Friday, January 30, 2009

Snooze You Lose

Onkyo 876

I want to buy a new home theater receiver to go along with my new Plasma Television. I've finally, after a very long process, decided on the Onkyo 876 . One problem, I have not yet picked out the speakers to go along with it.  Who knew how hard it is to pick speakers.  Seriously, there are way too many choices when it comes to speakers.  Everybody has a different opinion, and everyone's advice is the same.  Speakers are an individual choice and you have to hear them for yourself.  The problem is that most of the better speakers do not have show rooms where you can go hear them.  So since I have not quite yet picked out the speakers to go along with the receiver, I have not jumped on my purchase.

Now this receiver is available on Amazon, which is where I want to buy it. However, it has not been in stock for the past month. Earlier this week, it finally came into stock. However, since I have not yet been able to pick out speakers, I have not ordered it yet. I logged in this morning only to discover it is already out of stock! Needless to say, I am a little frustrated, but I guess I should have just made up my mind about what speaker to get. Just goes to show, if you know what you want, you should just go after it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Where Does California Spend the Money?

I don't have the time today to write a full post so this one is going to be short.  I just have a quick question, what the hell is California doing with all the money?  California is in the midst of a budget crisis.  It has gotten to the point where they are going to delay tax returns.  Think about that.  That is money that rightfully belongs to the people.  The government should have never had it in the first place.  But they are going to withhold that money from its citizens.  Crazy.

But I seriously have to wonder what happens to all that tax money.  I took a quick look at the California budget, and like almost all government documents it is hard to fully understand.  If you look at the high level graphs you find that California spends the majority of its budget on three things, education, health care and human services, and law enforcement.  California has a high incidence of tax.  The income tax is high, the sales tax is high, and there is tax on alcohol, cigarettes , and corporations.  Given all the people in the state, you figure the total revenue would be quite high.  Yet somehow, California has poor schools, high crime, and a purported lack of hospital facilities.  What the heck is going on?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Government Jobs, A Double Edged Sword

I was talking to a friend recently who was lamenting her government job.  It was not that she was particularly disgruntled with her job, it was just that she felt that she had reached the peak of what she was going to accomplish in the next dozen or so years.  You see, for her to move up anymore, she would have to wait for her boss to leave or retire.  Neither of these seem likely at the present time.

This is in contrast to my current situation.  I have had some pretty good growth over the last few years.  The one exception for me would be at Microsoft.  Ironically, I would say Microsoft, up until recently, is almost like a government job.  What do I mean by this?  One of the reasons people covet government jobs is the security.  Take my mom for example.  She never had to worry about layoffs.  She worked for the government for over 35 years.  Through booms and busts, she kept her job. She did not have fantastic career growth, but she always had a job.

Now think about this.  If you have a government job, and your job is pretty safe no matter the situation, that means all your coworkers also have pretty safe and secure jobs.   There can only be so many managers in any organization whether they be public or private.  If there is never any turnover, there are fewer opportunities to move up as the bosses stick around just like the people underneath them.  As I stated in my previous post, some of my best career growth came at times where there were layoffs.  Layoffs create voids.  Voids at work create opportunities for someone to step in and take more responsibility.  This inevitably leads to career advancement.

I felt this way at Microsoft.  I felt trapped under the weight of the management above me.  There was great opportunity for growth when the size of the company was doubling every other year, but the pace of growth had slowed down dramatically and it had reached a saturation point when it came to management.  Because people just did not lose their job anywhere near fast enough, I worked with several people that should have been kicked out long ago, and the benefits are good enough to keep many people around, I just did not feel I could move up at the pace I wanted to and I was used to.  So I left, because, while I liked a lot of things about the company, and I was certain I could have had a job for years to come, I was never going to get the growth I desired.

And as if to prove my point, my career growth has come much faster than I could have ever predicted.  I now run an entire technology organization for the main division of my company including development, QA, and project management.  This same position at Microsoft would have taken me at a minimum six or seven years and more realistically it would have taken me ten or twelve.  Some of this has come with a lot more uncertainty, I could lose my job tomorrow for all I know, but it is a trade off I'm willing to make.

What do you think?  Is job security worth sacrificing career advancement?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stupid Charter Communications

I sometimes cannot believe how bad some companies are.  I had a perfect example of this happened this weekend when my cable internet was down for the entire weekend.

I was going to actually have several posts written this weekend so that I could have a regular posting schedule this week.  The week at work is going to be hectic as I have to finish off my reviews and my company is sponsoring a big trade show.  There just will not be much time to blog this week.  You add to it the fact that my fiancee was sick all weekend, meaning I never really left the house, and you can see how frustrated I became at the fact that Charter Communications does not have its act together enough to prevent a weekend long outage.

This is actually not the first long outage I've experienced with Charter.  Over the last year we have had a couple of day long outages.  I find that completely unacceptable.  I am part of an internet company.  I am now responsible for all the technology that gets delivered on that platform.  We do not have outages.  In the last several years, you can probably count on one hand the number of outages we have had that have lasted longer than 30 minutes.  Since I've been at the company in the last year, we haven't had any that lasted longer than that.  You can be certain that someone would get fired if an outage lasted more than a day.  I could not even imagine an outage that lasted two days as we have backup plans for our backup plans.

Yet somehow, Charter Communications had a city wide outage that lasted two days.  What the hell is that?  Worse, when I called about it, they gave me vague excuses and no time line when I might expect service back.  Just great.  Lucky for me, I get an internet connection on my computer by hooking up my phone but I don't like doing lots of personal stuff on that device since my work pays for it.  But seriously, what type of clown operation are these Charter guys running?  How ridiculous is it that they have a near monopoly on high speed internet service in the area.  If there ever was a reason consumers need competition and choice, this level of service clearly demonstrates it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Microsoft Layoffs, an Ex-Employee's Perspective

Just this Morning, Microsoft announced that it was going to layoff 5000 employees.  This is the first time in history that Microsoft has ever had a layoff and it really shows the depth of the economic problems that we are facing right now. I left Microsoft over a year ago for numerous reasons.  One of the reasons was because I thought Microsoft was sorely in need of a culture shock.  When companies get as big as Microsoft has become, inertia sets in.  It can be extremely difficult to get the organization moving.  And once moving, it can be extremely hard to make it change course.  I became frustrated on a daily basis just trying to get basic things done.  This is in direct contrast to my current job where I think people often move too fast for their own good.

I have nothing but good wishes for Microsoft going forward.  While I did not leave on the best of terms, I think that this was a situation very specific to me and not at all to do with the type of company that Microsoft is.  I still have a lot of friends there and hope that they are unaffected by any of this.

From the outside looking in, I think this is a good thing for Microsoft.  I think they needed to get smaller.  It is sad that there had to be an economic crisis for it to happen, but at least it is happening.  As someone whose job is to plan for the unexpected, as someone whose job it is to be proactive and not reactive, and as somone who developed this skill at Microsoft, I find it somewhat ironic that Microsoft is handling their headcount reduction this way.  They should have done this well before this.  They should not have waited for the economy to dictate their actions.  But again, maybe that just says something about the company that Microsoft is.

Not sure where most of the cuts will come.  My guess is that there needs to be hard looks at divisions which are not profitable and have no near term possibility of becoming profitable.  Near term being within a year or two.  This is not the environment where you want to be throwing money at things "hoping" they become profitable soon.  Shareholders get restless.  They do not like to see declining revenue AND declining earnings.  When revenues are near flat, your only recourse is to cut expenses.  The #1 expense at any technology driven company is headcount.  The first people to go need to be the people who do not bring in revenue commensurate to what they are paid.  Cash cows like Windows and Office are probably safe.  Products like my old one are not (it has already been announced that this product will be discontinued).

I am dealing with my own company having layoffs.  While I was personally unaffected, I think that that layoffs can be a very positive thing (I promise to write more about this in the next few days).  I've been part of several layoffs in my career.  It is almost always a good thing in the long term for both those who are let go and those who stay behind.  I have had some of my best career growth because of layoffs.    I am the type of person who always tries to see the bright side of things, even when they are at their most dire, and this is no exception.  I think Microsoft will become stronger for this if they can execute it correctly.  But that's the big question, can they?  I have my doubts.

They have already made one mistake.  They announced that there will be 5000 layoffs, but on about 1500 of those will be today.  Umm, that's just dumb.  Layoffs should happen once and only once.  Doing a slow bleed is very hard for all those involved as people are always looking over their shoulder rather than looking forward.  Looking forward is extremely important when there is more work to do and less people to do it.  You add that to the news that Apple had a fantastic quarter, and you have to wonder if Microsoft even has a coherent strategy to handle all of this.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lucky Day - 20% gain

Going to take a slight detour from my normal blogging routine to talk about a trade I made today.  It was a pretty good trade for me, but most of it was pretty lucky.

I've been, for a while, wanting to get long the market and get less short.  But work has been pretty busy lately (we had a layoff, more on that another day) and so I have had very little time to even think about what I want to do in the market.  I went to bed early last night, mostly because I was so tired from the long week, and was able to get up early.  I had some time to kill before work, so I started to see how I could finally get some trading done.

Now, the market was down about 10% from where I wanted to start to get a more long.  My strategy was to continue to get longer while the market moved down.  I want to trade the range.  That is, I believe the market will trade between a range that is about 20% wide.  When we get close to the bottom of that range, I get rid of my shorts and get more long.  As we get close to the top, I get out of my longs and increase my shorts.  It is extremely hard to do and takes a lot of discipline because it can seem like the market will never stop moving in a given direction.

Well, despite the fact that I think the financials are going to be hurting for awhile, I decided to get long, ultra long in fact.  Not a huge bet, but at least wanted to start another position.  So I bought 800 shares of UYG which cost me a little bit under $2500.  So not a huge positon by any means.  But like I said, I was going to buy a little more if it went down even further.   The ETF proceeded to end the day up 23% from the previous close.  I got about 18% of that gain.

Now I'm tempted to just get out.  In this market, best to just take your gains and run.  Granted, it is only about a $400 gain.  But in this environment, that really is not anything to sneeze at.  I might hang on for a little bit longer but will probably get out soon.  While I do think the market is probably up for the next few sessions, I believe it is best to just take profits when you get them and look elsewhere for opportunities.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Historic Event - Where Were You?

Swearing In

Today, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.  It was an historic event.  The type of event where you just know where you were when it happened.  It is like 9/11, I know exactly where I was when I first heard (I woke up to the news of the first plane on the radio, and thought nothing of it.  I turned on the TV later, only to wonder why there was a plane headed for the Twin Towers).

So for me, on this historic event, my answer will be in the dungeons of a parking garage.

It was not the plan to be there.  It just happened.  In fact, my carpool mate and I had planned on getting to work a little early just so that we could watch the event an the TVs at work.  We normally get in about 9:10, and so we were aiming to be about 20 minutes earlier than that.  Much to our dismay, Los Angeles' Traffic decided to intervene.  Now you have to understand that my carpool buddy is a huge Barack Fan.  It is often all she ever talks about it.  During the election, it almost drove me a little crazy.  So as we got near the building, it was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to park and make it into the building before he was sworn in.

So I did the gentlemanly thing.  I offered to drop her off in front of the building and park her car for her.   So she hopped out and rode up the stairs to go watch the innaugaration.  I got to go park the car. Just as I made my way around the block (there are lots of one way streets in Los Angeles) and got into the parking structure, they began to swear Obama in.  Just as it got to about 15 seconds into the ceremony, my radio reception cut out, and I missed the whole thing.

So that's how I will remember this historic event, I missed most of it.  How about you?  What were you doing?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Staying Late With the Team

I am tired tonight so I cannot write very much. The reason I am so tired is because I decided to stay late with my team tonight who is racing toward a deadline of tomorrow to release a project. Now, there really was no reason for me to stay with the team. I am a manager, that means I do not actually do the work, I just manage the people who do. So me staying tonight did not actually accomplish anything other than the slight boost in morale it gives my team :)

But I strongly believe in teams and it is a value I am trying to pass on to my team. That is why I stayed late with them tonight although I could not help them code or do the build. Most of my value is going to meetings, planning the work, and then directing the herd to accomplish the goals I have laid out for them. Late at night, in the rush toward a deadline, I am not much more than deadweight to the team. But I actually believe my presence, despite my uselessness, actually does serve as a positive. I think it is a little easier to stay late if you know your boss is staying late too. At the very least, you know your effort is not going unnoticed.

What do you think? Is it just stupid for me to stay late in this situation or does it actually make some sort of difference?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Circuit City Goes Dark

Circuit City

It was announced that Circuit City was unable to secure more financing or to find a buyer for its troubled business.  They have started an immediate liquidation sale at all their stores.

This has been a long time coming.  Without getting into too much detail, I had a lot of dealings with Circuit City at a business level.  I was, to say the least, not impressed with them.  When you compared them to companies like Best Buy, it was hard to see how Circuit City was ever going to make a comeback.  I predicted that a major retailer would go under this year.   While this one does not count toward that prediction, lots of people expected this, it really does not forebode well for the economy going forward.   Circuit City hires about 30,000 people.  That's 30,000 jobs that just vanished.  To make things worse, this probably will serve as a domino effect.  That is, Circuit City is often found in either malls or shopping centers.  These types of stores are considered "anchor stores".  They drive traffic to the other stores as people tend to like to do their shopping all at once.

I actually went to a Circuit City this past weekend to see if there was anything worth buying.  Let me go on record as saying almost all Liquidation sales are a complete waste, and this one is no exception.  I could go on a long post about how liquidators dupe consumers in these sales but I digress.  Let me just say this.  The particular Circuit City I went to was packed.  I had never seen it quite so full.  Walking in to the store, there were long lines as people were waiting their turn at the undermanned cashiers.  As I walked around the store, I saw several signs for either 10-30% off the original price.  Is this a good deal?  Not sure how people think that it is.

You can buy almost anything online for 10-30% off.  Seriously, just go to Amazon and do a little bit of shopping.  Almost everything there is at least 10% off the MSRP.  All most liquidation sales do is to mark things back up to the original price, and then take the discount off the top.  While 10-30% is nothing to sneeze at, it also is not as good of a deal as it seems.  I checked out several TV's and sound systems just to gauge how much one might "save" and pretty much everything I looked at could be had for cheaper at Amazon and for us Californians had without sales tax.  Yet here was a store full of people waiting in Christmas-like lines to get these "discounts".  If this is not some sort of commentary on the American Consumer, I am not sure what is.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Bite Out of Apple

Steve Jobs

What is Apple thinking?  I am going to take a slight detour from my new blogging pattern to talk about Apple's announcement after hours.  It was announced that Steve Jobs is going to take a leave of absence to take care of health issues.  These issues surfaced months ago, and Apple dismissed it.  As recently as a week ago Apple said there was nothing seriously wrong with Jobs and today they come out and say, "Oops we were wrong".  What could have materially changed in one week?

If there is one thing I know, is that you really need to set expectations correctly, especially with things as important as this.   A week ago, Apple should have either said they had nothing to say or that they did not know the full extent of the problems.  Many people who have seen Steve Jobs recently have said that he is looking pretty bad.  Reports are that several people who have talked with him say he is actually somewhat delusional about the current state of his own health.  That is not good to hear if you are an Apple investor.

Whatever the case may be, this is pretty bad news for Apple.  While I do not think any one person is the key reason for the success of a company as big as Apple, Steve Jobs comes pretty close.  I could argue that he is more important to Apple than Buffet is to Berkshire, and that is saying something.  I don't think I know the name of even one other employee at Apple, and that is pretty rare for me.  Especially at a technology company as important as Apple.  Do you think this is a big blow to Apple, or am I just overreacting?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winning Awards at Work

Sorry, don't have much time for a post today.  I'm beat.  It has been a long long week and it is only Tuesday!

I'm going to stray a little off topic because I honestly do not have the energy to think about a creative blog topic today.  I need to get some rest.   But I will post about one thing, I got a small award at work today and it felt nice to get recognized.  My company basically recognized a handful of employees for the work that they have done throughout the year.  I will be honest and say I thought I was not the appropriate person for the spirit of the award.  It was an award to recognize the people who do their job but might not normally get recognized.

While I have done great work this year, especially considering I'm literally doing three jobs, I have to say that I think my work gets recognized by the people that need to recognize it.  I am a very public figure at my company, so people know the amount of work I have on my plate and how hard it is.  I have to regularly meet weekly with most of the senior VPs in the company and I have my regular one on one with the president.  So it is hard for me to say that I do not normally get recognized.   I would also argue that many of the people who also got it are pretty visible people too.  I guess my preference would just be to give it to people who truly do do work that maybe nobody notices.

Nevertheless, it was nice to get an award.  For most people, the prize would be quite desirable.  I basically get to go to the a party my company is throwing at a famous Los Angeles Landmark.  The party is famous for being a pretty good time, and of course the venue this year is an interesting one ...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Writing (Good) Reviews Is Hard

I spent most of the weekend writing my employee reviews and only got half of them done.  I wonder if it is really worth it.  I know most of the managers out there do not spend this much time with their reviews.  I however feel obligated to do a good job even though I have only been the manager for this group for the last three months.  Most managers will just put down what they want in the review, put a comment or two, and leave it at that.  But I feel like if I am going to say good things or bad things, I should actually justified every good or bad rating with specific examples.  It is a lot harder than it sounds, especially when you were not the group's manager for most of the year.

So what do you think?  Do you really care how much time your manager puts in your review?  Would you rather just get your rating and be done with it or do you actually want specific feedback on your work?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Split the Finances

Splitting Finances

Lately, I've had some conversations with people about how I split my finances with my fiancĂ©e.  Here and I have talked a lot about money and our expectations about how we spend/save it since we started living together more than three years ago.  We have had further talks to see how we will handle things we we get married.  Lots of couples avoid having this talk and think things will just figure themselves out.  That is a complete mistake.  Most marriages fail because of money issues.  It is better to get this topic out front and talk about it than let it stay in the background.

So what do we do?  Our formula is pretty simple.   Lots of people would just split their finances 50/50 but I did not think that was very fair.  So early in the relationship I suggested something different.  If you add up our combined salaries, I make 72% of the income.  I therefore pay 72% of our shared expenses.  Shared expenses are things like rent, groceries, eating out, and household items.  We do not split things like clothing, electronics, student loans, or our individual car payments.  Those our paid from our individual accounts.

So lets take an example.  Let us imagine we take home $10,000 a month combined.  For the sake of simple math, let's say I earn 75% of the income and she makes 25% of the income.

Now lets say our combined household expenses are $3000 a month.   I would pay $2250 a month and she would pay $750.  We used to add up the money to be exact, but it ended up being close to the same amount every month so instead we switched to a model where I pay all the household bills, and she cuts me a check for the same amount every month.  Our expenses have probably changed since we came up with the system, but we figured it is close enough and there is no need to quibble over a few bucks here and there.

When we want to buy things that one person wants, we do not argue about it.  The person just buys it because they have their own money.  So when I decided to buy my new Plasma TV, there really was not any discussion about it.  I just did it.  In fact, she probably pushed me to buy it.  After all, she would get to enjoy it while I was paying for it :)

I find that this arrangement works great.  There literally has NEVER been an argument about how we spend money because we have figured out a system that works for us.  There have been times when one person wanted something and the other person did not and we discussed if it should come from the common fund or not.  But in the end, if one person really does not want it, it would just be up to the other person to buy it from their own funds.

Is this going to change much when we get married?  Not really.  We will probably get a shared account which we do not have now and put our money into that joint account.  We do have a shared credit card where we do put our shared expenses on, but not a joint bank account.  Some of the separate expenses will be combined.  So we will combine our car insurance payments and our medical expenses.  The only real difference we have discussed is how we are going to handle our savings.  We will probably have a predetermined amount we decide to save. This will just be added as a shared "expense" and then put aside.  For example, say we decide to save 40% of our income.  So if we use the numbers in my previous example, we would simply treat the $4000 as a common expense.  I would put in another $3000 a month, she another $1000.  That means I would put in my own account $2250 and she would put $750.  While it may seem like I certainly get to save more money, in reality it does not really work out that way.  Neither of us really spend money, so in the end it does not really matter who ends up with more money as neither of us will spend it.

So what do you think?  How do you split up your finances?  Do you think what I do is fair?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

First Week of 2009 - What I'm Doing

I've done nothing this past week.  I've looked very hard at trying to do something, but I just can't find something I am comfortable with.  What I wish to do is get long something.  That is, I want to buy stock in either a specific company or in a sector.  I'm mostly looking to get long something in the Health Care sector, probably the Biotechnology sector (IBB), or crazy enough get even more long the Financial sector.  I would offset any position by getting short the market and then hope to stay neutral in my investment.

This would, I hope, keep me hedged and allow me to be neutral no matter what the market does, either up or down.  How sad is that?  Rather then make money, I am trying to stay neutral for now.   The job numbers come out tomorrow, and I do not expect very good things.  Worse things are coming, of that I'm sure.  It is hard to tell which way the market will move.  While I expect the job number to be bad, the market has reacted pretty well the last few weeks despite the bad news.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Unprecedented Events Makes Prediction Impossible

I obviously follow the market and the economy quite closely.  The thing that you hear most often these days are comparisons to previous bear markets.  I cannot turn on CNBC and not hear someone state that, "this is the worse market since 1929" or that "We are in the midst of recovery because recessions typically last 15 months".  The thing I find most hilarious about these comparisons is that they are completely incapable of describing the current economic climate.

We as humans tend to have a need to compare.  People judge how well off they are by comparing themselves to their neighbor.  Hence the "keeping up with the Jonses" mentality.  People compare their own relationships to others to determine how how happy they are in their current relationship.  So it is no surprise that when it comes to economics, we wish to use the past to tell us what the future holds.  But just as in the stock market, you cannot determine future economic conditions by looking at past results.

To make it even worse, the data just is not there even if you want to make comparisons.  There have been about a dozen bear markets in the last hundred years.  That is simply not enough data points to make any sort of model.  If you add in bear markets during recessions and during credit crunches you whittle this number down to one or two other instances, and that is definitely not enough to give you any sort of statistical significance.  Of course people will say, "But, but it is only an extrapolation".  While true, any model has to have at least some similarities.  And seriously, we have not seen anything like this before.

The job numbers came out from ADP.  They used some funny math this time around, but it just confirmed what I already knew.  The job situation is getting worse, not better.  We have at least several more months of companies making cutbacks before we see any relief in sight.  The market took this news and dropped about 3% today.  I expect it to continue to go down and trade in a wide range.  850 on the S&P can come faster then you think.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Government Crowding Out Investment

Wilbur RossWilbur Ross, a famous investor best known for buying companies in distressed industries, proclaimed that he is looking to buy a bank.  He declared,
"We will end up with a bank, there is no doubt about that."   He goes on to state that he actually wanted to buy a bank sometime last year but the government's TARP plan put a hold on that.

Read that line again.  Because the government intervened, a private investor decided not to invest.  I actually blogged about this a few weeks ago when I talked about the unintended consequences the government was creating with its bailout plan.   And now here is proof that this is exactly what is going on.  Because the government is now in the business of investing in private institutions, private investors are holding back their own plans to do the same thing.  Can you blame them?  Government interaction does a number of things.

  • Makes equities more expensive because government is propping the company up

  • Subordinates your own investment since the government is mandating first rights to any liquidation

  • Makes it near impossible to really value companies because you are not sure what the government might do next

To make matters worse, the government is putting YOUR tax dollars at risk here when others were more than happy to take on the risk instead. I do not really care if someone like Wilbur Ross loses his shirt when a bank collapses. I care very much when my the government loses my tax dollars. Even if these "investments" pay off for the tax payer, I think the government was silly to take on the risk because it could just as easily go the other way.

Of course it is just going to get worse.  The government is going to start investing in more programs far more reaching than just the banking sector.  Will it crowd out private investors?  Of course it will.  The only real question is, by how much?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Managing Your Boss: Give Him Options

Or in my case, give her options.  This is a standard bit of advice I give people when it comes to their boss. Whenever my boss asks me for advice, I always make sure to give her my recommendation along with a few more options for her to consider.  Just this past week, I gave her a list of ideas about how I would go about changing the tech org.  I did not think all of them were great ideas (one of them even suggested she should let me go) but I wanted to let her know that I completely thought through the problem.  I provided the pros and cons of each of the options, and then let her make the final decision.  In this case and others, if I have done my job correctly, she will just go with my recommendation.  As a manager myself, this is what I generally do.  I will almost always go with the recommendation of those that work for me.  If I did not trust them to make good decisions, I would have some other issues to deal with.

While seemingly obvious, not everybody really understands why this is so important.  People generally move up the professional ladder because they are good at making decisions.  Your boss is probably no exception.  What you are doing when you come to your boss with options is giving them a chance to flex what I am sure they consider to be one of her strengths.  Your boss probably does not have all the answers and will appreciate it if you lay down all the available options to her so she can make an informed decision. If you only give her one option, it puts her in a bad position and does not give her a chance to feel totally behind the directive.

Further, taking the time to actually think through all the options and presenting them to your boss shows that you have fully considered all the options.  So long as you come up with a good recommendation and thoughtful options, it should hopefully instill some confidence in your boss that you are capable of making your own decisions.  In time, your boss will come to learn, by seeing the thought you put in your recommendation, that you are capable of making your own decisions.  She will trust you more. She will come to your more often for advice because she will know you will completely think through the problem.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Coming to A Blog Near You: Structure!

I've spent the last year blogging about whatever happens to come across my mind that day.  I admit, it hasn't been the most ordered way to go about things and I think I could use a nice kick in the pants when it comes to blogging.  To that end, I'm really going to try and focus this blog in the coming year and make sure I blog about the things that interest me (and my readers) on a more regular schedule.  To that end this is what I will attempt blog about:

Mondays: Mondays mean it is back to work, so expect me to talk about career advice and other things

Tuesdays: Probably one of my favorite topics, our government and the effect on our lives.

Wednesdays:  Economics.  It pervades so much of our lives, so I'll discuss some sort of economic concept and how it effects us day to day.

Thursdays: What's going on in the stock market and what I plan on doing about it

Fridays: Won't write every Friday, but when I do, it will be about something completely random that has little if anything to do with any of the other topics

Saturdays: Taking a day off

Sunday: Something personal.

I will not strictly stick to the schedule, I may change my mind if something else catches my attention that day, but I will   Let me know what you think

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Life After Making Six-Figures

Before people get worried, no, I  do not have to figure out this scenario.  I usually browse the top headlines available to the right just to see what's going on in the world.  Often times something catches my eyes and I like to comment on it.  Today, there was an article about people who have had to learn to live after they have lost their six-figure jobs.  I am certain that all over the country, people are starting to learn to live with this reality.  A six figure job is a sort of status symbol.  It is for many, the pinnacle of achievement.  For most Americans, the belief is that your life will become much better and much easier if you can grab this brass ring.  People feel they have "made it" if they can do this, and they start living a much better lifestyle.

However, this is probably just a mirage for most people.  I can tell you from experience that your life does not just become magically better because you start making more money.  Many many people in the coming years are going to find themselves in this predicament because the jobs that are disappearing are not coming back.  There was definitely a bubble out there, and it will take years for us to recover.  Having been unemployed for months, many of these people have had to accept jobs that pay significantly less, often times as much as 70% less.  That requires a drastic change in lifestyle, or does it ...

The article got me thinking what I would have to do if I all of a sudden lost my job and had to take a much lower paying job.  In these tough times, it is not out of the realm of possibility.  So how would my life change if I had to accept say a 50% pay cut?

Well not much.  This is because I control two sides of my financial equation.  I control both the income side and more importantly, I control the cost side.   If you count the income of my fiance now, I have about quadrupled my income in the last 8 years of my life.  Have I quadrupled the cost side?  Not even close.  I might have increased my total cost by about double, but that's about it.  And that's a double from the meager livings of a recent college grad.  I could in fact live the exact same lifestyle I do today, cutting no cost, and probably live that way almost indefinitely.  I could take my own income to zero (leaving the fiance's there), and live off my savings for at least five years.  That's without scaling back.

However, I could just as easily scale back.  The biggest cost is easily the apartment.  I am now on a month to month lease, so if I reduced that cost by about 40%, which I could easily do, and got rid of one of the cars, which would be no problem since we only use one now anyway and I do not have a job to drive to in this scenario, I think we could actually live quite comfortably for quite a long time.  After I got over the initial shock and fear of losing my job, I am sure I could even turn the whole thing into a positive as it would give me time to pursue other things I'm really interested in.

So why have I done this?  Who in their right mind would prepare so well for a disaster scenario that is (hopefully) unlikely to happen?  Well, it comes down to the fact that I am by my very nature conservative and not willing to put my own fate in the hands of others, namely my employer or the economy.  It is just upbringing really as I saw first hand my family go from upper middle-class to barely scraping by.  You should never believe that disaster is not just one accident or one pink slip away.

Wow, that was kind of a downer to bring in the new year huh?  OK, got to write something much more upbeat next.  Probably will not be posting until next week, but I hope everyone had a great New Year!