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Archive for July, 2014

Flying first - posting from China.

July 14th, 2014 at 08:31 am

Finally getting a little time to post, after being here for 4 days. First post goes to the flight.

Long flight to Shanghai via HK on my favorite airline -- HK’s Cathay Pacific.

the seat is 3 times the width of the economy seat.

leg room obviously not an issue.

Greeted on board with Krug.

Amenity bag and soft cotton pajamas.

You eat when you want, whatever you want, no schedule or limit.

caviar course (comes with champagne, but I could not drink any more champagne at the time).

lobster salad

drinks of course

small details like space for your luggage on the side, for your convenience, and a space to hang your clothing after you change into something more comfortable.

But the sweetest thing of all is, of course, this:

The flight really did feel too short. I mean where else do you get to watch TV in bed while being waited on your hand and foot and plied with food and alcohol? This is pretty much the only scenario where it is socially acceptable. Smile

Sometimes you don't want free

July 10th, 2014 at 03:30 am

I'm typing this in a BA lounge full of alcohol and though this is my favorite food group, don't particularly feel like anything. I had dinner and drinks before getting here. I know this is contrary to "getting best value" for something. Smile I will have the Krug on board though, I know Cathay serves it.

I got here way too early - got from Manhattan to JFK in like 20 minutes, pretty unheard of, breathed trough check-in and security in 5 minutes (that included opting out and getting to a second base with a TSA agent) and now don't know what to do with myself. I had a very stressful 2 days and am trying to unwind.

The lounge is empty, with good amount of free alcohol and some food that I don't want, nothing special decor wise. But quiet as a grave (I know some people like that). I guess this is the time of the day when all BA flights are gone.

My poor DH is still not home - he was stuck in traffic due to construction on the way back. He did insane amount of driving today and still drove me to the airport - that saved us probably $80, and he saw me off, which was nice.

Net worth semi-annual statement.

July 7th, 2014 at 06:32 pm

I did the "financial statement" of all accounts snapshots on June 30, as I do almost every month, and compared to the end-of-year statement.

Our net worth increased over 75K in the last 6 months. That's an average of 12.5K per month. (And we don't even bring home close to this amount).

47K of this increase was in retirement savings
18K in our invested EF
10K in paid off debt (mortgage, student loan and car)

I'm not counting house equity or car equity in my calculations, as I have no accurate way of tracking them.

Majority of this net worth increase was from growth, not from additional savings. We were heavy in Apple, and made some good option calls, beating the market by a large margin.

Of course, we cannot count on this run ever replicating itself. And we will owe sizable additional taxes on realized gains. But I am pleased with ourselves for beating all personal records.

WHY I want to buy a house in NYC.

July 5th, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Is it just usual reasons? To have bbq, or a small garden patch, or my own washer and dryer, or being able to have drinks outside? Sure, but that only a small part of it. To have a yard for kids to play in? (translation - put a kid out to pasture and not have to dress for the outside and take him to the park/playground) That one is not high on the list. We have lovely parks and playground and are used to this lifestyle.

My major reason is financial advancement of the family.

In my travels I see what happens in almost all major metropolitan areas as population grows, and I understand what it means to own a house in a place like that. People who own a house in HK or Shanghai, or any densely populated area are very few and they have a tremendous financial advantage. It is basically investing in land, in areas that geographically cannot expand, but population grows and grows and grows and property becomes more and more expensive, out of reach for many. A change that happens in a decade or two is incredible!

I feel NYC is trending towards that direction. There are also additional points that are special to this city. A lot of property bought here is bought as an investment or insurance. For example, rich people from all over the world, with either unstable regimes or places like China where political changes can down the road expose rich people to risk, buy nyc apartments for their kids, to protect their future. This is so wide spread, that most brokers have a toll free number to call from abroad and a currency calculator on their website.

REITs, investment funds, pension funds also buy up properties in NYC. All of it reduces inventory as population still grows. Higher earning people are left to compete for what is left. And compete for outer boroughs and anything decent within commuting distance. Neighborhoods are “gentrifying” and natives of the neighborhood get unhappy about skyrocketing prices. But thats the natural consequence - people just buying where they can afford. They are not setting out to “gentrify”, they just need a place to live.

2. It is also a hedge for inflation. Governments(especially US) are printing a lot of money, and higher inflation is not an unreasonable expectation in few years down the line. Having a fixed mortgage on a very expensive asset in a desirable location is a good protection. It would also make mortgage payments much easier.

3. It is about us and not the co-op board having control. Being able to rent it out, not having anyone re-finance the underlying mortgage without your permission, deciding on when and by who repairs should be done, to who and for how much you can sell… the list goes on and on.

4. Buildings are also a subject to numerous and ever expanding city regulations. For example local law 11, that cost our building about 2 mil this year (and we are a 180 unit building only). It costs other co-op more or less depending on their size/building type. Our building decided to refinance mortgage and increase repayment term to pay for it. There has been many, many other expenses replacing major things to meet city regulations. Construction companies make billions through these city regulations, and yes, I do see political corruption behind it. Family houses are not subjected to these government whims as much.

Anyway, to summarize, I feel that if there is any chance to buy land HERE, that it can change the financial future of our family - like a chance to buy land in Kowloon 25 years ago.

Weekend so far and a good deed.

July 5th, 2014 at 04:59 pm

Thursday, after early release at work, I went over to Madison Ave in midtown to have my highlights done. I wanted to have a fresh look before my trip. I got an amazing job - the sun kissed, blonde hair that are done in a way you cannot even tell. Shining streaks look like a natural golden variation in color. (I also need to get a haircut and mani-pedi before I leave - They don't really know how to work with blonde hair in China as it has different texture and volume, so even though it is cheaper there, I'm better off doing it here).

My husband was taking our son on a boat ride from one of the piers, so while waiting for them I walked over to the food hall in the basement of Plaza Hotel to have a slice of a Lady M crepe cake. They had a new flavor for July - coconut. Love it! well worth $8.

I waited for them in midtown, and we met afterwards for dinner and drinks. The set of serviches was really good, drinks so-so but expensive, and ribs eh. Overall, not worth the $134 bill, but no way of knowing it before trying. It was not bad though, just not worth it to me. But it was a nice evening out. And when we were coming home in traffic, listening to the music, and me and my son "dancing" in our seats, I felt very happy with our lives.

Friday we went food shopping (somehow $295) and liquor shopping $189. I keep telling myself that this should keep us set for a while.

Than I went for a run in the evening. I was running through the forest and saw an iPhone on the ground. I picked it up, and opened it. It was not locked, and the first thing I saw was a video of a dog, and I slides back to see few photos. They were of a woman and a dog I passed on the trail about 10 minutes before. So I thought that I may catch them and ran back. It took about an extra mile to find them, and I caught a glimpse of the dog eventually, but could not find them. I realized they might have exited the forest, and ran up to the road and saw a glimpse of someone turning on the path towards the building. I found them and returned the phone. The woman did not even realize she lost it. I think chances are, if I did not find it, she would never get it back. It was black, hard to see on the forest floor, the sun was setting, and it was raining on and off all day.
I know how sucky it is to lose an iPhone, so I'm glad my running saved someone from it.

This morning DH got our son and took him to a nice park where they ran art projects for kids every weekend. FREE. They also have a nice cafe with fresh, healthy, well priced food and they had lunch there as well. I am home, typing this after sleeping in.

Maybe we will go to the pool later. So a routine weekend so far. I'll insert pictures later if I have time.

Answer to all your financial concerns - move to rural Appalachia.

July 3rd, 2014 at 02:53 pm

Housing is cheaper. Prices are cheaper. You can buy a house outright and be a king of the hill.
Is there anything wrong with this suggestion?

Why does it not appeal to everybody and specifically, to your family? If you do not want to quit your job and move there away from your family and friends, into a completely unappealing for you lifestyle, than your standards are too high and you are not flexible enough.

Imagine getting this advice over and over and over again, that you are choosing to have all your financial concerns by wanting to stay where you live.

That is how I feel when people suggest that the answer to my housing aspirations is to move out of NYC.

I'm not dreaming of a house somewhere. I want one where I live. There is a difference. I know people think they are well meaning when they suggest it, but that'be because they hear the word NYC, that's their immediate reaction.

They are not applying the same considerations as they would to a suggestion to move from where they live to a far away cheaper place with less career options, less food options, less access to every service imaginable, including medical care, and where your extended family would not be in your and your child's life.

Should we all just be HAPPY here?

July 2nd, 2014 at 04:02 pm

What we are all doing here is keeping focused on our finances. To what degree does it help our general feeling of happiness?

On one hand, it helps us feel more secure and in control, and that's a good thing.

But, it is also driving us to want more? It can be a good thing, but to what degree? Does wanting to do a little bit better carry an implication that where we now, is not good enough?

I know we are doing fine (covering our bills and saving 15-20% of our salary for retirement).
We are getting good returns on our investments. But it makes me anxious to do better.
I know it is not rational. Perhaps it is wanting a house, with a small back yard. In New York City. That is a tall order.

It is really hard to measure your progress objectively when you are surrounded by rich people and wealth is everywhere. Running through my residential Bronx neighborhood, past little houses in a green area (1.4-2.5 million average price, with some a lot more, but nothing under a million), one kind of dreams of having that green yard and a village feel. Most of them are not mansions(those are 6-9 mil and up), they are typically 1,100-1800sf, but they are houses on land, where you, not the co-op board, have control.

Am I robbing myself from being truly happy? I mean we are secure, we contribute to retirement, and I have a wonderful child and husband, and am I expanding too much mental energy on this? Life is short, and is this focus something that takes away from other areas and makes one feel a little less satisfied?

Are my desires unreasonable?

I was watching a video of a little boy who lost his mom and dad sing a song about mom, and I was crying. And it made me feel how silly it is to be so focused on saving another $100, in the grand scheme of things...

I don't know, I'm feeling a bit conflicted on how focused we should really be on acquiring more.
Is it a mindset that our society has - to strive to have more, and does it give a proportionate return in happiness?