Your 401(k) Mutual Fund Might Include Uber and Pinterest Stocks

mason jar flickr

Earlier this week, Ester asked us to consider whether the 401(k) experiment has been a failure. The problem is, of course, that 401(k)s fail at the individual level. At the financial services level, 401(k)s are a huge success—to the point where brokerages like Fidelity are bringing the next generation of tech companies into your 401(k) mutual fund investment.

New stories from GeekWire and the New York Times reveal that your 401(k) mutual fund may include investments in tech companies like Uber, Pinterest, and Airbnb. The NYT explains:

Fidelity’s Contrafund includes $204 million in Pinterest shares, $162 million in Uber shares, and $24 million in Airbnb shares. Over all, there were 29 deals last year in which a mutual fund bought into a private company, and they were worth a collective $4.7 billion, according to CB Insights. That was up from six such deals, worth a combined $296 million, in 2012. T. Rowe Price was the most active big investor, making 17 investments in private tech companies.

Because these tech companies are not required to issue financial reports and are not traded on traditional exchanges, they are the sort of speculative investments not normally found in retirement accounts.

All right, so why are they in your retirement account if they’re so speculative? The NYT notes that tech companies like Uber are “growing faster” than traditional companies you might find represented in a mutual fund, and GeekWire presents it as a win-win scenario:

For startups, the trend represents a welcomed source of new capital as they look to raise large sums without having to go public. 



An Open Letter to Jenna Lyons




Do A Non-1-Direction-Related Thing

-One-Thing-video-screencaps-one-direction-28311975-635-327Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.

Some of you are probably still eating your feelings or nursing your hangovers because of yesterday’s 1D news, and I offer my heartfelt condolences, which would be more heartfelt if I had ever heard their music or even really knew anything about the band. (It’s a band, right?)

But I am sad and sluggish for my own reasons, mostly to do with this endless winter, and I need to shake it off and DO ONE THING. Perhaps write back giving a chipper yes and “what’s the next step!” to my newest potential freelance client? Or do work for one of the other clients who need work done? It is hard when I feel like a great big hand is pushing me backwards on the couch. But that is the magic of ONE THING. By definition ONE THING can and will be done, and then I will feel better about the other things that I may or may not develop energy to tackle, like folding laundry and finishing making the tuna salad that lacks only mayonnaise since I realized while prepping it yesterday that in this house we have three kinds of mustard but no mayo.

What’s your 1 thing? Alternatively, please feel free to add great ideas for me / all of us to get our energy up.


Undercompensated in Academia

adjunct handbook

I grew up in an academic household, and academia was a goal of mine from an early age. Both my parents are musicians teaching in academia, and while I also loved to perform, I had decided in college that I would probably follow in my parents’ footsteps and pursue teaching on a university level.

Like many good plans, that didn’t exactly pan out. I taught a lot in colleges and universities as an adjunct, driving from place to place, working what is considered a full course load—if you’re a tenured teacher, which I wasn’t. I taught four to five courses a semester, at two or three different institutions, and I enjoyed it. I love imparting knowledge to students, especially when they want to learn what I have to offer, and as a dance teacher, my students usually wanted to be there.

When I left, it was a conscious choice, brought on by many factors. For one, I grew tired of running around, spending more money than I was making on gasoline, and feeling a little like I was phoning in the work. A tenure position would be wonderful, I thought, because I wouldn’t have to worry so much about driving all over the city, and there would be a bit more stabilization too. The problem, however, was that I needed to move to where the job was, and since I didn’t want to do that, I felt like I was waiting for someone to die in order to get a shot at such a position. Since I liked where I lived and didn’t want to move, there really weren’t many options. READ MORE


Gold Diggers And Deadbeat Dads

gold digger kanye westI figured you needed a song in your head this gloomy morning, so here you go! Inspired by this article in US News titled, in cable-news-ready fashion, “Are You Married To A Gold Digger?” My first reaction to the headline was God I hope not. Any gold digger willing to settle for me is pretty half-assed. This is New York! There are way richer ladies with way higher earning potential who probably also know how to dance.

Anyway, here’s the article:

When Valerie Rind ​got married, her husband suggested renting out the condo he owned while they moved into another place. “He said, ‘Why don’t we keep this as an investment and rent it out, and then when we’re ready, we’ll sell the condo,’” Rind recalls. Later, when the couple needed some extra cash flow, Rind suggested they put the condo on the market. Her husband resisted.

Eventually, Rind realized her now ex-husband had been lying to her from the start. He never owned the condo but had been just renting it. “That was a traumatic realization,” she says, not just financially, but because her trust was irreparably betrayed. “It destroyed the relationship. Having someone lie about something so fundamental, I felt I couldn’t trust him again,” she recalls. They soon divorced. …

Uh. I have to say I expected something a little more cut and dried.  READ MORE


Talking to a Former South Pole System Admin

port lockroy flickr

After we ran our piece about the new jobs at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, Sarah asked if we’d like to learn about what it’s really like to work at the South Pole.

Tell us a little bit about what you did in Antarctica. What was your job, and what did you do while you were there?

Here’s the basic setup: Nobody owns Antarctica. A bunch of countries operate scientific research stations down there. The U.S. has three permanent stations and occasional summer “off-and-on” stations. When you’re talking about jobs down there, it’s support staff for the science research.

My job was—well, I had a bunch of jobs. I was first hired on as “entry-level computer help desk,” and then I built my skills and kept coming back with better jobs. I did the classic progression from help desk to PC tech to system admin.

What prompted you to go to Antarctica?

As soon as I heard that there were jobs there, I said “sign me up!” Then it took me five years to get in. The U.S. program runs everything through the National Science Foundation, and they hire out the support jobs to the contractors, so it’s just like applying for a job with a private company.

So in terms of money: first of all, before I ask about your salary, I’m going to ask about how your needs were taken care of in Antarctica. Did they give you housing? Did you rent housing? Did they provide you with food and uniforms?

Room and board is provided, so you’re not paying for that. You get cold-weather gear, though you’re expected to bring your own regular clothes to wear underneath. But you get the Carhartts and the parkas and you’re expected to give them back at the end.



After I Go

somewhere that's green

Ester and I were talking about retirement yesterday, and she asked me if I had named any beneficiaries on my accounts.

Yes, I said. My mother is one, and my younger brother is another. In general, if you don’t designate primary beneficiaries on your accounts, the default beneficiary is your spouse if you are married, or goes to your estate if you’re not. Since my parents rely on me financially, it made sense for me to name them as beneficiaries in the event that I were to die unexpectedly.

I apologize for talking about death so early in the day, but as Jon Mooallem writes in a terrific piece for California Sunday, most of us spend our entire lives avoiding thinking about death, so “when it finally comes into view, there’s a thicket of panic, denial, or disbelief to cut through before people can focus, more mindfully, on the experience and begin to make decisions to improve their last days.”

Mooallem follows a team at global design firm Ideo as they try to “redesign death,” or make the idea of thinking about death more palatable for people via an app dreamed up by a guy named Paul Gaffney called After I Go. READ MORE


How Unmarried Homeowners Do Taxes

charlie taxes west wing

I love taxes. They let me quantify a year in spending and give me a reason to use my paperclips. But mostly it’s because this episode of The West Wing trained me to believe that taxes are my direct relationship with Josiah Bartlett.

Getting a boatload of money back also helps. I bought a house so I could adopt a dog and act out HGTV episodes, so the tax rebate was really more of a nice surprise. The only hiccup is that I am not actually married to my boyfriend and co-owner. When we were buying the house, this fact resulted in a ton of stress, confusion and paperwork for everyone involved.

Taxes are no different.

With a little help from my lovely and blue-haired accountant, though, we’ve worked out a simple two-part process that gets my partner and me the biggest rebate with the smallest amount of teeth gnashing. If you happen to be in a similar, increasingly less unusual situation, this is really all you need to do.

Decide who’s claiming the house READ MORE