Making The Most Of Company Off-Sites: More Productivity, Less Boondoggling!

Hawaiian BeachThe sun now sets at 5pm and it only gets to a high of ~64 degrees nowadays in San Francisco. Despite the cold, winter is one of the best seasons in Northern California thanks to epic powder up in Lake Tahoe three hours away. I’ve got my season pass on hand and I can’t wait to carve it up at Squaw Valley. What’s better than shredding down a 2,800 foot vertical and then grabbing a beer with friends in a hot tub? Nothing!

Before the snow falls there’s this awkward time between November 1 – December 1 where it’s cold, but not cold enough to bring about consistent natural snow. My resort closes down for three weeks in November for maintenance and artificial snow production to build the base as an example. Can you imagine living in a cold climate without anything to do? That’s like living on top of a hill with no view.

As CEO of my business, I’ve decided to make an executive decision to host an annual company offsite in Hawaii every November to December. Going to Hawaii during the winter maximizes one’s appreciation for the islands since the weather ranges from 70 at night up to 82 during the day, everyday without fail. Hawaii is also one of my key retirement hubs I’ve got to do more research on before permanently relocating for an estimated six months a year. The other six months will be spent between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and traveling.

After attending a disappointing company offsite in NYC where we were locked up in conference rooms the entire weekend, I promised myself if I was ever the big boss I’d do it right for my people. A company off-site should exist to build relationships, improve profitability, and make work fun. I’d like to share some thoughts on creating a company offsite agenda for maximum business efficacy.


Should Your Financial Adviser Be Smarter And Wealthier Than You?

Asset Allocation ChartIf someone can’t count to 10 or still possesses a negative net worth after 20 years of work experience, it’s probably not the best idea to listen to them for financial advice. It’s not useful to read home buying tips from someone who has never bought a property. Nor is receiving child raising tips from someone who’s never been a parent helpful either. Common sense wins again!

But what happens if you went to Yale and are rocking a $20 million dollar net worth with decades of investing experience. You’ve got a portfolio of properties around the world and worked as an accountant, investment banker, and entrepreneur for 30 years. All you want to do is kick back, relax, and not worry about your money. What can a 35 year old, sub $500,000 net worth financial adviser who majored in religion from Podunk U possibly teach or help you about managing money? Perhaps you should be giving him advice instead!

Most rational people look up to older people for advice on work, money, and love presumably because they have more experience and have made plenty of mistakes. The easiest way to counteract, “I wish I knew then what I know now” is to listen to people who’ve been there. It’s only the stubborn individual who thinks their way is always the right way. Meet any of those types before?

In an ideal situation, we’re much better off going with a financial adviser who is smarter, more experienced, and wealthier than us to manage our money. The problem with the ideal situation is that star financial advisers probably only spend time with their wealthiest clients, leaving their lackeys to advise the rest of us! Always strive to understand the background of the financial adviser before taking them on please.

In this post I’d like to explore how we should think about using a less wealthy and less experienced financial adviser if at all. I’ll also suggest ways for financial advisers who lack the pedigree relative to their clients to better serve us.


Personal Capital Review – New Investment Features And A Meeting With The CEO

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

Bill Harris, CEO of Personal Capital

After a year and a half of usage it’s finally time I do a unique review of Personal Capital from the perspective of an entrepreneur, an affiliate blogger, a potential investor, and a neighbor. I’ve already highlighted in previous posts how I use Personal Capital to reduce portfolio fees and how to run various growth scenarios to better manage your 401(k) for retirement. Now I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the company after a two hour meeting I had with senior management.

If there’s one habit I’ve picked up working in finance since 1999, it’s the process of being as thorough as possible with every single financial related matter. One wrong move can be the difference between retiring comfortably on the beach before you’re 60, or working your tail off until the bitter end!

The main difference between Wall St. institutional investors and retail investors is access. If you’ve ever wondered where your higher fees for active fund management is going, part of it goes towards business trips to attend conferences, funding flights around the world to kick tires, and allowing analysts to meet with management wherever they may be. Index fund managers don’t have to do hardly any research except for how much to buy or sell to replicate an index to minimize tracking error.

I’ve literally sat in over 3000 one-one-one meetings with senior management of pre-IPO and publicly traded companies during my time on Wall St. Due to all the hours spent listening to some of the most critical minds asking questions, I cannot help but be critical in my analysis of my own personal investments and financial recommendations I make on Financial Samurai as well.

Why you should meet management one-on-one:

1) To observe the competence of management through the communication eloquence of their vision.

2) To observe body language that would indicate strength or weakness in the upcoming quarter or year.

3) To understand whether the CEO’s philosophies are consistent with the company’s stated philosophies and your own.

4) To see if the CEO, CFO, or COO are people you can trust with your grandmother’s hard earned savings.

5) To corroborate financial assumptions and things you hear on the street.

I’m very fortunate to live in San Francisco, the tech/internet hub of the world. So when Personal Capital invited me to drive down to Redwood City to have a chat with their CEO Bill Harris at HQ, I jumped at the chance.


A Cure For Financial Hoarding And Over Saving

Balandra Bay, Mexico VacationAfter a year and a half of retirement life and speaking to dozens of early and traditional retirees, I’ve noticed one very alarming phenomenon.

Retired folks can’t stop saving money! When I ask fellow retirees what they are saving money for, they can’t come up with an answer. Saving money is an unbreakable habit that is robbing retirees of a maximum life of leisure.

I first began exploring the disease of saving money during retirement six months after I left Corporate America in Spring 2012. I already ran all the numbers under multiple different scenarios for months before I pulled the trigger. Yet there I was continuing to save 100% of my passive income streams and another 20-50% of my active income streams six months out.

Instead of living it up after receiving my severance check from 11 years of loyal service, I dumped the entire sum into the stock market in the summer of 2012. I didn’t even use a couple hundred dollars to go celebrate with a friend at a favorite steak house because I felt guilty leaving the workforce so early. The uncertainty of not having a bi-weekly paycheck after 13 years of consecutive work was also disconcerting despite all the planning.

From a financial perspective, investing the severance in 2012 turned out to be a good move because the markets are up 30%+ since. But from a living life perspective, the investment was suboptimal because I got nothing out of the severance except for a slightly higher feeling of financial security. Whenever money grows for too long a period of time without producing anything tangible, I always start thinking what the hell is the point and the spending itch returns.

I’d like to explore how prodigious savers can break our good financial habits in this article. Over saving may not be as serious as going into heavy consumer debt. However, going to the other extreme is not healthy either.


Capital One 360 Review: A Full Service, Online Bank Worth Considering

Capital One 360As part of a new once a month initiative, I’ve asked freelance writer and fellow Yakezie blogger Melissa Batai to do product reviews on quality financial products. Savings is the main foundation to building wealth and Capital One 360 looks like a good online banking solution.

ING Direct was an online bank that most people couldn’t say enough good things about. When Capital One 360 acquired ING Direct in 2011, some loyal ING fans worried about the transition.  However, their fears were unfounded as Capital One 360 has retained many of the features of ING Direct and added in their own beneficial features.

For those of you who don’t know, Capital One 360, a division of Capital One based in Virginia, is an entirely online bank.  Capital One began in 1988 and was primarily a credit card issuer.  However, the company has branched out to full-service banking, and it has grown to be one of the nation’s 10 largest banks and credit card issuers based on deposits.  It has 45,000 customer accounts and has over 1,000 branches.

Capital One 360′s Main Products

  • 360 Checking,
  • 360 Savings, and
  • Kids’ Saving Accounts

The products are available via internet access or mobile device.

360 Checking

Retiring In Mexico Or Abroad Might Not Be A Bad Idea

La Paz, Mexico boat on clear water

Balandra Bay, La Paz

When you think of Mexico what do you think of? I think of hot summers, tequila, salsa, and friendly people to name a few. I just got back from a 10 day business trip to Mexico to better understand their lifestyle as I might want to live there one day. I also wanted to learn more about US / Mexican relations from a local’s perspective. We hear a lot of rhetoric about immigration control from our politicians and I wanted to hear for myself why someone would want to risk so much to come to the United States illegally.

Until this year, I had only been to Cancun and Playa Del Carmen for vacation. This time I visited two very sleepy towns called Loreto and La Paz on the east coast of the Baja California Sur peninsula. The idea was to visit places that were not built up for tourists like Cabo or Puerto Vallarta. Loreto’s population has grown quickly percentage-wise, but their total population is still only 7,000, or 1/3rd the size of UC Berkeley’s student body.