Investment Advice From Y’all…

I received quite a few comments on my last post regarding my freaking out about losing $100+ on my Roth IRA and mutual fund investments. Thanks to goldnsilver, enoughwealth@yahoo.com, glenn, savingdiva, wanda, and hazygrey (and “anonymous”) for your words of wisdom. Here are some highlights from the comments, and my responses…

hazygrey said…

“This is your IRA – you shouldn’t be pulling out money for 40 years. Don’t worry about it and leave it for now. I know it’s easier said than done. Also remember that there have been double digit gains in the stock market for several years now, and a correction or crash could happen soon. When that happens, don’t panic and don’t touch the money!”

response: I’m less concerned about my Roth IRA and more concerned about my mutual fund investment. I’m terribly confused about what I should be investing in with my “extra” savings right now. I have $12,000+ tied up in average-rate CDs, which I consider my stable, low-risk investment. Then I decided to be somewhat(?) risky and put $4,500 into the Vanguard Mid Cap Growth Index Fund. While the thought of losing that $4,500 isn’t exactly one of a happy sentiment, I could deal with losing the money. I don’t want to lose the money. That $4,500 might be a long term investment. I’m only 23 now, so I’m hoping I’ll make enough money in the coming years to keep at least $5000 away in a long-term, non-IRA investment account. But I also would like to save for a house and/or grad school. I’m not sure if that’s a year out or ten years out. My life is rather in flux right now. Therefore it’s hard to plan financially. My Roth IRA is fine. It’s in the 2050 retirement account for a reason. I don’t plan on touching it until then.

Wanda said…

Don’t look at your investments every day or even every couple of weeks. Unless you are a day trader, there’s no reason to. …If a 2050 fund & a mid-cap makes you sick at night, then it’s not the investment for you. Like goldnsilver said, pick something that pass the stomach test. Pick something with 20% bonds. You’ll have less risk (of losing your money), but you’ll be giving up the rewards (or potentially larger returns).

So what’s the difference between “bonds,” “money market funds,” and “CDs.” I get the index fund versus stock thing, but beyond that I’m lost. Is a CD a bond?

Anonymous said…

How much do need the money in the other [non roth] account? Were you depending on a quick gain to pay the rent this month? If not, give it atleast a year. These are supposed to be long term investments, not quick capital gains.

I’ll gladly leave my money in the mutual fund account for a year or more. I just don’t want to be losing $100 a week on this account. I guess that’s unlikely, but looking at the performance thus far I’m just a tad bit nervous.

SavingDiva said…

I understand your frustruation with your loss. I don’t like to lose any money. I’ve had to stop checking my retirement accounts every day because of market fluctuations causing fluctuations in my blood pressure! πŸ™‚

Thanks for understanding. I probably should stop checking my accounts every day as well. I’m sure I’ll be fine once my account starts to grow past my initial investment. It’s just now I’m down $100. And that’s not a good feeling.

Glenn said…

Take a step back and look at the big picture. If you are young and you will not need the funds for over 10 years don’t panic. You will be adding to your investments over time. If they funds are still lower when you make your next investment, you will be buying the same companies at a lower price. When you go shopping would you rather buy the same product at a lower price or a higher price? The same goes for mutual funds and stocks.

Good points indeed. As I noted above, my Roth IRA fund is for 2050. But the mutual fund account could be needed sooner. In 10 years I’ll be 33 years old. I have absolutely no idea what my life will look like at 33. Maybe I’ll already have kids. Maybe I’ll have decided kids aren’t for me. It’s just so hard to plan when I can’t figure out when I’m going to need this money. I’d like to invest so I can obtain enough cash for grad school in a few years. Or at least so I don’t have to take out tons of loans, I really like the idea of paying up front for as much as possible. But it’s also likely that I’ll never go to grad school. How can I plan my finances based on a life I’ve yet to figure out?

enoughwealth@yahoo.com said…

If a drop of more than 10% would make you feel like liquidating your investment, then your current asset allocation doesn’t match your risk tolerance. — Enough Wealth

I’m not going to liquidate my investment, I’m just not all that comfortable with the idea of losing my money. But I doubt anyone is really comfortable with losing cash when it comes to investing. I mean, sure some people are more risk averse than others, but the way I see it is I’m young now and I have time for my cash to recover if the market gets wonky. If anyone should be making risky investments, it’s people like me who are young with no debt. Right? I know I can survive without that $4,500. But it sure would be a shame to lose it.

GoldnSilver said…

Market fluctuation is normal. It has only been 2 weeks. Generally if you are investing for the long term, the advice is not to check your balance everyday. However, people have different habits, no one can make you do or not do something. Compare your funds to its peers or industry benchmark, that’s how you can judge your funds performance. That being said, if you are risk adverse, (seeing a drop with turn your stomach upside down). CD or bond funds are not bad options. So many people focus on time horizion…if you are young you should invest more agressively. There’s truth to it. However, just as important, one should know one’s risk tolerance. There are many investment/savings vehicles out in the market place that can help achieve your goals. Pick one that you can stomach.

You know, I’ve never been a gambler. Maybe that’s because I’m female. Maybe that’s because I was raised by a risk adverse family. But I don’t want to be dumb about it. If lots of people invest in somewhat risky mutual funds, they can’t all be “wrong.” Not that there’s really a “wrong” in index fund investing, but, I mean, it’s not like I’m rushing to trade individual stocks.

Vanguard Woes

Ok, I know mutual funds are rather safe when it comes to an investment, but I’m really bothered that my $8500 invested in a Roth IRA and index fund has turned into about $8338 over the course of two weeks. I know I have to deal with fluctuations in the market, but it’s no fun to lose over $100 in two weeks. The only thing that keeps me from pulling my money out is knowing that if it lost $100 in two weeks, then it certainly could gain $100 in a similar time span. But that’s not really the point of investing. I’m supposed to be making money, not watch it all sink down the drain. Maybe my investments are bad. Or maybe the market just isn’t doing good for the time being. At what point should I be worried about my investments? When my $8500 is $6000?

Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth Index Fund Investor
Shares 180.505
$24.56 –$0.14 *$4,433.20
Subtotal $4,433.20 (Bought for $4,500)

Vanguard Target Retirement 2050 Fund
$24.06 –$0.07 $3,955.61
Subtotal $3,955.61 (bought for $4,000)

Savings Breakdown

Ok, so at least my Vanguard accounts started to gain some money. I just realized that I have no idea how my VGMIX Mutual Fund account will be taxed. Do I get taxed when I take out the money or do I get taxed each year on capital gains, even if ultimately I could lose that money before taking it out of the account? There’s probably a simple answer for this, but as of now I’m clueless.

Bye, Bye Capital Gains

My Vanguard ROTH IRA and Mutual Fund accounts are back up and running. Well, I shouldn’t say “back up and running” given the first purchases all were bounced back and all of the capital gains on these funds were lost. Of course, now that I reinvested my money, the funds are down and I’m losing money. I know not to stress out about this, of course, but it was so nice to see my money gain $50 in the first week as opposed to losing the money.

This time around, I decided to be a little bit more risky in my investment. I put the full $4000 into my Roth IRA (I was going to do $3000, but with my new job also lacking a 401k plan… but with a higher salary… there really is no reason not to max out my Roth IRA) and then I put $4500 into the mid cap growth index fund. In a month or so I might diversify a bit and take $1500 of that and add another $1500 to a large cap fund.

One day, when conflict of interest is not an issue (if that’s ever the case) I’d like to get into stock trading on Zecco. It sounds like a good place to start out. But for now, I can’t get too deep into the Wall Street world.

Dating: Who Pays?

A few years back, I had just graduated from college and was a full-time intern (aka slave) with a decent amount of savings (savings=for grad school one day) and a boyfriend who had started his six-figure attorney job the same year (note: he graduated from law school with no student loans thanks to his mom and dad and some savings). At that point, we were together for over a year. I had spent hundreds of dollars on plane tickets flying around the country to see him, as we had met in one city, then spent a good chunk of our relationship long distance.

Given, I’m not the type of girl who expects men to pay for her, one of the reasons our relationship ended was that I could not stand his stinginess. I know I wasn’t broke, but it would have been nice for him to offer to pay for a movie ticket every once in a while. I felt like I was holding him back from the life he could have, since it wouldn’t kill his piggy bank to go wine tasting once a month, or enjoy a decadent meal every once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with avoiding pricier options, but at the time, well, every cent counted. Really.

Now I’m in the reverse situation. It’s kind of funny, actually. I’m dating a guy who is unemployed. He does have a savings (from my understanding of it, he has just about the amount I have in savings) and he lives at home (so no rent, whereas I pay $1050 a month in rent.) Supposedly his parents are footing the bill for grad school if he decides to go. (My parents are not, as far as I know, though my dad has mentioned that in 3 years when he can access his 401k, there will be some money available to help out if I can wait that long.)

(Anyway… the details are rather unimportant as a generic entry about who pays for things in a relationship, but as this is my personal finance blog, I’m writing details. Hope y’all don’t mind.)

So guy #2 loves to pay for me 75 percent of the time. We go out to dinner and he often offers. He let’s me pay occasionally. I don’t push him enough because in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, if he pays, that’s another $15 I can pocket for grad school… or a new shirt. It feels rather icky to be the stingy person in the relationship. Sometimes I feel like I should pay more frequently since I’m working and he’s not. Then again, it’s his personal choice to be unemployed (he has a degree from a top school, I doubt he’d have much trouble getting a job) and if he wants to pay for me than who am I to object? Plus he’s got his parent’s money for grad school and if I actually ever figure out what I want to do with my life for the long-term, I’ll need to foot most of my bill for all graduate school fees.

Obviously I’m not talking about the first couple of dates here. That’s the subject for a whole other entry because at that point there’s somewhat of a societal expectation for the man to offer, even if the woman ultimately is sane enough to grab the check and split the bill fairly. But for people in LTR’s, money is a whole other issue.

Sometimes, I admit, I dream of dating someone (*cough*gold digger*cough*) who takes me out to nice places and… takes me shopping. It’s ridiculous, as I’m NOT a gold digger. Really. I wouldn’t date someone just because they were rich. It’s just a nice thought, since life out here in Silicon Valley is so damn pricey and everyone else around here seems to be loaded.

To tell you the truth, I’d rather be the one making the big bucks. I doubt that will ever happen as a journalist, even though I’ve managed to do quite well for myself in the generally poor-paying profession. But I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I’d ever be looking at a six-figure salary. It might be possible if some day I make a name for myself and start my own website, but I’m not going to start dreaming about that now. Reality is I’m making an OK salary, but I’m living in one of the richest counties in the country…

[[The median income for a household in the county was $70,819, and the median income for a family was $80,737. Males had a median income of $51,342 versus $40,383 for females.]]

Ok, so in a few week’s I’ll be making more than the median income for females. That still means nothing (considering that my life involves interacting with venture capitalists and other well-to-do types)… and while I know money does not equal happiness, there’s always the underlying fear of taking out loans for grad school and having to deal with debt (the “good kind”) and then never being able to afford a house or any other form of stability in my life.

It’s all kind of hypocritical of me, since I’m terrible at saving, and I always end up spending too much each month. Why does it matter if I spend too much on a shirt versus a nice date with my boyfriend? It’s probably better to spend that $70 on a date.

Personal Finance Online: Geezeo versus Wesabe

I was Googling “personal finance widgets” when I found myself stumbling on two personal finance network startups. I found Geezeo first, and then through minimal research found out about its competitor Wesabe. The process to sign up for Geezeo was much easier, so for the time being I plan on using that site to explore the world of online personal finance social networking.

While I haven’t had a chance to surf around the site yet, thus far I easily imported my checking and credit card account information to my main page. I’m a little nervous about throwing my banking passwords at any web startup, as I’m sure while 99 percent of them have the best intentions, any little error in security could equate to a depletion of my bank accounts. And that would be so not cool.

In any case, I’m really tired of dealing with Bank of America’s “My Portfolio” tools — which have so many bugs they’re actually discontinuing the feature. Now that I’m attempting to move some funds over to a Roth IRA and Vanguard Index Fund again (the first attempt fell through, I guess I didn’t enter my checking account in correctly) it would be nice to track everything in one spot.

My biggest qualm with Geezeo at the moment is that they don’t support brokerage accounts yet… so for now, I can’t actually access my Vanguard or CD accounts. They’re obviously working to enable this feature soon, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and be patient. At some point my patience will run thing and I’ll check out Wesabe.

On another note, what’s up with the names of these sites? Maybe they have some deeper meaning, but I’m confused. “Geezeo,” what’s that about? It makes me think of some old geezer. If anything, I do get a general idea of being a poor old geezer, and wanting to save for retirement. Meanwhile “Wesabe,” which likely means something in another language, just brings to mind the hot green sauce that comes alongside Sushi. And what does that have to do with personal finance? Is it because Sushi is so gosh darn expensive? πŸ™‚

The Cost of Being Female

In 2005, 20-something females in the U.S. made $25k on average, where men in the same age group made $29k (according to an Analysis of Integrated Public MicroData Census Samples.)

Before getting off into my own analysis on the high costs of being female, I wanted to point out this rally interesting post by Andrew Beveridge over at GothamGazette.com… “No Quick Riches for New York’s Twentysomethings”

One interesting factoid from the article’s accompanying charts is that 35.6 percent of female’s surveyed about their pay in 2005 had a college degree, whereas only 22.7 percent of men completed any form of higher education. Yet men still make more money. Except in New York, where it looks like females are actually making more than men. I’m raising my glass to the gals in New York who obviously are asking for what they want and getting it. For the rest of us ladies, we still have some catching up to do.

Therefore, I find it kind of ironic that the costs of being a woman are (almost) inherently so much more expensive than being a man… or are they?

Women spend money on…

Makeup, Tampons/Pads, Fashionable Clothing, Shoes, Birth Control Pills, Shavers (which need to be replaced more often because shaving legs kills blades fast), Waxing, Hair (cut, dye, highlight), Nails (manicure, pedicure), and the list goes on and on and on…

I’m sure some men (i’m talking straight men here) would say either they end up spending just as much money taking women out to dinner (if they are the type that pays for their date) or maybe they’re even full-blown metrosexuals who splurge on $200 jeans and a $150 shirt, along with a masculine eyebrow grooming session. But broken down to the bare minimum requirements of being female versus male in a normal position at a typical job with a regular life, the cost of being female has got to be more than the cost of being male.

My boyfriend wears the same exact outfit everyday. He wears a button-down black shirt with black pants. Given, this is not typical male behavior, but it isn’t really that odd for a guy to chose to avoid fashion and instead buy $20 pairs of black pants and somewhat cheap black shirts, and there’s a few year’s worth of clothing.

Could a woman really get away with wearing the same exact outfit every day? I imagine others would find her more weird than they would the guy. Meanwhile, women also are expected to spend some money on makeup. Not all women HAVE to spend money on makeup, but when you go on a job interview, a woman looks more professional with some foundation, blush and lip gloss, eyeliner and mascara. Total cost? Anywhere from $30 to $200+, depending on brand selection.

What do men spend money on? If they’re not into fashion, they can get away with spending on maybe four nice suits that will last them for years. Ties are pricey, I guess, but how many ties does the typical guy own? My ex-boyfriend, who is a lawyer making a six-figure salary, spends barely nothing on clothes. He buys a sweater or new shirt here and there, but otherwise his wardrobe has pretty much remained constant. But men aren’t expected to have good fashion sense. They’re also not told by the media day in and day out that they’re ugly and need to spend gadzillions of dollars to be presentable.

I’m interested in hearing your feedback on this topic. Do women really spend a lot more than men on a yearly basis, or am I imagining things?

shop-a-holic / a rant re: dry cleaning.

I’m totally blowing my first month’s salary (for my new job that i haven’t even started yet) by taking a few (supposedly harmless) trips to my local mall.

Remember how I bought a pair of $156 jeans the other day (i’m still madly in love with them, though terrified of washing the pair. i think it’s ridiculous to dry clean jeans, but i also don’t want to destroy a pair of $156 pants in the washer/dryer) — anyway, yesterday I bought another pair. And this one needs a good hemming in order not to cover an extra 5 inches of imaginary calf.

[[[addition… i found the same part of jeans sold on Revolve Clothing for $231, so I feel rather good about buying the same pair for $153 on sale.]]]

Nordstrom is dangerous for me. Given, I’ve learned to control myself when it comes to buying clothes that I know I’ll only wear once. Still, my basket full of dry cleaning is awaiting my dragging it to the cleaners and spending $150 or so to get it all cleaned. I hate wearing clothes more than once in between washes, but I’m learning to get over that as well… especially my dry cleaned items. Dry cleaning is so damn expensive. Why must all of the nice clothes be dry clean only? I hate that.

At least men’s dry cleaning is fairly cheap. I love the places that advertise $1.00 per shirt, then I bring in my shirt and they say – ‘oh, that’s the men’s price. your shirt costs $3.50’ or whatever the marked up price is. In one of my sociology classes in college we watched a investigative piece about women getting overcharged for things, and in one part of it a guy brought a woman’s shirt to a dry cleaner and he was charged the lower fee, then a woman brought in the same shirt and she was charged more. WTF?

Anyway, I really have no right to complain about that when I just spent $153 on another pair of jeans. And I really shouldn’t have. Well, they just looked so great with that $66 shirt that actually made me look attractive.

Now, those $153 were actually on sale. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but I was browsing the Saavy department of Nordstrom (where I have constant clothiorgasms, similar to the ones i have in the “Impulse” section at Macy’s)… the goal of the trip was to find a pair of True Religion jeans to try on (someone mentioned the brand on this blog so I figured I’d check them out and see if they happened to fit better than Joe’s brand). Well, I found one pair of True Religion jeans but they were this fugly dark wash that wasn’t my style. Then I found myself browsing the other jeans and noticed one brand way in the back of the too-cool-for-school section of the store. I’m not sure how denim designers think they can get away with charging $230 for a pair of jeans, but for this one brand that price tag seemed standard.

I wasn’t going to bother trying on that brand (I was afraid I’d fall madly in love with them and splurge $230 for the pair) but then I was browsing the sale rack (sale in the expensive department just seems like the wrong word to use) and found a pair in my size by the same brand… on “sale” for $153.

That brand, William Rast, is apparently Justin Timberlake’s denim line. Justin Timberlake has a denim line? See how much I know about fashion. Anyway, I tried on the jeans and lo-and-behold they fit quite nicely. But I think it was the way they looked with the purple shirt I tried on that sold me on the pair. After all, my goal was to buy one more pair of jeans… light wash… to balance out my wardrobe. These jeans were NOT light wash. They’re almost the same tone as my Joe’s pair, except the hue leans slightly towards a grey-blue, whereas my Joe’s jeans are true blue. So when paired with a color, they are less distracting and I feel like they match better.

I still feel silly about wearing jeans by Justin Timberlake. I tend to avoid all of the rock star designers… J Lo, P Diddy, etc. They can mark up their prices to ridiculous amounts for no reason other than their celebrity.

Still, the jeans fit, and as far as I know I’ll be able to wear jeans most everyday to my new job. If that’s true, it makes sense to own a few pairs of quality jeans. Right?

Ok. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m really bad with money. I was such a spoiled little kid. Of course, I never bought $200 jeans when I was younger. But it was common to spend upwards of $1500 a season buying new clothes. I’d buy A LOT of clothes for that price (whereas now I could see spending that much and getting maybe three outfits). If I found one shirt I liked, my mom would basically force me to buy it in every color they sold it in, even if I hated all the other colors. I was always aware of things being pricey, and would rather spend $30 on a shirt (and buy 10 shirts) than buy one $130 top.

Bad spending habits are hard to break. I’ve told my boyfriend that as soon as I start my new job, I’m going to make and stick to a strict budget. I think it will be fun to start saving and splitting that savings up so I can put, say, $50 a month into a shopping fund and then when a new season rolls around, I can limit my spending to the money I saved for shopping. If I don’t want any new clothes that season, I can keep saving. It’d be fun to go shopping with $1000 to spend once a year. And then I wouldn’t feel guilty for buying a $66 shirt that I’m madly in love with.

I just need to keep myself away from the mall. I went there yesterday to go shopping with my boyfriend. I was supposed to be looking for shirts for him. But then I ran into Nordstrom just to check out those True Religion jeans and, well, the rest of the story is history.

I’ll try those jeans on again tonight and see if I really like them, then i’ll take them to get hemmed at some point. It’s about time I visit the dry cleaners anyway.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?

Luxury Denim: $200 for a pair of jeans?

Back in the day, I remember oogling brand-name jeans in the Juniors department at various department stores and getting sick to my stomach looking at the price tags. But back then, the most expensive pair of jeans I saw was $100, maybe $110 for a really pricey brand. Most of the jeans were more like $50-$70, and there was always a pair I could find that fit decently for the $40-$50 range.

Yesterday, I spent $158 on a pair of jeans. Plus tax. I can’t believe I did that. But it was my reward for getting myself a new job where I’ll be making $15k more a year. The new job also lets me wear jeans to work more than one day a week, so I figured it was worth the investment. Sure, I could buy three or four pairs for that price, but why buy three or four that aren’t perfect when I could buy one I love?

I’m trying to get out of the mentality that my mom taught me: more is better. That’s not true most of the time. I’m a shoppaholic, sure, but I own so many items of clothing that I bought on sale that I wore once and never had the occasion or desire to wear again. Jeans, at least, will get a lot of wear.

I remember hearing from Suzie Orman (or maybe I read it in one of her books at Borders) that in order to determine the price of an item, you should device it by the number of times you wear it. So a $15 shirt worn once is actually a lot more expensive than a $150 pair of jeans worn 200 times. I like that concept, as it makes me feel pretty good about spending so much on one pair of Jeans. What doesn’t make me good is finding the same pair (fitwise/style anyway) on sale on Bluefly.com for $60 less (wrong size anyway).

So I went to Macy’s determined to find a pair of $150-$200 jeans that fit like a glove and required no further alteration. That’s more difficult than it sounds since my legs are too short purportionately for the size of my waist.

I tried on 8 pairs of Jeans, ranging in price from $78 to $186. I wanted to see if I could tell the difference between the quality, or if the price difference had to do more with the little logo that would rest near my ass and less to do with fit.

The three main pricey designer jean brands seem to be Citizen’s of Humanity, Seven for All Mankind, and Joe’s. I soon found out that Citizen’s and Seven Jeans are meant for model figures. I was tempted to buy a pair of Citizen jeans that sort of kind of fit, but for $186 I didn’t want jeans that fit like someone else’s glove.

Then, I found them. A pair of $156 Joe’s Jeans, size 31 petite, dark wash. The perfect pair of jeans. Almost. They fit like my glove. Even better, the details were classy, not trashy (i’m not spending $150+ on a pair of ripped jeans, thankyouverymuch.) Ever since finding out I have a nice behind (it seems to be one of my better assets, according to others) I’m very picky about how jeans make my ass look. And the pocket detailing has a lot to do with whether they’re flattering or falling flat. This pair had the best pocket’s I’ve ever seen. A braided weave of denim that would, indeed, gracefully cling to my bootie. This was the pair of jeans I had been dreaming of when fighting with pants to make it over my wide womanly hips, only to find out the waist itself was way to big (can you say ‘hello underwear’?)

I bought them. I also ended up buying a $90 DKNY dress/shirt that I probably didn’t need. But it was so beautiful that I couldn’t resist. I might return it. That’s one of those items I’ll wear once, maybe, and never wear again. Just because while I love fashion and patterns and color, lately I’ve found I always fall back on solids and, well, basic black. I’m so boring. When I grew up I was all about fancy patterns and bright colors. I’m no longer craving that kind of attention or desire to make a fashion statement. Besides, five out of seven days of the week I work, and while I don’t need to be extremely conservative at work, in order to be taken seriously I can’t wear paisely.

So here I am, wearing my over-priced designer jeans, enjoying the fit, the details, the feel of heavy, high-quality denim clinging to my hips and knees.

And now, of course, I want to buy another pair. Light wash.

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