10 Years Riding The Bus = $84,000 Saved

Sitting on the couch last night was chatting with the spousal equivalent (“SE”) about how NextDoor is awful. Cue a recent bus rider shaming post that really bothered me:

NextDoor somehow is worse than both Facebook and Twitter. Please @ me.

We talked a bit and then realized SE has been riding the bus to work, or biking, for the last 10 years. Wow, time flies. Somehow, neither lice nor French whore encounters have been a problem. #praise

There are a number of reasons that transit SE likes to support and use transit:

  • Traffic congestion reduction (buses move far more people than the typically single occupant cars common in the US)
  • Cost savings
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Social unity / exposure
  • Etc

On the cost savings front we estimated that over the last 10 years we saw approximately $84,000 of savings for our family.

  • $200 per month parking x 10 years = $24,000 (Comparison from co-workers)
  • $6000 per year vehicle cost x 10 = $60,000 (About 1/3 less than the average cost per year from AAA since Cali is hella expensive but we’re cheap. Results may vary.)

SE bus cost is covered by employer so if paying the $72 monthly out of pocket would reduce the savings by $8,640 for a total 10 year savings of roughly $75,360.

We took the savings and went on a fat family trip to Vegas and Hawaii which was awesome. Just kidding. We put most of it into index fund investments to grow and throw off dividends until the end of our days.

Wanted to share our public transit savings story in case you’re also interested in saving the better part of $100k every 10 years and putting it to work for you instead of sending it out the exhaust pipe.

Bikes and scooters are fun.

Free Rides with Jump (Uber) Bikes and Scooters – New Yellow Icon Drop Zones

Jump is a company owned by Uber that operates dockless electric scooter and bicycle rentals in a number of cities. I’ve been riding their electric bikes regularly for the past few months and they are the best dockless bicycles I’ve tried. If you are in a city they operate in I highly recommend trying them out – they’re fun, easy, and fast.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a new feature on the Uber app (which is the app used to rent the Jump bikes and scooters). The map that shows available bicycles (red) and scooters (green) now had yellow icons as well. The below map of San Diego shows this:

When I clicked on the Yellow Icon for more information I was greeted with a message that any trip completed in this “drop zone” would be free and potentially also credit my account with reward points. I was skeptical but took a regular trip and parked it in a drop zone. When my billing receipt for the trip came the total cost was $0.00 instead of the current pricing of $.15 (15 cents) per minute. Awesome! I haven’t been able to figure out if I’m also accruing reward points, or what those points are, to date.

The information in the app is worded a little confusing but based on my experience of about eight trips ending in drop zones over the past two weeks they have all been free. The drop zone locations have remained in the same places as far as I can tell, which is convenient since there’s one a few blocks from my home.

Hope this information is helpful and that you can check out a (free) Jump ride soon. Cheers!

Real Estate Liability Protection – “The Protection Pyramid”

I wanted to share some thoughts about liability protection in real estate. It’s a frequent topic if you’re interested in investing in real estate and is often centered about how best to hold property – in an LLC, corporation, etc. This is certainly a point to consider but there are many other ways to go about addressing liability and working to reduce your risk. Following is a summary of the biggest areas I’d consider.


I’ve tried to build this pyramid model with the base being the broadest type of liability protection and getting more specific going up. Not every piece of the pyramid will make sense for every property or situation – the intent is to have a comprehensive set of options to consider.

  • Legal
    • Entity Form – Holding a property in an LLC, S Corporation, or other entity form can be considered to separate assets from other assets or investment assets from personal ones. Creating an entity will likely include annual fees and filings with the state. There are different tax and legal elements to consider when selecting a form.
    • Revocable Trust or Will – As part of estate planning a revocable trust can be considered in addition to holding property in an entity or directly.
  • Insurance
    • Property Insurance – Property insurance is typically required if property is purchased with debt and is likely a good idea in case of accidents.
    • Umbrella Insurance – Umbrella insurance goes “on top of” property insurance to provide additional liability for incidents not covered by property insurance or exceeding the insurance coverages.
    • Specialty Insurance – Earthquake, flood, or other insurance policies that may make sense depending on the property location.
  • Operations
    • Property Management – Hiring a professional property manager may be a good idea to make management less time intensive and to have a professional on your team. Additionally, this may reduce your liability related to tenant relations and selection.
    • Diligence
      • Due diligence (before purchase) – Inspections of the property before purchasing can identify potential issues in advance to address or avoid. A general inspection as well as specific inspections for foundation, roof, termites, radon, and other areas can be considered.
      • Ongoing diligence – Annual inspections of the property with an eye to potential water damage (roof, plumbing), safety equipment (smoke detectors, CO detectors, fire extinguishers) can identify current or future concerns to address and avoid ongoing damage.
      • Tenant screening – Considering criminal background, credit history, and other criteria when screening tenants can reduce liability.
  • Equity
    • Equity Stripping – To reduce the amount of value that is potentially at risk in a property you can “strip out” the equity in the property by refinancing the property and taking cash out or through other means.

I hope this set of liability considerations is helpful to you and best wishes in your real estate investing!

A property currently for sale in San Diego (from Redfin.com)

Note: The content of this post is for informational and discussion purposes and is not financial or tax advice. Consult with an advisor before relying on this or any information.

Small Tax Refund? Take 5 Minutes To Make It Larger in 2019

It’s tax filing season in America and given the new tax laws that were effective in 2018 there’s a lot of news about filings and refunds. Many headlines are making hay of the smaller tax refund amounts seen so far. [Note: The amount of your refund is not the amount of tax you pay.]

Here’s an example article from yesterday from Forbes:

As Tax Season Rolls On, IRS Still Reporting Fewer Returns & Smaller Refunds

If you are an employee and receive a W-2 with your wage earnings at the end of the year you can take action now to increase your refund in 2019.

Form W-4 is the IRS form you fill out when you start a job and it tells your employer how much to withhold for taxes from your paycheck. It’s a short, simple form but has a big impact on how much of your paycheck is paid to the government during the year.

The form is mostly your personal info – name, SSN, address. Easy enough. The important parts for the amount of tax withholding are Line 5 and Line 6.

Line 5 – How many allowances you’re claiming. Basically how many people will be on your tax return, usually how many people are in your household. The smaller this number is, the larger the taxes withheld. Entering 0 yields the largest withholding.

Line 6 – You can choose an additional amount to withhold on top of the amount determined by the Line 5 Allowances. $100, $500, or whatever number you want to enter will increase your tax withholding. The bigger this number is, the larger the taxes withheld.

If you want to increase your tax withholding, and most likely your tax refund, in 2019 simply complete Form W-4 and send to your company payroll or HR department.

There’s a debate about whether receiving a refund is a good thing or bad thing. Many, like this Motley Fool writer or this article from US News, think refunds are bad – an interest free loan to the government. I mostly sit on the side of refunds being a good thing. This is primarily because as a CPA I’ve seen people have to deal with a $5,000 tax bill as well as a $5,000 tax refund. It’s typically much easier to deal with a large windfall rather than a large amount due. I personally like to have high withholding because it helps to cover taxes due from side hustle / self-employment income that can be tedious to separately calculate and remit during the year.

However you feel about refunds, if you do want to alter your withholding the simple steps above should help you do it. Cheers.



Note: The content of this post is for informational and discussion purposes and is not financial or tax advice. Consult with an advisor before relying on this or any information.

Some Great Books For Free (Sharebook)

Looking for a good book to read? I have a number I’m done with and happy to send your way if interested. The photo shows the titles and the following list is my ranking from best to worst. Use the request link below if you’d like a book to enjoy and I’ll mail it your way. Cheers!

Some great titles in this stack
  1. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis – Excellent book on two of the most significant economists of the 20th century.
  2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – First book in the His Dark Materials series. Great book and fantastic series despite the floppish movie take. Will soon be adapted by HBO.
  3. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – A short history of humanity and the first in a “sort of” trilogy by the author. Explores big trends over the years and why people are like we are. On the top of many “big thinking people” book lists.
  4. The Hedonism Handbook by Michael Flocker – Bought this as a joke gift at Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR. Ended up reading it myself and loving it. Light reading about enjoying life and not worrying too much because we’re all gonna die anyway. #whysoserious
  5. Big Shifts Ahead by John Burns – An enjoyable read that breaks down the American population by decade born instead of the typical generation splits. Looks at demographic changes of the past and into the future. A suggestion from the very interesting Coach Chad Carson.
  6. The Plundered Planet by Paul Collier – A world famous economist looks at the big problems of the world, especially the developing world, and how we should proceed.
  7. Ego Is The Enemy and The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday – Two titles from the same author on roughly the same topic – a modern interpretation of stoicism and clearing out mental clutter. Quick reads with some interesting history of people you may or may not have heard of.
  8. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy – I have a bias against “business type” books but enjoy reading them. This should probably be higher on the list. Consistent, directed effort over time can yield big results. Motivational and well written.
  9. 401(k)aos by Andy Tanner – A bit of a conspiracy vibe on this one about how not to trust the stock market. I appreciated some of the contrarian takes on retirement accounts and potential risks. Not great overall though.
  10. The Power of Zero by David McKnight – About how to get to the 0% tax bracket. I thought this would be more diverse in topics covered but is mostly about getting your money into Roth IRA type accounts. Some good information if you’re not already familiar with retirement planning and investing. Probably best part is the start and talking about historic and future tax rates.

I’m sending out these books as part of my “Sharebook” campaign – my personal project to send out books I’ve enjoyed and start a number of book chains to continue them being passed after I first ship them.

If you’re interested in receiving a book you can request one via this simple form.  Takes 30 seconds and you’ll get a free book sometime in the future.

Grade Inflation (Living in a 5 Star World)

42 Years To Live

The passing of another year and another birthday rumination post. (2016 was the last one, featuring Chris Rock.)

I was fortunate this summer to spend a lot of time with our family on a road trip across much of the United States, with lots of stops to visit friends and family.  It was great to mostly unplug and see some of the country that was new to us.  I celebrated a birthday during the trip which was appropriate given some recent thinking about my likely life duration.

Thanks to our friends at Social Security it’s easy to get an estimate of how long you have to live.  This simple table lets you look at your age and see how many years you likely have left.  I’m sitting at 36 so most likely have 42 years remaining – expiring around 78 years of age.  Not too bad.

If I’m lucky enough to have good health and my mental faculties for most of the remaining time, say until 70, that leaves 34 years of good health to enjoy friends, family, and time together like our road trip.  If work and financial circumstances work out we’ll have maybe a maximum of once a year to do a couple of week trip somewhere for an extended vacation.  (I should note that one doesn’t need to go on vacation to make memories or enjoy life.)

So with my time left, in a pretty rosy scenario, I’m looking at 34 chances to do something big or break out of the everyday for a little bit. Not too many.

Hopefully I’ll remember to embrace those opportunities and not shy away.

Where to may the road go

How Many Votes To Win? About 10% Of The Population

Today is a primary election day in California with a host of races from local level to state offices and some federal races as well. California is a large state, with about 37 million residents.  However, less than half of that number are registered voters and turnout – especially in primary elections without a presidential campaign – can be low.  Below is a quick summary calculation of the current population and expected turnout for this election.

As the above shows, to win a given office a candidate would likely be able to do so with around 10% of the population voting for them.  Of course this is dependent on the turnout in a given election, how many candidates are in a race, and a number of other variables.  It does seem a relatively useful benchmark for estimating how many votes are needed in a given race to likely win.

If you live in California and haven’t voted yet please consider taking a moment and doing so.  With the increasing amount of mail-in options there has never been an easier time to vote than we have today.

Department of Justice Compels MTS to Improve Ticket Purchase Options

The press release at bottom is from the U.S. Attorney office in San Diego – apparently the Department of Justice took up a complaint that the mobile ticket purchasing option for MTS, Compass Cloud, did not allow for users to purchase senior, disabled, or Medicare tickets on the platform.  MTS has agreed to allow for these options.

It’s not surprising after MTS trailed other cities / regions in allowing for mobile or electronic tickets and still does not have a transfer system (effectively doubling the price for any trip that requires more than one bus line).  Hopefully this step will spur further moment on making it easy and convenient to use the public transport system in San Diego.

 

—————————————————-

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

San Diego, California

 

 

United States Attorney

Adam L. Braverman

 

For Further Information, Contact:

 

Assistant U. S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste (619) 546-7621    

For Immediate Release

 

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Agrees to Improve Accessibility

 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARYApril 16, 2018

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD) have agreed with the Department of Justice to address accessibility issues regarding the purchase of public transportation tickets on their mobile app named Compass Cloud.  Completion of these steps will provide equal accessibility to public transportation riders and bring MTS and NCTD into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

MTS and NCTD offer Senior/Disabled/Medicare (S/D/M) tickets at a variety of locations (e.g., ticket vending machines) to qualified riders at a reduced rate.  The Compass Cloud app allows users to purchase trolley, bus, and other transportation tickets.  The Department of Justice received a complaint alleging that Compass Cloud did not include the option to purchase S/D/M tickets.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California opened an investigation into whether Compass Cloud met the ADA accessibility requirements.  The United States Attorney’s Office determined that Compass Cloud provided an option to purchase standard tickets, but it did not provide an option to purchase corresponding S/D/M tickets that were otherwise offered.  MTS and NCTD fully cooperated during the investigation and agreed to update Compass Cloud by April 30, 2018, to provide equal accessibility to all passengers.

“All public transportation riders must be provided with equal opportunity and accessibility,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman.  “We are pleased that the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District fully cooperated and agreed to quickly update Compass Cloud to accommodate all riders.”

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dylan M. Aste of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.

Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).

 

Kelly Thornton

Director of Media Relations

Office of the U.S. Attorney

Southern District of California

619.546.9726

Please Follow us on Twitter @SDCAnews

San Diego Opposums – MLS Team Name and Mascot

In 2018 San Diego voters will have a ballot measure to decide whether to support a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium project in Mission Valley.  The issue is heated and will draw a lot of attention.

I’ve been thinking about mascot names and would love to see the opposum get some love.  So, below is my draft image for the San Diego Opposums Major League Soccer Team.

Love it? Hate it? Have a better idea?  Let me know.

(At least it’s better than Footy McFooty Face)