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Jun 29 2012 I always asked a senior partner from a large public accounting firm to come into my management/cost accounting classes. Many of the students wanted accouning as a profession due to being good in math, liking bookkeeping in high school, or, perhaps, having a relative who was a CPA. In most accounting classes, especially those in financial accounting, tax, and auditing, the emphasis is on learning the rules and regulations so a student can pass the CPA exam. Alll important. 

However, what I wanted to demonstrate was what a successful career in accounting (both public accounting and corporate) looked like and needed after surviving entry-level positions. That's where a partner from a big accounting firm came in. He/she told the students that in order to be promoted to a higher or highest level, mere knowledge of accounting rules and regulations was not enough. A person needs to be able to write and a person needs to be able to speak (one-on-one and to groups of any size).

Unfortunately, many programs that train professionals don't recognize this. When I taught MBA classes, I could always spot those who had engineering degress. It's not too much of a stretch for me to say that most of them couldn't write a simple, declarative sentence. Even at an undergraduate level, many juniors and seniors in schools of business have poor basic English skills and limited ability to express themselves orally or in writing.

I saw students who were seniors and had never been given adequate feedback during their earlier years at the university. They were surprised and saddened to find out they really couldn't write. While the fault may lie with both K-12 teachers/schools and with university faculty overall, if students became aware of the importance of oral and written communication, they would pressure schools and universities to help them gan these skills.

Jun 25 2012 I have written before about the confusing rewards for my BP VISA. This is about rewards and trying to figure out a rational way to deal with these credit cards. Okay, some “facts:”

·      American Express/COSTCO gives you 3% on gas, 2% on vacation/meals/travel, and 1% on everything else. You get it all at one time once a year with a check you take to COSTCO to cash and the card costs $100 a year. No upper limit on rewards.

·      BP VISA (Chase) has a complicated set of rewards related to “cents per gallon.” Gas is … well it’s hard to really know what the gas reward is and it has to be BP gas. Vacation/meals/travel are 2% sort of and all the rest is 1% sort of. Redeeming is skewed toward getting 20 gallons of gas at one time in one vehicle. If you want to get “cash” instead, you get docked a third of your reward “dollars.” And if you have a vehicle that takes less than 20 gallons at a time, you lose the balance of what you’d be owed if you had bought 20 gallons. Confusing enough for you? Oh, there’s no charge for the credit card. No upper limit on rewards.

·      Capital One Venture is another bird altogether. It’s the only card where there are no charges for foreign transactions. Other cards (like the two above) charge 1-3%. It looks like Capital One does not bundle a hidden charge into their exchange rate, too. The card costs $59 a year, first year free. The rewards are a flat 2% on anything and can be redeemed against airline tickets bought on this credit card. Oh, there are other ways to redeem, but let’s keep it simple. No upper limit on rewards.

So, I’ve come to some conclusions in all this:

·      For any transaction where the first two cards would only give me 1%, I will use Capital One.

·      For any foreign transaction, I will use Capital One.

·      For all non-BP gas purchased, it’s Amex.

·      For domestic restaurants, hotels, etc., it’s a tossup between Amex and Capital One.

·      All air travel, Capital One.

And the jury is still out whether I will keep the BP card. Not sure it’s worth the Byzantine redemption process even though my car does take 20+ gallons.

May 21 2012 As we pulled into my cousin's driveway in Durham, NC after having spent two weeks on the Outer Banks, I got a mobile phone call from American Express security. The robo voice asked who I was and did I have my card with the following digits in my possession. "Yes." Then the robo voice asked if I had made a certain charge at The Home Depot. "No." From there, I got an agent on the phone. Same questions about my name, billing address, and whether I had the card in my Possession. I actually opened my wallet to verify what my mind knew - it was where it was supposed to be. Not bad to check, though. The Home Depot charge was from the New York area and had been made about 15 minutes ago. Since we were in NC and had been, no way.

You know the drill. They have to cancel the current card, I need to look at all the charges that come through on the charge to verify.all are okay, etc. And they will send me a new card within 48 hours.

So, my hat is off to the security system at American Express to be able to pick up one errant charge and a quick contact to me (also had an email from them when I went online later).
May 26 2012 As I wrote earlier, I had my Amex card hacked with a charge to The Home Depot somewhere in the NY area while I was in North Carolina. Came to find out today that a relative of mine in North Carolina where I was visiting had her debit card hacked with charges at The Home Depot somewhere in NJ. This all happened within a week of one another. I got a replacement card and her bank restored the money that had been taken out of her account. Coincidence, dear reader?

May 14 2012 We’ve all read about the $2 BILLION loss that JP Morgan-Chase suffered and the trading that led to the loss. I’ve been reading the news reports as well as the op-ed stuff about how this kind of trading was supposed to be illegal after the financial crisis, but how the regulations and the legislation had been watered down given the strong bank lobby … and especially the head of JP Morgan-Chase. He’s derided the kind of regulation that would have prevented this practice, actually been unkind about the people who are for it.

Now, here’s the question. If you own stock in JP Morgan-Chase and, let’s assume, you have a good gain on it since you’ve had it quite a while (and, shall we also mention that it avoided the same difficulties that drove other banks into default and government bailouts – until now) should you sell?

The stock fell almost 10 percent on the news of the bank’s loss and the behavior of its executives. But it will recover and it’s still way above what it had been a year ago, etc. Thus, this really isn’t an economic choice unless you think the market will continue to beat up on financial institutions in general and JP Morgan-Chase in particular.  

It’s an ethics, morals question. Do you want to own stock in a company that condoned this kind of trading? Are you willing to (1) pay the capital gains tax if you sell, and (2) forgo any possible upside to the stock? Are you?