice time with friends, family, and other bloggers. The chautauqua in England looks like it will be an amazing event. I will actually be in London while it is going on. I would love to be able to attend. Maybe another time.

  21. Mr. Hammocker says

    Excellent article. The worst day on the beach is better than the best day in the rat-race. The freedom to choose what you do on any given day is exhilarating. Look forward to more great posts!

  22. Julie at Nest Egg Chick says

    How beautiful! It sounds like the perfect vacation. I’m also especially loving your one sentence summary,
    “Buy VTSAX, buy as much as you can whenever you can and otherwise ignore it; give it a couple of decades and wake up rich.”

    I’ll definitely be quoting you (as I continue to follow the good advice.) Thanks for your wisdom!

  23. ZJ Thorne says

    Having to choose which fun to have is an excellent conundrum. Thanks for continuing to provide us with glimpses into what freedom can look like. It’s definitely motivating.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      My pleasure, ZJ…

      This type of post is fun to write and so I’m glad to hear at least some folks enjoy reading them.

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