FRANK thoughts on money , lifestyle and career

Re-think your net worth

"I think, therefore I am" – a famous philosopher once said. Today’s typical measure of worth (in dollar sense) really understates what we all have. With the universal birthright of attention, energy and the ability to learn, we need to recognize these as our real assets (money is what comes after). And start managing them well.

3 more things you could consider your 'net worth', and what you could do with them.

"Your Attention Capital: resist gorging
yourself in today’s abundant
buffet of ‘things."

Attentionn  Capital

The Economist columnist started with a story about Piggly Wiggly. Piggly Wiggly was a departmental store in the US. In 1916, it decided to do things a bit differently. Piggly Wiggly started to lay its shelves with produce and shoppers will pick what they need and proceed to the cashier for payment. No longer did customers have to tell the storekeeper their shopping list and wait while the storekeeper packs it in. The modern supermarket was born.

Self-service. Instant fulfilment. The Economist suggests that “the reason why so many people feel overworked these days is that they are constantly being asked to do “unseen” jobs by everybody from Amazon to the Internal Revenue Service to the local school board. We simply have limited attention and energy to go about daily stuff. Self-service can be win-win for both businesses (saving costs) and the consumer. And consolidation could certainly help the consumer. Are there multiple websites you have to go for your daily news dosage? Use an aggregator like Flipboard or Pinterest to have articles you like sent to you? Having to go to multiple banks or track multiple bills for your insurance, student loan or credit cards? Consolidate them with one bank, and have just one number to call and bill to pay. Do you find yourself running to different supermarkets to get the cheapest of everything? Do consider your time and effort…they are worth something too.

"Your Decision Capital – Clear this
headspace, and go on to
achieve great things."

Barack Obama remarked: "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits…I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

Knowledge Capital

Ditto for Mark Zuckerberg in his slippers and the late Steve-jobs in his black turtlenecks. Behavioral psychologists like Daniel Kahnemann have suggested that making a decision now erodes your ability to make a decision later. Behavioral psychologists Baba Shiv (a professor at Stanford ) and Sasha Fedorikhin term this ego depletion. In one of their experiments, they gave two groups of participants were given a number to remember at the start, which they had to recite at the end of the experiment. One group had to remember a two digit number like “72”, while the other had to remember a 7 digit number like “7564806”. And then a lady comes in offering warm fudge cake. Baba and Sasha found that people from the 7 digit group were far more likely to indulge in a slice. This experiment demonstrates that the cognitive strain makes it harder to resist temptation, even at the expense of health. Still doubtful? Think about how stressed workers pick up smoking.

As Obama adds, "You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can't be going through the day distracted by trivia." To state the silly, having only one soap, shampoo and toothpaste helps. And then extend it to your morning routine of dressing for work; keeping your wardrobe organized and finding out early what you look good in – and then wear that every day. Then determine a fixed time for exercise, so that you don’t have to wonder when to squeeze that in. Of course, determine a time to read and spend time with family. Cast them in stone so you don’t have to make the painful decisions of “do I have time for this” or “should I do this or that”? Clear this headspace, and go on to achieve great things.

"Your Knowledge Capital – valuable
like money, but devalues with time
just like it too. "

Benjamin Franklin once remarked that “investments in knowledge always pay the best interest”. Probably sound advice from the face of the dollar bill. Some call it the currency of the knowledge economy. And like the knowledge economy, it devalues with “knowledge inflation” if you don’t invest in it wisely. Knowledge, the sense of what you learnt in your school curriculum, devalues in 3 ways:

Knowledge Investment

1. It gets outdated: I learnt STATA and SPSS when I was doing econometrics in university. That was something I struggled with, but took pride in doing well. Today, I think STATA now belongs to the museum, and SPSS is taken to be default knowledge. Imagine a degree in finance before MasterCard, or a diploma in IT back when computers were mainboards. Today, the knowledge economy gets updated faster than my handphone downloads the next android Lollipop.

Knowledge & Investment

2. It gets irrelevant: More than straight line trends that outdates knowledge (with diminishing value), irrelevance means trends taking on a whole new trajectory that can cause entire industries to vanish. Aircraft engines, for instance, are always at risk of being outdated, but would never be irrelevant given the ever-growing demand for air travel. But think Kodak and the photographic film industry. Film photography did not become more advanced; it took on a whole new trajectory with digital photography. All the expertise in creating the best film, the best film-negative processing or building the best dark room, have been side-lined at best. (Ironically, a Kodak engineer called Steve Sasson was the one who invented the digital camera. He put together a 3.6kg toaster-sized contraption that could save images using electronic circuits. The images were transferred onto a tape cassette and were viewable by attaching the camera to a TV screen, a process that took 23 seconds. This was in 1975)

Frank Blog

3. It gets crowded out: Knowledge and investments are similar this way: Both require you to put off something you like today (buying clothes, going to classes, living on a student’s budget, for more of something you want tomorrow.) Hard fact though, that the degree you toiled so much for ain’t going to let you surf through life’s super highway. It was not too long ago that ‘degree’ and ‘diploma’ was sometimes in the same line section of application forms, and that ‘masters’ was not a common enough category to be added as a line item. The New York Times ran an interesting article "Masters is the new bachelors" and described how master degree holders could be finding themselves waiting tables. No doubt, more and more people are recognising the value of knowledge and credentials. (Which comes before which is an entirely separate topic)

Bottom line, we should budget everything that we have limited quantities of. Often discussed are money and time, and you may already have a money plan and an activity schedule. What’s Next? How about switch the “what-hero-are-you” quizzes for a news aggregator app, consolidating your bills and credit cards, simplifying your wardrobe to the classics, and take that coding class you have always been putting off.

May 4, 2015

 Samuel Kwek

About Samuel Kwek
Samuel is excited by new experiences; he has trekked Macchu Picchu, ate field rat in Ghana and walked the Alaskan Glaciers. Having completed his studies at the University Of Chicago, he is currently the Assistant Vice President on the Marketing Research team. Samuel will share his thoughts on how to live more with less; through experiences, not things.