People always ask me “Sheehan, what do you really do?” I could bore them to death about how I’m in IT and I develop distributed enterprise applications that enable realtime messaging services for corporate payment accounts – but what does that really mean to your everyday joe (or sally)?

The Elevator Pitch

What I’m trying to get at is we all need an elevator pitch. Even if we don’t have a business or a product, we need one for ourselves. Whether you run into an old high school buddy, or you’re at a networking event you need to be prepared.

General wisdom states an elevator pitch should be 30 seconds. That is too long. People stop paying attention after 15 seconds if you aren’t captivating. Come up with a 10 second pitch. Most people don’t like to listen, they like talking so get it overwith and let yourself stick.

My 10 Second Elevator Pitch

My name is Sheehan Alam, and I am an IT analyst. Every time you pay your bill online, you are using my product.

That’s it. If people want to know more, they will ask you. Ten seconds is all you need.

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  • Computer Science
  • Masters of Business Administration
  • Learning

Looks like Google is giving out advice on not only how to get in, but how to succeed in a rapidly changing industry such as technology (can be applied to other disciplines too).

The challenge for the up-and-coming generation is how to acquire them. It’s easy to educate for the routine, and hard to educate for the novel. Keep in mind that many required skills will change.

This is sage advice. The best way to accumulate wealth in your early years is your career. Invest in it by always learning and staying up to date with trends.


This past weekend we experienced the second coming of the Jesus phone. The blogging community likes to point out that the overall cost of the iPhone over 2 years is something around $2,000. While that is true it is hardly any different from paying those fee’s with any smartphone, be it Windows Mobile, Blackberry or Palm. Data plans will always cost you at least $30 a month so deal with it.

How is it an Investment?

The iPhone is exclusive to AT&T for five years. That means all you suckers on T-Mobile can’t get your grubby hands on these babies for a while. The exclusivity + cool factor of the phone generates a high demand. This means someone is willing to buy your phone at a PREMIUM because there is limited supply. I should teach economics 101 by the way.

Three Easy Steps

  1. Buy an iPhone, sign a two year contract
  2. Next year, when the iPhone is updated, unlock it and sell it to some chump on T-Mobile for 100% of the value or more.
  3. Do loop

Benefits

  • You always have the latest and greatest phone
  • Worst case you break even, best case you make a profit
  • Browsing the internet on the iPhone is far superior than any other phone

For more investing articles and tips check out some older posts


Some of my friends just getting into the workforce are wondering how they should dress at the office. Corporate America is getting ready to usher in a new wave of emo hippies where being the first commenter on digg means you’re cool. Lets take a look at the do’s and dont’s of the dress code at most companies.

Facial Hair

Its cool to rock a little bit of stubble or even a full on beard (UNIX junkies rejoice). Times have changed, and having a five ‘o clock shadow no longer means you’re a lazy tool. As long as you are groomed most companies shouldn’t object. Check with HR though before you want to get down with Lost.

Jeans

Jeans are a staple in almost everyone’s wardrobe. From what I’ve noticed, most companies consider jeans to be part of the business casual look as long as everything is fitted and put together. Some companies don’t even allow it, and leave it for casual fridays. Hot tech startups don’t care what you wear, as long as you submit your code on time =).

Skirts

Don’t worry ladies, I didn’t forget you. Skirts are usually allowed as long as they are a reasonable length. You don’t want to cause any distractions now. If you think what you’re wearing is rated R, you might want to escalate that to HR.

Tattoos

Still a no-no in corporate america. If you’ve got one, make sure its covered up. Leave the tats to the Metallica concerts.

iPods

Steve Jobs says, “I pity da’ foo who don’t listen to music on my iPod.” In most cases, it is allowable to listen to music while you’re at your desk, as long as you are getting work done.

Jewelry

As long as the jewelry is not flashy it is acceptable in the office. Obviously if you are in construction or out on the field sometimes it is a safety hazard to be donning the bling. Use your best judgement.

T-Shirts

Acceptable most of the time. If you’re out meeting a client or signing some big deals though, try and dress up a little bit more. Chances are they will be much older than you, and will see a t-shirt as belonging to weekend wear wardrobe. By the way, who would’ve thought the blue screen of death could be fun eh?

Flip Flops

Unfortunately flip flops are not allowed as office wear in most places. Maybe it’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want to see some foot fungus while I’m getting my daily pot of coffee anyways.

Generation Y’ers are an eclectic bunch. Dress accordingly.


Wells Fargo Checking – basically is a pool of money to pay off my credit card bills. I only keep as much as I need to make my monthly payments with a couple hundred dollars for cushion. I have budgeted 1/3 of my paycheck for expenses.

Wells Fargo Savings – just a backup for my checking in case I need access to funds super immediately. If I have a huge spending month my bank will overdraft from here, so that I don’t get hit with any fee’s.

ING Orange Savings – the bulk of my cash sits here accumulating interest. This is my emergency fund, though emergency funds can be debatable given your situation (according to my man, Irish). Every month I transfer 1/3 of my paycheck into here.

ING CD’s – My long-term plans for purchasing a house, or a car are locked into a CD ladder. Since I won’t be needing to touch this for a while, the higher CD rates work in my favor over ING’s regular savings interest rates.

Vanguard – I am a strict passive investor. Both my Roth IRA and taxable mutual fund accounts sit here. I allocate 1/3 of my paycheck solely for investing.

Credit Cards – I own an American Express card that I charge everything to, to get the rewards. Not all places accept American Express, so for those rare occasions I carry around a Visa. I pay off my credit cards every month.

Paying bills, and investing are done automagically. I never have to call my broker, or even go online to pay off my credit card, or throw money into an index fund. I like to relax when it comes to these things. Now that’s what I call easy.


A few days ago I posted on five things you should splurge on. Well there are two sides to every coin so drum roll please…

  1. Gym Memberships –  If you are going to go to a gym, are smoothie bars and massage parlors going to make a difference to you? You are going there to work out. So skip the elite gyms and cover your basics; treadmill, weights, swimming pool, and basketball courts. Don’t get suckered into paying registration fees, termination fees, or contracts.
  2. Fitness Supplements – I’m looking at all of you chumps who buy creatine, weight gain powder, diet pills, metabolism enhancers etc. Lets face it, if you’re buying this crap you’re most probably wasting your money into thinking you’re getting some great workouts. Unless you’re a professional body builder skip the placebo and save your money. My alternative? Go natural and buy fruits and vitamins that will boast your health.
  3. Car Lease – I’ll be writing a post on this soon, but if you can’t afford to buy a car, don’t get suckered into lining the dealers’ pocket by getting into a lease. Pay for what you can afford.
  4. Fast food – I see people ordering $10 worth of stuff individually at Subway or other fast food joints. If you’re going to throw down a Hamilton just treat yourself to better food. In a rush? Most restaurants have to-go pickup and delivery.
  5. Music – if you’re buying music from iTunes get a life. Come have a chat with me about bit-torrent.

That’s all folks. Splurge accordingly.


(bling is Paris Hilton’s thing. If you like it, buy it)

People sometimes get too caught up on saving. If you are disciplined and spending less than you earn then I say splurge on the things you enjoy. Personally, I love eating out and buying gadgets. There is no need to cut back on what I like because at the end of the day, I’m still saving for retirement/long term.

When To Splurge

  1. Vacations – you don’t get to take many of these, enjoy it. Eat out, take tours, eat some more
  2. Computers – in the technology world you get what you pay for, a $500 computer just might have enough juice to load up this blog, but a $1,000 computer can do that and so much more. If you’re buying one for college, make sure it lasts you 4 years.
  3. Music Players – Sure a Zune or Creative Zen has more disk-space, can do x, y and z but its no iPod. Lets face it, everything is catered towards the iPod these days whether its integrating it into your car, to docking it with your alarm clock. Buy something that is not a fad, and here to stay.
  4. Dates – if you’re a nerd most probably you won’t be getting many of these. Just kidding. Seriously though, if you’re going to take someone out do it in style. I’m not saying book a five star hotel but definitely impress. Some may argue that there are women (and men) who don’t prefer to be charmed, true, but statistically 85% of women like guys who spend. Don’t try and defy mathematics.
  5. Shoes – A good pair of basketball shoes will stop you from rolling your ankle. A nice pair of dress shoes can last you a lifetime. Cheap shoes usually tear apart, smell funky and can be hawk-eyed by fashion savvy women within 3 seconds.

Next Up: 5 Reasons Not To Splurge


Certificates of Deposit (CD) are for two types of people:

  1. Those who are too chicken to invest in the market
  2. Those setting up an emergency fund

I hope you are reading this article for the latter, but I digress. Throwing your money into 1 big CD isn’t a good strategy. Try laddering instead.

Examples

For those who don’t know how to read the above article, here is a real-world example:

  • You have $9,000 to tuck away.
  • Instead of putting it all in 1 CD you break it up into $3,000 CD’s a piece
  • You put each $3,000 into a 6 month, 9 month and 12 month CD
  • When your 6 month matures, you re-invest it into a 12 month CD
  • When your 9 month matures, you re-invest it into a 12 month CD
  • When your 12 month matures, you re-invest it into a 12 month CD

Basically, every 3 months your CD is maturing and your money is accessible. You are also taking advantage of changing interest rates. Instead of locking in 5% for an entire year, maybe the interest rate rose. With a CD ladder you are able to get yourself that rising interest rate.

I’m Lazy, Can Someone Do It For Me?

Yeah. His name is ING Direct. Instead of manually buying CD’s every time they mature, ING has a special CD laddering page that will re-invest for you. Leave the personal finances aside (working for you) while you’re off to more important things like NBA basketball, steak or fine women.

You’ve got your emergency fund covered. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.


If you are an investor you should know who Warren Buffett is. Shame on you if you don’t know about him. For those of you who don’t know, I suggest wikipedia’ing him. If you want throw $100 bills in the air and not care (see photo above), you must be Warren Buffett.

Words of Wisdom

“Investors, on average and over time, will do better with a low-cost index fund than with a group of funds of funds” – Warren Buffett

Buffett’s reasoning is simple. Mutual fund managers usually can’t beat the market. If they do, usually the fee’s on the funds are so high you end up under-performing the S&P. To prove this, Buffett has actually challenged hedge-fund managers, by placing a bet that his index funds will outperform their actively managed fund. Check it out here.

“I would just have it all in a very low-cost index fund from a reputable firm, maybe Vanguard. Unless I bought during a strong bull market, I would feel confident that I would outperform…and I could just go back and get on with my work.” – Warren Buffett

Ah, the wisdom of a multi-billionaire. Investing should be simple. When you are young investing shouldn’t be your first priority, your job is what is going to make you the most money, and allow you to contribute to your investments. Check out the full article here.

Summary

Can you outsmart the world’s greatest investor who has over 50 years of experience managing a portfolio? I would stick to the odds that are in my favor and go simply index. See my articles on how to construct a fully indexed portfolio.

PS. Inspired by WB, I rocked the yellow sweater vest to work today.


I understand that while in college, or just starting out that initially investing is not a priority. We’ve got to pay rent, buy food, make car payments, etc etc and by the end of the month there is little money or no money left over. That is why I recommend coming up with a budget to make sure you actually have money to save.

For those of you wanting to start a diversified portfolio but complain that you only have $3,000 – don’t sweat it. Stick it into a life-cycle fund (also known as a target retirement fund) in your 401k or Roth IRA and contribute to it on a regular basis. Once you’ve accumulated a lot of money, you can break it up and start buying the funds you really want to complete your preferred asset allocation, or build a fratboy’s lazy portfolio.

Don’t have $3,000 to start a fund? Some mutual fund companies let you start with as little as $100 to get started as long as you promise to contribute monthly.

The sooner you start investing the more aware you will become, and the better educated your investments in the future will be. Don’t let “I don’t have enough money” be a reason to not invest. The opportunity is there, its up to you whether or not you take it.