Trading derivatives on the path to Financial Independence and Early Retirement

Derivatives and FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement) sound like two things that don’t mix. Like oil and water. Financial derivatives (options, futures, etc.) have the aura of opaque and highly risky investments. On the way to Financial Independence, most people are either oblivious to derivatives or avoid them like they carry communicable diseases. Probably derivatives are also traded in some smoke-filled backroom or an illegal gambling joint, right?

Let’s look at the myths vs. facts!Read More »


We just saved $42,000 by not switching to Betterment

There is a popular car insurance commercial featuring someone who “just saved a ton of money by switching to GEICO.” How much is a ton of money? $400? Well, by that measure we just saved more than “100 tons of money” or a whole century worth of car insurance savings. And we didn’t do so by switching, but by not switching our brokerage account. Ka-Ching, how easy was that?Read More »


The Great Bond Diversification Myth

Bonds diversify your equity portfolio risk. Everybody knows that, right? Well, how much diversification potential is there, really? Much less than we thought! (For full disclosure, though, bonds still serve a purpose, but it has nothing to do with diversification!)

Pop Quiz: Over the last 10 years, a portfolio of 80% stocks (U.S. Broad Equity Market) and 20% bonds (U.S. Aggregate Bond Market) had what correlation with the stock market?

A: 0.998

B: 0.857

C: 0.800

D: 0.683

The correct answer is A: the correlation was +0.998, so an 80/20 Stock/Bond portfolio would have been extremely highly correlated with the stock market. We might as well round it up all the way to 1.0 because from a statistical, financial and economic perspective that’s pretty much a perfect correlation. This correlation coefficient is for a broad U.S. stock market ETF (use Vanguard’s US Total Market VTI) vs. a portfolio made up of 80% Vanguard’s VTI and 20% Barclays Aggregate bond index (we used the iShares AGG total returns). Monthly returns are from 07/2006 to 07/2016.Read More »


Beat Behavioral Bias: Mental Accounting

A lot of economic and financial research deals with behavioral biases, those occasions where the mind plays tricks with us and leads even very intelligent people down the path of irrational and sub-optimal decisions. Other bloggers have pointed out some of these biases before, see Plan Invest Escape on cognitive biases. Also, Northern Expenditure wrote an interesting post on the temptation of instant gratification over saving for the future. Among all the different biases, Mental Accounting is not that well-known but it’s one of the most fascinating. Mental accounting, sometimes called Framing, shows up in human behavior in the following ways:

Intentionally or unintentionally creating different buckets of money and ignoring the fact that money is fungible; displaying different degrees of risk aversion and/or different propensities to consume out of different buckets.

Quite intriguingly, in personal finance the mental accounting bias is not only committed frequently, sometimes it’s even celebrated as a great innovation. It’s not a defect, it’s a feature! Some of the well-known financial gurus fall for this fallacy and are not even ashamed!Read More »