Friday, February 25, 2011

Turning 28

It seems like there are a lot of people who like to complain about getting old. These are the type of people that will start off a sentance with "back in the day" and the finish it with a comparasion of how a certain thing was better in the past than the present. It isn't uncommon among late 20 years olds that I hang out with to look back fondly on their college days with the overall conclusion being that it used to be better.

While, I will admit that certain things in the past were better I am not completely ready to give the game, set and match to 18 year old version of me. In correlation with my 28th birthday here are 20 things that present me has over 18 year old me.

  1. Financial Flexibility - 18 year old me had to worry about the money running out. 28 year old me has banked enough in savings not to worry as much about that.

  2. Financial Intellegence - It is nice knowing what is going on with your personal finances. There is no way 18 year old me would be able to answer questions like how much do I normally spend a month, how much do I make, etc.

  3. Dating Life - Wife > High School Girlfriend.

  4. Having a Joint Checking Account - I never used to like the end of a date when the bill would come. I knew that social norms was for me to pay on the first few dates, but who pays for things when you are in a long term relationship. I don't have to care about these questions anymore because M and I have a joint account. It makes things so much easier and less stressful when the bill comes.

  5. Sporting Events - I have an active life when it comes to attending sporting events. It is a combination of having the money, living in Minneapolis and having the interest level.
  6. My Palate - I like a larger variety of food options than I used to - for example some spicy food.

  7. Autonomy - If I want to do something, for the most part I can just do it. It is easy to have this feeling when you are self-supportive. For example, it would have been hard to decide to transfer colleges without discussing that with my parents first since they were financing my education.

  8. Owning a Car - I took out a 3 year loan on my car and have paid it off. It is satisfying having made a big purchase like that.

  9. Liquor Store - Liquor and beer are a lot cheaper and more easily accessible when you can buy it legally.

  10. Crock Pot - You know my Mom was always right when she would talk about the benefits of using a crock pot. M and I don't use it all the time, but when we do (corned beef, pulled pork,etc) the food almost always turns out well.

  11. Listening to Your Parents - It turns out they actually sometimes have useful things to say, which might have shocked the teenage version of me.

  12. NBA League Pass - 18 year old me - "You mean to tell me you can watch every Jazz game and not just the few nationally televised ones."

  13. Writing Confidence - Just because some over-educated English teachers did not like my writing style in high school, doesn't mean that I am not a ok writer. Maybe I am not a great writer when talking about Beowulf, but when looking of advanced basketball stats I like to think I am above-average.

  14. A Better Variety of Friendships - I had five main friends in high school and I still keep up with four of them. They were my go-to friends when looking for something to do or an someone to talk to. Now I have added on to those friends with people I met in college and post-college. While a disadvantage to all of this is that my friend group is very spread out it still is nice being able to keep in contact with a wide variety of friends. As opposed to my high school friends, who are similar to me considering our age and background I now have friends that are different ages and have different experiences. (I am not knocking my high school friends at all since they serve a very important part in my life.)

  15. Traveling - I have been more places and more importantly I appreciate those places. It is amazing how much more you cherish trips when you only have 2 weeks of vacation time.

  16. Salary - It is nice having a job with a steadily increasing salary compared to a minimum wage job.

  17. Kids - It is really nice seeing the other side of the adult/kid relationship. Other than that I just wanted to put this down since I really enjoy hanging out with my nephew Henry.

  18. Lower Emotional Valleys - The older I have got the more I have control over my emotions. If something doesn't go my way I am less likely to embarrass myself with my actions.

  19. Laundry - I don't have to pay for or do laundry. While this was true up to my 18th birthday it wasn't true once college started. It isn't like laundry is that tough to do, but if given a preference I am glad that M has take on that responsibility.
  20. Better Restaurants - There are many great places to eat in Jackson, but at the time I didn't take advantage of them. Also, I was more inclined to go to chain restaurants and while those places have their merits (consistency being the main one) I now prefer local, independent restaurants. Thankfully, Minneapolis has more than a few great places to eat.

Now of course not all is better about being 28 compared to being 18. It would be nice to have the same energy level, freedom from working 8-5 and optimism that comes from probably being too stupid to know any better. There were many good times during that time, but my point is that I am not going to concede the fact that life was better then than it is now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Career Aspirations

There is the often repeated story of a school counselor asking a student to imagine a world where money wasn't a concern. Then try to think of things you like doing. Do you like to fix things around the house? Is there nothing better than performing in plays? What interests you? The school counselor will then suggest a related field (engineer, actor, etc) that you should try to pursue as your career. If it is really something you like doing then the money will follow and even more importantly you will be happy with your job. As Confucius is quoted as saying "choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life."

For me my career aspirations was always to be a Demand Manager of Combustion. Growing up in Mississippi I thought there would be nothing better than forecasting out parts that go into Commercial and Residential boilers. (This is the point in the blog post where I wish there was a sarcasm font.)

Anyway, the things I enjoyed then and still enjoy are sports, stats and social interaction. I love watching, following and analyzing sports, which should come as to no surprise to anyone who has read this blog or spent 15 minutes talking to me. In addition to that I enjoy working with numbers and trying to make them meaningful. Finally, I am a social person, who enjoys communicating with people compared to the alternative.

That being written my current job isn't so bad. I get to analyze stats and there is at least some social interaction. There isn't any sports connection, but that isn't too surprising since I never really pursued that option. My overall happiness with my job is above-average.

Of course that doesn't stop me from considering that there are better options out there. Whether or not it is another position within the same type of company or a complete career change are all potentially viable options. My Mom has always suggested that I become a teacher/basketball coach. Others have thought I would be great in Sales or my first major in college Marketing. I have had some *success blogging for the Jazz and really enjoy that "work." (Work is in quotes because I don't get paid for that side project.)

*My latest post about the Jazz side of the Deron Williams trade was linked on Truehoop's blog under the headline "Squinting to see really good things for the Jazz." The first comment was positive, so that is a good start.

So, not to be like LeBron James, but what should I do? Should I become a teacher? Is there something better I can be doing in the corporate world? How big of a "grass always greener on the other side" fear should I have? Is there something I haven't thought about yet?

Right now my plan is to continue to do a good job and look at the corporate route. I believe there are jobs available at my current company that will bring me short long term satisfaction. My goal is to continue what I am doing, while also keeping an open mind to other possibilities that might be out there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Week In Review

There have been many big and small things over the past 7 days that normally would be individual blog posts, but will be smushed together in this one catch all blog.

Personal Finance -
Another great article from Jessica Grose on personal finance and specifically the budget talk. In the article she writes about a breakdown of categories of expenses. One thing she uses is a link to a Washington Post budget worksheet that I found really interesting. That budget worksheet has 21 categories, which sounds like a good number (I like to use 18) until I looked at what was considered. When I tried to fill in our numbers I didn't know where to put the money we spent on gifts or travel. Is the Washington Post really saying that a normal budget doesn't include those two things? I can't imagine not having a budget with those two categories.

Anyway, I commented in on her post (with something similiar to what I wrote above) and she was nice enough to comment back to me. That type of interaction is something that is really great about the internet compared to newspapers or magazines. Of course there is the flipside when comments can be especially mean or vulgar, but I think certain sites (like do a great job of limiting those comments by making people sign in. Not that surprisngly the extremly negative comments decrease when you have to attach your name to them.

Miami University -
Miami University's Dean of the School of Business, Roger Jenkins is a personable guy, who has really helped Miami out since he joined our school. I have had the joy of traveling with him in China and also had the pleasure of being his guest at a dinner he hosted for our Pacfic Rim traveling group. However, he has had a problem in the past with forwarding emails to his entire listserv as opposed to just his friends. One of those mistakes happened this week, when I received an email forward about a personal ad, where a guy describes pulling a gun on a potential knife-wielding robber. If you want to read the ad feel free to click on this link.

The only issue is that the ad is fake. I did a quick search on and found out that there was never an ad like that, and that the person who wrote the text really was just frustrated because he had been robbed. It seemed obvious when I got the email that it was a fake and couldn't believe that someone like the Dean of the School of Business would A) believe that or B) forward that along. It made me kind of upset because I didn't feel like the inaccurate forward reflected well on Miami University. I sent him an email back telling just that and he wrote me back within a few hours with an apology. Give Dean Jenkins credit for that even if he didn't acknoledge the fact that the "funny" (as he called it) wasn't true. Maybe I guess it didn't matter that it wasn't true and rather he found humor in the piece of fiction.

Duke > UNC
Duke beat UNC after overcoming a 16 point deficit. I wish I could write that it was a great team effort, but really Seth Curry and Nolan Smith were the difference between winning and losing by double digits. That isn't to say that the Plumlees, Singler or others didn't help, but considering the non-Smith/Curry team shot 21% (7-33) and Smith/Curry shot 60% (21-35) it is hard to argue the game wasn't decided by those two players. My one big fear is that UNC is going to some day soon realize that they have a really good team.

Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer returned to Utah, so I wrote a post about it. This post was randomly linked on twitter by's NBA guy Zach Lowe. It is really pretty cool to have one of your favorite writers link to your post with words of praise. I did not expect that at all.

Jerry Sloan
Coach Jerry Sloan resigned abruptly, which is pretty amazing considering he has been coaching the Jazz since I was 5 years old. I wrote a post charting certain life events of mine with Coach Sloan's career as a coach of the Jazz. The reports I have read about what happened with Deron Williams does not inspire confidence in the future of the Jazz.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brett Favre

Congrats to the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl. I was mildly surprised by this outcome because I came to believe that Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers were one of those teams that win big games like the Super Bowl. Also, I remember my visit to Lambeau this year where I saw a completely mediocre Dolphins team beat the Packers. Anyway, this post isn't about Roethlisberger, the Packers or anything related to the game last night.

The content of this post is a player that always seems to be in the media's attention no matter what he does. He is one of the all-time greats, who helped lead a Midwestern team to the title. During that time he won multiple MVPs, set many all-time records and gained more than a few million devoted fans. However, some negatives associated with this athlete included his really large ego, his commercialization and his many retirements with multiple teams. Why would an all-time great ruin his legacy by waffling so much with retirement? Why would he tarnish our image of him by playing in another team's colors?

I'm writing about Brett Favre, but I'm also writing about Michael Jordan. Somehow, I think the criticism of Jordan has had less of an impact than the criticism of Favre. Right now when Favre's name comes up in conversation there is a better than average chance somebody will complain. They will complain about the pictures he allegedly took and sent to Jenn Sterger. They will complain about how he should have retired a long time ago and how his the soap opera every off-season about how he may or may not play is tiring.

Michael Jordan cheated on his wife and paid the woman $250,000 to keep it quiet. Don't believe me then check out what Michael Jordan acknowledged in this article on His wife and him divorced in 2006 and the last we saw of Jordan's love interest he was escorting a 3o year old Cuban model at his Hall of Fame induction. Did Brett Favre do worse in his relationships with the opposite sex?

Michael Jordan retired from basketball three separate times and each time he seemed to hurt his former team more. The first time he left the Bulls they went from winning the title to losing in the playoffs two straight years. The second time he left the Bulls they went from winning 75% of their games to losing almost 75% of their games. The last time he left a team was the Wizards and he gave them Kwame Brown as a consolation prize. For all of those who write about how Favre strung the Packers and Vikings along and left them in a terrible position, they might want to look at closer at Jordan.

Then their is the ego and commercialization. Whatever you say or write about Favre must also be written about Jordan. In fact the only difference I can find between them is that Jordan played himself in a movie (Space Jam). Oh wait Favre had There's Something About Mary. What about selling cheap goods sold at Wal-Mart? Jordan sees Favre's Wrangler jeans and raises him some Hanes underwear.

Michael Jordan is lucky he came along when he did, because some of the stuff he did (gambling debts, punching teammates) would probably look a little differently under the 24/7 news light. Right now he is viewed much more favorably than Favre and I just don't understand it. Whatever negative press Favre has received needs to be applied in retrospect to Jordan.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Personal Finance

This week on there was an interesting series of posts written by Jessica Grose about how couples managed their finances. She wrote five posts ranging from a set-up describing the different ways people managed their money to a detailed review of those three different ways (Common Potters, Sometimes Sharers, Independent Operators) to the conclusion on how she and her husband were going to be managing their money. I encourage anyone interested in personal finance to give all five posts a chance.

While others might get uncomfortable when the subject comes up, I think it is really interesting to see how people handle their money. Currently, I love talking about personal finances, but it wasn't always the case. I didn't really care how much money I had or what I did with it for the longest time in my life. However, when I began my 2nd job out of college something clicked and from that point on I have been been diligent in regards to managing my money. Since that day back in 2007, I have managed a monthly budget and taken interest in something I never really cared about for the first 24 years of my life.

It made logical sense that when M and I got married that I would continue to do a budget, but this time for two people instead of just me. It has been a pretty good system for both of us and the series got my thinking that I should share my thoughts on budgeting. Here are the basic budgeting rules that we follow:
  1. Know how much we make.
  2. Know how much we spend.
  3. Know where our money is.

If I can answer those three questions then I am happy. Any further detail from those points is just an added bonus, but really knowing those three things means the most to me. I would like to address each point individually, without giving specific quantitative details.

Point 1 - Know how much we make.

Knowing one's salary or hourly wage is one thing, but that is just a starting point. It is important to know what contributions you are making (401K, medical, dental) that affects the difference between your salary and your take home pay.

Point 2 - Know how much we spend

For this I place any transaction from our checking accounts into 18 categories ranging from "rent" to "gifts" to "entertainment." Accounting for every penny we spend isn't something I would like to do, so something like an ATM category allows me to have some flexibility and more importantly some sanitiy. There is no point in coming up with such a detailed budget that you dread putting it together. The important thing for me is knowing generally speaking how much money we spend. I like being able to know basic amounts, so that I will know what to adjust if the current situation changes.

Point 3 - Know where our money is

This should be pretty basic, but I found some people don't even know how much money they have or how to access that money. If you (or your parents) worked, so hard for that money then it is nice to keep track of it. I like to know where the money is and what that situation means for my money in terms of risk versus reward. Do I have too much money in stocks and not enough in cash? Is my cash making 0% interest, when there is a 4% interest checking account available? Are my stocks diversified? Too Risky? Risky Enough? There are certain tools you can use to keep track of where your money is, but sometimes it is as easy as just logging into your checking, savings, stock brokerage accounts.

One note on the stock front is that I find the Morningstar Instant X-Ray to be an extremely valuable tool, when I want to review my stock holdings. All you have to do is enter your stock tickers and how much money you have in each and Morningstar will give you an overall view of what kind of stocks (ex large cap vs small cap) you are holding.


If you keep up with the answers to those three questions every, single month then you will start notice certain patterns. More importantly for me, I find comfort in having that information available. One of the financial stories that I like most comes from the banker J.P. Morgan. When a person approached him in order to get some advice on how to handle being nervous about his investments, J.P. Morgan allegedly said "Sell down to the sleeping point."

I am sure this quote has changed people's investing strategies in terms of managing risk, but I am taking the advice differently. My sleeping point isn't taking money out of the stock market and putting it all in cash. My risk isn't that the money in the stock market will go down. Knowing how much money I am making, where it is going and where it has been allows me to sleep well at night, and understanding the answers to important financial questions (ex. how expensive of a house can we afford) is the risk I am trying to manage. It might sound cliche, but when it comes to personal finance knowledge is power.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Two years ago I wrote a few thoughts on Super Bowl Sunday before the Steelers - Cardinals game. The main focus on the post was Ben Roethlisberger. That wasn't much of a surprise since Roethlisberger has been a once in a lifetime athlete. Not only was he the best, most accomplished athlete to ever attend Miami University, but he also happened to play all three years at Miami while I was a student there. I had seen him around the campus and I had seen him quarterback the Redhawks more than a few times. In terms of a favorite athlete he was in a different category. Nobody else could compare with his resume of great play combined with the Miami University connection.

Then it all started happening. While I thought the motorcycle accident in 2006 was dumb, I didn't think much of it besides that. Then the sexual assault allegation in 2008 shook me up a little bit, but after reading more about the situation I didn't really believe the accusations. It seemed like the alleged assault victim was trying to make some money off someone famous, and it didn't work. However, the accusations in Georgia last year were a little different. Based on what I've read it didn't sound like a dumb mistake or a money grab. I will never know what really happened, but the situation left me with a negative impression of Roethlisberger.

Now, I have an internal debate going on about Roethlisberger. First and foremost is it right to condemn someone who has never been charged with a crime? Aren't we supposed to presume innocence? I know Roger Goodell and public opinion have convicted him, but that doesn't mean I should just follow the crowd.

That is the first piece of debate. Did Roethlisberger commit crime? That leads to the second piece of debate about whether or not he can be forgiven if he did commit a crime? If we assume that he did commit sexual assault then can I really wear my #7 Roethlisberger jersey with pride? Is there anything he can do to redeem himself? A lot has been made of Michael Vick, but Vick is different. He was convicted and served his debt to society. If you are a dog lover and don't want to cheer for Vick then that is your right, but there aren't many open questions about him. For Roethlisberger there are nothing but open questions.

Let's say that Roethlisberger did commit the crime in Georgia. At one point is it ok to forgive him or does that point even exist? I don't think there are really any excuses that could be made, but the article I read from David Epstein on Roethlisberger's head injuries was enlightening. I read that article back in May and it opened up even more questions. As a football fan am I enabling a sport that causes head injuries? And what do the head injuries do to someone's personality?

In Epstein's article he points out how head injuries might affect someone's understanding of social rules, and that a lot of what Roethlisberger did seems to reflect a guy who didn't have a clue. He also points that it is hard to know if Roethlisberger didn't follow social rules because he he was rich, famous athlete. Did becoming a professional quarterback make him arrogant and mean or was the cause of all of this the many head injuries? In the article Epstein quotes a neurologist who asks "is this from a motorcycle accident, or is this his true personality? I don't think anyone's going to know that for sure." It is hard not to watch the Steelers play and notice the amount and severity of the hits Roethlisberger takes every game. As football fans, we praise him for the style and results of that type of play, but should we reconsider the long term effects?

I don't have many answers to the questions I am asking, but I do know that when I met Roethlisberger as a freshmen in college, I didn't meet the guy described by many people. He was a relatively quiet individual, who shook my hand and introduced himself as Ben. He didn't seem like the life of the party sitting in the dorm room watching an offensive lineman and me play a game of Madden. Now, I know this is a small sample size and freshmen year of college was way before being a 1st round pick or winning Super Bowls, but still it is the one data point I can contribute to the Roethlisberger story.

So, I have asked a lot of questions that presents a muddy picture of a great quarterback. If it was as simple as looking at stats and judging wins then it would be a much easier thing for me to analyze. That is one of the great things about sports, since normally things are so much easier to judge. For example it is a lot easier to try and figure out who is a better basketball player than it is to see which friend is nicer. However, Roethlisberger isn't an easy person to figure out and this whole situation just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. All I wish is that Roethlisberger would have been an average human being, who was never accused of anything. As it currently stands though he was accused and I can't be 100% certain that he did anything wrong. I wish I could end this post with some type of uplifting comment that would wrap up everything in a one sentence summary. However, like the rest of the post all I am coming back to is the fact that there is a lot of things I don't know.