Real World Betterment Results

Just about one year ago, I sold my company. Because I believe in the product, and the future growth, I rolled a lot of the value over into the new company. To be wise, I did take some chips off the table as well.

A dad sleeps better at night when debt is gone, the rainy day account is funded, and you take an opportunity to help others.

When all of those items were checked off, I looked around for a new way to invest wisely.

I have been trading stocks in Robinhood for some time. I enjoy trading stocks, and I still think this is the easiest way to do that, but I needed something more automatic.

I had also been invested in The Lending Club for a few years by this time, but things have been changing there. The defaults are high, and the loans are riskier. I’ve slowly been removing all funds as loans are repaid. It looks like I’m not the only one who has seen those results.

After doing some research, I ended up going with Betterment. The app and service is a robo-investor. You commit money to the service, set your risk levels and goals, and the computer algorithms will do all the work of buying, selling, and holding. In many ways, it’s a modern take on an Index Fund where you ride the whole economy instead of living and dying on specific stocks

I also appreciate the Tax Loss Harvesting, which was useful at tax time this year.

Overall, I highly recommend the service to investors of all level. In addition to general investing, they also offer IRA accounts to save for retirement.

I also created a small investment account for each of my kids. They love to open the app and see how the investment has grown. I have a standing offer to them: for every dollar they invest, I will match it. It’s been a fun lesson in patience and waiting.

At the time I started with Betterment, I wondered about real world results. I wasn’t able to find much out there so I thought I’d chronicle my own experience here each year to help others.

Dark Blue is investment total, Light Blue is total value with earnings

April 2017 (One year): Earnings Percentage 12.2%

November 2017 (1.5 years): Earnings Percentage 17.4%

 

 

Two apps for a more productive Sabbath

Here are two app suggestions that can help your Sabbath Day become more of a delight today.

Journaling

Day One is my favorite journal app. You might take some time to record the way that you’ve been blessed in your life, and your current struggles. Both will be beneficial to look back on later in life. Journal writing is my most rewarding habit.
Link: iOS app

Temple and Family History

Many struggle with family history work because they aren’t sure where to start. The best place to start is in the temple with a family name. “Take a Name” is a new app that makes it very simple. Log in with your Family Search credentials and it will scan your family history and show you family records with available ordinances. With just a few taps you can reserve, print, and take to the temple this week.
Link: iOS app ,  Android app

The Sabbath is a Delight

Finally, to remember why we observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, here is a talk from Russell M Nelson that teaches it so well, and reminds us of the blessings.

 

A guidance for happy living

The first time I went to Japan, my trip had a rough start. I flew across the Pacific ocean in seats too small and landed in Tokyo at about 4PM. I was eager to get to a comfortable hotel for a shower and a place to lay down.

In my usual “I’ll figure it out as I go” approach to travel, I made my way to a train station and saw this board. (pictured) It was confusing, overwhelming, and it didn’t direct me at all. I knew where i wanted to go, but didn’t know how to get there. There was nothing I could have done for myself at this point. I needed some help. 

With the help of some free station wifi, 4 Japanese school kids that spoke broken English, and shadowing some American businessmen who had a guide, I eventually made it to my hotel. (Also pictured.)

In a similar fashion, I know where I want to be in this life and after I pass away. Like many of you, I want to be considered a good and righteous person here on Earth and then return, with my family, to my Father in Heaven when I’ve left this earth. I believe these things are possible, but I need help in knowing how I can achieve these things.

My favorite scripture is Doctrine and Covenants 82:8-10 which reads:

8 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you;
9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

This scripture reminds me to be thankful for the commandments and direction that we’ve received from scripture, prophets and promptings. I know what I want to become so the more direction I can receive, the better.

Some people see commandments as limiting or controlling, but I don’t. Like Elder M Russell Ballard , I believe “commandments are a guidance for happy living.”

Oct 2016 General Conference: One week later

It’s been a week since LDS General Conference. It makes me sad that the world has so much going on that can push the messages from our lives so quickly. It takes a conscious effort to not let that happen. Of all the lessons that were shared, it’s these lines that have stuck with me the most:

“Let us remember that our children and grandchildren measure our love by how much devoted time we give them.”

 

“We engage all three members of the Godhead as we pray. “

 

“We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing… If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future.”

 

“And the worst kind of sin is premeditated sin, where one says, “I can sin now and repent later.” I believe that this is a solemn mockery of the sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ.”

 

“When an opportunity comes to share your thoughts about the gospel and the lessons of life, stop everything, sit down, and talk with your children and grandchildren.”

 

“Without sacrifice, a person may find it hard to forgive himself or herself, because of a lingering consciousness of something withheld.”

Thomas S Monson: Fifty-three years of service

I love this picture of Thomas S Monson as he was sitting in the congregation of the old tabernacle. It was taken in 1963 just moments before he would be sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and invited to the stand. While others sit unaware and eager for the meeting to start, he feels the heavy responsibility beginning to fall on his shoulders.

Thomas S Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a man I sustain as a Prophet, gave his first talk as an Apostle at age 36. (The same age I am now. I can’t imagine.) He was the final appointee of David O. McKay to this Council. In his first talk he declared “I pledge my life. All that I may have.”

Fifty-three years later, he continues to keep that pledge.

 

Using Social Media Wisely

When I was in Cuba earlier this year, it was interesting to see how little technology was available to the residents there. Everything in Cuba is about 50 years in the past. However, one night we were walking the streets and there were hundreds and hundreds of people in this park with tablets and phones lit up. It is one of the few places in the country that wifi was available so people would come there each night and video chat with family in the US and also check Facebook, Instagram, and learn more about the world outside of Cuba. It was interesting to listen and watch as they connected with family and friends via technology.

Below are a few thoughts I have about social media, and how we can use it better.

I enjoy seeing good posts from family and friends.Though lately I’ve been surprised what people, who I know to be good and kind, will attach their name to in the sharing of posts and other items. I feel like we should be able to rise above it. Even with difficult topics, we can share our positive thoughts or the way we’re hoping to be part of the solution. Rather than just be an echo chamber, I’d love to see more thought out and personal messages from people I know to be good people. Social media certainly needs more of it.

David A Bednar wrote that “it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families.”

Kids understand this easily. I think youth leaders, priesthood leaders and parents should be active on social media as well. It’s one more place to teach and inspire and care. Don’t be a social media sponge or stalker but instead be active and an influence. Did you know all of the church leaders are on Facebook and Twitter? Find all their profiles here.

 

Review: iMac 5K with a 4K monitor (LG 27UD68)

With some recent changes in my workplace, I need to setup a new office to work in each day. As I went about replicating my home office, I bought a 5K iMac for the new location. These iMacs are such great machines.

I also like to work with a second display. Rather than buying an ancient Thunderbolt Display, I thought I’d try one of the new 4K monitors on the market and see how they perform.

After doing some research, I saw that the LG 27UD68 was recently released and that it’s predecessor had good reviews. Without being able to find any reviews online, here is my unboxing, review and conclusion.

Continue reading »

An afternoon with Elder Holland

I was very honored to spend the weekend with Elder Jeffrey R Holland and Elder Lynn G Robbins. It was a weekend that changed me forever, and will have a direct influence on my life and church service. I took copious notes of the teachings, and my feelings, and will plan to teach from them often. However, three quick thoughts to share here:

First, These men (pictured above) are dedicated to the work for all the right and pure reasons. When you shake their hand and look them in the eye, there is no hypocrisy or guile to be found. Elder Holland mentioned that he nearly lost his beloved Pat Holland recently, and yet here he was on assignment for 12 days to teach and bless. His sense of duty is pure without ulterior motive.

Second, A side project of mine for the last couple years is documenting the experience of receiving a call to the Quorum of the Twelve. I’ve compiled many accounts from those who have shared in the past. It was an honor and awakening to hear Elder Holland share his own experience. “I’m not sure it’s supposed to be a personal hell when you receive this Apostolic calling but each of us went through that. I’m not sure why. We don’t talk about it much with each other. Elder Faust put his arm around me and said “My boy, I know what you’re going through and there is not a thing I can do for you.”

Third, there are so many posts on social media and in life about having questions in the Gospel (which is ok) and even having doubts (which is also ok.) But there’s not enough conversation to establish that it’s also ok to not have either. We should do better with that. I’ve never felt forgotten by my Savior. I’ve never had a promise unkept when I did my part. With exacting effort, I prepared myself for a month for this weekend and I received all that for which I asked. It has always been the case and I believe always will be the case. How could I doubt now?

Some Changes at Macminicolo

Note: This is a post from my company blog as I sold my business and announced it to the customers.

This is it. The blog post I wasn’t sure I’d ever write. Partly because I knew it’d have to be about me and I’m a pretty private person. But also because I wasn’t sure this would ever happen without some difficult choices. Sometimes you have to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. So here it goes…

I’m Brian Stucki. I’ve been running Macminicolo for over ten years. For half that time, I ran the whole thing alone. Later, Justin joined me for data center duties. Running a hosting company is a mixed bag opportunity. It’s exciting because you get to be involved with cutting edge technology. In a niche like Mac hosting and colocation, the customers are always intelligent and working with them lets me be a small partof what they’re building. I’ve tried very hard to do good, honest work and do right for our customers and the community. For every email I’ve received confirming the death of the Mac mini, I’ve also received emails from people who put a Mac mini into our data center and it saved their business.

The other side of hosting company ownership is constant connection to the online world, middle of the night support tickets, and a nagging worry that tech will change and you’ll be out of business. I call it the SBO ulcer. (I am not a doctor but I’m guessing many of you feel it too.) I remember listening toa podcast about when Instapaper was sold and had a lot of the conversation resonate with me.

Over the last decade, the business has been very successful. It has grown well financially but just as important to me is that it also has a great reputation. Macminicolo is the name for Mac hosting and Mac mini information. I’m very proud of this position and I’m happy that people have this view of Macminicolo. With a good name like ours, I receive an offer to buy the company about 5 times a year. I’ve always turned them down because I wasn’t interested in changing things, or the company was undervalued, or just because the new owners would have done a horrible job in running this niche service. Often, they didn’t understand what made it special and they just see the dollar signs. That would have hurt me to sell, and would have left my customers/friends in a bad place. No thanks.

So what has changed?

In short, I’ve decided to sell ownership of Macminicolo and merge it with another company. I will stay on as President of Macminicolo and also serve as a Vice President of the parent company, MacStadium.

Now, I could just announce this with no explanation and be done with it . I could also write one of those generic acquisition posts focused on sunsets and brands and blah. Instead, I’ll be forthright and real like I’ve always tried to be with customers.

Why did you sell the company?

For me, it boils down to three reasons:

Here is my family. (How’s that for keeping it personal?) My wife and kids are the most important thing in the world to me. This sale has helped me put a little money away for a rainy day and relieved some dad stresses like making sure my girls can go to college and that I won’t have to be a burden to my boys when I’m old and senile. This sale also lets me see more of them now. For ten years, we haven’t been able to take a truly disconnected vacation. I’ve always monitored and maintained the data center even from afar. Frankly, kids deserve to be with their dad in the wilderness where nothing can interrupt them. Merging my company allows me to do that but still have plenty of eyes and hands at the data center to keep good service. This, by far, is my main reason for merging.

Second, I think we’re on the cusp of a major change in how tech companies host their products. Companies that offer online services are looking for more control of their data and offerings. Startups and businesses are moving away from huge, faceless hosting companies so they can control their own data and have more direct hands on servers, etc. I want to be sure that they can look at Mac hosting options that are large enough to be viable, but personal enough to be a good partner. While I think we’re good at the latter, I can’t offer the former on my own. Now with this merger, we have all sorts of options.

Need 500 OS X VMs running across dozens of Mac Pros? No problem.

Want hundred of Mac minis, Pros and blades in place tomorrow to use for your company? Sure.

Want to build a personal ACN in three diverse locations to deliver your podcast episodes? Coming right up.

Finally, I found a good company with good people and a long-term plan. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a number of offers over the years. Four months ago, I got a call from the Greg, the CEO at MacStadium. Since that time, we’ve had many conversations about what could and should take place. When it comes to Macs in the data center, they’re doing some great things already. They have a great mix of knowledge and also a willingness to learn and grow. That’s rare.

MacStadium is based in Georgia. They recently expanded to Ireland as well. They were looking to offer another data center on the West coast and that’s part of what led them to me. Rather than start from scratch, Macminicolo gives them immediate space in this part of the Unites States and hundreds of great customers already on board. They’ve committed some significant investment to make this location even more robust. As mentioned earlier, I’ve also committed to take a major role at the company. This will allow me to do the things I enjoy (i.e., promote the Mac as a hosting option, teach people how to use OS X in the data center, be a known friend for customers) but step away from the things I’d like more help with (i.e., middle of the night support tickets, invoicing, network expansions.)

Conclusion

I can’t explain just how much I had to think about this decision. I’ve put a lot of time, energy and attention into building Macminicolo. In the last few months I have performed the calculations, said the prayers, applied the SBO Ulcer test and projected the best and worst case scenarios. I ran it by successful people I know and trust. Everything pointed to making this decision and I’m excited to see what we can build.

An observation from President Packer’s funeral

One of my favorite moments from the funeral of President Packer didn’t make the final video release. I thought I’d share it here since I took a screenshot during the live video.

After the casket was loaded in the car in the background, Sister Packer and the family turned and entered the cars seen at the bottom of this picture. As the remaining members of the Quorum exited the tabernacle and saw they were not yet loaded, they stopped and waited for the family to enter the cars rather than walk around and enter their own cars waiting in the cortege line. Her husband is gone, but Donna Packer holds the complete love and reverence from the Quorum. 

 

I love this photo for another reason that was more apparent when seeing it live. When Elder Nelson saw they were not yet loaded, he stopped. His brethren in the quorum didn’t look around to see why nor ask each other the reason for the stopping. Instead, they saw that Elder Nelson, the senior member and probable President of the Quorum stopped and they instantly followed his lead. After 21 years of following President Packer as Acting President and President of the Quorum, the mantle has moved and it is recognized.

The mix of strength and humility in this group inspires me so much.