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SigFig is an amazing investment tool. It’s a free tool that links to your current online investment brokerage and provides easy-to-read charts of your status and performance. I’ve used TDAmeritrade as my brokerage for nearly a decade now, and it doesn’t come anywhere close to displaying my portfolio as well as SigFig’s website.

You should definitely try their free service if you haven’t done so yet.

 

I was pretty happy with their free service, so I decided to test their paid ($10/mo) managed account, which basically automatically reallocates your investments into zero-commission (FREE) ETFs. Most of the ETFs are well-known, low-fee ETFs offered by Vanguard, so they’re good picks.

 

These managed accounts are for investors who don’t want to individually pick their stocks. The only setting the owner can modify is a slider that selects whether the owner wants a conservative or aggressive investment allocation. If the investments deviate from target allocation, SigFig will automatically rebalance the account to match the target.

 

At the most aggressive allocation, my portfolio was set to:

  • 34% US Equities (VTI)
  • 25% International Equities (VEA)
  • 25% Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 10% – US Bonds (AGG)
  • 6% Real Estate (VNQ)
  • 0% Cash

 

At the most conservative allocation, my portfolio was set to:

  • 34% – US Bonds (AGG)
  • 33% – Short Term Treasury Bonds (VGSH?)
  • 13% US Equities (VTI)
  • 7% International Equities (VEA)
  • 7% Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 6% Real Estate (VNQ)
  • 0% Cash

 

My Impressions

When I signed up, it took me two weeks to transfer my TDAmeritrade account control over to SigFig’s control. While control was handed over, the account still remained on TD Ameritrade’s side, though on their TDA Advisor Client website instead of their individual investor website.

We ran into several issues during the transfer that delayed the process over a week. I needed to sign some TDA waiver forms on paper and email them to SigFig. Fortunately, SigFig support was excellent and pretty much hand-held me the entire way.

Once the account transfer completed, within 2 trading days, my existing investments were liquidated (That did cost me regular commission fees to TDA), and the new SigFig investments were purchased (no commission fees)

Overall, I’m pretty happy with SigFig’s managed accounts. If I weren’t the type of person who enjoys with my investment choices, I’d probably stick with it. It’s something I’d definitely recommend to my mom because she’s proven she’s unable to make investment decisions.

$10/mo is a very small fee for anyone who has a $25K+ account. People are known to make stupid choices jumping in and out of the market. While managed 401K accounts typically grow an average of 5-10%/yr (even after commission fees), individual investors on average only make 2% because they try to time the market, and do so very poorly. Having a managed account prevents jumping in at the wrong time or pulling out too soon.

 

PROs:

  • Zero-commission ETFs
  • It’s a managed account. You put money in and don’t think about it. It’s worry free!
  • Greatly out-performs the average individual investor
  • First 6-months months are free. Afterwards, it’s just $10/mo, which is a bargain price. I don’t think any other managed accounts are anywhere near this cheap.
  • Both the Web interface and charts are gorgeous

CONs:

  • It’s not for everyone. If you like playing with stocks and gambling, you’ll probably want to manage your own account. With this managed account, you can’t pick your own stocks.
  • The most aggressive allocation closely matches aggressive allocations for mutual funds, but it might still be too conservative for some.
  • All of SigFig’s tools are already provided freely. You don’t need to pay for the managed account to get them
  • Theoretically, you could just mirror SigFig’s investment choices and manually reallocate your stocks. But that introduces the human emotion factor and isn’t worth trying to save $10/mo.

For a complete FAQ, check https://www.sigfig.com/site/#/faq

Android Apps you MUST have

Alarm Clock Xtreme – The most customizable and easiest to use advanced alarm clock for Android. You can add multiple alarm clocks with different settings. It also comes with a countdown timer. (Seriously, this app should be the poster child for customizability)

Chrome Browser – The only browser you’ll need for Android. Syncs with desktop Chrome.

Drippler – Daily Android news and tips. This is a must-have app for first-time Android users. Much of what I first learned about Android devices has come from reading Drippler articles.

ES File Explorer – The best and most fully-featured Android file explorer

Google+ – You need this app. G+ looks horrible in a mobile browser

(Google) Hangouts – gChat on your phone. It’s the only group-chat app that has excellent smartphone and desktop apps. (Just don’t link it to your SMS account.)

(Google) Keep – For taking quick notes. It’s a lighter version of Evernote, so take your pick.

KeePass Droid – My favorite offline password manager. You can use it with the Desktop version. I sync this with DropBox so that I can access my passwords anywhere. (Honestly, if you aren’t using some kind of password manager or have some kind of perfect memory, you might as well be walking with your passwords taped to your forehead.)

Nova Launcher Prime ($4) – There’s a free version of this launcher app, but the Prime version will be the best purchase you’ll make. This launcher customizes your Android device and provides so many awesome features. It includes notification icons, easy access to app information, customizable lock screens, customizable gestures, a scrollable dock area, and much, much more.

Pin ‘n Find – Car Finder – Park your car. Mark your spot. Find it later.

Pushbullet – The super-awesome app that allows you to quickly send information and notifications between your phone and Chrome browser. Great if you’re always switching between the two.

Quell Memento ($3) – I’m only going to put one game recommendation on this list, and this is it. It’s a beautiful and simple puzzle game. It’s currently the highest rated top-100 game on Android. If you enjoy it, consider also buying Quell Reflect ($1).

QuickPic – Much better than the built-in Photo app. Get it and never look back.

Tiny Flashlight + LED – It has an excellent 1×1 widget that you can add to your screen or lock-screen. It’s the first widget I see before I even unlock my phone, which makes it easy to find things quickly in the dark.

 

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Situationally-Useful Apps

BeyondPod Podcast Manager – My favorite Podcast app.

Cerberus Anti-Theft (~$4) – Use it to track down and recover your lost phone. Also comes with lots of advanced remote features (such as the ability to capture someone’s face after failing to type in the lock screen correctly multiple times). It works a lot better than the built-in basic Android Device Manager.

Dropbox & Dropsync – This allows you to access your Dropbox cloud storage. Put your most frequently accessed files here. Dropsync also synchronizes the files to your phone’s internal storage. An unlimited pro sync key is $3. Dropbox has a much faster and more reliable sync than any other Cloud Storage (e.g. Box.com, Google Drive, One Drive)

Foursquare / Yelp – An app for finding places nearby for food & entertainment

gReader – The best RSS feed aggregator. I get ALL my news, shopping deals, and online comic updates here. It links to your Feedly account.

Music Folder Player Free (Full version)- This is the only app I know of that will play music within a specific folder. So if you organize your songs by folder, you’ll need this.

Pandora / Songza / Spotify – Pick your poison for discovering music

Quickoffice – Get this if you need to edit Office Documents

Reddit is fun – The only Reddit app you’ll need :)

(Google) Opinion Rewards – Free Google Play credits for answering short surveys. You know … so that you can purchase other apps.

Smart Voice Recorder – For recording audio

SoundHound – It has an excellent 1×1 widget for ID’ing whatever song is playing in the background

Swype ($4) – An awesome keyboard. Includes a customizable dictionary that is aware of your contacts’ information. Swyping allows you to type one-handed. Also has amazing voice-recognition typing.

(Google) Voice – I use this to get free SMS texts. If anything, it gives you an extra phone number to use when you don’t want to use your real mobile number.

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SwiftKey vs Swype

One of the biggest advantages Android has over iOS is that there are many amazing 3rd-party keyboards available for Android. I have used both of 2 most popular 3rd-party Android keyboards, Swype and SwiftKey, quite extensively.

Between the two, I’ve found Swype to be a lot more functional and easier to use. While SwiftKey has been around longer, I feel that Swype has surpassed SwiftKey in most aspects.

Over time, both keyboards have acquired similar features. They both have:
– Next-word text prediction
– Custom dictionaries based on user-info (From Google, FB, etc.)
– Swipe Capabilities (meaning that you can swipe between letters without lifting your finger)
– Voice recognition (e.g. Nuance).

Here’s where they differ (SwiftKey 4.2 vs Swype 1.5.14):

I’ve found SwiftKey Flow’s text prediction to be weak. Whereas Swype has had years to improve their swipe-prediction, SwiftKey Flow still feels like it’s in beta and is basically playing catch-up to Swype in this feature. The worst thing is that for each word typed, SwiftKey only presents you with 3 word choices. If your word is not one of them, you have to delete your word and retype it. Swype, on the other hand, usually provides you with a much larger list of guessed words. For this reason, I only recommend SwiftKey if you solely type with two thumbs. Using Flow or typing with one hand is too tedious. (Sadly, that probably means you can only type with both hands).

That being said, SwiftKey’s text prediction is amazing if you type without Flow. I almost never experience any mistakes in common words. However, Swype’s text prediction has also improved over the years and has basically caught up with SwiftKey’s, so neither has a large advantage here. (The only real loser is iOS. which doesn’t allow either of these amazing keyboards)

Another huge improvement Swype has over SwiftKey is that its custom dictionary is easily accessible. With Swype, you can remove words you don’t use or no longer want in your custom dictionary. The custom dictionary also exists in SwiftKey, but it’s opaque to the user and not easily-configurable.

For voice prediction, SwiftKey’s has a better UI than Swype. Swype requires you to say a complete phrase and then press a button when you’re done. SwiftKey, on the other hand, types as you speak, which is a nifty feature.

Other minor differences:
SwiftKey doesn’t predict text in email address textboxes. I’ve never understood why they disabled this. Furthermore, SwiftKey doesn’t include email addresses in its custom dictionary, which is extremely annoying if your email address is over 20 characters. Advantage: Swype
Swype has gestures shortcuts for accessing different keyboard layouts or functions (copy/paste/capitalization). This is extremely useful. Advantage: Swype
– Correcting a mistake in SwiftKey is a pain because you first have to delete the extra space added to the end of words. I recommend that you disable the extra space in the options. In addition, you’re only given 3 choices for guessed words instead of an entire row of 5-10 words. Advantage: Swype

Well, this was pretty one-sided, and I feel like I may be missing something. Feel free to comment.

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IE 10 Release Candidate

I’ve been using IE 10 release preview for over a month, and I’ve been quite impressed by it. It feels nearly as fast as Chrome & Firefox now, and it’s stable. There are still a few websites that don’t work properly on IE, but for the most part, it just works, and it’s fast.

The biggest change after upgrading from IE9 to IE10 is that I’ll be yelling less at my parents whenever they use IE and complain that the Internet is slow. (Prior to IE10’s release, I was considering editing the IE shortcuts to launch FF instead)

After two long months, I’ve finally finished the epic journey that is Battlestar Galactica. The sad moments in the story keep replaying in my mind. Many sacrifices were made, and many brave fighters died for their cause.

So say we all.

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I present the most tear-jerking moments of BSG.

**** WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS ****

1) “Daybreak” – The final episode is one huge bawler:

– After landing on New Earth at the end of the entire journey, the crew voluntarily sends their spaceships and advanced technology into the sun. Millenia of history and technology are lost forever so that they can live freely in peace on prehistoric Earth. Essentially, what’s left of the entire human race elects to become prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

– Laura is finally laid to rest on New Earth. Adama places a wedding band on her finger after she dies, and then buries her. It’s implied that Adama, the beloved Admiral of the fleet, lives the rest of his life as a hermit.

– Chief Tyrol also chooses to live the remainder of his life alone, having gone through difficult journey, emotionally betrayed countless times by both Cylons and humans.

– The story finally comes in full circle in the last scene with Baltar and Caprica Six. It’s difficult to describe why this scene is sad, but it’s beautiful on so many levels. If you watch it by itself, you probably wouldn’t understand it; but if you know the story, it’s probably one of the most tearful scenes in the series.

   Doctor Gaius Baltar: Over there, between those two peaks, I saw some terrain that looked good for cultivation.

   Caprica Six: Cultivation?

   Doctor Gaius Baltar: Yes. You know, I know about farming … *starts tearing*

   Caprica Six: I know …

[Rough explanation: Gauis was a poor farmer boy from a backwater colony before changing himself completely into a respected scientist. He spent the rest of his days trying to hide and forget who he originally was. The only reminder of his humble past was his father, of whom Gaius was terribly ashamed. When Caprica Six first met his father, she revealed that she wasn’t ashamed of Gaius’s past. She then helped his father into a suitable nursing home. Now that humanity has thrown away all of its technology, Gaius is back to being a farmer boy with Caprica Six. And this time around, they truly love each other.]

2) Saul kills the wife he loves:

In order to save Saul’s life, Ellen Tigh is forced to steal information for the Cylons, which results in several rebel deaths. Even though she saved Saul, Saul is obliged to execute her for treason. He poisons her while embrassing her in a tearful hug. All the while, Ellen has no idea she’s been poisoned.

3) Laura has a vision of her own death

“You go now, you go, you go and you rest. I won’t be selfish any more.” – Adama, while watching over a dead Laura.

Adama and Laura have an unrequited love for each other. In the vision, Adama says goodbye to a dead Laura and places a ring on her finger. Adama is so damn good to her, and she knows it. It’s not until this vision that Laura fears it might be too late to tell him.

4) Adama breaks down after Kara’s death:

Every is distraught after Kara’s death. Even Saul, who hated her, tears up.

Upon hearing the news, Adama retires quietly to his quarters, begins weeping uncontrollably, and breaks his model ship out of fury. (This was actually an impromptu scene. Adama’s actor had no idea that the model ship was not a prop but an expensive piece on loan from a museum.)

5) Kara’s toast at the end of the Scar episode:

Half-way through the “Scar” episode, Apollo says he’s worried he’ll forget the faces of their dead pilots. Starbuck, with her tough-girl act, responds somewhat coldly: “I don’t even remember their names.”

Then at the end of the episode, Starbuck proposes a toast after defeating Scar. She starts listing the dead pilots … one by one. And it’s one LONG list. By the end, she’s not the only one in tears.

6) The aftermath of the rescue of New Caprica:

Adama: “You did it. You brought ’em home, Saul.”

Tigh: “Not all of them.”

After hearing those words, I started remembering all the people who died and suffered during that year on Caprica. It was a difficult time for the colonists.

7) Adama breaks down over Boomer’s dead body

It’s seriously overwhelming whenever Adama breaks down. He’s the admiral of the entire fleet and the most badass character in the series. But whenever he cries, it gets incredibly, incredibly tearful. This actor is amazing.

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