Friday, December 14, 2012

Retirement v. College Savings

I found an article on Yahoo! finance today called "Just Explain It: Retirement vs College Savings." I think that most of the people who read this blog are in still currently in college themselves, but this could become relevant to you in the near future.

Not all families choose to or are able to save for their children's education, but some can and do (this also applies to saving for LDS missions). This is something very important you should discuss with your spouse/future spouse. People tend to feel very strongly on this topic - some insist that their children should not have to worry about money while they are in school, others insist that their children need to pave their own way.

Those parents who do decide to save for their children's education have to face an important trade off between saving for retirement and saving for education.

No matter what, saving for retirement should be your #1 priority. I know that's a bold statement, but I really can't think of an instance when saving for your children's future is more important than saving for your own. That sounds really selfish, but think about it -

Your children need to learn how to save for what they want. They need to understand that things are not simply handed to you in life. They need to learn that they are adults now and their decisions are their responsibility. On top of teaching life lessons, your children have way more resources and options available to them for education than you do for retirement. Your children can take out student loans that they will have the rest of their lives to pay off. Your children can choose a less expensive college. They can work during school and during the summers. Your children have a much lower level of expenditures than you do. You, on the other hand, have a limited number of years before retirement. The more you save and the earlier you start, the better off you will be. I'll tell you right now, social security isn't going to cut it for most people. If you want to maintain your current lifestyle, if you want to travel and spend time with your grandkids,you need to save for retirement.

If you do decide to save for children's education, don't sacrifice your retirement savings. And please, for heaven's sake, don't go into debt to pay for your children's education. Remember, your children are adults when they go to college. Help them out if you want to, but don't hurt your financial future in the process. Remember, you have a limited number of years before retirement - you don't need to be spending those years paying down debt, you need to be spending it continuing to save for retirement.

Coming up next: Saving for Retirement - The Low Down

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Line

OK, I'm ready to consult with the masses. Remember this blog post about being a woman in the accounting program? I mentioned some stories about male BYU students being super weird (verging on creepy)? This story is the one I want to talk about:

"In public accounting, you are usually assigned to a peer mentor who is a couple years ahead of you who can help answer your questions and is basically there to help you succeed. Apparently one student told his female peer mentor that No, he couldn't go out to lunch with her, because he is married and shouldn't be alone with other women. How. Awkward."

I want to know your thoughts on this situation, and on this general theme. I've heard men my age talk about how their parents have advised them to never be alone with a women. I think it's incredibly important to be careful in your relationships with members of the opposite sex because there is a real risk of developing feelings and making poor choices. But how does this apply in the workplace? Where is the line between being appropriate and inappropriate? Where is the line between being appropriate and being weird?

Personally, I think some people are way too intense in walking the line between appropriate and inappropriate. Naturally, you don't want to get anywhere close to "Inappropriate," but do you have to be so perfectly "appropriate" that you are pushing people away and making people uncomfortable and just being awkward?

Are you comfortable with the idea of having a business lunch with a member of the opposite sex? What about a lighthearted lunch with your supervisor to discuss your adjustment to your new job?

Can you be friends with members of the opposite sex at work? Can this friendship extend to getting lunch sometimes? If you say that's inappropriate, then is it appropriate to eat lunch in the break room together? Is it ok to talk at your cubicles?

How do you personally handle the "line"?

For me, the way to stay on the "appropriate" side of the line is as follows: Never bad mouth Greg to anyone, especially other men. Don't vent to them when I'm upset with Greg. Don't share deeply personal emotions with other men. Other than that, don't flirt with other men. Be nice and willing to talk and develop friendships. Other than that, I don't do anything I would be uncomfortable with Greg doing or that I would be uncomfortable with Greg knowing I was doing.

I am comfortable going to a business lunch with a mentor or supervisor of the opposite sex. I'm comfortable grabbing lunch from time to time with coworkers of the opposite sex. I'm not ok with the idea of me having a buddy at work that I'm always going out to lunch with, just the two of us. For me, I feel like if people know I'm married and know that I'm very happily married, that will be speak volumes in defining my relationships with my male coworkers. 

Now it's your turn. Men and women, married and unmarried, business professionals and students, moms and dads, employed and unemployed, etc. Where do you draw the line?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Knee

Want to hear how I dislocated my knee cap? It was pretty sick.

It was the last combination of class on a day when I considered skipping ballet. It was a really fun combination and I was feeling good. I landed a tour jete on my right leg (like this). In ballet, we always turn out our feet and for some reason, even though I've done hundreds of tour jetes in my life, my toes ended up facing one way and my knee bent the other way and snap!.... Oh my gosh, it was so gross and it hurt so bad. At first, i thought I had broken my leg. All I knew was that I had landed on it and it bent the wrong way and it felt like it snapped. I couldn't even look at my knee because it looked deformed. I was such a little freaker outer.

Luckily BYU has an awesome athletic training room just for the dance department and the athletic trainer was nearby and came and put my knee cap back in place and then took me to the training room to look at it, ice it down, and wrap it up. I almost passed out several times because I'm a baby and have zero pain tolerance (I'm gonna be such a joke at delivering children). I went to the doctor and got a fancy schmancy knee brace that makes me look super hard core.

The first few days were rough, mostly emotionally challenging. I would limp around school all day and then come home and get so frustrated trying to navigate our small apartment, with my knee felling so unsteady and feeling so scared of it happening again. I hated asking Greg for every little thing, but at the same time, getting on and off the couch took forever each and every time.

I'm still gimpy. I can only bend my knee between 60 and 90 degrees. I'm supposed to start physical therapy but couldn't get an appointment until the end of this coming week. At this point, it hurts when I try to bend it and randomly every now and then for no apparent reason. It could be a lot worse - no crutches, no surgery, just a limp!

My cute little knee! This was before the doctor drained it - sick!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Family

The Family: A Proclamation to the World is a document that Mormons frequently refer to in their definition of what a family should be. There are a lot of parts of the proclamation that I like. I think families are extremely important. That being said, there are some parts of the proclamation that rub me the wrong way and that I just choose not to think about. There are other parts that actually don't bother me until people  interpret them very boldly and imply that their interpretation is the true interpretation.

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

Here's the thing: I don't believe in assigned roles. I don't believe that as a woman, I have a designated role in our family. I don't believe that Greg has a designated role in our family. That's not to say Greg and I haven't taken on different roles in our marriage. I generally cook and do the laundry. Greg does the dishes and folds the laundry. We both clean. We grocery shop together. This works for us. I'm positive that the roles we have adopted will change over time. If I find myself as a stay at home mom one day, I'm guessing I will take on the laundry and most of the cleaning. But the key point is that these aren't our roles based on being a man or a woman. These are roles that we have adapted for ourselves based on our situation, our personalities, our schedules, etc.

I've heard people be so bold as to say "The role of a mother and father are completely separate, but equally important." Completely separate? So... a father shouldn't worry about nurturing his kids at all? A wife should never help provide for the family? Sorry kids, a burglar broke into our house, but I can't protect you because that's your dad's role. What the heck?!

I've always interpreted this clause as follows: "Children need to be taken care of. They must be provided for and protected. They must be nurtured. This is best accomplished when these responsibilities are shared between two parents."And, if you don't mind, I'll continue interpreting it this way.

Let me just conclude by saying this - just because you grew up in a family that did things one way and just because you want your future family to be that way does not mean that it is the only acceptable way to have a family. Just because your mom didn't work and was there to greet you with cookies on the table when you came home from high school does not mean every mom needs or wants to do that. Just because your mom was nurturing does not mean that every women is a sensitive ball of nurturing-ness. I just wish people would step back and open their eyes up to the fact that there are tons of good families, in the world and in the church, that each independently decide what works for them. There is not only one acceptable family.

As always, comments are appreciated, but don't be rude or patronizing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A man's world


As a woman in BYU’s accounting program, I am one of the few. I’d say I’m part of the…25% or so. I haven’t had any really negative experiences in my time here. A few sexist jokes here and there, nothing more than I’ve heard anywhere else in life.

I have dealt with frustration in terms of not being able to relate to male recruiters and guest speakers, who are almost always men whose wives stay home with the kids. I’ve felt like people didn’t understand the unique issues facing an LDS woman interested in pursuing a career in business. But I’ve never felt like someone was telling me I belonged at home or that I didn’t deserve my place in the accounting program. I’ve never had my peers assume that I won’t pursue a career because I’m married. But, unfortunately, the weirdies do exist.

I’ve heard horror stories of women being explicitly asked by their peers why they took a man’s spot in the business school. I’ve heard people mention conversations they overheard where two students were discussing how it wasn’t fair that women were taking men’s spots. I even heard about a student telling a female professor that she shouldn’t be working, but should be at home.

Apparently the business school has been getting some negative feedback about the behavior of their students out in the field. In particular, a few students have been extremely awkward in interacting with their female colleagues.

In public accounting, you are usually assigned to a peer mentor who is a couple years ahead of you who can help answer your questions and is basically there to help you succeed. Apparently one student told his female peer mentor that No, he couldn’t go out to lunch with her, because he is married and shouldn’t be alone with other women. How. Awkward.

Another student told his supervisor that her low cut tops were making it hard for him to control his thoughts.

Can I just say that these are definitely the exception as opposed to the norm? The fact that these are only stories I’ve heard rather than stories I’ve experienced goes to show that the behavior is not commonplace. But can I also say that this is the type of behavior that results from a culture that hyper-sexualizes women through its lessons on women’s modesty and how it relates to a man’s ability to stay pure? These lessons can succeed in turning women into sex objects who must be avoided at all costs. To tell a female coworker than you can’t get lunch with her because she is a woman implies that you think women = sex. If your wife is so jealous of you interacting with other woman, apparently she also holds the unfortunately belief that women and sex are one and the same.

Anyways, my main point in this post was just to say how wonderful the professors are in handling these situations. This year they cancelled regular classes in the Junior Core and spent the time talking about not being weird (it included interacting with members of the opposite sex among other topics that students seem to struggle with). I’ve had professors completely call out students for making sexist jokes. I’ve had professors remind students that the male:female ratio in our accounting program is not representative of the ratio in the profession and to get used to working with women. I’ve always felt like my professors were my advocates. On top of that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had teachers bring up the topic of homosexuality and preach about how students need to get over themselves and put their own feelings aside and love everyone.

So can I just say that despite this university being sponsored by the church, I have been so impressed with how progressive my teachers are (well... progressive for Mormons!).

There you have it, a little bit of insight into the business school.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I love going to football games. I am so glad that Greg is into football games, so I have a buddy at every game. I used to end up going to a lot of sporting events by myself... pathetic. I have friends, but none of them are into football, or any other sports for that matter. So I was a humongo loser at every game and always felt so pathetic and lonely. 

Anyways. Greg and I have all-sports passes with our friends. They have a 1 yr old daughter and sweet connections for better seats, so we usually don't end up sitting with them. Meaning we should really have two extra seats next to us and plenty of room. Yet somehow, at every game, we get stuck crammed in between this huge group that just wants to move around, hug, and talk for the whole game. It wouldn't bother me so bad if they actually sat in their seats. But no. They just cram as many people as possible into a row, until we're all shoulder to shoulder and I'm feeling extremely uncomfortable. Hello, I don't know you people. I don't want your butt anywhere near me.

It seriously makes me irate. Like contemplating shoving them down the bleachers irate. Ok, I would never do that... but I did think about it. Instead, I just held my ground, even when the chick next to me kept trying to scoot towards me to make more room for her group. There might have been some minor elbowing. I know the rational response would be to simply ask them to scoot over, but shouldn't they just get the freaking hint? "Hmm this girl was here first and now I'm practically sitting on her lap... that probably means there isn't room for me here." And even if I did ask them to scoot, there was no room for them to go. Plus I'm just passive aggressive like that with strangers.

This brings me to my conclusion: people are so incredible unaware of their surroundings and it drives me crazy. Have you ever been walking behind a group on campus who are deep in coversation and keep stopping, starting, changing pace? Or walking towards a group who refuse to move over to give you room on the sidewalk? Or walking down the stairs behind someone who makes an abrupt stop to send a text message? Or people who stop to talk right in front of a door you need to get through?

People of Provo. Wake up and smell the roses. And stop getting in my way. Please and thank you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wealth

It makes me sad and a little bit troubled to see how much people demonize wealth. I think there are definitely people who seek wealth in selfish and greedy ways that hurt the people around them. But wealth in and of itself is not bad.

Wealth is a beautiful motivator. We all like to be able to buy the things we want. We desire to have a house in a safe area where we can be comfortable. We strive to care for our family. We save money for that awesome "thing" we must have. Having wealth allows us to accomplish our goals. It allows us to make donations and serve. It allows us to vacation with our family. Making money allows us to save for retirement, so that one day we can have an income without working. Desiring wealth is something we all have in common. No matter how much money you have, you have to admit that money is very important to you... right? I know it's important to me. I need money to pay the bills, buy groceries, take care of the car, pay for school, and to have fun.

Because we all need money to take care of ourselves, if you take away the ability to gain wealth, you take away motivation. When you tell people that no matter how hard they work, they'll make the same amount of money and have the same opportunity for promotion, they lose motivation. When you tell people who are in an incredibly difficult (and important) line of work that they don't deserve the money they are making and attempt to take it away, you lose a lot of those talented, bright, and hardworking people.

It's interesting that we complain about how wealthy people are while simultaneously enjoying our iPhones, watching the NFL, receiving first class medical care and prescriptions that save our lives, playing on our computers, and checking facebook. Do you think these things would be around if wealth wasn't at stake? Would companies and researchers invest millions of dollars to bring us what we want if there was nothing in it for them?

Many people who hate wealth say teachers should make more money. Why should teachers make more money? Because their job is incredibly important! So why do they need more money? So more people will want to be teachers and so the field will attract more and better people! So we agree - wealth is a motivator.

Here's the thing. With a few exceptions, people don't become wealthy without contributing in some way. People aren't being paid gobs of money to sit around and eat bon bons. They're being paid to run business to bring you what you want. They're being paid to save lives. This is kind of an old statistic, but As of 1996, 80% of millionaires were first generation rich.

As my friend Jessica said, the poverty cycle is real. I know this and I don't think that we should say, "Suck it up, everyone has an opportunity to become rich, and if you're not it's clearly because you didn't try hard enough." No! There is a very obvious poverty cycle that strangles the success of many bright, hardworking people. But I do know that some people do rise up from this cycle. I know even more people rise up from lower middle class and middle class homes to make more for themselves.

But what happens when we as a nation decide that wealth is evil? At that point, who will strive to rise up from their surroundings? Who will be motivated to get an education in order to get a good job? What will happen when we tell people to not worry about working hard because making more money than someone else is bad? Who will try to rise up from poverty then?

If you want to tax the rich to help take care of people who are struggling financially, fine. But don't tax the rich because you think they don't deserve their money.

[As always, I'm very interested in your thoughts. As one person with the insights of only my life, my point of view can be very limited.]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Supply side economics


By: Greg

In this blog post, I want to look at what is and isn’t “supply-side economics,” also known as “trickle down economics.”

The fundamental idea behind supply-side economics is that investment spurs growth. What do I mean by investment? Investment means spending money now to generate more production in the future – in other words, we choose to consume less today so we can consume more tomorrow. A few examples of investments include: factories, cement trucks, education and training programs, roads, etc. I would suggest that few people buy a factory just because they like factories. They buy them so they can make more stuff. The factory is an investment – it involves spending money today in order to get more in the future. All of these investments increase output per person. If we have more stuff but the same amount of people, then we are all richer.

Read that last sentence a few times until it sinks in.

A common fallacy is to think “Well, all that extra stuff we’re making will just sit on the shelf because people can’t afford it!” But remember, if there is more stuff and the same number of people who want it, the stuff gets cheaper and we buy more. If this doesn’t make sense please comment and I will explain further.
So what government policies would encourage increased investment in the economy? Most economists (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/07/19/157047211/six-policies-economists-love-and-politicians-hate  proposal three) agree that one of the best ways to promote investment and hence growth is to cut or remove corporate taxes. Businesses are the world’s investors, so if you like to promote growth, tax them less. Many people think we should tax corporation because they are led by greedy, overpaid executives and we don’t like that. But, if you think someone is overpaid, tax them, not the company they run.
Another policy would be to decrease the capital gains tax rate (a special, lower, tax paid on earnings from stocks). The impacts of this policy are harder to see, but when we buy stocks we are investing in a business which allows them to invest that money as they choose. Advocates of supply side economics are highly against capital gains taxes.
Notice that we didn’t mention giving heavy income tax breaks to the super rich. This practice is not true supply side economics! Though it can be argued that they are the most likely people to invest the money which would in turn grow the economy, this is a more indirect and sloppy approach. Though there are other reasons why we wouldn’t want to tax the heck out of the rich, they don’t relate to supply side economics.
100% pure, unadulterated supply side economics would go so far as to advocate getting rid of the income tax for all income levels. Why? Any form of income taxation discourages work. (You might wonder how the government would be funded under this practice – tax revenue would come from increased consumption taxes like sales taxes).

As a review, supply side economics holds that economic growth first requires investment. Investment is choosing to consume less today so we can consume more tomorrow. Good investments increase output per person which makes us all richer because there is more stuff for less money. Supply siders believe that we can promote investment by reducing corporate and capital gains tax rates.

That’s it! Let me know if you any questions and I would be happy to explain anything that doesn’t make sense.

Coming next: an explanation of demand side economics

Monday, October 8, 2012

Megan does ballet!

We take time to film each other for our midterm in ballet and because I'm just that conceited, I decided to post some here. Perhaps I will post more if I learn how to rotate videos. It's really nothing special but I think it's fun!


In this one, the girl who was filming me started late

I'm not quite sure why the videos have such an unflattering part of the video as their opening picture... awkward.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Great Clips

My hair has been driving me crazy because it looked really boxy and plain. This past week, I was craving a hair cut. So I went to Great Clips. I know what you are thinking, but I honestly love getting my hair cut at Great Clips. I've only had one "bad" experience, and it wasn't even that big of a deal. It probably helps that I usually want pretty simple things done to my hair, but either way I almost always leave happy. And a haircut is only $13 plus the tip! I told the girl I wanted more layers so my hair felt lighter, and she recommended "thinning" to make my hair even lighter. I've never had my hair thinned before but I agreed to it and I LOVE it. If you have thick hair and want a change, I definitely recommend thinning. My ponytail is almost half the size now and my hair is so smooth and light. I cannot stop touching it. They're doing a deal right now where you get a $7.99 haircut if you have a football ticket. If you don't go to the games, I can give you my ticket if you want a haircut!

I got a new job! My main job is a TA for the junior core. My new job is only a few hours every week, like 8 or so. Its pretty exciting. My boss is working to set up a personal finance center on campus and I'm helping out. Personal finance is something I really enjoy and it's interesting to be in the planning and start-up phases of a project. Confusing and frustrating, but interesting.

I cannot believe I graduate in April. I'm already getting nostalgic about some of my favorite things about BYU and Provo. Walking to the stadium on game days. Being able to walk so many places. The bell tower music at noon. Leaving devotional with a mass of college students who left behind all the other things they needed to get done in order to nourish their souls. Greg's hockey games at Seven Peaks. My wonderful friends being so close by. All the wonderful resources on campus. This unique opportunity to be around people who believe in the same things as you but yet are still so different from one another.

So far I've applied for full time jobs with John Deere (haven't heard back from first interview), Johnson & Johnson (didn't get an interview), Union Pacific, and Dell (interviews this week). Life's moving fast! Before you know it, I'll have three kids and a minivan!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Establishing and Maintaining Good Credit


By: Megan

You've probably heard at least a little bit about the importance of establishing credit and keeping your credit history clean. If you ever take out a loan, your credit score will play a big part in what interest rate the bank will charge you. This is especially important when it comes to buying a home. In this day and age, it's a good idea to have a credit card.

I know I used to have a lot of questions about credit cards: is it best to carry a small balance on your card or to pay it off each month? Should I get those credit cards from stores when they tell me that opening one will save me 15% on my purchase?!

For starters, let's look at what credit evaluation companies are looking at when they give you a credit score:

Payment history: The largest chunk of your score is based on your payment history. For this reason, you do not want to carry a balance. Paying off your card in full shows that you aren't using your credit card to make purchases that you can't really afford.

Use of credit limit: The next biggest chunk is based on how much of your credit limit you use each month. The closer you get to your limit, the more nervous the banks get. Are you using your credit card to buy things you can't afford? Will you be able to pay them back? To be safe, don't use more than 30% of your credit limit each month- to be really safe, don't use more than 20%.

Credit history: How long have you had a credit card? This component is why it is important to get a credit card as soon as you feel ready for one. Even if you never use it, having the account open says a lot. Also, when you get a new credit card, never close your old credit cards. Doing so shortens the length of your credit history. You can cut the card up or put it somewhere safe, but leave the account open.

Application history: this refers to how frequently you are applying for new cards. A good rule of thumb is to not apply for new debt (a new credit card, new mortgage, refinance, etc) within one year of each other. If you are applying for credit too often, the banks get nervous about what you need all of that credit for. Only get a new credit card if you really need one or if it really makes sense.

Credit mix: this is the last category, and is very small. This refers to the fact that you shouldn't have a Kohl's, Nordstrom, JC Penny, and Sears card. This category also refers to the different types of debt. One website says, "A good mix of credit would include a mortgage, a car loan, a couple of major credit cards, and one or two department store or gas credit cards." But remember, this element of your credit score is small. Don't go out and open a bunch of credit cards because you feel like you need a good mix, especially if you feel like you won't be responsible with them.

If you don't have a credit card or are looking for a better one, I'll do another post about choosing a good credit card!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In about a week, Greg and I will have been married for one year, so I'm pretty much the authority on all things marriage.

The other day, I read a viewpoint in the Daily Universe called "Marriage Matters" (you can read it here). The premise of the article is that marriage is not easy and it takes hard work and even happy couples have hard times. I'm not sure why, but these types of articles and statements really bother me. I feel like they're always written or said by people who are trying to be like "See, I'm not some silly little girl who thinks marriage is all fun and easy! I'm going to prove it to you by telling you all about how hard marriage is." It's like when you ask someone how they enjoy being married and they respond with, "It's hard," because they don't want to seem cliche. Who knows, maybe some of these people legitimately struggle with marriage, but I feel like the "It's hard" response is just as cliche as the "It's wonderful" response.

Here's the thing: everything in life is hard. Being in high school and living at home is hard. Being single is hard. Dating is hard. Break-ups are hard. School is hard. Exercising is hard. Life is hard. When people ask me, "How's ballet?" I don't say "It's good, but it's really hard." Or, "How's being alive?" "Well, it's really hard, but it's good too." So I don't understand why people feel the need to emphasize that marriage is hard. What isn't? Do people really expect pure bliss upon getting married? I guess if you expect marriage to be easier than anything else you've experienced in life, you're in for a rude awakening and will probably focus on how hard marriage is. But I feel like any normal person with reasonable expectations who marries someone they are compatible with and who is equally committed to their relationship will far prefer marriage over being single.

Yes, I realize I'm naive and inexperienced in the world of marriage, but I've honestly had people tell me they think the first year of marriage is the hardest. How is that even possible when most of the stress of a marriage doesn't even begin to accumulate until later in life? Some people have told me how hard it was to adjust to being married. I'm definitely not some incredibly laid back, easy going person who just adapts to new surroundings like it's nothing, nor am I the easiest person to live with or get along with, yet Greg and I had no issues adjusting to marriage.

There are things that I miss about being single, and I acknowledge that there are certain aspects of my life and certain decisions that are now much more difficult because I'm married. But let's be real. I love someone for everything he is, and he loves me. I can be completely insane around him, I can fart on him in front of him, I don't have to think twice about doing anything. I can tell him anything and he gets me. I couldn't care less about all the douche-y, cocky people who don't like me, because the only person whose opinion I care about is Greg. We have our own apartment and don't have to worry about roommates we don't like. I get to walk around the house in my undies. Our future is ours. We get to decide what our family will be like.

Sure, marriage isn't total joy, smiles, and bliss 24/7/365. But the first word I would use to describe it is definitely not "hard."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Incentives and Unintended Consequences


By: Greg

One of the most important and talked about matters in economics is the power of incentives, or, how a particular rule or policy changes the behavior of individuals or society as a whole. Though not a parent myself, I am sure that parents are constantly thinking about how particular parenting behaviors will create incentives for good or bad behavior. One example is how your child’s behavior might change if every time they have a temper tantrum they get what they want, as opposed to if they don’t get what they are screaming for. Incentives are everywhere and play an especially large role in deciding if a particular policy is good for society or bad.

In many cases creating legislation that seems like a great idea has really bad unintended consequences. Learning to anticipate those unintended consequences is, in my mind, extremely important. I have an example below and will surely return to this topic in future posts so I wanted to introduce what I mean by incentives and unintended consequences.

Forgiving Debt
In his book “The Elusive Quest for Growth,” William Easterly examines various efforts to help the world’s poorest countries grow out of extreme poverty. One of the efforts he explains is the “Jubilee 2000” campaign heavily supported by U2 rock start Bono as well as the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Jubilee 2000 called for meaningful debt reduction (totaling billions of dollars) for 20 poor countries. The intentions of this aid campaign were obviously very good. Many poor countries are heavily indebted and just paying the interest on their loans is extremely cumbersome. To aid these poor countries, wealthy individuals stepped in and helped them pay down their debts. This movement seems and feels right, but it had some negative consequences.

The astonishing result of this multi-billion dollar debt reduction program is that a large proportion of these countries who received aid were even more indebted shortly after receiving the money. The shocked Bono, Pope, and the Dalai Lama stated that this was a result of “irresponsible governments” which is definitely true. Easterly explained the following in his book:

The Jubilee 2000 debt campaigners treat debt as a natural disaster that just happened to strike poor countries. The truth may be less charitable. It may be that countries that borrowed heavily did so because they were willing to mortgage the welfare of future generations to finance this generation’s (mainly the government clientele’s) standard of living.

That’s one explanation. But let’s also take a look at the role incentives played. Jubilee 2000 wasn’t the first movement made to forgive poor countries’ debts. This practice has actually taken place since 1967, according to Easterly, including a huge amount of money donated in the 1987 G-7 All World Tour. Since many of these poor countries are used to having their debt erased, what is their logical conclusion? Rack up as much debt as possible! Despite the campaign’s best efforts and intentions, its real effect was poor.

Debt forgiveness is seen in other areas as well, and those policies ring up as “stupid” to me for the same reasons as Jubilee 2000. One example that is being pushed for right now is student debt forgiveness.  Don’t forget to think about the incentives.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I struggle with knowing what to blog about. I don't wear cute clothes or do my hair any special way, so I can't blog about that. Not that those are the most terrible interesting blogs to read anyways. I don't want to blog about controversial topics, even though that's probably what I think about the most. I don't want to blog about boring everyday events, except the big stuff that I feel like family will care about. I'm not a very eloquent writer who can write beautiful pieces about feelings, personal growth, etc. I'm not good at remembering the funny things that happen in life... and my sense of humor is kind of weird! So please forgive me as I attempt to figure out what to write about.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It wasn't until the 1950s and '60s that African Americans began receiving equal treatment in the United States. Fifty to sixtyish years ago. Before that, discrimination was part of their everyday life. Schools were segregated, black people were treated like slaves or  "help," people assumed they were filthy and disease-ridden. There was a real mindset that black people and white people were inherently different, that black people were inferior. It was easy for people to discriminate - they believed being black meant something bad.  Christians were taught that black people were cursed by God. It was their religious obligation to distance themselves from them.

It's so easy for us to look back on that time and not be able to believe how anyone can look at another human and think they were inferior based on their race. But we don't know what it was like to grow up in that time, to be raised thinking that the color of your skin meant something. My friend Jessica has a new bishop from South Africa. When she asked him what it was like to live during apartheid, he was frank with her and said, "You don't realize something is wrong when you're in the middle of it." I'm sure the people who discriminated against black people felt that they were right in doing so. They didn't see anything wrong with speaking out in favor of this effort to keep black people from being seen as equals.

What about women's rights? To this day, there are people who think women don't belong in the workplace, people who think women are inferior to men, and people who think that women deserve less in life. I mean, hello, women weren't even allowed to vote in the United States until the 20th century. Women were taught that their husband was the leader of their family and their boss and that their needs didn't matter. Once again, people have been victims of the perceptions they grew up with.

It's amazing how easy it is for us as humans to discriminate against other humans. We think we're right because that is what we are taught by our family, friends, community, and church. We think we are right to feel the way that we do, that we have permission to discriminate. I'm sure we all have good reasons for feeling like people who are different from us are somehow inferior or don't deserve the same things we do.



I just can't help but think about how often we've been wrong.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

These Days

Did you know Greg and I just moved? Yep, our contract ended at our duplex and we had to move. We wanted to move nearby so we would be with the same people for church and so the move would be easy.

We really lucked out. Let me tell you about our new place, which is right across the street from our old place. It's an apartment in a complex of eight apartments. The living room and kitchen are a lot smaller. We don't have a basement for storage and we will have to use a laundromat for laundry, but there is a laundromat attached to the complex that is really cheap. There are 2 bedrooms, so we are using the second one for storage. The bedroom is a much better size than our old one - you can actually walk around the bed without touching the walls or falling in the closet - and the closet is wonderful. Our old place used little window units for AC - here, we have central air. The toilet and shower are separate from the bathroom sinks. Yes, sinks, there are two of them, so I won't be in Greg's way when I brush my teeth for twice as long as him (I'm a little obsessive with oral hygiene). The sinks are in a vanity, so we actually have counter tops to put stuff on. We get Comcast cable included in our rent, which we definitely didn't get at the old place. And, drum roll please........ we are spending at least $100 less per month!! $450/month plus internet, gas/water, and electricity. What up.

Our old place was a lot prettier and brighter. What I'll miss most about the duplex is probably the washer and dryer in the basement and the bigger fridge. But, I seriously love it here more than I expected. I actually love that the living room is smaller because it is easier to keep clean. I like not having to go to the basement to get to our storage. And can I just say how much I am enjoying being able to watch the Olympics?!

Pictures of the new place:
 Kitchen, with the lovely green stove.
 Living room, which is right next to the kitchen. Look at those bare walls!
Bathroom sinks
 Messy bedroom
Other angle


 Glorious closet space

The floor plan is kind of hard to describe... basically you walk in the front door and the kitchen is on your right and the living room is on your left. So the front of the apartment is the living room, kitchen. The back of the apartment is the two bedrooms, side by side. The middle of the apartment is a hall with the bathroom and a closet for the water heather.

We love it. We love each other. Life is good.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Let's talk about....



Taxes! *cringe* Don't worry, I'll keep it relevant and important. As boring and intimidating as the topic is, it is worth having a basic understand. After all, the only things certain in life are death and taxes! You don't need to know how to fill out your own tax return - hello, it's called Turbo Tax. But knowing and understanding some concepts can help you keep track of your money better.

You know how when you get paid, the pay stub shows the difference between what you actually made and what you are receiving? The difference is what the government has withheld from your paycheck. They withhold your money to make sure they get paid what they are owed. It's kind of nice for you too, because if they withhold enough you don't have to shell out a bunch of cash in April.

Whenever you start a job, you are asked to fill out a W-4. This form is how the government decides how much money they will take out of each paycheck you get. The W-4 has you specify how many "personal allowances" you need. This is based on if you're married, how many kids you have, etc. The theory is that when you have a spouse/kids you get a tax break and don't pay as much in taxes, therefore the government will withhold less from your paycheck. So, remember, the higher the number of allowances you take, the less money they will take out. If you don't take any allowance, BAM, they will take as much as they can.

Now, of course, if they take out too much money it gets returned to you. How many times do we get a huge tax return because they took more money from our paycheck than we actually owed? Maybe you like getting a tax return, it's kind of fun, like a little present. But remember - that money is your money. You just loaned the government your money for free. Here Washington, just hold on to my money for a few months. Nah, don't pay me any interest on it, you can just hold it, thanks! Once they withhold it from your paycheck, you can't get it back until the year ends and you file your tax return. I don't know about you guys, but I have my own uses for my money.

For a lot of us, we don't even make enough money to owe taxes, so the government shouldn't be taking anything out. How do we make sure they don't withhold anything? By marking exempt on your W-4! They will still take out your social security taxes, those are unavoidable. But you will get to keep everything rather than having to wait a year to get it back!

How do you know if you will make enough money to pay taxes? There is a hurdle you have to pass before you will owe any taxes. This hurdle comes from the deductions the government allows you to take in calculating how much you owe in taxes. The first is the standard or itemized deduction. If you want to know more about the itemized deduction, ask and I'll explain, but it doesn't apply to most of us. The amount of your standard deduction depends on if you're single or married. Check out this sweet chart:

Filing status
YearSingleMarried Filing JointlyMarried Filing SeparatelyHead of householdQualifying Surviving Spouse
2012$5,950$11,900$5,950$8,700$11,900
Then, if you are not being claimed as a dependent by someone else, you get what they call a personal exemption. For each member of your family; you get to deduct a certain amount. For 2012, that amount is $3,800.

You automatically get to deduct these amounts from your income, so if your deduction and exemptions are more than your income you won't owe any taxes.

So for Greg and I: we get a standard deduction of $11,900 and then two personal exemptions, or $3,800*2=$7,600. To owe any taxes, we would to earn more than $19,500 this year.

For a single person who is claimed as a dependent by their parents: you get the standard deduction of $5,950  but no personal exemption. You have to earn more than $5,950 this year to owe any taxes.

A single person who is not a dependent: you get the standard deduction of $5,950 and one personal exemption of $3,800. To owe any taxes, you need to earn $9,750

If you know you're not going to owe any taxes, don't give the government your money. I mean, unless you just really want to.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What do I do with all this money?

Once you've decided that saving money is important to you and you've committed to disciplining your spending, your money will start to accumulate. It doesn't matter how slow this process is, as long as it is happening. Shoot to save 10-20% of your income. Now that you are saving money, what should you do with it?

The first thing you should do with your savings is build up an emergency fund. The size of this fund will vary based on your life situation. Most experts recommend 3-6 months of income, but if your family involves children and a non-working spouse you might want to consider saving more. This money is only for emergencies! Emergencies include covering your living expenses if you lose your job, fixing the car, doctor's bills, etc.

Some people ask, "Shouldn't we pay down our debt first?" This is a very good question, especially since we all know how dangerous debt can be. The reason it is good to start your emergency fund before you worry about putting all  your savings toward paying off debt is this: if you don't have an emergency fund and an emergency happens, how will you pay for it? With debt. By not setting aside an emergency fund, you run the very real risk of going into more debt in the case of an emergency. This amount of debt is usually going to be more than the interest you will accrue by waiting to pay off your debt.

Where should you keep your emergency fund? Traditional bank savings/checking accounts don't earn very much interest, but they are very safe and your money is easily accessible. You don't have to worry about an investment tanking and losing your money, and when you need the money you can get it very quickly. Some internet banks offer higher interest rates than Wells Fargo/BoA. Credit Unions also offer higher interest rates and better service. Make sure your bank is FDIC insured. You might want to keep some cash at home just in case you need immediate access, but keep in mind that no one is insuring the money under your mattress and it is earning zero return. Your emergency money should NOT be invested in the stock market or in long-term bonds.

The second thing you should do with the money you are making is pay off any credit card debt and consumer loans. Consumer loans are taken out to buy things such as TVs, washers and dryers, furniture, etc. While you are in debt for these items, your hard earned money is being put to use paying down interest. This isn't benefiting you at all, it isn't helping you accomplish your goals. Once you get out of debt, all of your savings will be able to go towards your goals rather than towards interest. That is a beautiful thing.

Once you are out of debt and have an emergency fund, it's time to have fun and really invest your money!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rant

There is a guy in my law class who consistently drives me crazy. He's always making comments that are either extremely specific and related to a topic that does not pertain to anything we are talking about or are so loaded with opinion that it is uncomfortable.

Naturally, at the beginning of class today, my teacher was chatting about the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. He was merely talking to us about what grounds the Supreme Court upheld it on. In the constitution, Congress is given specific powers, and they aren't supposed to do things outside of those realms. Since this is a law class and we have been learning about these concepts, my teacher was explaining that the Supreme Court's rationale in saying that Obamacare is OK was based on the fact that the US Constitution gives Congress the power to tax.

Out of nowhere, this annoying kid spouts off his opinion. "I just don't know what to say to people who like Obama. They actually like Obamacare! I mean, are you retarded???? It's so dumb. OK, they can say people can't afford health care, but really yes you can if you just get a job. Then they say some people can't get a job, and that's just ridiculous. I know that's not true because I know tons of people who are too lazy to get jobs or aren't willing to take a job that is beneath them to provide for their family. They'd rather be on welfare. I mean, come on, get off your butts!!"

In a room full of people who probably feel the same way as him, I didn't have the guts (or the time, in my defense) to put this guy in his place. He made me so mad though. I notice this all the time at BYU. I think it's because the vast majority of students are conservative, so they feel comfortable stating their opinions as fact. Anyways, in response to Mister Obnoxious:

First of all, using the term "retarded" to describe something that you think is stupid is NOT OK.

Second of all, who are you to think you have everything figured out? Oh, clearly if you disagree with something you must be right - everyone who thinks differently from you must be intellectually inferior! Gee, why don't we just entrust the future of our nation to you, since you so clearly know all the sides of the situation and can prescribe the proper treatment. Apparently the general population and the leaders of our country don't know you exist, or else they would definitely reform the government and have you make all the decisions.

Finally, the national unemployment rate is currently 8.1% and has been as high as 10% within the past few years. This is a lot higher than anyone would like to see it (although, might I add, is nowhere near Spain's rate of 24.3% - yikes!) This statistic is computed including only people who are unemployed and have been seeking employment. I'm sure there are people who are lazy and don't get jobs. But how dare you group every unemployed and underemployed person in that category.

Basically, I don't care if you are conservative or liberal or somewhere in between. Have the decency to realize that there is a rationale behind both sides of the spectrum. Don't assume that just because something seems right to you means that you are right or that the other side doesn't have a good point. Of course you won't agree with everyone on everything, but don't act like you are the supreme authority on what is correct.

Blah.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Budgeting

I honestly really struggle with the concept of budgeting, mostly because it consists of so much prediction. I never know what expenses are going to come up - sure there are the regular things like gas, groceries, rent, tuition. But how do I estimate when I'm going to run out of shampoo/need new underwear? I used to not think budgeting was necessary, but if you are serious about saving money, you really need a budget!

I think the most important part of budgeting is just tracking your expenses - what are you buying? How do you know what you can afford when you don't even know what's going on with your money? You can do this manually on a piece of paper or use an electronic service that tracks your expenses automatically. Mint.com is an example of a free website that links to your debit/credit cards to help you analyze your spending. Quicken is a (not free) software that also links to your accounts. You might even be able to use your bank website. Sometimes we don't realize how much money we're spending on things like restaurants, new clothes, vending machines, etc. When you start tracking your expenses, you get a better idea of where your money is going and where you can cut back. Are you spending so much money that you don't have anything left to put into savings? Tracking your expenses also helps you estimate future expenses.

The old way of budgeting was to save whatever portion of your income wasn't spent. My personal finance professor taught us what he called "the better way to budget." In this method, you pay the Lord first (tithing) and pay yourself second by setting aside a set amount of your income for savings. Then you allocate the remaining income to your expenses. Everyone has to start somewhere. If you're living paycheck to paycheck, find a way you can cut back on even $5-10 per paycheck. Saving to buy the things you actually want is more fulfilling that wasting your money on things you don't really care about. Getting in the habit of saving money now will help you start saving for retirement and other goals as well. Start saving now, no matter how little it is! Don't think that it's not worth it to only save a little bit. Financial freedom is more the result of decreased spending, not increased income. Make saving money a conscious effort.

Dave Ramsey has a method for budgeting where he says "give every dollar a name." In other words, whenever you receive income, sit down and break that income up into what you're going to spend it on. For example, if your paycheck was for $700, you would say $550 is for rent this month's rent, $70 is for tithing,  $40 is for groceries, the rest is for savings. This method doesn't really work for me. Sometimes, our paycheck doesn't cover all the expenses we need for that two week period so we end up spending more than we made  for that paycheck, but our expenses will be lower for the next two week period so it all balances out over the month. I prefer to take a big picture view of budgeting and this way feels too stifling to me. But I know several people who budget this way and have great success. I think this way is great for spenders who really need to discipline themselves or people who have a lot of regular monthly payments (rent, car payment, phone bill utilities, etc). Dave Ramsey's website has some cool forms you can use to budget: http://www.daveramsey.com/tools/budget-forms/

Another way to budget is to sit down in advance and estimate your upcoming income and expenses. You can do this weekly, every two weeks, monthly, every two months, etc. I like this way a lot better because I get to choose how often I want to make estimates. I can even estimate for the whole year to see if I will have enough many for big future expenses (such as tuition). This method still involves a lot of estimation, so it can still be tricky. I've gotten better about estimating our expenses but I'm still off by quite a bit each month. I used Quicken software for this, and I really enjoy it. If you're willing to shell out the money, Quicken runs from $50-100 based on the version you get.

This is what Quicken looks like:

Screenshot showing part of our future income and expense estimates:


Screenshot showing how we are doing this month


Next personal finance post: I've been saving money .... now what do I do with it?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Plan for your financial future


"Plan for your financial future. As you move through life toward retirement and the decades which follow, we invite all . . . to plan frugally for the years following full-time employment. Be even more cautious . . . about “get-rich” schemes, mortgaging homes, or investing in uncertain ventures. Proceed cautiously so that the planning of a lifetime is not disrupted by one or a series of poor financial decisions. Plan your financial future early; then follow the plan" 
(“To the Elderly in the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 4).

Now is the time to plan your financial future. The best place to start is by deciding what you want out of life. How can you motivate yourself to save your money when you don't know what you're saying for? Why do you want to be financially self-reliant? Do you want to retire at 50? Do you want to pay off your house in 20 years rather than 30?

What are your goals? Most goals have a financial element tied up in them - it's important to know what you are working towards or you might miss the mark. I find that when I go through life without setting goals, I'm often disappointed when I look back. I wish I had accomplished more. By setting your goals now, you can avoid that. Write your goals down - a goal not written is only a wish.

For your reference, here are some of our goals:
-Graduate from school debt free
-Become CPA certified
-Plan on  Greg pursuing an MBA
-Stay up to date on personal finance topics (through magazine and WSJ subscriptions)
-Go on a date each week 
-Have money for our kids to participate in extra-curricular activities
-Take a trip to Alaska
-Go on a cruise, maybe to some of the islands in Greg's mission
-Take one family trip per year
-Take at least one trip on our own, just Greg and me
-Find a way to still participate in ballet
-Be spontaneous
-Save 20% of every dollar we make
-Save money for children's educations, missions, marriage
-Find a good deal on a second car
-Become better at couponing, finding deals, going to garage/yard sales

Monday, June 11, 2012

This semester I took an personal finance class for an elective for my major and I loved it. Well, I loved what I learned. We learned how to budget and how to analyze our spending. We learned about the appropriate amounts of health, car, and life insurance. We learned about the basics of investing and how to save for retirement.

It was great. I want to share everything I've learned with everyone. Before I took this class, I was so intimidated by investing money. But really, the principles are quite simple. There are so many basic principles that, if people knew, could empower them to make great decisions and save so much money. I considered pursuing financial planning as a career, but the set-up of most firms doesn't really appeal to me. Plus, I don't really want to be managing people's money - I'm more interested in coaching people on the basics so that they are empowered to manage their own money. I'm more interested in helping regular, every day people rather than rich people.

I guess personal finance will become a hobby for me. I hope that friends, family, people at church, etc. will approach me with their questions. I've thought about doing a blog series to share some of the more interesting/pertinent things we learned in class. I want to help other people feel empowered to save money and invest to meet their goals. Would that be interesting at all?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rising Tuition Rates?

[I love hearing from Greg about how economics explains things that are happening in everyday life, so I asked him to guest post! Greg has a knack for explaining things in a simple way that make sense. This is his first blog post and I think it is very interesting - enjoy!]

You have probably heard that college tuition rates have risen dramatically over the past 10-15 years. This is correct. In fact from 2001 to 2011 rates have risen by over 60%. The problem though is that these facts don't tell the whole story - there is a very interesting story behind these raising rates. A closer look proves that, while tuition rates are rising, the amount that students actually pay is increasing at the same rate as inflation. So, how is this all possible?

The first reason is something called price discrimination. You may have heard this term from Econ 110. This is when businesses charge different rates to different people for the same product. Some examples are student or senior rates at the movies. Another example is airline tickets. Depending on how busy a flight is, or how desperate a flyer is (determined by how recently they bought a ticket) the price of a ticket fluctuates a lot. Most colleges do this too. Take the case of Harvard. Harvard's tuition for one year of school is about $40,000. The great thing about Harvard is they offer a very "generous" financial aid program for their students. They request the information regarding the incomes of each of the student's parents, and offer scholarships depending on the income level. The richest of students pay the full $40,000, less wealthy get perhaps a $10,000 scholarship, even less wealthy get a $20,000 scholarship and so on until the actual price of the tuition equals what it costs Harvard to provide it to that student. I have no idea what that would be. But basically what they have pulled off is some of the best price discrimination out there. They charge people very close to what they are able to afford, and make a killing.

Harvard has been doing this for a very long time, and other schools are starting to catch on. More and more school are shifting to this type of system of having very high tuition rates, which only a small portion of students pay, and offering a very "generous" financial aid program. What does this translate into? A 60% growth in tuition rates (the sticker price that few actually pay) but the growth of actual payments made by students growing at about the rate of inflation (2 percent a year).

I could end here, but there are two other reasons why universities love posting high tuition rates that get marked down with financial aid scholarships. Reason number two follows a similar strategy used by clothing stores. You are looking for a pair of pants, you find a pair that is $30, and another pair that was originally listed at $50, but is on sale for $30. From what you can tell, they look about the same (and the stores little secret is that they are), but hey, how could you pass up the $50 pair that's on sale?! This is the same marketing strategy that colleges are favoring. A high tuition seems to announce, "We're a good school." If you were accepted to a school that is $10,000 a year, and to a school that is $30,000 a year but you get a $20,000 scholarship, I would predict you would choose that latter.

The last reason (that I can think of) is the proud mom effect. Moms love to brag about their children, and does it get any better than her child getting a scholarship at Harvard? Probably not. People feel proud about getting scholarships, so even though everyone else might be getting one too, opening that letter and seeing how much they are going to take off your tuition is a great feeling, and certainly brag-worthy for moms.

To sum it all up, the sticker prices of colleges and universities are rising at a very rapid rate, but this should not be alarming unless you are very rich and can afford the high rates. Everyone else's tuition is staying right where it should, and if you're poor it's actually decreasing. Schools are just using price discrimination to suck the profits out of the rich kids (which I am fine with by the way), and offering discounts to make their school seem more appealing. Receiving that scholarship also makes us feel good.

Now you know the truth when you hear politicians make claims about how students are in dire need of help to stave off evil schools that are charging way too much .

What do you think is going on with these rates?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

When I grow up

GUYS.

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up and it's kind of freaking me out.

For so long, my plan was Big 4. Now that I have decided I don't want to touch that with a ten foot pole, I'm left to wonder what else I could be.

I'm taking a personal finance class right now and have toyed with the idea of becoming a certified financial planner. I love the idea of being able to help people make smart financial decisions. I love that if friends/family members/church members approached me with questions, I would be able to give them informed advice. Part of me doesn't really want to do that as a career though... part of me just wants to get certified for my own sake, just so I can say I am. I guess it's not so much that I don't want to do it as a career, I just don't really know what options there are to do it as a career.

I've considered applying to investment companies like Edward Jones. This would involve being a financial adviser and would require some investments certification. Edward Jones doesn't recruit at BYU so I feel like it would be hard to get my foot in the door.

I've considered going to work in the accounting company of a big corporation. It wouldn't be the most glamorous work (wait, compared to what? Compared to working 60 hours a week? I'd say it's pretty glamorous compared to that). It would probably be very boring, but it would pay the bills and put some experience on my resume. You have to start somewhere.

I've considered working for the government. State governments have auditing departments. Working for the government seems like it would be a sweet deal.

I hate not knowing what is going to happen. I wish I could start the application process right now, but it's too early - no one wants to hire this far out.

I've considered just doing nothing. Is it a waste of my education if I don't work right after college, but rather start having kids?

That brings up another concern - the whole reason I was doing the master's program was for the Big 4. The Big 4 want all of their employees to be CPA eligible, and a master's degree means you are CPA eligible everywhere. Plus, with so many master's degree applicants, you really have to stand out to be considered if you just have a bachelor's degree. But I'm not doing the Big 4 anymore. I will be CPA eligible when I graduate based on the number of credits and the types of classes I've taken. The master's program is way expensive (well, expensive compared to normal BYU tuition). Is it really worth the money and potential student loans to get a degree I don't really need anymore? Really, the only reason for me to get my master's is because I want it. Are my wants worth $7,000?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obamacare

"Nothing seems so certain as the unexpected in our lives. With rising medical costs, health insurance is the only way most families can meet serious accident, illness, or maternity costs, particularly those for premature births... Every family should make provision for proper health and life insurance." ("Constancy Amid Change," Ensign, Nov.1979, 80).

I'm taking a personal finance class this semester and our topic for the week has been insurance. We've talked about life, auto, homeowner's, liability, and health insurance.

Today, while talking about health insurance, a girl from my class shared a really personal story. Her daughter has undergone three bone marrow transplants, multiple bouts of chemotherapy and radiation, and over a hundred blood transfusions. Her daughter is 3 years old. They hadve health insurance through her husband's job, but there was a lifetime limit of $1 million of coverage per person. Her daughter, at 3 years old, was already approaching her lifetime limit of health care coverage. After they reached this amount, any other healthcare expenses would have to come out of their pockets. 

She said they didn't know what to do - her husband had his MBA and was at a great job, but they were seriously considering having him quit his job and spending all of their savings and retirement on things the government doesn't consider assets just so they could go on Medicaid and have their daughter's medical treatments covered.

Right before their daughter reached her $1 million mark, a portion of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) kicked in which eliminated lifetime limits. Her husband was able to stay at his job, and they were able to continue getting treatment for their daughter, who has now received over $3 million of healthcare benefits. Without this change, they would have been forced to quit their job and go on Medicaid or go $2 million into debt. As she put it, "You can't come back from that."

I like this aspect of the Affordable Health Care Act. I like that the government has used its power to step in and make sure that people are being taken care of by their health care providers. I like that I can stay on my parent's health insurance even though I'm married. I like that changes are being made to advocate for people who need health care coverage.

With that being said, I do think that some aspects of the act are effectively sticking a band-aid on the problem without really addressing the issue (what can be done to lower health insurance costs without having the government provide it). I wish there was some more enabling going on rather than just providing (i.e. enabling people to take care of themselves rather than relying on the government). I don't think the government should be providing healthcare (umm hello... inefficient), but I do think the current healthcare system needs to be fixed. 

I'll say it - I like a lot of these early portions of "Obamacare."

So there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

School

There is something beautiful about being back at BYU. I don't feel a super close connection to BYU as an institution (I haven't gotten super involved since I've been here, and many administrative and cultural aspects of BYU kind of irk me), but there's something so familiar about this area and campus. I've been here almost four years - Provo is now more familiar to me than my hometown. Driving around town, I feel like I know where I am going. I can anticipate the stupid things other drivers and pedestrians will do. I know the back roads and shortcuts. I know what roads to avoid and where there is good parking. After spending a semester feeling like nothing I ever did was good enough and kind of wading with no real direction, I am so glad to be back at BYU doing what I do best - school.

I love school. Yeah, I complain about the work from time to time. But I love learning. I love being busy. I love being challenged and succeeding. I love being in charge of my own schedule - at school I know exactly what I need to do and when it needs to be done by. I can prioritize my work and decide what I want to work on and when I want to do it. If I need to run errands, I don't need anyone's permission. If I want to take a break, there's no one stopping me. I can study at home, on the couch, with no pants on. I can be home to make dinner and eat with Greg. At school, my life is my life. If I feel like someone/something is intruding on that, I have the power to put my foot down and do something about it.

I've heard so many students talk about how they can't wait to be done with school and start working. No homework. Getting paid. No textbooks. I used to feel the same way. But when I was with E&Y this past summer, I missed school so much. I'm good at school. I know how to do school. I know how to go above and beyond and stand out. I feel powerful at school. I feel in control at school. I like being able to see an assignment through from start to finish. I love being able to talk to other students who are in the same place in life as me. I love being able to ask professors questions just because I'm curious about a topic. I love not feeling like I'm doing things just to get them done, feeling like I'm actually growing and learning and contributing.

I obviously won't be in school for forever. I'm already working on my master's and I have no desire to get a PhD. I wonder what type of job will make me feel the same way school does. Is there such a job? Or will I just need to realize that work will never be as enjoyable for me as school is?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Free as a bird

My internship with Ernst & Young has finally come to and end. Before I left, I had an exit interview with a partner at the firm, where I would find out if I got an offer or not. I was really  nervous because I expected to get an offer and I wasn't sure how to respond since I was leaning towards not accepting. But the meeting turned out to be perfect.

We sat down and he explained that there was an offer printed up for me at the office if I wanted it, but that he wanted to talk to me about whether or not I wanted it. What a relief to actually be able to talk to someone about my true feelings about the job. He said that the rumor through the grapevine was that I said I would probably only stick around for 2 years (I don't remember saying that to anyone, but there are only a few people who I can think I might have said it to, and isn't that really annoying that someone basically "tattled" on me?). Apparently E&Y doesn't think 2 years is a very long time. I can see their point - they put so much money into training you during you first couple of years, and if you leave right after that, they don't really get to benefit from their investment of time and money. But, to me, two years is a really long time. I know that I cannot be in this career and be a mom at the same time, and I'm not going to wait another two years to have kids for the sake of my career, especially when I don't even like it that much.

I talked to him about how I knew public accounting would entail long hours, but I didn't realize how much I would dislike that. I told him that through the recruiting process, I heard so much about how great "the people" are, and how "the people" you work with make the long hours more bearable - I rarely felt that way about the people I worked with, or many people I met at E&Y for that matter. I was really worried about how this would reflect on BYU, but he assured me that this is the reason they do internships - to see who is a good fit - and they'd rather know now that I don't want to stay rather than finding out a few months in to full time work.

So now I get to be the black sheep at BYU who turned down an offer from the Big 4. I've already explained it to a few BYU people who all seemed quite shocked. Uhh... hello.. there is more to life than the Big 4. I'm sorry that I like being home for dinner. I'm sorry that I like having time to do my laundry and clean my house. I'm sorry I like to spend time with my husband. I'm sorry I don't think it's cool to brag about working 80 hours a week. But yeah, you guys have fun giving up your life for your job!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stumped


I’ve been in a blogging funk lately. The things I really want to talk about are too hard to put into words – and I’m kind of afraid of people reading them.

A lot of my thoughts have surrounded the church (Brother Bott, the role of women, the “perfect” nature of the church, the temple) – I’m afraid to share my thoughts on these because I don’t want people to question my testimony… and, more importantly, I don’t want to cause others to start questioning theirs. I’ve read blogs written by people who express their frustration with the church, and they have really made me reevaluate how I see things. There have been moments of darkness, doubt, and frustration. I’ve had to come up with my own ideas and beliefs about what is true – and I know those beliefs don’t sync up perfectly with what I’m “supposed” to believe, or with what I’ve been told to believe. I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to take that journey and really challenge what I believe, because it has reassured me that the church is true, even if I see some things differently. I know that the church helps people become better and I know that what we believe about God is true and I know it’s where I should be. But what if others go down that path and it leads them away? I don’t really want to be the person who causes other people to doubt.

So, for now, I’ll avoid that topic, unless something (someone) convinces me otherwise.

Another thing I want to talk about is my experiences with Ernst &Young, but I’m avoiding writing about that out of fear that someone from work will see. What good is blogging when you can’t say what you want to say?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fluff

Well, gee, it's been a while since I bliggity blogged. Probably because I feel like I have nothing meaningful to say, and I really don't want to turn into one of those "Today I woke up and ate cereal" bloggers. I'm sure there have been some meaningful thoughts going on in this head of mine... but I can't think of anything right now. So here's a boring post about what I'm up to these days.

We haven't found a car to replace Martha). We want to get a pretty decent car that will last us for awhile, so it's going to be a big purchase. I still miss her... now I drive Greg's old Subaru (guess who is awesome at driving a manual car now?!) and it is nothing compared to my old sweet ride.

I went to Houston for a week for training for my internship. I was expecting a really amazing experience and to learn alot... but it was actually pretty lame. The main thing that I learned was that every audit team does things differently, so just ask your supervisor how they want you to do it. Houston is a weird city. Every night, the streets were empty by like 7pm - it was creepy. But, I did learn how to hail a cab and I got my very own American Express corporate credit card (for business purposes only, of course) and I got to eat out like every night (which gets old surprisingly fast). Plus... I really missed Greg! I'm a mushy sap! Whatever! But seriously, I got so irritable being around new people all day and not getting to be around him. It made me realize once again how wonderful it is to have someone in my life who I can be 100% myself around. It makes everyone's crap so much easier to deal with. And let me tell you, every day I realize that it is a miracle that I found someone who thinks all the weird stuff I do is hilarious.

Now I'm starting my internship. The way auditing works is that you are usually at the client's headquarters when you work, so even though EY's office is in downtown Denver, I'll be spending a lot of time in Highlands Ranch and Englewood, which are south of Denver. So I get to commute a lot! (Once again, missing Martha).

What else... I'm working in the Primary at church (the kid's classes). I'm in a class with 6-7 year olds and they are pretty cool. I team teach with a lady who is amazing and who has mainly been doing the teaching, but I get to teach soon. Kinda nervous. I kind of feel awkward around kids sometimes, except my little nephews, because they are so dang cute! I wish there was more time in Primary for me to talk to these kids and get to know them. They love to talk and tell me stories, but I constantly have to shush(?) them because it's church. I just wanna hang out with them!

What else? I recently decided I want the Patriots to win the Super Bowl - partly because I love how Tom Brady plays quarterback (I love passing quarterbacks!), but mostly because Greg for some reason hates them. I've been enjoying the presidential debates, but I'll keep my opinions off this blog.

Well... that's all! Maybe next time I'll have something significant to say. I apologize for this fluff.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year! Some people don't like the idea of New Year's resolutions, because they see them as being bound to fail. I was thinking about this yesterday and realized there truly is a unique feeling about the beginning of a new year, something that the beginning of a new day, week, or month can't compare to. It feels as if there is a fresh start, like you really have turned a page.

I heard this quote in church yesterday, and it was very fitting to the new year:

"Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself." -George Bernard Shaw

Sometimes people waste way too much time trying to "find" themselves. What does that even mean? Where do you think you are? All we need to do is make ourselves the best person we can be - and that is what will bring happiness. And that's why I kind of like New Year's resolutions. It's always time to reflect and see where we can improve.