Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Depreciation really hurts

I’ll be the first to say that car enthusiasts shouldn’t give a single care about depreciation, and that we should simply drive and enjoy our cars. This is especially so after the car is already bought. Obviously, before signing on the dotted line you should take depreciation into consideration, so if a particular car is hellish on retaining value, you’d want to buy that car used.

However, buying sports cars with abnormal depreciation curves – like my GT3 – used, can be tricky. Special trim 911s are known to keep value superbly well, but one can never be sure if some future events or variables will dramatically affect the price. On the whims of market forces, a 911 GT car – or any high dollar sports car, really -  can easily fluctuate downwards in value in mere months.

I know this, because I’ve seen it with my GT3. Between January and now, the value of my car have dropped nearly $15,000, which is absolutely eye-watering, even if it’s an abstract, hypothetical number since I don’t plan to sell the Porsche ever. Sadly, my human mind doesn’t work like that, and often times I’ve been agonizing at the lost opportunity to save a significant chunk of money, if only I could have waited a few months to buy.

Yes, we shouldn’t care about depreciation, but it seems that’s easily declared than done.

Of course, I would say the joy of owning the GT3 for three months far outweighs any potential financial savings from delaying the purchase. I wouldn’t trade the more than 3,000 miles I’ve put on the car since January for having more money in my savings account. Honestly, I wouldn’t have bought the 911 if making sound monetary decisions were a top factor.

The GT3 is an emotional purchase, predicated on a life-long love of cars, and the mentality that if there’s something I want to do and I have the capability to do it, I should execute as quickly as possible; because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Deprecation hurts, but I don’t think it’s nearly as much as regret.

Sunny afternoons on campus. Or what passes for sunny in San Francisco anyways.

Why do we need self-driving cars?

Over the weekend I encountered this little nugget on the twitter:

Indeed, what lot of people were clamoring for self-driving cars anyways? Sometimes we get so enamored with new technology (oh my god this car is driving itself!) that we forget to detach and look at the bigger picture. What exactly is the endgame of self-driving cars?

To make a certain few people/companies lots of money.

Because it most certainly isn’t about safety. Motor vehicle fatalities have continued to hover at all-time lows, and vehicles are as safe as ever with hardy crumple zones and a battalion of safety systems (government regulations sometimes work okay). There isn’t really a great need for cars to drive themselves, to take away the innately flawed human element. The push isn’t from the average consumer either, because they couldn’t possibly afford self-driving technology at its nascent. The typical Tesla Model S with its rudimentary “auto-pilot” system costs six figures. Who but the 1% can afford that?

In a capitalist society, people with means are constantly on the chase for the latest Facebook or Uber: exponential returns. In a super mature sector such as automobiles, blue oceans with massive growth opportunity is difficult to come by. Incremental and steady growth is the norm. In order for sizable gains to occur, companies must innovate with something truly new for the public to lust after. See Tesla and EVs.

Makers of televisions have got this down to a science. When the HD revolution happened in the early aughts, people bought TVs in droves to experience the new stunning picture quality. Once that well ran dry, the makers pivoted to 3D (thanks, James Cameron), enticing yet another round of upgrades. When 3D passed on into oblivion as the fad that it is, 4K resolution became the new carrot on the proverbial stick.

In that way, self-driving technology is simply a ploy to make a tremendous amount of money, enticing people to switch out of their “dumb” cars. I don’t see any altruistic reason for its existence, not the least because truly Level 5 autonomous driving is still decades away.

If the powers at be truly wants to further decrease vehicular accidents and death, the best and most efficient way is to require advance training for all drivers. I think we’d be much safer if attaining a driver’s license is made more difficult and strict. Then I wouldn’t need to be on constant lookout for Nissan Altima drivers.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.

Priorities change

In a few weeks’ time I will be once again traveling back home to Hong Kong, performing the annual pilgrimage to visit family on my dad’s side. These past few years I’ve been on quite the travel binge, and the trip back home at the end of December crossing over into January marks the culmination and the beginning of a year’s worth of journeys. I’ve said to my friends that my favorite spot in San Francisco is the airport’s international terminal, where anticipation and excitement for the trips ahead is at its most palpable.

I have to say the feeling is surprisingly different this year. No question I am happy to spend time with family, especially those whom I only see once a year, but the run up to this year’s return home has a slight bit of dread to it. I found out the reason why when I started doing my usual preparation of buying necessary supplies and moving money to travel accounts: this trip to Hong Kong will cost money.

What a stupid thing to say; traveling inherently costs money, doesn’t it? Why am I loathing to spend when this trip has been booked since January (got to lock down those cheap airfare prices). Just the past few years alone I’ve spent easily into the five figures on travel, so what’s the problem now?

Right, I’m saving up for a 911.

As they say, priorities change. Since 2014 I’ve been on a bent to maximize travel opportunities, so most of my discretionary income was allocated towards that. Partly why I switched from a Subaru WRX STI to a Mazda MX-5 in 2015 was because the latter was cheaper to run and maintain, therefore more money towards trips. Now, the situation has reversed: austerity measures were put on traveling (I haven’t taken one single trip this year), and the growing cash reserves is earmarked towards cars.

The Hong Kong trip this year is going set me back a bit on those cash reserves, which I think is why I’ve been ambivalent about it rather than pure delight of years past. I’ve had a good run in seeing the world these past couple of years, but it’s time to switch primary focus back to another love of mine: cars. For sure I still love traveling, and there’s still many places I haven’t been (not one foot in European soil yet); surely I’ll get back on that train in a few years’ time.

For now, it’s 911 or bust.

The best colors for an instrument dial: black face, white letters, red needle.

The best colors for an instrument dial: black face, white letters, red needle.

What if I hit the lottery?

I seldom play the lottery because rationality informs me the odds of winning are vanishingly minimal, and the money would otherwise be better served in an investment account. That’s precisely what I’ve been doing; volatility in the equities market these past few weeks notwithstanding. Investing in stocks is sort of like gambling: none of it is guaranteed, so in that way I don’t feel the need to buy lottery tickets or frequent Las Vegas casinos.

In the rare times when the lottery jackpot reaches stratospheric heights like last evening’s $1.6 billion in the Mega Millions, I'm inclined to buy in at the minimum. The odds haven’t changed of course, but the prize incentive is increased so dramatically that it’d feel rather stupid to not at least throw my hat into the proverbial ring. After all, the hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". $40 million is life-changing indeed, but $1.6 billion is another life.

It’s always fun exercise to dream about exactly what you will do with that amount of money. I reckon the dopamine hit alone is worth squandering the two dollars required for one ticket. Plenty of people would probably quit their jobs, buy property somewhere to live, and follow their true passions. I’m certainly amongst that camp: if I hit the lottery I’d be a vagabonding photographer, with a focus on driving cars in spectacular locations, and write about it all on this website.

The question is, would I need to win a jackpot to do that?

Answer is a decided no. It doesn’t take an enormous sum to travel and write; get good enough I might even be decently paid for it. What the hypothetical lottery winning provides is absolute freedom: freedom from the obligations of a normal person. People aren’t keen to quit their jobs to chase a passion because they’ve got others dependent on their regular paychecks, be that a spouse, children, or a mortgage.

I currently have none of those obligations, and quite a bit saved up in the bank (again, last couple of weeks’ stock market notwithstanding). So what’s stopping me from going after my passion?

Just me.

I don’t suppose any of this is OSHA approved.

I don’t suppose any of this is OSHA approved.

The pivot to video

I very much enjoy writing. Writing on this blog everyday is never a chore, though as with anything in life there are good days and there are bad days. Sometimes the lines flow one right after another, and sometimes the words just can’t seem to materialize and form together cogently, but still I must solider through. The goal is consistency, a daily habit I shouldn’t skip unless there’s truly compelling reasons to (like being debilitatingly sick).

I don’t ever concern over the amount of views this website is getting, and I wouldn’t care if the number is zero. Not once have I clicked on the analytics tab on the Squarespace console; I write (and take pictures) for myself, and if there’s some of you out there that happens to enjoy the content I put out, that’s simply icing on the cake. This isn’t some hopeful launching pad to a freelance career, but rather a genuine gesture at putting myself out there to the (Internet) world.

Of course it’d be incredibly nice to get paid to write and do photography, but that is not that endgame here.

As an avid viewer of Youtube, I’ve been noticing more and more people doing the “pivot” to video. It’s assumed that no one like to read anymore (if periodical circulation is any indication), and vivid visual media is where the money’s at. The barrier to entry is certainly minimal; anyone can start a vlog channel with their smartphone or laptop. With enough hustle and charisma, money from Google AdSense will start rolling in massively.

And there’s plenty of people chasing those AdSense dollars. Within the automotive genre alone are seemingly hundreds of Youtube channels with a bloke, a car, and a camera putting out videos everyday. Due to sheer volume of output, the production value is not that great; the content can be best described as disposable. You can tell their ultimate goal is monetization because in every video they’d pander the audience to click ‘thumbs up’ and subscribe.

Not everyone is like that obviously. Some truly do it for the art and passion, where view counts don’t matter at all. A particular automotive channel I highly respect is SavageGeese.

Far be it for me to criticize people for thinking only in dollars and cents; it doesn’t interest me how another person choose to make a living, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my business, or harm society. When the time comes for me to produce video content, the ethos will be the same as my writing and photography: for the enjoyment of creating art, and sharing a piece of myself with the world.

And yet the floor still sparkles.

And yet the floor still sparkles.

Is the correction coming?

Of course it is. It’s just that none of us know when that is going to be. I’m actually looking forward to the upcoming correction because it means things (stocks or otherwise) can be bought at huge undervalue.

That’s assuming I keep my job through the next recession.

Yesterday the stock markets took a huge dump on us investors: both the Dow and S&P plunged over 3%. Nothing to really panic over (yet) seeing as the S&P merely returned to August (of this year) levels, and the index is still up 9% year-to-date. Smart people advises one shouldn’t pay attention to the daily fluctuations of the stock market anyways; given a long enough time horizon, all the ups and downs aggregate out to constant growth over decades.

Should your time horizon be short, then that money shouldn’t be in the equities market. The yield on savings accounts have finally crept back into respectable levels (my Ally account just got bumped up to 1.9%), so it’s a wonderful time to store funds there risk free (up to the $250,000 FDIC limit anyways). Readers of this blog know I’m planning to buy a car soon, so that allocation of capital is safely in my savings. The precipitous drop of yesterday’s stock market didn’t register there at all.

Where it did register was on the recent deposits into my investment accounts. The money I put in these past few months have completely taken a bath due to yesterday’s shenanigans, and as I’m typing these words it isn’t looking too spectacular today, either. Yes it’ll all even out eventually, but it still hurts on a surface level. I’m optimistic the remainder of this year will round out positively, and ultimately none of this matters much as my time horizon is quite long indeed.

So I shouldn’t be looking at the market’s daily machinations, but my human nature prevents me; stocks are simply too intriguing to not follow. It’s super fun when it’s up, and utterly dreadful when it’s down massively like yesterday.

I found Santa Cruz street in Santa Cruz. Oh and a supremely clean NA Miata as well.

I found Santa Cruz street in Santa Cruz. Oh and a supremely clean NA Miata as well.

Financial goals stop the great

Last week I wrote about not letting fear stop the great: I shouldn't let worries of potential theft deter me from getting a motorcycle and enjoying it fully. But you know what does stop the great? Money. 

For clarification, I've got enough money to purchase a bike many times over (hashtag not so humble brag). Rather it's my financial goals that is preventing me from dropping the few thousand dollars to procure a motorcycle. Currently I am actively saving up to purchase a 911 in a year's time, and with Porsche's pricing as it is, the car will cost dearly. Therefore all discretionary monetary resources I've got must attune to that objective first. 

A motorcycle wouldn't be the first casualty: due to the tremendous need to store up money for the 911, I've had to delay other interests as well. I'm largely done with my Korean studies and had originally chose to learn the piano next, but the keyboard I want costs almost $2,000 dollars so that immediately tabled it for later. I've also stopped buying new camera gear: while I've been pining for a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for the longest time, $2,600 dollars for right now is better served towards the Porsche. 

Travel plans for this year? There were none. I couldn't part with the cash to do so. Compared to 2017 where I four times took trips out of the country, the contrast is stark. These days I even try to not go out on weekends (not too difficult for a homebody like myself) because that would mean spending more money than necessary. 

Extreme? Perhaps, but it's all dedicated to a singular goal: once I had decided to buy a 911, I knew many temporary sacrifices will have to be made. Such is the condition of being a rabid car enthusiast, though we all have our areas of fiscal extravagance, don't we? A friend of mine is planning to go see The Phantom of the Opera for a third time now that the tour has returned to San Francisco. 

I bet he hasn't the need to perform austerity like I am. So lucky. 

Geometric light play. 

Geometric light play.