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Learning About Diabetes

I eat a lot of vegetables daily but to my surprise, I was told during doctor’s visit that I am considered on the higher borderline of blood sugar level. Another words, I am pre-diabetes. As I started to research about diabetes, I started to realized some of the health and skin conditions that I have may very well be linked to blood sugar level being high.

Most recently I found to have skin tags under my eye. I relate that to me aging. I also discovered fat tissue that seems to be lipoma all over different parts of my body. Fat tissue on my face, under eyes, under skin of my arms. For the longest time, I struggle with itchy skin on my lower left leg. Now, I think it is due to poor blood circulation, which is also related to diabetes.

Having both high blood sugar and high cholesterol is concerning to me at my age especially how these conditions will only get worse as I get older. It can lead to many other conditions such as fatty liver.

I need to change my eating habits, lifestyle and diets to keep my health and skin under control. Here are some of the changes I need to make:

  • Cut out added sugar in cooking and eating (including honey and syrup)
  • Drink coffee with no added sugar
  • Avoid corn and ultra-processed foods (boxed or canned or frozen)
  • Quit drinking soda or juice or lemonade
  • Choose healthier oil such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • Reduce refined carbohydrate (white rice, white bread, white pasta)
  • Skip crackers and chips (swap for sweet potato)
  • Focus more on healthy protein (egg and fish)
  • Load up on non-starchy vegetables (less potato)
  • Enjoy fruits in moderation

One difficulty I see with going no sugar diet is finding non-sugar food from off the shelf. Instead of leaving out sugar entirely, off-the-shelf food manufacturers add artificial sweetener, or processed sweetener. I prefer non sweetener. I bought a zero-sugar cookie and peanut butter wafer recently, but they taste very sweet despite the nutrition list says it has no added sugar. The strong taste of sweetness was actually quite overwhelming and artificial, to such an extend they seemed even more unhealthier. The only way to find the non-sugar healthier version of similar food is through trial and error. From this experience, I will not be purchasing the so called zero sugar snacks specifically the Voortman (sugar-free cookie or wafer) again.

Whether my psoriasis is related to high blood sugar level, auto-immune symptom is still yet to be confirmed but I feel they are indeed related. Given that my psoriasis only appear on my lower part of my left leg, it seems I may also have poor blood circulation associated with high blood glucose level. In addition to applying topical cortisol cream on the inflamed skin, I am now wearing compression socks. It has helped for now, I scratch less frequently and the skin appears to heal somewhat with reduced swelling.

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My Struggle With Chronic Psoriasis (And The Plan For Healing)

I have psoriasis. Or, is it eczema? Or, is it overgrown yeast? For the longest time since pregnancy, I started having red patches of rashes on my leg. I don’t remember which side of the legs started first, but the rash has migrated from right to left leg over the years and even once affected my left upper foot, which has migrated to my lower left leg as have most recently.

It is so hard to diagnose whether it is food related, stress related or chemical related. I don’t know how it is triggered. But I know whenever I start thinking, I would sit down and unconsciously began to scratch my leg where the rash is. The rash feels itchy. It is dry. I scratch uncontrollably until my brain takes over and tell me to stop.

I have very fair pale skin, the rash appear as a red patch, it makes my legs look mismatch. It makes me want to hide my legs when I am photographed.

I don’t know 100% if it is psoriasis, but my inkling says it could be. The only thing I noticed is applying betametasone cream has somewhat effect on managing it. The cream has not completely cure my symptom even though it may look as if it starts to heal initially.

I have had it for years and I really want to cure it. This is what I am going to try this time once again:

  • Apply Betametasone crema as needed to keep my psoriasis under control
  • Use CeraVe SA lotion to keep my skin stay moisturized
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take multivitamin that include Vitamin D3 daily

For now, I’ll follow this routine with the goal to heal my skin by end of the year. One thing that I will look into considering in the near future is installing water softener. Hope that it will help to heal my daughter’s eczema as well.

If anyone has experience in healing really stubborn psoriasis or eczema, please let us know what helped you and your recommendation.

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[Short Post Series] Small Consistent Habits For Healthy Life

This post was inspired by an article about the author’s Japanese grandfather who is 95 years old and how he sticks to a routine for a long happy life.

He takes early morning walks and does some intentional workouts. I am not a gym person or fitness person so honestly it’s difficult for me to keep myself doing exercise. My morning walks would be more like taking my kids to school and that’s it. I think I’d trade for gardening at this point in my life instead of workout.

I have intended to keep writing blog posts regularly ever since I started this blog but it is clear to me that keeping up with the writing has not been consistent. Maybe I should try short posts instead of long form just to get my writing habit up and going instead of overthinking of new ideas.

He makes time for new hobbies. Well, for me my hobbies would be playing the piano (that I do in the weekend) and home organizing and decorating.

He takes multiple naps. I used not to like taking naps because then it throws me off my schedule and sleep time. As I grow older, it gets harder to control being awake when I do feel sleepy. So, whenever I feel sleepy now I let myself take a short nap. According to health resources, daytime naps are healthy to keep aging brain young and increase alertness.

He eats indulgent meals. My meals are generally quite healthy and most importantly, I keep a well balanced diet. I may adjust a bit of beverage intake to include hot tea at the end of the meals especially greasy meals.

In summary, I will try to incorporate these small habits into my own life. I am not looking for big changes but hopefully small habits can help build a better and healthier body and mind.

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Best High Yield Savings Accounts By Big (& Trusted) Banks

Looking to save money in high-yield savings account with larger banks? Let me give you 2 recommendations that you can feel good about parking your money in the bank in the midst of banking crisis after the fall of Silicon Valley Bank in 2023.

When we say large American banks, we think of JP Morgan Chase, Wellsfargo, Bank of America. While these brick and mortar banks provide local branches for customers to withdraw their money, their savings interest rate is near zero at 0.01% APY. It’s sad to be saving your hard-earned money with these banks earning no interests while the inflation rate in America is at around 6%.

I know there are many high-yield savings offer right now with the Federal Reserve kept increasing the interest rate since 2022 but if you are like me wondering how safe are banks like Ally, CIT, Citizens, Marcus, then you will be hesitant to open accounts with them. To be honest, I get to know of these online banks only from financial websites that featured them and some of them as sponsored products. Rarely do I hear about them elsewhere.

So, upon my recent research, I found 2 of the reputable banks that surprisingly offer much higher interests rates.

1. American Express – High Yield Savings Account (3.90% APY)

Yes, agree, I don’t normally think of American Express as a bank for savings account because they are known as credit card company or payment provider. However, we all know that it is a financial services company with a long-standing reputation. It is one of the world’s most trusted and recognizable brand with a long history dated back 160+ years ago when it was founded.

[Update: Amex updated their HYSA interest rate from 3.75% to 3.90% as of May 16th, YAY!]

At 3.90% APY, the interest rate is compounded daily, posted monthly and is 10X higher than national average. Opening an account requires no minimum, no monthly fees. Just like any FDIC-insured bank, each depositor is insured to at least $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, per ownership category.

To learn more, go to American Express High Yield Savings Account and apply online.

This post is NOT affiliated or sponsored, I just like helping people and sharing solution to a known problem.

2. Citibank – No Penalty CD (4.05% APY)

Okay, well, Citibank savings accounts still offer embarrassingly low interest rates. But, they do offer attractive interest rate on their No Penalty CD for a fixed 12-month term. As the account name implies, there is no withdrawal penalty if you need your money earlier than the maturity date. You can withdraw the full balance without withdrawal penalty beginning 7 days after account funding. Opening an account requires a minimum of $500 deposit but at 4.05% APY, it is one of the best rate offered by a leading global bank.

Since the account is a Certificate of Deposit, you earn a guaranteed interest rate during the CD term. You are able to withdraw the full balance without early withdrawal penalties (after the first 7 days) but not partial amount.

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Failures & Growth – What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Heard of the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?

Before I share my thoughts or inspiration from today about this particular observation, let me bring you to this article at Northwestern University where researchers prove this exact topic – “Science proves that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Researchers find that early-career failure promotes future professional success“.

Now, from my own inspiration today found in my garden from a bunch of perennial plants called geranium. Throughout the years, geranium tends to survive any kind of season, weather, soil condition, drought and is one of the toughest plants, hardest plants to kill. Even when it gets infected or sick, it can be easily transplanted and treated. In one season if the geranium was not well cared for and started shrinking, as long as you don’t give up on them and kept them in the soil, with the supply of sun and water, they will naturally come back the next season stronger and bigger than before. It continues to grow year after year, season after season and get bushier over time as it matures.

As I noticed my geraniums weathered the storms, the rain, the extreme heat and cold and still survived while all the other plants dried, burnt and died in winter, fall and summer, I cannot help but see how resilient this living thing is. As long as it is alive, with continued supply of natural resources like sunlight and water and soil, with little to no maintenance or care, it survives all conditions, flowers and blooms (with no complaints) and shines brightly each and every day.

It teaches me a lesson and that is life goes through seasons, each with different challenges, resilience is needed for all living things (and every human being). As long as we’re breathing, we can survive and make it through any difficulties. With the right mindset and no complaints, we can learn and grow. Through many failures and sometimes big or small triumphs, we will become stronger. Failures are necessary ingredients for achieving success and growth; without failures we will not learn.

If you just happened to stumble upon this blog or post and are going through difficult time right now, know that good times don’t last, bad times are also just temporary. Keep taking baby steps, you too like the geraniums, will survive, bloom and be stronger in life or pursuit of success.

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2022 Going Into 2023

Not only has the world experienced stagflation, my life in a big scheme of things also seemed to have stayed stagnant. Everything that I ever began doing has stalled. Every venture I explored and tried led to nowhere. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I wished if staying the same carries a positive meaning that it stayed that way at least for my financials. But, my financials have taken a big hit not only by the macro economy where the stock values have plummeted significantly but also for personal reasons, my savings have nearly drained. Using the word drained means it went wasted, it’s true, the money wasn’t used to any advancement or development, it went into settling debts, not my own debts or my own mistakes but debts of a family member I cannot not help.

Coming to year 2023, I realized I have become too dependent. I am no longer financially and emotionally independent and that is quite a scary position to be in. What if what I so dependent upon come crashing down, how would I hold on to my unrecognizable life?

I didn’t know what failure looked or felt like before. I only knew everything was going great in the past even while I started pivoting in my career. For awhile, I still knew what I wanted to do. But more and more, I feel disappointed in myself. I could not accomplish what I have set out for myself to do in pursuit of financial freedom. I didn’t turn out to be a big success like I thought and many people thought I would be. I am opposite of success in a total reality vs expectation kind of way.

I have a hope for resolution to a problem that has put my family in a state of struggle for many years. My hope and desire did not come true. I became spiritually dependent on the thought that if I manifest, it will come true. Needless to say, it hasn’t and my spiritual believe is more shaken than strengthen. Not because I feel lazy to work hard, certain things just aren’t necessarily related to working hard and since it is beyond my control, I couldn’t drive the result as efficiently as I’d like.

Speaking of manifesting and visualizing, my vision board is a complete failed, all my goals and ambitions are just wishes with no progress or hope in sight. It’s funny and embarrassing at the same time that I had such big dreams for myself and I hardly achieve any of it.

As negatively as it may sound, it is bad that I have no results to show for after all these years. I cannot give up. I am aware that I failed big time, the only thing I can do now is to define my directions and paths, and keep moving, baby step at a time.

A quote that resonated with me most recently is what Steve Jobs said in his speech for Stanford graduation years ago that went something like this, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.

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Are Chinese Stocks A Good Investment? Why I’m Done Holding BABA

Amid the Chinese stocks regulatory crackdown and selloff, the only individual Chinese stocks I still owned by July 27th was BABA. I bought $15K of the stock at the price of $170 in 2018. While the stock price had previously increased to nearly $300 once, as of this writing, it is down to $185.

Although I had missed the opportunity for profit over 50%, in the 3 years that I owned, I hardly was able to double my investment compare to other tech and growth stocks including Amazon, Google and Tesla. That is why I decided to sell all of the Alibaba stocks I had.

One simple question I asked myself helped me to easily make the decision. Would I invest more if the price were to go down below $170? My answer was no, it was simply not worth the risk while there are opportunities elsewhere whether looking at it both short and long term. The continued and prolonged regulatory crackdown seemed unnecessarily long. All goes to show how vulnerable Chinese stocks and companies are, not by business impact but rather government climate. As an investor, weathering this type of storm far outweighs any potential return.

Not even 5 years, keeping the stocks for long term prospect couldn’t stretch that far. When Jack Ma stepped down as Chairman of Alibaba, now looking back, it would have been the better time to have cashed out. Given that the company is now running without its founder, I don’t see any more reason to invest in it.

The reason for writing this post was to remember at the time of selling this stock, I don’t view it as a good investment. I believe in 5 or 10 years, I will have similar sentiment. I have 2 takeaways, 1) I no longer am interested in Chinese stocks; 2) The need to cash out on profit.

I didn’t mention earlier, but I also let go of JD stocks when the news broke about the CEO’s arrest on allegations of rape. In both sell events, I did not make negative losses but i realized they weren’t good investments considering opportunity costs. I am now done with individual Chinese stocks, even as enticing as emerging markets seem, I will be looking at different parts of the world.

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Tax Efficient Investing: Taxable Accounts vs Tax-Advantaged Accounts

Investment income all has tax implications, we cannot simply ignore taxes if we want to maximize our returns on investments. Taxes in general is complicated, so my goal is to educate myself with some of the most basic guidelines to help myself make better investment and trade decisions.

Some of the tax-efficient investment strategies I learned (and remember to write on here) are:

  • Tax-efficient investments can go into taxable accounts, for example, municipal bonds, which generally have tax-free income, can be good in taxable accounts.
  • Stocks are also tax-efficient in taxable accounts.
  • Active stock funds (or mutual funds) with high turnover rate should go into tax-free accounts and tax-deferred accounts to minimize taxable income.
  • Buy and hold, the less trading you make on your investments, and if you hold over a year, you pay capital gains at either 15% or 20%.
  • Taxable bonds and bond funds should first go into a tax-advantaged accounts such as 401K and IRA. If there’s still room in those accounts, place actively managed stock funds there. And then, next is ETFs and index funds. Lastly, you can add individual stocks that you plan to hold long term over to those tax-advantaged accounts.

Investments best for taxable accounts vs tax-advantaged accounts

Taxable Accounts Suited ForTax-Advantaged Accounts Suited For
Stocks you plan to hold over a yearStocks you plan to hold less than a year
Passively managed funds such as index funds, ETFs as well as international fundsActively managed funds including mutual funds that may generate capital gains distributions and any high turnover funds
Tax-free bonds such as municipal bonds that are not subject to federal or state taxesTaxable bonds and any high yield corporate bonds
Low yield money market and any qualified dividends from stocksReal Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Peer-to-peer (P2P) Lending
Certain commodities such as physical gold and silver ETFs

Cost basis methods and the default method by brokerage

Also, did you know that by default the cost basis of your brokerage accounts are FIFO (First In First Out)? And, by default cost basis of mutual funds uses the average costs method but IRS allow you to change to actual costs method?

I used to sell all of the quantity of individual stock at a time (although I rarely sell since I trade long term) but most recently started to sell specific shares by lots. I can choose to sell shares with the highest costs and least gain first if I wanted to minimize tax for the year.

So to sell shares by lot, choose “sell specific” option when you trade instead of just the “sell” option. Depending on which brokerage you use, you can either change the cost basis method on your account online through their website or simply by giving them a call.

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Warren Buffett's Investing Advice

Best Low-Cost S&P 500 Index Funds (Based On Warren Buffett’s Investment Advice)

Warren Buffett has been quoted for years saying that the best investment for average investors is to invest in low-cost index funds. Just google and you will find plenty of business and investing websites writing about his advice like in the following articles:

But, what exactly are the index funds he recommends? He recommends low-cost index funds that specifically tracks the S&P 500 index. Low-cost S&P 500 index funds are passively managed mutual funds and ETFs which carry minimal expense ratio or fee.

So, what are the best low-cost index funds? In this article, I share with you 6 of the best low-cost S&P 500 index funds that you might want to consider adding to your retirement portfolio. Here I provide you with side-by-side comparison to help with your research. You can then decide which funds make sense for your investment.

S&P 500 Index (Mutual) Funds

VFINX, FXAIX, and SWPPX all track the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, one of the most widely watched benchmarks for U.S. stocks. With these 500 stocks in the funds, you basically own about 80% of the market capitalization of the entire United States.

These funds are considered large-blend category and has the ultimate core large-cap stock holding. They are low-cost index funds because of their low expense ratio. Index funds are a type of passive investment unlike regular mutual funds that are actively managed by fund managers.

Index FundVanguardFidelitySchwab
Fund NameVanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral SharesFidelity 500 Index FundSchwab® S&P 500 Index Fund
Expense Ratio0.04%0.015%0.02%
Minimum Investment$3000$0$0
Dividend Yield1.86%1.56%1.69%
1 Year Return14.06%13.8%14.06%
Number of Holdings515509509

S&P 500 ETFs

While index funds are just as low cost as ETFs, index funds are traded as mutual funds – priced only after market closes and ETFs traded like stocks intra-day. Below are some of the most popular ETFs which track the S&P 500 index.

To learn more about the difference between low cost index funds and ETFs, also check out this post:

Fund NameVanguard S&P 500 ETFSPDR S&P 500 ETF TrustiShares Core S&P 500 ETF
Expense Ratio0.03%0.09%0.03%
Minimum Investment$0$0$0
Dividend Yield1.71%1.69%1.98%
1 Year Return14.02%13.95%13.74%
Number of Holdings515506509

Can you buy mutual funds or ETFs at another online brokerage?

You can absolutely buy Vanguard funds at Fidelity. You don’t have to open an account with Vanguard in order to buy their mutual funds or ETFs. The same applies to all the funds listed above.

Just to be extra caution, I suggest you still check for any commissions, fees or loads and any charges imposed by your broker before you trade.

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transfer assets to another brokerage

Transfer Assets from Wealthfront to Fidelity

I have been a Wealthfront customer for a few years now and continue to be, but I decided to transfer part of my investment there over to Fidelity.

Why I moved from Wealthfront to Fidelity?

While maintaining my Wealthfront investment with a relatively high risk tolerance at 9.0 (risk parity) and manage to earn about 21% average of gains, I feel I can achieve better performance picking funds on my own. Especially during the most recent market sell-off in March 2020, I saw Wealthfront investment as volatile as my self-directed stocks and even when the market has recovered, my Wealthfront investment barely beat the S&P 500 performance.

Besides, I prefer some flexibility in choosing the asset class to invest in and what not, which Wealthfront as a robo-advisor can only gives a diversified portfolio including the asset classes they have bundled. To be specific, I would have opted out natural resources asset class if I could.

For the lack of performance as well as lack of customization, I decided to move away from Wealthfront into a more DIY brokerage account like Fidelity.

How to consolidate investment accounts without triggering tax?

Since I didn’t want to create a taxable event this year and wanted to keep some of the funds anyways, I chose not to liquidate. I learned that I could transfer in-kind (meaning as-is) between different brokerage accounts. My plan is to sell off funds that I no longer want to keep and consolidate the rests with similar funds I also have in my Fidelity accounts.

I heard some brokerages charge a transfer or closeout fee, but fortunately both Wealthfront and Fidelity don’t. So if you’re considering a brokerage transfer, make sure to check with your new and old brokers first.

How long does it take to transfer assets between Wealthfront and Fidelity?

I initiated the transfer request online on a Friday, the 13th afternoon. Fidelity sent the request on the same day for review.

The request was completed on the following Tuesday, which was the 18th. (although the status tracker initially showed a due date of Thursday, the 20th)

Fidelity dashboard showed the new shares on Wednesday.

So, the transfer request takes about 5 days, not counting weekend.

Are the cost basis info transferred?

Yes, the cost basis will be transferred but according to Fidelity Help page, it may take up to ten days after the transfer. I have waited at least 5 days for the cost basis data to show and until the cost basis is passed, the shares are listed as margins temporarily.

What’s the process to transfer assets from Wealthfront to Fidelity?

The process is really straightforward. I didn’t even make any phone calls to support from either brokerage firms (Although, it is recommended to contact them first to make sure all securities can be transferred and no fees will be incurred either side).

All I did was initiate the process online on the receiving broker end, they validate eligibility of all the securities to be transferred, submit to Wealthfront for review.

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