Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Brother's Wedding

My brother's wedding took place in Fort Worth over the weekend. It was an outdoor wedding at a ranch. The weather behaved perfectly. He was very happy, which makes us happy.

I was away from Japan for seven calendar days for the occasion.  Four travel days, two days at wedding events and one day in California. This counts as my annual leave or only permitted vacation during my secondment year. It took a fight with my boss to get this time off even though he had agreed to it in writing as a condition to my acceptance of the assignment. (Separate post on trying to use vacation days in a Japanese company later.)

It was a difficult weekend for many reasons, but I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to visit with my family and some friends.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meguro River

I've lived in Tokyo for nearly a year and a half, but I'm still discovering new hidden treasures on a regular basis.  The Meguro River is a popular sakura spot that I've never visited (in any season).  Both sides of the river are lined with cherry trees that lean towards the water.  (Search Instagram for some amazing photos of this spot.)  As luck would have it, I had the chance to walk along the river after a housewarming party nearby--both the new apartment and the river area were gorgeous!

Lanterns everywhere!

Meguro River

We walked around Nakameguro afterwards.  This is an area I'd like to come back to on my own so that I can wander more slowly and really poke around.  There were some street vendors, but I have a feeling that was only because everyone was out for hanami.

Also this weekend, my neighborhood played host to a festival.  I grabbed some food at one of the stalls, sat by our huge waterfall (not pictured) and watched all the families while soaking up the sun.  There were so many babies and poodles about!  (Poodles are Tokyo's dog of choice... or maybe just Roppongi's dog of choice.)

Ark Hills Sakura Festival

Festival Food
(You can see the western influence - lots of foreigners live in this area)

Tokyo and I are at our best in the spring.  Growing up in California, I never developed much of an appreciation for the significance of the changing seasons.  Living in Tokyo where we have a very gray winter (with a touch of snow) and hot and humid summers (worse than Texas, I think) has taught me how completely the seasons can change my mood.  I've been exercising more, eating differently and finding energy for extras like my first class on Coursera.  It was another good week.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Money

I spent some time practicing my Excel skills this week.  I'm the first to admit that my Excel "skills" are totally remedial by b-school standards, but other lawyers--especially the senior ones--seem to think I'm some sort of Excel ninja so I'm doing what I can to keep up appearances.  I started out by running a few annuity calculations and setting up some amortization tables.

This reminded me of the MBA core finance midterm that tasked us to calculate how much we should save monthly for a newly born infant to attend college.  So I ran those calculations again, assuming tuition and living expenses for one child, born in twelve months, who would attend my alma mater; and, to complete the grim picture, also ran some calculations to check whether my current retirement savings are on track.

The numbers were sobering, but it turns out that accomplishing my big financial goals is within my grasp if I can maintain my current income.  What are those big financial goals?  To be able, by myself, to buy a modest house, pay for one child to attend daycare and college, retire comfortably and take a couple of vacations along the way.  How do I know I can meet these goals?  When I had some spare time as a first year associate, I modeled the next forty years of my personal finances and I've updated the model every month since.

It is reassuring to know, in theory, that I am capable of meeting my goals, but maintaining my current salary will be a challenge, if not impossible.  This is why I'm trying to make the most of my time on an expat package by socking away extra money each month.  This month was a particularly good one: I contributed 12% of my pre-tax income to my 401(k) and 86.5% of my post-tax income to savings and investments.  When I have a particularly lonely week, I remind myself how incredibly lucky I am to have this opportunity to build a strong financial foundation.


Speaking of college tuition, do you know someone who started making contributions to a 529 plan before they had any kids?  How did that work out for them?