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WHAT'S WORTH SAVING FOR?! 

“If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” —Edmund Burke

 


One of the things I’ve been taught and keep close to my heart is it’s not how much you make rather how much can you save? Being in real estate, I have come across the: "How do I go about buying a house?" question more often than I can count. Most people I talk to about real estate have one thing in common: the struggle to save money. Unfortunately, in school we don't learn about money, investments, savings, or finance management, which are some of the most important aspects of life - especially when it comes to the purchasing of real property. If I could get more people to understand the importance of setting money aside, I could help more people buy houses and invest and grow their money fairly quick. So my challenge for the rest of this year and 2020 is SAVE SAVE SAVE. I have found that when you have a goal or purpose for your savings your ability to save becomes easier. To help me on this quest is my Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account by @greendotbank. Not only do they use their own money to give me 3% cash back on the online purchases I already make – I also earn 3% annual interest when I put my own money into their High Yield Savings Account (which is FDIC insured and free with the Green Dot app). Proactively and passively saving money is going to help me reach goals faster than I ever thought possible.

Saving is so essential to building wealth and financial freedom. As mentioned earlier our schools don't teach about finance. Which leaves us stuck in a society riddled with credit card debt, school debt, and broke because of frivolous spending. What is so amazing about Green dot bank is the cash back percentage they provide. Even my credit union does not provide such a high yield. Providing me the opportunity to passively and actively save for a rainy day, vacation, clothing, whatever my heart desires- most importantly saving for a future. Click the link below and shoot me a PM let me know what you  are saving for and how well your savings journey is going. 

 

My Ode to Ava[lon] 

I could be way off base here but I remember a day when Toyota was a brand for everyone; from exciting, practical, and  fun. They had a family car, big body sedan, sports car, mid-size, small-size and of course they were mostly affordable for everyone. Somehow the rear wheel drive powertrains were axed for boring mundane economy cars. Long gone are the days of the Celicas, AE86s, Supras, and VIP Previas. Until now, with the likes of the FR-S and coming Supra replacement it seems that Toyota is ready to get back to its roots; and they did not just stop it seems they have revamped their full line-up to great styling, great features and accoutrements. Even technology now seems presetine; Toyota truly has a car for everyone. Let's take a look at the latest offering that Toyota was kind enough to loan us for the week. The all new 2019 Toyota Avalon - Now let's be honest when I was told they were handing me the keys to an Avalon, I  cringed on the inside. However, I quickly ate crow. When they dropped the car off in it's beautiful Ruby Flare Pearl exterior paint I at first had no idea what I was looking at. I pulled over and thought it was a new Lexus GS then I realized it was the car that was supposed to be mine for the next seven days. We took a walk around checked out the interior and the whole time my jaw was dragging along behind me. I could not believe my eyes. The first thing that threw me off was the large and massive grill. It seems to be very polarizing you either like it or you do not. Shout out to my purist family who the majority disliked the grill but the whole aggressive design grew on me and I love it. I feel as if Toyota is back with a vengeance. If you want to know if the car is good, read no further as the bottom line  is simple. This car is amazing, the only negative is that it does not come in rear or all wheel drive. 

 

I have for the most of my automotive "career" almost always had European cars with the exception of two of my first cars. Which happened to be under the Toyota umbrella and I loved those cars no real reason why I left the brand; other than I was always a fan of the euro. However, the price point at a fully ticked $43k there is not much that can touch what this car offers for this price. Let me break it down this way so I can make sure we do not miss anything. 

Mechanical

The heartbeat of the Avalon is a 3.5-Liter V6 that has a respectable 301 HP and 267 lb-ft of torque and while its not lightning quick off the line; in a roll on the freeway and around 3500rpm this car catches speed quick. All bolted up to an 8 Speed automatic trans. Allowing you to have some naughty fun and/or get you out of trouble when needed. While the motor and transmission work extremely well together I am curious to know how good this motor gets with a tune, exhaust, and better breathing but we will see if we can test that theory at a later time. But if you want to know how good the motor gets you can ask the few Maserati Ghiblis, Levantes, Chargers, Challengers and few BMWs that lay slain in the wake of this surprising little beast. Rolling on 19" alloy wheels painted with black windows it ties the whole car in a very sporty, aggressive and classy way. The suspension is firm enough so you know whats going on but properly soft for a big body sedan. It soaks up LA's horrible roads with ease. I hit a pothole by accident and in my other car alignment probably would have been left a mile behind and popped a tire. The Avalon literally took it with NO problem and we barely felt it. What I like most which reminds me of the good old days when my parents gifted me their Lexus ES300, you can go 90mph and not notice it because the car is smooth, planted, quiet and comfortable. I can give you the full specs of the independent MacPherson struts and sport tuned shocks but in my opinion who cares the suspension is great. Seeing as this is a Toyota and their claimed summer anthem of wanting my MPGs they have this car at an estimated 25 mpg Combined (22 city/31 highway). With that said I averaged 27-30 with a lead foot and 2 tanks to prove it.

 

Exterior

Once again I think this car is quite the looker. The enthusiast in me wants to see it lowered on 20s with blacked out windows light smoke on rear tail lights and bigger exhaust tips to really showcase the beautiful lines of this car. But if you leave it stock in the right color looks just delectable. Granted some people may not enjoy the looks of this car, but this is one of the many places this car gives it's euro counterparts a run for the money. The car I currently have came with LED headlights which was an option. Most other manufacturers that charge close double for a similar vehicle are still using boring old Xenons - which starts easily building the case why this car is a steal for the money. LED headlights not only look great but function well and I will never purchase a car again that does not have them. The eyes of this car are aggressive, beautiful and bold. Full LED headlights with Automatic High beams and sequential running blinkers (Dynamic Auxiliary Turn signal) for both front and rear. Huge aggressive front grill with front camera to help with 360 Parking, and curb assist so you do not plow your bumper into the parking block ahead. Nice aggressive front vents that are functional which I presume for aerodynamics and brake cooling. We finish off the front half of the car with acoustic noise-reducing front windshield keeping the occupants happy inside. Bringing around back we have quad tipped exhaust a nice lip spoiler which looks like an aftermarket piece and I like it quite a bit. Also, including a nice aggressive rear diffuser to button up the whole package. 

Interior 

The seats are very nice. Orange stitching keeps together a semi-perforated ultra suede and leather seat that is both heated and ventilated (cooling and amazing on these hot days) giving the car that posh sporty look that you typically see in more expensive cars. Hop into the front you are greeted with a plethora of enjoyments. Starting off with an 8-way adjustable seat with 4 way lumbar for both passenger and driver. Heated tile and telescoping steering wheel all with memory function. Also included on the steering is bluetooth hands free and voice command buttons along with cruise control volume and other niceties. Behind the steering wheel you have your speedo with a nice 7" screen with pertinent information and they one upped themselves with a 10" color HUD right in the windshield where you can see the speed limit of the street your on, mph, radar info and a few other things that help keep your eyes on the road and not where they should not be. In the dash you have a 9" touch screen which is very responsive and has all the fun stuff. Satellite radio, 360 rear and front cameras all come on at the right time to help you park and stay out of the insurance companies pockets. The only negative about this system is the navigation is a little annoying and not as good as the old Toyota and Lexus' I remember. However, if it gets on your nerves there's always Apple CarPlay. One thing I really liked about the navigation though is Dynamic Navigation. Here's how it works, I need to get to a destination and I am driving and/or in my case too lazy to look it up or type it in. Hit the prompt for navigation assist and on the line comes an operator asking where I would like to go. I tell them to map me to said location. If they do not have an address they will look it up. Hit GO on my screen and off we are to the next adventure. 

 

Just below that we have wireless charging which is an amazing feature. The only problem I had with wireless charging is that my phone kept sliding around and  flying off the charger which left my phone upset. However, I am sure when the car comes to production that will be fixed with some type of rubber footing or holder. Additionally, under the armrest which is insanely deep holds three pots to charge your devices. Finishing off the interior with the rear seat there is plenty of space back there for passengers big and small. The biggest problem I have as a dad with any car these days is my kid and her carseat. She says at 42 inches tall she does not have enough legroom. With the Avalon that is a problem of the past. Also, to keep your rear seat guests comfortable and happy, two large vents that offer them copious amounts of air and an additional two plugs for their phones or tablets so you are always charged and ready for life's adventures.  Oh and the trunk is big as "F" so strollers, bass guitars, keyboards, a ton of of stuff will fit with ease and if you need more you can fold down the rear 60/40 split seats. 

 

My only real qualm about the interior is the center stack. In my opinion the clean interior design does not match the stack and the stack lessens the slightly more premium feeling you get in the Avalon. 

 

 

Safety

They have all the top safety stuff that you want, need and systems you never knew you wanted or needed. The list is pretty long I will more or less talk about my favorites here. A few of my favorite safety features that I put to use was the brake alert; coming too close to the radar system in the nose of the car will alert you that it is time to brake if it feels you are moving at a rate of speed where it will be difficult to brake safely without a collision. Which could be helpful if you get distracted or the traffic suddenly changes before you have time to react. Blind spot detection which is always an added bonus, along with pedestrian detection. One cool thing to note is when we tested the feature, the car came to a complete halt if someone walks behind your car while you are backing up. My favorite though is what I am calling semi Auto-pilot. It is a far cry from Tesla's autopilot, which in actuality you cannot really call or compare it to Auto-pilot because it's not. It is a very smart cruise control system having some very similar features which was quite welcomed during traffic. So the car has a radar in the nose which helps with a lot of the driving and safety features. Most noticed when cruise control is activated. You can in fact activate cruise control at pretty much any speed and it will hold at whatever speed you set unless you come up on a car. Once you come up to a certain distance about 3 car lengths the car will adjust it's speed to keep a safe distance from the car ahead. It will slow down up unto the point where it needs to come to a complete stop if necessary. It will not go again until you tap the gas to re-activate the cruise. With lane keeping assist that will push you back into the middle of the lane. It is a good and intuitive way to keep you safe even when you're not as alert because you have been sitting in LA traffic for 2 hours. The only drawback of this system is the brakes let you know that they work as they for the most part apply full force; they do not ease into the brake to reach programmed limits. No matter what speed whether theres traffic or not if it senses it needs to slow down to keep with the parameters set it will slam on the brakes making your stomach hit the front windshield. After playing with it every day I finally figured out a happy medium for the most part and the system worked quite well. 

 

Farewell

In my ripe young age I have become quit the car snob. After spending time with the Avalon for a full week I shed a small tear to see it go as I have been turned into a believer that Toyota still can produce a functional, fun enjoyable daily driver that can handle a multitude of requirements and daily tasks. For the enthusiasts this is a great tuning platform for the stance and VIP crowd. A solid platform to use as a show car, cruiser, family hauler, business car, and overall huge bang for the buck. It's actually mind blowing what Toyota has provided in their new Avalon for $40k. For all other car makers, in particular the European counterparts. You have been put on notice: Koreans and Japanese are coming and they are here to stay and they are here to wow customers with strong, solid, designs, technology, reliability and overall great cars. If you want something your age get the Camry as it's geared toward the younger demo. If you want a nice big body cruiser that has some potential and comes with pretty much everything you need standard. The Avalon is the way to go. 

Thank you to Toyota for forcing me to buy another car because I like this car that much.  

Check out the IGs of the photogs that collaborated with me on this shoot. 

@Russ.Photography

 

David verses Goliath 

 

Now this blog is long over due, but after quite a few months of testing I think I can give honest feedback on a semi-clear winner. If you want to know all the specs,  go do a google search to get the rap sheet. Both phones are more than powerful to handle day to day tasks, launch a space shuttle, hack the world, and take more selfies than you can possibly dream. Now I will cover a few things that might help you make your decision on who reigns supreme. 


Probably the most important thing to many of us with things such as Instagram is the Camera. Dependent on your uses and preferences each camera is vastly different. The iPhone X is going to be more true to color, which means it works great in bright light but not so great in low light situations. The Note 8 is amazing in low light situations, and in my honest opinion a better overall camera for daily use although it slightly saturates and colors your photos which is not conducive to editing. However, portrait mode on the iPhone X is stunning and the Samsung cannot touch it, once again in certain and proper settings it will always prevail. Have a look below. One of iPhone's coolest features is its live camera mode. Which takes a series of shots before and after you depress the trigger. Providing really cool effects but also giving you the ability to edit it to ensure every one's eyes are open and or to get that perfect pose. The only downside to the Live Photos in my opinion is that you can't send it any where as a video except to other iPhone users. 

Samsung Pictured First

 

 

Portrait Mode on iPhone

Where the iPhone prevails in it's user interface is it's simplicity, however I feel it is far too simple. I do not feel it handles business well. The Note 8's ability to multitask handle business and organize is as good as it gets. I prefer the email app, calendar, to do list and the almighty pen over iPhone's over simplified interface where I can only use one app at a time, making it quite difficult to get as much done in a short amount of time. Swipe keyboard found on the Note is quite efficient in getting texts and emails sent off in record time. 

 

Battery life is very comparable despite the iPhone being a smaller battery with a full charge they last all day and well into the night with heavy use. 

The screens are also quite similar especially seeing as Samsung is the Manufacturer for Apple's crown jewel making the colors pop in all the right places. With the amazing screen comes eye fatigue so I'd highly recommend keeping on the blue light filters especially at night. The size of the note verses the iPhone is drastic when holding in use. What I like most about the iPhone X is the overall size. You have good screen real estate without the insane size of the Note making it easier to hold in hand, throw in a pocket or bag. 

 

Now, where the iPhone highly excels in my opinion is the Apple network. iMessage, the fun texting screens and how it seemlessly works with other Apple products. My favorite which I recently discovered is the ability to share WiFi passwords. If I am connected and my friends are in the same room and want to connect I can share the password without having them to type it in, same with my laptop, bring the phone close to the laptop and immediate connection can be made. Another great feature of the Apple network is airdrop giving you the ability to wirelessly share photos, music, and notes to nearby Apple devices. 

 

Face ID works well and I wish I could say the same for Samsung's biometric eye ball unlocking but it's just horrible and quite buggy. 

 

Siri Vs. Bixby? They both work quite well however, Bixby is much better at beat boxing than Siri. Don't believe me? Next time ask your device to beat box for you. Siri understands much better than Bixby does, but Bixby is quick to learn and at this point in time is on par with Siri. 

 

Now is there a clear winner?  That is difficult to say. They each do very different things very well, and comparison is hard as they are such different animals from companies who see mobile connectivity very different. The iPhone is a great phone that utilizes simplicity to excel for the masses however, for me it is far too simple to be effective for business. The Samsung is efficient and uses the multi-tasking and the pen to make a solid candidate for daily and business tasks. If I had to choose only one, the Samsung would be my choice for its overall greater camera capabilities large screen, and multi-tasking capabilites it makes for a formidable companion for the daily grind.