Archive for September, 2015

This Labor Day weekend I decided to stroll down memory lane and catch up with some personal finance bloggers that I enjoyed reading over the years and much to my surprise I find that most of them have either sold out and moved on or have left their blogs hanging out to dry in the Internet sun unattended.

I must admit that I’ve been a very infrequent blogger but I have very valid excuses:

  1. I have been traveling the world
  2. I am at my career peak and I am in very high demand
  3. I am trying to make the most of my time left with my teenage kids before they head off to college
  4. I am trying to make plans for the future (more global travel) over the next few years and that takes considerable planning

First up is My 1st Million at 33 which I read rather regularly a few years ago seems to be sporadically posting now.

I just clicked on Free Money Finance and see that his blog was abandoned about a year ago but seems to potentially be starting a new one.

Classics like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly have both sold out and posts are now more “advertainment” than anything useful.  There are many more but I won’t list them here since many are simply defunked.   It is good to see Lazy Man and Money going strong still though.

I remember the great debates around “frugality vs capitalism” or “buy new vs buy used” or “spend less vs earn more” and all that seems dead now.     I can only surmise that many of the finance bloggers were in a similar situation to me…started blog in 30s and is now in 40s and have better uses for free time than blogging.

On this Labor Day weekend I had hoped to write something a bit more optimistic but the truth is that holidays are usually a time for me to reflect on what has been happening with close friends and family.   As I do this on Labor Day weekend I come to the inescapable conclusion that the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Case in point, I’m doing just great financially.  In January I will have a tranche of stock options that I’ll be able to cash out.   It’s not a giant sum of money (around $30k) but it’s 30k that I honestly don’t need but will have coming my way anyway.    Add to that another $30 to $50k in bonuses right after that stock tranche and you’ll quickly add up 60k to 80k of income coming to me that I honestly don’t have any use for at the moment.   Sure I’ll bank it and save it for the kids college fund or maybe buy a new car that I really don’t need.   I’ve also considered upgrading my TVs from 1080p to 4k but what’s the point, I’ll have to then upgrade them to 8k or whatever the new standard will be in a few years anyway and everything works fine now anyway.

On the flip slide, I have quite a few family members that are now having more financial difficulty than ever before.   A few of my family and friends have now resorted to becoming Uber drivers to supplement income.  It seems every time I see someone I haven’t seen for a while their new “thing” seems to be driving for Uber as a driver.    So many people tell me they are doing it that I seriously considered doing it but not for the money but because I am so bored.

I haven’t been blogging because this dichotomy of riches and poverty is really making me depressed.   I know what you’re thinking…”why don’t you just GIVE that money to those poor friends and family?”

Well the answer to that is quite easy, these people are poor because, in my view, they CHOOSE to be this way.   These are all people that have a horrible work / career advancement ethic.  Study?  Go back to college?  Earn a certification?  Nah…why do that when you can go out drinking with your buddies in the evening or go watch that <insert baseball/football/basketball/soccer> game in the evening while you drink?

The people I see getting richer are the ones that do just what I suggest, continue to learn, re-education, advance, network, and grab the endless mountain of money out there to be earned.   The truth is that at work I’ve had a very difficult time finding qualified people to do the work that needs to be done.   We have too many “one trick ponies” coming in with a single or very limited skill set unable to meet the leadership and management demands of the modern business world.    Worse yet are the young kids that just want to text and click on Facebook all freaking day long…. oh well enjoy your poverty…in the meantime I’m planning trips to Thailand, Chile, Costa Rica, and Europe over the next 12 months so I won’t be too bored for too long….

It has now been a little over three years since I cut the TV cable cord and I figured I’d give everyone an update on how things have changed and progressed over that time.

First and foremost the most exciting thing to happen is the final realization from companies like HBO and Showtime that there is money to be made by offering stand alone streaming services.   In the past you could only get streaming if you had some type of cable TV subscription to HBO or Showtime but in 2015 that has all started to change!

Let’s take a look at my setup and I’ll run you through some other options.

Step 1 – Hardware

When I cut the cord a few years ago there were many limited device options.  At the time the two major devices were the Apple TV and the Roku devices.   At the time I owned both and each had their pros and cons.   Today there are many more devices with a few other options.   Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire Stick/TV have started to garner larger acceptance.   To read reviews you can click here.   You can now also stream content to gaming devices such as a Playstation 4 or Xbox One.

Personally I have most of the devices listed above and use them for different reasons.

The Roku is my family’s primary device.  The Roku device itself I always considered rather primitive but it does the job well enough that I can’t really complain.   You essentially setup “apps” inside the Roku that will stream content to you from a particular provider.

The Amazon stick is great if your traveling and you can plug in to a hotel TV to stream content while you’re sitting in a hotel working.

The Apple TV is what we use to watched purchased movies through iTunes.    We don’t buy DVDs or BluRay discs anymore just keep everything in the cloud and stream it to the device.  There is no danger of a disc getting scratched and it will live forever in the cloud as I plan on passing on my iTunes account to my kids or grandkids!

Step 2 – The Streaming Services

We stream content from HuluPlus ($7.99/month), Netflix ($7.99/month), Amazon Prime (Free with Prime),  I recently added Showtime to my HuluPlus for an additional $8.99/month.   So for $25/month I have access to more content than I will ever be able to watch because these services are constantly adding new shows as time goes on.    Compare this to paying $65+ or more on a monthly basis for cable channels that you never watch and it makes complete and total sense to cut the cord.   What really annoys me though are the superfluous charges for “HD service”, “DVR”, “cable rental fee” that simply don’t exist with streaming services.

I also currently have HBO go as part of my Internet service under a 12 month plan.  When that offer expires I plan on adding the HBO Now service for an additional $15/month or hold off until it rebuilds their content warehouse and switch between Showtime and HBO year over year.

The Limitations

There currently are some limitations to this system though.  The most blatant one I get grief about are sports.  ESPN currently doesn’t offer a stand alone streaming service that is comparable to what is on cable so if you are a huge sports fan you’re a bit out of luck with this system.    The second one are specialty shows like HGTV or Disney that the wife and kids may want to watch.   There are services that do fill a partial gap such as Sling.com that offers a $20 bundle that gives you a few of those channels including ESPN but the major limitation is that it only offers streaming on one device at a time so you won’t be able to watch ESPN on one TV while watching HGTV on another.

I suspect that cable companies are going to have a “come to customer” moment and be forced to offer a-la-carte channel selections or better bundles more competitively priced in 2016 if they wish to keep more people from cutting the cord.

The Future

Rumors are that Apple will release a new Apple TV with some exciting content streaming services so the playing field will become even more competitive than ever just stay tuned and watch…