CLOSE
Original image
iStock

8 Money Mantras That Financial Planners Always Follow

Original image
iStock

Want to know how to really make your bank accounts grow? Copy what financial planners do. We grilled real financial planners to find out how they manage their own money.

1. PAY YOURSELF FIRST BY TRANSFERRING YOUR SAVINGS TO A DIFFERENT ACCOUNT.

"I always take my savings from my paycheck the day I’m paid and I transfer it to my savings account. The money is out of sight and out of mind. It is very rare to find a person who can’t spend more money if you give it to them. By taking the money out at first, you remove the temptation to spend those savings, and have a savings process in place."
Robert Finley, principal at Virtue Asset Management, a fee-only independent advisor serving the greater-Chicago area

2. PAY ALL YOUR BILLS EVERY PAYCHECK.

"I use credit cards to acquire the points from spending. By paying the credit cards off every two weeks [rather than once a month], I make sure I never forget a payment, and it helps keep my balances lower for reporting purposes. This process of paying bills every paycheck prevents missing bills or late payments. It also allows me to have a better handle on cash flow, because I am reviewing my financial picture every two weeks."
Finley

3. DON'T USE A DEBIT CARD OR ATM MACHINES.

"I use cash whenever possible, and I don’t want to have to pay the ATM transaction fees. I also believe I am in better control and am more mindful of my spending when I am using cash. Cash purchases make it feel very real."
Anne Brennan Malec, licensed clinical psychologist and financial therapist in Chicago

4. REVIEW ALL CHARGES.

"When I do use credit cards, I always review every charge to make sure no fraud has occurred and to bring an accountability to my spending—to make me aware of how much I spent in the last month on food, clothing, transportation. Awareness is the first step in the change process. I also review my Mint account to be sure I am spending within my budget."
 Malec

5. SUBSCRIBE TO FOOD DELIVERY SERVICES.

"Food and dining expenses can quickly add up each month, and will-power is a muscle that can tire at the end of the day. It is not uncommon to have the very best intentions to plan to stop at the grocery store after work and pick up some items for dinner, but because you are tired and hungry, you decide instead to order in. In order to defend against this very human impulse, I began to subscribe to Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Hello Fresh. These allow customers to order meals in advance, and deliver the complete food kit to your home. The benefit is that you are no longer faced with the 4 p.m. dilemma of what to make for dinner."
 Malec

6. PAY DOWN YOUR MORTGAGE BEFORE RETIREMENT.

"Not only is this one less payment to make, but it’s psychologically liberating."
 Marianela Collado, certified public accountant with Tobias Financial Advisors in Florida

7. MAKE THE KIDS PAY.

"Kids should have some skin in the game when it comes to college funding. This enables college kids to be vested in their degree versus not really appreciating the cost going into their education. It creates a sense of responsibility on them to be focused, to finish on time, and to make sure they have a degree that will enable them to get a job to pay off student loans, or to pay while in school."
Collado

8. SEPARATE DISCRETIONARY AND FIXED SPENDING.

"We have a set amount of cash that we use every two weeks for what we call "discretionary items"—groceries, kids activities, entertainment, and gas. This helps us keep our spending in check because these are the areas where we can get into trouble. For these, we put the money onto our debit card, and [use our bank's app to monitor the balance]. If the money isn’t available, we don’t go out to eat. All of my fixed bills (mortgage, phone, insurance, TV, etc.) are paid on the last of the month out of one separate account."
Paul Sydlansky, certified financial planner and founder of Lake Road Advisors in Binghamton, New York

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
entertainment
arrow
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES