You can’t beat the market

So much of the financial services industry’s value proposition resides on the premise that markets can be beaten. With the most talented managers, the best research and cutting edge processes and algorithms, the modern financial firm promises to get you ahead, in exchange for fees that would otherwise kill long-term returns.

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Bank of America SafePass Card Bubbles

Solutions found! — Since writing the following article, two solutions have been found, and are documented at the end of the article.


To authenticate certain transactions, Bank of America issue its customers a physical device called the SafePass Card. Unfortunately, it suffers from a design flaw that frequently renders it useless. This is a showstopper for any customer unable to use the secondary, US-only, SMS-based authentication mechanism. Bank of America customer support believe the problem—which has existed since 2012—is isolated. The 75+ frustrated commenters at the bottom of this blog article tell a very different story. (And that’s just the people who have Googled the problem, read this article, and taken the time to comment. There are surely many more!)

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Permanent portfolio historical performance spreadsheet

Today I created a publicly-accessible Google Spreadsheet that calculates the performance of the Permanent Portfolio over a range of dates.

As a proxy for the four asset classes, the spreadsheet uses four ETFs:

  • VTI (Stocks)1
  • GLD (Gold)
  • TLT (Long-term Government Bonds)
  • SHY (Cash)

At the time of this writing, the spreadsheet looks something like this:

The only cells that should be edited are the start and ending dates, after which the spreadsheet calculates the performance of the portfolio over that range (assuming a 25% allocation to each.)

If you’d like to create a copy of this spreadsheet for your own use, you can find it here:

Click here to jump to the spreadsheet


  1. As readers of my Money for Something book know, I personally invest in both VTI and VXUS for my stocks allocation. I decided to not include VXUS in this spreadsheet, however, since it’s a relatively new ETF and wouldn’t allow the overall performance to be calculated beyond around 2011. 

The Big Short—A brief summary of the 2008 financial collapse

Get it on Amazon → The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis, is an amazing book about the banking crisis of 2008. Having watched the events unfold over the course of about a year, and not really understanding everything involved, the tragedy of situation wasn’t quite as impressive to me at the time, as it is having read Lewis’ concise, clear and compressed explanation of it. While I’d encourage everyone interested to read the book, I’m going to try to summarize the story here.

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