Max’s Back Pocket Vol. 18

Max has been flying solo for several weeks now. Mrs. Max OOP is up in Canada studying meat processing, and I have been fending for myself here in New England. So far, I am surviving. Other than moving the couch directly in front of the TV, the house hasn’t been completely bachelorized or anything. I think I can hold things together until she finishes the program in late December.

My wife has been learning a ton up there. She is without a car, living in a dorm in her 30’s, and on a meal plan. More impressively, she can completely break down a pig on her own already. She is also picking up a ton of “value-added” concepts. These are things you might need to know should one ever decide to open a shop. Here is a photo of the case the students stock and sell as they learn.

A lost art

It has been a while since I have done one of these updates, so I thought it would be a good time to check in.     

started the ‘Max’s Back Pocket’ series during the heat of the pandemic lockdown. People were being sent home from work and the stock market appeared to be crashing. It was a great way to keep my thoughts organized while also networking with other bloggers. I kept it up for 16 weeks, doubling my initial commitment of 8 weeks. I am self-aware and know my limits. But I enjoyed the series and certainly found value in checking in regularly with less technical content.

With that, welcome to the 18th edition of Max’s Back Pocket. I am moving away from Roman numerals this week.

Back From Calgary

After a two week quarantine in Calgary followed by several days of getting my wife set up at school, I flew back to New England on my own. With the borders closed, the international hub of the Calgary airport felt like a ghost town. I was one of two people going through security.

I got back to New England in the early morning hours of September 10th. It was a full day of travel. I reported back to work bright and early.

Max was the only one using the Calgary airport

I went through our employee health COVID-19 screening processes that morning. When I answered “yes” to the international travel question, I was connected to a nurse to talk through my circumstances. I was approved for work. Evidently, they did not feel my travel itinerary put me in a significant risk category. I can also stay pretty isolated at work if needed. They did offer to provide a COVID-19 test if I was interested, but I opted out.

My Job

Since returning home, I have been absolutely cranking things out at work. Except for an external deadline here and there, I have almost complete autonomy right now. I can manage my department and put up value where I see fit.

I’ll tell you, it is a great feeling and a win for the organization. I launched this blog amid my second EPIC electronic medical record (EMR) implementation. My mom had passed away unexpectedly 8 months prior. At that point, my entire work schedule revolved around deadlines and projects imposed on me by external departments. Mainly our information systems department. At the same time, I was tasked with centralizing the processes of an entire hospital business office. Needless to say, I had a lot going on.

Whining? Yes. But it left a bad taste in my mouth and I literally could not keep up with the work. Things were getting missed, and it was costing the company money. This is a known cost of EMR upgrades (particularly on the financial side), but I don’t like seeing it. I had almost no autonomy and my motivation for retiring early was at an all-time high. I was turning into a burnout scene. The blog was a good way to let off some steam.

It is amazing what a year can do. These days, I am really enjoying everything.

I still talk about pulling back here and there. I even contemplated a 32-hour workweek several months back. But for now, I am going to keep my nose to the grindstone. We have new local leadership that I find quite motivating and everything is going smooth. We are safely and successfully ramping up operations. I also have plenty of my favorite benefit, paid time off, to keep a little flexibility built-in.


My physical health is also reaching new heights. I am lifting weights at least 4-5 days a week with a friend from work. To complement that, I am also running between 20 – 30 minutes after those workouts at increasingly faster intervals. I almost broke a 7/min mile pace for 21 minutes a few days ago. It was on a treadmill, but still not bad.

Mrs. Max OOP was nice enough to carve out leftovers and freeze them for me. She left me about a month of meals before she left. So I have been working those down. In between those meals, I have been making elaborate chopped salads to increase and diversify my vegetable intake.

Sober October

I am also on Day 22 of an experiment that completely eliminates alcohol from my diet. I probably have not gone a week without drinking alcohol in over 15 years. That makes this a significant accomplishment. I very much enjoy drinking, so it will definitely work its way back into my routine. But this has been a nice re-set. I have never slept so well and any indigestion I had has been completely eliminated.

My birthday is on Halloween and I will be rolling into that birthday in the best shape of my life (and a cold drink in hand).

Max’s Back Pocket

Over the last several years, I have absorbed a ton of great content from a lot of talented people in and around the internet. Several of those ideas even got drawn into my personal finance strategy. Some of these writers are professionals, but a lot of them are just amateurs throwing their weight around in a random niche.

Up until now, most of these ideas just landed in my back pocket. There they would sit for my own benefit whenever I needed them. They were rarely shared or exchanged with anyone in my personal network. These days, that is no longer the case. Here at the intersection of healthcare and personal finance, Max will start scouring the entire internet for these ideas in a weekly effort to not only spread but recognize the wealth of knowledge that is out there. This weekly check-in will also give me an excuse to catch up on what’s going on around here more often. What are we calling this pandemic inspired idiomatic experiment?

Max’s Back Pocket.

Personal Finance

The folks over at TicTocLife put together a comprehensive analysis of the “rent vs. buy” question. They included a lot of the components that often get missed including taxes, opportunity costs, and maintenance. They also used a real-life case study to help demonstrate the complicated equation. Theory is great, but real-life examples are even better.

After owning a house for four years down in North Carolina, we have been renting the last four here in New England. We downsized a ton to make the equation work, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Our modest place in the mountains

We will probably eventually buy again, and I recently moved about $75,000 out of the total stock market in anticipation of a home purchase or other needs. If you plan on needing money in the next five years, equities are not always the best place for it. It was nice to harvest some capital gains as well.

Shoring up our cash allocation and thus volatility


John Lynn asks the question, did COVID-19 create a false telehealth market? He makes a lot of good points here. Evidently, at the height of the pandemic, we were looking at 50-60% adoption of telehealth, but he expects this will settle closer to 10-15%. We are already seeing a pullback in the use of this technology. He goes on to say false markets aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you don’t make long term business decisions based on short term trends.

Here at Max Out of Pocket, we took a detailed look at telehealth billing a while back with Telehealth Billing: Exposed!.


As I mentioned above, I have been really focusing on my physical health. Diet is an important piece of this. Diet and exercise will hopefully save me fists full (or is it fist fulls?) of out-of-pocket costs over time.

When I planned to start eating more chopped salads, I poked around the internet a bit for some ideas. If you left it to Max, I would probably end up with just lettuce and maybe some olive oil.

As it turns out, a couple cooks had a recipe that became my favorite chopped salad last week.

This chopped salad will amaze everyone around the table! Homemade Italian dressing, crisp veggies, and Parmesan cheese combine into one extraordinary salad.

Favorite Chopped Salad

I am less than efficient at grocery shopping and somehow forgot the jarred sliced pepperoncini. But overall, the recipe turned out great and I would highly recommend it. It also was a relatively cheap meal, other than the olive oil. The dressing even has maple syrup in it! I added chicken to make it a main course.

Their photo is nicer than mine

How was your week?



5 Responses

  1. David says:

    Happy birthday! October birthday’s are the best!

    I know it was a while ago (2+ years?), but I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your mom.

  2. Chris@TTL says:

    Great job on that mile/5k pace! I’ve been down and out for a couple of weeks due to a heel/Achilles strain but will be back on the “horse” eventually.

    The fall colors over your place in New England look beautiful. We’re turning colors down here in Virginia, it’s one of my favorite times as the weather has cooled. Thanks for the mention of the buy/rent & invest article. Hopefully, it’s helpful!

    Glad you’re surviving travel during these times and staying healthy!

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