Nov 14, 2007

Stupidity Need Not Be Contagious: On Learning from Britney Spears

If this doesn't make you want to drop everything and run to HR and enroll in a retirement plan immediately or increase your current contributions, then I don't know what will.

What Britney can teach you about retirement
Tuesday November 6, 2007
By Janice Revell, Money Magazine senior writer

In case you missed it, some bombshell news came out of the personal finance arena last week. No, I'm not referring to the Federal Reserve's rate cut or the record-breaking price of oil.

I'm talking about Britney Spears: She isn't saving for retirement.

Though the 25-year old pop star is hauling in some $737,000 a month (yes, per month), the Associated Press reported last Thursday that according to court documents, she's not saving or investing a penny of it.

More than $100,000 each month is going to entertainment, gifts and vacations alone.

While most of us may be shocked by this excess, Ms. Spears' saving habits are actually pretty normal.

The truth is, the overwhelming majority of American 20-somethings aren't saving anything for retirement, either. Research from Vanguard shows that two-thirds of all 25-year-olds who have access to a 401(k) plan aren't contributing.

And the worst part is, they aren't taking advantage of their biggest asset: time.

Let's go back to Ms. Spears' retirement plan for a minute. Now I know that she's richer than you and I, worth in the neighborhood of $100 million from her previous sales and touring (she didn't always spend it all). But let's say she was forced to start from scratch, like any other 25-year-old. She could still maintain her lavish lifestyle in retirement.

Assuming she could scrape by on 70% to 80% of her pre-retirement income in retirement - or about $590,000 a month in today's dollars - Ms. Spears would have to accumulate a nest egg of just over $300 million by age 65.

Sound daunting? Nah. All she has to do is keep working and put away 8% or so of her monthly $737,000 income until she retires and she'll hit that goal.

So what's the point of this exercise? Well, the very same strategy can work for you too.

Being sure to set aside just a little each month can help you maintain your lifestyle in perpetuity.

A 25-yr old making $30,000 a year, for instance, and putting away the same 8% of his pay into a 401(k) plan annually for the rest of his career is virtually guaranteed a comfortable retirement by time he hits his 60s.

Assuming average historic rates of inflation and investment returns, and a typical company matching contribution in his 401(k), he would wind up with a nest egg of nearly $2 million by age 65, enough to replace more than 90% of his working income.

I realize that, unlike Ms. Spears, you may also have student loans to pay back at this point in your life. But unless it's a private loan, don't sacrifice your 401(k) contribution to make extra payments on the loan. If it's a federal loan, and you've consolidated it, you likely have a fixed after-tax rate of 5% or less. Over the longer haul, you will handily beat that return in your 401(k); if you get a company matching contribution, you'll trounce it.

And you don't need to hire a team of people to handle your investments. Just put your 8% in a so-called target-date retirement fund - every major fund company offers them, including Fidelity, Vanguard, and T. Rowe Price.

Here, you make your fund choice based on the expected year of your retirement. For instance, if you were planning to retire in 40 years' time, you might pick the T. Rowe Price Retirement 2050 fund. Right now, it has an 88% allocation to stocks, 10% to bonds and the rest in cash.

As time passes, and you get closer to retirement, the fund will automatically adjust that mix of stocks and bonds to more conservative levels. The best part with these funds is that you do nothing.

And that means you'll never have to say, 'Oops! I did it again' when it comes to your retirement.

Nov 11, 2007

Donda West, Noted Scholar And Kanye's Mother, Dies At 58

I'm not a big Kanye fan and have had a fair share to say about the wackness of his music on this blog, but I certainly don't wish him or anyone this kind of pain. Word on the street is Dr. West died in the hospital of complications from a tummy tuck and breast implants. I sure hope it ain't so. R.I.P.

Former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department died Saturday from undisclosed causes.

By Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez

Donda West, the mother of Kanye West and former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department, passed away Saturday from undisclosed causes, according to a spokesman for the family. She was 58.

According to multiple sources, West was in Los Angeles and her death may have been the result of complications from a surgical procedure; more specific information was unavailable at press time.

Although widely known as the mother of Kanye, Ms. West was a noted scholar and an active college professor for 31 years; she left the profession in 2004 to assist with Kanye's career, according to her biography on the Web site of the Kanye West Foundation, an educational nonprofit of which she was chairwoman. She was also chief executive of West Brands, the parent company of her son's businesses.

She began her teaching career in the early 1970s at Brown College in Atlanta and began working at Chicago State University in 1980, according to the site; she was also a Fulbright Scholar, among other awards. Dr. West raised Kanye in the Chicago area along with her husband, from whom she separated when Kanye was 3.

She also recently became a published author with a tome dedicated to her son titled "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star." The book and subsequent interviews have left little question about the source of Kanye's his outspoken nature.

The importance and influence Ms. West had in her son's life is profound. When Kanye appeared on MTV News' "You Hear It First" in 2003, one of the first rhymes he's kicked for us was about his mother, dropping to his knees during the performance to get his point across. Those rhymes later turned up in a full-blown dedication to her, Late Registration's "Hey Mama."

"Hey Mama, I wanna scream so loud for you/ 'Cause I'm so proud of you/ Let me tell you what I'm about to do ... I appreciate what you allowed for me, I just want you to be proud of me."

Kanye has dropped references to his mom on all of his albums.

Kanye's love for his mom was undoubtedly reciprocated tenfold, not only did Ms. West act as in part as a co-manager, she was also his biggest cheerleader, appearing at many events throughout his career. At the Video Music Awards in September, Ms. West was in Kanye's suite at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas, joining in the party and wearing the white shades celebrating his show. She also attended his 30th birthday party in New York last summer and his appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

A spokesman for Kanye West released this brief statement when contacted by MTV News.

"The family respectfully asks for privacy during this time of grief."

Sep 17, 2007

Spring is in bloom...

Thought for the day: Never apologize for pursuing what makes you happy!

I discovered this quote recently in the signature of a friend's forwarded email. Instantly, one thing became clear: I need to find out what makes me happy, both personally and professionally. So, even though this is just the start of fall and we're quickly approaching winter, my personal spring is already in bloom!

Highlight of the past few months:

I attended my friend saf's baby shower. It was great to visit with her and tummy girl. I can't wait to go back and actually meet Micaiah.

I went to my 5-year college reunion. I had a better time after 5 years than I ever had as a student. It was good to be back and see old friends and other alumni.

I moved to the north side of town into a great 3-bedroom apartment with two friends. The change of scenery has been good for me. It's also wonderful to have more space and great company.

I spent a long weekend in New York City. I saw The Color Purple and loved it. It was a much better cast and production, than it's Chicago run. I love spending time in NYC. It truly is where my heart is. One day, I'm certain I'll call it home!

I visited my friend Reena in Philadelphia. It was so good to finally make my way to Philly, which is home to my favorite band...The Roots. It was good to hang out, drink, drink and drink some more. For someone as directionally challenged as me, I learned my way around in no time. Philly is a smaller city than I had imagined. I loved South Street.

I bought a new car. My second born died on Labor Day. It wasn't worth the money it'd cost to revive it, so I donated it to the American Heart Association.

Also, I never got around to posting my coachella pics back in April, so here are some of my favorites:

Jun 12, 2007

My Idols

Those that know me know, that I adore reality television. I don't know where this came from, what it is about these shows (certainly not the "reality") or the the why, but, I do know that I consume a lot of reality television. To my credit, I don't watch any and everything reality. I like to believe that even though these shows appeal to the small escapist portion of my brain that needs mindless banter of unknowns to decompress, I'm still selective in my viewing.

your garden variety reality series truly appeal to my escapist sensibilities. Over the past few years, I've consumed more reality tv, than any person one should. My days of watching only The Real World (New York, New Orleans and the second New York being my favorites) has morphed into weekly consumption of Supernanny,

Season 1: Tamyra Gray

Season 2: Kimberly Locke

Season 3: Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson

Season 4: Vonzell Solomon

Season 5: Paris Bennett and Mandisa

Season 6: Melinda Doolittle

Weekend Getaway: Total Flop

So, much for my plans to spend this past weekend with my mom. I never made it to Atlanta. A glitch in the aviation system rendered my flight delayed not once, not twice, not even four times, but eight times, until it was eventually CANCELLED! Yes, you read that correctly cancelled after being delayed eight times. When the final announcement was made that our flight was cancelled and we'd all be rebooked onto flights the next day, everyone made a mad dash to the counter. How long do you think I waited in line before I made it to the front of the line to be rebooked...1 hour!! My conversation with gate agent was classic and went a little something like this...

Me: Hi, I'd like to be on the first flight to Atlanta on Saturday morning.

DAE: The earliest flight I can get you on is at 3:45.

Me: Um, right?

: Oh no, our flights to Atlanta begin at 6:15 am daily.

Me: Ok, well that's the flight I want to be on.

DAE: I'm sorry, that flight is already oversold.

Me: Huh?

DAE: That flight is oversold.

Me: Well, what's the next flight after 6:15 am?

DAE: The next available flight is 3:45 pm.

Me: So you mean to tell me that the next flight after 6:15 am is 3:45 pm?

DAE: The next available flight is 3:45 pm. There are several flights after 6:15 am, but they are also oversold.

Me: Then how can you rebook us for the next day, if all these flights are oversold.

DAE: Mam all of our flights aren't oversold, only the morning flights. We've done are best to accommodate everyone on a first come, first serve basis. The 3:45 is available.

Me: Well, my trip is ruined. 3:45 will put me in Atlanta around 6 pm. I'm scheduled to return on Sunday at 6 pm, so what use would it be to go for a day. I've been in this airport for almost 12 pm.

DAE: I'm really sorry, the best I can tell you is to try and fly standby on the 6:15 am tomorrow morning.

Me: So that I can sit in this airport again for another 10 hours trying to get on flight after flight. I don't think so.

DAE: Well it's the best I can do, if you don't want to take the 3:45.

Me: No the best you can do is issue me a refund.

DAE: Ok, I'm really sorry for the inconvenience.

Me: It's not your fault. Where can I get my bag?

DAE: *typing*

Me: Where do I get my bag?

DAE: *quiet*

Me: Um, bag?

DAE: I'm sorry, but your bag is showing onhand in Atlanta.

Me: What??? How can that be? How could my bag make it to Atlanta without me?

DAE: I'm so sorry I have no idea.

Me: Of course not. *walks away*

So, there you have it folks. The closest I made it to Atlanta was the 10 hours spent at Midway Airport trying to get a flight.