Personal Finance

by Tim Isbell (posted 3/2013, last revised 1/2016)

Personal finance is one of my hobbies. Another is playing golf. In earlier seasons I enjoyed other athletic hobbies.

Hobbies provide benefits: enjoyment and diversion from school, work, and other responsibilities. Many hobbies provide friendships. Some encourage strenuous exercise. Some cost very little; others are quite expensive.

My Personal Finance hobby is different. It is my only "paying hobby." I enjoy the process, and it pays me!

Why add Personal Finance to this site?

For me, this season is about resourcing others with the things I've picked up over decades. I've learned some things about Personal Finance that will help you whether you are 20 years old or 20 years into retirement.

My hobby began early in married life when we carefully monitored every dime we spent (literally, you can ask my wife). My interest expanded into stock market investments when National Semiconductor offered me a job with a stock option as part of the compensation. My personal finance hobby added a life-planning dimension when we were deciding if we had sufficient financial resources to leave the security fo National Semiconductor to join the start-up team that became Cadence Design Systems. In 1990, we refined these skills further as we decided to leave Cadence and respond to God's invitation to enter Christian pastoral ministry. Not only did Personal Finance contribute to having sufficient funds to make that career change, subsequently it enabled us to do ministry without needing much income from the church. In recent years, this hobby guided us through numerous up-and-down business cycles. All along the way, since we married in 1967, Personal Finance has facilitated generous giving to Christian ministry.

Now, in our retirement season, I finally decided to share what I've learned about managing money. I'm not a Certified Financial Planner or anything close to it though I do meet monthly with a group of them. I'm not an extremely sophisticated investor by the world's standards. But I am pretty competent, as evidenced by living off of investments since 1990. So, as long as I'm resourcing others, I'd be remiss to sidestep sharing what I've learned about personal finance.

So, here goes.

Some personal data (section updated January 2016)

Here's some personal data so you can decide whether or not to read more in this section. I have consistent data on our investments from 2006 to the present, which includes the deep 2008 recession. These numbers are directly from the Vanguard website, and they include all fees and expenses.

 Time window  

Internal Rate of Return

1 year (1/1 thru 12/31/2015)


3 years (2013-2015)        


5 years (2011-2015)        


We adjusted our asset allocation to fit our risk tolerance in 2006 to about 55% stocks, then incrementally reduced the stock portion to about 42% as we transitioned into retirement. 

The economic collapse of 2008 was our worst year. The S&P 500 fell 34% (within the calendar year, larger from peak to trough). Heading into that year our portfolio was about an equal mix of low-cost stock and bond funds. Stocks crashed, and bonds did pretty well (due primarily to Federal Reserve intervention), making up some of the stock losses. That year our investment portfolio lost 19%, which was unsettling. But we trusted the strategy, rebalanced our asset allocation, and stayed invested. Then in 2009, we experienced our best year: an 18% gain.

As you'll discover reading through the Investment section of Personal Finance, that's the way evidence-based, asset allocation using low fee (mostly index) mutual funds, is supposed to work.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to manage money. Most readers can do this quite well. If you do, you will enjoy the benefits of having your finances under control. And there's a good chance that you'll enjoy the process!

So, unless you are satisfied with your current Personal Finance strategy, why not look through this Personal Finance section as I unpack our approach to investing - and many other dimensions of personal finance? It's all free, and you can choose for yourself "what to keep and what to throw away." I'll point you to resources that I trust. These will save you a lot of time, and give you the confidence that your strategy is in line with the best practices. I'll be as transparent about how we manage our money as is prudent.

So take a look at the Subpage Listing in the upper right corner of this web page. When you find a topic of interest, just click on it. And stay tuned, I'll continue to add pages. 

Please come along on the Personal Finance journey

If Personal Finance is a topic you've been intended to get up-to-speed on for a long time, then following these posts is a great place to start. If you are already a savvy investor, you are still likely to learn some things. If not from me, then from the resource links and from the interchanges from other readers whom you'll meet in Comments/Questions. 

To ensure that you get all the upcoming Personal Finance posts you will need to subscribe to either the email or RSS feed from my site. You can learn more about subscribing at IsbellOnline News.

Feel free to use the Contact Tim function on the left-hand navigation panel of any page.

All the best,

Tim Isbell

I have no affiliate relationships with any of the products or companies mentioned in anywhere on this site, including this Personal Finance section. This means I receive no money from them through any channel. I mention and at least implicitly recommend them just because I think they are useful resources.