Losing Your Way To More Money

At the beginning of every year, I tell myself that I’m going to eat better and exercise more. Yet, every December, I look and weigh exactly the same and get frustrated until the New Year, when the cycle starts anew. My theory on weight is simply that we all have a weight range we fluctuate in, and every 5 years that band increases towards the heavier side! That was my excuse for my lack of improvement.

I used to also think that our weight was 70% hereditary and 30% diet and exercise until I saw the show “The Biggest Loser!” Now I think the ratios are the complete opposite. If you really want to get motivated and cry at the same time, you’ve got to watch the show. The show’s concept is simple. After 3 months of boot camp, whoever loses the most weight wins gobs of money! The results are astonishing. Season 7′s winner, Helen lost an amazing 140lbs from her original 255lbs start weight. Go Helen!

The Biggest Loser show demonstrates that with enough motivation and discipline we can lose a lot of undesired weight. In fact, for 7 seasons in a row each of the winners have lost over 100lbs!

FOOD EXPENSE & GOALS

On average, I spend about $20 a weekday for food and $100 per weekend for a total weekly cost of $200 and a total monthly cost of around $800! I had no idea how much I was spending until I decided to write everything down for two weeks and annualize accordingly. $800 was clearly overkill, especially since it accounts for over 65% of my then, discretionary spending.

When the downturn hit, I decided to do an experiment partly to bring down my food expenses by 30%, and partly because I was inspired by The Biggest Loser, to shed 15lbs and get down to my college fighting weight of 160. At 160 lbs, my
Body Mass Index
would be 23 (18.5-24.9 is normal weight) from slightly overweight at 25.5. If Helen can lose 140 pounds, why can’t I lose a lousy 15?!

Diamond Engagement Rings Bling Bling!

One of my good friends is getting married, and he asked me, “Sam, what on earth am I supposed to get her for an engagement ring?” What a question, that’s not easily answered.  Generally, the right answer is “whatever she wants“!  However, as we all know, sometimes ladies are harder to read than a children’s book in large print!

Before we begin, if any of you single guys out there want to attract the ladies, bust out the turquoise diamond ring guide book from Tiffany’s in any public space. The white book from Cartier will also do. I take the bus to work everyday, and I remember as soon as I took out the book from my bag, every single lady on the bus looked over. Just think, one of the great pick up lines to a staring woman could be, “Excuse me, but my friend asked me for his advice on this particular design (point to book), what do you think?” Clearly, if you use this line, you should not be proposing!

In the spirit of personal finance, let’s discuss some tips for buying an engagement ring.

To MBA or Not To MBA

I remember the moment I got my college diploma, I swore I’d never go to school again. At the end of the day, we forget the majority of things we learn and who wants to do homework anyway? All this changed when the Dotcom bubble exploded and I was left wondering whether I’d be the first person let go given I had recently joined my current job in 2001. Last in First Out, or LIFO as they say.

We had gone through 5 rounds of layoffs in 1.5 years, and I heard the 6th one was just right around the corner. As long as the firm would have me, I’d keep on working, but just in case, I needed a backup plan. I decided that surfing back home in Hawaii was not the proper backup plan so I came to a compromise and applied to the nearest part-time MBA program, which so happens to be ranked Top 10 in US News & World Report and the WSJ. The program promised the rigors of the full-time program, with the same professors and international opportunities all within 3 years. Upon looking further into my company’s policies, they offered to pay for my MBA so long as I was in good standings. The MBA program was a hedge, just in case I was one of the casualties, as one could potentially transfer to the full time program once accepted.

The 6th round came and went, and I was still left standing. Unfortunately, the company tuition reimbursement policy was canceled just two weeks before my acceptance. I decided to join anyway b/c at the end of the day, the economy was still shaky, and I didn’t want my application time spent go to waste. What the heck I thought. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Do Rich People Try Harder?

After 10 years in the hyper competitive world of finance, when Type A personalities dominate, and Type Z personalities fade, the one constant observation is that the most successful people all work harder than the rest.

Take Bob for example. He’s probably worth at least $10 million bucks at age 50, but he still gets into work at 7am (vs. the norm of 8am) and is the last to leave at 8:30pm! Nancy, is the mother of two kids and she comes in at 7am everyday as well and almost always stays till 6:30pm. Is it a coincidence that both are the two most senior and successful people in the office? I say no.

Contrast Bob and Nancy with Tim. Tim was a 24 year old who could never come in on time (8:15am), and would always try and leave by 5pm on the dot. He had no heart, and he felt entitled to reap the rewards without putting in the hard work. Does each generation always feel that the next generation is somewhat lazy? It seems that way. I think it’s because the older generation feels that if the younger generation does not treat them like them like the older generation treated their seniors, then it’s a slap in their faces. Tim wasn’t satisfied making six figures the first year and a half out of school, and was let go.

Sure, some people are more efficient, lucky, and are naturally gifted at their jobs. However, in the long run, there’s one variable you can control in your career, and that’s how hard you work. Remember that nerd in High School who just studied every night and got straight A’s? Well, it’s not a coincidence that he went to some top school afterwards and is a doctor at age 30 ready to make multiple six figures a year until forever.

Give me a hard worker and a team player over a lazy star any day! Readers, would you agree?

BEST AND EASIEST ADVICE FOR CAREER ENHANCEMENT

1) Get in first, and leave last for at least the first year of employment. There is NOTHING a manager hates more than a staff which comes in after him/her. Seriously, the manager will start thinking rightly or wrongly how lazy you are, and how so many other candidates would die to have your job. He’ll reminice about when s/he was younger and would always come in first and leave last, a tremendous amount of bitterness will build up before s/he blows you up in your review and ultimately puts you on the Reduction in Force (RIF) list. If you are going to come in after your manager, you better also leave after your manager. Needless to say, don’t come in last and leave first! Don’t be lazy!

2) Identify who are the rising stars at your firm and latch on. The rising stars are apparent. The star is the one who gets a long with everybody senior or junior. The star could be the youngest VP promotion in the office. The star is going places, and you want that star to pull you along. Just look within the senior management of your organization. You will notice that many of them started in the same departments together and have known each other for years. They take care of each other b/c they have trust in one another. They promote each other all along the way. You need to get into that circle.

3) Don’t ever whine and don’t be a prick. The second most annoying thing a manager or co-worker hates is a whiner. When all one does is complain, it just starts to sound like “blah blah blah blah blah blah, i am the greatest and deserve more.” And after a while, your manager will just think to herself, “if you don’t like it here, then cya later!” Whining is for losers. Just suck it up, accept your perceived misgivings, and find solutions to move forward. Good managers are actually more aware than you think. They know when there is injustice at times and they hope their employees won’t complain. When that employee doesn’t complain and sucks it up, the manager is going to make it up to you one way or another.

4) Manage up! Managing up is complicated. The Harvard Business Review has a great case study on this. Managing up is an art, that must be carefully painted. The goal is to simply gain your managers trust, provide your manager with information on productive work you are doing, and mostly to make your manager look good! If you can make your manager look good to his or her bosses, then you will look good. Treat your manager as your client, and always look to him/her for guidance. If you confide in your manager, you will gain his/her trust. NEVER go around your manager to his boss. That is another sure way to get put on the RIF list.

5) Create your support web. Finally, sometimes being tight with your manager is not enough. Many organizations are consensus driven when it comes to promotions and pay raises. I do strongly believe that 50% of your effort should be to sell yourself internally, and 50% is to sell yourself well to your clients. You can be the star sales person, but if you have no backing internally cya later! Conversely, you can be loved by everyone, but eventually when the downturn hits, you will be at risk if you suck at your job. Getting put on the RIF List is as simple as one senior manager asking his junior manager “Hey Junior Manager, who do you think should be on the list?” “Well Bigger Boss, Trina has been a pain in my ass for the past 6 months.” “Ok, Junior Manager, put her on the list”. In downturns, those who have the smallest support network get fired first, even if they are solid performers. It’s human nature to keep your friends. And when things get really bad, the bottom tier with great support will then follow due to the inevitable need to drive profits.

At the end of the day, if you can do nothing else, just buy a money alarm clock and execute option #1 flawlessly! The best quote of all is simply “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

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Updated: 8/13/2014

Keigu,

Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”