Remember That Credit Freeze Post? Hotel Edition

Tyler Linsten Personal Finance

This credit freeze post.

Today we woke up to news about a massive data breach at Starwood Hotels, as announced by parent company Marriott, which may affect as many as 500 million people. It’s reported to be the second largest breach in history.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, it’s a perfect opportunity for self-indulgent told-ya-so-ism. I recently wrote about how being able to freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus — for free — is a game changer when it comes to protecting your personal information, and your financial future.

While freezing your credit is not a perfect firewall, it sure makes it less scary when you see headlines like today’s Starwood breach. That’s pretty much financial planning in a nutshell: Doing small annoying things that will pay off big-time in the future. To freeze all three took me about 15 minutes. As someone who has stayed at Starwood hotels, I don’t feel great about this news, but I feel a hell of a lot better than I would have if my credit weren’t frozen.

If you haven’t frozen your credit, here’s the link again.

Q3 Client Letter

Tyler Linsten Client Letters, Investing

It’s been kinda nasty out there – what to do about all of the spookiness? 

[gview file=””]

Spending Hack: Stop Wasting So Much Damn Food

Tyler Linsten Not Sarcasm, Personal Finance

Click for the personal finance angle, stay for the recipe at the end.


Food waste is a huge problem. This piece in the Seattle Times estimates the number to be $1500 per household in the US. I waste more than I’d like, and I bet you do, too. Just like other financial hacks – like opening a high-yield savings account or diverting spending through a cash-back credit card – minimizing a painful line item like food waste can have a big effect on your annual finances.

As we know, lower spending equals more savings.

And more savings equals more dollars flowing into the Magic Compounding Machine, also known as your long-term investing portfolio.

And more money in the Magic Compounding Machine means you’re closer to doing whatever it is you want to be doing with your money.

If we think of it in terms just like the other financial hacks I mentioned, it’s pretty compelling:

  • Use high yield savings account (yielding 1.90% today, versus 0.05%) on $25K in emergency savings account: Gain $462.50 per year
  • Use 2% cash-back credit card for $30K in annual spending (and never carrying a balance), versus using a debit card: Gain $600 per year
  • Cut food waste in half by being more conscientious and getting creative with cooking: Gain ~$750 per year

So there’s $1812.50 we just found. That’s not nothing. It’s very much something for most people and for someone earning $60,000 per year this is the equivalent of a perpetual 3% raise in pay.

Oh yeah, here’s the recipe from the Times article. Sounds pretty tasty:

Serves 3 or 4

Use any melting-friendly cheeses you’ve got — the more the merrier; cheddar, jack, mozzarella and Gruyère all work great in strata. For your extras, more is more, too; the last one I made had green onion, prosciutto and lots of rosemary, and it came out fantastic (and I don’t even especially love rosemary). And you can sub half-and-half for the milk and cream. If you have leftovers, they reheat perfectly: Just pour a little half-and-half, cream, milk or stock over them to revive, then bake covered for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, or microwave.

About 6 to 8 slices of bread (about 6 cups cubed)

5 eggs

1¼ cups whole milk

1¼ cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon salt

Several dashes of hot sauce

2 (or more!) cups grated cheese

A couple handfuls of extras, e.g., chopped onion (green or otherwise); mushrooms or zucchini; pieces of ham or prosciutto; bits of cooked bacon or sausage; any kind of fresh herb(s), chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter a 2-quart or 2-liter casserole dish.

3. Cut or tear bread into about 1-inch cubes (a serrated knife works nicely).

4. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, cream, milk, salt and hot sauce (a hand blender is quicker than a whisk).

5. Make a layer of about a third of the bread cubes in the bottom of the casserole dish, and sprinkle with about a third of the cheese and half of your extras; repeat for another layer, then top with the remaining bread cubes and cheese.

6. Pour the egg mixture into the casserole. (If you want to make it ahead, it can be refrigerated now all day or overnight before cooking.)

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes; let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

You Should Probably Do This: Credit Freeze Edition

Tyler Linsten Not Sarcasm, Personal Finance

It’s not often there are financial things basically everyone should do, regardless of their situation. This – a free credit freeze – is one of those things. 

Good news! The government has done something to help you, and that would be requiring the three major credit reporting agencies to offer a credit freeze to consumers – FOR FREE.


Don’t take my word for it, listen to (or read) the details via NPR here.

Unless you expect to be applying for credit tomorrow, it makes sense for anyone with something to lose (this means you and me) to lock down their credit. I’ve done the hard work for you below:

Freeze via Equifax

Freeze via Experian

Freeze via Transunion

Don’t forget to freeze with all three. Yes, it’s super annoying to have to do this three times, but how often do we lowly consumers get a good deal thrown our way from the powers that be? Not often. So for the sake of your financial security, take the 15 minutes and freeze your credit. Thieves will hate you but Future You will look back at you with pride.

Personal Finance 101 in a Single Picture

Tyler Linsten Investing, Personal Finance

Study up. You’re living the test.

You can head straight to PF 201 if you master the course above.

Spending the $1,000 results in an instant 100% loss in value, storing it in cash brings a 53% loss in value over 25 years, saving it brings a 22% loss in value over 25 years, but investing results in a 238% gain in value over 25 years.

There are so many important bullet points to be extracted from the table above. These are lessons some people never learn and are more valuable the earlier you start:

  • Spending money is not a great investing strategy, but prevents losses to inflation (this is sarcasm).
  • Inflation is an absolute killer. It is the slow-churning, deadly assassin in your financial life.
  • Even a 2% rate on cash in the bank leaves you with a 77% less purchasing power after 25 years when compared to investing @ 8% per year AND you still lose to inflation.
  • Beating inflation (earning 8% versus 3% inflation) is the only way to increase your wealth.

Let’s repeat that last one, as it’s the answer to the only question on the PF 101 test:

  • Beating inflation is the only way to increase your wealth.
  • Beating inflation is the only way to increase your wealth.
  • Beating inflation is the only way to increase your wealth.

And for the visual learners: