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Collection of Financial Rules-of-Thumb

posted Aug 13, 2014, 6:53 AM by Tim Isbell

Here is a collection of nuggets of financial wisdom. I didn't create them, but I've used them long enough to confidently share them with you. They are not actually "rules" - they are more in the category of good advice. So don't apply them rigidly, but receive them as good guidelines and starting points in your own financial life. 
I've placed them in the sequence that most of us need them - from the beginning of our working life and into retirement. Interested? Here's the link: Financial Rules-of-Thumb.

All the best,

Retirement Funding

posted Aug 2, 2014, 2:17 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Aug 2, 2014, 4:10 PM ]

I wish someone had explained retirement math to me early in life, when I was worrying whether Robin and I were accumulating enough for our senior years. But I didn’t know enough to do the analysis. Fortunately, along the way I somehow figured it out and now we've been retired since 2010. So it’s time to offer what we've learned to others. If you'd like to better understand the sources for funding your retirement and how the numbers work, just click on Retirement Funding.

All the best!

Larry Wall interview

posted Jul 17, 2014, 3:47 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Aug 10, 2014, 3:34 PM ]

I'd like to introduce you to a well-known software developer: Larry Wall. 

But first, the back-story:

I have lived and worked in the heart of Silicon Valley since 1971. For 20 years I worked in integrated circuit and software development. Then I changed careers to become a Christian pastor and served for 18 years as the pastor of New Life Nazarene Church in Cupertino, CA. After retiring in 2010, my wife and I remain there as parishioners. So I've met and worked closely with many very competent and interesting people. 

One of the most interesting is Larry Wall. He is widely known as the author of the PERL computer language, which he long-ago released as an open-source product. Larry remains fully engaged in the life of PERL, and just as engaged as an authentic Christian around New Life Church. He was there in 1992 when I arrived, and we still worship together there today. It's impossible to list all the ways in which he helps out around the church.

Several years ago Jonathan Schiefer arrived in the Cupertino area and began attending New Life Church. From the time I first met him,  Jon had a deep interest in the high tech culture, the trade-offs between open-source and conventional for-profit software, and the ethics of the high tech industry. Jon himself is not a software developer; he is a thoughtful story-teller, committed to writing and making movies. Now he lives in southern California.

Jon met and came to know Larry in the church. A few months ago he produced an extremely interesting YouTube video interview of Larry, especially his involvement in the development of PERL. But as is common when talking with Larry, the conversation expanded. You can watch the interview by clicking Hacker Interviews: Larry Wall. It's so worth watching that I'm posting a permalink in the Story Corner section of this site.

One last comment on Larry: For one example of his impact around New Life Church, check out Larry Wall on Marriage.

By the way, Jonathan Shiefer is right now releasing his first movie. For details on its development, release schedule, and how to see it go to Algorithm: the Hacker Movie website.

All the best,


Downsizing - the end of the journey

posted Jun 22, 2014, 8:26 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Jun 24, 2014, 10:12 AM ]

Last August I posted "Downsizing Basics." We had just sold our stand-alone house of 19 years, moved temporarily into an apartment, and were looking for a more suitable place for our senior years. We also wanted to transfer some real estate equity into investments to generate income. 

Later that month I posted "Home Sale Math," which unpacked the financial dimensions of selling a house with substantial long-term capital gains.

Now it's a year later and our transition is complete. Start to finish it took 13 months, much of which was a major renovation project on the new townhouse. This post wraps up our downsizing story. If you are wondering about how downsizing might look in your life, or just thinking about buying a new house, you'll find lots of valuable information in these 3 webpages. To look at this final downsizing post, click on Downsizing Followup. There you will also find links to the other two posts.

All the best,


Sermon & Study Material through August

posted Jun 8, 2014, 1:58 PM by Tim Isbell

After Pentecost Sunday begins Ordinary Time, but this doesn't mean we're entering a season for mundane sermons and teaching! The lectionary use of "ordinary" refers to the word's Latin root which means items that are "ordered." Ordinary Time begins with Trinity Sunday, and proceeds through several numbered weeks Proper 4, 5, 6... 26, 27, 28, finally finishing on Christ the King Sunday, right around Thanksgiving. This is such a long stretch of that I've divided it into 2 pieces. This first piece stretches through Proper 17, which this year is August 31.

Ordinary Time Sundays have two sets of Old Testament readings. The first is a continuation of the "typological" set, meaning the Old Testament readings either compliment or contrast the gospel. The second set is a stream of "semi-continuous" readings, meaning the Old Testament scriptures move through a book or books in sequence. Lectionary preachers choose one or the other of these Old Testament paths, or bounce between them.

If you follow this link to Year A Ordinary Time you will find links to the notes and resources for the following sermons:

  • In the Beginning... the Trinity
  • The Result of Right Worship
  • Grace (One of the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series)
  • Living with the Weak, the Strong, and Even with Our Enemies
  • Leaning Against Culture
  • Holiness: Romance in the Christian Life
  • Farming 101, the Soil and the Farming Life
  • Farming 201, Managing Weeds
  • Renovation of the Soul (part of a 5-sermon series titled Renovation)
  • The Bad, the Good, the Best
  • Lifesaving - the Grand Adventure
  • The Kingdom is Like...
  • Adjusting to God's Story
  • Learning from Leah
  • Abundance Mentality
  • A Time to Surrender
  • The Key to Mastering Money
  • Salvation by Faith (another of the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series)
  • Surviving an Imperfect Family
  • Living the Baptized Life
  • Praying Through God's Silence
  • Suffering
  • Life's Inflection Points
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Should my portfolio have 2 funds or 12?

posted Apr 28, 2014, 7:26 AM by Tim Isbell

I occasionally write about simple investing strategies that produce solid results over the long haul, primarily using stock and bond mutual funds (mostly index). The simplest is just 2 funds while the most complex uses 10-12.

Historically the real (inflation-adjusted) rate of return on stocks was nearly 7%/year; while the real return on bonds was about 3.5%. Since these tend to be uncorrelated, they can combine into quite a nice portfolio.

This post uses a market proxy benchmark to analyze the payoff for the more complex portfolio. (Hint: it's less than you might think.) To read the post click on 2 Funds or 12?.

All the best,
Tim Isbell

Video Hangouts for Beginners

posted Apr 4, 2014, 8:27 PM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Apr 16, 2014, 12:34 PM ]

A few weeks ago I needed to help a 7-person nominating committee hold a video conference using a Google+ Video Hangout. The people were geographically spread around northern California, and their leader wanted to gather them without the time and cost of traveling to a central location. He also wanted to prototype this technology in hopes the organization can use it in the future. The meeting was scheduled for 2 weeks later, and most participants had minimal (if any) video conferencing or Google experience.

So I generated a beginners' document to get them started, hosted a practice Video Hangout, and participated in the final meeting. The results:

  • The meeting went very well.
  • 7 people learned to use Google+ Video Hangouts, which they will use in future situations.
  • We prototyped a new tool with very broad potential, which these early adopters and their leader will spread through the organization.

If you or your organization can use a free video conferencing system for up to 10 people, please click on this link for the document that will guide you and your users in using this tool: Google+ Video Hangouts for Beginners and give it a try.

All the best,


Sermons for Palm Sunday through Pentecost

posted Mar 30, 2014, 9:18 PM by Tim Isbell

The Easter season the most significant time in the entire Christian calendar. It
 begins on Palm Sunday and continues through Pentecost Sunday. This post contains a link to 18 sermons full of material and ideas for preachers and teachers to use during this season. These sermons link to the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A.
  • But Can Jesus Trust You?
  • Managing the Gap (3-sermon series)
  • Paschal Mystery (2-sermon series)
  • Whatever IT Takes
  • The Key to Mastering Money (2-sermon series)
  • A Not So Ordinary Walk
  • Good News for Everyone (3-sermon series)
  • A Biblically Functioning Community
  • The Early Old Testament Story
  • The Grand Partnership
  • Living Through Discouragement (or Suffering)
  • Life in the Spirit
For more on any of these, including full sermon notes, go to A Easter Season.

Putting Holiness & Worship before Service

posted Mar 15, 2014, 9:20 AM by Tim Isbell   [ updated Mar 16, 2014, 7:29 AM ]

Sometimes we get things backwards and don't realize it until someone points it out. Such times remind me of Samuel Johnson's advice: "People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed." 

Recently Dr. John Calhoun borrowed an A.W. Tozer writing to remind Northern California Nazarene ministry leaders that worship and holiness are a higher priority than acts of service. 

Especially in our pragmatic, action-oriented culture we need to receive this reminder. Enough so that I decided to pass it along to you. For the advice, click on this link: Holiness/Worship before Service.


Questions to ask people

posted Mar 6, 2014, 12:36 PM by Tim Isbell

While having lunch this week a pastor friend told me about a parishioner who periodically visits his office to have a conversation. But this person struggles to engage in conversation. As we talked I remembered that over the years I accumulated a list of questions for all sorts of ministry situations. Sometimes when I wanted to initiate a conversation with a new person I'd sneak a look at the list before the meeting to get a couple of starter questions. It helped a lot. So I promised my friend I'd look for it. 

Google found my copy of questions buried high in the cloud, and I sent a link to my pastor friend a couple of hours ago. In the process I decided that others might also find the list useful, so I'm posting it on my website.

It's divided into the following categories:

  • For connecting with visitors, in person or on the phone
  • For anybody (most anywhere)
  • For Christians
  • For baptism, membership, and graduations
  • For older people
  • For potential volunteers
  • To follow up on a volunteer's experience
  • When recruiting staff
  • When checking references (in the hiring process)

If you're a pastor you'll probably find value in every section. Indeed, you may have a list of your own questions! But regardless of what your role in the world is, I'm sure you'll find some of these very, very helpful.

To view or download the entire list click on Questions for People.

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