What Do You Have Left To Prove?

Ship in the sunsetI like conflict because it gives me motivation to try harder. During high school I had the talent to play at an elite level of tennis if I trained more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to work on my backhand and nobody was really badgering me. As a result, I only received “First Team All District” honors instead of achieving “All Sectionals” honors at the end of senior year. Because I wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend and I didn’t want to spend time traveling on weekends to play tennis tournaments, I never received any recognition from college coaches except for a small Division III school. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I went all out.

Nobody made me feel like a loser about tennis because I was already the team captain for two years and had a girlfriend. Girlfriend + Captain in high school is a respectable combo. I didn’t have anything to prove, so I didn’t do anything more.

But now as a 37 year old, I love playing tennis. I’ve worked on my topspin backhand religiously for three years and I’m entering tournaments now. The problem is my body isn’t as fast or as strong as it was 20 years ago. I’ve got a torn meniscus that is slowing me down. Damn. I wish I had the same enthusiasm back then. It’s because I know my time left playing competitive singles is limited, that I’m trying to do as much as I can now. When you’re young, you think everything will last forever.

There are other events that have left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I was 20 years old, four offensive linemen from the university football team came into Denny’s and attacked me and my girlfriend with racial slurs. We were used to racial conflict living in the South, but I was still pissed because they attacked my girl’s honor. Attack me all you want, but don’t attack the people I care about. The incident motivated both of us to do well for the remaining two years of school and try to become financially independent as soon as possible. I wanted to prove to them that I could rise above their bullshit perceptions.

When I was 32 years old, a junior colleague started making fun of me when I told him I was starting a personal finance site. He started making a weird face and typing on an air keyboard, mocking my idea. I guess I smiled, but inside I was thinking, you little prick. Whenever the going gets tough online, I remember back to this incident and push on through. Word has it he’s miserable at his job because he’s stuck. Welcome to the real world, buddy. Guess you should have joined me in air keyboard class.

The Secret To Perfect Happiness Revealed! Make Over $500,000 A Year

Wealth And Happiness Chart

In an amazing Gallup poll highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, it says that 100% of those who make more than $500,000 are “very happy”! That’s right. Not 98%. Not 99%. But a pure 100%.

This is a breakthrough research finding that has amazingly received little publicity. When you find perfection, it must be revealed! Surely this study is more earth-shattering than a University of Alabama PhD finding that those who ate more fried chicken had a higher chance of a stroke. More money, more delirious happiness, not more problems, silly Biggy. Read: Evidence Making Money Has Never Been Easier

Hence, the simple solution to eliminating wars and eradicating all levels of sadness is to make over $500,000. Folks like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, Li Ka Shing, The Walmart clan, Ray Dalio, and anybody who just inherited a bunch of money can make a difference in the lives of so many. All they have to do is donate $449,000 a year to median families given the median household income is roughly $51,000.

I want to see a tag-team cage match between Princeton economist Angus Deaton and Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman who say that $75,000 is the ideal income for maximum happiness vs. Michigan Public Policy professor Betsey Stevenson (currently serving as a Member of the Council Of Economic Advisers) and Michigan economist Justin Wolfers who conclude that $500,000 is the magic number. Don’t you?

Is An MBA A Big Waste Of Time And Money?

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business MBADuring the summer of 2014, Personal Capital had the luxury of hosting three MBA interns in the marketing department where I consult part-time. One was actually a Harvard JD/MBA, which is darn impressive because she has to get into both schools separately. The other two were from Stanford. They did a great job brainstorming and executing fantastic ideas.

In addition to our summer MBA interns, our head of business development (Stanford), our head of client engagement (Stanford), our digital marketing executive (Michigan), our CMO (Cornell), and our CEO (Harvard) also have MBAs . Then there’s me, a Berkeley MBA grad. In other words, the marketing department is a majority MBAs. But having an MBA isn’t a requirement for joining. Relevant experience is much more important.

Most MBA graduates will probably say that an MBA is money and time well spent. It’s kind of like spending big bucks on a fancy dinner. To justify the extravagant expense, of course you’re going to tell yourself and all your friends, how incredibly amazing the dinner was. But we all know that spending $250 per person at Jean Georges isn’t worth 100X more than a tasty In N’ Out cheeseburger for $2.5.

For similar reasons why going to private university without a scholarship is probably not the best use of your money unless you have plenty of it, getting an MBA is also becoming a tougher choice today.

For those of you with MBAs, be forewarned. This is not a cuddly, feel-good post on why getting an MBA is a no-brainer. There are a lot of hard truths from what I witnessed as a manager who consistently interviewed MBAs during multiple bull and bear markets. I’m also providing the perspective as an MBA eight years after graduating. Readers trust me to speak candidly, so that is what I will do. 

Someone Stole My Credit Card – What To Do?

Thief StealJust when I said nothing much happens with my credit card, somebody goes ahead and steals my credit card! But perhaps “stealing” is the wrong word to use in this situation, so let me clarify.

The last place I used my credit card was at the local Kelly Moore paint store. I remember taking it out, but not taking it back before I left. I remember the clerk who swiped my card for $43 for a gallon of hybrid paint. Yet, when I called back a day later to see if they had my card, the clerk said “no.”

Then I went back to the store the next day to ask the employees face-to-face if anybody saw my card. I can usually tell if someone is lying if I look them straight in the eye and ask them an important question. The manager on duty, whom I’ve seen the last four out of five times I’ve gone, hesitated and blurted out “nobody has told me about a missing credit card” before I finished asking my question. It was as if he already knew what I was going to ask. Hmmm.

I gave him my contact details in case anybody finds anything, and told him that someone took the card and went across the Bay to a Berkeley gas station and charged it up. The only way you can charge a credit card for gas is if you put in the credit card holder’s zip code. Given my zip code is the same zip code as the paint store, and the paint store was the last place I used the card, chances are high that one of the employees decided to keep my card and use it without my permission. (Thought: Perhaps change your credit card billing address to your work address so the zip codes are different)

It really stinks feeling suspicious of others. Everybody but one person in the store is innocent. Unfortunately, I no longer feel comfortable going there anymore.

When I was paying at the register one visit, one of the clerks asked me about the Frog Tape I was buying. “Hey, you trying to paint a straight line, or something?”

“Yeah, the line where the wall meets the trim,” I responded.

“I got a secret on how to paint a straight line real easy,” he said. “But it’ll cost you 5 bucks.”

I laughed, thinking he was joking as I admired his tattoos of serpent heads. I waited for him to tell me the secret, but he never did! WTF. I can appreciate a good hustle, but trying to personally extract another $5 after I’ve already spent $600 at the store is low quality.

Are Personal Finance Bloggers Some Of The Sexiest People On Earth?

Personal Finance Bloggers Are SexyI was eating dinner at my local Indian joint when a late 20s couple sat at the table right next to me. The guy, a new pharmacy graduate from UCSF was with a female pharmacy student. He was buttering her up with praise about how she’s so popular now that her research report got published in some pharmacy journal. She blushed with pride.

I tuned out their entire conversation for 20 minutes as I stuffed my face with chicken tikka masala until I couldn’t help but overhear one phrase. He awkwardly said, “I think I’ve gotta build myself an emergency fund, you know? I hear it’s a good idea to build this emergency fund so I don’t go into high interest credit card debt.”

Wahoo! Music to my ears and music to his date’s ears as well. As soon as he started talking about securing his financial future, the female pharmacist started leaning into the table all excited. “Tell me more,” she said with a sultry, but incredibly nasally voice. I’m pretty observant – like CIA observant – where I can tell you what color your shoelaces are and point out the stain on the lower side of your shirt 30 minutes after our meeting is over if questioned.

It’s pretty clear to me they’re both getting lucky tonight all thanks to some personal finance dialogue.

So I got to wondering: Are personal finance bloggers (and readers) just abnormal because we talk about money all the time? Or are we simply some of the sexiest people on Earth?

Let’s discuss!