L.B.I., NJ

My absence in the past few days was due to a short trip I took with my family. We went to the New Jersey shore to stay at a beach house of one of my wife’s colleagues. We embarked to Long Beach Island, New Jersey with no plans other than to relax and to enjoy ourselves. We were successful. While I realize that this is not the time of year to spend on the beach, we had little choice as this past summer was hectic, just like the last many years of our lives. It was our little Hanna’s first trip to the beach, but it will definitely not be her last. We spent our time sleeping in, going on walks, eating out and reading. It was nice, but I admittedly was ready to get back to New York. I was out of the office for only three days, but I hard a hard time not thinking of the increasing list of things to do when I returned, a situation not helped by the fact that I was able to monitor my email while away. I tried to focus on my family and enjoy the time we had with them, and I did, but I have a hard time being away for too long and three days starts to get too long for me. I am a man of routines and to embark on a trip with no plans other than to try to relax knowing that I will be out of my usual daily routine was hard for me. I think it came across that way too and my wife realized that I was happy to get on the train in the morning and go back to work with little more than a vague idea of what time I would return in the late evening.

And yet, we are now in the process of planning a much longer vacation sometime next year. I am excited, but know that it will be hard for me to get away. As much as I claim to enjoy traveling, I don’t mind my daily life most of the time, as hectic as it sometimes may be.  

Groups of Friends

Having lived in several different places at different phases in my life, I have made a good number of friends from all walks of life. Of course, there are the good friends I had in my youth and through high school, guys that I will never forget and will always cherish our memories with. Then there is the group of close friends I made while in Japan, living in close quarters together, forced to work and share our lives together, even if we didn’t always want to. Once I left Japan, I found myself surrounded by a large group of international friends while I was in college. We shared our academic struggles and triumphs, dreams and frustrations. But, inevitably came graduation, and before I knew it, life moved on. My next group of friends while in law school was a diverse and rowdy bunch, eager to graduate and begin their careers. The numerous hours spent with them were necessary during the grueling three years of law school. Now I have my work friends, and although we spend almost no time out of the office together, I am amazed at how well we know each other, for better or for worse.

From Seattle to Japan to Hawaii to New York, I have spent a lot of time with many types of people. Many people have come and gone in my life, but my friends have stayed (at least in my contacts list). Thanks to email and social networking, it is now easier than ever to stay in touch with people. Yet, there is still nothing like personal attention. I have learned that after years of not seeing each other, it is amazing what one personal phone call can do. Two weeks ago, one of the guys from what I would consider my college group of friends contacted me out of the blue and asked if he could come stay with me while he interviewed in New York. Of course, I told him. After all, he is a friend, although our current lives don’t bring us into contact with each other like they used to. And so it is. People come and go, but friends will always be there. 

Lastly, I must mention a special friend I met along my journey. In the midst of all of the moving that has brought me for now to New York, I met my best friend, and within a short time we were married and will remain with each other forever. Thanks for always being there, Honey, even as others have come and gone.

Millicom International Cellular S.A. (MICC)

At the end of July I bought a thinly-traded NASDAQ stock of a telecommunications company based in Luxembourg named Millicom (MICC) that focuses on cellular phone growth in emerging markets and developing countries. The stock at the end of July was hovering around $80.00 and I happened to pull the trigger and buy some on a down day at $79.15. Over the past three months I had watched the stock go up and down from $80.00 to as high as $91.00. Yesterday the stock closed at $86.71. This morning, however, the company released its third-quarter earnings and posted better than expected results. The stock skyrocketed to over $100.00 and I thought that this might be a good time to cash out. I placed a limit order on what shares I owned and sold at $102.50. That’s a profit of over $23.00 a share, minus the commission I paid for each transaction.

Now, I just have to hope that the hype wears down and the stock falls down to below the price that I sold at. There have already been a few times in the past six months that I have sold a stock on a down day hoping to hedge my losses only to watch the stock rise much higher in the following weeks. I end up kicking myself. Who knows what MICC will do. This morning the demand was high and the stock rose. Only time will tell if I sold my MICC at the top or solely at a peak on its way up to bigger and better things.

An Eventful Time

In September 2006, my wife and I experienced ten days that were as eventful as some people’s whole year. Starting around the middle of the month, we first discovered that we were pregnant and that we would be having our first child sometime in the spring of 2007. That by itself was a big event for me. A few days later, I received the job offer I was hoping for and accepted it with the intent of starting work by the end of September. Shortly afterwards, my wife was involved in a car accident that totaled our car but miraculously left her (and the baby growing inside her at the time) untouched. We were also hoping to move apartments as soon as I received a new job and had our eye on a newer, larger, nicer apartment building in our neighborhood.

As a result of these events, we had to take action within a short time period. Before I even started work at my new job, we had signed a fifteen-month lease for a new apartment that doubled our rent payment, had signed a three-year lease for a new car that obligated us with a car payment where we didn’t have one before, and we began the long process of searching for that right name for our baby boy or baby girl. At the time, it seemed as if we may have financially signed our life away without knowing what the future might bring. After all, this all happened before I even stepped foot into my office or was even close to receiving my first paycheck.

It has been over one year since all of this, and, looking back, I am pleased with how well things have worked out. My job has been good to me and I have learned a lot in the past year. Our daughter Hanna, born last May 18th is now five months old, is healthy and doing great. The apartment has worked out well and we are considering renewing the lease for at least another twelve months. And the new car has been great to have and beats driving the 1995 model we had since I met my wife. In the end, life has a way of working out when you plan and try to do what is right. I am happy to be where I am.  

The Shackles Are Off

I have taken the shackles off (almost completely). For most people these days, going to law school means borrowing money. Since law is often not the lucrative, exciting profession many people thought it would be before deciding to attend law school, student loan debt can be crippling in many instances (see my previous post here). I attended a private (read expensive) law school in New York City, and as such, the maximum amount of federal loans I could borrow was not sufficient to cover the cost of my tuition alone. Consequently, I was forced to borrow money from private lenders at much higher rates. I was able to make it through my first year of law school private-loan free thanks to scholarships, but borrowed $38,000 in my last two years of law school. Yes, that’s right – I borrowed $19,000 each year from one of the world’s largest private student loan lenders solely to help cover the cost of my tuition. These loans are not eligible to be consolidated at the lower federal rates and carry much higher interest rates than the federal rate. The only benefit was that I did not need to make payments while in law school and had a six month grace period upon graduation, a grace period that ended last December. 

I am happy to announce that as of today I am free from my private loans. Since I began working I have paid off all $38,000 plus the interest that had accrued over the last three years. I still have federal loans outstanding, but they are consolidated at a rate so low that it is worthwhile to invest our money elsewhere.  This is a good feeling. What I had thirty years to pay off I have done in less than one, since my grace period expired less than a year ago. Now we can begin taking the thousands of dollars that we used each month towards these loans and use them for something else, say, like, a down payment for a house. That, at least, would be a good start.  

My Commute Works For Me

Some people find it hard to believe that it takes me longer than one hour each way to get to and from my office. All in all, I spend about two hours and twenty minutes of my day traveling. The reality is that I don’t know what I would do without that time each day. I definitely miss it when I have a few days off work. Yes, there are days when I am delayed. There are obnoxious people around me sometimes. The trains are not the cleanest or most sanitary means of transportation. But I wouldn’t trade in my commute for anything. Why? Because the time is mine and I can count on having about two hours of my own time Monday through Friday to read, think, zone out, listen to music, plan, and do whatever else can be done while sitting on a crowded train.

I recognized a long time ago that I need my own time each day, whether I can get it at night when everyone else has gone to bed or some other time. Thanks to the train, I now have time to myself each day without feeling the need to isolate myself from my family once I arrive home just to find my own space. Sure, there are downsides to commuting by train. At the end of a long day, sometimes I just want to be home. Instead, I have to deal with the time and trouble of getting all the way home by train (unless of course you can take the car home). If I decide to leave work at 6:30, I won’t actually walk in my front door until about 7:50 – not exactly an early arrival home although I left the office early by New York standards. Then, there are the times that I am minutes from missing my desired train as the subway pulls up to 42nd Street. Knowing I will be left waiting for the next train, I run from the subway platform up the stairs to the track at GCT, only to see the train pulling out, realizing I missed it by less than one minute. But even then, I don’t complain; that is the price you pay for living in New York.

I like my commute but don’t think I would want any longer of a commute than what I currently have. If I had to commute the same time by car each day, I would move closer to my workplace as soon as I could. I would much rather be stuck on a train than in my car. At least on the train, I get work done.

Life’s Lessons

There are many reasons to get married. While some may think that marriage closes some doors to one’s personal life, it is clear that marriage opens doors as well. In marrying someone you love, for example, you make a promise to be a witness to someone’s life – to be there for every good, bad and mundane event, feeling and experience. In marrying, you make a promise that your spouse’s life will not go unnoticed because you will notice it. With all of the billions of people here on earth, would it really matter to anyone what I thought or felt or did on a daily basis? Would it even be noticed? It should to your spouse. And for better or worse, that is what marriage is. I made a promise to be with this person for all the good and the bad. It does matter what you did today, regardless of how trivial, because you can now share it with me. Love, like life, has its peaks and valleys. I sometimes envy those couples who seem madly and passionately in love all of the time. I have forgotten what that’s like. But at the end of a long day, when no one else is around to hear me, I am glad that I have someone that has promised to listen and to care. I hope she knows that she always has me.