moolah : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

The Fiscally Responsible Zombie

Back there in June, which seems like a lifetime ago, recall I had the fun chance to visit Amsterdam on a work trip? Yay!

While there, I made use of my company credit card because that’s the best way to go when it comes to pesky expense reports.

However, there are a few things that the company says no-no to on expense reports. For example, booze. I mean, how can one have a nice dinner in Amsterdam and not sample the local beer?

One doesn’t and this one didn’t. I sampled. Oh did I sample. No, I didn’t sample Amsterdam’s other claims to fame. I was on a work trip ferchrissakes! But light brown beer was a delightful dinner companion.

So what I did was expense the expensable parts and the not expensable parts I would pay personally to the credit card company. No problem, right?

Upon my return to the States, in the midst of chaos and twelve to fourteen hour days and working nights and weekends on this massive project (the whole reason I went to Amsterdam and Ireland) I managed to knock out my expense report.

Then I knew I would get a bill for about $110 US dollars for the “not allowable” stuff. The beer, mostly. Not gonna lie.

About a week and a half ago, I got a snippy notice from the credit card company. “Second notice”, they said and “we’ll shut off your card in five days unless payment is received.”

I also noticed that they had transposed two numbers in my mailing address.

Well, I got a bit high handed about this. First of all, I didn’t receive a first notice! Second of all, my address is wrong. Third of all, pfft! Or something like that.

I’m still working a lot of hours and so I dashed off a check but didn’t send it. I wanted to talk to my friend who runs the travel program. I needed to know if I could change my mailing address for the card or if she had to. She said I could do it or she could. No matter.

Great! Then life and my insane job intervened and quite a few more than five days passed. Ugh. Over the weekend when I had a few minutes to breathe, I picked up the ol’ phone and called the credit card folks. I knew I needed to take care of this problem like a grownup.

Imagine my surprise when I got a recorded message saying that a payment had been received and my balance was zero.

“Uh oh,” I told the Good Man. “The company paid my bill. Crap. Now I have to figure out how to pay them back. Or will they take it out of my paycheck? Gah. What a mess.”

The next day, I went back to my friend in Travel to figure this out.

“Honey, we don’t pay people’s credit cards. And if we did, just keep quiet about it.” She laughed.

But she looked up my account. “Hmm…” she said, rolling her mouse over the screen. “I can’t tell where this payment came from. Did you do another expense report?”

“No.”

“Hmm. Are you sure you didn’t pay it?”

“Yes.”

“Really sure?”

I thought back to the dates from May 1 through August 15, my head down working this project. The lack of sleep. The stress. The long days and working weekends and not having a single day off in all of that time. The disconnected feeling. The lack of awareness about pretty much everything around me.

“Well. I’ll check my bank account but I really don’t think so.”

I walked back to my desk, logged into my bank and searched for the amount. By golly, there was a payment.

That means that 1) I had indeed received a “first notice” from the credit card company and didn’t remember it and 2) had set up the credit card company as an auto pay from my account and didn’t remember it and 3) actually paid the bill and didn’t remember it.

So that means that when I was wandering around in a zombie-like intense work state, forgetting to eat meals and forgetting to sleep and often forgetting to change clothes and frequently forgetting to even brush my teeth in the morning, I managed to be fiscally responsible enough to pay my credit card bill?

Um. What?

I’m certainly glad that zombie Karen cares enough to pay normal Karen’s bills. I wonder what else I did when I wasn’t even on the planet.

I can hardly wait to find out.











Image found here.




Little Old Lady (Not) From Pasadena

If it happens once, it’s an anomaly.

Twice, it’s a curiosity.

Three times, and it earns a blog post.

— Karen’s philosophy on blogging.


The first time it happened, it was a lazy Saturday morning and I was on the highway named 280 traveling in a southward direction. The Good Man and I had just destroyed a stack of pancakes up at a restaurant in Millbrae, and were headed home.

I was behind the wheel, which is rare. The Good Man usually takes the wheel and I navigate (poorly).

We whistled along and were cussing and discussing something when I rounded a curve and lo and behold, there waited a member of that exclusive club, the CHP.

Instinctively, I touched the brake pedal to slow my roll, and as I did, I looked at my speedometer to see just how bad the ticket was going to be.

Turns out, I was going the speed limit. And my touching the brakes only slowed me to under the limit.

Oh. Well. That’s curious.

The second time I was driving across the great state of Georgia and I was singing along with the 80’s on 8 station on Sirius. The rental car was a Jeep and since I drive a Jeep back home, I felt pretty damn comfy in the car. The straight six has power and the Georgia highway was open and easy, begging me to test the bounds.

As I whipped past a slower car in the right lane, just as my wheels tap-tapped over the state line into Alabama, I saw the white cruiser in the median. One of Alabama’s finest was waiting there to nab speeders as they crossed over the border.

Again, I touched my brakes. Again, I looked at the speedometer to realize I had been going three over the speed limit of 70. Hardly enough for the Alabama man to get excited enough to leave the median.

Finally, the third event was just this weekend. Again on 280, this time headed to San Jose. Again a cruiser parked by the side of the road with a LIDAR gun aimed out the window. Again the brake pedal. Again, I was already in the legal zone.

What, exactly, has happened to me?

Once upon a time, I was quite a speed demon.

I was the girl who used to test what going 100mph felt like on the roads between El Paso and Carlsbad. (sssh, don’t tell my Mom)

I am the girl who used to get in trouble with her folks every time I came home from college because they would time me and I always arrived too early. (You’d think I would have figured it out and taken a lunch break somewhere to eat up some time)

This is the same chick that likes to race Mercedes up a hill. (My Jeep has pulling power, donchaknow).

And now I’m little Miss Goes The Speed Limit? Miss Little Old Lady Who Only Drives The Car To Church On Sunday? Little Miss Law Abider?

Evidently so.

Except for one red light infraction two years ago on a no good, very bad day.

Suddenly going the speed limit seems, mostly, like the right pace for me.

This depresses me a little bit. But just a little.

Soon I’ll invest in an elongated sedan and I’ll use the cruise control and I’ll huff and puff about all those damn kids driving too fast.

*sigh*







Image from the Gilroy Dispatch



My Official Opinion On The Matter

Been reading up on this whole Facebook IPO debacle.

Oh so very ugly.

As I think about it, I am reminded of my old NMSU Finance professor Dr. Hawkins, and his Ten Investment Rules.

And so…my official comment on the FB disaster?

Keep #5 always in mind. And #7 too.



Originally posted December 29, 2010

________________

Sometimes, the cranky old man is the smartest man in the room

Back in the good ol’ days, that wild time known at the 1980’s, I was full of youthful optimism, and I was attending New Mexico State University.

My undergraduate major was Finance.

Ooh, those were heady days when I wanted to be a stockbroker when I grew up. This was back before I realized that “stockbroker” and “salesman willing to sell underperforming securities to your family in order to make commission” were synonymous.

While the dream was still alive, I took courses at NMSU from some really fine professors with a lot of experience.

Among them, several courses with Dr. Lowell Catlett, now the Dean of the College Of Agriculture, and a noted expert on futures trading.

There was also both undergrad and grad level classes with Dr. Clark Hawkins, a man who had actually worked as a commodities trader on the NYSE floor. In his words, he had tried pretty much every investment vehicle out there…and lost money on ’em all.

Dr. Hawkins was a strange little man. Wiry, small of frame and nasally of voice. He referred to himself as “Uncle Hawkey.” He often told us that, as Finance students, we should have our Wall Street Journal under one arm and our financial calculator under the other.

And this was to be done while wearing a t-shirt imprinted with “Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules”.

At the end of each semester, he gifted us with a copy of the ten rules.

Recently, I was searching around in all the old boxes under my house, picking through my crap looking for things I can sell on eBay.

How ironic, then, that I should come across my framed copy of Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules in my search for something to sell for money.

Well, I sat down and read the rules.

Goddamn if Uncle Hawkey wasn’t right. He was right then. He’s right now. Right is right.

Now…snap your Wall Street Journal in place, put your finger over the “future value” button on your financial calculator and get set.


Uncle Hawkey’s Ten Investment Rules:


1. Don’t invest in things you don’t understand.


Ah, every single customer of Bernie Madoff…take note!


2. Remember the fundamental mathematical rule of finance.


You know what? I don’t.

I suspect this was about future value and present value of money. He was a stickler on that.

Because I understood and could calculate time value of money, I kicked the salesman’s ass when I bought my first car.

I got that salesguy demoted because he was such a dunce. Thank you Uncle Hawkey.


3. Know the difference between investment and speculation.


Oh I remember this one. I rant about this one. A lot.

Let me just say his own words, with the same shouting nasal tone…

INVESTING IN THE STOCK MARKET IS THE SAME AS GAMBLING!

If you do not think putting your money in the stock market is gambling, then you need to re-examine yourself and your money.

Sure, it may return better odds than Vegas, but not always.

For those of you wailing and gnashing your teeth in the current economic downturn because you had all your money in the stock market, I suggest you get this rule tattooed on your arm and look at it daily.


4. Don’t invest or speculate in financial securities that you can’t easily find quotes on.


Dangling participle notwithstanding….Uncle Hawkey was right.

Once again, I’m looking at you friends of Mr. Madoff….paging investors of Mr. Madoff….


5. Don’t buy a closed end fund on initial offering.


Oh yes, everyone gets oh so very excited about IPO’s. Especially during the dot com boom of the early 2000’s.

Look how well that worked out for most people.

Right.

But Uuuuuncle Haaaawwwkkkey, people in his class would wail…what about _____ and they’d name some company.

And by tracking the history of the stock price, he’d show them how they were wrong. How the price would be driven up on IPO and would, over time, settle back down.

He recommended waiting out an IPO for a company you liked, and buying the shares after the initial flurry of the IPO wore off and the stock had settled down.


6. Be skeptical of people who say they can forecast the future.


Well, if more folks did this, then people like Jim Cramer would be a lot less interesting, wouldn’t they?


7. Don’t do business with a man you can’t trust.


Too true. I would also substitute “man” with “company.”

(And for 2012 I would substitute “man” with “egomaniacal manchild“)

And yet…how many of us do anyway? (*coff* AT&T *coff* Comcast *coff*)

Honestly…it’s getting a lot harder to find honesty these days.


8. If the brokers are pushing it hard, it probably should be avoided.


So simple. So true. Yet….

Paging followers of Mr. Madoff!

(seeing a trend here?)


9. Long range planning gives the dangerous notion that the future is under control.


Oooh, this one hurts.

Remember how great things felt in, oh, say mid-2008? When we all had some money and maybe a big mortgage on a great house and the financial future looked, well…bright?

Yeah.

I broke this one. Uncle Hawkey, wherever in the world you are now, I give it up to you.

You knew. You always knew.


10. Don’t lose money.


Well sh*t. I broke this one too.

However. Slowly but surely, it’s coming back.

Because Uncle Hawkey warned us about short term and long term.

My wise investments will, eventually, find their way home.

And finally….


11. (Bonus rule) Remember Rule 10


Fair enough.

And so…as we slowly but surely dig our way out of these ugly financial times…

May we all remember Rule #10

Thank you Uncle Hawkey.




As a post script…

In my senior year of undergrad, Uncle Hawkey decided to go on a sabbatical from teaching.

He invited us, the students that he had so tortured, to join him for happy hour at El Patio. Ah, that venerable old Mesilla Plaza bar (former home office of the Butterfield Stage).

Uncle Hawkey slapped down a credit card and said we could have all the beer we wanted. Nothing else. Only beer.

Oh, the pitchers flowed that day, and Uncle Hawkey paid for it all.

Maybe all of us college students were, on that day, a good investment.



Back In The Swing of Things

So, I’m back in the office after a week in Costa Rica. UK Boss is in country. The pace is back to normal. Whatever that means.

Today I sat down with the boss for a much needed, long over due one-to-one session.

It was about halfway through our hour chat that Boss Man said the words that chilled my soul.

“Right, so I just got the schedule for annual reviews. You’ll need to communicate dates to your staff. Self assessments are due by mid-June.”

Just like that. That’s all he said. Easy, breezy and calm.

Meanwhile, the sound of screeching demons and terror howls echoed in my mind.

Yes, it’s that time of year: Performance reviews.

I’ve been doing this manager gig for most of a decade, and still, performance reviews are the hardest thing I have to do every year.

Mainly because I don’t just blow them off and write canned phrases. I actually put in a lot of work on my performance reviews for my team.

I give performance reviews the way I wish they were done for me.

But never are.

That said, just because I care about them. Just because I put in effort. Just because they matter does not mean I actually enjoy writing them.

It’s hard work. Add to that, since I am a middle of the pack manager and not the big boss, I don’t get the set the raises and bonuses. I give input on my team but someone else makes the budget.

So I get to convey raises and bonuses that someone else has decided.

And they so rarely match what my employees deserve.

So I have to write a performance review to match the budget and not the actual performance of the employee.

Often, this can be the least gratifying thing I do all year.

That said, performance reviews are one of the things that separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the mice, the mangers from the dilettantes.

Writing and delivering a meaningful performance review is what makes me a better manager. I think.

Oh, and in other news, my boss attended some up with people type of training class last week. I said to him “Hey boss, I’m having a problem with this risk assessment.”

“No Karen, as I just learned in my training, there are no problems, only opportunities.”

The fact that I didn’t take that opportunity to kick him in the shins shows the power of my personal and professional growth over the last year.

I’m sure that will show up as a positive on my performance review this year.

Opportunities my ass…….





$2 and a Moment

Yeah, ok. I caved to the masses.

I’m quite suggestible you know.

I come from a family that enjoys trips to Vegas and the occasional Indian casino. My family loves to gamble (responsibly) and I do too.

So today I threw two one dollar bills into the toilet and bought Mega Millions tickets.

Every news outlet, radio talk show, and coworker is talking about the half billion potential payoff.

Yesterday on All Things Considered, they had some whiz bang mathematician guy who chastised all of us in describing the impossible odds.

I think that’s when I decided to throw my hard won dollars in the ring.

I know the odds are ridiculous. I know it’s a waste of money. I know, I know.

But for a moment, a little moment, it’s fun to think about what if?

I think the concept of what if is a powerful one.

There are those in the ranks of woo-woo and esoteric who would say that what if is a good thing. It’s an order placed to the universe.

I think what if gives you a chance to see what you can accomplish.

When you pull out a road map, you look at where you are today. You look at where you want to go (what if) and then you map the highways, byways and dirt roads that it will take to get there.

Do you get lost sometimes? Sure.

Take a wrong road because it looks interesting? Of course.

Run out of gas? Absolutely.

And then, sometimes, with a little luck and a little diligence, you arrive at your destination.

So for me, the what if daydreaming is simply me being the cartographer of my life.

What if’ing about half a billion dollars might be ridiculous to some. To me, it’s a nice way to end a crazy busy day at work. My mind is too tired to parse this spreadsheet in front of me. Instead I’ll gaze out the window and daydream. For just a few moments.

And then, because it’s the last work day of the month, I’ll collect my regular paycheck, pay my rent and then go home to The Good Man (my odds of finding him were pretty sparse too, but I must have drawn that map pretty gosh darn well).

So ok. That’s worth at least $2





This week’s Theme Thursday is: moment.



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