October 2019 Best of the Web

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This month we have an excellent selection of articles and podcasts.

For those of you struggling with your finances I hope you’ll leave with both new information and inspiration. And for those of you firing on all cylinders financially, I have a challenge and call to action to pay it forward.

Articles will help you to better understand your investments and social security benefits. For those looking for an advisor to help you, we’ll look at challenges to finding good financial advice.

Articles address some half-truths and outright lies that you frequently hear in the personal finance space.

We also explore how we are using (and being used by) technology, empowering you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.

Bogleheads on Investing (& Improving Financial Literacy) 

Earlier this month, I launched my book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. I wrote the book to share the solid F.I.R.E. principles that have transformed my life, while removing the perception that they require an extreme lifestyle that is not achievable for “normal” people.

I was honored when Rick Ferri invited me to discuss the book on the Boglehead on Investing podcast, allowing me to share some of the principles of FI with the Boglehead community that was instrumental in my education and turnaround with investing. 

Rick and I are hopeful that this will be a first step in bringing the FI and Boglehead communities together to work on our shared mission of improving financial literacy. To those ends, my partners on the book recently announced the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Choose FI Foundation.

I encourage readers to check out the foundation and the Bogleheads forums and to help increase financial literacy and spread the message of financial independence to others.

Piper on Social Security

Darrow and I regularly feature the work of Mike Piper. We’ve been promoting his free Open Source Social Security Calculator since he released it, and we’ve gotten tremendously positive feedback from users.

This month Piper answered the reader question: Can a Year of Low Earnings Reduce My Social Security Benefit?

Physicians on Investing

Jim Dahle, MD wrote Bond Investors Should Not Fear Rising Interest Rates.

The recently retired Physician on FIRE (retired from medicine, not the blog) Leif Dahleen wrote Top 5 Reasons to Exceed 25 Years of Expenses Before Retiring.

Finding Good Financial Advice

Since I’ve been writing about personal finance and investing, my stance that everyone should be a do-it-yourself investor has softened. I’ve realized that many people could use help. But it’s incredibly hard to find good help.

Certified Financial Planner Brent Sutherland explains Why Most Financial Advisors Won’t Tell You to Invest in Real Estate.  

Christine Benz challenges the financial industry to be better at protecting vulnerable consumers, writing Not OK–Why the financial-services industry needs to do better for the financially vulnerable among us.

Sarah O’Brien shares why you can’t necessarily rely on FINRA’s Broker Check database, writing Some brokers game the system to scrub complaints from their records.

Getting Honest

Allan Roth questions four money “truths” writing Take Control of Your Financial Future With These 4 New Rules.

Karsten “Big ERN” Jeske addresses lies bloggers tell about home ownership with How to “Lie” With Personal Finance – Part 2 (Homeownership Edition).

Technology, Happiness and Productivity

Another lie is spending more for new technology will make you happier. Author Cal Newport wrote To Upgrade Your Leisure, Downgrade Your Phone.

Tim Ferriss interviewed tech expert Tristan Harris about how big tech/business is trying to rob us of our attention and how we need to stay on guard when using technology.

Ferriss also talked with David Allen about the Art of Getting Things Done.

A Hand Up

Promoting the book this month gave me a chance to reconnect with the blogger J. Money who writes the blog Budgets are $exy. Don’t be fooled by the silly pseudonym or title of his blog, he is dead serious about helping other people live their best lives. 

I was extremely close to giving up on writing, only a couple of months after starting my original blog, when he featured one of my early articles on another site that he then owned, RockStar Finance. Shortly after, he also took time to sit down and coach me on some technical aspects of blogging. 

I have no doubt that without these acts of kindness and generosity from a then complete stranger, I would have quit writing a few months after starting my blog. This is something I will never forget. 

It is the reason that among the 10-12 articles in these monthly round-ups, I always try to pay it forward by sprinkling in at least one or two from bloggers who don’t have a big following and most of you have likely never heard of, but who are doing great work and sharing different perspectives that need to be heard.

So I’ll close with an inspiring guest post from J’s blog from one of those voices that needs to be heard, that of Deanna Broaddus. She wrote How Getting Sober Changed My Life — And My Money.

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[Contributing Editor Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris' writing has been featured in MarketWatch, Doughroller, Business Insider and RockStar Finance. He is also the primary author of the forthcoming book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at]

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  1. Once again, nice review list Chris. I’m a huge fan of the Open Source Social Security Calculator. I may have even been introduced to it through this site. Although only for a very short period (9 days), I was forced into Cal Newport’s “…downgrade your phone” experiment and found it liberating. While traveling in Ireland this past month, my phone had a hardware issue that could not be fixed until I returned to the States. The first couple of days were frustrating but then I began to appreciate that fact that I wasn’t looking down at it every couple of minutes but rather enjoying myself focused on my trip.

    • Chris Mamula says

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Re: the phone. I use a several year old Samsung Galaxy with w/ a $10/month MVNO plan with very little and expensive data. My family and friends regularly make fun of me and tell me I need to upgrade, but it works perfectly for calls and texts, takes amazing pictures, works well for podcasts which I download when on wifi, and has great battery life which are the only things I care about.

      And I’m perfectly comfortable (and not even able) to be checking the internet, email, social media, etc at every free moment. I view this as a plus. YMMV.

  2. Ron Dickson says

    Thanks for your blog. I wanted to issue a word of caution re the SS calculator. It contains a somewhat hidden parameter that significantly affects the analysis – discount rate. The default rate of the model is extremely low. A simple net present value analysis indicates that taking SS at 62 is a better option if your discount rate exceeds a certain value. This value is around 4%, depending what you assume for life expectancy. The SS administration published an article on this topic: While quite technical, it will help explain the importance of the discount rate you assume in the SS calculator.

    If the NPV concept doesn’t make logical sense, look at the analysis from the other direction. You get the same result if you perform a Future Value analysis – “what interest rate must my portfolio achieve to offset the benefit of waiting to take SS?” By taking SS early, you are conserving retirement funds. If the return on those funds that you are conserving is greater than about 4%, you are better off to take SS early. I am using Vanguard Financial services, who expects a return of about 5% over the nearer term, and around 7% over the longer term. With those estimates, I am taking SS at age 62. The added benefit for me is a psychological one. By taking SS early, I have a strong chance of exceeding the benefits of higher SS raes with age, while also conserving my retirement funds.

  3. Nice work Chris – glad that your work and the ChooseFI book is getting recognized widely!

  4. Thank you for the feature here, Chris, and congratulations on the publication of the Choose FI book! I am delighted to see that Rick Ferri invited you to join him on the Bogleheads podcast, and I look forward to giving it a listen.


  5. Chris – Thanks for a good set of recommended reads/listens. Looking forward to listening to you on Bogleheads later in the week. Probably Allan Roth was most interesting to me since – as you know from previous – of my crusade to find the right answer to “early SS, save the IRA vs Spend the IRA, delay SS”. Running the compare using the opensourcesocialsecurity calculator ran the numbers in the same direction, though not the same magnitures as Kotlikoff’s MaxiFI (which I prefer to do in current dollars not NPV).

    • Chris Mamula says

      Thanks for the feedback. For most people it is tough to delay guaranteed money for a chance at collecting more later, so these tools are valuable to help you make a more objective decision.

  6. Thanks Chris, I really enjoy reading the blog and like several of the links. I used to check out a few other blogs that at one time were listed at RockStar Finance. However the directory there no longer seems to work (I think I read somewhere that RockStar Finance changed hands). I have since found one good substitute in the Collecting Wisdom website ( It has a blogger directory and points out a few good reads every day. I also bookmark the sites that you point out when they appeal.

    • Chris Mamula says

      Yes. Not sure what is going on with RockStar. I know it has been bought and sold at least twice and it recently was down, which is why I didn’t even link to it. Collecting Wisdom does a nice job. Apex Money ( is a newer site being curated by J.D. Roth and Jim Wang that you may find interesting.

  7. Thank you for a great post, Chris! You and Darrow continue to be the go-to site for me. Always enjoy your great articles and information you generously share.