Sorry it has been a few weeks since I’ve hit you up with an email. I’m working on my latest startup which has had some trials and tribulations but I’m back on track and will be announcing the name of this endeavor soon. Working on a startup that matters becomes a bit of an obsession with me. I start thinking about it all of the time and almost anything can be the spark of inspiration for a new area of opportunity or growth.
But with those opportunities comes a huge threat - the allure of distraction. I’ve been trying hard to stop all of the distractions which are so easy to hook into now that we’re all at home (well most of us - we’re still sheltering-in-place regardless of the insane claims of some of our elected officials). Among the things I’ve quit are playing some mobile games (goodbye Clash Royale and Asteroids!) and watching TV while I work. On that second, I realized the attention distraction is just too great even when it’s shows that I’ve seen before. So now I’m exclusively listening to music (getting that Spotify Family Plan membership was a good call) which is useful in discovering great new artists that I can recommend to you below.
I’ve also gone deep into using Obsidian.md for knowledge management. I had started using Roam Research but after having some uptime issues and concerns about the integrity of data, I decided to look for alternatives. Fortunately the founder of Roam Research ended up blowing up on Twitter over a user who was also looking for alternatives and that gave me visibility into Obsidian. I will say I’m not a master in documenting everything and taking notes in Obsidian but given that the data is saved as Markdown on my local machine, I have no issues with uptime or note integrity now. Just remember to backup, backup, backup. And once you do, make sure you can properly recover the backups because a backup you can’t recover is the same as never backing up in the first place.
So with that, I hope you’re well and enjoy the rest of the newsletter.
Content From Sanjay
This week I’ve only got one thing for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).
Articles I’ve Read That Made Me Think
Both the New Yorker and Last Week Tonight have covered the issues and challenges happening with the US Postal Service right now. I find it mind boggling that people can look at what has happened with the privatization of other services (for-profit prisons, anyone?) and think that a common good like the postal service could be privatized and still be a valuable service to a functioning democracy. I’ve read a lot about this issue over the last few years and so many who criticize the USPS don’t understand how Congress pushed through a law in 2006 that mandated the USPS to pre-fund 75 years of pension obligations. That means that future employees of the USPS who haven’t even been born yet must have their pension obligations paid for now. Show me one private company that does that. There are none because that is insane and largely part of the reason behind the USPS’s ongoing annual losses. Prior to this law the USPS (like the US Patent and Trademark Office, by the way) was profitable. Maybe the answer is more autonomy for the USPS without privatizing the whole thing. Also, I had no idea that you could send children through the mail! Also, given that the USPS has the largest vehicle fleet in the United States, I hope that they move into electric vehicles soon - that would be great for our collective air quality. Can someone work on this bit?
During the last few months I’ve been watching the stock markets mercilessly trying to figure out how to both protect and grow our assets. I was fortunate to have been able to make some buying moves on March 23rd which, so far, was the bottom of the market. But the amount of time I’m spending on this isn’t helpful for my larger goal of launching this new startup (see above). So I’ve started using Wealthfront again (disclosure: that link to Wealthfront gets you $5k managed for free and I get the same $5k managed for free on my end if you end up using the service). The ability to have computer algorithms optimize my portfolio and maximize my tax savings is something that would be nearly impossible for me to do by hand. Their 0.25% annual fee seems pretty reasonable as well (that $5k managed free amounts to a $12.50 savings per year). But what is more interesting is what is available as account balances reach $100k and beyond. In particular, I went down the rabbit hole reading about their risk parity strategy whitepaper. That was a bit of goop for me, so I headed over to the always great resource Investopedia and read their page on risk parity. Thinking through the use of leverage (i.e., debt) which I wouldn’t be able to manage personally makes a lot of sense to amplify returns. If you’re a long-term investor like me, then amplifying returns is something you should always pay attention to. The other option to look at, if you’re interested, is Betterment. I’ve tried both and I like Wealthfront’s addition of a few more categories for their portfolios (like natural resources) as well as the opportunity to do stock level tax harvesting for larger accounts. Both of these companies are of the same relative size in terms of assets under management (AUM).
I’ve got to say that I absolutely love the song “Cold War” from Cautious Clay (aka Josh Karpeh). The harmonic voices of the backup signers reminds me of a lot of Enya songs from way back in the day. As an added recommendation, we’ve been watching the show “All American” (two seasons available on Netflix currently - season three should be on the CW later this year COVID delays notwithstanding) and this song was played in one of the episodes in the first season. Note that Cautious Clay isn’t that unknown with just over 2.5m monthly listeners on Spotify right now. Seems like a lot of folks are unknown when I first hear of them (less than 50k monthly listeners) and then they shoot up by the time I get around to recommending them here. Go figure.