Archive for November, 2006

Wise advice on how to avoid stress with your relatives this holiday season


Pamela Slim over at Escape from Cubicle Nation has shared some advice that I thought worth reprinting here. She’s written an article called Traps to avoid when discussing your career with relatives over the holidays. I think it’s a very timely reminder of the oh-so-fun things that can come up whenever families get together — ever seen a competitive Asian family get-together? It’s not pretty — and how to deal with it all.

Here are a few highlights I particularly enjoyed:

    Trap: Thinking your relatives understand that you have changed since your failed lemonade business in fifth grade. Try as we might, it is so hard to break the stereotypes that our relatives have about us based on what they saw when we were growing up. “You could never stick to one thing, Martha, you were always distracted in your studies”, etc. Even if they don’t come right out and say it, you can often feel their disapproval based on their body language or tone of voice.

    Solution: Change your expectations. You will never be able to convince your family you have outgrown your innate shyness, so stop trying. Show results by your actions. If you get too frustrated in a conversation, smile and change the subject quickly. The worst thing you can do is argue your point. You will never win, and will most likely revert to acting like a 10 year old.

    Trap: Thinking they understand the changing job market. Older relatives may be perplexed by the fact that the average person now has seven careers in their lifetime. They grew up in a world where the best career security was finding a good job in a good company and staying until retirement. Lots of job changes was seen as being irresponsible, unstable and less desirable for employment.

    Solution: Come armed with a nice “elevator speech” about today’s job market so that you can help them see that you are not outside of the norm. “25% of women in their mid-40s are successfully starting businesses, Uncle Milt,” or recite the “7 career per lifetime” statistic above. If they still don’t get it, let it go and change the subject.

Pam’s listed some other good tips, like cutting down on the jargon and limiting yourself to a few minutes’ time when discussing your work instead of risking boring others around you, plus advice on how to keep calm when things get exasperating. I received the list because I subscribe to her email newsletter, which you can do through this link if you’re interested. It’s good stuff!

Everyone wants a prenup

Personal finance

Earlier this month, I polled . Turns out you’re largely a pragmatic bunch, with 48% saying a definite “yes”, 15% “no”, and 33% “maybe”. Here’s the breakdown:

Unfortunately, no one left comments, though at least one reader was enterprising enough to write his/her own poll response that left no doubt as to his/her stance!

Personally, I was surprised how amenable people were to the idea of signing a prenup and expected more of a bimodal distribution. Then again, this isn’t exactly a Nielsen poll :)

1-month T-bill now at 5.39% APY, gap continues to widen


The rate on the 28-day T-bill continues to increase each week, while the 91- and 182-day bills hold steady. Here’s the updated APR chart that includes today’s auction results (click to enlarge):

T-bill rates through 11/30 issuance date

This is a good time to check and review tax-effective yields, using the 28-day bill as an example and California’s 9.3% tax bracket:

Unadjusted APY ………………. 5.39%
Itemizers (deduct state tax)…. 5.95%
Non-Itemizers @ 15%………… 5.06%
Non-Itemizers @ 25%………… 6.16%
Non-Itemizers @ 28%………… 6.19%
Non-Itemizers @ 33%………… 6.26%
Non-Itemizers @ 35%………… 6.29%

If you live in a state with state income tax, I’m not sure there’s another comparable savings account or CD that’s as liquid that would yield comparable rates right now, so T-bills might be a good option to check into!

The perfect present for the investor geek in your family?

Personal finance

Running out of originality when it comes to gifts? How about stocks and bonds? No, not practically speaking as in shares of ownership in companies, but the physical certificates themselves.

The Street ran an article yesterday about , a site that buys and sells authentic stock and bond certificates as collectibles, and collectible they are. Hard-to-get certificates for some companies, or those signed by famous people such as John D. Rockerfeller are priced in the low-to-mid four-figure range. They even offer . As the logic goes, as transactions become increasingly automated, physical stock certificates will become increasingly rare.

With a little creativity, you don’t have to go for certificates of companies who are no longer in existence. A friend gave his two bridesgrooms one share of stock each of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Ferrari via Fiat (FIA), respectively, as wedding party favors.

And those really are frameable art.

Just keep in mind that if you’re thinking of giving a physical stock certificate, your broker will likely charge a hefty fee (around $50) to register the shares in the recipient’s name and make the transfer. Still, if you’re going for originality, perhaps Scripophily or a stock share in someone’s favorite company might just be what you’re looking for.

Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for cash

Personal finance

Yesterday, I went to the mall to buy a present for my husband from Williams Sonoma. (He loves kitchen stores, but I can’t write what I got here because there’s a chance he actually visits and reads this site from time to time.)

Since our anniversary, Christmas, (the Latin/Spanish version of “Christrmas”), and his birthday all fall within a 3-week period, I usually get one “big” present for him and a few small ones.

Instead of wrapping an odd-shaped object, I decided to use the seasonal gift wrapping services at the mall. They charged a small fee ($7) which went to a local charity organization. Of course, I didn’t realize they only took cash, or that I didn’t have any in my wallet at the time until they’d already started wrapping. I went to two ATMs at opposite sides of the mall, resigned to pay the $3.00 fees, but after trying both 2-3 times each to no avail, I finally figured out that neither ATM had sufficient funds (!!) after other people tried to withdraw money and ran into the same “invalid transaction” message. I asked at a few fast-food restaurants if they gave cash back via debit, but none did.

I’m telling you, it felt really surreal to be “trapped” in a mall with stores everywhere that took plastic and no way to extract a few cash dollars.

In the end, I gave up, got back into my car to find a nearby bank, got money out, found parking at the mall again, and paid for the wrapping. Something that should have taken 10 minutes to do ended up taking closer to an hour.

All this time, I kept thinking of the seminar that I’d attended a month ago about how keeping cash was critical even in the nearly cashless society we now live in. At least this wasn’t an emergency situation…what would that chaos have looked like?

So, you might not use cash often anymore, but there’s no easy substitute for it, and when the need for a few $ crops up, you might end up spending far more time, money, and energy than if you kept a few bills in your wallet at all times.

Well, I’ve learned my lesson!