Monday, May 30, 2005

Moving Out

Moving from one apartment to another in the same city or state (e.g. from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti to West Bloomfield in Michigan) was difficult enough. The good thing was all those places were within driving range (less than 45 minutes apart) so we could manage to have a little overlap between the end of one and start of another. That helped moving in the non-essential items on earlier days (several trips in a day or even a week). The bigger and more critical ones, e.g. sofa, TV, could be moved on the d-day with a U-Haul or Ryder trucks (Ryder trucks are much better, by the way).

Moving to out-of-state, e.g. from West Bloomfield, MI to Durham, NC, was way much more challenging. No more multiple trips to move the non-essential items. Another challenge was to drive both cars, plus the truck. So we decided to rent a service. But at least we knew exactly what, or where, we were getting into.

Moving out of the country was a mess. First of all, we didn't move directly to the final destination. The target was KL, a couple of months after when we had to move out. So we had to 'stopover' in Jakarta while looking for the new place in KL. Second of all, the electrical items were not compatible. It's 120/240v and 60Hz in the U.S., while Indonesia and Malaysia are using 110/220V and 50Hz. The options were to buy transformers - lots of them, or to sell or giveaway all the electrical items. And cars too!

Despite having taken the Pricing Strategy class, I failed to analyze the 'market'. Everything we offered was initially way under what the market valued. The responses were overwhelming. The only bargaining power I used was to hold the items until the last days. It definitely helped for things like TV, DVD player, or mattress.

Another complication was the booking of container, including the attempt to "maximize" it. Some friends would ask for shipping of their goods with container, of which we couldn't make money from :) This includes all the necessary documents from and to the Embassy.

As messy as the others was the packing as we decided to not use the professional service to pack. We used Two Men and a Truck to load the container. That was when we realized all the money we could've paid for the service would've been worth it every penny. These people rocks, and they just know what they do.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Journey

Well, it has been almost exactly seven years since we first moved to the U.S. It's been great journey and adventure. Not much savings made even though I worked for more than four years in Michigan. I think it's because the mindset has always been "vacation", i.e. we always know that we will never end up and retire in the U.S., thus we must make the most of our time -- to travel and eat out.

Firstly arrived in San Francisco in June 1998, we spent the first five years in Michigan. What a state it is. It's geographically flat; no hill, no valley. It's one of the main victim of lake-effect snow. And it's about two hours flying to the East Coast (NYC) and six hours flying to the West Coast (LA). Four-five hours driving to Chicago, although it's only one hour away from Windsor, Canada. But what's in Windsor anyway, except a casino?

The first year, we lived in Ann Arbor, in a one bedroom economy on-campus apartment, where the only two rooms were bedroom and everything else, and a small bathroom, of course. Not a great impression of what America is. The second year we moved to a more decent two bedroom, two bathroom apartment in Ypsilanti. Great location, right in the middle between University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, and right across from Washtenaw Community College. We moved to West Bloomfield on the fourth year for the next two. A two bedroom apartment with a garage. Great place in a well-established area. I got closer to work. I picked up a lot of football in Michigan, but missed a lot of soccer. Both kids were born in the University of Michigan hospital with the same Obgyn.

We moved to Durham, NC, in June 2003 as I would start my MBA at Duke. We moved to even a better place. Three bedroom (3.5 bath), three-stories apartment with garage. The rent was higher too. Both kids went to school and made some friends.

Durham is pretty strategically located. It's about three hours driving to the beach and four hours to the mountain (where there is snow in the winter). Less than five hours driving to Washington, D.C., and about six-hour drive to Atlanta. Charlotte is only about two hours driving away, but there's nothing much but a huge mall.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's an MBA worth?

When you're about to graduate from a 100k+ MBA program, this question will most likely pops up. It's a BW's article I took via

Here's my take. I would do it again, for sure, and would let myself enjoy it even more. Career-wise, we'll see - it seems it will start quite nicely. Though the take home pay is less than the average MBA salary because I won't be earning in USD, I feel it is comparable to what I would've earned if I stay in the U.S. Apart from the dollars, though, it's been an amazing journey. The people, the facilities, the hard work, and the fun. I would consider I paid more for these factors than the title itself.

Is the MBA really Worth It?

In a fascinating cover story on the Class of 1992, Business Week answers the question with a resounding yes. My former employer surveyed nearly 1,500 alums of the Class of 1992 from the top 30 business schools to come up with the answer and a bevy of fascinating statistics.

Some of the highlights:

  • Some 89% of the respondents say they would go for the MBA again if they had it to do over.
  • Nearly 80% said they would go back to the same school, although Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern, and Wharton predictably scored best on this question.
  • Average salary of a top 30 alum after a decade at work is more than $155,200, up from the average $56,600 starting pay in their first post-MBA job.
  • Average bonus and compensation for the alums was $232,400 so the total compensation for these MBAs averaged a whopping $387,000 last year (where do I sign up?).
  • Some 75% of the alums say they give to charity, with contributions totallying $8.3 million in the past two years, or more than $7,300 each, on average.
  • Nearly a dozen alums gave $100,000 to non-profit causes, with a handful of gifts over the half-million mark.
  • MBA alums donated some 7,000 hours of volunteer time to causes last year, or about 9 hours per month on average.
  • These alums manage an average 93 employees each.

As the story notes: "What's more, the data depict a managerial class that's in a truly commanding position. Their salaries and bonuses are hefty, and they occupy, after only a decade, top posts in their companies. They are an enterprising lot, an entire cohort of ambitious men and women who have started hundreds of companies and created nearly 100,000 jobs -- a surprising record from a group often derided as better at bean-counting and consulting than actually doing anything."

Before you rush off for the MBA, remember to take all these very favorable and upbeat results with a few grains of salt: This crop of grads left at the best possible time and took best possible advantage of the 1990s' boom. This crop also had the advantage of an MBA from a top 30 business school, not merely an MBA. And most importantly, the results are heavily skewed to be favorable because the largest graduating classes (and therefore survey respondents) tend to come from the very best schools (merely because the best of the top 30 tend to have the largest graduating classes). So Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia and other elite and prestigious MBA factories easily overwhelm the respondents from much smaller top 30 schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and other public universities.

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