April 17th, 2008 — , , , , ,
My short life has taken place in three distinct places separated by oceans. They are China, Hawaii, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In terms of income, my family has made more money in the Bay Area than any other place in the world. However, I am not sure that our quality of life has drastically improved from the times when we were dirt poor. It is a bit mind boggling, but here is a side by side comparison of the places I have lived, and how my experience of life isn’t really vastly improved by money.
When I was young, China just opened up to the west, but most agencies were still state owned. My parents were college professors so we lived a pretty middle class lifestyle. We lived in a condo provided by their employer and had enough for all of our basic needs. The biggest purchase my parents made was a color television, and it worked quite well for many many years. I remember watching Ninja Turtles, Denver the Last Dinosaur, The Smurfs, and lots of other American cartoons from the eighties. The government also provided health care and schooling so everything seemed quite fine to me. The education I got in Chinese public schools was quite excellent and definitely gave me an advantage in school later. I knew that my parents didn’t have much money, but for the most part I felt that we had everything we needed. As far as I know, apparently many American people my age had the same kind of middle class suburban childhood as I did, and even watched the same cartoons.
Then we moved to Hawaii, and my parents were students and had no money at all. However,we always had a place to live and I qualified for the free lunch program at my school so I don’t remember ever going hungry. Hawaii is also a beautiful place and I loved living there. There was a kid in my class who came from Los Angeles and he hated Hawaii. I didn’t understand why he hated Hawaii, but he said it was because it is an island and it is so damn small. Since my family didn’t own a car, I felt that the island was huge. I didn’t understand why anyone would hate Hawaii, and I still don’t.
After my parents graduated from school we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area because my aunt already lived here and the economy in Hawaii isn’t that good. They both found jobs and we got a nicer apartment, and then a house, and cars to get to work. In terms of material wealth, we did have more. However, the entire Bay Area lifestyle was just so much more stressful than any other place we have ever been. People are just much more competitive and aggressive here and even after ten years I don’t think I am used to it. My parents made more money, but I don’t think our family became happier because of money. Instead, I think money actually created a lot more stress and worry for my parents and me. As they say, “mo’ money, mo’ problems”.
So now my husband and I both pull in decent incomes, and to some people it may seem that we make a lot of money for our age, but I feel that our quality of life is perhaps a little lower than my childhood in China. We have to deal with driving , the lack of job security, and potentially substandard education for our future children. We do live a comfortable life, and we are thankful, but I still long for a simpler and less stressful place to live. Perhaps my memories of China and Hawaii are a bit idyllic because I was still a child, but I would seriously give up my income to live in a place where things didn’t move so fast and the basics of quality education, health care, and housing are not so hard to come by.
April 17th, 2008 — , , , , , ,
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Kapi’olani Community College’s Admissions Office is in a building with the backdrop of Diamond Head. I found it quickly and an administrator named Alice started to talk to me. I told her my background, including my experience as a college professor in China, but my English was quite poor and I wanted to repeat college. She listened to my stuttering English and often stopped me and said, “Excuse me, could you repeat? I don’t understand you.” After a bit of explaination, she understood what I was trying to say. She told me that it’s great that I want to attend the school and there are many older adults attending. There are even seniors studying courses of their choice. Additionally, there are some international students. With her introduction, I found out more about the University of Hawaii system. University of Hawaii is a public school system created by the state government, and includes three universities. The largest of the universities is the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It has over 20000 students and has masters and PhD programs for many different subjects. In addition to the three universities, there are seven community colleges on the major islands. These colleges generally have lower requirements for entry and also cost significantly less. At that time, each semester credit only cost 19 dollars and the max you had to pay was 228 dollars per semester. There are many subjects you can study and you have a choice to take classes you are interested in. After two years, you can get an Associate Degree and you can use the degree to find jobs or transfer to a four year university. I personally think that this system of higher education in America is commendable because it suits the needs of different types of students and saves resources for the society as a whole.
After Alice told me the information, she asked me what my English score was. I told her my TOEFL score and she said that I already qualify for the school. So she took out several different forms from a drawer and told me to fill it out. As long as I turn them in within a week I could enter college the next semester. I was extremely excited and took the forms she gave me and hopped out of the school like a little sparrow. As I walked home, my thoughts were like the turbulent waves of the nearby Pacific Ocean. I thought of the words of one of Helen’s friends, “Be not afraid of being slow, but be afraid of being still”. These words contain a deep wisdom.
After I got home, I started to busily fill out my application forms. In addition to the basic application, I needed to prove that I had economic support. In the application there was a section about high school. When the Cultural Revolution began, I was only in the 4th grade, and the schools shut down after I finished two years of middle school. When I was 15 I was sent to work in a factory, so I have no record of attending any high school. Fortunately, I had my TOEFL score and my college diploma, so it didn’t matter. Helen already had a graduate teaching assistant scholarship so she is considered an employee of the University and we had medical coverage. At that time, the most important question is what major I should pick. A Chinese proverb says, “men are afraid of picking the wrong profession, and women are afraid of marrying the wrong man”. From the point of view of a traditional Chinese person, I was already in a stage where I couldn’t turn back. However, I had to rekindle my fire, and I really needed to pick the right career.
I chose to study finance and accounting based on my skills. The main reason is that my English was horrible, but my mathematical skills are quite decent. Second, I already had a background in economics and law, and that could be important in a financial career. Third, many people think that being an accountant is quite boring and tedious so there is a shortage of accounting professionals. In general, accounting jobs are easy to find because accountants are needed everywhere. Recently America added many financial legislation so that auditors and accountants are needed in larger quantities. It is very different from China because in America financial professionals are paid quite well and they are generally respected individuals. Recently, I saw a paper which listed the 25 highest paying professions in America. The first 10 spots were taken by various types of doctors, and the top median salary is around $160,000. CEOs were placed at number 14, and accounting managers are placed at number 25 with an average salary of $100,000.
The things I experienced later proved that choosing to be a financial professional was correct. The year before last I was invited by my alma mater in China to do a series of lectures about nonprofit companies in America. So I created a course based on my personal experiences and successfully delivered a special lecture. Afterwards, I saw one of my old assistants, who is now the dean of the business school. When we had dinner together he asked me what I do in America for a living. I told him that do some financial consulting and accounting. He said, “it’s such a shame that talent like you is being an accountant!” After I have been in America for so long my thoughts and prejudices have changed quite a bit. I remember that the great author Lu Xun once said, “if you don’t have that much talent, just pick something small to do.” I do not regret my choice for a bit. If I didn’t leave my position as a professor, my life would have stood still and living for one day would be the same as living for one year, and perhaps I would still be the same after ten years.
A friend left a comment in my blog that said, “when you are studying you find joy in work. I have once said that if it were possible I would spend my entire life at school, but reality would not allow you to do so.” It is true and I agree with her view. I am extremely lucky and glad that I was able to make a new choice, have a new goal, and live a new life. In fact, when I started college once again, I felt so much younger since my classmates were teens and tweens. How many people have a chance to return to that period of their lives?
April 15th, 2008 — , , , , , ,
According to various measurements, the price of food and energy have increased anywhere from 6% to 9% in the past year. Meanwhile the interest rate on savings accounts have been slashed dramatically to less than 2%. In this environment, it is easy for a saver to feel like a fool, but there are ways you can mitigate the effects of inflation and still save for the future.
viagra overdose- Obviously, you can’t stockpile fresh food for very long, but you can certainly keep quite a bit of dried, canned, and freezable goods. If you have room for storage, things like pasta or wine can be kept for a pretty long time. Sales are even better for stockpiling. For example, in my story about I got quite a bit of pasta roni,canned tomatoes, and toothpaste for very little money. Now I wish I bought more because we went through the food pretty quickly. Stockpiling food is a form of non-financial investment that could pay off better than stocks as long as you do eat the food before it goes bad.
viagra overdose – I have a few stock holdings that have been giving out very high dividends. The ones I own are mostly natural resource and mineral stocks. I’m not an expert in stock picking, though, so the percentage of my individual stock holding is about 6% of my entire portfolio. There are a lot of ways to pick your dividend stocks and a simple and popular method is In the current market, you have to be careful with the stocks that give too high of an yield because some of them may be dying financial services. As always, do your research before you invest.
viagra overdose – If buying a house makes sense in your area it may be a good hedge against inflation. I am a staunch bubble sitter here in because home prices are still way too high to justify buying a home. If inflation actually drove rent to within 10% of mortgage prices, I would consider buying, but the situation I am facing now is that home prices are falling but rent is still 1/3 to 1/2 the price of a mortgage on a comparable unit. However, if you can afford a home and in your area it is cheaper to buy than rent, it makes sense to buy a house to protect yourself against further rent hikes. As long as you get a fixed rate mortgage, your payments will stay the same throughout the term of a home loan.
I am sure there are many other ways people protect their savings from inflation. I have read that many people invest in I-Bonds or TIPS, which have variable rates related to inflation. I actually own some I-Bonds because they are state tax free. The problem is that these treasury bonds fluctuate with the core inflation rate, which doesn’t include food and energy. The result is that the return is lower than the real inflation, but they are generally better than dumping all your money in the bank or in a money market. The key is that you can manage your money well and diminish the effect of inflation when you put a little time into it. What have you been doing to fight inflation?
April 14th, 2008 — , , , , , , ,
Welcome to the 55th edition of It’s that time of the year again. In Vietnam they are celebrating the national holiday of Gio to Hung Vuong, but here in the United States it is time for all of us to hand in our tax forms. I just begrudgingly mailed out my tax forms with payment, but today’s carnival certainly cheered me up. We have nearly 30 great stories about life and money. Enjoy!
Praveen writes that at . Apparently you don’t have to be freaked out when you receive a letter from the IRS.
Will presents posted at . This is a scary story of debt collectors who would freeze pension statements.
Silicon Valley Blogger tells us posted at . I am so jealous!
Kyle from Amateur Asset Collector gives us . It seems like Kyle paid a bit too much taxes on alcohol when he was in his twenties.
Mr. Cheap presents posted at . This is Mr. Cheap’s story about the tariffs he had to pay on hard liquor. That will teach him to be a cheap boozehound.
The rising cost of gas is really cutting into many of our pocketbooks. Here are some stories. about how gas affects people.
MoneyKing presents ,
Financial Learn presents posted at .
Mark Butler presents posted at . We can all learn quite a bit from this story of entrepreneurship.
FFB presents posted at . More money means more taxes, but it doesn’t have to mean more expenses.
Life. Money. Development. presents posted at
FIRE Finance presents posted at .
Ryan Taylor presents posted at .
Hank presents posted at .
Here are two stories about snowflaking! You can get rid of debt one flake at a time and these two stories illustrate how you can do it, too.
NtJS presents posted at .
paidtwice presents at .
Passive Income Investor presents posted at .
MoneyNing presents posted at .
The Dough Roller presents posted at .
Want to retire early? These stories of people who managed to accumulate a huge net worth at a relatively young age.
PT presents posted at .
GBlogger presents posted at .
Dorian Wales presents posted at .
Amy presents posted at .
FMF presents posted at
First Lady Of Poker presents posted at . This is an interesting story about why women can beat men at poker.
The Financial Blogger presents .
Raymond presents posted at .
Jeremy Zongker presents posted at .
Madison presents posted at .
That is all for this edition of the . Thank you all for participating and a link back to the carnival is always appreciated. If you have more stories you can always to the next carnival which is being held at . This is a relatively new blog that is very well written. Now if you haven’t already, go out and file your taxes!
It is the that have brought a state of upon all of us. Deals like , interest free loans and non-authorized grants have brought this day. People need to learn to use their properly and resist the temptation to look at all the .
April 12th, 2008 — , , , ,
CNN Money is running a slideshow where people have sent in their photos and stories about how they are doing in the current economic atmosphere. A lot of these stories are pretty sad and involve people losing their homes, businesses, and jobs. Here are some of the stories that stood out to me and not all of them are bad.
– I liked this story because the girl is about the same age as me and she’s got things figured out.
- This couple seems to be doing just fine, too. They are cutting back, but they’re not in dire straits.
– This is a great story with a bit of advice – if you need something , start saving for it early.
- This story made me laugh. If I just waited a few months to deposit a wedding gift from my dad’s cousin from Canada I would have gotten more money, too.
– This is a couple who are savers, and felt that their money have been eaten away by inflation and they have been fools for not spending their money. This is why investing money in things other than CDs could help.
- The guy on the picture just looks scary.
– When I read this story I thought, hey a $250 commute a month really isn’t that much. My hubby and I spend about $200 a month on gas, too.
– This guy makes a lot of sense. A lot of these people who are in trouble can’t blame everything on businesses and the government, they have to be self sufficient.
– I liked this story. It’s nice to see that someone sees the silver lining in a bad situation.
– Here is a story that annoyed me a little bit, because the woman says “like most we carry $17,000 in credit-card debt and don’t have much in savings”. I don’t know if that is true for most people because $17,000 in credit card debt is definitely above average.
There are currently 51 stories and you can submit your own. I think there needs to be more positive stories amidst all the dreary news.