A Good Wife always knows her place.

I was recently sent an email regarding an article attributed to Housekeeping Monthly entitled ‘The Good Wife’s Guide’.  While some of you may be familiar with the article and its supposed origins, wikipedia (a resource as always), gives the full text and a discussion of the salient points of the questionable validity of the article’s publication.  Be that as it may, the text of the article got me thinking about wifehood both today and in the past.

As a ‘modern woman’, I am supposed to want everything – fulfilling, rewarding career; enough money; a man who is my co-parent and homemaker; a nice house and its trappings; two cars, two dogs, a cat, and a parakeet.  And there’s nothing wrong with shooting for the moon, as long as we realize that are loftier ambitions are probably ones we won’t achieve.  For myself, for the moment, I’ve forgotten how to start small with managable goals.  I see the amazing things I’ve done – spending two years in China, traveling to Australia in high school, writing my first novel last year – and they give me only a small sense of accomplishment.  The short-term goals I have seem either too difficult or too unfulfilling in and of themselves to be attainable.  I’m left struggling to find my way to the next immediate step – instead my gaze has been turned to the sky and I don’t quite know where I’m stepping.

A part of the issue is that women, as a gender, no longer know their place.  it could be the home.  It could be the office.  It could be both or neither.   And in that struggle to redefine ourselves, I find I’m left with too much responsibility to carve out my own place.  Sometimes it seems like I’m shoving against the whole of the modern world to make some space for myself, and that’s exhausting.  Hopefully I will remember to take a deep breath once and awhile and allow things to fall into place around me.

Old Dog, New Tricks

    So, I thought I would write a little bit about how the big money-manager guys play the investment game, at both the more immediate manager level, and the more removed school endowment level.

First, the more immediate manager level.  These are the guys who work for mutual funds or other specific types of money managers.  They operate on one basic principle: knowledge = good investing.  Basically this means a particular mutual fund or other mixed organization of individual stocks has a specific, narrow investment area.  This could be one industry, or country or region, or one category of goods such as commodities or raw materials.  And these professionals know everything about that area.  They have strong contacts with a variety of professionals working at companies in that area.  They know the latest and greatest developments that are coming.  Most especially, they are watching the supply and demand chains for a variety of corporate entities related to their area.  Basically this broad spectrum of knowledge in a narrow part of the investment pie is supposed to help them make intelligent and informed decisions about what companies will do well and should be invested in by the larger portfolio.  Of course this sometimes breaks down – even the best, most informed guesses are not correct.

How this relates to you:  These are the same types of people you will be working with to manage your money, so this does give you a better sense of how they operate and why they can probably do a better job picking stocks than you can.  But how do you really tell the difference between one service provider and another?

On to the next topic: how endowments pick their money managers.  Basically, endowments have begun to follow the philosophy of judging their managers not on returns, which can be misleading, but on something less quantifiable – the way they think.   The idea here is that an intelligent and informed manager will make an advantageous investment decision 8 or 9 times out of 10.  In addition, the same philosophy of knowledge = good investing is used to pick managers.  Opinions are collected from other investment firms, previous co-workers and associates to individuals within the firms, and other investors in the firm.  Most importantly, face-to-face meetings are arranged so specific questions or issues can be addressed, and the general intelligence and knowledge of the group be evaluated.

How this relates to you: Obviously, the majority of the evaluation techniques are not open to the individual.  How then, if past performance is not always a valid indicator, can you choose one specific investment firm over another?   Key principles remain the same.  More knowledge means better investment judgment, and a certain amount can be discovered publicly.  Check out the key individuals in a firm – read articles about them.  There are tons and tons of publications about which industry or area should be invested in – check some of these out, and see how they compare to your own evaluation of current market conditions.  Absorb as much as possible in areas familiar and comfortable for you, and see where ti takes you.  Of course, investing in a range of industries is important, but if you know more about one area, that’s where your particular knowledge is going to give you an edge.  Don’t be afraid to use it by weighting your portfolio in that direction.

The Things We Buy.

As it is the start of a new year and I am somewhat more conscientious about what I’m doing with myself and my life (not much, it seems), I’ve noticed a bit about how I spend money.  I’m not a ridiculous spender, nor am I a highly thrifty person, like my sister, Shelly.  I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, but in today’s culture, I’m not really sure exactly where that puts me.  I just spend a significant amount of money buying new work clothes.  True, they look really nice and snazzy, and the quality is good so they will last me awhile, but do I really need more clothes?  Probably not.  I could probably get away with wearing the same wearing-thin pants I’ve been wearing.  But at the same time, looking nice and different and buying something new does give me a little esteem boost.  Maybe that’s my feminine side coming out, or maybe we just all like to look nice.

Mike is more of a gadget buyer than I am, but I still have  my own little gadget buys once in awhile that I probably don’t need.  I would like to get a new computer sometime.  Why?  Mine is not running out of space, but the processor is a little slow.  So why not get a new one?  They aren’t that expensive.

I guess that’s the kind of message that’s been ingrained on my generation.  We didn’t have any depression, or cold war, or any real reason to tighten our belts.  We were born to a time of plenty, when the economy basically depends on us consuming more and more.  So we do, almost without thinking.

Why does this bother me?  Basically because I’ve watched myself balloon out my spending as my salary has increased.  When I first moved to Boston, I was tight enough on cash that I spent only about 10-20$ a week on groceries.  Usually I could keep it to under 15$, but occasionally I spoiled myself.  I went out to dinner maybe once a month, someplace cheap.  I just didn’t buy other things.  When I got my current job, I spent more.  When I got a raise, I spent more.

True, some of this spending is legitimate and worth its cost.  I fly home for holidays now, and sometimes in between.  Those flights add up, but they are definitely worth it.  And now that I’m living with Mike we’re more likely to have a nice dinner, just the two of us, as a little outing for us to just spend time alone together and get out of the apartment.  And I don’t regret that time spent at all.   But at the same time, it adds up.

I think the bottom line is that I want to have more money to spare, or invest, or save.  And if I’m going to do that, I need to really think hard about what things are worth their cost, and what things I can do without, at least for a little while.

Why my boss continues in awesomeness.

Mike’s boss can be a little flip-floppy in attitude, but one of the things I’ve been a little jealous of is the closer relationship he seems to have with at least a group of his colleagues.  They seem to do more stuff together on their own time – go out more, have more ‘events’ that are not really work-sponsored, that kind of thing.  I like that.  I want that.   Recently my boss seems to have picked up on my subliminal messaging in that direction.

Don’t get me wrong – we’ve always had our share of fun activities.  Occasionally we go out for drinks after work or whatever, though that’s pretty rare.  And there are two work-sponsored activities a year – one in winter, and one in summer.  So that’s nice, and I think it does serve its purpose of building camaraderie and working relationships.   But still, I want more.  I like the people I work with, which is part of what makes my boring boring job so bearable.

Sometiems though, events are exclusive.   Last year all the big guys – managing directors and directors – went skiing together and told each other secrets.  That’s when everyone but me learned my boss’s wife was moving and he was looking to buy a house.  And, of course, lowly admin are not invited.

This year, everyone is going.  You have to pay for yourself, of course, but the accommodations and transportation are being arranged.   So everyone, pretty much, will be in on the secrets, too.  I appreciate that.

The second thing is the bake-off.  I don’t know how we got started – probably some trash talk about my boss’ baking skills, or lack thereof.  He claimed he could win a competition against everyone in the office – he was a good baker – and we claimed he was mistaken.  So, now Corina is setting the whole thing up – rules, judges, everything – and we’re going to bake like crazy.  I’ve already had one experiment, which came out delicious but looking nto perfect.  I need to make some major recipe modifications.

Bottom line is, now we have a freaking EVENTS calendar at work, and it’s getting booked up.  Go boss man!

Back in the Saddle…

So, this weekend was a three-day weekend for me, and I used it to productively do absolutely nothing.  True, I did see Gina, and we did practice the cake I’m baking for work (more on that later), but as that was largely unsuccessful and I’m going to have to rewrite the recipe, I don’t really count that.

All my high hopes for getting alot of writing done have not come to fruition.  o make up, I guess I’m going to have to just write a bit at work today.  Sadly, my stories I wrote Friday have not been accepted, so I need to send them out again.  So far I haven’t found the right place to send them, but I will.   My plan for the moment is to get several more done over a wide range of topics, so I have more flexibility sending things out.  Then, if I go through the mondo list of places to send them and there’s no fit, I will start another writing-specific blog where I can “publish” my stuff.  Of course, I won’t be paid for that, but it will build me a writing base.  So we’ll see how that works.

Anyway, just wanted to give an update – hope all your weekends were great.