Archive for the ‘money’ Category

Why am I majoring in Economics?

June 4, 2008

I entered college with the goal to become a theoretical astrophysicist. Once I discovered that a PhD in mathematics and physics would steal my soul and social skills, I changed to a major in Political Science. I’m going to become the President one day, so why not?

But Political Science majors are a dime a dozen. Plus, it was hard to convince work that they should pay for me to study “Political Philosophy of the Ancient Greek Philosophers” and “Political Campaigns.” So then I stumbled upon Economics. I took “Principles of Macroecomonics” as an elective, and my professor made me fall in love with the subject. I enrolled in Microeconomics for the following semester, and now I am a bona fide Economics major.

So why is this the greatest major of all time? Let me tell you!

  1. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University, says it best: “Econ is the highest-paid of all the easy majors.” Alas, engineers and mathematicians get paid more than economics students, but they also have insane amounts of work to do to graduate. Do you hear of many engineering students with GPAs above 3.5? Probably not, because only soulless robots, geniuses, and people without social lives can pull it off. Econ majors, though, can still enjoy their weekends. I’m not saying it’s like the super-easy majors (communications, dance, and neurobiology), but it’s not impossible.
  2. Economics is cool. In the first night of my first course in economics, we talked about politics (the founding of American society), philosophy (of free will and logic), crime (theft and rape), drugs (the supply and demand of marijuana), education (the cost of college vs. the benefits of a degree), and a whole host of other topics. Economics deals with everything. I browsed the list of publications that my faculty has written, and the topics span almost every realm of academic inquiry. Economics relates to everything you hear on the news. Don’t believe me? Pick a random story and type it into Google with the word “economics” afterwards.
  3. People should understand economics, but they don’t. The United States is in a recession, but most Americas don’t know what exactly that means. We understand the concept that we’re paying more for less, but most of us don’t understand why. If you disagree, take a peek at this Harris Market Research study. It’s from 2005, but it shows that we know remarkably little about a subject that affects our daily lives.

I would go on, but the law of diminishing marginal utility says I should stop here. There are plenty of other reasons to study Economics (not even as a major – just take a course or two). Read Freakonomics, The Logic of Life, The Wordly Philosophers, The Wealth of Nations (if you want a good, long read), or the Communist Manifesto. Go learn something.


4 Days of Work and 35 Hours a Week?

June 3, 2008

I enjoy driving. Ever since I was a 16-year-old kid with a freshly-printed driver’s license, I’ve enjoyed the feeling behind the wheel. But as much as I love it, I’m intrigued by an idea that’s gaining some momentum throughout the country.

The Workplace Prof Blog quoted a story from Financial Week about shortened workweeks. Instead of working five 8-hour days, commuters are increasingly working four days a week. Of course, their days are 10 hours long, but they save 20% on gas every week. As a student and a renter who spends over two and a half hours in a car every day, I love this idea. If I could, I would dump my girlfriend and marry this idea. Heck, I’ll work 13.5 hour days and come in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

Or we could go European and shrink our workweek in general. Alas, the blissful days of the 35-hour French workweek and the daily Spanish siestas after lunch are coming to a sad close. According to the Wall Street Journal, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is drafting legislation that would get rid of the legal limit of 35 hours for a workweek. French unions are up in arms, but French conservatives are pushing the idea.

Nicolas Sarkozy – President, Union for Popular Movement Member, and Slavedriver

My thoughts? I like to work. I like to work more than I like to drive, even. And while I don’t enjoying staying until midnight on a Friday night to accomplish an emergency task, there’s an odd beauty in overtime. I give major props to the investment bankers and corporate lawyers who spend over 100 hours in the office every week – they are more dedicated employees than I. Plus, they make about eight times my salary.

So go right ahead, Mr. Sarkozy. As long as you let them work four days a week.

Savings? Huzzah for the Penny-Pinchers!

June 2, 2008

I’m under 25. Statistically, I should be swamped with debt. I also shouldn’t have any savings. I have far too many friends my age who live paycheck to paycheck, but not because they make low wages. The term paycheck to paycheck is actually a misnomer. They’re really living bill to bill, because they save enough money to cover the next rent payment, cell phone bill, or tank of gas. After that, they consider their paycheck to be free game! Dinners and dates, movies and music – they have the money until next month’s bills.

They don’t understand that they will be royally screwed if they lose their job tomorrow, or if they’re injured and can no longer work. Why don’t we save any of our money? The Workplace Prof Blog cites a new report from the EBRI that gives us a scary number – retirees will need between $196,000 to $390,000 is savings just to cover health care. Then consider a house, food, transportation, utilities, and all those pleasures of our golden years.

I’m going to be honest: I’m terrified about retirement. I’ll probably work until I die, but I’m still saving for it now. Then again, I’ve had a retirement account since I was 16, so I was never fiscally normal for my age.

Ah, Greed is the American Way

June 2, 2008

In the blog Fistful of Talent, the author discusses the complications of finalizing a recruitment deal when the new employee wants a better offer. The lady mentioned in the post wanted the company to cover her BMW payments and executive office rent – in total, some $16,200.

Who has the cajones to ask for over sixteen grand, in addition to what (I can only assume) was an impressive salary? I have friends who work 50-60 hours a week and earn less than that. But if anyone has a job offer for me that includes rent and car payments, let me know and I’ll jump all over it.

I’m still working to develop my esoteric experience at work, but I can’t wait for the day when I’m a widely-sought SME and can demand an extra $16,000. “Because I’m worth it.”

I want to move to Venezuela

May 31, 2008

Take a look at this recent chart from the Energy Information Association:

I hate gas prices as much as the next guy (a tiny two-door coup should not cost $40 to fill up!), but thank God I don’t live in Germany. If you can’t see, it costs an average of $11.49 for a gallon of gas in Germany. In fact, gas all over Europe is more than twice as expensive as that of the United States. Southeast Asia varies (it’s $4.16 in India, but less than $3 in China and Indonesia).

But look at Caracas, Venezuela. $0.12! Zero dollars and twelve cents! I could have abstained from that Starbucks espresso yesterday and bought thirty gallons of gas. And I’d have to become a socialist and improve my Spanish, but those are minor issues.

The Perks of Our Insanity

May 28, 2008

My friend Norman recently asked why I was crazy. Norm is a guy who likes summer, the beach, and surfing through life. He can’t fathom why I wake up at 4:15 every morning and go to sleep at midnight. So, for Norman, here are my reasons why it’s better to combine work and school:

1. Money!

    • According to MSN Money, the average college student is approximately $20,000 in debt when they graduate. Those who can find jobs start out at about $30,000. On the other hand, we working students can pay our tuition (if work doesn’t pay it for us, which some people are lucky enough to wrangle) and graduate debt-free. With savings, even.

2. Some well-earned respect.

    • I’ve taken an equal mix of day classes and night classes. By and large, the day classes are composed primarily of young, full-time students. The night classes are filled with working students. Professors recognize this and almost always treat the night classes more professionally. In my day classes, I listened to lectures. In my night classes, I had discussions. I learned more in the latter, and everyone (students and professors) seemed to enjoy themselves more. Long-term professors are very good at recognizing the professional working student – we are not necessarily better than the regular student, but we’re definitely treated better.

3. Speaking with authority.

    • I never guessed how cool it was to be an expert. It’s an awesome experience to jump into a class discussion and say, “I do this for a living, and…” Let me tell you, there is no greater feeling than to school your professor in a debate.

4. Stop Wasting Time

    • cites a recent Nielsen poll that the average American watches 4 hours and 35 minutes of television per day. Annually, we average 69 straight days in front of the boob tube. Additionally, the typical American household has the TV on for over 8 aggregate hours every day. Seriously, are The Hills and American Idol that good? I spend over 8 hours a day in the office, over 2 1/2 on my commute (thank God that’s going to end when I move to a new place next month!), and about 4 in class. And I still get bored. If you’re concerned about missing the latest episode of House, they have magic TiVo boxes for $99.99. That’s not even as much as filling up an SUV on $4 per gallon gas.

5. Look fly.

    • I am blessed with a job that let’s me wear some spiffy duds to work. I go to the college straight from the office, so I’m usually dressed to the nines next to a kid who just rolled out of bed. My environmental lab partner this semester had a habit of rocking the ganj in his car before lab. There’s nothing like washing your jacket after every lab because it smells like cannabis and your work is hyper-sensitive about drug use.