Ten Things

Ten things we did well. Ten things we could have done better.

What we did well……

  1. We made the big leap and relocated to the US nearly twenty years ago, left our supportive family behind without hurting any feelings and built an exciting life together. That sounds like three already. Oh well.
  2. We made it safely through the very early years after our boys birth without dropping them, leaving them behind at the grocery store or forgetting to change a dirty diaper.
  3. We both learned to ski in our late twenties/early thirties and got the bug BIG TIME. Jackson Hole is our #1 destination.
  4. We often think long term and have set up a will and a revocable trust. A charitable endowment is next on the to-do list.
  5. We have raised two healthy boys who enjoy the outdoors, embrace everything about school, love being with friends and have a respect of elders that belies their young age. So far so good. The teenage years await.
  6. We have committed to our jobs in the pharmaceutical industry to the fullest we can. We are immensely proud of our contributions to drug discovery and advancing science for the betterment of human healthcare. The work to discover effective and safe medicines never ends. Every patient deserves the very best effort from all in our industry.
  7. We understood the tremendous power of compound interest over time from an early age in our respective careers and have both been maxing out our 401k’s and investing in 529 plans for a long time. Our tax-advantaged accounts are appropriately healthy.
  8. We continue to invest in family vacations and have traveled internationally with our kids to visit family from as early as 6 months old. During those early days it was at times a challenging endeavor but always fun.
  9. We have provided financial assistance to our parents to help with their regular travel across the pond. They don’t travel so easily now due to health considerations. See point 8.
  10. We have adapted to new opportunities in the workplace that have helped advance our careers and, importantly, ability to invest in our future.


What we could have done better……

  1. Although we have kept in touch with close friends in the UK, we have struggled to see them in person as much as we would like. Trips across the pond have been primarily spent visiting and spending time with close family.
  2. The impact of fees on a portfolio is huge. We only came to understand the concept of low cost index funds at Vanguard later than we would have liked.
  3. We hung on with a financial advisor for too long. In hindsight, we should never have been attached to him. We should have conducted our own research, educated ourselves about all things investing much sooner than we did. Large fees + advisor commissions + market uncertainty = portfolio stagnation.
  4. Prior to kids we lived quite an opulent lifestyle. We loved great restaurants and very good wine. Still do. But it is managed more carefully and we think twice (even thrice) before splurging. Discipline is a habit we are now much friendlier with. But we should have become friends with discipline much earlier.
  5. Early in our life in the US we tried to cut corners by getting our taxes done on the cheap. Not a good move having a tax filing submitted with international relocation expenses incorrectly “deducted”. The IRS never knocks on your door with flowers and a smile.
  6. Market drops are inevitable and provide an opportunity to buy funds cheaply. We made the classic mistake of pulling a decent sum out of the market after a sizable decline and proceeded to watch the remainder gather dust in a trust for years. Oops.
  7. We invested in two non-traded REITs without fully understanding their illiquid nature. No disaster scenario yet and a couple more years to nervously watch them (a) grow or (b) tank or (c) stagnate. Growing for now at least….
  8. Our shared goal, plan and desired outcome with respect to financial independence was developed over time although each of us were frustrated by the other on many occasions. Conversations on the concept of Time and Freedom provided clarity that eluded us for too long.
  9. Financial planning is all about data and little about art. Despite our background in science and ploughing through data for a living, we took our eye off the data a few times when it came to financial decisions. Doing your homework, being educated and applying it never stops.
  10. We flourish not in spite of adversity but because of it. We need to constantly remind ourselves that “doing your best” is actually all you need when it comes to investing. There is no such thing as the perfect investor, not even the Oracle of Omaha himself. “Doing your best” is realistically all you need to do in life.


What are you most proud of? What do you wish you could have done differently or better towards your goals? Let us know what lessons you learned on the journey towards your goals.


    1. Yeah, we didn’t make the trip last winter but are heading back for family vacation in early 2017. Can’t wait! Awesome terrain, such friendly people, great ski-school for the kids…although we’re struggling to keep up with them on the mountain these days.

      And we are known to splurge on a cocktail at the (I won’t name it) mountain base hotel…..

  1. Moving countries is one of the most challenging yet rewarding things (I have done that myself, having moved from the UK to Australia).

    Don’t be too hard on yourselves about financial decisions, everyone is always learning, that’s how we get to the knowledge that we have today by making mistakes and learning new things. No-one in the world can say they’ve had a perfect financial life, not even Warren Buffett, he’s had a few stinker investment choices (more recently for Eg Tesco).


  2. Thanks for the support. ?
    I am reminded of the phrase:
    “If you are not making mistakes then you are not doing much of anything”

    The move to US was the best thing that happened to us. Looking back, we were so glad to get the opportunity to make that move. And a lot of support in the early days that helped us navigate the transition. I am sure you found fun and challenge in your big move.

  3. We didn’t get ‘serious’ about saving until a few years ago. Luckily, I had been passively squirreling away the extra money… but I occasionally think about how much we could have. But, there is no changing the past 🙂 and we’ve bought a few new cars – and then bought new ones again within a few years… the whole lifestyle changes of having babies and kids messed up our car plans. We have done a lot right – saving for college immediately after kids, and always being with Vanguard, and never a financial adviser. I think luck has helped the good decisions out weigh the bad ones, so far.

    1. Yes, you’re right that it feels like luck. Maybe it’s also having had least a pretty sensible attitude towards money, if not perfect. I like to think that our recent ‘epiphany’ could also be seen as a continuing education

  4. This is a great list of what you did well and what you could have done better. I particularly like maxing out your 401Ks and 529s. I hate to say but college costs in the US is increasing exponentially. The costs are climbing faster than the climb of the salaries. 🙁

    Like you, my wife and I are maxing our 401Ks and 529s for my kid. I don’t want to pay a lot in the future for education so we save money through the 529s. Like you, we are proud of this.

    One thing that I think I could have done better is to diversify my investment portfolio. My portfolio is mostly tied to mutual funds. In the event of catastrophic market crash, then, I might lose a big chunk of my money. I could do better than tying most to mutual funds.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. We think it is important to offer a fair and balanced view of the successes and challenges on our journey. The hard lessons are often what shapes us.
    We share the same philosophy about college savings. Want to get on top of that early and sleep as best we can knowing that it may not quite be enough. We’ll manage any deficit through other avenues.

    Regarding diversification, been educating myself much more about REITs of late and just posted a “viewpoint” and mini-analysis. The Asset Allocation quilt over at A Wealth of Common Sense blog by Ben Carlson is very enlightening. You may like it.

  6. Looks like you accomplished some great things! And you are humble enough to recognize when you didn’t but are working to change those items!

    I’m proud that my wife and I paid off our student loans as quickly as we did! And that we are currently holding a 50% savings rate even though she decided to stay home with our daughter.

  7. Thanks for the supportive feedback. Congrats on balancing savings goals with the very important aspect of raising children. The two can go hand in hand and it takes hard work of both mum and dad to make it happen.

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