Source: Truck eternally from Clker, Egg from Clipart Kid, BandAid also coincidentally from Clipart Kid, and various cracks from CanStockPhoto

Once upon a time there was an ugly truck.

He was a lonely soul, a poor mess of rust and twisted metal, left to idle all alone. While certainly a sad state of affairs, it hadn't always been this way for him. In his youth as a rental truck, he'd helped families move every which way. Later, he became a work truck, the lifeblood of an independent carpenter. As fulfilling as his past had been, it had also left its fair share of chips and dents and scrapes and scratches, which he wore like badges of honor.

In his present life (though one could hardly call it "living"*), home was a used-car dealership along the side of a small expressway in Fremont, California. With his mangled bumpers, duct-taped roof, graffiti'd paneling, and rusted roll-up doors, he was hidden far away at the back, but not far enough to mute the mocking jeers of the newer trucks at the front. With their lower mileage, more recent model years, gleaming, uncracked paint jobs, and complete lack of leaks, they were much more appealing and were quickly swept off to their new exciting lives. After a while, the ugly truck had lost all hope that he would ever have a purpose in life again, and he resigned himself to decay in silence.

Then one day, a boy appeared at the dealership, nervous and apprehensive. He looked lost and out of place as he ambled around the parking lot, passing diffident, fleeting glances at each of the trucks. Eventually his ambling brought him to the back of the lot, where the ugly truck had been half-halfheartedly watching, not wanting to get raise his dejected spirits for nothing. But it wasn't for nothing! The boy looked hopefully at the ugly truck, his eyes full of future plans. As they drove around the dealership for the first time, the ugly truck knew that things were going to be alright.

[The End]

[...or the beginning, depending on how you want to look at it]

Poorly shoehorned children's stories aside, the truck has been an important part of my life ever since that fateful day, nearly two years ago. Neither of us has metamorphosed into a beautiful swan by any stretch of the imagination, but I'd like to think that we're both improving as time goes on, with each passing project. Not that improving was particularly hard, I mean, look how low the bar was set:

Our sorry protagonist, the ugly truckling.

I only dredge up the truck's roots to highlight how far it's come. I'd previously alluded to some of the work I wanted to have done, and I'm happy to report I just got it back from the shop, shiny and freshly improved.

Truck 2.0

When I first talked to the body shop, I asked them for quotes on a whole gamut of repairs and improvements, ranging from replacing and resealing the entire floor to swapping out the roll-up backdoor for some swing doors. Independently, I researched how much these repairs should cost, and kept a spreadsheet of the maximum price I was willing to pay for each individual unit of truck work. The quote I got back was more than twice the cost of the entire truck, and then some ($21,600!). While the raw magnitude of the price tag was initially shocking to me, it actually wasn't outrageous given the laundry list of improvements I had asked for. I simply said no to each thing that was out of my budget and quickly crossed them off my wishlist. For the remaining, in-budget items, I gave them the proverbial green light. In the end, I ended up having the top radius and corner caps replaced, getting a new driver's side fender, and getting an inner door installed.

No More Leaks

Shiny new top radius and smooth, uninterrupted fiberglass.

By far the biggest problem I had with the truck was the leaks. Not "leaks" in the White House sense of the word, I don't think I have any truck secrets to hide. Rather, "leaks" as in, if I did nothing about it, I would wake up in a dank truck swamp after a rainy night. The increasingly obnoxious and unsightly hacks I had put in place to mitigate the issue weren't going to work forever, it was just a plain ole fact that I needed something more permanent. So I had the cracked, scratched, and dented fixings around the perimeter of the truck-top replaced, figuring that the damage there was causing the leaks. I also had all-new clearance lights installed in the front and back, for good measure.

The good news is that the truck-top was indeed the problem. The bad news is that there is still the slightest of leaks. Like, a multi-hour downpour last week only resulted in a few drops. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I want to bring it back in and have it looked at, or if I should just throw marine sealant at it until it gives up.

Shiny New Headlight

Driver's side headlight, good as new.

I swear, that is an actual, real-life picture of my truck, though I hardly recognize it myself. The fender is all new, as is the headlight and the header panel assembly that everything slots into. You may (or may not) remember that it was damaged early on by some unexplained phenomenon.

Something I realized way after the fact: the headlight may have actually been dislodged earlier than I noticed, maybe even before I bought the truck. My tentative hypothesis is that it just got worse and more noticeable over time, the more I drove it. This is pretty believable because I'm extremely unobservant. And looking at some of my old, grainy, potato-quality photos I could find of the truck, it looks like the headlight may have already been knocked out of its mount. In any case, it's a 1,000% improvement: shiny, new, correctly attached, and forbidden from coming into contact with anything ever again.

Super Stealth Mode

My new gateway to and from Narnia.

This was probably the least practical piece of work I had done, but also my favorite. Ever since I first got the truck, I've always had to think very carefully about where I park it. I only had one entrance/exit, and it was a giant, gaping square void at the back of the truck. If I parked facing a busy area, it meant my comings and goings were laid bare for all to see, which is awkward when I need to grab something from The Box™ in the middle of the day when I'm out and/or about.

But "awkwardness" and "social stigma" aren't things I've historically been concerned about. Arguably more importantly, my singular door meant that I couldn't lock the back gate while I was in the truck, so anyone could come in…while I was sleeping (and at my most vulnerable). This was never actually an issue, except for one time, when my friends "broke in" at midnight on my birthday with beer and cheesecake. And if being force-fed Smirnoff in a hazy half-slumber is the worst thing to come out of my willy-nilly approach to security, I think I'm doing alright.

Cheesecake and beer aside, I eventually wised up and implemented a simple, somewhat secure solution, suggested to me by a few readers. The solution was this: Once the door is in a mostly-down position, clamp vice grips over each of the roll-up door tracks. This way, the rollers will get caught on the vice grips if someone attempted to open it. With enough force, someone could probably still open the door, but they'd make a real racket in the process. It might not be a coincidence that I started doing this right after some strange happenings in my neck of the woods asphalt.

But vice grips and surprise cheesecake are both things of the past, because one of the new truck improvements was an interior door leading from the driver's compartment into my pleasantly prismic pigsty. When I told the body shop I wanted an interior door installed, I was expecting a simple sliding door or something on a hinge. What I got was way more interesting, and hilariously over-engineered. As I understand it, they had this really nice roll-up door sitting around not doing anything, and they were like, "Yeah sure, that'll do". So they measured and cut and welded and eventually this functional Franken-door came into being. They didn't charge me for the door (which they said was worth $2,000+), so I certainly wasn't complaining.

I've been using the door for a few weeks now, and I have to say that I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It's taken some getting used to though; it must weigh nearly 50 pounds and doesn't have a conventional garage door torsion spring, so it's kind of unwieldy to work with. I've figured out an awkward little dance to close the door behind me when I get out in the morning, but there's still definitely room for improvement. The big benefits are that I can keep the back gate locked shut all the time, park in whatever orientation I damn well want, and come and go whenever I damn well please. Very liberating indeed.

What's the Damage?

Moving on, it's clear I had a good chunk of work done. And as it turns out, people and labor and truck parts and stuff don't come cheap. In total, the repairs cost me a healthy ~$3,800.

Brandon, that's an obscene amount of money! And in my humble opinion, you're an idiot.

It's definitely not a small sum of money, but hear me out: I know that I plan on selling the truck eventually, even if I don't know when. Since it's already fairly old (2006) and I don't drive it a lot, it's not going to depreciate much further, as long as I keep it in decent shape. Letting the wood rot from the leaks, or the headlight fall out completely wouldn't exactly be "keeping it in decent shape". Plus, since I plan on selling it as a super-secret-stealth-hardcore-camper-truck-type-thing, improvements like the interior door make a lot of sense. So the benefit is two-fold: I get to take advantage of all the improvements now, and they make the truck more valuable in the long run. But even if the repairs and improvements didn't add any value to the truck whatsoever, $3,800 isn't that expensive when you phrase it as "two months rent".

And another question, where did you stay when the repairs were being done? Did you just roam the streets?

First question: Alaska!

Second question: No.

A sunset along the Seward Highway, and the top of Mount Alyeska.

Both images were carefully selected to highlight how philosophical and mysterious I am.

In total, the truck spent like a week and a half in the body shop. Luckily, this happened to somewhat coincide with a trip my friends and I were taking to Alaska. So I drove the truck to the body shop, caught a ride 10 minutes to the airport, and off I went. When I got back from Alaska, I spent a few days at my non-truck-homed girlfriend's place.

Why the Ugly Truck?

Reading over the allegory of the Ugly Truckling, there's a question that naturally leaps to mind: why didn't I pick a more reasonable vehicle, like an RV, or even just one of the newer, nicer trucks?

I've touched on some of this in the past, but I didn't want an RV because I was worried that would be too comfortable and I would forget why I was even doing this in the first place: because the world outside my four walls is infinitely more interesting, and that's where I want to spend my time. I didn't pick a newer, shinier truck because I liked (and still like) the idea of a fixer-upper. I wanted to be able to rip apart the interior without worrying I was doing damage, and attempt little repairs on my own. Thus far, I think it's been a pretty solid learning opportunity.

I certainly had a few ulterior motives too. Older trucks are naturally cheaper, and like I mentioned above, they also leave less room to depreciate. Less logically, a silly anecdote from my childhood might explain why I gravitated to the Ugly Truckling:

When I was little, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother's house. She had this set of ceramic-handled silverware, and from looking at them, you could tell they'd been around since The War. Which war it was, nobody knew for sure. But anyway, a bunch of the spoons had chips in their ceramic handles, and I was always careful to avoid those ones. One day, my grandmother caught me carefully picking my spoon and asked me what I was doing. When I explained that some of the spoons were broken, this is what she said to me:

"Broken spoons need love too."

And it's stuck with me ever since.

*Partly because it was a sad excuse for an existence, and partly because trucks are inanimate objects and don't "live" in the way that humans and other animate organisms do.

Source: Hiking and sledding on Mount Rigi with some co-workers. Probably the first picture I've ever taken and enjoyed looking at.

I'd previously mentioned that I had an upcoming work trip to Zürich, and in keeping with my usual blogging tardiness, that trip was two months ago. Actually, I (perhaps ironically) got back from India a few weeks ago, so expect that post soon in a few millennia. But anyway, let's talk about Switzerland: a country of cheese, chocolates, and armed neutrality*.

Waiting to leave SFO on a gloomy evening.

Leaving on a jet plane

As it turns out, Zürich is kinda far away. Like, 5,889.11 miles, give or take a few. Luckily, the Wright Brothers solved this problem a while ago, so off I went on a fancy, new-fangled flying machine in relative luxury. I've been consistently impressed with the quality of economy class on international flights (first Lufthansa, and now Swiss), they really put our domestic carriers to shame. Between the hot meals, warm cloths so you aren't bathing in your own face-grease the whole flight, and honest-to-God leg room, my mind is legitimately blown every time. Fun fact that I didn't know until recently: foreign airlines can't operate point-to-point routes within the US. Given that, it makes sense that domestic airlines aren't really trying that hard, they only have to compete with like two other equally awful carriers on most routes.

Moving on from my tangent: though the plane was a slightly more tubular metal container than I'm used to sleeping in, I slept soundly, in spite of the shape. A short 11 hours after takeoff,** I found myself in Zürich.

Taking the Train

Being able to navigate in a foreign country is a useful skill, not only for Amazing Race contestants. Unfortunately, navigating public transit is also a skill I sorely lack, which is ironic because I used to drive public buses. But anyway, the trains (and the rest of public transportation in Switzerland) are really, really good. So good in fact, it can be a bit overwhelming for someone used to the US's decidedly mediocre public offerings. After a bit of jet-lagged, blank-eyed staring at a departure board for longer than I'd like to admit, I hopped on a train heading in the general direction I was going: Zürich HB, the main Zürich train station.

A rough depiction of what I found myself up against, from DC Rainmaker

The trains in Zürich are buttery smooth, like riding on velvety Swiss clouds. I never noticed how rocky train rides here are, but comparatively, it feels more like I'm riding a jackhammer when I Caltrain up to San Francisco. I'm being dramatic, but the trains in Switzerland are indeed modern marvels of engineering. As a testament to their coolness, a Zürich-based co-worker told me that if the trains are more than a few minutes late, people start Snapchat-ing and Tweet-ing pics of the late train, because they're usually so punctual. Not only are they timely, but they also go everywhere, including up mountains. We were able to get to the top of Mount Rigi with a few trains and five minutes of walking. Take notes, America.

Doing Some Exploring

Regrettably, I didn't have a lot of time to explore. I was, after all, on a work trip. Had that not been the case, I'd likely have started each morning at the main train station and picked a random train to dictate the plans for the day. I did at least attempt to do some exploring though. But words are boring, so instead of making you read about it, here are some pictures.


Lucerne (or Luzern, depending on who you're talking to) has a rich history that stretches back to the 8th century, and you can see a lot of that history in a lot of the architecture, which has been preserved or restored. It's also just a beautiful area.


Some friends were staying in this cool brewery-turned-hotel-and-spa, which has an ornate library area and a bunch of the original brewery equipment.

Snow Pup!

I have an infinitely-exploitable*** soft spot for cute animals. I found this majestic and sagacious creature at the top of Mount Rigi and had to stop for a pic (and some petting).



I was surprised to find that one of my favorite things about Switzerland was the weather. Silicon Valley has a watered-down version of seasons, and Zürich in the winter reminded me a lot of Boston. It was part nostalgia, part missing the sensation of crisp winter air, but in any case it was immensely enjoyable. I frequently found myself stepping outside, solely to take some slow, deep, refreshing breaths.

Language and Economics

It probably shouldn't surprise me at this point, but everyone in Switzerland speaks some combination of German, French, Italian, and English, and usually at least three of those. It's at least in part because the EU is a giant cultural melting pot, but I was impressed no less. Interestingly enough, the Swiss dialect of German is incomprehensible to German speakers from Germany, though the written language is mostly the same. At least that's my understanding. In a vaguely-related train of thought, everyone being so multi-lingual and high-skilled means that even jobs that would usually be considered "entry-level" in the US pay really well. In fact, only 10% of jobs pay less than ~$50,000/year. As a result, service industry staples like restaurants are comparatively really expensive, because people are expensive.


While I (thankfully) didn't do any driving in Switzerland, I did spend quite a bit of time watching other people do it. To my untrained eyes, it looked pretty complicated. There were tons of signs and lanes, and the trains would lackadaisically wander back and forth between dedicated lanes and mixing in with the general population. Switzerland also seems to take joy in sprinkling random intersections with roundabouts. They still drive on the right side of the road though, so no added confusion there.


I forgot how much fun sledding is. I hadn't been since I was a wee lad, and even then I wasn't sledding down full-blown mountains. Rekindling the flames of my childhood, I raced down several sled trails at borderline reckless speeds, laughing hysterically throughout the entire chaotic decent. I definitely destroyed the tread on my boots in the process; stomping your feet is the only way to turn or slow down (unless you're willing to stop with your face). But I'd trade in the tread in an instant to do it again.

*I had the good fortune to sample at least two of those things during my short trip.

**Swiss conveniently flies direct from SFO -> ZRH.

***If you have an adorable dog and need someone to watch and/or walk them, I'm wholly incapable of declining the request.

Source: Trying out a new (slightly less anatomically accurate) truck graphic this time, from Tumundografico

Each financial post I do brings at least a few questions about my plan or different investment strategies. Before we get to it, I'll start with my usual disclaimer that I have no background in finance or financial planning, and taking financial advice exclusively from the guy living in a box truck probably isn't a sound strategy. With that out of the way, let's get to the questions.

Do you invest in bitcoins?

Nope. Aside from reading the white paper on Bitcoin, I'm not all that knowledgeable about it, and my current allotment of funds is about the right level of risk for me (>90% stocks, all broad index funds). Plus, I think unless you really know what you're doing, it's dangerous to treat a currency like a commodity.

Why race to pay off a loan with 3.4% interest? That's equivalent to investing at a 3.4% annual return, which is not a great return rate.

This is referring to my now non-existent student loans. I don't have a great answer for this one, except that I did delay paying the loans off for about six months, for exactly the reason given in the question. However, I do think there's something to be said about the psychological comfort of not having any debt looming ominously overhead. In my opinion, that was worth the decreased rate of return on my investment. In any case, I'm clearly not rushing to get a mortgage any time soon.

Another way of looking at it is that paying off my loans was a way of de-risking my portfolio a bit. The overwhelming majority of my portfolio is stocks, so "investing" $20,000 at 3.4% is like a really well-performing bond. It's a bit of a stretch, but the math works out.

Seems like you're putting a lot of money into accounts you won't be able to access until you're around 60 years old. Wondering if you're planning to save enough in cash or non-IRAs to live on from when you're in your 30s until you are able to withdraw from the tax-advantaged accounts. Have you done the math on how much you'll need during that time?

Nope, haven't done much of the math around this, but we can dabble in it now. I've been known to throw around phrases like "Trinity Study" and "Safe Withdrawal Rate", which is to say once I have a nest egg equal to 25x my yearly spending, I can (in theory) be financially-independent indefinitely. And while that's a good high-level description, it glosses over some of the details mentioned in the question here, mainly that my "nest egg" isn't a single account, it's spread over a bunch of different types of accounts, some of which have disparate and intentionally complicated rules.

My plans are nicely summed up by a Vanguard article I came across recently, titled 5 ways to make your portfolio more tax-efficient. The first item on their list is "Save as much as you can in tax-advantaged accounts", which I definitely do. I max out every possible tax-advantaged account I can get my hands on. The thinking is that the less money I subject to taxes (either now or later), the more money is available to grow and compound.

Skipping item two (and four and five), the third item from the Vanguard article is "Tap into your accounts in the right order", and this is where the math and planning come into play. For the sake of argument, let's say that I do this for 9 years. The first account to draw from is my non-tax-advantaged, normal brokerage account. About a year and a half into my adventure, this account has collected about $55,000 dollars. Doing some extremely conservative calculations (5% growth, yearly compounding, +$33,000/year), I'll have about $450,000 at the end of that 9 year period.

Once I've sucked all of the money out of my brokerage account, the next fund I would dip into is my Roth IRA. The big trick here is that I can withdraw the principal without paying any tax or penalty. Since I'm contributing the max $27,000/year to that, that's an additional $243,000 (remember, just the principal, no gains) I can take out whenever I need. After that's been exhausted, I can take out some tax-free HSA money offset with medical expenses paid out of pocket over the next nine years, and there are a few other rules and exceptions I can use to squeeze out a few more penalty-free dollars (SEPPs, Roth Conversion Ladders, Other Exceptions, oh my!).

Conservatively, that means I'll have $450,000 + $243,000 + HSA and other stuff = ~$700,000. Since 9 years have passed in this hypothetical example, I'd be around 33 years old. Do I think I could make $700,000 last for the 27-32 years until I can start taking penalty-free 401k, Roth IRA, and HSA distributions? Using the rule-of-thumb Safe Withdrawal Rate, this means I'd be living on ~$28,000 a year. While not impossible, it'd be a little tighter than I'd like it to be. I have a few options here for augmenting that income: 1) mess around with SEPPs and conversion ladders, 2) take the penalty, which isn't totally unreasonable, or 3) don't retire in 9 years.

It's very likely that the actual solution here is: 4) all the above. If my goals are in the same place in five years or so, I'll probably quit working in the traditional sense, and pick up one-off contract jobs like I used to do in college. I could also work remotely/part-time. The supplemental income from the part-time work would hopefully be enough to live minimally, but comfortably.

Is there a fee for each time you do the rollover? If so, have you done the analysis to see how long you should wait to do the rollover to the Roth?

Nope! No fees, but I do have to remember to do it every paycheck, because you do have to pay taxes on the gains when you do the rollover. So if I do it immediately, there's usually either $0.00 or $0.01 of tax to pay. But because I'm extremely easily distracted, sometimes I'll forget about it for a week or so, and then I end up having to pay like a whole dollar or two of tax. Not a big deal, but it's something I'll likely have to think about when doing my taxes this month.

I thought if you maxed out your normal 401k (the pre-tax one) you could not contribute more funds to the after-tax 401k in the same calendar year. Am I mistaken about that?

In short: yes, you are indeed mistaken.

In slightly less short: the IRS has two separate limits that are relevant here. The first is the pre-tax employee 401k contribution limit, which is $18,000 for 2017, and only includes your own personal contributions. The second limit is the overall 401k contribution limit, which is $54,000 for 2017 and includes your personal contributions, employer contributions, and after-tax contributions. I contribute $18,000 to pre-tax, and my employer matches $9,000, which leaves me $54,000 - ($18,000 + $9,000) = $27,000 to contribute to my after-tax 401k in 2017.

Thanks for joining us me for probably the least interesting, most detail-oriented Q & A thus far. As always, if you have any burning questions, feel free to pose them in the box to the right (or bottom on mobile), or shoot me an email.

Source: Cloud from WikiClipArt, truck from, you guessed it, Clker

I don't think it rained once when I interned in the Bay in 2014. The summer of 2014, to be specific. Doing a bit of overzealous extrapolation, I came to the incorrect conclusion that it never rains in the Bay, which sounded just splendid to me. Before I moved out here to start a full-time job in 2015, I donated my boots, raincoat, and any umbrellas I had. When I actually got here and bought the truck, I didn't even bother checking for leaks. You can tell where this is going, and anyone from the area knows that I made a grave miscalculation. I found this out the hard way during my first winter here.

If you look at the climate data for the area (which I clearly hadn't), it averages a meager ~0.75 inches of rain over the entirety of May, June, July, August, and September, as my 2014 observations suggested. Much to my chagrin, the weather swiftly turns from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde around October, dropping more rain than the preceding five months (0.85 inches) combined. It doubles down in November and drops twice as much (1.83 inches). It drops that, plus another half inch in December (2.3 inches), and ups the ante another inch for January and February (3.2 inches each). Which leads me to my inspiration for this post: just prior to writing this, it rained for nearly two straight weeks.

Dealing with Mrs. Nature

I have a love-hate relationship with rain. On one hand, it's great not living in an arid wasteland, and the Bay needs all the water it can get. On the other hand, the rain definitely makes my life more challenging. Not only does a gentle drizzle on the box truck roof sound like a safe full of silverware tumbling down an infinite escalator, but my truck isn't exactly waterproof either. Basically, the rain and I are in a nuclear arms race, and I'm definitely losing.

A History of Failed Solutions

When I encountered my first real leak, jury-rigging a pipe and a bucket to divert the water was sufficient. But like a sinking ship in an old cartoon, more leaks quickly sprung up, and I needed to be more proactive in my game of fluid fisticuffs. So I fixed part of the problem, and the leaks lessened. But my Band-Aids were no match for a through-and-through downpour, forcing me to resort to strategically-placed trash bags to contain the current. After attempting to track down the leaks, I went back on the offensive and slathered some marine sealant around what I thought were the problem areas. And up to a certain amount of rain, trash bags and a bit of active leak mitigation actually isn't that bad of a solution. But when it rains for two weeks straight, a few problems start to creep up:

  1. The garbage bags start to accumulate a lot of water.
  2. That aforementioned water evaporates during the day and the truck turns into a weird, damp, Humid Truck Swamp™.

An Inflection Point

The Humid Truck Swamp is more of a nuisance than a real issue, but the whole premise of living in a truck was that I thought I could do it without sacrificing any of my happiness. And there was no sense in trying to spin it, I found this unpleasant.

I've talked about when would be a good time to call it quits, and if I were a slightly more reasonable person, I very well may have decided that this was that time. Maybe the truck isn't actually worth all of this effort. But my skull is a bit thicker than average and deep down, I do legitimately enjoy trying to tackle these kinds of problems. So instead of selling the truck and being normal for a change, I did what any serial sadist would do, and just moved to a more elaborate crutch, pictured here:

Opposing top front corners of the box, looking like a scene from a Breaking Bad knockoff. The Shrek-snot insulation also makes a cameo.

I know, it's looking pretty grim in there. Like, next-level truck dungeon grim. In case it's not obvious what's going on: instead of letting the leaks drip directly into a trash bag, now they drip into an extremely jankily-placed funnel, secured by several feet of extra strong duct tape. The funnel is inserted into a few feet of plastic hosing, which, in turn, is fastened to trash bags of varying sizes by an ever-increasing amount of duct tape. This solves the humidity problem because the surface area for the water to evaporate from is now far, far smaller. I set this up a few weeks ago, and it's actually worked surprisingly well.

Ending the Arms Race

It's painfully obvious at this point that I'm reaching the limits of my mechanical capabilities in this fight. I can't keep relying on ever-more complicated crutches. Further, I have to be careful to not let myself normalize these terrible hacks, lest I end up with an unacceptably low or even hazardous standard of living. This was my line in the sand: It was time to actually fix the underlying problem. Accordingly, I brought the truck into a body shop to get a quote, and I'm hoping to have the box repaired in the next week or so, ending the arms race and allowing me to focus on actual truck improvements.

I'm not sure if there are any good lessons to be learned here. Seven months out of the year, this isn't even a problem, and I'm rapidly on the way to rectifying those other five months. Looking back on it all, I'm actually glad it rains here sometimes. Aside from the obvious environmental problems of not having any rain, it forced me to think outside the box, hone my duct tape-fu, and in the end, make some real, permanent improvements to my home. Plus, how could I appreciate the sunshine without a bit of rain?

Source: As always, truck from Clker, City from 123RF, more fireworks from Clipart Kid, and road from Clipart Panda. Composition haphazardly done by me.

New Year, New Me Same Truck-Dwelling Degenerate

Excuse the contrarianism for a second here, but I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing people take the initiative, work hard, and reach their goals. My qualm is that, if you want to change something about your life, just do it. Don't wait until we reach an arbitrary point in our orbit around the Sun to better yourself. After all, January 1st is a day just like any other, nothing makes it any more conducive to success.

Complaining aside, that's not to say I don't have plans for myself in the New Year, I definitely do. They're just the same plans I've been working with and tweaking for the past year and a half. If someone in a hypothetical and unnecessarily violent world put a gun to my head and asked me to sum up, in a single word, what my plans are, I'd probably say: "Investing".


"Investing in what?" you may ask. I've already talked about how I've been investing in index funds like VTI and VXUS through my 401k, Roth IRA, HSA, and brokerage accounts, and nothing has changed there. That's all still on auto-pilot, silently siphoned out of my paycheck and quietly compounding interest. And it's still working really well for me, and has already netted me >$10,000 in dividends and appreciation.*

My investments through Vanguard, a year and a half in.

But with my student loans paid off and a freshly-minted promotion, I should start looking to diversify my assets outside of stocks, especially as I start to build up a more sizable nest egg . So we'll start with some more of the financial investing I'm considering, but that's far from the only way one can invest.


Okay, so the stock situation is solid and doesn't need any intervention, at least until I near retirement and start investing more heavily in bonds, per Bob's advice. But still, it wouldn't be particularly savvy to keep >95% of my wealth tied to the performance of two funds, regardless of how diversified each may be. So, I've been looking at my options, and there are a few promising avenues. for consideration

Real Estate

Brandon, how the hell are you going to invest in real estate when you live in a truck?

It's true, one of the reasons I live in a truck is because housing is ridiculously expensive out here, and buying a home (or rental property) would require me making deals with some unsavory, otherworldly creatures. That said, I can invest in REITs. REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts, are traded like stocks, but are primarily invested in real estate and mortgages and other things that track the value of the real estate market. So I might not being able to buy a home, but REITs are a less messy way for a beginner to get into the real estate market. At the very least, I need to do more research on their risks, returns, and tax properties before I actually put my money where my mouth a house is.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-Peer Lending is another type of investing where, you guessed it, money is lent between peers. Sites like PeerStreet and Patch of Land allow you to choose from a catalog of (usually real estate-related) loans to invest in, and as the loan gets paid off, you get a proportional chunk of the interest. You can vary the "quality" (read: riskiness) of the loans you're willing to fund in exchange for potentially higher returns and correspondingly higher default rates. These sites quote yearly returns of 6-12% on your investment, which is definitely enough to warrant a more thorough look.

It sounds good for sure, but there are naturally a few things worth considering. For one, loans are far less liquid than stocks are, it's not as easy to sell your stake in a loan. You can sell your share on a secondary loan market, but that's not nearly as simple as selling a stock. The other wrench in the mix: depending on the peer-to-peer site, most loans are only available to accredited investors, which requires (among other things) having a net worth of one million dollars. As nice as that would be, I'm clearly not there yet. As with REITs above, I need to do more research to determine the viability of investing with these sites.

The Truck

It's no secret that I plan on dumping the truck at some point. Hopefully not anytime soon though; it's not particularly well-suited for being sold in it's current state. If you think about it, there're two groups of people that'd be interested in it: people who need moving trucks, and people who want to live in vans. The problem is that it'd be weird to use as a moving truck, because it has weird amenities, like a coat rack, insulation, a bike rack, and a sky light. And unless you have a routine very similar to mine, the truck doesn't really provide enough utility to make it a full-time residence. So the market for people who would buy my truck as is…well, it's likely just me. And I think it goes without saying I'm not in the market at the moment. I'll save the details for their own post, but I have a bunch of plans for making the truck more palatable for all of those lurking potential stealth campers out there.


Investing in yourself is arguably the most important investment you can make. After all, you only have one fleshy meat body and sponge brain to pilot around your consciousness. We're all pretty much stuck with the results of whatever investments we make in ourselves.

With that in mind, I'd like to read a bunch of books that I've started but have yet to finish, mainly because I have the attention span of a guppy.** I'd also like to finish a bunch of half-written blog posts that have been collecting virtual dust on my server, along with a fancy-shmancy unfinished site-redesign.

On the fleshy-meat-side-of-things, I've been tweaking my workout routine, and I'd really like to break 1,000 combined pounds on my bench, squat, and deadlift, ideally without becoming potato-shaped. On the cardiovascular-side of things, a friend of mine recently mentioned doing the AIDS/LifeCycle 7-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, which sounds like great motivation for whipping my cardio into shape.

Why Investing is the Cat's Pajamas

The nice thing about investing is that the results generally compound on themselves. It's pretty easy to see this with monetary investments, where compound interest and re-invested dividends are real, tangible values. But it rings just as true with investments in yourself as well, just in less-visible ways. For example, regular exercise keeps your resting heart rate low, which means your heart doesn't have to work nearly as hard for the rest of your life. This has great perks, like decreased risk for cardiovascular disease. And if Not Dying™ isn't a good enough reason to invest in something, I don't know what is.

*Naturally, the gains and losses are wholly irrelevant until I start taking distributions and realizing it as income, which likely won't happen for another ten years. Still, it's fun to look at it every so often, even with no intention of doing anything with it.

**For the curious, the books are: The Martian, The Hitchhiker's Guide series, Walden, The Achievement Factory, The Millionaire Next Door, and Search Inside Yourself.


If you want to get emailed when I write a post, add your email here. Don't worry, you can always unsubscribe.