A Lockdown Q&A With Mr. Tako

Hi folks!  Instead of my usual blog post where I decide the topic my choosing, this week’s post I thought I’d we mix things up a bit!  It’s time for the readers to take charge and let them ask questions!

That’s right, it’s Q & A time!  This week’s post is composed entirely of reader questions, and I’ll do my best to supply the answers!

Without further ado, lets get this Q & A started….


Q: How are you? (This question comes from A Purple Life blog)

A: Presumably you mean how am I doing during COVID-19 lockdown?  I’m doing great!

Well OK, that’s not entirely true.  To be perfectly honest I’m a little exhausted by this never-ending lockdown.  I used to have nice breaks during the day when the kids were at school — time when I could work on my own projects, write, study, take a nap, read, or otherwise gather my sanity into a neat little pile.

Those breaks are gone now.  I still have all my regular household duties (cooking, cleaning, etc), but now I’m homeschooling the boys.  Pretty much all of my “me time” has disappeared.  It’s “all-kids all the time” here, which is very draining.

I should also add that homeschooling is NOT easy.  No way José!  I’ve never had to play the role of “teacher” before, but I’m doing my best.  Have you ever tried to teach fractions or how to phonetically sound out words?  It’s harder than I would have guessed!  It’s also an incredible test of my patience.

You could say I’ve learned a newfound respect for teachers!

The Napping Couch
I miss my naps.


Q: Have current events (i.e. COVID-19 and the current recession) affected your plans? (This question comes from Financial Serenity blog)

A: In the short-term, our spring and summer travel plans have completely gone up in smoke.  (Maybe it’s more of a dumpster fire?)

We had a road trip planned this spring that needed to be canceled, and our summer travel plans have been completely canceled as well.  Originally we planned a visit to some National Parks in the U.S. Southwest, but with all the COVID-19 lockdowns we are most likely staying home this summer.

It’s not even clear if traveling in the fall will be a viable option.  I’ll wait and see how things play out, but I expect 2020 to be a year without much travel.

For longer-term Financial Independence plans, I believe we’re still in a very stable financial position that will allow those plans to keep moving forward.  We still have at least 5 years of living expenses in cash, and most of our stocks are still paying dividends.

Our cash flow is healthy (for now at least).  Even under some of the most pessimistic economic predictions I’ve seen, we should remain financially independent.

Indeed, this recession will probably strengthen our financial position.  We tend to buy assets when they’re affordable.  Just like the Great Recession was a rocket booster to our financial independence, the “COVID Recession” might play a similar role of allowing us to buy good assets at a discount.


Q: What’s the biggest struggle with the kids during this lock down? (This question comes from Tawcan)

A: Homeschooling is by far my biggest challenge.  Our boys have a lot of energy and it’s hard to burn it when staying at home.  I don’t know how the regular teachers manage a classroom of 20+ rambunctious kids.  Even with just two children, it’s maddening at times.

I do my best to keep them focused and working, but I get the distinct impression my kids would rather be doing something else.

studying at home
Study time under lockdown.


Q: What’s your writing process like lately?  (This question comes from A Purple Life blog)

A:  It’s a bit of a mess these days!  My time for blog writing is now super limited.  After a full day of homeschooling the kids, I only get to sit down and do a little writing when they go to bed.  (around 9:00 pm).  I’ll keep writing as long as I can keep my eyes open.

(Yes, I’ve fallen asleep at the keyboard more than once!)

Typically my process starts by doing research on my chosen topic mid-week, and then I’ll begin by writing a bulleted point outline on the topic.  On Friday night, I start playing “fill in the blanks” for all my bulleted points.

I wish I had more time for writing, but the simple fact of the matter is, I don’t.  I don’t want the blog to die out, but it’s hard to find the necessary time for writing under lockdown.  In response, I’ve been trying to use more family pictures and avoiding complex topics that would require longer posts.  This makes writing a blog post quicker, but I actually miss working on the more technical articles.

I hope the kids will be back in school soon, and then I can start working on the blog again in earnest.


Q: What gets you motivated to write? (This question comes from A Purple Life and Financial Serenity blogs)

A: Writing this blog has always been a passion project for me.  Personal finance, and more specifically investing is where my passion lies.  My blog is not about pushing BlueHost signups or Personal Capital affiliate links to make a bunch of money.

I hardly make any money from blogging.  My motivation really comes from what I’m interested in learning about, or teaching to someone else at that point in time.  Usually this is about something investing related, like Preferred shares, the Dunning Kruger effect, or the failure of a great many investing strategies.

For my recipe posts, those actually have a huge amount of personal utility.  I actually use my recipes that are posted here!  I’ll pull up my own blog on a laptop in the kitchen, and then start cooking from there!

hiyayakko fusion
I actually use my own blog like a recipe book!  It’s extremely handy to have the good recipes all in one place!


Q: Any advice on how to be emotionally okay with your emergency fund size; essentially no number feels like it’s enough when you work live events in the time of covid  (This question comes from twitter user RGE Evolution)

A: Sure, I have a few thoughts on this!  You should think of your emergency fund (and portfolio) as a fortress.  It has strengths and plenty of weaknesses.  A good commander will work diligently to reduce those weaknesses to the point where the fortress can withstand any attack.

Start reducing those weaknesses by paying off all your debts if you can.  This will greatly reduce your stress levels during difficult times, and further reduce the amount needed in a emergency fund.

For example, I still hold a mortgage of $270,000.  To keep our lifestyle a stable fortress of independence, I maintain enough cash that I could easily pay-off all my liabilities (including the mortgage) at any time.

This feels very secure to me, and I sleep well at night knowing that I have the option to pay off all my debts if necessary.  I could also use that money to make investments, as I did recently.

Incidentally our emergency fund has about 5 years worth of living expenses, which is an amount I feel comfortable will outlast most recessions.  A lot can happen in 5 years, and if our financial situation was to deteriorate to the point where the Tako family was no longer financially independent, I feel pretty confident I could find a job in 5 years.

Think of your emergency fund (and portfolio) like a fortress. Only when you know those walls can’t be breached, will you sleep well at night.


Q: I’d be interested to know (to the level you’re comfortable sharing) your and Mrs. Tako’s university experience – type and expense of school, did you self-fund or have help, etc. And then I’d love to know what you’re doing with T1 and T2 (529, “good luck kid”, whatever). (This question comes from Asset Based Life)

A:  Mrs. Tako and I both attended 4 year public Universities and received Bachelor of Science degrees.  I paid for my bachelor’s degree with a mix of savings from summer jobs, and (mostly) student loans.  I had around $50,000 in student loans when I graduated.  Mrs. Tako used a mix of savings from part-time jobs, and assistance from her parents to pay for school.

For some reason, a few years after joining the workforce I thought it would be a good idea to go back to school and get my Masters in Business Administration, which I did.  I went to a fancy private college for this.  The cost was roughly $40,000 for that degree, and I paid out of pocket with cash.

As far as our kids go, they both have 529 college savings plans (which are invested in a S&P 500 index fund).  They’re still pretty young, but it might turn out that a 4-year college might not be the best choice for one (or both) of them.  We’ll see how it goes, but for now I’m assuming they’ll attend a 4 year public University.

learning about animal tracks
Will college be in store for the Tako boys? For now, we’re planning like it will be.

Our current plan is to pay for college with a mix of 529 accounts, their part-time job savings, and (at least initially) student loans.  If they managed to attain a degree and prove themselves to be good students, my (secret) plan is to pay off some of that debt when they graduate.  Sort of a “graduation gift” if you will for a good student who stays out of trouble.

I’ve seen far too many kids partying through 4 years of their parent’s cash to know that it’s a bad idea to just hand kids a free ride for 4 years.  Many kids given “handouts” don’t take their studies seriously enough, and fritter away time and money on useless degrees and drunken partying.


Q: Are you guys speaking Japanese to the kids regularly at home? Or do you rely on the school for teaching Japanese? (This question comes from Tawcan)

A: Unfortunately our elementary school system doesn’t have a language program, so right now our kid’s primary exposure to Japanese is at home.  We try to speak Japanese with them as often as possible, but it’s limited.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to teach kids a foreign language as complex as Japanese from just a few hours at home.  Before COVID-19 we were going to look into a foreign language Saturday school (once Tako Jr. #2 completed his language immersive daycare), but COVID-19 has effectively canceled these study programs.

We’ll see if the Saturday schools start up again in the fall.


The Finish!

That’s it for this week’s Lockdown Q&A!  I hope you enjoyed reading this new style of post.  If readers enjoy it, I might decide to do this again!  Leave a note in the comments if you think I should do another Q&A post!

Stay safe everybody!


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

10 thoughts on “A Lockdown Q&A With Mr. Tako

  • May 3, 2020 at 3:50 AM

    I like the amount you have for the emergency fund. Five years is quite a bit and probably more than most people.

  • May 3, 2020 at 4:29 AM

    Great Q&A! Would definitely do another one. Regarding your children learning Japanese, if you were to speak it exclusively at home don’t you think that would stick? On a personal level, when I was a kid I learned English at school but my native language was spoken exclusively at home.

    Giving your children the gift of a 2nd language is just amazing.

  • May 3, 2020 at 8:15 AM

    Thanks for sharing – definitely do this again sometime.

    Sounds like a good plan for college (if it’s in the cards) for T1 and T2. I definitely think there are more effective ways to learn, but a college degree is still a union card for many industries. We’re planning on funding our boys (’cause it’s the tradition that was handed to us), but we’re highly aware of the moral hazard you highlight. Maybe we’ll need to have the kids put skin in the game too and then pay off debt afterwards with good performance…

    Thanks again!

  • May 3, 2020 at 9:19 AM

    Great questions and answers. Sounds like you guys are just like us, struggling a bit with the kids. It sure is hard to have to home school them and keep them entertained at all time. That means you rarely have any me time.

    Our kids both speak quite fluent Danish at home thanks to Mrs. T. I really need to speak more Mandarin with them. But I guess that’s why it’s called the mother tongue.

  • May 3, 2020 at 12:24 PM

    I like this – it was like a Reddit AMA and a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about you. I also liked your thoughts on the plans for your kids’ tuition. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s important for most kids to have at least a little bit of a stake in the game with college.

    Also, I think all of us, particularly with kids, are feeling exhausted with this pandemic. When you compare it to some events in history where people really suffered, this ain’t nothin’, but either way, it’s still tiring!

  • May 4, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    Great Q&A. Did you post the question on Twitter? I want to do something similar.
    My life in lockdown is pretty similar to yours. It’s been very difficult to write. I don’t have the energy and focus I used to have. Homeschooling is very tiring. Now, I get Sunday to write and that’s about it.
    Oh well, I hope the lockdown eases up soon.

    • May 6, 2020 at 12:33 PM

      Yeah, I posted the question on twitter as well as here. 🙂

  • May 4, 2020 at 11:57 AM

    When our children went off to college, we had them sign a “contract” that listed expected requirements if they wanted us to finance the FOUR year degree. It included hrs per semester to keep on track, summer school classes, gpa requirements, maximum tuition payment per year etc. Our 24 yr old graduated in 4 yrs and is independent, our 21 yr old graduates Friday (woohoo…off the payroll) and starts her job May 18, and our youngest is a Jr in high school and starting the decision process. We also have them read DAVE Ramsey book to hopefully scare them away from debt. Good luck!

  • May 5, 2020 at 7:29 AM

    Maybe try taking the boys out for a bike ride or a hike before the schooling starts to burn some of the energy so sitting is easier. Break up the lessons. Math then some gardening. English then some housework. Chewing gum worked well with one of my sons to keep him sitting and doing homework. His teacher suggested it.

    Are they researching Mexico today then making tacos for supper? You probably cook by eye but they could use a meat thermometer for the cooked ingredients to tell the temperatures and a scale to weigh things out from a recipe. Math is much more relatable when you can see the numbers in action.

  • May 5, 2020 at 1:27 PM

    Thanks for answering my question, pretty cool! I like the analogy of thinking of my portfolio as a fortress and aiming for no take-downs. Finding comfort with the numerical representation of that security…I still have work to do on nailing that # down.


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