Category Archives: success

you may not be an entrepreneur

angel of business

angel of business

 

I’ve often fantasized about becoming an entrepreneur. It’s an easy thing for someone who works in the corporate world to do. I made a halfway move: I’m a consultant. I don’t really live ‘in’ the world that my corporate colleagues do, but I do physically sit in the same place and enjoy the same pleasant fluorescent-filled days they do. But you’ll find in this corporate world that many employees dream of a future, full of boss-less days, exciting work and endless financial rewards. Here’s a wakeup call.

If you are an entrepreneur, nothing will stop you. I had friends in college (and in high school) who were entrepreneurs. They not only didn’t want to take a job while they built a business – they NEVER wanted a job. The very idea of a job was antithetical to the way they thought. I have relatives like this, too. They would rather live in a dump than take a ‘job’. They might work at at gas station for a while, or a temp job, just to put a roof over their heads. But they never, ever would engage in the kind of corporate jobs many people accept for granted. They wouldn’t give up the time when they could be building a business to sit in a cubicle and wait.

That’s not an indictment of corporate employment. It works for some people. But I don’t like the idea that within ever corporate employee there’s an entrepreneur waiting to bust out. That’s possible, but not likely. Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve known were uncontrollable maniacs – they had to get out there and build something. They were never going to settle for sitting at a desk.

It’s hard to admit what you are, sometimes. I wasn’t an employee – that was an easy admission for me to make, after I made the switch. What was tough for me was admitting that, other than my side income through my blog, I wasn’t an entrepreneur. I’m not. It’s not my skill set – I’m technically savvy but I’m a terrible marketer and salesperson. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll do it as soon as you have 30 days’ worth of rent money saved up. You’ll be ready for the risk. If you don’t? You’re still a good person, but you’re probably better off leaving the business-building to someone else, and concentrating on your job.

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Teaching Children About Finances

monopoly money

monopoly money

It seems that most parents are always lecturing their children with the old adage that says “money does not grow on trees” whenever their children seem to be asking for too many things. Money certainly does not grow on trees, but how are children supposed to know that? To all intents and purposes, some children do not have any idea about finances and how their parents are able to get money for all their ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. It is therefore important that parents take the time to teach their children about money when they are old enough to grasp financial concepts.

Educating children about money will empower them to become financially savvy when they grow up. They will know the importance of getting a savings account as well as making sound financial investments when they become adults. Below are some great ideas for financial education for kids.

1. Explain How Mommy And Daddy Earn Money:

The concept of work and pay has to be explained first and foremost. Children need to know how their parents get money to take care of family needs such as food, accommodation and clothing. Explain to them that parents get paid for the job they do at their workplace. Make them understand that some of this money is used to take care of all the family needs, and the rest is placed in a savings account for future needs.

2. Teach Them About The Exchange of Labor for Money:

To better help children grasp the principles of work, parents should employ them when they are old enough to do simple tasks around the house such as vacuuming, sorting the laundry or taking the trash out, for which they get paid. Parents can also encourage children to work at odd jobs once they are a bit older: starting up a neighborhood business raking leaves is a great example.

3. Teach Them About Saving Money:

Buy a piggy bank for them and encourage them to save some of the money they’ve earned from working at home. When children are trained to do things in a certain way, it never departs from them when they grow up. Open a savings account in their name if possible. They will feel a sense of pride when they see the statement addressed to them.

4. Investments And Life Insurance:

Let children know that investing in bonds and real estate are some long-term means for making money. Buy bonds in their names if possible, to instill that education in them. They will do the same for their children in future. Also let them understand the importance of life insurance. If parents happen to have a policy (and if you have children you probably should), they should educate their children about the purpose of life insurance as soon as they are old enough to understand the concept of life and mortality.

5. Teach Them About Needs And Wants:

Help children understand the difference between the things they need and those they want. They should know that certain things are just frivolous and though they can be indulged in occasionally, those indulgences should not become a habit. This will stop reckless spending when they grow up. Teaching frugality at an early age is critical, because once children start school they’ll be surrounded by other kids who won’t have been taught the same lessons. If your kids haven’t learned to be frugal at home, they certainly won’t from their peers.

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the only real sources of passive income

lazy cat

lazy cat

Years ago when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the idea of passive income lit my brain on fire. I had never thought of making money for nothing.  I assumed that money was achieved only due to the hard-pressed exchange of time for money.  Kiyosaki, the author of RDPD, assured us that passive income was the key to wealth.

Where is the passive income?

I plunged into research. I identified rental income, investment income and even creating original content as “passive income.”  I had visions of checks flowing in, one after the other, landing in a pile on my desk.  But after time, I realized that the pursuit of passive income was nearly impossible through these routes.  How can you really make passive income?  Inquiring minds want to know.  These are the top 8 “real” ways to make passive income, but even they have a catch – all but the last one.
1.  Pick up spare change off the ground. You do have to bend over, but you probably do that at work every day, so you’ll at least be getting something out of this transaction.

2.  Marry someone rich. You’ll have to do some work, true, but if you aim high enough we’re talking about a huge return on investment here.

3.  Hook up with someone rich and desperate enough to pay to keep you around – the classic “sugar daddy/momma” scenario.   Granted, you may have to do some (unpleasant) work here… but I’ve seen this work out where surprisingly little effort is expected in return.

4.  Have someone else do the work for you; a nice trick if you can manage it.  Ask your buddy the web designer to create a website for you – for free.  Why would he do it?  The exposure?  The joy of being taken advantage of?  Don’t worry – you’re getting passive income!  This makes up about 90% of the “advertising” inquiries most bloggers get:  “hey, we’ve got a new service that’s just like Mint.com only shinier!  Please write a post/link to us/give us free advertising because it’s great news for your readers!”

5.  Win an office lottery pool. OK, you risked a few dollars, but someone else went to the bodega, bought the ticket and checked the results.  You didn’t put much sweat into your share of the Mega Millions, did you?

6.  Gamble. There is, of course, a potential downside here.  But if sitting around sipping free martinis while playing a game and winning (that being the key component) isn’t as close to passive income as possible, I don’t know what is.

7.  Invest in dividend-paying stocks. This point is a cheat.  You have to earn the money that you use to buy the stock.  On the other hand, everything that happens after you buy it is gravy.  That income becomes close to truly passive – so the trick is to use windfalls (an economic stimulus check, for example) to invest in dividend-paying stocks.

8.  Be born rich. Yes, you have to be nice enough to great-aunt Milfred to avoid getting cut out of your trust fund, but let’s face it:  this is as close to passive income as you’ll see in this life.  It’s worked like gangbusters for many of our politicians.

Don’t think you’ll get rich without working for it.  Everything you can generate wealth from takes effort.  Writing a book is hard work.  It may create a wealthstream for years to come, but that’s what you should be aiming for:  wealthstreams, not passive income.  Don’t imagine that there’s a magical key to wealth that doesn’t involve either hard ongoing work or a good bit of upfront work.

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in the future, college will be for the rich and smart

MIT

MIT

 

Read this:

In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that mark. The total amount of outstanding student loan debt is now more than $1 trillion.

That’s from this NY Times article.  The simple fact is that in the future the smart and the rich will attend college, and if you’re poor or middle class and attend college, you’ll be saddled with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars of student loan debt – the only debt that the US government won’t allow you to discharge in bankruptcy.  Wonder why the government wants every kid to attend college?  Because you can’t discharge that debt – you’re on the hook whether you can afford it or not.  So we all need to attend college, and a good one, and incur plenty of debt doing it.  I didn’t buy it – I turned down the Ivy League and went to a state school, and still ended up with a six figure career.

I’ve written about this before.  I do not plan to pay for my childrens’ college education.  They will have to be smart enough to get scholarships, or they’ll have to work their way through college, or they can start a business right out of high school.  I don’t plan to indebt myself a quarter million to send them to a private school – a waste of money in my opinion – or allow them to indebt themselves, either.  That may sound cruel, but I think it’s far crueler to allow your 18-year-old – who doesn’t understand the world or personal finance – to go into a quarter million dollar debt for their English degree from Harvard.

There are exceptions, of course.  If you want to go into debt at Harvard to study government or finance and you’re going to leverage that into a job at Goldman Sachs, sigh, fine, have at it.  If you want to work your way through school to get a social work degree and you need an extra $10K to cover tuition, OK, that’s fine.  But if you want to study Sanskrit at Brown, and you’re my kid, good luck.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb:  don’t take out more in student loans than you can make (reasonably) in your first year out of school.  If you’re in education, and you plan to make $30K in your first year as a teacher:  don’t incur more than $30K in debt for school.  That may not sound like much, but after you pay for housing, food, insurance, and on and on, you’re going to be chipping away at that $30K per year for a decade.  And if you decide in the interim to get married and buy a house?  Forget about making headway against that loan.  Kids?  Paying it off at 50.

Generation X had a mixed bag: some paid, some earned, and some coasted on their college scholarships.  Many Gen Yers coasted.  Many Gen Xers – or whatever they are called – are counting on coasting, and will be shocked to find out their parents don’t have the money to let them coast.  Here’s hoping the Millenials – which include, I guess, my own kids, or whatever their generation will be called – will realize that they need to be smart and win scholarships, or be hard workers and sludge through community college and state college, or else will need to forge a college-less path through life.  I won’t encourage either of them to incur massive amounts of debt to get a low-earning degree; they’ll be better off starting a business or working as freelancers.  And you know what?  Motivated, talented people will always succeed, degree or not; and unmotivated, untalented people will always fail, even if they go to $100K/year schools.

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Francisco Diez

back to school (the imaginary kind)

james meredith memorial

This is an old article from brip blap – almost four years ago – so in case you missed it the first time, here it is again…

I have given some thought over the years to going back to school. Ah, to be back in the fraternity, drinking Schlitz, playing lacrosse and sleeping from 4 am to 2 pm. Oh, you thought I meant for the classes and the knowledge? Are you kidding me?

[In 2007] I was invited to participate in a meme: to devise a list of 5-10 courses you would take to fix your life. I was supposed to pick one of the courses that the person who ‘tagged’ me for the meme chose, as well, so that we can skip classes and copy each other’s notes. Just for the sake of being different I’ll attend 7 (imaginary) courses.


  1. Art of Persuasion 101 is the class I’d like to share with her [Melissa, who originally tagged me]. Why? Who doesn’t need this skill? Is there any way that’s NOT a useful skill to have? I can think of a million ways that could be useful, but in particular being able to persuade my son to eat his breakfast would be a HUGE benefit!
  2. Car Maintenance for Your Post-2000 Car 101: When I was younger, I managed to do a lot of car maintenance on my 1976 Mercury Comet without too much trouble. Nowadays I open up the hood and don’t see much that I can distinguish from the guts of my Toshiba computer. I’m nervous just adding wiper fluid. Hopefully this imaginary life-fixing college would have an imaginary community college campus where I could take a class like this one.
  3. Simplification 101: As much as I do try to simplify, there is always something new to complicate my life. I’d like to have a magic bullet – as much as I know there isn’t one – so why not take a course like this?
  4. Yoga 102: I have been to a yoga course, and I liked it. I like the idea, I like the fact that many pro athletes rely on it for conditioning, and I like the promised stress relieving benefits. Yet… I never do it. I need a class to convince me once and for all that I need to engage myself fully in yoga.
  5. Real Estate Appraisal/Inspection 101: OK, the real estate bubble burst. OK, this isn’t your typical college course. However, I can’t imagine any way, shape or form it wouldn’t be handy to have a good understanding of how to appraise and inspect and evaluate real estate. Even if you never invest in real estate, being able to help family and friends or even look at your own home would be a hugely useful skill.
  6. Environmental Studies 202: I’ve read a lot about the environment. One book in particular shook me terribly, but I sometimes feel that I could use a twofold course about the environment: 1, the detailed science around global warming, 2, a detailed examination of the environmental threats faced by urban dwellers and 3, how to protect your home. Fortunately most of this information is available through blogs and websites so I’ve got a lot of resources to fall back on.
  7. Getting Off the Grid 101: I get really worried sometimes that I’m “out there” too much…hence the semi-anonymous blogging. There may be too many people with too much information about me. I think a thorough course in how to “disappear” myself as much as possible would probably be handy later on in life. I may actually soon de-anonymize (is that a word) brip blap [ed. note: since 2007 I have…], so I probably have to be careful about this…

I suspect as I look at that list I may have been too narrow minded – these are hardly grand themes to fix my life, just tweaks. I just thought that something like “Perfect Retirement Planning” wouldn’t be as interesting to read. In any case, these courses would fix parts of my life.

And one more course for nothing more than my own enjoyment, Astronomy 103b “Just the Cool Stuff.” I love astronomy – discovering planets, dark matter, Voyager and Pioneer trivia, quasars, and on and on. I am really, really fascinated by the Pillars of Creation. Oddly enough, I never took a course in astronomy while at college and have never done more than show a layman’s fascination. I think in an alternate lifetime I was an astronomer, though, because I could read about this stuff for days. Nothing close to earth like the space shuttle or the space station, but the crazy far-off stuff just fascinates me. It won’t fix my life but it might make me happier… so that might be a fix, anyway.

Tags. Hmm. I tagged a bunch of people recently so maybe I’ll stretch past my normal blogroll and tag-ees and go to some blogs I haven’t mentioned much (or at all) before, but that I do read: Variable Interest and One Money Dummy Getting Smarter. And as always, tag yourself if you feel so inclined!

Recommended Reading

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America saves… should it?

piggybank

We’re about halfway through America Saves Week and I started thinking about saving, naturally.  I’ve written about saving money before, probably most infamously when I said that spending less than you earn was the wrong way to think.  My thoughts haven’t changed much since I wrote that article a few years ago (yes, brip blap is approaching five years old).  If you expect to save and reduce and spend less on your way to wealth, you’ll likely be disappointed.

Let me clarify.  I’ve been a frequent proponent of many of the philosophies espoused by Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme and Syd at Retirement: A Full Time Job, and some of the newer “early-retirement” (for lack of a better term) blogs like Brave New Life and Mr. Money Mustache. They make a valid point:  you are not your khakis.  You are not your designer coffee tables.  You can stop spending and reap remarkable benefits.  I completely agree – consumerism affects far too many of us.  Possibly all of us, with the exception of a few… you don’t find many people in my experience who are living far below their means.  Most people are amazed to find someone living slightly below their means.  So the idea that you should spend less than you earn is, in fact, not the wrong way to think.  I need to do more of this, because although I’m not deeply enmeshed in the consumerist lifestyle, I’ve seen a bit too much of “lifestyle creep” to feel innocent.

But I’ve always thought that far too many people sit on their hands when it comes to income, and that’s what I’m focused on now.  A great first step for anyone is to say “hey, I make $40,000 a year – I probably shouldn’t spend more than $40,000.”  But that’s a first step.  The next step should be to think “hey, how can I make $50,000 while continuing to live on $40,000″?  At first, cutting spending is easier:  using less electricity, driving less, spending less on restaurants, etc. – these are easy steps.  But at a certain point, your efforts may be better focused on earning than on spending.

Those may sound like lofty goals, but they aren’t.  I’ve written about the 8 steps to achieve a six-figure career, but I left out one small extra:   for most people, that six-figure career won’t come from a single source.  I don’t think going forward into the future that anyone with ambitions to retire comfortably will be able to do so relying on a single employer, or a single business.  The most successful people will have multiple sources of income, in different fields, which will enable those people to weather downturns in one field by relying on income from another.

I blog.  I don’t need to, honestly.  I make a good living consulting, but it’s easy to appreciate why I continue to operate  a side business like blogging:  when consulting dries up, blogging will still be there.  I enjoy it, of course, but it provides a side income.  I have several other blogs besides brip blap, as well – all of them provide a slow trickle of income.  Soon I’ll be talking more about how I’ve built that business up.  Several days a month now my blogging income exceeds my consulting income, and my goal is to make it exceed my consulting income every day.

Back to America Saves:  it’s the first message and the best message for most people.  If you’re reading brip blap, I imagine you’re already familiar with the basics of saving and being frugal.  Focus on your income.  Do you rely solely on your employer’s beneficence for income?  Stop it.  Get something going on the side.  I’ll guarantee that side income will be the sweetest money you’ll ever make, and you’ll get that much closer to your goals that much more quickly.  Save first – that’s critical.  But earn more:  it’s not as hard as you might think, and it will motivate you more than you can imagine.

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3 Things I Wish I Was Told As A College Freshman

studying


Today’s guest post comes from Jenny. In her own words: “I am currently a junior in college and living in New York City. Going through the job recruitment process now has made me reflect a lot on the past 3 years of my life. Here are some things I wish I had been told on day one:”

Pick a major you love, not necessarily one that is related to the career you think you want.

There is a very simple reason for this: if the subject is something you enjoy learning, you will inevitably be good at it and that will lead to a high GPA. From experience, I can say that GPA has been the very first factor used by both large and mid-size firms when screening applicants’ resumes and thus is a deciding factor in landing your first internships and full-time jobs. It is to your dual advantage to have a high GPA while studying what you enjoy.

But what if I am a biology major and want to go into the financial services industry, you ask – shouldn’t I major in economics or finance? Not at all.

See, with all of the competition in today’s job market, companies have grown to love the “story hires”. These are people who have a story as to why they have decided to change their career path or explore other options and that makes them more interesting to employers and well-rounded as individuals. I know for a fact there are people working at one of the top investment banks on Wall Street right now who actually have medical degrees and used to be surgeons.

You can major in whatever you want, as long as you are able to talk about “transferrable skills” you acquired along the way that are relevant to the job.

Have a 5-Year Plan.

Although this is not Soviet Russia under Stalin, it is important to have an idea about what the next 5 years of your life will look like. I was blind-sided when my junior year of college rolled around, summer internship recruitment season was in full swing, and all of sudden all of the interviewers expected me to know exactly what location, what division and what group I want to work in. I felt like I had to decide the rest of my life in just 2 weeks.

Very often when young adults start college, they are advised that they should use this time (all 4 years) to explore. Though I am in no way against this, I do believe that “exploring” should be done in a specific direction. Because at the end of those 4 years, everyone will want the same thing: a job to start their career.  The people who have done the research, know what to expect, and have a clearer sense of the direction of their career are in a much better position.

Take a few minutes to plan what classes to take when, which school clubs may be good to get involved in, and start talking to upperclassmen about their experiences so you know what to expect.

Start Talking to Upperclassmen About Their Experiences

Upperclassmen are a seriously under-valued and untapped resource for underclassmen. These are people who were just recently in your shoes and have survived it unscathed and that much wiser. Why not ask them about it?

A lot of times first-year (and second year) students are intimidated by upperclassmen and tend to shy away from interaction, let alone asking for advice. I remember I used to think upperclassmen were so much smarter and so busy that they could not possibly relate to me. Well, with time I have learned that all it takes is some courage to ask a question and the rest works out. You would be surprised how incredibly willing people are to give advice if you just ask for it.

I recently adopted a freshman buddy in this way. I was at an event and this girl sat down next to me, we started talking, and she later asked for my telephone number so that she may call me if she needs advice. I gladly gave it to her and now she texts me whenever she has questions.

The next time you’re in class, at a club meeting, sporting event or a company presentation, approach an upperclassman and ask a question. They were in your shoes just a year or two ago and can give you so much information about the right classes, professors, clubs, and internships that you would never be able to find on Google.

Jenny is a undergradute finance major attending college in New York and a first-time contributor on brip blap.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by lethaargic

8 ways to obtain passive income

piggy bank

piggy bank

A few years ago when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the concept of passive income lit my brain on fire. I had never thought of the idea of making money for nothing.  I assumed that money was achieved only due to the hard-pressed exchange of time for filthy lucre.  Kiyosaki, the author of RDPD, assured us that passive income was the key to wealth.

Where is the passive income?

I plunged into research. I identified rental income, investment income and even creating original content as “passive income.”  I had visions of checks flowing in, one after the other, landing in a pile on my desk called the PI pile.  But after time, I realized that the pursuit of passive income was nearly impossible through these routes.  How can you really make passive income?  Inquiring minds want to know.  These are the top 8 “real” ways to make passive income, but even they have a catch – all but the last one.

  1. Pick up spare change off the ground. You do have to bend over, but you probably do that at work every day, so you’ll at least be getting something out of this transaction.
  2. Marry someone rich. You’ll have to do some work, true, but if you aim high enough we’re talking about a huge return on investment here.
  3. Hook up with someone rich and desperate enough to pay to keep you around – the classic “sugar daddy” scenario.   Granted, you may have to do some work here… but I’ve seen this work out where surprisingly little effort is expected in return.
  4. Have someone else do the work for you; a nice trick if you can manage it.  Ask your buddy the web designer to create a website for you – for free.  Why would he do it?  The exposure?  The joy of being taken advantage of?  Don’t worry – you’re getting passive income!
  5. Win an office lottery pool. OK, you risked a few dollars, but someone else went to the bodega, bought the ticket and checked the results.  You didn’t put much sweat into your share of the Mega Millions, did you?
  6. Gamble. There is, of course, a potential downside here.  But if sitting around sipping free martinis while playing a game and winning isn’t as close to passive income as possible, I don’t know what is.
  7. Invest in dividend-paying stocks. This point is a cheat.  You have to earn the money that you use to buy the stock.  On the other hand, everything that happens after you buy it is gravy.  That income becomes close to truly passive – so the trick is to use windfalls (an economic stimulus check, for example) to invest in dividend-paying stocks.
  8. Be born rich. Yes, you might have to be nice enough to great-aunt Milfred to avoid getting cut out of your trust fund, but let’s face it:  this is as close to passive income as you’ll see in this life.

Don’t think you’ll get rich without working for it.  Everything you can generate wealth from takes effort.  Writing a book is hard work.  Blogging is hard work.  Rental income is hard work.  It may create a wealthstream for years to come, but that’s what you should be aiming for:  wealthstreams, not passive income.  Don’t imagine that there’s a magical key to wealth that doesn’t involve either hard ongoing work or a good bit of upfront work.

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Friday quote: learning from mistakes

bike caution sign

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Scott Adams (1957 – ), ‘The Dilbert Principle’

I wrote and published a post on Friday about the ‘pursuit of ends.’  It’s a vitriolic post about the current state of things in America, particularly as pertains to our economic system.  It was a mistake.  If you come to the site, it’s no longer there, but if you get the blog by RSS or email you’ve probably seen it.  That’s fine, I wrote it and I meant it.  But I didn’t mean to publish it, for a simple reason:  it’s an angry political post, of the type I used to write (pre-2007) on brip blap in its earlier, political incarnation.  I don’t think it’s a positive thing, and I’d like this blog to remain relentlessly positive (particularly since I have some big changes coming up).

It’s not that I don’t believe what I wrote – I do.  I had put it in my drafts but didn’t realize I had scheduled a future publishing time, so it appeared.  I got one angry comment from a reader – sorry, Chris, I assume you’re no longer a subscriber – which made me realize it had gone live.  But even though I would stand by what I wrote, I just don’t want this blog to be too topical (i.e. looking at current events – I’d rather have ‘evergreen’ contents) and I don’t want it to be political.

If you follow me on Twitter (@bripblap) you’ll notice I’m fairly outspoken, sometimes harshly so, about politics.  I’ve also written again and again on this blog about how I think watching the news – particularly political news – is not only unconstructive but actually anti-constructive.  And I kick myself repeatedly for getting sucked back in, especially once the presidential election cycle ramps up.

So I allowed myself to make a mistake, and learned something from it.  First of all, put my political thoughts in my political Tumblr – and second, even I don’t like reading my own political rants.  That should tell me something.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by jurvetson

how I became Russian

Patrick, of Cash Money Life fame long ago tagged me to give my best financial move in college.  I posted this long ago, but it’s worth reposting.  How I came to become a Russophile is an interesting story – I think.

Steve at the Hermitage in St Petersburg

(me, in St. Petersburg, circa 1997)

Learning an “exotic” foreign language, and how it changed my life.

If you read this blog, you probably know that I’m a Russophile. I lived in Moscow for several years, I can read/write/speak Russian fairly comfortably and my wife is Russian. Even more:  I have been interested in Russian long before I “knew” Russian or Russia.  Key the computer geek theme music: I mentioned that I was a finalist in the International Science Fair: I wrote, in Basic on a Tandy Color Computer with a cassette-tape drive, a very primitive artificial intelligence program that reliably translated English into Russian, grammatically correct. I even had to develop the Cyrillic font. I did all of this after buying a Russian grammar book at a public library for $.10 and using it to set it up – I didn’t know Russian at all.  Pat, pat, pat on the back, Steve.  Score one for geeky computer boy.  The US Army liked my program, gave me a commendation and took the code.  What happened with it after that, I dunno.

Anyway, after the ISF my interest in Russian waned. I always joke that my ancestry is German with a little German mixed in. Even though the Original Blap Ancestor ventured to the new world in the 16th century, my paternal ancestors clung to German ways and traditions and language. And I mean they clung. To the best of my knowledge, my dad was probably part of the first generation of Blaps to speak English at home rather than German. So in high school and college I had a strong motivation to take German, and I did.  I loved it.  I had a great teacher, and I spent a summer semester in Germany as an exchange student.  To this day I speak, read and understand German quite well.

But I always liked foreign languages in general. I took French and Latin as well and decided in my sophomore year that Japanese would be a good challenge. Keep in mind that this was the mid-80s: Japan appeared to be well on its way to becoming the dominant economic power of the 21st century. We know now, in retrospect, that Japan’s economy tripped and stumbled and has never really recovered, and China and India are now careening past it, but at the time it seemed that Japan might become an economic superpower at a minimum and THE economic superpower if everything fell right.

I decided to take Japanese. It was a new course at the University of Mississippi, where I went to school (yes, we had Japanese courses in Mississippi) – only one class was offered. So on registration day I woke up and strolled over to the registrar only to find that it had filled up in minutes and no slots were available. I was disappointed, but I still wanted to take a language. I thought Spanish might be useful, but boring (I didn’t care for French when I learned it – romance languages don’t appeal to me). I skipped through the catalog until I saw Russian and remembered my little project at the ISF four years earlier. And best of all, it was at 10 am so I could sleep late – back in college I had yet to discover the benefits of waking up early.

Russian was fantastic. The teacher was a guy straight out of PhD school, passionate about the subject and the culture. He invited his students to his home, showed us Russian movies, introduced us to actual Russians (quite the novelty in the Deep South in the 80s, let me tell you – we were in the midst of the cold war and that was amazing) and managed to get Russian food. I loved the intellectual challenge of the language – a different alphabet but more importantly a language completely removed from the European languages’ interrelationships.

So why was this a good financial move? I’ve already mentioned it in 8 steps to a six figure career, but here it is in a nutshell: it gives you instant credibility as a smart person (deserved or not). Employers and contacts and almost everyone I meet expresses shock that I can speak Russian, read it and write it. I don’t think it demonstrates much intelligence, personally. Language acquisition is more of an inborn skill, I think. But I do think that learning Russian demonstrated some intellectual curiosity and the fact that I stuck with it indicates some intellectual discipline. I have benefited hugely in my career from knowing Russian. It meant that I was plucked out of obscurity as a junior staff member of a Big 6 (now 4) accounting firm and hurled into the middle of the mid-90s Russian economic explosion. It opened up opportunities I would never have had as just another staff person.

But that’s not the biggest part of it. Without developing my Russian skills I wouldn’t have met, pursued and married my wife. Maybe if I had taken Japanese I would have lived in Japan, developed a fondness for all things Japanese. Hard to say. But I do know that the decision to learn Russian set in motion the life process that brought me to where I am today: with a wife who is focused on the same things I am, personally and financially. So that’s actually the single biggest reason why that was a great financial move.

So what was your best move?

is college worth it? (part 1)

guinea pig reading a book

Based on a few recent comments on some of my articles about careers (this one, for example), I started wondering about the difference in wealth between college graduates and skilled non-college graduates. A college graduate can usually expect to go into the professional world as a “white-collar” worker, earning substantially more than his non-college graduate peers. However, the college graduate – unless he is very athletically or academically gifted – will probably come out of college with at least some student loan debt. He will probably start earning money several years (4 or more) later than a non-college graduate.

So I decided to do a comparison of the two career paths, and see what those big choices meant for someone later down the road. Specifically I wondered if I could answer a few questions:

  1. Can the late start in saving by the college graduate be overcome through higher salaries?
  2. Does the lower earning potential of a non-college graduate mean that the non-college graduate will be required to “work until they die”?
  3. Who will be able to quit the rat race first?

I made a lot of assumptions and put together a spreadsheet to try to come up with answers to some of these questions. I’ll cover that in part 2. I ignored a few things – I didn’t worry about inflation, for example, since it would affect them both equally. You could argue this is wrong, because inflation moves at different rates in different parts of the country, commuting costs (gas, etc.) might expose one or the other to more inflationary pressures, etc. I skipped that. I also assume that both are highly disciplined savers, always saving 10% of their income and getting decent returns over time. If, of course, both started saving as soon as they start earning and never reduce that amount, they would be in the .000001% of the US population that does so.

My findings were a surprise and weren’t a surprise to me. The main point of the exercise was for me to challenge my own personal context (a concept Robert Kiyosaki talks about a LOT in his book “Retire Young, Retire Rich“). My context is that smart people go to college and get desk jobs. My context is that wealth is created through earning as much as possible. I am trying to challenge my own prejudices about what “building wealth” and “escaping the rat race” actually mean to me. It’s interesting, because I don’t have much exposure to people who don’t subscribe to the “go to college, earn money” credo; but fortunately I’m learning more about the opposite mindset and it’s interesting for me. It’s too late for me to undo my decision to go to college for 7+ years. There were alternatives – I could’ve started a business and educated myself. It’s not too late for me to learn something new.

Stay tuned!

(photo by GirlReporter)

Reconceptualizing Education

I’ve spent nearly a lifetime, albeit a short lifetime, navigating through the United States educational system. I’ve succeeded, in a very traditional sense, throughout primary, secondary, and post-secondary curriculums. Yet, as these studies are coming to an end, I’ve been doing a great deal of questioning as to what I’ve really learned throughout this time, and what I think I should have been learning. Education serves as a reliable barometer as to what a society values. It seems readily apparent that this country values competent cogs above all else, or, industrialized citizens. Yet, what relevant role does this play in a rapidly changing American economy?

A great deal of the following ideas derive from Maslow (on a theoretical basis) and Huxley (on an anecdotal basis). What I wish I would have been learning doesn’t exactly differ from the subject matter I have been learning. The problem, though, presents itself in presentation, in the means. There is nothing inherently wrong with learning the governing laws of the world in which we inhabit (physics and mathematics). The subject matter is useful in a number of different fields. Yet where I think our educational system is failing us is in robbing these subject matters of their awe-inspiring aspects. Physics and mathematics, as they are currently taught, have been reduced to the rote memorization and application of formulas. Sure, this produces competent, linear-thinking engineers and mathematicians, but it does nothing to produce the novel, creative thinkers we covet, the next Einsteins, the next Leibnizs. These men were taught to see beyond the formulas we’re all familiar with. The formulas weren’t presented as reality, they were guidelines to a far more complex reality.  No one can be expected to fully immerse themselves into a subject matter if they are not encouraged to, and presented with the awesome nature of their subject matter.

This is not to imply that every man will be naturally inclined to be amazed by the governing laws of reality, as in mathematics. Our various idiosyncrasies dictate that our curiosity and our creative abilities will naturally lead us to absorption in one field over  another. The point is, that we must foster an environment for these innate curiosities to be expanded upon and explored. This is how we produce the individuals whose curiosity will produce the next wave of scientific and artistic breakthroughs. As it currently stands, we have made ourselves reliant on the extraordinary perseverance of a select minority to foster their own path to true education. Yet this is to deny ourselves the rewards of an entire population’s worth of untapped potential.

Most students are lost at a very early age as they find their education being dictated to them in a disinterested fashion, less concerned about the fostering of curiosity and wonderment than the reproduction of meaningless answers on a standardized test. It must be recognized that the need for industrialized cogs is quickly diminishing within this country and if we are to persist within this changing environment, then the core tenets of our educational system must change with it. The emphasis must be turned away from the production of competent works, to the production of competent thinkers, of competent innovators. Our system, as it currently operates, seems set up to inhibit the production of such individuals.

This article was written by Anthony Benedict. Anthony helps to run and maintain inetzeal.com. This website is an entity of an Internet marketing company which provides many services, which includes a white label link building service, as well as many other white label SEO services.

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