Tag Archives: risk

She Quit Her Job to Become a Porn Star…

Before you get all excited, I’m not talking about me – though that would make an excellent storyline for this blog. I’m talking about Veronica Vain, who decided to leave her blossoming cushy career as a Wall Street intern to instead, well, be cushed. Repeatedly. On camera. Over and over again. She’s competing in a new reality tv series hosted by the “one and only” Duke porn star. Apparently, “Veronica’s” rational for leaving Wall Street and getting into the Adulty Industry was that if she’s going to get screwed for the next decade she might as well get into the hall of fame for it. Fair enough.

While not everyone is going to leave a stable career for one so fickle and disrespected, and mostly not everyone has a desire to become a porn star, there is something to be said about following your dreams and going after what you, deep down, feel most natural doing. Of course, for a job like that, it’s the rare few who get to stardom levels where their salary would be comparable or better to that of a financial analyst. Even with 15 minutes of fame, the longevity of a porn career is short in most cases. What next? That said, if she’s smart enough to be a financial analyst she’ll be fine, if not permanently sexually harassed at jobs filled with lots of nerds.

For everyone else out there, what would it take to leave what you’re doing to today to do what you love most? Do you know what that is? I think I’m actually very close in a lot of ways. I love creating, and being a leader in a young company teaches me a lot about entrepreneurship and business. That said, I think my long-term goal would be to come up with a product idea that can be pitched on a show like Shark Tank. Something that could be useful but also innovative. I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m not cut out to the a tech entrepreneur. Tech requires too much up-front capital and it takes too long to build something really useful that by the time you have a product the market needs, it’s a few years too late. That’s just the nature of the tech industry. And it’s on marketing and sales’ shoulders to convince everyone what you have today is what they actually need. That’s the case in 99% of tech businesses.

As I think more about myself and what I really like about my job/career/industry, there is a lot of good there. I just realize that while I fell into technology and feel so fortunate for my time in the industry, as well as in learning more about business by being part of companies selling to other businesses, I don’t feel quite comfortable here, and I never will. I do enjoy being in Silicon Valley — finding myself feeling the epic rush of being smack dab in the middle of the innovation world is something I’ll never, ever regret. But I still wonder if this is sustainable, and if this is where I can add the most value.

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting an MBA, then reading lots of blogs that say do not get an MBA. Most suggest that if you want to change careers, though, an MBA can be useful. I would want to have a very solid goal before enrolling in any such program. I’d also have to be accepted to a top 10 school – which on its own is unlikely due to my schizophrenic undergrad transcripts and my test-taking challenged mind. That said, I don’t need an MBA to be a real entrepreneur.  I need some chutzpah and an affinity for risk that was zapped from my psyche by an actuarial father whose entire life’s work was to reduce any uncessary risk.

But I have realized that money doesn’t drive me. I mean, I like money, and I like having money, and building my networth. And I spend money reasonable well. So I guess it does drive me. And this month when the stock market sharply shot down and I lost a good $3000 in networth, that was mitigated by earning and not spending enough so my networth stayed flat. I would like to get to $500k in networth because while it’s not enough to pay for the rest of life,  it is enough cushion to move somewhere with a much lower cost of living and, I don’t know, focus on building a life that is a bit less stressful.

Maybe these women who leave their stable jobs and lives for a short-term, financially lucrative career in pornography have it all right. I’d never do that for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps there is still time to change careers, at some point, and find something I’m more naturally equipped to do – whatever that is.

The Game of Risk: Nature vs Nurture

Today I had a very interesting conversation with my father about negotiation. He noted to me that when he was 32 and I was born him and my mother had just purchased our house in the suburbs with a small down payment and he had little savings to speak of otherwise. He worked at the company that would employ him for his entire life. While he earned a good salary and obtained raises throughout his career, he never once asked for a promotion or a raise. He concluded his career earning over $200k in the 1990s, plus additional stock profits on the sale of his company, which was still a lot for our middle class neighborhood, and this enabled my mother to stay at home and raise me (and take us to the mall a lot) while still managing to have money left over to save for retirement.

When I talk to him about negotiation his general reaction is that I’m silly to attempt it. I find it quite alarming that my father – who I view as this tough guy – never once negotiated for a raise. Despite throwing a thousand temper tantrums a day he’s the most risk adverse person I know. In fact, one could say he’s rather paranoid of change. He likes things the way they are. My parents should have gotten divorced long ago but god forbid such change were to occur. When I told him I’m playing hard to get and trying to obtain a higher offer he basically suggested that I was being stupid as I didn’t have a job and I wouldn’t want to lose this opportunity (even though I told him I have two offers.) I wanted my big, tough father to encourage me in my negotiation, and perhaps even provide some supportive professional advice, but all I got was that I’m crazy for attempting to negotiate.

At the same time, both offers are real, and I’d like to decide which one I want without pay being part of that decision – but of course pay is part of the decision. Every other minute my mind swings one way and then the other. They are just such different opportunities. I’m madly excited about one that would require a crazy commute and would be much more unstable than the other. But then I think if I can succeed in the larger company it would provide a good base to go in different directions. Either way, I want to negotiate with both companies and see what I can get without losing the offers. I hate how the hiring managers always say “think about what you need to live on.” Well, I can live relatively cheap, but that’s bs. I want to save. I want to save a lot. I have a future family to support. I hate feeling like people who hire me see me as this woman (cheaper than men) who isn’t married and doesn’t have kids (cheaper than woman who is and who do.) Age discrimination isn’t even illegal if you’re under 40.

In any case I always feel like I’m being paid too much but I’ve come to realize that everyone is only paid what they can convince someone else they’re worth. I didn’t at all learn how to take risks from either of my parents so how can I do this well? I seem to stumble left and right on negotiations and it just seems clumsy and embarrassing. But no wonder I suck at negotiating, it certainly wasn’t a learned skill.

It’s Been One Week Since I Lost My Job.

In terms of sharing the news that I lost my job, so far I’ve only told a few close friends, and of course all my anonymous readers here (whoever you are, hi.) This morning I’m glad I had a dentist appointment scheduled at 8am so I got out bright and early, got my teeth cleaned, then walked a few miles home while stopping for a quick bite to eat. I also – and probably shouldn’t have – treated myself to a manicure, pedicure – mostly because my nail were a hot mess and I needed to get the gel polish professionally removed. I spent $80 on my nails, which was probably a terrible idea unemployed, but if I’m going on job interviews (and I am) having good looking nails is important. That’s my justification for my bad decision.

The colors I chose for my nails are bright and happy. I have a beautiful fuchsia on my fingernails and an orange pink with glitter on my toes. I know you’re all not interested in what color my nails are but my point is that things like the color of my nails can significantly impact my mood – and right now I need all the help I can get to keep myself from falling into a depression like last time I was unemployed.

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What’s so wrong with saving money?

I’m reading a Newsweek article entitled “Stop Saving Now!” It’s overall message, if you couldn’t guess from the title, is that in order from our economy to recover we – as a society – need to start taking more risks and throwing our fiscal caution to the wind.

This brings to mind a time when I received an allowance and I had a choice to save the money or spend it. My parents would advise to save it so I could buy something bigger than what I could with just a few dollars. At that point, there was no risk in not receiving more allowance, but nonetheless the general principle was that risk-free “saving is good.”

It almost makes me ill to think that our entire economy revolves around – well – greed and bad decision making. Not that penny pinching is the way to go, but when an article compares our entire society to Las Vegas casinos (where gambling revenue is down — in January, Nevada’s casinos reported, gamblers lost 14.6 percent less money than they did in January 2008, notes the article), I start to get a bit queasy. Why should we be expected to live our lives with such high risk in order for our economy to work? Isn’t there something wrong with that equation?

“It’s tempting in this period of contraction to mimic Thoreau, to live simply and deliberately. But if we lose our penchant for gain and risk, we’ll lose some of the essence of what makes us American.”

Risk vs Reward

I always thought that when it came to risk, I’d avoid it at all costs. Skydiving of the body or the spirit was not for me. Sure, I moved a lot and took tiny little risks like living on my own with no job, but nothing beyond riding a roller coaster known for its safety record.

Now that I’m getting into the stock market, albeit very slowly, I’m ever-so tempted by risk. Yesterday I found the blog of Timothy Skyes who is famous for turning his $12k of Bar Mitzvah money into more than $1 million. He loves the thrill of day trading and obviously it has paid off for him.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take my entire savings and make some educated guesses about where to place my bets on Wall Street, but I am getting more and more interested… and risky… when it comes to my relatively small stock and ETF purchases.

It surely is an addiction. A year ago, I finally took the “leap” of putting a huge chunk of my savings into a Vanguard index fund to open a ROTH IRA. But index funds, especially ones that cover multiple industries with no specific focus, have already started to bore me. Additionally, with the way the overall stock market is performing, watching my “less risky” investments tank makes me want to take more risks so I feel like the failure is, uh, much more deserved.

I started out a month ago buying a few shares of GLD, the Gold ETF. Everyone is screaming “gold” these days, as with the recession such commodities seem to thrive. GLD is the main gold ETF available for purchase. I started out buying about 4 shares of GLD and adding some more funds to that ETF. I’m not sure if I should buy more.

This purchase was followed by investing in McDonalds and Comverge (COMV). I figured why not start with one large cap, and one small cap. They ought to balance out in the middle, or something like that, right? Comverge was a company I had covered in the past as a cleantech reporter while they were still private, and I liked what I knew about them. However, I also acknowledged the fact that I had no idea whether they could turn their good idea into a profit for the company. But I always wanted to buy shares in them just because, well, I felt like it was one company I had been following from near-birth, and if anything I wanted to watch them grow (or fail) with a small amount of my money attached.

Meanwhile, McDonalds, I read, was a good buy because it offers yearly dividends to investors AND its price right now has gone down with the current recession.

After a few days it became clear that my Comverge purchase, although not the end of the world, should have been spread out over time so I could have “cost dollar averaged” and saved money. I bought a few shares of the stock for $23 each and since then they’ve gone down to $18 a piece. Now they’re at about $19.50. I’m considering waiting (hoping) they go back up to $20-something again and then I’ll sell them so my loss isn’t that huge and instead invest them in another stock or ETF that might actually perform well. Or I can keep the $100 in COMV and watch it disappear. Who knows, maybe the stock will soar one day. I’m waiting for the quarterly earnings to see how they’ve done, and see what that does to my four shares.

Meanwhile, I found that I’m now hooked on investing. I quickly signed up for Sharebuilders “$12 a month” 6 “free” trades plan and started to pour about $300 a month into a variety of stocks and ETFs. This time I did a bit more research and picked the following three stocks/ETFs to invest in:

KOL, EWZ, WFM

What do all those letters mean?

KOL: An ETF of coal. Why coal? It’s terrible for the environment. Yet with the prices of oil rising, and other cleaner alternatives far from being able to provide the energy needed in the world, I think coal has (for better or worse) a pretty strong future. I was excited to find the fairly new ETF that would allow me to get into coal with a little less risk. I plan to keep putting about $60 a month into the ETF to see if I can prove myself right. Also, a lot of the ETF is invested in Asia (coal is huge there and growing), so this gives me the Asian diversification I’ve been seeking.

EWZ: This stock symbol doesn’t give one a clue of what the stock is! It’s actually an index fund of companies in Brazil. A lot of advisers seem to be recommending it, and I want to diversify my overseas investment so it’s not all in coal and Asia. Brazil has a lot going for it and the ETF has performed quite strongly in the past. Will it perform as well in the future? Beats me. I’m investing most heavily in this index fund right now, putting in about $150 a month to EWZ.

WFM: Whole Foods. I spend enough money shopping here! This is another dividend-paying, large cap stock. Not that interesting. I doubt I’ll make a fortune on it, but it might at least grow slowly and calmly. Or I’ll lose some money but I’ll try to get out before it tanks.

One thing I’ve learned is that in order to make a stock purchase worth it, I eventually need to own a lot of that stock. Even if the stock goes up $10 from $10, a 50% increase, if I only own one share and have to pay $9 to sell it back, that amazing performance will only make me $1. So I’ve decided to try to focus on these six stocks for now, and if needed to sell one of them and replace it with another. Six seems like a good number to start with, and I’ll let my portfolio grow as needed or merited by my income and thirst for risk.