Everything Is Rational – The Answer To All Things Irrational

Stop Complaining - Everything Is RationalRaging against the machine is in my nature.  It annoys me to no end when I read about injustices such as government raises during our recent implosion.  I once skipped a morning of work to demonstrate against an apparel company which used racist slogans.  Up yours Abercrombie!  As I age, I’m discovering a more peaceful side that just accepts things the way they are.

There’s a lot of messed up things in the world such as war, poverty, and corruption.  Some things we can try to explain, and some things we can’t.  And yet, I wonder if every irrational thing has a rational reason?  Let’s look at some examples and decide for yourself.

The Kid Who Just Wants To Have Fun

Everybody knows that grades start accumulating in the 9th grade, and without good grades and SAT scores, the chances of getting into a good college, and therefore landing a desirable job goes down.  Is it really so bad that Johnny High doesn’t go to Yale, and become a rich physician?  What’s so bad about community college and working for $20,000/yr at a dead end job which he enjoys?  Nothing at all!

Johnny High’s decision to not study hard in high school is perfectly rational.  He chose to have a whole lot of fun, while other kids were miserable studying and participating in extracurricular activities to boost their resumes.  When he’s 35 years old and still working at his job with the same salary, he’ll think back at all the fun he had in high school and smile.

Who’s to say that being a multi-millionaire physician and going to Yale is good anyway?  He could end up incredibly miserable, with tremendous amounts of anxiety everyday as a doctor. Instead, Johnny High chooses to live a more relaxing life, and doesn’t care about money.  If he did care about money, he would have studied harder.  And if Johnny starts to care about money, he may go to grad school and give himself another shot.

The Lady Who Loves To Eat

Use The Sandwich Method To Provide Constructive Criticism

A Reuben, My Favorite!

A Reuben. My Favorite!

There’s a fine line between being a jerk and being constructive.  As a parent, manager, spouse, or friend, most of the time we just want what’s best for others.  The problem is, we’re afraid to offend and we therefore lose any ability to help.

There’s no better reward than advising someone how to improve, and then watch them flourish.  Push the person too far, however, and you’ll engender resentment.  The Sandwich Method is one the best ways for delivering constructive feedback.

SCENARIO: Your friend Sam comes up with a corny idea for a website called “Financial Samurai.”  Sam thinks it will become a Top 25 personal finance site in the world one day and thinks the tagline “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries” is catchy.  He thinks he’ll be able to retire off the advertising revenue and is already thinking about buying the latest Audi S5 and quitting his day job with his expected income.

You know better because there are 50 million active websites out there (200+ million total), and only the top 100,000 (0.2%) sites earn 74% of all the revenue according to Alexa.  As a friend, how do you knock some reality into Sam, without crushing his enthusiasm?


Tuition Hike For The Poor Is Like A Tax Hike For The Rich

In a stunning move to shore up a $535 million budget gap, the UC Regents in 2009 voted to raise student undergraduate tuition by 32 percent (to $10,302/yr)!  Nothing like a little 16X increase over the rate of inflation to get blood boiling.  And now in 2011, the UC Regents voted to raise tuition by another 18% over 2010 to a total of $13,500 a year.  Talk about runaway inflation as just two years ago that figure was sitting at $8,000.

It’s really sad that during a difficult economic climate, the University of California Regents can conceivably raise tuition by such a magnitude.  Part of the reason why many of these fine students attend the UC system is because of cost.  Students from UC Berkeley or UCLA, for example, can easily get into many of the best private schools in America.  But for many, $40,000 a year in tuition is just too hefty a burden to carry.

The reality remains that due to careless spending by the state, budget cuts and a competitive market place for attracting top professors, tuition increases are inevitable.  The California state government has messed things up for so long that it’s now time for students, who have no money of their own to pay the price.  As a result, there is a fantastic silver lining to this tuition hike: the grooming of future conservative leaders of America and more empathy towards hard working, tax paying Americans.


My SUV Will Beat Up Your Hybrid & Save The World!

Why is it that some hybrid vehicle drivers eventually start looking down at non hybrid-owning drivers in disdain?  Is the “holier-than-thou” complex too hard to contain during flights of fuel sipping passion?  It’s natural to feel that whatever you purchase is the right purchase.  After all, if I overpaid for a hybrid vehicle (zing!) in hopes of saving the environment when a similar non-hybrid vehicle will do, I’d defend my decision and look down on others as well!  Don’t be mad, let me explain.


For those of you who have been following this site for a while, you’ll know that I’ve had plenty of cars over the past 10 years, and I now drive a 9 year older beater SUV which is MAYBE worth $6,000.  I love “Moose“, as I affectionately call him, because he adeptly takes us up the snowy mountains during the winter with its 4-wheel-drive capabilities.  Moose can conveniently carry up to  5 people with plenty of storage space, which is especially helpful when our parents visit.  Too bad Moose only gets 15mpg in the City, and 19mpg on the highway.  I can hear the hissing and booing now!

I bought “Moose” for $8,000 three years ago, from a woman who was in a hurry to dump her car before relocating to Amsterdam.  Special brownies anyone?  The hybrid craze at the time was dizzying, where seemingly rational people would spend $25,000 for a Prius vs. $15,000 for a comparable Toyota Corolla.  If people did the calculations, they’d realize the premium price paid for the car is much greater than the gas savings over an average 7 year ownership period.

Consumers weren’t adhering to our “1/10th” rule either, as I knew plenty of sub $100,000/yr income earners spending $25,000 for these hybrids.  I must repeat here again that it is absolutely financial destruction if you are spending more than 1/10th your annual gross income on a car.  Multi-millionaires follow this rule, why shouldn’t the rest of us?  Don’t give into your weak desires!


I Saved $2.1 Million On Lunch – A Sit Down With Warren Buffett

I thoroughly dislike watching CNBC for investing purposes due to all the noise.  When the markets are up, they bring on every single pundit to talk about how the market is going higher.  When the markets are down, they bring on all the bearish pundits to tell you why the world is coming to an end.  I remember when the S&P hit the ominous 666 level earlier this year, they brought in a “famed” technical analyst who said to expect S&P 200 by year-end.   What was her name again? I forget.  Watch CNBC for entertainment purposes mainly, and a little bit of learning.  Don’t watch CNBC to get rich.

Sometimes though, CNBC puts together something great.  And that great feat was bringing Warren Buffet (Columbia B-School Alum) and Bill Gates together in a town hall with all their business school students to ask them questions.

Here are some of the most memorable lines paraphrased from the show:

A Weak US Dollar Doesn’t Matter Folks!

People have been freaking out lately by a weak US dollar.  I’m here to tell you it doesn’t really matter.  Did you know that 60% of Americans have never left the country and less than 25% of Americans own passports?  Most of the 40% who leave come back, so it’s only a temporary amount of time when their purchasing power may be relatively hurt.

An even better statistic states that only 20% of Americans speak a foreign language.  Hence, where the heck are the 80% of Americans going to go if they can’t communicate with the locals?  Ok, so they may understand what “I want a double quarter pounder with cheese please” in English means, but we aren’t going very far if we can’t speak another language.  Sure a vacation is fine, but it’s not like we Americans are suddenly going to relocate overseas and establish roots.

If you are an American who makes a US$ denominated salary, buys US$ denominated assets like property, consumes Levi’s jeans, and never plans to leave the country, what are you freaking out about? The US Dollar can depreciate by 90% against the Euro, and it still wouldn’t really matter.  The government is crushing our currency on purpose and you know the government would never, ever, ever do anything to harm the people they serve.

And The First $1,000 MBA Giveaway Winner Is………..

The first winner is Eric, a senior from UCLA!  Eric commented sincerely about his concerns post graduation, and whether or not it is a good idea to go to a “2nd tier” business school or just work for whatever company that hires him first.

We’ll be working with Eric to strategize a plan after UCLA and coach him through the process of finding a job in his desired field of finance, or applying to business school.