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America Rebuilding Wealth

December 9th, 2010 No comments

I caught an interesting headline today: A Look at Americans’ Journey to Rebuild Wealth. The story is a brief summary of some statistics compiled by the Federal Reserve. It looks at the aggregate change in Americans’ net worth (defined as the value of homes, investments, and checking accounts, minus debts like mortgages and credit cards) since the recession hit. Being an avid Quicken user, I had our net worth numbers easily at hand, and decided to run a comparison. Here’s what I found:

Period Change in Personal Net Worth Change in National Net Worth
Q1, 2009 7.6% -5%
Q2, 2009 7.2% 3.6%
Q3, 2009 10.8% 4.9%
Q4, 2009 5.5% 1.2%
Q1, 2010 6.3% 2.5%
Q2, 2010 -3.5% -2.6%
Q3, 2010 6.2% 2.2%
Annualized Growth Rate 24.6% 3.7%

As you can see, we were fortunate to have our net worth grow at a much faster rate than the average American. This is due to the heavy allocation to equities (both domestic and international) in our investment accounts. Equities posted a nearly 20% gain for 2009, and were basically flat for the first 3 quarters of 2010. Foreign equities performed even stronger in both 2009 and 2010. Of course, given the same equity allocation the previous quarters would probably prove to be much more devastating if compared to the American average.

How did things work out for you relative to the average?

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Lightroom 3 & Smugmug integration

September 18th, 2010 No comments

Just learned today that the latest update to Lightroom 3 includes native Smugmug integration. I always thought Lightroom rocked – not it rocks even more.

Smugmug integration was already available using third party plugins that you had to buy. But now it’s part of the standard package (for free) - and it works great! It’s simple to use and, in addition to allowing me to create new galleries entirely from within Lightroom, it also allows me to keep photos in lightroom in sync with what’s on Smugmug. So, if I make post-processing changes to a photo in Lightroom, Lightroom remembers that the photo is posted on Smugmug, and tells me that the gallery needs updating (which I can do with a single-click, of course).

One more reason to love Lightroom…

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Pre-Mid-Life Crisis?!

August 30th, 2010 2 comments

I think I’m going through a pre-mid-life crisis. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all until a friend of mine brought up the idea on my birthday. I was telling her how for my birthday the wife got me a package at DriveTech Racing School. We haven’t booked a date yet, but when we do go, I’ll be receiving some basic instruction and 12-laps around a 1.5-mile racing track in an actual Nascar car. With a V8 at my feet and the bleachers flying by at over 100 mph, we’re hoping this will address my need for speed. Very few things make me happier than punching the accelerator, negotiating turns in high speed, and gripping the wheel tight, and simply seeing the world zip by.

I then went on to tell my friend about my then upcoming motorcycle training class. I spent this past weekend under the hot sun on a motorcycle. This was my first time actually driving one (I’ve been a passenger on one before). Let me tell you – riding a motorcycle is a lot harder than you’d think. Firstly, having to switch gears is a stark change from the cushy life of automatic transmissions that I’ve gotten used to. Then getting used to completely new controls (clutch at the hand, shift lever at the foot, brakes at the hand and feet, throttle at the hand) takes a while too. I’m used to braking and applying gas with my feet, it’s not quite the same with the hand. Then finally there’s turning and maneuvering – leaning a 300-pound motorcycle in a sharp turn going at speed isn’t exactly as comforting as doing it in a car – 2 wheels are very different to 4. All things considered, I had a blast and am glad I did it. At the end of the day I passed both the road test and the written test and so will soon have a motorcycle endorsement on my license (once I get down to the DMV that is). Now all I need is a motorcycle. I’ll have to start shopping around and learning as much as I can about buying one!

Finally there’s the sky diving that I have also signed up for. I’ve always talked about jumping out of an airplane and now I’ll finally have the chance to do so. Again, we haven’t scheduled it, but we’re thinking of going in October. I’ve heard stories and seen videos and it looks absolutely thrilling. I’m very much looking forward to free-falling with my limbs spread out, the world (or at least a few acres of it) beneath me, and the adrenaline pumping. Hopefully it’s not too cold by mid-October. But then again, who cares – I’m going to be jumping out of an airplane!

So, that’s it – the evidence of my pre-mid-life crisis. I’m certainly not “mid-life” yet, but getting a motorcycle license, spending time with a Nascar car on a racetrack, and jumping out of an airplane sounds a lot like a mid-life crisis to me. Add to that the recent job situation changes, which have me questioning a lot of what I’ve done over my years, and I think I have all the symptoms.

On the bright side, now that my mid-life crisis is out of the way, it’s smooth sailing from here…

… right?

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All done…

August 16th, 2010 5 comments

Well, it’s over… CFA results came out this morning, and I passed. Believe me, I’m glad to be done with the last of the three CFA exams. Furthermore, with pass rates that are less than 50%, I’m proud to be able to say that I was able to pass each one on my first attempt. However, just like last year, when I passed level 2, my excitement, though present, is somewhat muted. Though I am done with the exams, I still won’t earn the three golden letters, CFA, until later this year. In addition to passing the three exams, the CFA Institute requires that candidates have 4 years of experience that they must approve as “investment decision making”. Being a career changer, that means a lot of my software background won’t count, leaving me a few months shy. So, I won’t earn my charter until the end of the year.

As I look back at the CFA journey, which began for me in 2006 (I took two years off as we moved around the country), I conclude that though it is a time-consuming commitment, I highly recommend the CFA program for anyone looking to make a career in investments. The subjects covered by the exam are both broad and deep (arguably too deep in some instances like swap valuation), giving candidates very good, holistic insight into the field. I especially like the way that things tie together – the first exam covers all the fundamentals of economics and accounting, the second covers valuation and international concepts, and the third ties it all together with portfolio concepts.

My congratulations to all those that passed any level this year, and good luck to those that’ll be taking it in the future! Now, off to celebrate…

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Life, as we know it…

June 19th, 2010 No comments

Things have been really quiet here on The Y-Factor over the past few months. As you know, I’d buried myself in the library studied for the CFA Level 3 exam, which was on June 5th. Now that the exam is over, I can return to life, as we know it. The day after the exam we took Ria to the beach with a few friends. Though she was freaked out by having sand in her toes at first, she had a lot of fun. She really wanted to play frisbee with us, but she, like her father, needs to work on her catching skills. The following weekend we spent time at the mall with  her, and this weekend I was able to get my front brakes changed. I’ve had the pads sitting in the garage for a while now and so I’m glad I was finally able to install them today. I haven’t gotten my hands greasy with the car in years – it was nice to get back to things.

I’ll upload pics from the beach in the next few days, and will also share some thoughts about a “market environment” talk I heard last week.

Life is good when one’s nose isn’t buried in books… Now I just hope I pass so I don’t have to do it again… Ever…

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