Carrot Cake Cupcakes for Chris

Stephanie’s mom Chris has a childlike fascination with carrot cake. It’s a taste she associates with the United States, something she tried for the first time over 35 years ago while recovering at a hospital. Now, whenever she visits, carrot cake is on the itinerary. She’s not picky—a humble square from the grocery store will do. But this year, since she arrived from France on her birthday, I made her carrot cake cupcakes from scratch.

Chris and Stephanie enjoying carrot cake cupcakes with coffee in Dolores Park
Chris and Stephanie enjoying carrot cake cupcakes with coffee in Dolores Park

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Learning how to save, ten years later

Last year I started tracking all of our monthly expenses against our income to put a number on how much we had leftover to save. Considering that we’ve tried to curb unnecessary and excessive spending since Stephanie quit her job in 2014 and went back to school in 2015, I was still shocked to discover our total cost of living at the end of the year. After taxes, 30% goes to the mortgage and related expenses while another 40% supports our lifestyle, which leaves 30% to save. We are fortunate to be able to save almost a third of our net income for retirement—a rate I’ve deliberately worked to increase over the last 3 years—but when measured against the “financial independence” yardstick, not-so-early retirement sits over 23 years away.

Early Retirement graph from networthify.com

That said, early retirement is not my goal. I’m not sure what my goal is. Periodic retirement? Work hard for a handful of years, step away, and then return—unconstrained by prior comforts, habits, and expectations. When viewed from that perspective, those unfathomable 23 years start to look more attractive: a series of several jobs (seeking that ever-elusive purpose), punctuated by sabbaticals of adventure and self-discovery.

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How to set up a 401(k)

So you just got a new job, or maybe your first job ever, and one of the benefits is a 401(k) retirement plan. You’ve been trying to come up to speed, but now you’re being asked to make a bunch of complicated investment decisions that will have an impact at the end of your career—before it’s even begun. Here are 4 simple steps to get you started:

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La Jeep in Death Valley

We bought a Jeep. When I tell people this, I forget that I have to clarify. A Jeep Wrangler. The One True Jeep. We call her « La Jeep ». She was born in 2006 and traveled 93,000 miles to find us. She’s the last year of the TJ generation. Sport trim with a 6-speed manual transmission, midnight blue paint, and 30″ tires. We got her to go off-road.

La Jeep in Bishop, CA's RV Pit Campground
La Jeep in Bishop, CA

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Hot Ones is one of the best shows on YouTube. The simple, sophomoric conceit—10 well-researched questions deftly delivered by the iron-tongued Sean Evans, paired with 10 chicken wings of increasing Scoville units—turns out some of the funniest material I’ve seen in a long time.