Plans tomorrow?

Hi, how are you?

We’ve spoken quite a bit about stablecoins/ cryptocurrency/ and high yields in the past few notes, and tonight there’s an opportunity to ask me anything and meet some other folks interested in the space.

Tomorrow at 5:30pm ET on Upstream I’ll be joined by Josh Yakov to share everything you’d like to know about stablecoins (crypto that’s pegged to fiat currency, like USDC - the US Dollar Coin).

Stablecoins offer both the high yields of crypto without the volatility risk, and I think they’re the perfect place to start exploring if you’re crypto-curious.

Join here: https://upstreamapp.com/events/6KFbjicZJg

If the link doesn’t work, simply download Upstream and navigate to “Money Talks” or text me for an invite!

Talk soon,
Armand

150 Days in DeFi & Launching a Syndicate

What I would like to invest in and why...

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

— Joseph Campbell

Hello, remember me?

As I wrote last July, all of life is an experiment, and if you’re not open to questioning the day-to-day / pushing boundaries / expanding horizons, then what are you doing?

Despite framing the issue in something as trivial as rejoining Instagram (spoiler: it didn’t last), its meta-application was this newsletter. After a year of writing concluded in Jan, I’ve been happily distracted by the brave new world of Web3 (for a primer in Web3, I’d recommend Packy’s Not Boring here).

So here we are 150+ days since my last correspondence and I’m happy to report some new learnings. As always, this is not financial advice, do your own due diligence.

  1. Nexo stablecoin yield (currently 8%) continues to serve as a hurdle rate for weighing the costs of other projects. Average cap rates for real estate in NYC are between 3-6%, while there are fringe benefits of owning rental properties, we can all agree that stablecoin yield is not only easier to start, but also more liquid and more accessible (no minimums). One correction I’d like to make is that Nexo isn’t DeFi, it was built on the foundation of a European bank, and is far easier to navigate than the react interfaces of many of the portals I’ll mention below.

  2. Pool Together is a no-loss lottery savings that incentivizes savings through more tickets for a weekly bounty. Stablecoin yields have dipped below my 8% hurdle, but this protocol is run with a sense of professionalism, that I admire. Further, they continue to push the envelope introducing pods and other tools that allow for a more level playing field.

  3. Ribbon.finance started as a covered call option strategy on ETH, but has since expanded to BTC and a USDC/ETH put-selling strategy. Again, the professionalism of their blog, white papers, and governance strategy gives me a lot of confidence in the project and the team behind it.

  4. Last but not least, Universe.xyz is building a fully decentralized and immutable NFT solution. In an interview with Kevin Rose, the founder (Tyler Ward) speaks to the importance of an uncensorable, yet community governed solution for permanent NFTs.


Any projects that you’re following?

Leave a comment


What’s next?

If DeFi isn’t enough risk/alpha for you, you’ll be happy to know that I’m launching an early-stage investing syndicate.

For the past few years, I’ve been angel investing and while liquidity events won’t likely happen for a while, I’ve realized just how impactful specific knowledge can be to a founding team in the early stages. It’s easy to think of great ideas for Fortune 500 companies, nearly impossible for those ideas to be heard, whereas a great idea can dramatically change the trajectory of an early-stage startup.

Click through to see a few ideas, spanning DeFi to health, that I’m actively searching for…

For those interested in learning more about early-stage investing and/or joining the syndicate, be sure to reach out. Please note, you must be an accredited investor, see criteria here.

If you’re accredited, book a quick chat with me here.

Lastly, thanks for joining this experiment. While I’m sure I’ll be writing again at some point, the updates may be a bit more intermittent as I focus nights and weekends on the fund.


This newsletter is my attempt at (a) sharing learnings with friends and family (b) becoming more vulnerable through transparency and (c) improving my writing. Thanks for reading, and please reply with your thoughts.

❤️ Armand

Cache Rules Everything Around Me

My Journey Into DeFi

But neither a bull nor a noble-spirited man comes to be what he is all at once; he must undertake hard winter training, and prepare himself, and not propel himself rashly into what is not appropriate to him.

-Epitectus

Hi, Happy New Year!

According to historical benchmarks, most new years resolutions have been abandoned by now, but not us, we’re stronger and more deliberate than that. Right! Right?

As Epictetus alludes to above, it took a lifetime for you to become who you are and will require hard work to change.

So how do you change? In Atomic Habits, James Clear says the answer is habit-building. I haven’t read the book, but this summary and this episode of Capital Allocators featuring James were a delightful combo.


2020 Review

In 2020 I stepped my New Years Resolutions game by creating this spreadsheet and quantifying all inputs to end the year with a score out of 100. Happy to report that I achieved ~72% of what I set out to accomplish with many twists and turns along the way.

2021 Planning

Almost a month into 2021 and while I haven’t duplicated my spreadsheet, I have thought through the tweaks I’d like to make. 2021’s approach will be a double-down on those actions that gave me the most energy and the removal of any fluff. I don’t plan on sharing this year’s spreadsheet but will report back on overall progress come 2022.

Some consistent themes that have served me well:

  • 50 net fewer possessions — fewer things = fewer things to worry about

  • 10% less alcohol than last year — this is so much easier with all the great non-alcoholic beer available these days, my favorite being Clausthauler Dry Hopped

  • 10% less added sugar than last year — more fruit, fewer cookies

  • 10% more overall net worth — CREAM


🤑 My Journey Into DeFi

DeFi (Decentralized Finance) is the creation of standard financial instruments (loans, high-yield savings, margin, options, etc) into the world of cryptocurrency and specifically without a centralized controller.

It’s fascinating because, on one hand, we have a large crop of neo-banks competing with the large incumbent institutions, on the other hand, we have non-banking companies starting to offer financial services (big tech, Walmart, etc), and completely unrelated to both we have an entirely new system being created by open-source makers from all walks of life.

In fact, over the past year, the total value locked in DeFi rose from less than $1B to $25B+. Of course, much of that has to do with the crypto bull run, but despite price fluctuations, people are choosing to keep their money in these portals.

Why?

I’m still new here, but thus far there are three reasons why I’m excited:

  1. Ease of signup, many portals only need one piece of information from you, your crypto wallet address - this replaces the plethora of questions and additional passwords to remember (side note: it’s 2021, you NEED a password manager).

  2. High APY, how much are you currently earning? At best 0.5% from Marcus/ Ally or 0.35% from Wealthfront? That’s nothing! Within DeFi, you can conservatively earn 5% and if you’re more risk-tolerant you can earn upwards of 30% APY!

  3. Transparency, each of these portals is extremely transparent in their code, their governance, and their fee structure. Having dealt with financial institutions that try to sneak in fees for the silliest of reasons, this is inspiring and refreshing.

How can you get started?

It all starts with research, but one thing I want to make perfectly clear is that DeFi isn’t inextricably connected with Bitcoin or Ethereum. So even if you’re anti-BTC or ETH, you can still participate. In fact, the best yields are often from coins that are pegged to the fiat US Dollar. Meaning the coin is worth $1 today and anytime in the future when you would like to convert it back to a fiat dollar.

Once you’ve watched X hours of YouTube and listened to Y hours of podcasts, then it’s time to create a wallet and make a test deposit.

While I’m not a professional, and this isn’t investment advice, I felt most comfortable starting with Nexo.io, while it’s not hardcore DeFi (if that makes any sense), their homepage trust triptych combined with a deep-dive into content featuring their founder, Antoni Trenchev, gave me all the confidence I needed to get started. After seeing the interest earned on my measly “toe in the water” allocation, I was hooked. 5% APY on BTC, 5% APY on ETH & 8% APY on USD Coins!

Once the glamour of those numbers fades away, you’re ready for the harder stuff:

For now, I’ll continue testing and report back, until then, share this with someone who’d like 8% APY on their USD holdings :)

Share


🧪 Other Experiments

While I’ve spoken about the importance of experiments previously, I haven’t documented them. In January, I’m trying three other things:

  1. Working from Miami, settled into Coconut Grove and loving it!

  2. Networking via Upstream, which started as a way to find intros to the Miami tech scene, but it’s so much more valuable than that. Particularly love the office hours video chats with a timed countdown and auto-hangup.

  3. Networking via Clubhouse, which I was hesitant to join and frankly still have my reservations. I’m such a big podcasting fan, that’s it’s difficult to see the value in unedited long-form speech versus thoughtful editing from a podcast. That said, the community aspect has been interesting to peruse and this week I had a chance to sit in as a co-host on a startup pitch practice session.


This newsletter is my attempt at (a) sharing learnings with friends and family (b) becoming more vulnerable through transparency and (c) improving my writing. Thanks for reading, and please reply with your thoughts.

❤️ Armand

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A Birthday Gift to You

My 3G Annual Self-Assessment

Hi and Happy Friday, before we get into it, let’s start with a reminder:

Stay strong out there! That said, I’m very much looking forward to:

  • A hatchet (my neighbor bought a fire pit and I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the fires or the wood-splitting)

  • Fresh pair of my new favorite sneakers (Asics)

  • Lastly, a hat to go with my hatchet.


“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

-Dr. Seuss

Another year, another Thanksgiving, and another birthday. Sometimes it all happens so fast that it’s difficult to remember what we have accomplished, learned, and how that will help us for the year ahead.

While we still over a month before the end of the year, I’ve made a habit of using December as a trial period for any resolutions I intend to keep for the year ahead. Once the new year arrives, my aggressive yet cute habit tracker (see here) is refreshed and it’s off to the races. That’s all fine and dandy, but as a counter-balance to the quantitative, I tend to journal on my birthday for the more qualitative.

This journaling is done in my proprietary 3G framework:

  • Gratitude, what I’m thankful for…

  • Goals, what I’ve accomplished…

  • Good Riddance! (fka Goodbye), what I’ve let go of…

Each G gets a Win, Learn & Plan:

  • Win, celebrate an achievement from the past year

  • Learn, something I could have done better or spent more time on

  • Plan (of Action), for the year ahead, typically connected to the “Learn”

Ok, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s go through a sample of each for Gratitude:

GRATITUDE

  • Win, self-gratitude. This year I’ve given myself more space to reflect on accomplishments through mentorship groups and this newsletter. So thank you for being a part of that!

  • Learn, immediate family, and friends. My inner circle is always there for me at my best and my worst and while I’d like to also think that I’m always there for them too, I’m cognizant that I can be more generous in my praise and gratitude towards them. For those reading, thank you!

  • Plan, work small moments of gratitude into the everyday. Instead of only celebrating the big moments, try to go beyond muttering the words “thank you” for the small things that make life that much more pleasant day-to-day.

As you can see, this is freeform and doesn’t have to be elaborate. Instead, think of it as a note-to-self for your past year, whether you do this on your birthday (like me) or at the start of the new year, or today because you have a few moments.

If you need help getting started, I recommend scrolling through the following:

  • Calendar app

  • Camera roll

  • Personal emails you sent

  • Lastly, social feeds, but don’t get too distracted 😒

Once you’ve added all your Gratitudes, Goals, and Good Riddances, copy and paste them into FutureMe.org and schedule the future email to be delivered to yourself a year from now. From there, you can easily keep track of your self-review year over year and see how life changes. Further, it’s so fun to receive an email from yourself!

Share


🤳 Personal Updates

  • 🌴 Miami, I’m planning to spend some (or all) of January in the sweet sunshine of Miami, if you’ll be there or know someone I should connect with, let me know.

  • 📌 Pinvestors, a few years ago I launched a small networking group of Pinterest colleagues who wanted to learn more about investing. We’re now over 200 members strong and I’d love to help you launch a similar group at your place of work.

  • 🏠 Real Estate Fund, while Westchester real estate is particularly hot right now due to COVID, I’m still searching for off-market deals as a potential starting point for my fund. As a reminder, this won’t likely happen for another few months as I suspect the first deal will come via foreclosure auction. As we get closer, I’ll reach out to those who have expressed interest.

Share Reflections


This newsletter is my attempt at (a) sharing learnings with friends and family (b) becoming more vulnerable through transparency and (c) improving my writing. Thanks for reading, and please reply with your thoughts.

❤️ Armand

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How much does your life cost?

Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.

As my mother approaches retirement, everything I know about personal finance (not much, and a great time to remind you that I’m not a financial advisor) is being tested and realized.

The first step towards her retirement is answering a seemingly simple question;
How much does your life cost?

More specifically, how much does your life cost on an annual basis? From there, we can explore so much more, but this is where financial freedom starts. That is, with a solid grasp of your own set of numbers.

It’s a difficult exercise. It’s very easy to forget things we repeatedly or impulsively spend money on. For once, we can take solace in the fact that it’s easier to find an Amazon receipt than a medical record. Before we go any deeper, hat tip to the ChooseFI podcast, as this was inspired by episode 257 available here.

But wait, why are we doing this?

Well, according to the team at ChooseFI, a safe target for retirement is getting your annual expenses to roughly 4% of your total money saved. Said another way, you’ll need $100 saved for every $4 of annual expenses. Of course, you would also factor in any income, dividends, other investments, but like most estimates, this will undoubtedly be tweaked for each individual or family.

Ok, so I want to know my total expenses how do I start?

Perhaps it’s best to start with the essentials and we can move on from there. These can be calculated as an individual or as a family unit, that’s your call. All I ask is that you approach this exercise without judgment, as that’s a sure-fire way to stir up negative emotions and prevent you from actually doing the work.

Let’s start with Essentials

  • Home (debt, taxes, utilities, insurance)

  • Car (debt, lease, insurance, maintenance, gas, etc)

  • Debt (credit cards, student loans, etc)

  • Health care (monthly premium and estimated annual expenses)

  • Schooling & child care

  • Parental care

  • Groceries 

Now, consider any Subscriptions

  • Internet and cell service

  • Shopping memberships (Amazon prime, Costco, etc)

  • Financial (credit card annual fees)

  • Entertainment (Netflix, HBO, etc)

  • Utilities (security system, iCloud, Dropbox, etc)

  • Fitness (Peloton, local gym)

  • Professional and social club dues

  • Recurring donations

Finish with Discretionary

  • Additional homes or vehicles (cars, boats, RVs, etc)

  • Vacations and travel

  • Dining out (also interesting to break out alcohol as a separate line item)

  • Clothing

  • Tech gadgets

  • Other shopping

There you have it, you’re well on your way to calculating your annual expenses. Assuming you’re not paid in cash, the best way to check your estimate is to add together the following:

  • Past 12 months of bank debits and withdrawals

  • Past 12 months of credit card spend

Once you factor in your income for that same period of time, you’ll have a more accurate representation of your annual expenses, but the line item breakout that you just created is going to be most helpful for reconsidering and reprioritizing your spend.

Great, now what?

Consider how and why we started:

  • We’ll all likely retire one day, how long would it take for you to save $100 for every $4 of annual spending?

  • The world has changed quite a bit due to COVID, how has your spending and saving changed?

  • Lastly, if microeconomics was correct, we spend the most money on the things that deliver the most utility to our lives. When you look through your spending habits, is that actually the case?


🤳 Personal Updates

With the election being moments away, it’s been difficult to avoid wormholes of doom and gloom. To keep myself occupied and not glued to the news or to the markets (which feel increasingly tied to the news), I’ve been focusing on three new habits:

  1. [MIND] Learning, just completed a course on real estate syndication. Syndication is an industry-term for raising money from friends, family, and other investors and being the custodian of that capital. More to come soon here, so let me know if you’d be interested in hearing about opportunities to invest alongside me.

  2. [BODY] Exercise, as simple as it sounds, joining my local gym has been one of the best investments I’ve made during COVID.

  3. [SOUL] Reading, specifically starting each day by reading an excerpt from my new favorite book, Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Late to the party here, but so glad I joined.

Stay safe out there!


This newsletter is my attempt at (a) sharing learnings with friends and family (b) becoming more vulnerable through transparency and (c) improving my writing. Thanks for reading, and please reply with your thoughts.

❤️ Armand

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