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FI Weekly – November 30, 2021


Simple Tips for Online Security

I recently chatted with a friend in the cyber security field about some of the common-sense online security practices I follow, and he thought it was a good 80/20 analysis of low-hanging fruit to get the vast majority of the benefits of being safe online without it being overwhelming. 

There’s always another rabbit hole to dive down in online security (VPNs, throwaway email addresses, etc., etc.), so this is not an authoritative list certainly, but just some smart practices you can implement today to be a little bit safer:

  • Turn on Two-Factor Authentication (extra login security notifications, etc.) everywhere possible.  This includes all financial sites, plus high value accounts like all your email and social media.
  • Use a highly regarded password manager such as Lastpass or 1Password and take the time to update every password so it is unique and generated with 20+ characters, with symbols, numbers and letters. Then make sure your “master password” is something you’ll never forget but is as unbreakable as possible!
  • Do everything you can to NOT click on links in emails you receive purporting to be “official” emails. These ‘phishing’ emails are quite sophisticated so even if they look official, I just navigate to the site and login directly.  Almost any message you receive can be accessed this way.
  • Avoid public Wifi and logging into any shared networks if at all possible.  Sure, it might save some data on your phone, but it’s rarely worth the risk.
  • Shut off your computers and phones at night to limit exposure.  As elementary as this sounds, if your devices are off for 10+ hours out of every 24, you’re cutting off 40%+ of the time you are open to attack.
  • Download as little as you possibly can to your computer and phone, but especially don’t install unknown file types or ‘.exe’ files unless you explicitly are intending to download and install a program.
  • Navigate to as few unknown websites as you can.  Even if something shows up in a Google result, it doesn’t mean the site is 100% safe. Use caution when surfing the web!
  • Don’t give away private data that could be used to guess your account recovery questions. Ignore all those silly Facebook threads that draw out information on important details from your life (where you went on your honeymoon, street you grew up on, high school mascot, etc.).

This is clearly not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure I’ll kick myself later for leaving out something obvious, but if you take nothing else away from this email, please setup a password manager and take a handful of hours to make all your passwords unique. That’ll put you ahead of 95% of people.

Hacks for Holiday Shopping

My friend Chris Hutchins from the ‘All the Hacks’ podcast released a newsletter recently on holiday shopping hacks that I thought was a perfect addition to the FI Weekly as we’re in the holiday season.

You all know my one main trick of using CamelCamelCamel.com at this point, but Chris dives in deep with some hacks I haven’t seen before (‘triple stacking savings’ for example).

ChooseFI Resource of the Week: Top 10 Cities for FI

We have a lot of amazing free resources available through the ChooseFI.com and ChooseFIFoundation.org websites and I honestly don’t think we do a great job of making it clear how best to find all those useful resources.

So, while we’re trying to fix that presentation issue, I wanted to add a section to this newsletter that highlights some of these resources:

Our team just updated the “Top 10 Best Cities for Financial Independence” article for 2022 and I’m blown away at how well-researched it is. 

At first, I chuckled that my hometown of Richmond, VA was in the #1 spot and thought there may have been some favoritism, but after reading the writeup, I was convinced! 

We literally moved here to help us reach FI, so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised!  More importantly, it’s interesting to read what makes these Top 10 cities so FI-friendly.

ChooseFI Community Taking Action This Week

  • Justin said, “My 1% better this week has to do with capital gains harvesting. I realized that I still had shares of some other funds in my taxable account at Vanguard that I would rather exchange for VTSAX. But I didn’t want to sell those appreciated shares and incur a taxable event. Then I remembered capital gains harvesting. I went back and listened to episode 170R and those case studies helped me realize that I could sell all of my shares in the other funds and realize almost $15,000 in gains without incurring ANY tax since I would fall in the 0% capital gains bracket. This is something I will definitely be taking action on before the year is up.”
  • Patricia said, “My year end win is switching my car insurance policy to another company via Policygenius in October. By switching, my monthly payment has reduced from $200 to $160. The extra $40 now goes towards paying my cellphone bill. Thanks again, I have learned so much since discovering ChooseFI back 2019.”
  • Lisa said, “I was inspired by your comment/challenge regarding the FI communities’ goal of hitting a $0 tax return refund so that we can use our dollars now and not later. So, I pulled out our tax returns and paystubs to see where we stood to date this year. Sure enough, we have already contributed far more than our 2020 tax liabilities with no changes in income for 2021. I promptly changed my State and Federal withholdings (Fed was a little tricky with the new form) and came up with a $300/pay period savings which I’ve now diverted directly to our 529 accounts (which our State gives us tax credit for). I think this is a double win and definitely a 1%+ improvement in my life.”
  • Jingjing said, “I was paying about $50 a week for a pottery studio membership and I absolutely love it. However, with this year ending and doing my own finances, I was considering limiting my studio membership next year because this is so expensive. But I would totally miss the community perspective of being with other creatives and inspiring each other. So, this Tuesday, I asked if I could just volunteer around the studio either cleaning or doing production work (for her pottery) or help with her business finances (I am also a CPA). She absolutely LOVED the idea and said she’d want to pay me in studio membership (aka trading my skills to studio time!) Man, something totally unexpected came from having the courage to reach out and ask. I couldn’t have thought about asking if not for many encouragements from reading everyone’s 1% every week!! So, thank you!!”
  • Kalem and Tenille said, “Well guys, I guess my 1% better is I’m writing this email from my friend’s sailboat off the coast of Mexico getting a taste of a potential FI lifestyle. Over the past couple of years my wife and I have acquired 4 rental properties, Airbnb out an apartment attached to our home, have been maxing out our retirement accounts and are now starting to hone in on our FI number. It’s been a lot of work but it feels pretty good knowing that in my mid forties I should never have to look for a job for the rest of my life. I’ve always been a saver but had really never had a saving purpose until I stumbled into the world of FI through Mad Fientist, Mr. Money Mustache, bigger pockets and of course you guys. Keep up the good work and thanks for the continued education and motivation to stay the course.”

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