Monday, November 23, 2015


We spent a Saturday afternoon recently down on the farm celebrating the birthday of my dad and my youngest daughter who were both born on the same day. On the way back home, it was overcast and cooling off due to a front moving in but we decided to pull over at a local park and walk off some of the cake and ice cream. This is my second time to the park and like the first, everywhere I looked felt like a photo opportunity. Perhaps it is just being out in nature that makes me feel that way. I definitely know that I tend to shy away from taking (or being in) pictures with people in them. I am always more interested in a picture of the landscape sans people.

Speaking of landscapes, we decided to head south for Thanksgiving this year and spend it hiking, boating and perhaps a little turkey eating in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas. I'm sure I will have some stories to tell everyone when I get back. Until then, hope you all have a great day on Thursday with friends and family.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Building a Flatware Chest

Well I finished my project which as you can see is a flatware chest. As a brief recap for those of you new to my blog, a few months ago my wife and I were invited to a formal dinning group where about once a year, we entertain four other couples in our home and fix a formal meal. My wife and I being fiscally conservative people, have been eating off the same chipped and well used plates we got when we were first married and our flatware were all garage sale/auctions specials that we have picked up over the years. Definitely not up to snuff for such an occasion not to mention, I don't even think we had enough to set a ten place setting without resorting to plastic.

Now it is easy to shell out a lot of money of flatware, especially if you get the real silver kind but it made no sense to us. So we picked out a economical stainless set that looks nice but didn't break the bank. Unfortunately we didn't have any place to store them except in the cardboard box they came in. I got to thinking that I could make a box to store them in and make them look much finer than they actually are all in one go. So I built a flatware chest. There weren't any plans for flatware chests that I could find online but I did find a nice looking humidor/jewelry chest plans that I thought I could scale up and refine for my needs. It was also a different style of building small boxes than I have done in the past. Most of mine have been using dovetail or rabbit joinery. This one involved using mitered corners and splines along with veneer for the top surface which I have never used before. Although the process for building the box took a lot more time, I think it ended up nice and it is definitely a style I will attempt again someday when a need for a box arises.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fall Potpourri

Fall is definitely leaving for more southern reaches and though I am sad to see it go, we've had a good run this year. It seemed as if we are well into our third month of cool night time temperatures and pleasant daytime temperatures. We had a dry start to fall which put a damper on the leaf color which wasn't as good this year as it can be. It was still nice.

My old cellphone was disappointingly wearing out. For some reason, it didn't last as long as the one I had before it. The buttons were not functioning properly some of the time, there were large dead spots on the touch screen and the battery life was a matter of hours with light use instead of the days long with heavy use that it was in the beginning. All those I was able to live with but it got to wear it was extremely hard to charge. The plug would go in and as long as I pushed it to apply some pressure it would charge but when I let go, it would stop charging. Not wanting to stand there for several hours holding the cable while my phone charged, I would futz with it for several minutes until I got it to charge without me holding it. However, anyone who walked by and bumped the table where we charge our gadgets would disrupt my charging zen and I would come back a couple hours later to get my fully charged phone only to find it with less charge than when I started. So I cringed and bought a new phone. The above picture is the first one I took to check the new and improved camera functionality of it.

It was fairly breezy that day so all the leaves are a bit blurry but it did a good job for being a panoramic photo. As you can see, I'm not big on raking my yard. For starters, I like the free fertilizer and try to mulch them in as much as possible. Secondly, I have a lot of oak trees which hang onto their leaves well into winter and even on into spring so it is a never winning project. Finally, since we live in southern Iowa, are major snow periods are January and February. In November and December, we typically don't get much snow but do get winter winds. Just a few nights ago, we got some 50 and 60 mph winter winds whipping through the area so all my leaves were replaced by those from somewhere upwind of me. It couldn't help but snicker at those that have been out raking leaves for the last two weeks to make their lawns look immaculate. Not only is it time consuming, but they have to pay to buy bags to put their leaves in to get hauled to the recycling center where it is turned into mulch. Now after the wind, they have to pay and redo all that labor to do it again, all so their lawn looks "clean" until it is covered in snow... or the next wind storm undoes it again.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wrapping up the Details

It's been busy month and if the past is any indication, it's only going to get busier from here until next year. Still I manage to find some time here and there to fuss over the details of my box project that I'm building. Although it is probably pretty obvious with this post what it will be for, the glue is still drying and I need a post, so I will show you pictures of it before I put the contents into it. Once that happens, I can do one final post.

The above picture shows the finish on the outside which I chose to go with a darker color even though it doesn't make the accent inlays stand out as much. I think it just gives it or more antique feeling that I seem to like in most of my projects.

Below shows the inside of the project. This was by far the most time consuming part of the project. I made an inside liner for the box that was rabbited to hold a tray that can slide back and forth or be removed completely along with with some customized pieces in each part for the end function of the box. I used some new type of hardware that I haven't used before to keep the outside of the box completely barren of accessories. The hinges are concealed barrel hinges, one of which you can see on the right side of the box. When they came, their diminutive size had me worried but after installing them, they see big enough though I wouldn't make a box any bigger and still use them. I also used an inset lid stop to keep the lid from falling over backwards.

I lined everything in black felt which was actually harder than I thought to find. After stopping in at the local fabric store, I was unable to locate any and the only other possibility was a trip to the urban jungle or the local super Walmart, neither very appealing to me so I took a gamble and ordered some from online. I ended up selecting some that was labeled as black velvet upholstery hoping that it would be fairly heavy in weight and it was which made it perfect.

I still have to attach the leather bottom to the project and then fill it with the intended items and it will be done. Next up I need to get cracking on the office/spare bedroom remodeling project because June and my brother-in-law will be here before I know it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Meeting of the Bogleheads

I became a Boglehead about five years ago when I read the book Boglehead Guide to Investing. It was definitely an epiphany kind of experience. I had always known that there was something more to investing that I was missing. After all, stories of Wallstreet managers getting rich are numerous and stories of suburb investors aren't. The Boglehead Guide to Investing explained why Wallstreet was getting rich and also showed that we as investors didn't have to help them if we wanted to keep the money ourselves. I did want to keep the money myself and so I have over these last five years.

For those who haven't read my past posts on this subject, a brief recap is as follows. I began my investing career as most do by investing in my companies 401k plans. They always did okay during great times and spectacularly bad during bad times. They never seemed to do as well as the market. Then I realized that the big factor was the limiting number of funds that I had to choose from, many of which were heavily weighted in very volatile categories like Real Estate or Technology. I then hired a financial adviser whom I had to pay extra money off the top to manage my retirement accounts. He balanced my funds so that they weren't so volatile during volatile times but as before, they just never seemed to grow as fast as the market was growing in good times but kept pace with the market when it was plunging. This just didn't seem right to me.

That is why I started searching for the answer which I found in John Bogles argument. There are two main reasons why my retirement investments didn't go up as much as the market. The biggest reason was because I was relying on fund managers and financial advisers to predict the future of the market and that is statistically impossible. In any given year, 80% of them do worse than the market. But what about the 20% that do? Bogle then laid out the second reason which is that hidden and non-hidden management fees eat up the investment return making those Wallstreet cats rich. Of those 20% who beat the market in returns, 75% of them don't if you deduct out all the management fees. So of the original 100% he studied, only 5% of all investment managers beat the market that year. Now if you compare the 5% who did year to year for performance, exactly 0% of all investment managers beat the market over the long term. So if the numbers are completely stacked against you and you are definitely going to lose, what do you do?

John Bogle's solution is to invest in unmanaged total market index funds that mirror the market performance. By doing so, I no longer pay some 3.5 to 5% of all my investment money to manage it using financial advisers or 401k plan managers. These people are not cut from the loop but mutual funds still have managers in Wallstreet (the fellows getting rich) that take up to another 5% in what are referred to as "hidden" fees to actively manage those funds. Index funds don't require active management since they just follow the market so the hidden fees can be reduced from that 5% down to ,05%.

So by investing my money by myself into unmanaged index funds, I went from paying 3.5% of all my retirement funds to have someone invest them plus another .75% to 1.5% on a yearly basis of everything I make to just investing them myself and paying 0.05% of everything I make on a yearly basis to pay someone in Wallstreet to keep the funds mirroring the market.

For the last five years, the investments I have been doing myself have mirrored the market exactly in returns and have beaten my financial adviser by 2 to 3% every year. At that rate, by the time I plan on using those funds, they will be double what they would have been if I had continued to stay with my financial adviser. That's a lot of money that I'm not leaving on the table for someone else.

All this is a prelude to a meeting that took place a week ago when I drove to a nearby urban center to meet with other like minded individuals who refer to themselves as Bogleheads. Thanks to some publicity of late on PBS and NPR about all the stuff above, the movement is starting to catch fire. The turnout at the event I drove to was the largest in their history. Although I find lots of information online and in books on the subject, it is still nice to meet other people face to face who have seen the light and realized that they can make themselves rich instead of Wallstreet. Besides being Bogleheads, all of us wished that we had followed this idea back when we first started investing for our retirements so that we would be that much further ahead. It cracked me up when a college student there said the same thing!

We had a fine lunch and a lot of fun talking about investing for our retirements. Since my "local" chapter (two hour drive) holds a meeting twice a year, I will most likely try to attend more of those meetings to connect with others who are like me. Perhaps though what I would really like to do is try to start up a truly local chapter here in my own town and start passing on what I have learned to others. I think it would be a lot of fun.