This is now the longest I have gone without posting an article since I started this blog, a full 2 months! This has been an incredibly busy year even by our standards. I wanted to post more and I have several drafts in the works, just nothing ready to publish yet. Here’s what we’ve been up to the last couple months:
Ice Condenser Outage:
I work refueling outages at nuclear power plants as my primary career. My primary job is as a maintenance supervisor for the ice condenser at my home plant. Working outages is always stressful due to long hours and heavy work loads, and this one was more stressful than most. I worked 40 hour weeks for 6 weeks leading into the outage, then 8 weeks of 75 hours a week, followed by 2 weeks of 40 hours at the tail end. I have roughly 12 direct reports, but also coordinate and manage the daily activities of the entire project. There are a lot of moving parts and its a high stress position (at least for me!).
Due to Covid the last 2 outages we cut back in project scope and staffing. Rather than 150 people on our project we dropped to 60. This led us to needing to rev up staffing to hire over 100 new people (the site wanted 170 this time), during one of the toughest labor markets in American history. I took on a lead role in formulating a staffing plan, pushing for higher rates, and recruiting. Normally I have little to no involvement in this process. Staffing was difficult for us to say the least. We hired people we normally wouldn’t have and ended up with roughly 110 people instead of the 170 we were shooting for.
On the positive side this showed the massive disconnect in our pay structure, which has been changed minimally over the past 20 years.
With us coming in so short we received help from the site with supplementing our workforce. This went better than expected, but was still a logistical nightmare. Even with the help from the site I think we peaked at maybe 125 people, far short of the 170 goal.
Site Project Manager Leaving: Our site project manager has had enough fun working for the utility and decided to move on in his career. He gave them an 8 month notice that he was leaving, which was an amazing gift, an amazing gift that they did not take advantage of. A replacement for him was not selected until the final 2 weeks of this outage.
I was originally on the short list for this position and declined. One of the many reasons I declined was that this job was as a maintenance supervisor who normally is responsible for several other tasks at the plant. This greatly takes away from focus on the ice condenser, which should have a maintenance project manager dedicated to the system all year.
I do not know all of the corporate politics that played a role in what happened happening, but essentially ice was transferred from the maintenance construction department to the reactor services department. The person in charge is titled as a project manager and will be dedicated to the ice condenser year round. The corporate hierarchy is tighter now, and it appears the ice condenser will have a lot more focus from the plant as a whole to help it be successful.
Looking back on this, I can say that most likely in my 16 year career in the ice condenser the best thing I ever did for the ice condenser, that most people will never know, is that I turned down the job to become the ice manager. It would have been a no brainer, absolutely yes decision for most anyone in my spot to take the job. Had I accepted that position Ice would have likely stayed with maintenance construction. I would have been largely working on other projects and ice would stay a red headed step child in the plant’s eyes. Because they did not have a clear path to success with staffing the maintenance supervisor position ice was transferred to Reactor Services. The smoke hasn’t cleared yet, but it looks very promising that this is a major positive step for the ice condenser.
With the volume of work we need to do AND being understaffed, even with site help, we became critical path. Critical path is when your work is the work that is driving the duration of the refueling outage. Back of the envelope math is roughly $50,000 cost per hour when a unit is shut down, so the site is constantly needing updates on status and it is imperative that we are working as efficiently as possible, avoiding rework, and reporting status timely. Critical path is not a fun place to be.
The plant ended up having some turbine issues and the schedule expanded. Due to this they added scope to our project. While it is great for the health of the system to have added scope, when it is done towards the end of the outage it makes the maintenance portion much more difficult. we need to do our work in a specific order to “work our way out” of the condenser. Adding scope takes away this ability. We got the work done, but we would have been able to do a lot more with a lot less stress had we known ahead of time we would have the time for it.
I started on February 7th and finished up my work on May 26th and have 60 days off until I go back for the next outage.
Friend In Hospital:
A friend of mine is in the hospital with serious medical complications and she may end up needing a liver transplant. She’s in really bad shape and has a long road to recovery ahead. I’ve known her for 20 years and care greatly for her. Her dad has always been a role model for me and played a major role in me getting to where I am today in my career. Ashley’s a single mom who is typically working multiple jobs.
If you have ever received value from this blog, please click this link and donate $20 to help her out, and if you are the praying type please say a prayer for her health and recovery. She’s been in the hospital for almost a week. The medical bills will be substantial, but there’s also the lost wages and added child care costs as well.
Go Fund Me Link For Ashley’s Medical Bills
We currently have 1 unit with a long term renter who is taking care of the lawn and minor maintenance for us, and we have 1 unit listed on AirBnB as a short term rental. We have made significant progress on 2 other units, have 1 with an original tenant in it still, and 1 awaiting rehab. Mrs. C. has been killing it getting stuff ready at this property. I have been doing my best to provide value on my days off during the outage.
Building overall: Changed hot water heater from 1 50 gallon tank (for 6 units is insane!) to an on demand hot water system. Removed 4 of 5 original tenants through buyouts. The final tenant decided not to pay rent and not leave, so we are unfortunately going through the eviction process with him. Next up is installing a washer and dryer on the front porch for tenants to have access to. After that I will put up a privacy fence next to the airport and then once the final original long term tenant is out we will replace the furnace with a combined furnace / central air system.
Unit 1: Unit 1 was ready to go when we bought the place and was not rented out. As part of our offer we paid the previous owner 2 months of rent at his price to keep him from filling that unit. We then put in a stove and fridge and rented the unit out to Mrs C.’s kids dad. He is taking care of minor maintenance and the lawn there, which takes a lot off my plate.
Unit 2: Unit 2 was recently remodeled and in the best condition. This is a 2 bedroom unit. We didn’t have to paint or redo flooring. The majority of the work was a deep cleaning and replacing the appliances. Getting new furniture was the biggest expense for making it ready for a short term rental. We have our first Airbnb booking tomorrow! We are moving in the right direction. I thought it would take the longest to get this unit because the tenant had just signed a 1 year lease. Between our buyout offer and his personal situation, it made sense to him to leave and this became our first ready to go unit.
Unit 3: Unit 3 was trashed and in the worst condition of all the units. It has been a long time since it was last updated. Painting is almost complete and then we have flooring, replacing the shower unit, and replacing the light fixtures. This is a 1 bedroom unit. What was really frustrating is that the owner had put in a massive fridge, a fridge that even with the door taken off had to be shoved through the doorways to get out. I have no idea how they got that fridge in there. Always measure appliances!
Unit 4: Unit 4 is a larger studio apartment with a full size kitchen. The previous tenant did a great job cleaning it out. I need to repaint, replace kitchen flooring, deep clean, replace the kitchen cabinets and counters, and replace a couple electrical outlets. I am looking into making this unit a long term rental to ensure we have year round cash flow from the building. Having 2 LTRs and 4 STRs is a good mix and in the future we can add this one to STR if the numbers make sense. The appliances in unit 4 are also larger than what they should be and I will be in for a challenge with removing them.
Unit 5: Unit 5 is the unit we still have not seen. This is a larger studio that is larger than Unit 4, but is still occupied by an original tenant. This is the same tenant that did not provide access when we toured the building to buy it. I am hopeful that we can make this count as a 1 bedroom due to its size by putting up a small wall section. This will be a short term rental. I am anticipating this unit will be trashed when we get it.
Unit 6: Unit 6 is TINY. This is the one we are working on primarily right now. This place smelled terrible when we got it. We removed the old appliances and did a first layer cleaning. We’ve painted and pulled up the old flooring. We are trying to save the cabinets. My goal is to have this one finished by the end of next week before the kids get out of school.
Universal Trip Florida
We are getting ready for a trip to Universal Studios. This trip was originally scheduled for 2020, but that whole COVID thing happened. We are taking Mrs. C.’s mom with us, so we will have a full van load. We rented an amazing house in Florida, which is more economical than the alternative of going with 2 hotel rooms. We are paying around $140/night for a 5 bedroom home with private pool. It’s a bit further from the park than what is ideal, but this will be so much more comfortable than hotel rooms.
It does suck that the week we will be down there the Hogwarts express train will be down. We are getting Annual passes and plan to take a 2nd trip either in the winter or early next summer.
Kid #1 Graduating High School:
This is finally happening. I hate to admit it, but I failed Kid #1 royally. The public school system fails everyone. It is designed to create obedient workers/soldiers and docile citizens. It also is designed to serve the middle 60%. The top 20% of students are left bored, and the bottom 20% and sinking. Kid #1 has been sinking in school the whole time he has been there. He has some learning disabilities that make it more difficult for him. We had 504 plans in place that the school rarely followed. I should have pulled him out prior to high school and perhaps even earlier and bit the bullet and figured out home schooling.
I’m very proud that he made it through. This has been very stressful for him and for us. I am thankful that he entered the workforce in a much stronger economy than I did. He will be increasing his hours at Wal-Mart after graduation. He is doing an excellent job banking money and I hope that he stays at home at least another year to build up a war chest. He’s been putting half his income into his Roth 401K at work and is still saving around half of the remainder in his bank accounts.
It seems like it was yesterday that we dropped him off at Young 5s and at the same time it also feels like a lifetime ago.
We have all of our retirement funds in Equities and the lions share of these equities are in 2 stocks; Tesla and Desktop Metal. This quarter has been brutal for both companies and the value of our shares have essentially been cut in half over the last 6 weeks. Normally I only look at the value of our investments at the end of the quarter, but there has been a lot of press around this stock market decline recently. So over the last 6 weeks I’ve lost over $200,000 in value. Should I panic?
For starters, I didn’t lose any money. The value other people are willing to pay for the asset I own at this moment has gone down, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not planning to sell that asset. That’s like freaking out every time home values go down for your house, even if you have no intention to sell. I own the same amount of shares of Tesla today that I did 6 months ago. I will have no loss UNLESS I panic and sell.
Tesla is WAY oversold. This is a great buying opportunity, however with my total Tesla exposure I am not buying any more shares at this point in time. Jeff Bezos was asked in an interview how he felt when Amazon stock dropped from $100 a share to $6 a share, and he said something to the effect of “The stock is not the company and the company is not the stock.” He talked about how while the stock price was falling, all of the internal metrics of the company were doing fantastic. This is the case for Tesla. Gross margins are improving. Cash flow is improving. The Balance sheet is improving. Shanghai has added back a 2nd shift. Giga Berlin has started production and has added a 2nd shift. Cars are moving out of the Texas plant. The Megapack factory in California is coming together. Tesla just opening up its European superchargers to non Tesla vehicles, opening a new profit center.
In the short term the stock price is a voting machine, in the long term it is a weighing machine.
Tesla also has the overhang on its share price form Elon’s bid for Twitter, despite that only around $6 billion of his shares are pledged against debt for the purchase, the stock has seen almost $600 billion of value erased. This is an insane, knee jerk reaction. By the time the year end 2022 numbers come out Tesla’s stock price will be back at all time highs. I don’t really care what today’s stock price is, because I won’t be selling Tesla shares for several decades, if ever.
I’m working really hard on improving my habits. I started working out every morning before heading to work a month ago and then running every other day in the evening. I also have been eating healthier and have avoided hitting up the vending machine at work. So far I’ve dropped 10 pounds and ran 4 miles without stopping for the first time in a decade. In addition to working on my health I am also trying to read more. If I can apply the same focus I have had on personal finance to health and wellness I can add a lot of value to my life and hopefully length to it as well.
What have you been up to the last couple months? I’ll strive to get more content out in the coming weeks. I like to publish every other week instead of every other month.