The Yakezie Writing Contest And Micro-Giving

One of my favorite business school classes focused on Emerging Market Economies.  We read C.K. Prahalad’s book called, “Fortune At The Bottom Of The Pyramid“, which basically described how entrepreneurs were finding cost effective ways to serve the poorest people in the world and also be profitable.

Conventional business wisdom states that one must go after those consumers with the deepest pockets and the highest propensity to spend.  Prahalad argues that we have a social responsibility to help the other end of the spectrum improve their living standards and not be afraid of going bust in the process.

One of the keys that came out of helping the poor in emerging markets is the concept of micro-lending.  Micro-lending is a fascinating concept which essentially pools together the funds of people in usually small communities, and lends out those funds to a select few.  Together, a community is able to help each other more impactfully than if they were separate.  What’s also very interesting is that the tighter the community, the lower the default rates compared to conventional banks because everybody feels a deep sense of responsibility.


How To Deal With A Bully

It’s hard to imagine anyone never getting bullied through grade school.  Inevitably, there’s some immature, insecure kid out there looking to pick a fight.  Do you keep quiet or fight back?  You might be surprised to hear, but I’ve ALWAYS fought back until the bullying stopped.  I’m described as a very cheerful person who is always smiling, but when provoked, you will feel my wrath.

I remember growing up as a kid being taught to just walk away and ignore a bully.  For some reason, I could never listen to that advice.  I didn’t care if I got injured fighting back.  It was what I had to do to defend my honor.  What’s even worse than being bullied, is when you see someone you love get taken advantage of.  That’s when shit really hits the fan!


A Little Inspiration Means So Much

I was driving home from grocery shopping one day when I saw this little boy in the picture holding a clipboard and smiling.  It was your typical, chilly 58 degree San Francisco day and the boy stood so patiently in his parka, saying “hello” to every passerby.  His presence filled my heart and I zipped Moose around the corner to park so I could see what he was selling.  Whatever he was selling, I was going to buy!

Little Henry was selling $1 raffle tickets to support his school choir so they could take a trip down to Los Angeles and perform.  Oh my goodness Henry, you are a star!  I pulled out my wallet and gave him my only bill and told him I’ll take 10.  His smile got even bigger as he gave me the clipboard and asked me to fill out my contact info.

Thank you Mr!“, Henry said gleefully.  I smiled back at him asking if I could take his picture.  Of course he said yes to one of his best customers.

Henry, it is I who thanks you.  You’ve given me perhaps years of mental smiles and motivation that I so dearly need all the time.  Why do I love to blog so much?  It’s partly because of memories like this where I can capture, record, and come back to any time in the future.


What The Tax Cut Extension Means To You

Hip hop hooray! With House Democrats agreeing to not hold the middle class hostage anymore, the tax bill passed 277-148!  It was a landslide victory, but still it’s interesting to see that there were 148 dissenters.  What’s more amazing is that Democrats weren’t able to lower the estate tax exemption amount of $5 million per individual, and raise the estate tax level of 35%.  Talk about bad negotiating!

The real fun now begins where we all do rough pro forma calculations of how much more disposable income we’ll have in 2011 and potentially 2012!  First off, I’m glad to see that everybody will pay 2% less on the first $106,800 they earn thanks to a cut in payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) from 6.2% to 4.2%.

From $100,000 to $172,000 (28% Federal marginal tax bracket for singles), you really aren’t going to see much of a change in that money earned after, because the government wasn’t going after you guys. But, for all you lucky ducks who make $172,000-$380,000 (33% Federal marginal tax bracket for singles), and $380,000+ (35% Federal marginal tax bracket for singles), you’re in for a big treat!


Sweet Talking Your Home Appraiser Pays Off

It took 63 days, but my mortgage refinance is finally over!  Back in the good times, a refi would take at most 40 days to complete.  Nowadays, banks are asking for every single document out there, making sure the borrower is legitimate.  Fine.  At least I can sleep well knowing that due to the new standards of due diligence, there will be a lower chance of another housing crisis in the future.  The same concept goes with airport security come to think of it.  Getting strip searched is a pain in the butt, but one should take comfort in a safer flight.

My lender required two independent home appraisers for my refinance.  I don’t care so much because the bank is eating the cost, which is an extra $750 for 30 minutes of appraisal work.  What a joke.  The first appraiser was a man who I left alone to do his thing.  He took the measurements with his laser tape, asked some basic questions on home improvements, and took some notes.  A week later, I got the report in the mail and was pretty stoic.  The appraised value was right at the middle end of the range.

A week went by, and I started to feel a slight sense of panic because I kept hearing about people getting their refinances denied due to high loan-to-value ratios.  I started to worry that after 40 days, I might very well get rejected from my 3.625% mortgage refinance rate due to some appraiser who might be in a bad mood that day.