ROI Scoreboard

back in the day ROI machine

Welcome to the ROI Scoreboard, this is where I compile all the ROI scores from my blog posts.  Each scenario is evaluated over a 10-year horizon with the following summary statistics:

  • Present value – what is the total value of your investment and expected returns in today’s dollars?
  • Return on investment (ROI) – how much of your original investment will you make back? (see: how to use a ROI)
  • Payback period – how long will it take you to recoup your original investment?

The list below is organized descending by present value, meaning the items at the top of the list will save you the most money.

Read moreROI Scoreboard

The ROI of a non-traditional wedding

goats mountain
a captive audience for the elopers


I’m going to keep this real short.  How much would having a non-traditional wedding save the average American couple?  Answer: At least $30,000.

Anybody that has ever seriously thought about getting married has probably weighed the pro’s and con’s of some sort of non-traditional celebration, such as eloping, going to the courthouse, having a small intimate ceremony, a family destination / vacation wedding, etc, and for good reason.  The average American spends over $25,000 on a wedding these days.

My wife and I had a small/medium traditional ceremony ourselves and were really really trying to hold costs down, but we still probably fell right at about the average ourselves.  We loved the ceremony and having our closest family and friends be part of that special day with us, but, having planned so much of it ourselves, I can definitely understand the temptation to do it differently.

Read moreThe ROI of a non-traditional wedding

Retire in 18 years by matching your annual spending with investments

A lot of personal finance bloggers advocate an extremely short path to early retirement, something like 7-10 years through extreme savings.  I am not against this kind of saving, and, frankly, wish I was more up to the task myself.  However, that kind of saving is not easy and not for everyone.

mountain flowers
mountain flowers

A lot of people probably (right or wrong) feel like saving 70%+ of their income is too much to ask… too big of a sacrifice. My wife and I tend to have a foot in both camps.  On one hand, getting to early retirement as fast as possible is definitely worth some major sacrifices for us now, but on the other hand, what would happen if one of us got in a car accident and/or died?  Wouldn’t we want some really cool experiences and memories under our belt as a hedge against the worst case scenario.  I believe this theory is called consumption-smoothing in economics.

Read moreRetire in 18 years by matching your annual spending with investments

Stuff I Like


Services | Products | Books | Movies

Other Websites | Year-End Lists | Effective Altruism


Recommended Services:

  • – Use this free tool to track where all your money goes.  I have been using it since 2009.  Now tracks credit score for free as well.
  • Personal Capital (affiliated) – A free portfolio-management and net worth tracking tool.  A really slick interface and great tool for optimizing your asset allocation based on risk preferences and retirement goals.  I check this about once a month… a nice supplement to
  • Ally Bank – A branch-less bank with no ATM fees and great rates on savings accounts and CD’s.
  • Vanguard Investments – Pioneers in index investing.  Very low management fees.  Investor ownership model puts your interests first.
  • Blue Host Web Hosting (affiliated) – This is who I use to host this site.  Very easy to set up a WordPress site, and reasonably priced at $4.95 per month.  Very happy with proactive customer service and overall experience.
  • Good Guide – A website to help you find safe, healthy, green, and/or ethical products.  A refreshing cut through all the greenwashing and marketing noise.  The more you know…
  • Feedly – RSS reader… subscribe to me!
  • Goodreads – Social network for books…. when will we get a quality one of these for movies??
  • AdBlock – A free browser plugin that blocks nearly all advertisements and speeds up browsing.  Life changing.
  • Strava – Track your bike rides / runs / hikes, and follow your friends too.  Great GPS app with useful metrics to analyze your performance, plus following friends and tracking progress helps you stay motivated.
  • Pymetrics – Play neuroscience games for 30 minutes and get a free career profile.  Innovative cool stuff.
  • Waze – A GPS navigation app for driving.  Some glitches, but generally the best one out there to save you precious time on your commutes, errands, and trips.  It saves you time by watching traffic patterns from other users and rerouting accordingly.


Recommended Products:

  • Chromebooks – Google’s super cheap laptops that operate on the cloud and save you money in the long run.
  • Republic Wireless Phones (affiliated) – Compared to other smartphone plans on the market, I estimate that Republic Wireless saves over $7,600 every ten years.  Given how uncompetitive the cell phone service provider market it is, I’m all about sticking it to the man with this disruptive technology (runs over wifi + cell networks, saving everyone money).


Recommended Books:

  • The Millionaire Next Door – by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko – How most people become millionaires (hint: smart money decisions, not necessarily high salaries).  A personal finance classic.
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street – by Burton G. Malkiel – An investing classic.  Why it is almost impossible to beat the stock market consistently and what you can do about it.
  • Literary Fiction – Pardon the non sequitur, but do you like literary fiction?  Me too.  Here are some of my favorites.  I also put this literary awards analysis together (checkout the tabs across the top).
  • New Yorker Fiction Podcast – Monthly short story read and discussed by a writer and editor.  The commentary is equally as good, if not better than the actual story.
  • New Yorker Poetry Podcast – Same deal as fiction podcast, but with poetry, and the writer actually reads one of their own and picks one from someone else.  Good stuff.

*I’m not affiliated with any of the authors (unfortunately), but I might get a small kickback from Amazon if you buy something.  You should definitely check your local library first.


Other Websites:

  • – News explainers heavy on charts, a little sensationalist and silly at times.
  • New York Times – Paper of record, I particularly like the Upshot Blog
  • New York Magazine – Nice blend of culture, news, and opinion.  Used to be a big fan of Jonathan Chait when I was into politics.
  • Evox Television – These guys asked me to be a contributor to their site, so of course I love them.  They are about “conscious television entertainment and products promoting healthy lifestyles, sustainable development and green living.”  Run by a bunch of people looking to put some good karma into the world.  Hope to see them continue to grow.
  • New York Review of Books – Longform classic
  • n+1 – Literary magazine.  Kristin Dombek, a favorite author, has a regular column here.


Year-End Lists:

Instead of follow all of this super closely, I love just picking up at the end of the year.  Here are the websites that allow me to do that.


Effective Altruism:

Effective altruism is about giving to high-impact charities.  Would you rather give $40,000 to a charity that provides one guide dog for the blind or give that money to a charity that cures 1,000 people of blindness?  That is the basic idea.

  • GiveWell – Really thorough charity evaluation service that picks the top 3 most effective charities in the world.
  • The Life You Can Save – Another charity selection service with a few more options.
  • Giving What We Can– A third selection service somewhere in the middle of GiveWell and The Life You Can Save

Random financial tips


“I’m feeling rather ungrateful”


I’ve come across a few interesting / relevant ideas lately.  There isn’t exactly a thematic coherence between these financial tips / this financial advice, but it’s worth sharing.

Read moreRandom financial tips

Raising successful children: advice from the “experts”

puppy long

When I talk about raising successful children according to “experts”, I put “experts” in quotations because I’m always a little suspicious of power and authority (not in the crazy conspiracy theory kind of way, though).  I prefer to cast my lot with the commoners, the proletariat, the powerless and voiceless, etc.  But as much as I am suspicious of authority, I’m even more averse to willful ignorance; I always like to survey what the “experts” have to say before I come to my own conclusions.

Also, to be honest, while it is a really complicated and personal topic, research about raising kids probably isn’t as fraught with corporate, political, and professional interests as much as, say, tax policy research might be.  So it’s seems pretty safe to believe most of what these guys and gals have to say.

Well, you must be impatiently wondering, “who are these damn experts already?”  I’ll tell you.  In this post I’m going to summarize three different books about kids:

  • NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough
  • The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings by David Lancy

After that I might reference a few other articles and then I’ll close and try to find some common threads.   Ok, let’s go.

Read moreRaising successful children: advice from the “experts”

Occupy capital markets!

graffiti house

Here is the deal: I think there is a good chance that economic growth in the U.S. will be slower than normal going forward.  And that slow growth will probably hurt workers more than capital owners.  So by my reasoning, it probably wouldn’t hurt to be a little more aggressive in trying to become a capital owner yourself.

It goes without saying that a lot of this is just my personal opinion (about the unknowable future), but some major names in economics have signed-off on at least part of this world-view as well.  I’m just trying to provide some food for thought, and more importantly, action, as it relates to your financial well-being.

Alright, let’s start big and then get smaller.  How do you measure the size of the economy?  GDP (gross domestic product).  GDP is the market value of everything produced within a country.  So if the things produced in the U.S. are more valuable this year than last year, the economy, or GDP, has grown.  For production to be more valuable year-over-year, it is likely that production itself also grew, although this doesn’t always have to be the case.

Read moreOccupy capital markets!

How much does a smaller car actually save you?

small car


Buying a Honda Accord Sedan instead of a Honda Pilot SUV saves roughly $25,000 over 10 years.  But both cars are still going to cost a whole lot when all operating and ownership expenses are included (close to $100,000 per decade).


Ever wondered how much money a smaller car actually saves?  Maybe not, but you’re a little curious right?  An SUV seems so much safer and more luxurious, right?  And if an SUV really isn’t that much more expensive than a regular-sized car, why settle for less?

Read moreHow much does a smaller car actually save you?

More roommates = more money + more fun

street houses colorful


Ever thought about finding some roommates to save money?  Well, getting one roommate would save the average American renter about $6,000 per year, while getting two roommates would save $7,600 per year.  Despite the diminishing marginal returns of extra roommates, there’s actually a lot to be said about the non-financial aspects of platonic cohabitation as well.  Hear me out…

A little background

Throughout my college, grad school, and bachelor days (roughly 10 years), I was lucky enough to live with about 25 different people. These roommates brought incredible richness and variety to my life… I owe many of my greatest memories to them.

Of course, there were times when having roommates seemed less than ideal (competing for shower time early in the morning for example, or dirty dishes piling up), but those were the exceptions (and good character building anyway).  The pluses definitely outweighed the minuses, for example

Read moreMore roommates = more money + more fun

Luxury cars: cars for people who like to work


Guess what… buying an economy car saves a ton of money versus buying a luxury car.  But just how much does an expensive status symbol fancy car really cost?

By my estimates, buying a new Honda Accord will save almost $50,000 over 10 years rather than buying a new Acura TL.  And these are just mid-sized cars.  Knowing that large cars generally cost more money, I’m sure the luxury vs. economy tradeoff is even worse for SUV’s and trucks.

Let’s just pause for a second to reflect on that number… an average of $5,000 per year.  For the household making about $50,000 and saving 10% of their income in a 401k (very generous assumption), buying an economy car (instead of luxury car) is equivalent to 10 years of work savings (minus the interest), hence the title of this post.

In my humble opinion, Luxury cars are a very silly thing to waste money on, particularly for the average Joe.   The essence of a car is to get one safely and efficiently from point A to point B, and luxury cars are no better than economy cars at accomplishing this.

Read moreLuxury cars: cars for people who like to work