Tuesday, September 30, 2008

lifestyle check

Images from Handpsan Luxury Cruises, from where we booked a part of our trip

MSP and I will be leaving for two countries in about three weeks. It will be a semi-working holiday, as going there is actually part of (and funded by) a new business project we have in the works.

He is no good at planning, so I had to take care of the itinerary - booking the multiple flights, the hotels, the cruises, etc. I also planned the budget for each activity.

As I was doing the numbers, I quickly realized that traveling is not cheap. If we want to (a) travel at least two times a year for the rest of our lives AND (b) have the freedom to just pack up and live in other countries for a few months, we have to reassess our lifestyle plan.

Not the time for a luxury home

We initially wanted to buy luxury home in the next two years. This doesn't make sense anymore.

The subprime mortgage in the US showed me this: A residence is not an investment. It is not an asset that can give you real future returns in excess of your invested capital. If you don't believe me, read this.

The house where you reside does not earn money for you, so the money you put into mortgage can be classified as a living expense (like money spent on food, clothes, etc). MSP and I initially wanted to throw all our money on a luxury unit, but now, we're beginning to rethink that plan.

Algebra is useful, despite what I said in college

Last night when I was unable to sleep, I called MSP and demanded that we re-discuss THE PLAN.

What do we really want? Our answers were synchronized:

(a) Luxury travel
(b) Regularly eating in a good restaurant, whether it be in Luxembourg or Taiwan
(c) Having the freedom to move when we feel like it

What do we NOT want?
Our answers were also the same:

(a) Kids
(b) Properties that will weigh us down / Exorbitant property taxes and insurance
(c) A leaking roof

In order to live the life we want, we therefore only really need:

(a) A big, liquid pool of funds
(b) A small condominium unit we never have to worry about maintaining

The solution

After thinking up the numbers, we agreed:
Instead of buying a luxury home, we would be better off holding on to our money and saving whatever else we will make, at least in the next 5 years. It would be the prudent thing to do. We shouldn't spend more than 1/5 of our net worth on a house.

If we decide to get married, maybe we can renovate the condo to give it one bedroom, install a gourmet kitchen, and hire a pro to make it look like a boutique hotel suite ala Philippe Starck

THE DREAM DESIGN. Photos of JIA Boutique Hotel, which Stark designed. I fell in love with his aesthetic when MSP and I dined in Felix at the Peninsula Hong Kong, which he also designed.

This is what the suite looks like in real life, without the 'brochure' lighting: click this and this.

We would spend a few hundreds of thousands on the renovation - that's millions less than what we would spend on a luxury unit. The current condo is a good space, anyway.
We just need to compartmentalize the pad cleverly (like Starck does) so that we don't have to be in each other's faces. It already has a nice semi-high ceiling, good structure, clean look. It is cleverly hidden in the middle of the city. There's a pool, and a store selling pancakes just opened in the compound. The only thing I hate about it is the shower, which is just bah. It will need to be retiled.

But what's really great about the condo? It is already ours. MSP and I bought it as an investment two years ago, at pre-selling rate. We were supposed to rent it out, but now I live in this open space, alone and happy.

High net worth

If we decide to stick to this plan of scaling down and just living in a modest space that we already own, we would reach our goal of having high amounts of investible assets much faster. To every person who ever dreamt of making the world her neighborhood, this is the BEST THING EVER. Having liquidity means being free. We can pack up and live in Switzerland for a year and not be worried about money. We can literally STOP WORKING and hop from New York to Istanbul just because.

Will I be able to do it?

Downscaling our housing plan means less worries, more money in the bank, less carbon footprint, lower monthly living expenses, and many other wonderful things. Of course, it also means smaller closets. That could be a problem. I have designer things that do not belong in boxes, and MSP has (ugly) collectibles that (geeky) guys just love to amass. A clever closet needs to designed.

And then there's 'other people's perceptions.' In this sad world, appearances count. You are often judged by the house you live in or car you drive.

Eh, so what?

Honestly, though, I'm over the whole image thing. I used to be conscious about it before I hit 25. But now, I don't care anymore. I have nothing to prove. At 27, I've already acquired things that it takes some people a whole lifetime to buy. Besides, no one is watching. My friends will still like me even if I lived in a box (I think). And my relatives are too self-absorbed to care.

In the business I am in, I see low-profile, 20- to 30-something self-made millionaires who live in modest houses and don't mind backpacking their way around the world. These are people with millions of dollar in the bank, run their own companies, and can afford to buy small islands - but they don't. They prefer to be light and easy. I aspire to be like them.

So hey, maybe I can do it - You know, scale down. De-stress. Stop running after unnecessary
things. These low-profile millionaires pulled it off. "They live in modest homes, drive older cars, brown-bag their lunches. They don't look like millionaires. And yet they're worth seven figures."

Surely, I can be like them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

lonely rainy sundays

How I spend my mornings on lonely rainy Sundays.

I like being alone, but sometimes I feel lonely. When the no-brainer DVDs and the novelty of shopping is gone, there's just me and my brain, which I think is on general strike. BusinessWorld looks German these days. Nothing makes sense.
Reading anything more profound than Freakonomics just depresses me. Watching anything that requires more thinking than Keeping Up With the Kardashians gives me a headache.

It must be my deviated septum. No one else notices, but I know it's there. Your left nostril is smaller than your right, said the doctor. Everything about me is lopsided - my politics, my nostrils, my calculus.

* * * *

She was online the other day.

I told her I was bored.
The romance of closing a new deal, the thrill of of acquiring properties, the excitement of meeting new people - all gone. We're not 21 anymore.

I expected her to say something uplifting. Instead, she agreed. Six years ago, she would have typed back something more optimistic. Now - three years before we hit 30 - we have no time for cheerfulness. We call bullshit "bullshit." We can afford to do so.

* * * *

Of course, I don't really dwell. Little distractions here and there keep my head above water. There's the new Ferragamo patent clutch, eating good food with MSP, planning the Vietnam-Singapore vacation.

Bits of happiness, all with price tags.

Now I understand why some people just take Prozac. It's cheaper in the long run.

This, too, will pass.

I'm just being my usual impatient self.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

this is getting ridiculous

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I've been down with a sore throat and cough for more than a week now. To make matters worse, I pulled a back muscle yesterday. Now, every time I cough, my pulled muscle hurts like hell. There are mornings when I just want to die already. I don't want to get out of bed. My pillow rests on top of my face, like pancake on a bed of mucus syrup. I press it harder and harder against my deviated nasal septum. Die, Mussolini. Just stop breathing and die.

Of course, I don't die. I have to get up and run a company. My pretend-1950's alarm clock starts to say things like "deadlines" and "payroll." People like me have no business dying early.

Last night I decided to ignore my cough (which MSP has named "JoJo") and live life normally. Off to CineEuropa I went. The first film I saw was called Fame Chimica (Chemical Hunger), which I thought had the silliest, slowest, lamest, least riveting car chase in the history of cinema. Imagine an old Fiat Italian police car running at what seemed like 30kph and an equally lackluster Vespa, screeching at what seemed like 31kph. The Vespa won. I was laughing so hard inside my head that JoJo got worse.

Now I'm on cough syrup, which I think is making me high.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

falling models - Randy Ortiz Gala (Metrowear 2008)

Thanks to an invite from his majesty Jacs, Ennui and I were able to get into the Randy Ortiz Metrowear Gala 2008. It was pretty uneventful - you know, the usual canapes and wines amidst couture-wearing people. The collection was nice. The music was nice. And then, this happened:

flying high

Whenever I get the chance, I try to fly PAL Mabuhay/Business/First Class. I have no problems flying coach, but whenever practical (i.e., when my air fare is a tax-deductible company expense), I immediately sign up for the best seats. Some people say that flying first class is a total waste of money, but to me it's not, considering the many extras you get.

For example, you get to stay in the lounge. For someone who is constantly working like me and MSP, free food + free internet while waiting for a flight is a VERY big deal. In our last overseas travel, we were able to email, check our portfolios, and even Google pictures of "Imee Marcos" to find out if she was indeed the woman sitting in the lounge with us.

My trusty traveling laptop, an Asus EEE.

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That's me working/eating early in the lounge.

Airplane food is also way superior in the Mabuhay Class, of course. For breakfast we were served fresh fruit platter, bircher muesli dairy bowl, bread bowl (choice of peach danish or fruit loaf), and main dishes of pork tenderloin with onion rings or grilled milkfish adobo. The best part is, they don't give everything to you all at once. Food is served in courses and on real (not plastic) plates, the way it should be.

PAL's Mabuhay Class is not as spacious as the configuration of other airlines, but it is decent. At least I don't have to stare at some random guy's bald spot throughout the duration of the trip.

Cathay Pacific does it much better:

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And so does Singapore Airlines.

Still, I'm not complaining. PAL's service has so far been great, at least in my experience. I have heard of horror stories, but this won't stop MSP and me from taking another PAL flight in our upcoming trip to Beijing. Our visas are now being processed. Who knew that the Chinese embassy required everything from bank statements to NBI clearnaces to income tax returns? I didn't think it would be this hard. I hope everything goes as planned and we finally get our visas.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

good shoes

I got some emails from random people asking for clearer pics of the Gucci. I just used a mobile phone camera when I took those initial images, so they did not show the details of the shoes much. I used a real digital camera this time. I'm no fashion photographer (heck, I'm not even a fashionista). Just doing my best here. I hope these look clearer:

I love these shoes because the color changes depending on the light. It can look brown, gold, red - it goes with everything. For the price I paid for them, they better go with everything.

The good thing about expensive shoes is that they're truly well-made. I don't own many of them, but I own a few and I must say, they're been worth the $$$$ so far. Just look at these trusty Prada driving shoes which I use regularly. They're still in great condition:

A college kid who interviewed me a year ago asked, "What's your advice for fresh grads who want to be successful?" I said, "Decide on what kind of success you want to achieve, and don't let anything get in the way." I should have said, "Never scrimp on shoes. A good pair can take you places."

Monday, September 01, 2008

walking tall(er)

Sunday was very strange. I spent the whole morning walking around my pad in my never-before-worn 3-inch Gucci wedges, all in an attempt to reintroduce my calves to high heels (after many months of wearing only flats). I walked in ‘em Guccis while making my coffee, eating toasts, changing my sheets, dusting my closet, and watching the first season of 30 Rock.

Then at around 1 pm, I got a text message from a friend who was apparently more bored than I was. He was proposing coffee and dinner.

I thought to myself, “Well, I could stay in and wait until I develop hammertoes, bunions, and degenerative changes in my knee joints, or I can spend the afternoon chatting with friends about failed Marxism.”

The Guccis came flying off my feet. I was with this friend and this friend two hours later, enjoying coffee and cakes – in the rain :) It was a happy kind of pointlessness.

Good friends make you walk taller like no $900-shoes can.