Response to an Email

So I recently received an email from some CAL Berkeley faculty asking about my experience at CAL and what has happened since… to be honest, I had wanted to ignore the email. But I also wanted CAL to understand that not everyone had a “great” experience going to CAL. Below is what I initially wrote which I later cut down:

To be honest, I had a negative experience while as a student at CAL.

  • I admittedly wasn’t prepared to handle the cut throat competition and new academic material
  • I also wasn’t prepared for the suddenly new found freedoms gained living alone away from parents.  
  • I wasn’t able to navigate the bureaucratic nature of the school system.
  • I mistakenly thought I knew what I wanted to do and to major in but only came to realize that I knew nothing about myself.
  • I struggled through… somehow able to graduate and find a job but left full of anger and regret.

Looking back, I was lulled into this false sense of security during my freshman year when all the classes I took were topics that I had already covered in high school. AP Chemistry covered Chem 1A/1B. AP Calculus BC covered Math 1A/1B. AP Physics covered Physica 8A/8B. I would spend hours reading, reviewing, and understanding the material to gain the knowledge and mastery of the subjects. Starting my sophomore year, I honestly believed that it would be as easy as the freshman year. But immediately, I started struggling in courses such as organic chemistry and biochemistry. What I failed to recognize was that my traditional way of understanding and learning might not have been the most efficient or effective way to learn the new material. I stubbornly kept reading, reviewing but never quite understanding the basic concepts completely. I also refused to adapt to a different learning style i.e. rote memory since I hated this kind of forced memorization technique. Ultimately, the struggles compounded upon each other creating a vicious negative cycle of being demoralized, questioning my intelligence, failing to understand the new material, becoming even more demoralized, etc… This added to my anger and bitterness as I saw more successful people achieving much more than I did. This kind of cycle continued through most if not all my classes and I somehow was able to graduate and even find a job. I spent a good 9 years feeling bitter and angry as if the world was conspiring against me. 

During these 9 years though, I had three paradigm shifts in my thinking that resulted in the person I am now.  The first shift came after reading a christian/spiritual book called Living the Art of Christian Love by Morton Kelsey. I discovered this book before I graduated but it left a huge impression on me. This book helped to calm the bitterness and keep it from cycling out of control. The two biggest lessons from this book were “to quiet my heart” and “to listen without judgement.”   The second shift came from watching an anime called Aria.  I learned that I need to slow down and to start enjoying the simple things in life as well as to appreciate everything that I have.  Finally, the third shift came from after reading Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage. This book was a game changer for me. Everything I had done from the first two shifts came into alignment with the lessons from Achor. After finishing this book, I started to truly let go of my anger and my bitterness. I came to realize that the drivers of the anger and bitterness were outside my control. By that time, my heart had settled and began to listen to others. I saw the world completely differently and noticed the simple things in life. In many ways, I finally understood who I am.

Today… I am grounded in spirtuality. I am self aware. I am at peace with myself. I control my Circle of Zorro. I understand my happiness. From time to time, I’ll go back to read both books. The anime takes a bit of time to watch but there’s one song called Symphony that I associate with the anime that brings a sense of calmness.

Vox on Taiwan’s early COVID-19 response

So… basically, a Taiwanese (TW) government agency empowered to utilize resources across multiple agencies and integrate information into a clear coherent public strategy. This government agency shifted from a risk-by-country assessment for travelers to a general mandatory quarantine of any entering individuals. In retrospect, any traveler entering Taiwan gave up their personal privacy and freedoms for 14 days. They were quarantined in a hotel room and monitored by phone daily. Furthermore, a nationalized and digitized healthcare system also helped these agencies monitor individuals including anyone who had to interact with the quarantined travelers.

This video also didn’t recognize the government’s power to implement such a tracking system. Not only that, the video glossed over the fact that citizens also knew the risks and outcomes of a deadly virus outbreak. These two details allowed the government to set strict policies that were generally followed by the population. Even now as TW is going controlling their most recent outbreak in May, most citizens that are able to stay at home have done so with relatively little opposition.

Contrast that to just asking citizens of a certain country to stay at home and wear a mask when going outside, the conversation immediately becomes an “individual rights” issue and violation of their rights despite the fact that:
1) people are getting sick and dying.
2) healthcare is being pushed to the limit.
3) it’s the single most effective means to limit transmission and infection.

When did this “me first” attitude creep into society? And where does the balance between public safety/public health concerns outweigh the individual rights?

Last Week Tonight: Asian Americans

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight talked about Asian Americans. This 30 minutes of discourse is not enough.

After watching this video….

  • Can we all agree… White America has a history of pitting various ethnic groups against each other. Even John Oliver calls it out.
  • Asian Americans are come from 20+? countries in Asia ranging from India, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. We probably speak well over 20+ dialects/languages. We have different cultures, eat different foods, practice different religions, and have different customs. AND YET… the only thing that ties us together is this term. We should use this to our advantage.
    • As Asian Americans, we have to pursue positive change.
    • As Asian Americans, we absolutely need to leave America better for our grand kids.
    • As Asian Americans, we must demand for a country that doesn’t discriminate people of different skin color, heritage, sexual orientation, religion and socio economic status.
    • As Asian Americans, we have to help other minorities as much as possible.
  • The only thing White America fears is when we minorities call out the racism that exists. You know you’ve hit a sensitive topic when attempts to deflect the conversation involves “what about-ism”.
  • And finally… As Americans, can we strive to follow the Golden Rule? Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Trump’s Facebook Ban

By now, the news of Trump’s 2 year ban from Facebook has been widely circulated. I actually disagree with Facebook’s decision of a 2 year ban. Trump should be allowed the opportunity to take back his Facebook (FB) profile. However, FB should strip his history of posts and interactions as if it were a new account. Then, Trump would be subjected to these “more stringent rules” in place for politicians and face the penalties of violating it.

One has to wonder what these new rules are and how many other rules are there. FB explicitly has said it will ban hate speech and abuse. What about lies and fake news? Does FB have an example of what FB considers as hate speech and abuse? What does FB consider as “newsworthy”? There’s so many questions that I think FB is just playing into the Republican’s hand of “censorship.” Let’s take the current Trump talking point about the “stolen” election. Where does it rank amongst FB’s new rules? FB… how about some transparency?

What about the other social media platforms like Twitter (another Trump favorite). Trump looks like it’s still banned from Twitter. But will Twitter also apply the same rules to other politicians as it did to Trump?

Let’s start understanding each other…

With all the recent issues going on in the US from BLM to the current Anti-Asian sentiment, I stumbled across this short (too short in my opinion) YouTube video that brought three Asian-Americans and three Black Americans to discuss some statements regarding both racial identities in America. I think this type of discussion is needed more amongst the American minorities. I believe that EVERY PERSON has a degree of RACIAL BIAS that might not be readily apparent but it exists as a product of culture, family, “group expectations” or personal experience. The video posed 6 different question for discussions that I think tell a pretty good story for anyone who answers them honestly. In the video, the participants are asked whether or not they agree/disagree with the statement. Those that agree would first sit and speak their mind followed by the ones who disagree.


Questions asked:

  • I care about being accepted by white America.
  • I have stereotyped the other side (Black Americans or Asian Americans).
  • COVID-19 has hit my community harder.
  • I face more racism from the opposite side (Black Americans or Asian Americans) than I do from white people.
  • Asian Americans are more advantaged than Black Americans.
  • Black and Asian Americans co-exist peacefully.

Here are my answers:

I care about being accepted by white America. I agree. I’ve come to recognize that not being in power is the worst position to be in. A person is unable to establish any basic self survival when constantly bullied by the ones “in power.” Animal nature has shown that the most basic instinctive behavior is to survive. When constantly under threat of being pulled over/killed by cops, under threat of being homeless for not having enough money to rent, under threat of starvation… being “under threat” is not the best place to be at. Unfortunately the ones currently “in power” happen to be white, old America accustomed to the prejudicial era of the 1940s to the modern age. If you think about it, people who are now in their 70s were born in 1950s. Many witnessed the Civil Rights movements and were probably influenced by the parties promoting equality and racism. If you think about even more, there are still people alive who may have marched with Martin Luther King and even participated in the racial upheaval of the 50s and 60s! US hasn’t even gone through a full cycle of where people living today can only read about historical events instead of hearing stories from their grand parents. So yes… being accepted by white America is very important.

I have stereotyped the other side (Black Americans or Asian Americans). I probably have. I remember my parents saying something negative about Black Americans in response to the rioters breaking and taking items during the 1992 LA riots. It stuck with me for awhile to always have to be careful around Black Americans (lock the door, make sure you’re in a well lit place, don’t talk balk, be polite, be prepared for anything bad, etc…). As a kid, I barely interacted with blacks. I knew a few only by name because they were superstar athletes in high school (1 got a scholarship to play football in college) which also kind of matched the stereotype of blacks being better athletes. It wasn’t until the workplace environment did I have a black coworker. However by then, I had adopted a mantra “to strive to follow the golden rule” which meant that I treated the coworker like any other coworker.

COVID-19 has hit my community harder. I don’t think COVID-19 discriminates. One thing about Asians though… they are used to wearing a mask. So the community spread was much slower overall once it was known that this is as easily transmissible like the 2002 SAR outbreak in Hong Kong. The usage of masks slowed the outbreak significantly.

I face more racism from the opposite side (Black Americans or Asian Americans) than I do from white people. I think at a population level or community level, Asians are as racists as Whites are. I suspect most of the racism though comes from the media manipulation portraying Blacks in a negative light (ie lazy, welfare, thieves, gansters, etc). How many of the early Hollywood shows/movies depicted Blacks as respectable upper income families? I can recall at The Cosby Show portraying Black Americans as normal as possible where almost all the other shows/movies show Blacks as thugs, gangsters and other negative stereotypes. This media portrayal definitely brain-washed the older generational Asians and probably new Asian immigrants too. The irony of this is that Asians probably experienced the same racist behavior as Blacks did. But being Asian, they put their head down, bore the pain/humiliation, and moved on. This act of submission contributed to the “model minority myth.”

Asian Americans are more advantaged than Black Americans. I have mixed feelings about this statement. I think for the most part this is true. Collectively, Asian Americans tend to be more advantaged. However, I’ve noticed that Black Americans might actually be more advantaged than immigrants that are fleeing their Asian country due to war, political unrest, religious persecution, etc.

Black and Asian Americans co-exist peacefully. I agree with this statement. However it’s not because of mutual respect but more that each community prefers to mingle amongst their own people. They are peaceful because both groups prefer to not get involved in each other’s “business.” When they need to interact, they act with caution to minimize antagonizing the other group.


So… What are your thoughts to these questions?

Yet another hate crime.

The recent racist killings of Asian Americans by “not a racist” white male suffering from a sex addiction and a “bad day” has been in the making it’s way around the interwebs and news media. Of course, the white male suspect has been captured without any further incident.

Can you imagine if he were black, latino, or asian? Wait… Did you think that too?

Wait… Why did you think that? Hmm… but I digress….

*****

Here’s a fun fact… Columbine HS shooting/massacre happened 21 years, 11 months ago. This guy is 21 years old. He probably wasn’t even born yet when Columbine happened.

Here’s another fun fact… Apparently, this guy bought his gun the SAME DAY he killed the Asian Americans. How the FUCK does that even happen?

Here’s another fun fact, since 1982, whites have dominated the mass shooter market (another data set) making up the majority of the incidents relative to other racial/ethnic groups. I think it’s actually white males but the data set doesn’t seem to make this distiniction.

Here’s a final fun fact. HE WAS KICKED OUT OF THE HOUSE BY HIS OWN PARENTS. As much as his parents and the church community attempted to help him with his “sex addiction,” the moment the parents kicked him out of the house, they should bear some of the responsibility of his actions. Do we know if his parents called for help when they kicked him out? Did they advise him to go to his church group for help? What we do know is that he ended up with a firm belief he had to “eliminate temptations.”

*****

On Friday, an employee resource group where I work held an impromptu session to listen and discuss the events of Atlanta specifically but also as a broader forum with other people and experiences. The discussions got me thinking too much and is now prompting this post that’ll probably be written over the course of a few days. There is one question that people always ask… how can I help? As much as I appreciate this question, I think as a society, we have to reframe this question two ways…

  1. How can society change?
  2. What can society change?

Apart from the typical “create an open dialog” mantra that you hear from everyone, that’s clearly not enough. Ever since the LA riots in 1992, the dialog has been open but it’s not enough. Fast forward 30 years from the LA riots, the Black Lives Matter marches from 2020 shows us that there has been progress but why is there still violence against minorities? We ask all sorts of questions yet change comes slowly. But society has shown it can adapt from the rotary phones to a hand held computer/phone/camera/video camera in just 40 years. What does that mean? IT SHOWS SOCIETY IS CAPABLE OF EMBRACING CHANGE.

So how can society change? Unfortunately in the past 20+ years, I’ve come to realize (as many people should) the government is ultimately the only place where societal change can be implemented. Slavery? Gone with the Emancipation Proclamation, a Presidential executive order followed quickly by the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Women can vote (again) via the 19th Amendment. But have you noticed that every time the change has always resulted in issues. Jim Crow Laws, poll taxes and literacy tests come to mind. This makes me wonder…. why does the government HAVE TO EXPLICITLY GRANT these freedoms? I don’t know but I think society fears the unknown and the unfamiliar and thus have a tendency to push back against this.

So back to my original question… how can society change? I believe there needs to be a concerted effort to CHANGE the dialog of the selfish “You’re infringing on MY rights” and to CHANGE the government at all levels. With the “infringing on my rights” dialog, I’ve always admired at how crazy and self-centered certain segments of the US population are when it comes to rights and freedoms. Let’s take healthcare… certain people were rabidly opposed to having to pay for health insurance and also opposed to paying the tax penalty for NOT having insurance. It was “my right” to not pay for health insurance. What about the all the rights of the others who paid insurance? If you went and used services like ER/urgent care, where do you think the majority of those expenses get passed to? Your lack of insurance passed the costs down to the insured. With more than 60% of bankruptcies caused by medical issues/bills/expenses, you’re “right to no insurance” now infringed on all the rights of the insured. Why should the insured have to pay for such stupidity? So what is the proposed change? I think a very simple change might be to start thinking about how our actions will affect other individuals and then adjust accordingly. As a society, we might not get it right all the time but if everyone is trying to think of others then at least we’ll get some great change out of it.

Now… how do we change government? Society holds power over politicians in at least two simple ways. The first is to vote. Society should vote against politicians that do not support the values that lead to a “positive society.” What is a “positive society?” A simple answer would be a society that embraces the mantra of the “golden rule” aka “treat others as you would like to be treated.” The second way is to control where the money flows to. Politicians require money for their campaigns and to stay in office. And since politicians require money, society should control where the money flows. We should only support politicians that values a positive society. In addition, corporations (since they are people too) also have the power to affect government. The workers should also encourage their companies to only support politicians that value a positive society. Simple yet very complicated. I think if society can embrace or even strive to follow the golden rule, only positive outcomes will be expected.

So what can society change? First, what are common themes everyone can agree on? I can actually think of a few items…

  1. Healthcare reform. In US, the amount of care relative the amount spent for the care is considered horrible. Studies have shown that medical inequality is a significant issue for low income families potentially even bankrupting them. Providing a basic level of healthcare that consist of yearly medical, dental and vision visits, routine bloodwork (metabolic panel, lipid panel, CBC), STD checks, and other basic female/male tests should be mandated. Additional services would be provided through insurance and the private market.
  2. Tax reform for individuals and corporations. Currently, there is a growing divide between the top richest and the poorest. The growing disparity should be a concern especially since the the bottom incomes are slowly being pushed into perpetual poverty with minimal paths to middle income. What’s even more concerning is that the poorest are forever saddled with unfavorable situations that continually keep them in the same poor economic situation. Would universal basic income for the poorest help? What percentage of taxpayers are actually living below the poverty line? I think there is some equitable way to allow people to keep getting rich from their businesses while at the same time provide help to the poorest to live with some sort of dignity.
  3. Education reform. The idea of “free 4 year tuition” is nice but I actually don’t think that is feasible. I think what’s most important is tuition and loan borrow reforms. The tuition has gradually increased over many years. One study implicates the free “unlimited” lending power of the government to provide loans for students to attend college (source data, second source). The government should offer a capped loan amount to the students. This would restrict the “supply” of money forcing students and colleges to reevaluate where to spend the capped amount.
  4. Political reform. Let’s get rid of lobbyists from even being able to interact with politicians. Else, there should be a system where lobbyists must register who they will talk to during the day. If found to have conversed, the politician should be immediately removed from office and the vote transferred to the politician’s party. Coupled with the ability to direct money, this reform has the most potential of creating political operatives who will work towards a positive society.
  5. Gun Reform. NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO PURCHASE and KEEP A NEW GUN on the same day!!! This does not limit the 2nd amendment rights of “bearing arms”… it is a matter of accountability, background check which leads to a safer society.

Reference Guide to Vanguard Domestic Mutual Funds

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a financial planner. The opinions stated in this blog post are my opinions based on my current financial portfolio. I suggest to also do your own research as your financial portfolio may be different from mine. If you are interested reassessing your finances, please seek professional advice from a Certified Financial Advisor that charges based on a flat fee (not commission based).

A few weeks ago, I talked about a 2021 financial portfolio re-assessment. As a result of that post, I looked into the various domestic Vanguard mutual funds that would be good long term investment. This table below lists these mutual funds divided by market capitalization and stock types. I included a dividend option for those investors that are looking for companies that consistently pay dividends to shareholders. In addition, I found this “Total Market” fund which exposes investors to the market including large, mid and small cap stocks. Even though these are Vanguard stocks, other financial institutions like Fidelity/Schwab/Etrade will also offer similar mutual funds. As an investor, more research is needed to find the equivalent non-Vanguard fund at these intuitions.

Here’s the table:

Market CapGrowthValueBlendDividendTotal Market
Large CapVIGAX (Admiral)
VUG (ETF)
VVIAX (Admiral)
VTV (ETF)
VFIAX (Admiral)
VOO (ETF)
VHYAX (Admiral)
VEIPX (Admiral)
VYM (ETF)
VTSAX (Admiral)
VTI (ETF)
Mid CapVMGMX (Admiral)
VOT (ETF)
VMVAX (Admiral)
VOE (ETF)
VIMAX (Admiral)
VO (ETF)
VEXEX (Admiral)
VXF (ETF)
*No S&P 500 stocks
Small CapVSGAX (Admiral)
VBK (ETF)
VSIAX (Admiral)
VBR (ETF)
VSMAX (Admiral)
VB (ETF)

After making this table, the distribution of my retirement accounts are much clearer to me now. I have adjusted my portfolio to invest in large, mid and small cap mutual funds focused around growth, blend and dividend.

Hey (Republican) Senators!

So if Republican Senators listening to the impeachment trial do not believe Trump is responsible for causing the 06JAN2021 Capitol Insurrection, who do they think should be held responsible? Have the Senators asked themselves why these Trump insurrectionist supporters decided to storm the building?

Since these Senators are very keen on “interpreting” the Constitution narrowly, they should be very clear to mention the fact that Trump was impeached in his final days as President. Thus claiming it is “unconstitutional to impeach a former president” is obviously a lie. Furthermore, claiming to follow the Constitution, these Republican Senators failed to follow the Constitution when the Articles of Impeachment were delivered. The Republican controlled Senate slowed any discussion of a trial until AFTER they lost their power 20JAN2021. Furthermore, if the Senators are going to interpret the Constitution, they should also remember that 14th Amendment also has language related to a President who took the oath to “PRESERVE, PROTECT and DEFEND the Constitution.” Didn’t Trump encourage Pence to disregard the Constitution and the Electoral College so that the election will be cast in Trump’s favor? How is that “PRESERVING the Constitution”? Reports about how Trump watched with glee the insurrectionist storm the Capitol Building…. How is that DEFENDING the constitution? Trump proclaimed himself to be the “law and order” President… yet allowed his supporters to storm and damage the Capitol Building.

Everything the Republicans are doing infuriates me. In fact, it should infuriate anyone who believes in the Constitution and in America.

Social Media’s Ultimate Dilemma

With social media blocking Trump after the 06JAN2021 insurrection, my initial reaction was “wow… finally!” But after reflecting a bit more, I had two follow up questions… 1) why now? and 2) what will happen in the future? Specifically, the 2nd question is really about the precedence these companies are setting. Throughout the 4+ years of Trump tweets, discussions about how much of the false, provocative, agitative tweets only really came to the forefront during the 2020 elections where misinformation had to be addressed (USA Today in 2020, CNN in 2016). Clearly there’s been discussion and pushback on how best to handle the information. Let’s also be clear here… the 1st amendment “free speech” allows free and public expression without any censorship by the government but there are exceptions to this. Most people will say private companies are excluded from the 1st amendment because they are not government. Although true, I think though many companies will try to follow the spirit of the 1st amendment to allow the speech. I think that’s why Twitter and Facebook allowed Trump tweets and posts for so long.

So why now? I think it’s a matter of convenience. First… Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election. Second… Twitter and Facebook had been slowly escalating the method of how to censure Trump’s false posts. Third… If it were not for the insurrection on 06JAN2021, I don’t think Twitter/Facebook would have blocked Trump. But because the language in Trump’s tweets potentially caused the violence, he “broke” the EULA regulations and thus de-platformed. Let’s be honest here. This de-platforming was a long time in the making. Trump has consistently spread false information during his 4 years in office (over 30,000 claims!!).

What will happen in the future? I’m not sure. I think the social media companies need to establish a clear transparent system of governance and punishment related to the spreading of false information. Trump’s actions has exposed a huge weakness in the idea of balancing social media virality, factual information, and speech. This is what I think social media companies should do:

  • Social media companies should donate to an independent fact checking service. This service can be an internal company service or a 3rd party like factcheck.org
  • When any user makes a claim, that claim should be fact checked.
  • If the claim is proven false, then the user is tagged and also educated about why this claim is false.
    • The claim will not be shared and any subsequent shares also cannot be shared again to minimize the virality of false information.
    • The user is also warned about continuing to post false information.
  • If the user makes another false claim, the user’s post will be marked as false similar to what Twitter did by flagging Trump’s false tweets.
    • This user is again warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user will then receive a demerit. Demerits “expire” after a week of good behavior (aka no false posts).
  • If the user again posts a false claim, the post is flagged as false.
    • The user is warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user gains another demerit.
    • The user is also banned from posting for 1 hr. Every demerit the user gains adds 30 minutes to the ban.

This should allow social media companies to limit the spread of false information while attempting to balance the “free speech” doctrine. I also think that social media companies should also define what they deem to be hate speech or speech that leads to violence or speech that have threats of violence. Then the same demerit based system should also be used for those types of posts. Can social media companies implement this?

2021 Reassessment of Portfolio

Every two or three years, I evaluate and analyze my current financial portfolio. I take a deep dive into my credit cards, checking accounts, savings account, and even retirement accounts as well too. This analysis helps me understand my current portfolio but also helps me decide if I need to make any changes. The last time I did this (late 2019), I discovered that my online savings account was *only* giving me an interest rate of 1% whereas other similar online savings accounts was offering 2.2%! I transferred the majority of the principal to this new online bank and the interest income was worth the switch.

There’s not much I can do with savings account. Across the board, the interest rate for savings accounts have gone down to 1% or less due to COVID-19. Even CD rates are dismal.

For the checking account, I do see cash back incentives at various banking institutions in order to “get new customers.” In fact, I already have two checking accounts. Having more accounts provide no added value. And why do I have two? Apparently, opening a mortgage with this bank also required me to also open a checking account. If you Google enough, you’ll find out how a particular bank forced customers to open unwanted accounts in order to hit internal goals.

With credit cards, I’ve been pretty happy with what I currently have. I have three cards… one Visa, one MasterCard (MC) and one American Express (AMEX). I think everyone should have at least one card from each financial services (Visa, MC, AMEX) and that these cards provide some value. Also, everyone should pay off the card in full every month. Since I believe cards need to provide value, the card I use helps me with my goal of aspirational travel. If you look on YouTube, you’ll see many suggestions on “best (travel/rewards/cash back) credit card” videos. I listen to these every so often because they do a good job summarizing the benefits of the latest cards and how it compares to existing cards. Some people enjoy earning rewards benefits by maximizing credit card trifecta systems. Other people (like me) find that maximizing benefits is a chore and are content in just using one card that works towards a goal. In my case, my goal is still aspirational travel and I’m content that my current credit card earns me travel points that I can redeem later. Looking at other travel rewards programs that I am involved in, I’ve apparently also been unintentionally building up hotel rewards from a major brand too. To be honest, I was surprised I had so much (6 digits worth) that had not expired yet and my current membership level too. Because I had so much, I decided to apply for this hotel brand’s credit card and was approved. Let’s see where and what this card can do for me in the future.

This year I did a deep dive into my retirement accounts. I have a company 401K, Roth IRA and stock accounts that hold the employee stock purchase program (ESPP). I contribute the max amount to my 401K every year. My Roth IRA contributions vary mainly because of income limitations. Looking more closely at all my current funds that I hold, I realized that I failed to really consider the benefits between funds categorized as “growth, value, and blend.” Most of these selections were from quick Google searches of the best type of mutual funds and then cross referencing the recommended mutual fund against what was available to me. I am overall quite surprised at the selections that I made given the lack of information. I don’t think any of the decisions are bad but just surprising. I spent some time learning about the 401K funds available to me and then adjusted my portfolio and future contributions. With my Roth IRA, it’s a Vanguard account and have a lot more funds available to me. Since Buffet won the bet by using Vanguard S&P 500 Admiral Shares (VFIAX) as the tool to demonstrate the differences between active vs passive investing, I’ve been pretty intrigued at the concept of selecting funds that mirror the S&P 500. Going into a deep dive, I found that Vanguard more of these funds as growth, value and blend. In addition, there’s also ETF versions (VOO) of the funds. In addition, I also considered the expense ratio and tried to look for funds with lower ratios within my portfolio. Ultimately, I opted to adjust the retirement holdings to predominantly contain large cap value and large cap blend mutual funds.

If people are looking for a “set it and forget it” type of mutual fund, I recommend to evaluate three factors. 1) the type of fund… growth, value, or blend. 2) the market capitalization… large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap… as a proxy for risk and volatility factors. 3) the expense ratio. I think the large cap value like (VVIAX) or (VFIAX) with low expense ratios are worth the investment and should be a guaranteed buy in your retirement portfolio. However, each company’s 401K plan offer different funds but evaluating on the three factors should at least lead to a solid portfolio.

This turned out to be a really long post. I hope some of this helps you in the future.