Pay a Finance service or Personally manage your retirement funds?

Of Mountains & Valleys

Like most people I used to put my 401K in safe funds when choosing safe versus risky fund options. My yearly returns also reflected my choices, most of the time I would average 5% or less (mostly less).

A big problem with this method of saving for my retirement was the fact that most of the money in my 401k was coming from the deductions on my check. This would actually be ok if I started working and funding my 401k at 21, but life happens and  I started later in my twenties.

To increase my returns I started following the daily performance of all the funds available in my 401k and I would manually rebalance my account every few months. I also started having larger balances in more aggressive funds and would rebalance every few weeks. This helped raise my yearly returns a few percentage points in some years but not always.

I decided to write some code to automatically rebalance my account for me since I was loosing money in a lot of situations when things would come up or I would forget to log in and rebalance my account. In 2 and a half years that my code has been running it was able to double the balance that was there when it started running, averaging about 20% returns at this rate I will have enough to retire in about 10 yrs if I stop my contributions and less than 10 if I keep adding my contributions.

If my code had not worked my other option would have been to pay for one of the services offered to manage our company’s 401k plans for a certain fee. Right now am happy my money is working just as hard as I do, but I also understand not everyone is in the same position am in since my day job involves writing code. 

Personally, I would suggest if you are trying to improve your 401k returns try and invest more time on a regular basis (days,weeks not months) and learn how the different funds you have available are performing and keep rebalancing your account frequently, some plans will also let you set how you want your account rebalanced every month/pay period automatically for free. If you have some more time and skill you can learn how trading systems work and build something that is able to evaluate your funds and rebalance your account accordingly. The last option which I haven’t tried would be to pay a service to automatically rebalance your account, I feel even if you are going to go with this option to first do option one so that you can use that as a baseline to gauge the paid services performance. 

Some people argue that your 401k should be treated like a marathon where you setup your preferences and leave it and only rebalance a few times a year. This is what I did with my account for almost ten years and in 2.5 years of aggressively rebalancing as the market changed I was able to add to my account as much as I had been able to contribute in 10yrs, without having to depend on salary increases to increase my contributions. So for me am sticking with the sprint, if it means I will need fewer years to build my retirement nest to where I would like it to be.

Note: All thoughts written here are my own, and should not be taken as financial advice, am not a financial expert just someone who likes to solve real world problems using code.

VP8/9 vs h264/5 for personal videos

Recently I needed to encode some clips taken with my phone to a web optimized format since the videos were already in mp4 my initial thought was to keep them in mp4 format h264 video/AAC Audio.
First things first to get the videos to a web optimized format a re-encode would be needed so I had to accept that some drop in quality was going to happen. That was the easy part. A little googling and I found that libfdk_aac is the best AAC codec currently to use with ffmpeg, so I uninstalled my RPM installed ffmpeg and tried to compile my own. Getting sources for all the codecs I needed to have in my ffmpeg was pretty straight forward, but the build failed with some make error gcc was having issues building for the platform. This left me with 2 options wipe the OS fedora 20 and upgrade to the latest 21 or spin up a VM and use that to do the compile. The second option seemed like the way to go but I still wasn’t sold on the idea of having to do all this extra effort just to encode some phone clips.

During this thinking period when I was trying to get some time to go with option two I came across an article about vp9 and it hit me I was willing to jump through all this hoops to use a proprietary codec while there was a comparable opensource codec I could use with ffmpeg out of the box. So I re-installed ffmpeg from RPM spent about an hour tweaking some scripts to do the conversion and rotation of the clips.
Played back the newly encoded webm files and I could barely notice a difference with the original files, they were also 50% – 70% the size of the original files. Getting my video hosting application to work with webm files took about another hour as it was not on the list of supported extensions this was uprising since it’s an open source application.

Right now am feeling pretty happy with my choice as expected safari and IE don’t support webm so for those needing to watch the clips am just telling them to use Chrome or firefox. While the video hosting application allows me to share the clips with outsiders for my internal consumption of the clips I use Plex Media Server once they add support for webm to their native clients I will be converting the whole collection of clips from mp4 to webm.

Update: I received some feedback from family members and they are able to view the videos without a problem, so looks like I will be sticking with VP8/9.

My First 10k run

Today I ran my first ever official 10k and it was something else, I have run the same distance several times myself while just jogging but it was different while doing it for competition, and the course was not forgiving at all which I had heard from a few people who had participated at the us10k classic before. I was happy with my results though coming in at 500 0f  2998 timed racers, I was able to set a personal best time of 50 min my earlier record was 1h2min for the same distance and my race number is here just so I can always remember. After the race I got to learn that the lady who was first in women had parked her car at the finish line jogged to the start line started with everyone and finished fourth overall in a time of 35min, it felt impossible for me to comprehend this especially since I felt as if my body was about to fall apart and I had only ran half the distance she ran this morning.

Next am looking forward to my first half marathon.

Going Raw

After reading several articles on this topic I decided to try it, so I went to the local grocery store and bought some sprouts, started up my blender to make my smoothie as usual but this time I added raw sprouts into the mix. To tell you the truth the first few days do take some getting used to. The raw sprouts have a distinct flavor and smell which can take some adjusting to. Right now am on my second week and I can drink it without a problem. I have come to love sandwiches from mellow mushroom as they add sprouts to their veggie sandwiches.

My first 5k Run

I went for my first 5k run today, got there late had to run through a street full of people, I don’t know what was my time as race had already started when we got there but when I crossed the finish line clock was at 35 min, am excited just to have been there.
Note to self come with stop watch next time come early. I will scan my race number put it here just as a reminder for me.

Age sucks

Today I went running and ended up walking home. No it wasn’t a new course I went running just one I haven’t run in a long time but for my excuse it was also the hottest day yet this year 86F. I just started running again a few weeks ago after recovering from a foot injury. I started out with a short course for the first few weeks and thought I was ready to go back to where I was before, but my body was not co-operating. I became so dehydrated I stopped sweating, next I started getting mini cramps in my legs, and that’s when I knew my run was over, I walked home for the first time in my life. I have seen it happen to some of my training buddies before but never to me.
It also seems the older you get your body slows down more than you think, it certainly gets harder to lose those few pounds you gained over Xmas, and you take longer than you used to to get used to working out again it definitely hurts more too.

why I’ll never buy anything apple

I got introduced to open source software a few years back and to me I think it’s the best thing out there.
This week apple got a patent for the touch technology employed on the iphone. This is their way of stiffling further development on devices with such capabality. The touch technology has been around for some time, and it’s not an invention of apple. So what if the person who invented it also patented it all those devices using it wouldn’t be there, or only big companies which can afford licensing fees would be able to use it.
Companies which have devices utilising this feature are getting ready to defend themselves against apple, but for small companies which can’t afford getting into battle with the likes of apple will hold of on innovating in products in this area until the dust settles. In the meantime it’s the consumers who suffer because we are the ones who would have stood to gain from other
entrants in this field, and you keep saying how apple loves you, no just your money.
I bought my wife a shuffle sometime back when they were still selling for $80 a piece “not my choice”, and compared to what was available from it’s competitors at the time for the same amount they put it to shame interms of features available. Even at its current price the competitors offerings leave it way behind interms of value. They are the same ones who said they don’t know how to build a sub 500 machine that ain’t a peice of junk, well psyster came and proved that was a lie.Their $399 machine wasn’t a piece of junk. That’s it for now as the more I write the more pissed of I get and, using more of my time on this topic is a waste of my valuable time. So that you know my choice would be the G1 or or palms devices which run on linux.

Obamas Inauguration

Yes we were there me and wife drove up there, and toughed it out until he got sworn in. Then we had to run for some warm cover. I have never felt so much cold my toes were frozen numb. We were up by 3am and in our places by 5am. Some people just couldn’t take the cold and returned home. One woman squeezed herself behind me and started complaining every time I breathed, or anyone else moved around us suffice it to say the crowd got tired of her complaining, and she got a couple of words forcing her to leave and head home or up some tree. I will be putting up pics we took soon.

Don’t leave if to the movie critics

I just watched the movie Seven Pounds today and it was great. I plan to watch it again tomorrow and maybe a couple of times more with my wife as we both enjoyed it very much. Imagine my suprise when I went online and looked at some of the movie critics reviews they were so off the point that had we read them before watching the movie we might not even have bothered with it. Actually the reviews from watchers give you a better feel for the movie and a lot of people have the same complain, the professional critics did a bad number on the movie. The average score by viewers was A while the critics gave it a C+. Looking at how the critics rated the movie you get the feeling that they try to vote the same way “it’s like a heard of sheep following  each other” and nobody is ready to break the status quo. While the watchers scores are more varied . So next time you are planning on watching a movie i’d advice you take any cri
tics comments with a pinch of salt and go be your own judge. If you really need to see the reviews on it check out reviews from regular watchers and don’t put too much weight on critics who are afraid do go against each other. Those same critics are the ones who gave great raves on “Rachel Getting Married” a view not shared by viewers who got disappointed by it.

Barack wins the el ection

The night of November 4th 2008 will go down in history as the first black president of America was chosen by the people of America. I would be a bad Kenyan if forgot to mention that his father came from Kenya, the scenes of Kenyans celebrating in the streets as the victory was announced was unforgettable. In case you missed the speech here it is I have watched it like ten times now and every other day its played over on the radio in his own words I leave you with this words Yes We Can.