Business Expenses

Your Waistline = Your Boss’s Business

Here is your open thread, brought to you by the lengths corporations will go to spend less on health insurance:

companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit. The tactic may reduce corporate health-care costs by encouraging healthier lifestyles, even as companies must overcome a creepy factor and concerns from privacy advocates that employers are prying too deeply into workers’ personal lives. … Companies and insurers said they protect the privacy of people using wearable gadgets, and comply with federal laws that prevent employers from seeing certain health information about employees without consent. The wearable programs are voluntary and often administered by third-party vendors like StayWell, which works with BP.

Big Brother is watching you on behalf of your boss. What could be better?

---

Players on the Playa: The Economics of Burning Man

No vendors, no logos, and still, the annual anarchic festival that is Burning Man sure puts the green in Black Rock City.

“Every single seat we have coming into this airport the weekend before will be filled and every single seat we have leaving on the departure weekend will be filled,” Kulpin says. He estimates that the airport reaps $10 million a year from Burning Man-bound flyers. “How could we not embrace that?” he asks. …

These pit stops, hotel stays and last-minute purchases equal $35 million spent by Burning Man participants—“Burners,” for the uninitiated—in Nevada each year. Sixty-six percent of respondents in the 2013 Burning Man census (yes, it has a census) reported spending more than $250 in the state on their way to and from the event. Eighteen percent spent more than $1,000. In putting the event on, the Burning Man organization adds to this stream, from $301,660 given to local law enforcement agencies in 2013 to $4.5 million spent on Bureau of Land Management and other usage fees. “This event has a huge, month-long, positive impact on our local economy,” says John Slaughter, county manager for Washoe, which includes everything from Reno to the closest towns to the event, the 200-person-each desert settlements of Gerlach and Empire. “Our stores, restaurants, gas stations, and car washes see an incredible influx of traffic, providing a great boost to the Northern Nevada economy.”

My sister-in-law is on the Playa right now! She started saving at least six months ago while nannying for two separate families. That’s commitment. Back when I was at liberty, I was more of a folk festival person (Falcon Ridge, heyyyy) but I totally get the appeal of spending — even extreme spending — to be in isolation among like-minded companions.

“‘Burning Man is like a big family picnic,’ he told me. ‘Would you sell things to one another at a family picnic? No, you’d share things.’”

---

A Male CEO Leans Out

In this blog entry called “Why Am I Leaving the Best Job I Ever Had,” a male CEO with three kids explains why he’s quitting. He can’t do the “all in” thing anymore; he’s missing too much of the rest of his life.

Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.

A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job. MongoDB is a special company. In my nearly 4 years at the company, we have raised $220 million, grown the team 15x and grown sales 30x. We have amazing customers, a great product which gets better with every release, the strongest team I have ever worked with, and incredible momentum in the market. The future is bright and MongoDB deserves a leader who can be “all-in” and make the most of the opportunity. Unfortunately, I cannot be that leader given the geography of the majority of the company in New York and my family in California.

I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.

The amount of “all in” we require seems kind of insane. Do we want the only people qualified to lead our companies to be people without families, or with families but without interest in spending time with them? Schireson seems like a mensch who has managed to be successful in business. That’s a golden combination. Shouldn’t we as a society figure out how to retain people like that, rather than drive them out?

Part of the reason my husband left the corporate law firm where he had been for seven-ish years is because they don’t have a part-time track — meaning any option besides the standard 60+ hours a week. In law as well as other fields, it’s a missed opportunity.

---

Taking a Year Off to Do What You Love, A Year Later

A year ago, I left my job—at an office I’d been at for four years, my personal record—to Do What You Love (DWYL). There were some problems with the non-profit I worked for, most importantly the fact that it felt like a ship headed for an iceberg. (And lo, it transpired that, shortly after I left, it smashed against icy reality and no longer exists.) But! I had good coworkers, good hours, and a reasonably good salary that I had negotiated for myself. I had my own office with windows *and* a door, which had been a goal of mine since I was 22.

Several different things clamored for my attention: I had a baby, a novel-in-progress, and a gainfully employed, though stressed-out and overburdened, husband. I felt fortunate and, day to day, I was satisfied. But my brain also felt overcrowded, teeming with too many details, some real, some fictional. I wanted to do everything: keep the apartment in a state of reasonable cleanliness, raise my kid right, finish and sell the book, be a good, upwardly mobile leaned-in employee and a good, calming when necessary and exciting-and-fun when called for wife.

After much deliberation and angst, facilitated by a partial fellowship to a writer’s residency in Lithuania and a query from an editor at a publishing house who found my work online, I decided to quit my job and DWYL for a year. The point was not to earn money, though I had been making very minor bank freelance writing and placing essays online on the side. The point was, for the first time, to give myself a Room of One’s Own.

That was last July. My year is up. Inspired the tabulations of Nicole and Kima Jones, I’ve decided to do a reckoning: What did it cost me to DWYL and what did I gain? 

---

From Botanical Gardens Intern to Anthony Bourdain’s Assistant

I quit the PR assistant job after three weeks, and my dad said, “You should probably stop quitting jobs for a while.”

---

The Cost of Things: Freezing Your Eggs

Doree Shafrir has written a fascinating Buzzfeed confessional about deciding whether or not to freeze her eggs. One issue to consider: cost.

I told my therapist that I was considering freezing my eggs, and she said she thought it was a good idea if it would alleviate some of the anxiety I felt about dating, and I said it would but it would also cause me a different kind of anxiety because it was so expensive in New York City — thousands of dollars in tests, then thousands of dollars for the drugs to stimulate egg maturation, then thousands of dollars for the extraction of the eggs. All told I would be looking at close to $15,000 to buy myself a few years of reduced anxiety, plus $2,000 or so each year to keep them frozen. I told myself it could be amortized over, say, five years and then it didn’t seem so bad. Still, I needed to come up with the money, so I cashed in a couple of 401(k)s from short stints at other jobs that had a couple thousands dollars in them each, and put a freelance check in my savings account, and figured I would charge the rest.

How much is it worth to you to quell a real and debilitating anxiety? My mom always says, If you can solve a problem with money, it’s not a real problem. But if you have to cash in 401(K)s and run up credit card debt to give your fertility a fighting chance, you’re not solving a problem with money at all; you’re potentially impoverishing your future self to benefit your present, and trading one immediate anxiety for another eventual one.

---

When Life Sends You To Grenada, Make Grenadine!

A traveler who wanted to go to Granada, Spain, ended up in Grenada, the Caribbean island. He was not pleased.

After two years without a holiday and a lifetime of longing to see the architectural treasures of Granada, Edward Gamson felt he could at last relax as he sat back on a British Airways flight en route to the capital of Moorish Spain. It was only when the American dentist and his partner glanced at the electronic map on the in-flight entertainment system and noticed their plane was heading due west out of London that they became concerned something was not right. …

The mix-up initially resulted in apologies from BA staff on board the flight, and a promise that the couple would be put on the plane’s return trip to Gatwick en route to Granada. Instead, they were subjected to a further three-day ordeal which resulted in them never reaching Spain, and a refusal by BA to reimburse their £2,650 first-class tickets, and which is now the subject of a damages claim before the US courts. Mr Gamson told The Independent on Sunday: “I have a lifelong interest in Islamic art. I’m also of Spanish Jewish heritage so it was something I had always wanted to do to visit Granada and the Alhambra. I made it absolutely clear to the booking agent I wanted to go to Granada in Spain. Why on earth would I want to go to Grenada in the Caribbean if I was flying back to America from Lisbon?”

I feel you, British Airways. You just can’t please some people. Here you give them an exciting surprise, complete with beaches and sunsets and perfect weather, and they complain that they’re not touring ruins. They even refer to a spontaneous Caribbean vacation “a three-day ordeal.”

Things to do if you accidentally find yourself on some warm, heavenly shore: 1) Drink something fun. 2) Go swimming. 3) Thank your lucky stars you’re not in Jersey.

---

Runaway Shaming, Hair Chopping: Using Instagram For Evil

We tend to react badly when we’re denied something we’re owed. It brings out the angry toddler in us. For some enlightened Buddhist types, maybe, the tantrum takes place internally and lasts only from one breath to another. But not for most of us. If we’re lucky, no one sees the tantrum, or only a few select loving, forgiving individuals. If we’re unlucky and we can’t resist the pull of our iPhones, our tantrums make the rounds and get recorded for posterity.

Two recent news stories about people who felt cheated — and who posted their attempts to correct the injustice on Instagram – underline the way that social media can exacerbate and publicize our worst tendencies, especially when it comes to money. In one case, a hair stylist cut out a little girl’s braids after the girl’s mother gave the stylist the runaround, and then posted pictures of her handiwork, the little girl’s ravaged head. The action attracted widespread scorn because she took her anger out on the child, who wasn’t at fault, and because she put the evidence on the Internet. The stylist defended herself:

I cut the braids out and went on about my business. At the end of the day, I spent 9 hours away from my kids for nothing. Y’all wasn’t in my shoes or in my position. I have to take care of my three babies and I will do what I have to do to let it be known that I don’t play when it comes to my job or supporting my family.

Well, she has made her point: no one could mistake her for someone who messes around! In a similar vein, hopefully somehow people will also learn to avoid these employers, the Kuwaiti women who are using Instagram to track down, or at least stigmatize, their “runaway maids.”

---

CEO Wins Chance to get Killed By George RR Martin

In a perfect confluence of events, a wolf-loving Michigan CEO has won the right to be killed off by renowned wolf-aggrandizing author George R.R. Martin. Responding to a competitive fundraising call, Dr. Dave Cotton’s family made a $20,000 donation to a wolf-related charity in his honor — for father’s day. (Aww!)

Mike Cotton, chief operating officer of Meridian Health Plan and one of Dr. Cotton’s three sons, said his father had an affinity for wolves before he started reading Martin’s fantasy series, “A Song of Fire and Ice,” which was first published in 1996.

“We saw this crowdfunding come up online and we thought it would be perfect for his love of wolves,” Mike Cotton told ABC News. Mike’s brother, Sean, who is an administrative officer at the family-operated company, said their father loves the books and watches the HBO series “avidly.”

“He’s always referred to himself as a lone wolf,” he said of his father.

---

“Buy American”: Savvy or Sentimental?

A package of bills approved by the New Jersey state Senate, and moving now to the Assembly, would, if approved, “require construction firms, suppliers and other vendors under public contracts to use or supply materials produced in the United States.” Reps want the state to buy American

“Requiring the purchase of U.S.A.-made goods for public contracts is just a matter of plain economic sense,” Sweeney said in a statement this afternoon. Sweeney, an iron worker and union official, said he began looking into the issue after The Star-Ledger reported in September that imported steel was being used to raise the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, a $1.3 billion Port Authority project financed largely by toll revenues. The bridge project is one of dozens of Port Authority construction jobs included in a 10-year capital plan worth a total of $27.6 billion.

Popular? Sure. Logical and straightforward, even obvious? Not according to Fox News:

“Buy American” is a dumb idea.

---