Mad Fientist Archives

Mad Fientist Archives

This is a list of all the posts I’ve published, grouped by category.

If you’d rather explore everything as part of a story (which includes the reasoning behind why I wrote the articles that I did), check out this post.

Tax Avoidance


FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early)

Travel Hacking

Geographical Arbitrage


Financial Independence Podcast Interviews

Elsewhere on the Internet


Use the links below to browse through all the posts in a specific category.

Future Posts

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12 comments for “Mad Fientist Archives

  1. Susan Sun
    September 30, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I have a question about health insurance now that you don’t have an employer. What kind of insurance you buy when you stay overseas? And if you come back to the States, what health insurance works the best?


    • Danielle
      August 29, 2018 at 10:29 pm

      May I up vote this inquiry? The single most common pain point I hear from people who are ready to retire, but haven’t yet is health insurance costs. Are you lumping this under expenses to account for within your 4% withdrawal budget? I’m curious about how you planned for this now that you’ve plunged into early retirement.

      Thank you! This blog has been so informative.

  2. Dory
    December 6, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Hey there, Mad FI!

    I’ve been a big fan of your website, your excellent interview podcasts on YouTube and greatly appreciate all of the time and effort you put into this. I especially like the FI Laboratory! Great!

    I was curious to find out if you invest in any precious metals, i.e., gold, silver, platinum. Ever since this crazy election cycle, I have been checking out some financial YouTube channels that are on the bit doom and gloom side. Things like if our inflation goes as high as Venezuela’s (which is currently about 750%, yikes!), then all of our currency will be worthless, quite frightening. Other scenarios that seem to be floating around from these same YouTube channels, say if gold/silver prices trend along with the stock market indices, that that is a bad sign. Apparently, gold/silver prices are normally inversely related to the stock market. And one other thing that was mentioned is that if gold becomes the international standard, then that could be a big problem too, since the US dollar is not actually backed by hardly any gold at this point. There are other scenarios that are also mentioned, but these are some I hear about a lot.

    I don’t have much of a background in a lot of money/currency/financial matters, so all of what I have mentioned may be complete hype. Sorry if my ignorance is shining through. I’m still researching what is the truth out there, which is quite difficult to find. Which is why I am contacting you.

    Have you heard this chatter out there? Is it just a new version of Harry Dent, who keeps re-appearing all of the time. I wondered if you or your peers have an opinion on any of this. I am worried that getting close to FI will be in jeopardy if the value of the US dollar tanks. I was told by a friend that considering buying 10% or so, in precious metals, can at least insure that some of my portfolio will not be at the mercy of some kind of currency calamity.

    If you have any thoughts to share on this, that would be most appreciated.

    Early wishes to you for a Happy Holiday this season!

    Dory :D

    • Matt
      September 6, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Long story short:

      1) Putting money in commodities including gold, silver, etc is speculating, not investing. You can still make money with it, but it is much more akin to sports betting or blackjack than stocks or real estate. Gold does not have intrinsic value the way ownership of Ford or Apple or your own house does. If your house is valued at $0, you can still live in it. If the share price of Ford or Apple went to $0.01 without changing the actual company, they could still continue producing valuable products and making money that could be given to investors if they chose to.

      2) From Warren Buffet to Mr. Money Mustache, people who are knowledgeable of personal finance do not put any their money in precious metals or other commodities. Ever. There are lots of ads out there to buy or sell gold etc. These are intended to take advantage of people who don’t understand investing (99% of people). The concerns about the US dollar becoming worthless are not based in reality. Even if we pretended that it happened, gold, etc would still be a bad place to put your money. The why is very complex, but if you don’t want to waste your time studying all this stuff, just ignore the snakeoil salesmen and invest in a total stockmarket index fund like VTSAX and/or real estate.


      I apologize if your question was more about options pricing arbitrage techniques for derivative holdings. In that case I’d say there’s little to gain over VTI for a big risk of losing a lot of time and money. Might as well just build a real business if you’re going to spend that much time playing with investments.

      • Dory
        July 14, 2020 at 10:31 pm

        Hey Matt, a long while for mr to say thanks for your thorough reply! Makes sense.
        Best Regards,

  3. Champ
    September 20, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Hey Madfientist – quick question, what is your opinion on closing credit cards that are no longer necessary?

    Meaning, you have the spending power among other cards, they have an annual fee, and/or they offer perks that you are no longer in need of?

    I have one such card, and I’d like to 86 it, but at the same time, I don’t want to cannibalize my available credit and blast my debt to income ratio. Not that I carry much debt, if at all, but still…wondering if it’s a good idea, Credit Wise.

    Interested in your thoughts.

  4. Chyvan
    December 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Can you get someone that understands the intricacies of NUA (net unrealized appreciation) to discuss how to maximize the benefits and minimize the tax hit when emptying a 401K with employer stock. For example, I have $18K cost basis on a current market value of $54K. I think I can pay ordinary income tax on the $18K the year the stock is put in my brokerage, and then sell and get more favorable long-term capital gains treatment. However, I’m curious how stepped up cost basis my work, and other things where someone can make a terrible mistake from ignorance because it seems so complicated.

  5. Brett Schneider
    June 27, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Mad Fientist,

    I’m a former finance professional (controller at Intel for 17yrs… until I left ~3yrs ago I have a passion for speculation and that’s what I do these days in addition to a small online business.

    The reason I’m contacting you is that I have an idea for what I think could be a great article. I think an optimal investing strategy is something that I can’t find in ANY investment literature… Instead of asking the question “Do I pay off my mortgage early or invest more” I think a better question is “Is there a way to do both and get an even better outcome”. Specifically I think the optimal answer is to eliminate all the mortgage debt possible while keeping $50k+ in a futures account and using it to invest the notional value of what your mortgage would have been. In other words if you have house valued at $500k with a $200k mortage on it and then separately another $300k of taxable investments, then your could pay off the mortgage and use the $100k remaining to buy futures so that your notional value of investments is equal to the $300k it otherwise would have been. You would save $8k/yr in mortgage interest costs (minus your personal tax shield) and would pay slightly more for the futures than ETFs, but I expect this strategy would save $4-5k/year. I do this myself.

    The thing I don’t understand is why I can’t find any information on this type of system. Maybe my google skills are getting rusty. I’d be happy to talk with you more and even collaborate on it if this is something you’re interested in blogging about. Email below.

    [email protected]

    • Anonymous
      June 28, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Futures contracts are taxed 60/40 long term/short term capital gains and are marked to market meaning you have no control over when the taxes occur. This is a significant cost unless your tax bracket is very low.

    • Matt
      September 6, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Why is that optimal? The asset allocation seems arbitrary. You seem to be considering only a very narrow range of possible investment opportunities.

      What sort of returns are you producing from futures? Is it more profitable to play with that than starting a business or parking money in VTI and consulting, etc in your now free time?

      If you’re willing to use leverage, maxing out a HELOC and taking any number of approaches to real estate investing can produce impressive returns on equity. The Mad Fientist is awesome for stocks, but if you’re willing to be more active, real estate has lots of ways to get better returns in exchange for far more complexity. I used to think that real estate was an inferior investment, but the potential leverage gives it a decisive advantage in my book for a more active investor as you seem to be.

      Honestly it sounds like you invest in futures because it’s what you know and like.

  6. Candice
    October 12, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Hey! I am trying to find a blog post on credit cards and tips on managing balances. Can you direct me? Thanks !

  7. Lapsang Souchong
    January 5, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Hello MF!

    Love the work you are doing here! I find your writing concise and your diagrams clear. Great!

    As one getting close to FIRE-ing, I often wonder about a process for managing my assets to ensure I am paying myself an appropriate income each year but still optimizing my assets for risk/returns. As a fan of David Swenson, I like his bond-ladder plan (fig. 3.1 from Unconventional Success).

    Have you examined this question?


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