Augment Yourself, Not Your Résumé

When I was a kid, my parents taught me that my job was to do well in school so that I could get into a good college. In college, my job was to do well, earn my diploma, and then get a good job. Once I started working, I was told that leaders take leadership training classes and took rotational assignments in areas others didn’t. I, of course, wanted to be a leader (that’s what’s next right?). I started signing up for all these classes that had great names and interesting content but really lacked any application in my day to day activities.

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Incentives Demoralizes Professional Activity

“Excessive reliance on incentives demoralizes professional activity.”

That’s a quote from a video I watched this week in which Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and social action at Swarthmore College and frequent contributor to the New York Times, calls for discusses how our society has gone mad with an abrupt loss of “practical wisdom” in the face of bureacracy, the failure of incentives, and rules often protect us from disaster but ensure mediocrity.

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Don’t Let Fear Make Decisions

A little over four months ago, I left a comfortable, well-paying job that I was quite competent in doing, for the unpredictable, self-employed route of professional blogger. Professional blogging is a lot like many professional sports, you have a handful of rockstar performers getting a ton of headlines, a ton of money and you have the rest squeaking by. Check out this Fortune piece, dated 1998, on #100 ranked tennis player Jack Waite. He’s the 100th best tennis player in the world and his take home page, after expenses and taxes, was less than three thousand dollars. That’s rough.

So, was I destined to be a rockstar or would I be content as one of the rest? I, of course, thought I was going to be a rockstar. As my wife says jokingly, and often, I probably would do well to sell off some of my self-confidence (she used another word) for my sake and hers. Despite the long odds, I left my job, and the predictability and the comfort, and haven’t looked back. When I left, I was scared. I was really really really scared.

To give you an idea of how scared, it was a lot like when I climbed up the two and a half story ladder to inspect our roof after it was replaced. In the case of the roof, I really had no choice. There’s no way in the world we were going to spend four grand on a roof and not inspect it with our own eyes (I did and the roof was as expected) but in climbing up that roof I learned one thing: things are never as bad as you think they are. As I climbed the ladder, I quickly realized that the most unstable point was about the middle. Once I got past the middle, the roof helped stabilize the ladder and it stopped bowing and shaking as much. Fear sharpened my senses, made me more cautious, but it didn’t change my decision. That’s what fear should do.

So, here I was leaving a job that I liked in order to do a job that I also liked, but one that lacked as much predictability and comfortability, if that’s a word (it’s not). I was so afraid of pulling the trigger, despite all the signs saying it could be possible, that I just put off thinking about leaving for at least six months. My wife and I talked about it off and on and she was supportive, but it took an epiphany before I could think about it rationally.

I realized I was more afraid of working the next forty years of my life and wondering “what if?” than I was of blogging full-time and failing. Then I used my fear of failure to hone in on a plan that would, at the very least, give me confidence that everything is progressing as it should be.

So how are things four months later? I love it but it’s still scary. There’s a certain bit of comfort in taking direction from someone else. If your boss tells you to do this and it’s the wrong thing (wrong as in bad decision, not ethically wrong), then the responsibility and the blame falls on your boss’ shoulders. If you are the boss, the burden is on you not to mention the burden of figuring out what it is you’re supposed to do. That freedom is very exciting but also very demanding.

I’d also like to thank all the folks who read this site regularly. It is because of you that I was even able to have a decision four months ago and you all keep me honest. Much thanks. Please continue to email me with comments, questions, sites you’ve found interesting, articles you thought I should check out, anything in the world, I’ll read it and try to get back to you.

So moral of the story, fear isn’t a reason not to do something or not to consider something. This blogging thing may not work out in the end but at least I’ll have tried, right?


Credit Card Offers & Promotions List

$1,025 in credit card offers!Credit card offers total value: $1695.

Here is every credit card promotional offer I am aware of, listed in a handy table along with fulfillment requirements. The only rules about having a card appear on the list is that the promotional offer be worth at least $50 and it must be a mainstream brand like Citi, Discover, Capital One, American Express, etc. No offers available only to a small geographic region, these are all mainstream ones that are potentially available to everyone if you qualify.

They are listed in order of value and I will attempt to keep this list updated monthly. (this list does not include free airline miles promotions, i.e. those cards that give only miles as a promotions, but some of these cards allow you to convert points into miles) For the cards that have (pts) next to the dollar value, which currently is all of them, you will get your rewards in points (which can often be converted into gift cards) and the maximum value is displayed there. $100 in points is usually 10,000 points, but not always, so be sure to read the terms and conditions. Without further ado, here are nearly a thousand dollars in promotions!

Name Value (Type) Requirements
American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card 25K points after spend $2K in first 3 months
TrueEarnings® Card from Costco and American Express 3% cash back gasoline at US Stand-alone gas stations, including at Costco, for purchases up to $4,000 per year (1% thereafter).

Who is eligible for a business card? Anyone can be a sole proprietorship without filling out any additional paperwork. Put in your name as the business name, your social security number as the ID number, and you can apply as a business. You don’t pay extra taxes, you don’t have to fill out any extra paperwork, this is 100% legal and acceptable.

(Fat stack photo taken by Refracted Moments™ on Flickr)

 Monthly Review 

October ‘06 Net Worth Monthly Review

It’s been a long long time since I’ve written one of these reviews (back in May is my last one) so those of you who have been patiently waiting for one of these can finally rejoice, it’s here. Some personal finance bloggers give you brutally and painfully detailed account information, I just give the roll up information and then look back at what I did wrong, what I did right, and any other big changes.

All the gory details are after the jump.

Net Worth: $146,886.30
Retirement Assets: $67,501.11

Normally there are percentages next to those number, they’ll return next month.

Here are some things of note that have changed in my financial picture since I last wrote one of these:

  • I’m engaged. While the numbers above partially reflect some of my fiancée’s assets and liabilities, they don’t reflect all of them. In fact, the only financials on her side that are counted are those that we share in a joint bank account where we both direct deposit our paychecks but that hasn’t been significant since we’ve only had about a month of paychecks deposited in there so far.
  • I switched jobs. Hopefully my net worth growth curve will be elevated with the increase income but it also experienced a slight blip as a result of my former employer paying me for two and a half weeks of vacation. That temporary blip will be very temporary as I’ve already put that away for my new windows and doors.
  • I paid off one 0% balance transfer. It was the Citi mtvU card, a 6 month offer, that got paid off. After all these 0% balance transfer deals expire, I’ll probably stop doing them. While it’s taken only a small amount of time, there is a lot of hassle involved and I’ve gotten too busy as my new job to really have the energy to stay on top of these.
  • Opened Up A Vanguard Account For Extra Savings. My fiancée opened up a Vanguard mutual fund account (we put it in her name since she’ll be in a lower tax bracket and we aren’t yet married) and we’ve deposited $5,000 into it and put it with an index fund, this will be the first time any one of us has invested money in the market outside of a retirement account (401k or Roth).

Some thoughts on my mind:

  • Rolling over my 401(k). I was looking at the fees on my former employer’s 401(k) plan funds and most of them were under 0.7% with the exception of the Emerging Markets fund which had a whopping 1.5% fee. While Emerging Markets had performed quite well for me, I am debating whether or not I should just push my 401(k) to a Vanguard IRA and put it in a Target Retirement fund.
  • Business Income. This blog has been incredible, all of the folks who read it are incredible, and I’ve been lucky to make even a penny off just writing my thoughts on money. That being said, I have no idea what I should do with this extra income. Right now it just gets lumped into my bank accounts and pretty much disappears into the numbers (with the mental note that we’re probably saving it for the wedding) but I’d like to earmark it for something bigger after we’ve saved enough for the wedding. I’ve thought about using it as a down payment on a rental property but I think I need to research that a little bit more before I do anything drastic.
  • Budgeting Daily Expenses and Being More Frugal. I’ve been really really lax on this the last year or so. Part of that was because I was over-diligent before I bought the house and I may have been burned out because of it, keeping track of expenses pretty much sucks honestly, but you have to do things you don’t like to do in order to achieve the goals you want to achieve. Another part of the reason was that this blog started to earn money and I saw that money as “free.” I wasn’t really “working” for it and so any excess spending I had would be covered by this income… that’s a bad strategy, it’s a lazy and irresponsible strategy, so I’m going to change it.

Well, that’s that, tune in next month to see how things have progressed and if you have any advice, as always, I welcome it with open arms.

 Business, Credit 

Signing Up For A Discover Business Card

Now that the site generates some income, I have a bona fide “business” and that calls for a business card! My choice right now is the Discover Business card because it offers a 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months, which means I can put my MBA classes on it and get 0% for a little while (too bad I just paid for some classes, but there’s always next semester). There, unfortunately, isn’t a 0% balance transfer offer like many other Discover cards but 0% on purchases for 12 months is still a nice perk, especially if you’re just starting a new business.

A few other perks are that I can get 5% cash back on office supplies, 2% on gas (but I’ll be using a Citi Driver’s Edge card for gasoline), and 1% for everything else.

Why would I get a business card when I could just buy stuff with my personal credit card? One reason is that the reporting functionality offered by Discover looks pretty comprehensive and could be valuable come tax time. Secondly, having a “business” credit gives me a little more credence when it comes to tax time because anything that makes you look like you have a business will help. Lastly, getting business credit is difficult and so the earlier I try, the better.

Anyone have any advice about business credit cards or about this Discover card?

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