The Cause Of Conflict: Money, Entitlement, And Poor Etiquette

Team Photo At The Mission Playground, SF

Team Photo At The Mission Playground, SF

You might have heard about all the Google bus protestors in the Mission District as techies move in and cause rents to rise. Long-time residents are displaced by landlords who want to evict and sell their buildings to buyers who turn around and rent the same units for market prices. Multi-unit buildings are under rent control, which allows for rents to rise by no more than a small percentage a year, usually under 2%.

On the one hand, the landlord should be able to sell their building and maximize profits if they so choose. On the other hand, how do we take care of the residents, especially older and disabled residents who might not have anywhere to go because market rents are double their existing price? It’s a messy, messy situation that is causing a lot of strife.

I’m a landlord, but I’ve never faced this problem before because I’m just buying property to live in. Only after living in the property for many years (10 years as is the case with my latest rental) will I put the property up for rent because I don’t ever want to sell. I would feel terrible buying in an up-and-coming neighborhood with the idea of booting out long-time tenants for profit. Forget that. There are much more harmonious ways to make money than disrupting other people’s lives.

Here’s a video that is causing a lot of uproar in San Francisco that I’d like for you to watch. This altercation is a prime example of what happens when money, entitlement, and poor etiquette come into play. Notice the racial divide as well. Having tact and better communication skills can go a long way to avoiding conflict. 

Are Your Short-Term Actions Ruining Your Long-Term Wealth?

Long Term Gain

Long Dhosas Taste Better

I must be the biggest donkey on Earth because I just spent an egregious amount on a handyman to fix some things. I’ve had a funky bathroom window that would not close properly for years in my main San Francisco rental. I tried to fix it, but couldn’t. My tenants never complained over the years, so I let it be. The window is in a small bathroom without a vent, so having the window slightly cracked open helps relieve moisture.

Then one fine summer day my tenant’s neighbor below decided to start grilling on their little deck. Smoke would waft into the bathroom and through the rest of the apartment. So when my tenant texted me to fix the window, I said “no problem” and found a handyman on Craigslist immediately. He is actually a licensed contractor on Craigslist with “no job too big or too small.” In retrospect, I used a sledge hammer to push in a thumbtack.

He stopped over to visit my tenant directly and gave an estimate for $225. I told my tenant to tell the handyman everything else she’d like fixing while he was there besides the window. She mentioned a broken dimmer switch, and a faucet cap that needed replacing. Perfect. Fixing three things in one visit every year or two isn’t that bad.

Although $225 sounded steep at the time, I agreed to the estimate because I figured he would take at least an hour to do all the work, buy the parts, and commute back and forth for two visits. I was also happy to not have to physically go out there and meet the handyman for either visit. I asked the handyman whether I could get a discount if the work took less than a couple hours, and he said it was flat fee. Fine.

I told my tenant to tell me how long he took to fix everything so I could see whether I was getting my money’s worth. She texted back, “Maybe 15 minutes, no more.”

Damn! What a moron I am!

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.

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!

Are You Smart Enough To Act Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?

Are You Smart Enough To Be Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?The smartest people in the world are listeners, not speakers. If all you’re doing is speaking, how do you learn anything new?

There was once this portfolio manager I covered who had this uncanny ability to make you feel uncomfortable without saying anything at all. He had a poker face when you spoke to him, and when he felt like changing expressions, he’d go from solemn to smiles in a millisecond. We nicknamed him Crazy Eyes. It turns out that he was literally a genius with an IQ over 160. He also consistently beat his index benchmark for eight years in a row and made millions because of it.

The earliest examples of acting dumb to get ahead starts in grade school. You know what I’m talking about. Those kids who were too cool to study and too cool to sit still in class as they flicked spitballs from the back of the room. These kids weren’t just acting dumb, they really were dumb.

When you purposefully waste your opportunities growing up, you’re not only disrespecting your parents, but also the millions of other kids around the world who will never have the same opportunities.

This post will do the following:

1) Argue why acting dumb is a smart move to get ahead.

2) Provide some tips to help you look and seem a little dumber than you are.

3) Share three personal examples of how acting duhhh, has helped in work, stress management, and relationships.

Wish Your Parents Were More Strict On You Growing Up?

Father's Day by Colleen KongThe earliest memory I have of my father disciplining me was when I threw a hissy fit as a 4th grader. I went into his office and tore up all his meticulously typed work papers and went to bed crying because he didn’t allow me to do something. There was no computer to save your work then, just original copies that had to be painstakingly retyped if something was off.

Instead of waking me up for punishment, my father waited until the next morning when I had calmed down. I knew what I did was wrong and felt a tremendous sense of guilt and trepidation. He sat on my bedside and told me calmly, “Son, what you did was wrong last night. Those papers took hours for me to type. Don’t do that again.

My father was stern, but compassionate. Because he didn’t yell or hit me, I developed an enormous sense of appreciation for his guidance. I began seriously listening to all his advice, and being more compassionate as a person as I grew older. I am all about second and third chances.

Dear Minorities, Use Racism As Motivation For Achieving Financial Independence

Embrace Diversity by <a href="Kongaline.com">

Embrace Diversity by Kongaline.com

When I was a kid, I used to be very combative when it came to fighting racism. Part of the reason had to do with attending international schools in Asia growing up. Kids from all over the world can get pretty nasty towards each other along racial lines. I took up martial arts and learned debilitating hits to cripple my opponents in a fight if necessary. It’s just in my personality to stick up for myself and others, even if it means going to the hospital.

It’s easy to dismiss racism as no big deal if you’re not a minority. Behind closed door comments from Clipper’s owner Don Sterling are always hurtful, but not a surprise. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Or perhaps Don was just saying things as any jealous man would to an attractive woman 50 years his junior. When a $1.8 million condo and $500,000 in automobile gifts isn’t enough, I guess some spiteful things start coming out. Whatever the case may be, we know people all over who act one way, but think another way in private.

If you are a minority, you are well aware of every slight, perceived or otherwise, that comes your way. It happens at work, or in the grocery store, or on an airplane, or when you’re standing in line minding your own business. Over time you become inured to the insults, but the pain really never goes away. It just gets buried.

Now that I’m an adult who has gone through the system to reach financial independence, I’m slightly less sensitive to perceived injustices because people stop pissing me off as much. I don’t have to kiss someone’s ass to get ahead, nor do I have to sacrifice any shred of dignity to make more money. I’ve really got nothing to complain about, so I don’t.

But my new life as a blogger has reawakened my combative side, especially when you hear extremely racist comments from very famous or powerful individuals. Can you imagine being one of the many black employees of the Clippers organization? I’d probably just get up and quit, because there’s no way I’d work for someone who feels that way about my race. Money be damned.

I do believe words have the power to affect positive change and raise awareness regarding issues. As a result, I feel it’s my duty to speak out against wrinkles in the system with my existing platform. Apathy be damned.

In this post I’d like to share some perspective as an Asian minority living in America. Racism was a big reason why I decided to save so much and aggressively work on my passive income streams to achieve financial independence. The desire to have absolute choice and be beholden to no one was and still is a huge motivating factor. Perhaps readers in the end will share their motivations as well.

Financial Disconnect Or Financial Awareness?

Picanha - Best Brazilian Meat

Just order picanha and skip everything else!

One of my new favorite restaurants in San Francisco is Espestus Churrascaria. The restaurant serves good old fashion Brazilian meat that is more tasty than some of the finest dry-aged rib-eyes. Ever since visiting Rio de Janeiro in 2006 during business school, I’ve been craving to eat some Picanha (rump cap) until finally my best friend took me to Espestus last month.

After going without picanha for eight years, I wanted to return just a month later. Perhaps one of the main reasons why I never went was because of the cost. At $74 a person after tax and tip for food alone, Espestus costs a pretty penny! Instead of just going with my friend the second time around, I asked her if she’d like to invite another couple friend of ours to make it four.

Here’s her text response: Too expensive for them.

Espetus is surely an expensive place to eat, but our friends are in their late 30s, rent a $3,700 a month apartment and drive a 2010 Porsche Cayenne. The husband also has a $10,000 motorbike.

Here’s my text response to my friend: Ask them anyway. They drive a Porsche that costs literally 15X more than Moose!

She texts back: OK, I’ll see. 

Saving Our Daughters From Bad Men And A Life Of Misery

Cut Little Piggy At The County Fair

Oink, oink

“What the hell was I thinking going out with him?” the woman cries to her friend as she breaks down in tears. “I can’t believe he’s now with my sister, that asshole!” I couldn’t help but overhear this emotionally destraught woman as I sipped on my lemon water using free wifi. Who knew Starbucks was such a fun place to write?

In a world full of good men, why do women constantly end up with bad men? A man’s biggest fear is becoming a father to a daughter who ends up with a deadbeat loser. If we knew our daughters would always select fantastic men, we wouldn’t be so afraid to have girls! Unfortunately, we are inundated with disaster stories.

Women breaking up with men because they discover they can’t change their man unless he goes through a lobotomy is pretty common. Husbands leaving wives who are mothers to be with younger women is so cliche. It’s hard to imagine it’s been over 20 years since Woody Allen at age 55 pursued 19 year old Soon-Yi. Men are dirty dogs, yet women love us all the same. It’s as if some women are genetically wired to be attracted to trouble.

Let’s go through an exercise to try and understand why women go out with suboptimal men. Altogether this post will have the perspectives of 15 different men and women to better understand “what the hell was I thinking” and save our daughters, sisters and girlfriends from a life of misery. 

Being Out Of Touch With Reality Doesn’t Make Sense

Coaching tennis until dark

Coaching tennis until dark

The only reality is the one you know, which is why it’s odd for someone to ever say you’re “out of touch with reality.” To do so would imply your reality is superior to another’s reality, which is arrogant. But many people have commented I’m out of touch with reality over the years because of the way I view money and opportunity. So I’ve decided to slowly do something about it.

The tone of Financial Samurai has changed from one of defiance, to one of acceptance. I no longer rail against the government or argue with folks why a ROTH IRA conversion is a mistake. If you want to only save 10% of your earnings and work until you hate your job, go right ahead. I just like to put things out there now and let the community decide what’s best for themselves. I’ll go about doing what’s right for me, and if you don’t want to take my advice, no problem.

Part of the reason why I do write about wealth inequality and socioeconomic equality is because I recognize I’m lucky and I don’t want to take my luck for granted. And so I write and write and write to share my thoughts on boosting wealth in hopes of sharing my luck around. But with the largest personal finance blogs in the world focusing on frugality instead of making more money because it’s so much easier, I need to adapt to grow, even though I know many of you don’t want to eat dog food in retirement.