May Newsletter


Follow your wanderlust

Whether it’s Australia, Antigua, Austria or the Azores.  An Alaskan Cruise or an Antarctica adventure. Zimbabwe to see zebras.  The Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico.  Our country (and world) are full of wonderful adventures from A to Z.

calm-2218409_1920The beach?  Our national parks?  Europe?  Asia?  The big city or a remote paradise.  Comfort or camping.  Wherever your Wanderlust takes you, fulfilling and memorable vacations happen when you put a little planning into them.

Step 1 – Where do you want to go?

  • And when?  What do you want to do once you’re there?
  • Off peak season can help with costs, along with fewer crowds.  The trade-off might be weather so keep that in mind if sunny skies are a priority for you.

Once you select your destination and time frame, it makes the rest of the planning much easier.

Step 2 –  What kind of travel do you like?

  • Independent, with a group, all inclusive, family, or just the two of you
  • Everyone is different in how they like to travel:
    -Organized tours vs. wandering on your own
    -Museums & art galleries vs. hanging at cafes
    -Structured tours vs. winging it
    -Need to see “everything” in the tour book vs. eh, whatever

Part of the fun in traveling is spending time before the trip researching your destination.  The internet is full of resources to help you plan a memorable vacation.

Step 3 –  Develop a budget

  • Flights – don’t forget airport parking
  • Hotels – meals included?  What are the resort fees/amenity fees?
  • Local transportation
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Attractions
  • Other incidentals
  • Tips
  • Travel insurance – be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they offer travel insurance at a discount
  • Passports and visas

Hidden Charges in Currency Exchange
Rick Steve’s does a great job explaining his approach with handling money while in Europe.  https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

Research fees that your bank will charge on credit/debit and ATM transactions.  Or, consider getting a credit/debit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees.  Here’s a list of some available cards.
http://thriftynomads.com/best-travel-credit-debit-cards/

Always have a back up plan

Believe it or not, these stories are true and provide examples as to why being prepared is so very important.

The dog ate my passport
The traveler who shall not be named (😉) had a business trip to China which requires a visa for entry.  The day before departure, a friendly dog decided that she didn’t want her owner to leave – so the dog ate her passport.  The same passport that had the visa for entry into China.  The solution: an emergency appointment at the San Francisco passport office the next morning for $170 in fees.  And a note written in Mandarin for the passport control agents explaining why the visa was in a chewed up passport.  There were many laughs from the agents reviewing the entry documents and the lesson learned was simple:  Keep the passport out of reach of dogs, children, water, and other potential sources of damage.  And leave a copy of your passport with someone back home.

Pickpocketed in India
This same traveler experienced being pickpocketed while traveling in India.  The entire wallet was taken including money, credit cards, and driver’s license.  Fortunately, our nameless traveler had friends who were able to cover the cost of the hotel along with providing spending money.  Our traveler caught up with a new credit card express mailed to a hotel in Thailand, the next stop on this adventure.  Fortunately, it all worked out.  But, the lesson here is simple:  Lock your passport in your hotel safe and keep at least one credit card/ATM card in that safe for back up.  Simply put, diversifying your travel money is a good idea.

Final last words – travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.  So enjoy your travels and share your photos with the Granite team.


Paying off student loans

Years of hard work have paid off.   You (or your loved one) have graduated from college.  As cliché as it sounds, many great things lie ahead.  One of those is “Adulting”.

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.
Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed.  – Urban Dictionary

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“Money looks better in the bank than on your feet.”
–    Sophia Amoruso, owner Nasty Gal brands and author of #GIRLBOSS

Part of being a grown up is facing up to the scary thought of paying off college loans.  There is no better time to begin than immediately after graduating.  Yes, it can be overwhelming.  And no, Sallie Mae doesn’t take a gap year.

Consider the following ideas:

  • Treat it like a mortgage payment – make larger payments if possible to pay down the principal faster
  • Create a 3-5 year plan
  • Set up separate account and have savings transferred automatically
  • Negotiate with company to pay off loans as part of salary or sign on bonus
  • Establish clear priorities
  • Pay off variable private loans first
  • Choose the right federal student loan repayment plan
  • Consider consolidations
  • Auto pay directly to the loan each month

Additional resources
https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans

Take a pass on:

  • Going out and buy a brand new car
  • Maxing out your credit cards on new clothes and home furnishings
  • Skipping out on your company’s 401(K) program

Focus on the long term
market overview

The stock market has recently experienced some volatility.  The one true thing every investor needs to remember is that focusing on day to day volatility will only cause stress.  The better approach is to look at the overall investment conditions.  To drive this point home, we thought we would share this chart that highlights the growth of the S&P over the past century.  The chart shows where significant volatility occurred, as well as  the overall growth of the index.  Many of you may have heard the Granite team discuss this chart but it always is a good reminder when we start seeing volatility increase.  So, take a deep breath and focus on the long term.


What I’d tell my 25 year old self
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The completion of the school year is a natural milestone to reflect on goals and opportunities.  As each of my children have graduated and moved on to their next challenge, I’ve often thought that it would have been great to have today’s experience combined with yesterday’s youth.  I’ve written down some advice that I “wish” I could have given myself at age 25 when I was just starting out.  Maybe there are some thoughts that resonate with you, your children, or even grandchildren.  I’d love to hear any advice you would have shared with your younger self.   – Kent

  • Start saving a few bucks out of every paycheck, and don’t touch it, ever. It’s only a few bucks … you won’t miss it.
  • Focus on other people, and look for ways to make them feel better about themselves. You’ll be less self-conscious and more confident in social situations.
  • Marry your best friend and cherish them for as long as you are both breathing.
  • Stay off of Facebook except for maybe once a day to keep in touch with those closest to you.
  • Ask questions. Show genuine concern about what other people think, and politely ask them to back up their opinions with evidence. You’ll learn a lot that way.
  • Invest No Matter What the Market is Doing-“It’s time in the market not timing”.
  • Diversify Your Investments (a baseball team has 9 players each with a different purpose).
  • When you invest, buy QUALITY.
  • Vow to Always Save Money – No Matter What Your Income Is.
  • Commit Now that You Will Live Beneath Your Means for the Rest of Your Life.
  • Purchase Life Insurance for your family.
  • Don’t buy the cheap toilet paper — you’ll regret it.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Ask your parents for more stories from the past. It will make you wiser and it will make them happier.  Once they are gone, you’ll be wishing you’d written down those stories to share with your family.
  • Make a to-do list every day. You’ll get a lot more done.
  • Start exercising now. The longer you put it off, the harder it will be.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself, even when you make mistakes. But always take responsibility for your actions.
  • Don’t be afraid of hard work.
  • When you volunteer for something, be the first one there and the last one to leave and don’t look for recognition.  Behind the scenes in a supporting role can be very gratifying.
  • Nothing that’s easy is worth it. Unlike golf, there are no “gimmies” in life.
  • Don’t reject opportunities just because they take you out of your comfort zone.
  • Be patient with your parents. They’ve been patient with you your entire life.
  • Be grateful for your youth. A lot of older people, even the happy ones, would love to be 25 again.
  • Follow through with what you start.
  • Cultivate a relationship with someone who has achieved success in your eyes who can serve as a mentor to you.
  • Be nice.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. — Kent Crawford


Creative Ways to Upgrade your travel

cessna-citation-xls-620451_1920Have you ever dreamed of being able to hop into your own private jet and escape to an exotic destination? It may be much more affordable than you would imagine.  While chartering a private plane is more expensive than flying commercial, there are a variety of creative ways that reduce the cost making it something you might consider.

Options include:  on-demand charters, ride sharing, empty leg, fractional ownership, pre-paying hours and membership companies.

What is the difference?  What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?  Read on!

On-Demand Charters:

There are a variety of charter companies such as Tradewind, Sentient, and Solairus.

Local options include:

  • Stratosjets – offers empty leg, jet card, and on-demand charter services
  • Pak West Airlines
  • Sky Trek Aviation

Benefits:  No up front costs, pay as you go, on demand
Drawbacks:  Can be more expensive, may not serve all airports

Ride Sharing

Some companies offer “ride sharing” – similar to how airport shuttles work.
Benefits:  No up front costs, little less expensive than full charter
Drawbacks:   Need to share, potentially additional stops, less flexible

Empty Leg

A common option is “empty leg” service – where planes are made available at reduced prices so the plane doesn’t fly empty.  JetSuite offers this via SuiteDeals.  The trade-off is this is likely to be last minute – empty legs are announced 48 hours in advance.  Among the top 10 most common SuiteDeals are flights from Los Angeles (Van Nuys, LAX, and Santa Monica) to Las Vegas, Boston to New York, D.C. to New York, and New York to West Palm Beach – easy places to get back from by flying commercial or taking a train.  Costs vary but expect to pay around $500.  Not bad!  Additional companies include Magellan, Stratosjets, and Tradewind.

Benefits:  Much less expensive than alternatives
Drawbacks:  Destinations are set which makes it less flexible, last minute notification makes it difficult to use for planned travel

Fractional Ownership

NetJets and Marquis sell fractional ownership (such as 1/16th) of a single jet.  Cost range upwards of $100,000

Benefits:  very flexible; good option for those who fly over 50 hours per year
Drawbacks:  high up-front costs

Pre-paid Hours

You can also purchase a jet card – where you buy a certain number of hours to be used on a variety of planes.  Nicholas, Stratosjets, NetJets, and Private Jet Services offer this service.

Benefits:  reduced costs, flexible
Drawbacks:  For those who travel quite frequently, this would be a more expensive option

Membership

You pay an initial membership fee to join and then pay annual dues starting the second year.  An example is Wheels Up where you pay $17,500 initiation and $8,500 annual dues.

Benefit:  all of the benefits of a private jet but without the significant up front cost of a fractional ownership, flexible

Questions to ask:

  • What is the fleet size and what kind of planes
  • Safety record
  • Minimums – hours, days
  • Airports served