5 Peak Challenge – Kid’s Winter Break Edition (2021)

San Diego schools are closed for the end of 2021, so I’m taking our children to Mission Trails Regional Park to do the 5 Peak Challenge next week. Although the official challenge – including a printed certificate and official pin – ended 6/26/2020 the peaks, trails, and park remain open. The official website has some great stories of the various individuals and groups that did the 5 Peak Challenge.

To complete the 5 Peak Challenge with kids, I’m breaking it up into 3 separate sections, each with a different starting point. If you are looking to get out of the house next week and would like to join – with or without kids – please do! Following is the game plan and all are welcome to join.

Mission Trails Park Map

  • General Notes
    • Each day we’ll start hiking at 8:45 AM, arrive around 8:30 AM
    • Bring water, snacks, hiking shoes, etc.
    • Check out the approximate hike lengths, times, and elevation gains below
  • Monday, 12/20/2021 – North Fortuna and South Fortuna
    • Starting Point: Portobelo Entrance (West Side of MTRP, just south of 52)
    • Hike details: 5.5 miles, 1,204 feet of elevation gain
  • Tuesday, 12/21/2021 – Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak
    • Starting point: Cowles Mountain Trailhead (7001 Golfcrest Drive)
    • Hike details: 5.7 miles, 1,736 feet of elevation gain
  • Wednesday, 12/22/2021 – Kwaay Paay
    • Starting point: Parking lot on Father Junipero Serra Trail near Old Mission Dam
    • Hike details: 3.0 miles, 892 feet of elevation gain

Hope to see you and if not, enjoy the Winter Break!

Creating an LLC – Quick Guide

Over the years I’ve been asked a number of times about how to set up and operate an LLC. This is typically in regard to “running a business” and coming from someone that is buying an investment property or in a similar situation. This post is a quick guide to getting an LLC set up (and as the disclaimer at bottom notes, not legal, business, or tax advice).

After completing a renovation, consider protecting your investment with an entity like an LLC.

First – why create an LLC? Primarily for liability protection. You do not need an LLC to conduct business. You can operate a business as a sole proprietor without any legal form or as a partnership (formal or informal) or any other entity structure. An LLC provides liability protection if a suit or claim impacts the assets that the LLC holds. In the case of real estate this would typically mean the LLC holds the title to the property, and any debts, and if the property had a loss or claim the LLC entity would help to protect the other assets of the LLC owner(s). The loss or claim could be a discrimination suit, property damage that exceeds insurance coverage, or a personal injury on the property. In addition to creating an LLC there are a variety of other tools you can use to reduce liability exposure, which I call the “The Protection Pyramid“.

If you do want to create an LLC the steps to do so are pretty straight-forward, but can be a bit intimidating if you aren’t already familiar with the registration and creation processes. An attorney can be a great help if you don’t want to do the paperwork yourself and will typically run in the range of $500 – $2,000 in my experience.

If you want to create an LLC yourself the basic steps are:

  1. State registration – An LLC is created at the state level, by filing the formation documents with the Secretary of State. You’ll need to complete an LLC Operating Agreement and/or Articles of Organization to create the LLC, which are then provided to the state. You can hire an attorney to create these documents, use an online provider like LegalZoom, or download a free template like this one. I would generally opt for the attorney option, at least for your first LLC to ensure it’s done properly. The state will then provide you with a state ID number and the LLC is officially created. There will typically be a small fee to register, and an annual form and filing fee for future years. (For an example, here is the Nevada website to register a new LLC.)
  2. Federal registration – After creating the LLC at the state level you will want to register with the IRS to get a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). You can do this online on the IRS website. This process is free.
  3. Bank account – For any business entity like an LLC make sure to keep business transactions separate from personal transactions. This goes for any income and any expenses. It will also make it easier to report the business activity at tax time. You can set up this account at any bank but should consider monthly fees, ATM access, and other banking offerings you may want. I also highly recommend a business credit card so you can conveniently make purchases in addition to the checking account. I personally like the Capital One Spark Business Card which offers 2% cash back on all purchases. Credit cards also offer better fraud protection than bank accounts, and reward programs like cash or travel miles.
  4. Financial software – This is not a required step, but one I highly recommend. Financial software organizes all the transactions for the business more easily and can create an income statement, balance sheet, or other reports. I use Quickbooks but you can also use NetSuite, Freshbooks, or a variety of other options. Whichever you pick, having online access and bank account syncing are critical tools to consider.

If you are the sole owner of the LLC you will include the business activity directly on your personal tax return each year and not likely have additional income tax filings required. If you have more than one owner you will likely need to file an annual income tax return on Form 1065 for Federal purposes and a state specific LLC return as well. The LLC does not pay income taxes, but will provide a Schedule K-1 to each LLC owner with their share of the business activity, which is incorporated into their individual tax return (Form 1040).

I hope this quick summary of the process to create an LLC is helpful to you. An LLC can be a great tool to give yourself additional liability protection at fairly low annual cost.

An LLC can help avoid the prick of claims on your assets. Ouch!

Note: The content of this post is for informational and discussion purposes and is not financial or tax advice. Consult with an advisor before relying on this or any information.

Hiking Cowles Mountain – Big Rock Trail (NE Trail)

I’ve hiked Cowles Mountain many times with my son since he was a baby, but until today had only used the Golfcrest Trailhead, the south-west and most popular starting point. Today we headed to Big Rock Trailhead, the north-east starting point.

The distance was about 2.1 miles from the trailhead to the peak and the ascent took us an hour with the return trip taking about 40 minutes. It certainly felt longer and more strenuous than the Golfcrest trail we’ve typically done. (Might be my post-Covid weaker body, or actually is a harder trail.) There was a great breeze going and this eastern trail had more shrub shade than the western side, to my surprise. Not a lot of shade, but some portions had a bit. We sat at the top and had a picnic lunch, which is a great way to take a nice break and enjoy a chat and views at the peak.

Guest content from my hiking partner, Ambrose:
“My favorite part was eating lunch. I want to do another hike sometime – one with a waterfall at the end.”

Cowles Mountain is one of 5 peaks in Mission Trails Regional Park that make up the “5 Peak Challenge“. The map below highlights the location of the peaks and it’s fun to do them all whether solo, with a friend, or with your family. I did the 5 Peak Challenge a few years ago solo and it was a great, challenging day.

COVID-19 Antibody Testing – Now Included with SD Blood Bank Donations

The San Diego Blood Bank recently started testing all blood donations for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) antibodies. I gave blood last month and received the antibody results about 7 days after my donation via the Blood Bank donor portal, a personal site that gives a donor history, blood type, and now COVID-19 antibody results.

Per the Blood Bank, the antibody test “detects if your immune system has developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Results of SARS-CoV-2 testing is intended for qualification of COVID-19 convalescent plasma and may NOT be used for diagnostic purposes.  As this is NOT a diagnostic test, it will not detect active COVID-19 infections or recent exposure.” More information on the antibody test can be found on the Blood Bank related FAQ page here.

If you are wondering if you may have already had COVID-19 donating blood may be a free, convenient way to find out while also providing a blood donation to help others in the community.

You can schedule an appointment to donate blood with the San Diego Blood Bank at:
https://www.mysdbb.org/donor/schedules/zip

Sunrise over Americas Cup Harbor on November 28, 2020. (Not a blood donation center, but was a pretty morning.)

Daily Affirmations + Start Page

A couple of years ago I created a custom webpage on my site to be the default start page for my browsers / computers. Recently, I updated the start page, which you can find here.


Growing up in a Catholic family it was typical in our house to have a laminated Saint card scotch taped to each bathroom mirror in the house. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick, and many others featured over the years. These cards would have an image of the Saint on one side of the card and a prayer on the reverse side. Having something on your bathroom mirror is likely to be seen, and consequently read, frequently.

Inspired by, and in homage to, those Saint cards growing up I also used my new start page as a daily affirmation for our household. I’m sure it will change over time but especially in the odd times we are in it seemed important to have a repeated positive message in our days.

My first attempt at a daily affirmation is:

I am strong.

I am smart.

I act with integrity and honesty every day.

I am grateful and respectful.

I smile and am happy.

Although the above items aren’t always true, I’ve become a fan of the idea that simply stating something makes it more likely to become true. In many cases the statement has to come first, to make the actions required to realize a goal happen. Human psychology can be a curious beast, but one that is inextricably linked to what our days and lives look like. A daily affirmation is something I almost definitely would have scoffed at in the past, but seems like a good idea today. Perhaps it’s an idea that will be useful to you as well.

An example Saint Card

Toddler Shoes

One rule I have for our babies is that they can not be dressed in restrictive clothing – footie pajamas, onesies that are too small, and the like. It restricts their ability to grow and they need to be tall for the higher earnings potential and physical intimidation factor. Learning is great, but you can’t teach height.

My wife thinks this is dumb.

To prove my point I bought our 2 year old new shoes, 3 sizes too big. Lo and behold 6 months later the shoes fit.

Proven correct once again.

Easy Oven Cooked Bacon Recipe

I typically fry bacon in a skillet on the stove top but a friend shared the following recipe to easily make bacon in the oven. It’s simple, and great if you need to feed a big breakfast crowd. Also requires less attention while cooking which is nice.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees like Juvenile
  • Arrange bacon on a metal baking sheet with edges (use aluminum foil under the bacon if you like less mess and more waste)
  • Cook for 7 minutes on first side, then turn all bacon over
  • 7 more minutes on second side – but keep a watch to avoid overcooking, may be done sooner
  • Put on the table and snarf with your family and friends

Uncooked bacon like whoa

SBA Loans / Grants – COVID

Wanted to pass along the below information in case helpful for your business.  ** Please note this information was pulled together quickly, primarily from the SBA website, and has not been vetted or reviewed for absolute accuracy.  I wanted to help raise awareness of helpful funding options for businesses in the current climate and encourage anyone considering these programs to do further research before relying on this article. **

I think the Forbes article at bottom does a good job of running down the options – primarily two at the Federal level.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans – includes potential $10k cash grant (can be forgiven)
      • From SBA site: advance of up to $10,000. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support
        https://www.sba.gov/page/disaster-loan-applications
  • Paycheck Protection Program Loan Guarantee – bit more complicated to apply for (done through SBA approved bank).
      • From SBA site: SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
        https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program

Very good Forbes article with more details on these programs:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianthompson1/2020/03/29/getting-cash-for-your-small-business-through-the-cares-act/#31abb07e43a0

Happy to chat about the above and assist if needed. I’ve completed a couple of the EIDL (first link) applications and was quite quick / simple to complete. With so much uncertainty ahead, good to have potential sources of funds accessible just in case.

Cheers,

– John

These times may be trying, but there are lots of good things to look forward to. These are some of mine. 🙂

Coronavirus and Airbnb – Policy Changes Hurting Hosts?

In response to the coronavirus and resulting changes to travel plans, conferences, etc. Airbnb made a decision to override host cancellation policies (previously set individually by property per preference) and issue full refunds to all guests during a certain period impacted by the coronavirus. From the Airbnb coronavirus FAQ page:

” Reservations made on or before March 14, 2020 for stays and Airbnb Experiences, with a check-in date between March 14, 2020 and April 14, 2020, are covered by the policy and may be cancelled before check-in. Guests who cancel will receive a full refund, and hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status. Airbnb will refund all service fees for covered cancellations. “

This policy change has angered a number of hosts that are now left without revenue and with mortgage payments and other costs to cover. I find the policy change acceptable given the circumstances, and that it may reduce pressure on guests to travel when not ideal to do so. Although my properties are all essentially empty for the foreseeable future it seems the right thing to do and I’m happy to refund guests for changes in plans, as is my typical stance. I would guess most other hosts feel the same.

A separate change to Airbnb policies that I haven’t seen disclosed to hosts / owners is that Airbnb has apparently put a 2 week block on any new bookings. I learned of this when a repeat guest attempted to book my property for the next month and was denied the ability, receiving the following message (apologies for the poor image quality):

In case you can’t read the image message it states: “Choose another place to stay. As part of our commitment to your safety, certain last-minute bookings of entire homes are restricted right now. You can still book a hotel or private room for your stay.”

After receiving this message, a call to Airbnb resulted in the information that a “last-minute booking” was any booking starting within 2 weeks. In my experience 2 weeks is not last-minute, which I would generally assume to be 24-48 hours in advance of a stay. It also sheds some light on why my properties were receiving a similar amount of views per week as in the past, but no booking inquiries or messages. I can only guess how many potential guests I (and the millions of other hosts, if this policy is global) have lost on revenue and bookings. Additionally, Airbnb steering customers / guests to hotels, their primary competition, and private rooms, in a time of contagion, seems odd and a bit suspect. Perhaps this advice is to cater to guests that are less likely to cancel or to offload guests in a time of trouble to hotels to deal with?

The combination of overriding host refund policies and then apparently blocking new bookings for the upcoming 2 weeks seems likely to hurt hosts, and potentially guests that are looking for bookings after being removed from college campuses, or other removals due to the coronavirus. Sudden policy changes may also weaken confidence and trust in the platform – a major issue for a marketplace for connecting people.

I wanted to share my experience with other hosts as I was surprised by the block on new bookings and don’t think this information is currently publicly available.

I very much enjoy being an Airbnb host and use the platform almost exclusively when our family is traveling. However, making major changes like these without informing hosts (before or after the changes are enacted) is a problem, and not the only one that Airbnb seems to make without remorse. To my knowledge, over-charging Airbnb guests to San Diego continues years after being informed by multiple hosts the hotel tax calculations are incorrect. Apparently, a world-wide technology company valued in billions of dollars is unable to calculate local hotel taxes they voluntarily offered to pay. All of these aspects don’t make a good look for the “live like a local” ethos of Airbnb.

Friday Reading (and Listening) Roundup – 1/24/20

A short post with some articles and podcasts I enjoyed this week.  Hope you do too. Cheers!

  • Afford Anything (Episode 236) – The FIRE movement continues to gain popularity as a topic to enjoy, detest, or debate.  The Afford Anything podcast and host Paula Pant are generally enjoyable and I really liked this episode.  A pair of early retirees, now more than 3 years into “retirement” and with an immigrant background  from little money.  Well worth a listen and the guests have some non-typical ideas about how to structure investments for early retirees.
  • Animal Spirits (Episode 120) – Not picking this particular episode over another, but wanted to give a shout out to this podcast.  Really enjoy the host banter and these episodes are enjoyable, smart, and bring in a variety of articles and surveys with funny input.
  • “Globally, roads are deadlier than HIV or murder” , The Economist – I’m an advocate for bike infrastructure and generally safer, more enjoyable places to live.  It’s sad that the US lacks nearly every peer country (on wealth basis) in fatalities per capita.  This is a good, short read about the body count from our car culture globally with an interesting breakdown between countries on country economic status lines.

Oak trees are amazing – from Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego

I hope you will be rooting for the Chiefs of Kansas City in the Super Bowl as Mac Lethal surely is.