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Archive for October, 2007

Tales of the Trailblazers

This is a 1998 article from FORTUNE, about the 34 women of Harvard Business School’s Class of 1973 (the first year that HBS had a “significant” portion of the class be female – 4.4%).

Even though this article is almost 10 years old (can you believe that the 90s were TEN years ago!? I feel old), I really think it’s timeless.

Their advice: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. So choose carefully.

The right question is about choices: implicit ones, explicit ones; choices made consciously and choices made by default. The wise women of the class of ’73 now know this–which is why they are nearly unanimous in the advice they would like to pass along to the women following them. The advice is not about how to break the glass ceiling or how to survive a sexist boss. It is instead to know thyself, and then to make your choices accordingly. “We in this generation were raised to think we could do anything,” says Lang. “Our parents told us, ‘You’re smart. You’re educated. You can do anything.’ And the answer is yes. You can do anything. But you can’t do everything.” The trick is having the wisdom to know the difference.

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Savings, schmavings

Recently I’ve decided to tweak my retirement/emergency fund savings a little – I’ll still be saving roughly the same amount ($2,200-$2,500 a month), but I’m going to decrease my retirement savings a bit and increase my emergency fund savings by a couple hundred bucks.

The down payment fund is also on hold for now – I hope to begin saving for it in earnest come 2008, but that’ll depend on how several things turn out (which I don’t know yet). I’ve also found that it just makes me feel better to have a more beefed-up emergency fund, so I’ll be aiming for the $10,000 mark by the end of this year – I’ll might be several hundred short, but it’s a good stretch goal to have.

In other news, the condo that my parents were looking at has lowered its asking price by $60,000 since it first came on the market. Pretty amazing, huh? Who knows, it might fall even further.

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Down, down, up, up

I have a confession to make.

Being “responsible” about saving and managing my money might be a symptom of something that’s far less positive – I’m so focused on achieving financial stability because I feel like in so many other parts of my life I am just floundering. Like a flounder. In the sea. (Think of Dory in Finding Nemo. Although I’m sure she’s not a flounder).

Most days I am really tired. And down. I feel old. Not in the chronological way, but in a, I’m 22, I’m in the office all the time, I never see my rooomate, I am afraid of looking at my blackberry on the weekends, I haven’t been to the gym in forever, I’m eating expensed meals at work every night and while having no dinner expenses might be good for my budget, it’s wrecking havoc on my waistline, cholestrol, and friendships (if I listen really closely, I can hear my poor clogged arteries trying to protest. Then I eat another greasy piece of fried chicken), way.

But maybe that’s my problem – I haven’t been focusing on the positives of the situation, which, though I may seem bitter & down, do exist.

Let’s see:

I have a job will enable me to achieve my financial goals, has great benefits, and offers me opportunities to learn about different industries & businesses. I am still young, despite how I might feel at times. I have the chance & the time to strike out in a different path once I’ve gained some experience. I have a good friend at work whom I can count on for support & camaraderie. I have parents who love me and brings food for me when I’m feeling sick. I have an aunt who commiserates with me and advises me when I’m tired and down in the dumps. I have CB whom I live close enough to see on the weekends when I don’t have to work. I have a degree from a good school. I have an emergency fund of $8,000+. I am smart. I have options. I am not stuck. I am learning about myself and what I want in life, which, at 22, is a pretty great development, even if that lesson has to come by at 11 PM, when I am still at work.

So… first order of business: join a gym and go twice a week. There’s a gym close to work that costs $45/month. Is it pricey? Do I want to die an early death from pent-up stress & clogged-up arteries? Um – no. So there. It’s not too expensive.

2nd order of business: learn to let things go – be more zen, I guess. Just… chill. This is not the end of the world. Before I know it I won’t be a newbie at work anymore – instead, a new crop of newbies will come in to take my place. Muahahah.

3rd order of business: Continue to build my savings so that I have financial flexibility in the future, so that I can reach the “crossover” point more quickly.

4th order of business: write a list of things I’m grateful for, every day. The wildfires in SoCal and the homeless man that I pass by every day on the way to work all remind me that I still have so much to be grateful for. And there’s a selfish reason for wanting to feel grateful to – I want to feel better. I want to be happier. I don’t want to be the overly-bitter, overly-stressed, overly-unhealthy workaholic that I fear I’m turning into. And if I feel more grateful, I will feel happier. It’s scientifically proven (right? RIGHT?).

5th order of business: learn as much as I can at my job & gain as much experience as I can. I’m at work to learn, to contribute what I can, to develop my professional & technical skills. Keep perspective – this is not forever. Not by a long shot. And whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.

6th order of business: pray. To be honest – I’m not a religious person, but part of growing up is realizing when I need help and when it helps to believe in something greater and to draw strength from something greater. So I’m starting to pray, and if you are so inclined, feel free to pray for me also. Good thoughts never hurt.

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Several months ago, I wrote a post on the expenses I’ll have to face once I graduate & move out on my own.

Well, now that I’ve been out for 3 months, let’s revisit that post and see how I did compared to how I thought I’d do.

1. Dry cleaning: I planned on spending $35-$45/month here… but surprisingly I haven’t been to the dry cleaners even once. I wear business casual clothes everyday, so my suits have been hanging in my closet. The Delicate cycle seems to work fine.

2. Internet access: I had no idea how much DSL would cost… turns out, not that much. The service costs $35 a month (the first bill was much higher, but that included a router and set-up fees), but that amount is split with my roommate, so less than $20/month for wireless? No complaints here.

3. Car insurance: Naive little me… my original estimate was a $1,200 premium for a year. Imagine my shock when I got quotes for $1,200 for six months. Fortunately, I found something more affordable at $145/month, with $1,000 deductibles for collision and comprehensive.

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2007 year end goal

It’s hard to believe that in 2.5 months (or 11 weeks, to be more exact), 2007 will leave and 2008 will roll in. The latter part of 2007 will definitely be a time to remember for both the good times & the not-so-good times. I graduated college, moved into my own apartment, started a 90-hour+/week job, found my very own mechanic, and started shoving (what is to me) piles of money into savings.

But when 2008 comes around, I think I’ll definitely be RELIEVED and happy to have survived 2007 (mantra: this too, shall pass). Financially-speaking, I want to celebrate New Year’s 2008 with a $10,000 net worth. Currently, I have around a $5,000+ net worth – I’ll need to take some disciplined steps to make it happen.

1. Save $1,750/month for retirement.
2. Save $500/month for emergency fund.
3. Pay down $160 of student loan when grace period expires in December.
4. Mix well, bake for 30 minutes, then voila! Out pops a five-figured net worth.

I can do it… I’ll probably take a look at how I’m doing in November then adjust my savings accordingly.

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Meg tagged me on a 7 things about me meme… I can’t think of 7 things right now, but I’ll leave you guys with one: I was once a middle-school cheerleader. I can still do a (somewhat off-kilter) cartwheel and maybe even a toe touch if I stretch for 20 minutes beforehand.

I made the cheer team in high school, but left once I discovered that I didn’t want to be a flyer (doing flips 20 feet into the air wasn’t my cup of tea). So I traded poms poms for case briefs and joined mock trial instead.

But somehow one of the cheers “Be Aggressive” stuck with me. It’s catchy, seriously. Anyhow, that’s sort of became my personal little savings cheer. I didn’t do it on purpose… but since I’ve started working in the summer of 2006, I’ve been saving anywhere from 35% to 50% of my gross income. So maybe there is something to be said having old football cheers in the back of your head.

It’s not as hard as I would’ve thought (saving the money, not remembering the cheer). Most of the time, I just put the money away and mentally slap a big “DO NOT TOUCH” label over it. I think I just transfered my consumerist desires from depreciating assets to appreciating assets.

And thus concludes my ex-cheerleading post of the day.

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$25 well spent

Today I bought 2 books for about a dime over $25 (thereby getting me FREE shipping on Amazon). 😉 I’ve been spending a lot of money on books lately – a week ago I bought 3 books at Borders for $33 total (one of those Buy 3 Get 1 Free deals)… they’re interesting books and I’m still trying to find the time to finish all of them.

But I consider it money well spent. Books really make me happy. Shoes look beautiful, but they can pinch your feet. Food taste wonderful, but you have to watch what you eat (well… you should. I really don’t.). A flashy car is fun to drive, but expensive to buy and up-keep.

But books? They are low-maintenance (once you purchase them, they are yours forever. Just don’t drop them in water or set them on fire), and yet demanding at the same time (haven’t you ever passed up doing things that you really SHOULD be doing, i.e. studying for an exam or going to bed because it’s going to be a long day tomorrow, but then get so caught up in the story that you just could NOT put it down?).

Anyhow, the 2 titles I purchased today are:
1. The World Without Us: I found this in the NY Times – sounds very intriguing.
2. 20-something, 20-everything: I’ve always wanted to read this book, and I figured I should. I’m in my 20-“everything” years, am I not? Besides, if I’m going to have a quarter-life crisis, er, reflection, I might as well be prepared.

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