Philosophy


On this Labor Day weekend I had hoped to write something a bit more optimistic but the truth is that holidays are usually a time for me to reflect on what has been happening with close friends and family.   As I do this on Labor Day weekend I come to the inescapable conclusion that the rich get richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Case in point, I’m doing just great financially.  In January I will have a tranche of stock options that I’ll be able to cash out.   It’s not a giant sum of money (around $30k) but it’s 30k that I honestly don’t need but will have coming my way anyway.    Add to that another $30 to $50k in bonuses right after that stock tranche and you’ll quickly add up 60k to 80k of income coming to me that I honestly don’t have any use for at the moment.   Sure I’ll bank it and save it for the kids college fund or maybe buy a new car that I really don’t need.   I’ve also considered upgrading my TVs from 1080p to 4k but what’s the point, I’ll have to then upgrade them to 8k or whatever the new standard will be in a few years anyway and everything works fine now anyway.

On the flip slide, I have quite a few family members that are now having more financial difficulty than ever before.   A few of my family and friends have now resorted to becoming Uber drivers to supplement income.  It seems every time I see someone I haven’t seen for a while their new “thing” seems to be driving for Uber as a driver.    So many people tell me they are doing it that I seriously considered doing it but not for the money but because I am so bored.

I haven’t been blogging because this dichotomy of riches and poverty is really making me depressed.   I know what you’re thinking…”why don’t you just GIVE that money to those poor friends and family?”

Well the answer to that is quite easy, these people are poor because, in my view, they CHOOSE to be this way.   These are all people that have a horrible work / career advancement ethic.  Study?  Go back to college?  Earn a certification?  Nah…why do that when you can go out drinking with your buddies in the evening or go watch that <insert baseball/football/basketball/soccer> game in the evening while you drink?

The people I see getting richer are the ones that do just what I suggest, continue to learn, re-education, advance, network, and grab the endless mountain of money out there to be earned.   The truth is that at work I’ve had a very difficult time finding qualified people to do the work that needs to be done.   We have too many “one trick ponies” coming in with a single or very limited skill set unable to meet the leadership and management demands of the modern business world.    Worse yet are the young kids that just want to text and click on Facebook all freaking day long…. oh well enjoy your poverty…in the meantime I’m planning trips to Thailand, Chile, Costa Rica, and Europe over the next 12 months so I won’t be too bored for too long….

With several recent deaths in our circle of family and friends of people all in their 50’s, coupled with the fact that my kids have grown from zero to teens in a blink of an eye, I’ve made a concerted effort to visit more of the world over the next few years as quickly as time allows.   If there is one thing I’ve done my entire life is to learn from my mistakes but learn even more from the missed opportunities and mistakes of others.

Do you think you’re going to live through your 40s? What about your 50s?  Are you saving up for retirement to enjoy that trip to Paris?   Well I certainly wish you the best of luck but if you want to go to Paris or Rome or Bangkok but I would suggest you don’t wait till tomorrow when today will do!

As for me, I’ve been down to South America three times, Europe twice, and a few places in the U.S. this year and my travel plans for next year will take me to Japan, Europe and maybe South America next year.

 

My son began high school in August.  He’s attending a private school with a price tag of about $25,000 per year.  This past week, we had parent-teacher conferences to understand the curriculum, review each class syllabus, understand the amount of work required for each class, etc.    As your typical high school, he’s required to take the usual classes and he’s enrolled in the following:  Biology, Physics, Algebra, World History, English, Theater, Spanish.  Note that this is an IB  program.

When we got to English class I was already a bit perturbed as some things but in particular the lack of diversity in the program.   The school student body is plenty diverse as it has kids from all over the world including from Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, Europe and the US however the materials were far too Anglo-centric in my view.  So we get the reading list of books students should read for English class.  The kids don’t need to read every book but select from the list.    I took the list and what immediately jumped out at me were all the euro-centric names on it so I did an analysis and here’s what I found.

9th Grade Reading List

Analysis Percentage Count
Male 59% 30
Female 41% 21
     
USA 67% 34
England 16% 8
Canada 2% 1
Ireland 4% 2
Russia 4% 2
France 2% 1
Greece 4% 2
India 1% 1
     
Black 12% 6
Asian 2% 1
Latino 2% 1
     

There are a total of 51 authors from different segments including drama, nonfiction and fiction.   The instructor and/or school did a good job with gender balance at a split of 60% male to 40% female authors.     Where the reading list falls short is in any other kind of diversity.   The list is 67% top heavy with American authors with the second highest, 16%, coming from English (UK) authors.   These two groups account for over 80% of the reading list and the diversity only gets worse when you break the authors down by race and ethnicity.    Of the 51 authors only 6 were Black, 1 Latino and 1 Asian.    I didn’t do a religious analysis but I suspect that 80% were likely Christian and the remainder Jewish with a few atheists to make up the remaining esoteric intellectual authors.

So you’re saying to yourself, “What’s the beef with this….it’s an ENGLISH class and it’s best to learn American English from American authors….”

Here’s some trivia for you…do you know how many countries around the world have English as the official language?   The map below will give you a hint but there are 88 nation-states from around the world.

English-as-Official-Language_Map

My beef of course is that the world is now globalized and I deal more and more with people from all over the world including many people from Asia (Japan, China, India/Pakistan and Malaysia) and emerging markets in Latin America and Africa.   All too often I’m embarrassed at my cultural ignorance of holidays and other customs from these regions because I suffered from being raised in a USA-centric school system.    Perhaps it was fine to be raised in a USA centric educational system 30 years ago but the world if far different now and knowing/understanding experiences from different point of view is critical to being able to bridge relationships with people from all over the world.     On a personal level, I now officially know more couples with mixed heritages than I do of people with same heritages.   This is probably not the case if you’re in Kansas or North Dakota but it’s pretty much the case anywhere that borders an ocean or sea.

I was fairly vocal with the instructor that the list was not diverse enough and she assured me the students could pick their own books but they needed her approval first.   I guess as long as the master approves of the my son’s choices, we’ll be able to get some diversity in on our own.

On the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech it seems like we still have a long way to go and it needs to start with the revamp of the educational system.

 

With the aftermath of this year’s election, I decided to take a trip down memory lane.  I wrote this post in January 17, 2009 exactly three days before the Bush administration presidency officially ended.   So I lost my job under the Bush admin and I regained a job in August of that year and slowly climbed back up to making about the same amount of money I was making during that time frame today.

Was my financial success and recovery directly attributable to Obama?  No.   And if McCain had won the election, I wouldn’t be giving McCain accolades for anything that happened in the economy during that time.    The reason I was only unemployed for such a brief period of time while others have struggled is because I consistently and constantly re-invest in myself.   Whether going back to school to earn MBA’s or self-teach myself new skills or attend professional training to earn certifications or certificates in fields, the destiny I made was my own.

It reading about some of the exit poll interviews, I was surprised to see many mentions of Bush four years later post the election and I can relate.   While I don’t hold Obama responsible for my success I still do resent Bush to some extent for the gross incompetence in 2008.  Perhaps it wasn’t Bush’s total fault but someone’s neck needed to be wrung and his fit just fine.

The office was eerily quiet the day after the election, there were many Romney supporters there and I suspect a few people were in shock about the loss but I wasn’t surprised at all.

If you’re sitting on your ass right now because you’re unemployed then might I suggest three industries:

1. Healthcare – With 80 million boomers getting older day by day there will soon be a near infinite demand for nurses, doctors, medical devices sales people (think wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, etc), radiologists, pharmacists, etc.   You can even look into elderly care and the associated ecosystem of these services.

2. Energy – With the global population increasing day by day, there will be huge new demand for energy: oil, gas, solar, wind, electricity, etc.   Anything from utility workers, engineers (petrochemical, mechanical, structural), geophysicists, etc.

3. Education & Technology – With 80 million boomers retiring and the world becoming more sophisticated with things like mobile phone payments, online business/eCommerce, online classrooms, etc. there will be HUGE demand for technologists and educators, just make sure to pick something that can’t be easily outsourced to India or China.

Going back to school won’t be easy, I’ve been attending now since Fall of 2009 and will be done Fall of 2013 but from my present salary, job opportunities, and other investment activities, the education has been well worth the money.     Stop whining about who the next president will be and start making your own destiny.

Today is election day and hopefully by this evening we’ll know who will be leading the nation the next four years.  I actually didn’t vote this year  like I did last election for the presidency.  What I did do was print out a sample ballot and hand it to my son to fill out.   He looked it over and filled out who he wanted to vote for this election.   In all honesty, he was primarily interested in voting for a particular candidate for President and a few other people largely ignoring judges, state representatives and other curious items on the ballot.   Nevertheless, he did fill out the whole form error free.

We then went to the voting booth where I entered the selections and I had him push the “Cast Ballot” button and we were done.   We had to wait 2 hours in line to do this and I actually regret wasting the time to do it as I’m extremely disappointed in the two candidates for office.   We have a candidate with a failed four year plan and a candidate without a four year plan so which is the lesser of the two evils here?

What I would like to see in the next election is a new independent party focused on one thing: viable & sustainable economic growth.   I want this independent party to focus on this and ignore all the other impossible to solve issues I’ve heard on this election: rape, abortion, gay marriage, bengahzi, binders full of women, Keynesian crap, etc.

It seems like an eternity since I started my MBA program and I’ve just completed another semester, at this rate I should be done in 2013 but I can already tell you that having completed about 70% of the program I clearly understand why the global economic crisis arose despite having more Ph.D’s, MBA’s and undergrads in the world today than ever in the history of humanity.

Problem #1 – Normal Distribution fantasyland – Academic professors preach normal distribution theory as the solution to all problems.   There hasn’t been a financial class that I haven’t taken where normal distribution formulas are used to guesstimate what will happen next which is completely absurd when it comes to financial instruments because those numeric valuations are based on human thinking activity, prejudices and greed not innate characteristics such as height, weight, hair color, etc.

Problem #2 – Head in the sand  attitude – Academic professors are under constant pressure to make a name for themselves and their university by coming up with some new theory that will transform the world so the obvious net result is the head in the sand problem where academic theory is justified and rationalized despite the clear and apparent failure of such theory (see problem #1 for example).   I took an international finance class whereby the professor insisted that stock charting, technical analysis, fundamental analysis, etc really worked.   I argued helplessly for the entire semester and ended the argument with a simple question:  if these systems work well for making money then why aren’t you a wealthy billionaire baron?  (Discussion ended).

Note: I’ve read a few articles where well known egghead Ph.D’s were brought in to devise these bundled crap mortgages and if you haven’t guessed by now, normal distribution was used as a basis to guesstimate the default rate.  Hmm…it ended up being completely wrong, how did that happen? (for answer see Problem #2).

Problem #3 – If everyone else is doing it, it must be right.  My biggest criticism and complaint of my MBA program is that it isn’t unique.   I checked around and the curriculum is pretty much the same as most other universities and I think this is a huge failing.   We need to get to a point where more “niche” education is taking place around specialization around certain fields of study but there is wide reluctance to do so and I’m assuming because it’s probably viewed as too risky.  I would love for each university to develop “ecosystems” around specialized learning just how Apple built their iTunes model for music, video and entertainment then simply build on it.   Here are three areas universities should build niche’s around:  energy, health care, technology.

I am personally debating hard whether the investment in time and money has been worth it.   On the one hand, the MBA program has validate much of what I already knew and the confirmation will be the piece of paper I get at the end of the program with “Degree” stamped on it.   On the other hand, I spent a great deal of time doing pointless research largely so professors can find the next big thing (I have no doubt some professors skim off of their students) research and ideas and made too many sacrifices along the way.

 

So I recently purchased a new 27″ iMac fully loaded for a nice chunk of change and I looked back on my blog to figure out how long I had waited.   It turns out I had initially intended to buy it in 2008 but held off then in 2009, I got sacked because of the financial crisis and it’s now been two years and a month since that time and I’ve finally restarted to make large purchases.

To be fair, financial confidence actually happened sooner with a nice vacation to the east coast this summer but it’s interesting that financially prudent people really don’t dive into big expenditures until cash reserves and emergency reserves are fully replenished before taking a plunge back into the consumerist lifestyle.    Things are very different for me though because I’ve paid down almost all debt including mortgage and now have excessive cash reserves so it’s seemed appropriate to spend some cash.

This year I’ve taken two nice vacations, purchased an iPad and iMac and just purchased another iPad as a gift for someone special ;).   So where does that leave us now?   If we do hit another recession or dip deeper into more malaise then there possibly can’t be any economic boom until at least late 2013 or even 2014.  In the meantime, cash keeps tumbling in on my investment activity so I’ll keep chugging along.

What’s a recession wedding you ask?   Well, it’s a wedding that takes place during one of the worse economic recessions in modern history.   Arguably, we may be in a quasi-depression but life goes on.    So what was different about a recession wedding versus a regular wedding?   Well for starters, the guest list seemed to be very limited to immediate family members which whittled down the guest list to less than 100 people.    When I got married during the dot com boom, I had 500 people at my wedding and spent at least 17k on all the stuff associated with it.      I would guess that this wedding probably was done at a cost of less than $3,000.

There was food served along with a bottle of alcohol at each table, however there was no open nor cash bar.    There was a DJ but not traditional singers.   The wedding took place not at a church or reception hall but at a friends estate by a river.    The scenery was marvelous but there were no major decorations nor were chairs furnished with your typically covers.   The table covers were simple, plain and effective for obvious use.   Guests, myself included, were asked to help move tables and chairs around and a few of us acted as ad hoc photographers.  We were served a delicious dinner and the food was great.

The groom and bride didn’t weren’t registered anywhere and asked for a cash gift instead however nominal it may be.

Although I have no evidence of this, I suspect that cash gifts were the norm and probably low.   My wife and I flew down for the wedding and stayed at a hotel, by the time we added all of our expenses we easily spent $800 for a weekend event.    In retrospect I wonder if the bride would have preferred the cash instead of us being there…

Despite the low budget however we all had a GREAT time dancing, talking and meeting with family we hadn’t seen in years and it goes to show that money (or lack thereof) makes no significant difference in the joy of celebrating a two lives joining together.

If any bride to be has any lessons to learn here I think it is that love shouldn’t wait for money.

I have not yet had the fortune of being molested or manhandled by TSA at airports this year despite my many business trips and rather than continue to take chances at molestation roulette, my family and I have decided not to do any air travel this winter.   Normally we’d go skiing in Utah during Thanksgiving and somewhere warm (Hawaii) in December or elsewhere but that’s not happening.  Hotels won’t make money, ski resorts won’t make money, car rental places won’t make money nor will restaurants.    All part of the economic ecosystem that will continue to collapse because some idiot in Washington decided it was time to molest Americans at airports.

And why the hell are pilots being given a free pass? I know what you’re thinking, “hey the pilot is flying the plane so he can crash it, he doesn’t need to blow it up.” Well that’s where you are WRONG because a pilot could sneak explosives in his crotch, go to the airport bathroom, take it off and HAND IT TO A TERRORIST that has already passed screening. The assumption that the pilot is willing to die is WRONG as he may just be a pilot wanting to make a few extra bucks. Perhaps the pilot makes additional bonus money by purchasing puts on the airline stock that’s about to get blown up and he knows first hand when it will happen. Hell, terrorists now just need to find a pilot to bribe, blackmail or otherwise cajole into doing their bidding and presto plane goes boom!

Before any idiots post comments about “keeping planes safe” please keep your bullshit nonsense to yourself.   The next logical evolution for terrorist is to pack explosives in body cavities so what will TSA do next?  Require gynecological and rectal exams before boarding an airplane?   If the U.S. government has been unable to keep 200 tons of cocaine from crossing the board every year much less hundreds of thousands of illegals, it doesn’t stand a damn chance of catching a well organized and determined terrorist.

I have no doubt that no matter what the TSA does, a bomb will eventually go off somewhere and people will die.  Ironically, 50,000 people get killed in drunk driving incidents each year – where’s the outrage?   According to the CDC, the leading causes of death are as follows:

  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828

Wow, I don’t see terrorist attacks anywhere on the list, perhaps instead of TSA thugs we should hire medical doctors to do screenings at airports because that may actually save some lives.   It seems cancer and heart disease kill over 1 million people each year and that’s like having a city like Salt Lake City, Utah disappear every year but I don’t see anyone interested in solving that problem; I thought it was all about saving lives?

Oh well, if this keeps up, I will take the train or boat on my next vacation or I will just opt to drive even if it means losing a day or two commuting back and forth.  I simply will not tolerate my family being molested by government employees but the hopeless sheep don’t seem to have too many problems with it.  Never forget, most Germans didn’t have any problem with making Jews put star of David symbols on their clothes the first year around and we all know where that led.

As usual, there are a few people that stand up for logic, reason and freedom…
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-N5adYM7Kw&feature=player_embedded

So I have a serious growing dilemma, since I’ve returned to work, the cash has started piling up and I don’t know what to do with it anymore.  Sure, I could go out and buy another new car which I don’t need or perhaps buy a bigger house that I really don’t need but at the moment that seems wasteful.   I know the conventional wisdom is to save it and keep it in the bank or the stock market or perhaps US Treasuries or government back bonds but the truth of the matter is that I no longer trust any of those institutions given the trillion dollar deficits, crooked banks, dumb Fed, and crooked traders.

I read recently that Wall Street plans on axing 18,000 jobs over the next year so that can’t be good for business or money management “experts” either.   So while I’ve written on and off again about paying my mortgage, I may actually be forced to do it in the upcoming next 12 months because cash will just be sitting and piling up in bank accounts that I don’t trust.   I would hate to do so because of the ridiculously low 3% interest rate on my mortgage but I don’t dare buy another house in this housing market because house values may drop further if the economy continues to deteriorate.

Once I figure out the game plan, I’ll write a follow up…

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