Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crazy, Crazy Week!

Last week was one of the craziest ones I've had in a long time.

Start with the good:

New Car - I finally got myself a new car: a Hyundai Sonata SE.

My New Sonata
So far I love it. My favorite feature: Bluetooth, which allows me to wirelessly stream music from my iPhone to my car stereo. In fact, I can stream Internet radio from my iPhone to the car. One day last week I was actually listening to a live news program from Israel while driving at 65MPH down 101 South. Sweet.

I paid cash for the car since I don't believe in financing consumer purchases. My philosophy: unless you are talking about a house, if you can't afford to pay for it with cash, you can't afford to own it.

Old Car Donated to NPR - after 11 years of faithful service, I donated my old friend, the Geo Prizm 1997, to our local NPR affiliate. According to Kelly Blue Book it was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $800, but since I listen to NPR all the time and am not currently a member, I thought this would be the right thing to do. Besides, I get to take an income tax deduction at the actual price NPR gets for the car AND I didn't have to deal with the headache of selling it. The donation process took a single call and a 3 minute meeting with the tow truck driver who gave me the paperwork and took the car.

A bit nostalgic seeing my old car getting towed away, but hey, I GOT A NEW CAR.

John Mayer Show - Alpaca and I went to see John Mayer perform at Shoreline last Friday. Mayer is one of my favorite artists and he gave a great show. My only concern - which is not new - is that the food at Shoreline Amphitheater is slightly worse than the most horrible food you can imagine. I paid $6 for garlic fries that stayed with me until the next morning (my nickname for them: "disgusto-fries"), and another $6 for a tiny cheese pizza that tasted like someone had pre-digested it for me.

Shoreline @ Night
If you are going to go to any entertainment event in this country, you are going to get overcharged for food and drink. That is pretty much a given. However, my plea to entertainment venue managers everywhere is a simple one: if you are going to charge us an arm and a leg for snacks, could you at least make them half way decent? Is it really so difficult to make a semi-edible pizza?

Three Days Without the Kids - My in-laws took the kids for three whole days and nights last week. This means that Alpaca and I had three whole evenings to ourselves. We got to go out three nights in a row and get together with friends. If you don't have kids, you have no idea what a big deal that was.

Much fun was had by all.

So where's the bad stuff?

Trouble at Work - Well there was really only one bad thing, but it was a big one. My company laid-off 15 people. Now only 20 remain (down from about 50 only a few months ago). The company's survival is very much up for debate. It is entirely possible that the company will be shut down by the end of the week. Yes, that's pretty depressing. Going to the office these days is a really dismal undertaking.

The situation is currently beyond my control. In fact, it is beyond the control of anyone on our company's management. Some of our investors are trying to work out a deal under which they will continue to run the company. If that works out, I have been assured by reliable sources that I have a key position with the firm. If not, well, I guess my job search will need to move into higher gear...

On the job hunt front, I have a number of leads, none of which appear very appetizing at present, however, I am encouraged by the fact that there seem to be opportunities out there. The question, which is probably a big enough topic for another post, is whether I should hold out for the right opportunity or take the first semi-decent offer that comes my way. More on that dilemma in the future.

Enjoyed this post? Please consider subscribing to Money and Such by free RSS Feed or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Job Search is On!

My company appears to be on the brink of failure. It has been apparent for a few months that we were in trouble, but for a little while it appeared like we might be able to pull off a miraculous recovery. No more. As of today our board of directors is weighing several possibilities, none of which are likely to result in long term survival for the company as an independent organization. All is not lost though, at least not yet.

Among the options being considered is the possibility that the board will attempt to sell the company, rather than shutting it down. If that happens, I will probably be asked to stay with the company and lead the selling effort. There is also an outside chance that our investors will decide to keep us running on a semi-normal basis and try to grow the business. I am not holding my breath.

All that aside, I am not sitting around and hoping for the best. Ever since the situation turned decidedly grim earlier this week, I have been formulating my plans, and as of Wednesday I have started to quietly and discretely search for a new position.

Why quietly? I don't want to disrupt the company's few remaining chances, nor do I want to jeopardize my chances to stay with the company if it continues to exist in some form. So what have I done so far? Here's a short list:

1. Update my resume - I didn't have much to do, because I am diligent about keeping my resume more or less current. You never know when an opportunity might crop-up.

2. Call headhunters - I make it a point to always respond to headhunters that try to contact me - whether they are trying to sell me on candidates for hire or on job prospects. If I am not interested, I try to suggest someone who I think would be a good fit or is hiring. As a result, I now have some headhunter contacts that know me and are willing to work with me. One even has a couple of positions he will propose me for (although neither are terribly exciting to me at present).

3. Call trusted network members - as I mentioned, this is a quiet effort so far, so I am only calling a few, carefully selected individuals that I feel are in a position to assist me with minimal risk of disclosure. One of these has a position to offer me, but the details are not yet clear. I should know more next week.

4. Apply for some jobs online - this is mostly a fruitless exercise, no doubt, but I found a few open positions for which my qualifications are perfect. I gave it a shot - but I am not holding my breath. Online job applications are not much different from a black hole. Unfortunately, my network does not extend into the relevant companies, so during the quiet phase of my search, online applications are my only option.

5. Start a War Board - if you've ever been in sales, you might be familiar with an end of quarter "war board" that some companies have. This is a place to monitor all the expected sales and track performance to meet end of quarter sales target. Well, I started a Job Search War Board - it's an excel spread sheet where I will track all of the leads, activities and to-do items related to my job hunt.

In this economy I am preparing for a long, hard slog. I feel ready, nervous, a little worried, and actually quite excited. I feel that I am up for the challenge.

In the coming weeks, I will use this blog as part of my war board, and hope to solicit useful comments, advice  and motivation from my readers. In the mean time, if you know of senior level business development or marketing positions in the technology industry, and specifically in Silicon Valley, I would love to know about it. All leads welcome.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, and come back soon for regular updates on the search.

Enjoyed this post? Please consider subscribing to Money and Such by free RSS Feed or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Guest Post: Easy Ways to Profit from Stocks

The following is a guest post by Jack of DGB. My policy is to post a variety of guest posts, even if they represent points of view that are very different from my own. In this specific case, I disagree with most premises in the post, however, the readers should judge for themselves. I have added some of my own opinions as an Editor's note at the bottom of the article. The guest post:

Thousands of people start to invest in the stock market with the dream of making millions overnight. But being unaware of the risks involved can cost you dearly. Many people have faced huge financial troubles after suffering overwhelming losses in the stock market. So if you are wondering how to go about making profits in this consistently fluctuating market, then read on.

It’s difficult even for the most experienced stockbroker to pick the right stock at the right time. When it comes to the stock market, you can’t actually rely on anybody’s forecast as each individual will give you a different interpretation. Here are some tips which will help you take the right decisions if you are thinking of investment in the stock market.

1) Be clear about your goal: First of all you need to determine whether you want to opt for the long term or the short term profit. This is important as it will help you decide on the method which you will choose to trade by. It will also help you to judge the type of stocks that you should buy to maximize your investment returns.

If you are going for long term investments, then it’s advisable to check on their performance over the last six months. It’s always better to check out years of data if it is available. You do not need to be an expert to do a company analysis. A good look at the performance of the company in the share market will help you take the right decision.

If your goal is short term profit, then you can opt for day trading strategy. It’s advisable to keep away from volatile markets. Experience will gradually help you to take the right decisions while you are searching for stocks. Look out for companies which do not show a volatile nature in the stock market as there is less risk of suffering losses with them. You should anyhow check out the history of these companies too, though what will really matter to you is the company’s immediate performance.

2) Learn to read charts: You must learn how to read charts. This is important as this will help you to determine the performance of the company in the future. Charts can help you in various ways so it is necessary to understand them before you invest in stocks.

3) Watch the market regularly: A common mistake that people often do is that they start keeping an eye on the market only after they have invested money. Be wise! Start watching the market even before you have invested in order to understand the market better and to boost your chances of success.

4) Begin with small investments: You should start your investment career by investing small. It’s not advisable to risk your money by making big investments until you have gained enough experience.

5) Seek a combination of investments: An effective strategy to build a long term investment plan is to diversify your portfolio in different sectors. Spreading your investments will lower the risks involved and help you in meeting your financial goals.

Making money in the stock market requires learning and experience. The most important advice is never to invest more money than you can afford to lose. Trade wisely and the stock market can prove to be a great source of income for you!

[Editor's note: I strongly disagree with the notion that non-professionals should even consider investing for short term profit in the stock market. I also disagree with the underlying concept of this post, that stock picking is a good idea - Indexing is the way to go for the vast majority of people. While I agree that diversification is a good idea, diversifying within the US stock market is nowhere near sufficient - diversifying internationally, as well as into asset classes different from stocks is a much smarter approach.]

Enjoyed this post? Please consider subscribing to Money and Such by free RSS Feed or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Is It OK to Over Pay?

Jerusalem Bazaar Store

We are on family vacation to Israel where my brother got married last week. Yesterday we took the kids to visit the old city of Jerusalem (one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion). During a walk through the amazingly colorful bazaar, we told the kids they could each pick a small present as a keepsake from our trip. Our oldest picked a wooden necklace, and I asked the store keeper for the price, which he told me was 20 NIS (about $5). I gave him the money and thanked him.

I think that my behavior came as a shock to the store keeper. If you've ever seen the movie Life of Brian, where in one scene a shopkeeper basically forces his customer to negotiate the price ("you've got to haggle"), our shopkeeper had a similar look on his face.

I probably overpaid for the necklace by 40% to 50%. Usually at these places you have to go through a whole process where you loudly complain about the price, start to walk away, give your best and final offer, and so forth. The fact that I just took money out of my wallet and paid the man his asking price is almost scandalous and  I have no doubt my mom would have given me an earful if I had told her the story. In fact, I bet the store keeper was disappointed he did not ask for twice his original price. But here's my thing - I came out with my kids to enjoy a day in old Jerusalem. Should I really waste the precious few hours we have there by haggling with a store keeper for a savings of $2 or so? I don't think so. This way the store keeper is happy. I am out 2 bucks, and I got an extra 15 minutes to enjoy this ancient and gorgeous city.

What do you think? Am I a sucker? Is it OK to knowingly be a sucker in these cases?

Enjoyed this post? Please consider subscribing to Money and Such by free RSS Feed or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter.