What’s the point of education if you cannot protect your brain’s health?

I write mostly about education because education can serve two purposes, improving the quality of life by providing access to resources and increasing intellectual appetite and capabilities, which also leads to a qualitative improvement of life.

However, we don’t do a very good job at protecting our intellectual abilities. Protection of brain health involves behavior changes and behavior changes are difficult. We tend to incline towards some easy solutions like pills and supplements but pills and supplements don’t do justice. Even better, we blame the genes and so does Popular Science and hence we don’t have to do anything about it since it is not in our control.

But the truth is that it is within our control. Just like managing your finances is within your control, so is managing your health.

Brain gets two major problems: Strokes and Alzheimer’s. This leads to dementia and eventual death. Below is an image which shows the regions of high death rates because of dementia in 2012

Alzheimer's_disease_and_other_dementias_world_map-Deaths_per_million_persons-WHO2012.svg

Deaths per million persons in 2012 due to dementia including Alzheimer’s disease (Red=high)

You can clearly see that western countries are at more risk, countries like USA, Canada, Australia and several countries in Europe.

Are genes responsible for the greater risk? Interestingly, no. Presence of a specific gene called ApoE4 increases your risk for Alzheimer’s but there are countries/populations with much larger densities of ApoE4 presence but far fewer cases of Alzheimer’s. One example is Nigeria (this phenomenon is also touted as the Nigerian paradox).

There are also studies where Japanese people living in Japan have far lower cases of Alzheimer’s compared to the Japanese people living in America, ruling genes out as the major cause of the disease.

Then, what is the reason for high risk? It’s the diet. Higher the presence of animal based products and lower the presence of whole plant-based foods in your diet, higher the chances of strokes and Alzheimer’s.

Let’s delve a little deeper into both Strokes and Alzheimer’s.

  • Strokes: Clogged artery cuts off the supply to a part of the brain, killing that part and rendering that part rather useless, in a stroke. The causes of the strokes are high blood pressure and cholesterol. Here are the steps to prevent strokes:
    • Fiber: eat plenty of fiber. 97% of Americans eat fiber deficient foods. Berries, oatmeal, beans and other whole plant-based unprocessed foods have plenty of fiber.
    • Potassium: eating potassium rich foods like greens, beans and sweet potatoes will cut down the risk of strokes tremendously.
    • Citrus: citrus fruits are antioxidants and they beat the free radicals, hence preventing strokes. Think oranges and limes/lemons.
    • Optimal sleep: sleeping between seven or eight hours a night reduces the chances of strokes.
    • Other antioxidants: herbs and spices play a major role in cutting your risk of strokes. Think oregano, cloves, cinnamon and other spices.
    • Reducing meat, dairy and trans/saturated fats: meat and dairy have no fiber and meat has hardly any antioxidants. Reducing meat and dairy will also lead to reduction in cholesterol.
  • Alzheimer’s: It is believed that Alzheimer’s is caused by the clogging of the arteries inside the brain with atherosclerotic plaque. ApoE4 gene has some role to play since ApoE4 makes the protein which is the principal cholesterol carrier in the brain. However, as mentioned earlier, lifestyle choices have far greater role to play.  Here are the steps to prevent Alzheimer’s:
    • Whole plant-based unprocessed foods: replacing meat, oils high in trans/saturated fats and dairy in your diet with  vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains will lower your risk for Alzheimer’s by lowering your cholesterol and helping with other things as well. Just like stroke prevention, plants and berries have more antioxidants, which combat the free radicals.
    • Spices: Saffron and Turmeric have been found to be helpful in the prevention of cognitive decline.
    • Reducing Gerontotoxins:  Advanced Glycation End products or AGEs accelerate the aging process and elevated levels of AGEs has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims. Meat products have a high amount of AGEs versus the plant products. The style of cooking also matters. Boiling and stewing leads to less AGEs versus the dry heat cooking.
    • Aerobics: Aerobics has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

This post will receive some backlash similar to posts which encourage saving money instead of spending. This is because any lifestyle change like eating less meat and dairy is hard. For starters, human beings are naturally attracted to high fat products like meat and dairy, just like sugar, and meat and dairy products are tastier than the average vegetables and fruits. The other aspect is that there are lots of commercial interests in promoting meat and dairy, hence the popular science brainwashing is that animal based products are your only sources of protein. Unsaturated fats are not bad at all and unsaturated fats are available mostly only from plants, hence, this is absolutely not a war against fat. Cutting both bad carbs and bad fats are important. Whole plant-based unprocessed foods will give you both good fats and good carbs and keep your brain healthy for a longer time.

The source of research for this article is the book “How Not To Die” written by Michael Greger, M.D.

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The Mother of All Personal Finance Hacks- Mega Roth

I am writing this specifically for Jonathan and Brad. This was one of the finest finds for me in the personal finance space and I want the community to take advantage of it ASAP. In my other posts Simplifying saving for college and How to get your money into Roth IRA even when IRS prohibits it? , I talk a lot about how to get more money into Roth IRA. This is especially very important for the people who have already maxed out all pretax contribution opportunities like pretax 401K, HSA etc. This is the last post in the series.

MegaRoth

Who should do it?

Let’s say you have reasonable high income and you already do the following:

After doing all the above things, if you still have money leftover to invest, please don’t invest it in a taxable account. Instead, invest it in Roth IRA via the Mega Roth because Roth IRA has some major advantages. (see Simplifying saving for college).

How does it work?

A Traditional 401K has a contribution limit of $54,000 (first surprise! most people think it is $18,000). Here are the usual ways money goes into your 401K.

  • Your pretax contribution- $18000 limit in 2017.
  • Your employer’s matching- different companies have different rules.
  • Your after-tax contribution (let’s call it ATC).

ATC is where the magic happens. In a hypothetical example for Mr. Kirti, here is the breakup.

  • Mr. Kirti contributes $18,000 of his pretax income to 401K.
  • His employer matches $9000. (again, goes into account as magic pretax money)
  • Mr. Kirti makes another $27,000 ($54,000- $18,000- $9,000) of ATC.

What happens to the 27K worth of ATC?

  • It can be left there till retirement. Not very advantageous because money does not grow tax-free (unlike Roth IRA).
  • Can we rolled over into Roth IRA called the Mega Backdoor into Roth.

Can I do this as well just like Mr. Kirti?

  • Not everyone’s employer’s 401K allows this. Your plan needs to allow something called In-Service distribution since you are still working at the company.

How often can I do this?

  • Mr. Kirti’s 401K administrator allows him to take one In-service distribution every 12 months. But your plan might have different rules.

How should I go about doing this?

  • Call your 401K provider and ask them about In-service distribution. If they allow it, go to the next step.
  • Ask them the number of such distributions allowed and any costs associated with it. If any number of such distributions are allowed without any costs, take these distributions after every paycheck. You will most likely get a check for “<company which holds your Roth IRA>  for the benefit of <your name>”.
  • If they allow only one such distribution every 12 months, then try to make your after-tax contributions into the 401K in a shorter interval of time. Eg. make ATCs around bonus time or make the maximum allowed (% of your paycheck) ATC for some consecutive number of paychecks till you reach the max cap. The reason it is important to cluster it in such a way is because your contributions might grow if left in the 401K account for long and you have to understand what happens to the growth.

So, what happens to the growth?

  • First, you decide if you want to have growth or not while your money is sitting in 401K, waiting to be rolled over to Roth IRA. You need to decide because the growth can lead to a taxable event (it matters when you are trying to keep your Modified Adjusted Gross Income-MAGI within a certain level).  Mr. Kirti likes to let it grow since in his case, “growth minus taxes” is still superior than “no growth and no taxes” because he cannot possibly benefit very much by keeping his MAGI low by relinquishing real growth since he won’t be eligible for any benefits anytime soon.
  • If you don’t want it to grow, just put it in a Settlement account (usually money market) in the 401K and when the roll over into Roth happens, there is no taxable event.
  • If you invested it in the stock market, it might have grown. Now you decide how you want to handle the growth.
    • Take it to Roth IRA: Taxable event- you pay the taxes on the growth portion that year.
    • Move the growth/earnings portion into Traditional IRA:  this makes sense for people who never intend to do the regular Backdoor Roth because if and when they do the regular Backdoor Roth, they will have a big taxable event. If you intend to separate out the In-service distribution between contributions and growth, make sure you know the respective amounts (your 401K provider tracks the cost basis of the ATCs).

That’s it. If you have any more questions, ping me via the blog or pester Brad and Jonathan. Let me know how it goes for you and feel free to provide constructive feedback.  Happy investing!

 

 

 

How to get your money into Roth IRA even when IRS prohibits it?

In my previous article on Simplifying saving for college, I talked about getting your money into Roth IRA since its one of the most flexible tax advantaged retirement vehicles. However, IRS has an income limit restriction. They will not let you contribute if your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI), married filing jointly, is greater than $196,000 (2017 number).

Roth

Then, how do we do it? We take advantage of a tax loophole where conversions from other Retirement accounts to Roth IRA is possible.

Let me tell you step-by-step as to how I do it. I use Vanguard heavily since the cost structure of Vanguard is pretty solid and they have extremely low expense ratio for most of their funds (I can get into more details of Vanguard in a different post). The trick is that I don’t have a Traditional IRA with loads of money in it. This is the bedrock of conversion methodology. This is because when you convert from one Retirement Account to another one like Roth IRA, it leads to a taxable event. If you have plenty of pretax money lying around in a Traditional IRA and if you convert it to Roth, it will lead to a big tax bill that year (Even if you contributed to Traditional IRA with post tax dollars, the growth/earnings portion will trigger a tax bill). Below are the right steps to achieve the most optimal results if you don’t have money lying around in an existing Traditional IRA.

  • Open a Traditional IRA with Vanguard if you don’t have one.
  • Contribute $5500 (the contribution limit in 2017). Buy whatever fund you desire.
  • Open a Roth IRA with Vanguard if you don’t have one yet.
  • Once the funds have settled into the Traditional IRA (takes a couple of days or so), ask Vanguard to convert the funds to Roth.
  • The important point is to do it ASAP after the funds are available to be converted because you don’t want the money to grow before it reaches Roth; otherwise you will have to pay taxes on the growth.

This technique is called “The Backdoor Roth”. I don’t know how long this loophole will last, hence make hay while the sun shines.

Of course, the best advice here is for people whose MAGI (married filing jointly) <$196,000, please open a Roth IRA right away and start contributing directly to Roth instead of using the Backdoor hack. IRS starts phasing out the benefits beyond the MAGI (married filing jointly) of $186000; hence you won’t get to contribute the full $5500 between $186,000 and $196,000. If your MAGI (married filing jointly) lands below $186,000, you get the full $5500 to contribute.

Eventually, I will write another post where I will tell you another trick about contributing to Roth. Meanwhile, keep reading and start saving!

 

 

 

Simplifying saving for college

CollegeSaving

College is expensive in United States and parents need to be planned so that they are not surprised with the bill when its time to ship the kids to college. They might be thinking good riddance after dropping them off at the campus but not so much when the hefty sometimes even $50,000/year bill arrives in their mail. Scholarship is hard to get if the parents have high income, even if the student is meritorious, at Tier 1 institutions. Here are my tips for my US parents:

  • Avoid big student loans if possible. They will hunt you till your grave if you don’t pay them back. It is highly irresponsible to not pay back your loans in the first place but unlike other loans which go away if you file for bankruptcy, student loans don’t.
  • Roth IRA : Roth IRA is the best investment vehicle ever. Here are the things you need to remember about withdrawing from Roth IRA. My advise is to only use the contributions (not the growth/earnings) for funding college and I advise to use this as your primary college fund:
    • You can withdraw the principal (your after-tax contribution) anytime without any restrictions.
    • You can withdraw the growth, tax and penalty free if you meet the following conditions:
      • Roth IRA account has been open for more than 5 years. AND
      • It is a qualified distribution which means:
        • You are over 59 1/2 OR
        • Death or Disability strikes OR
        • First time home buy (a lifetime limit of $10,000) for the account holder, account holder’s children and grand children.
    • You can withdraw the growth, penalty free (but not tax free unless you are older than 59 1/2) if it is for college. You will pay ordinary income taxes on the amount of growth you withdraw for college. I do NOT advise touching the growth for college though unless absolutely necessary. This exception withdrawal does not have to wait for the 5 year period as discussed in the previous bullet. The college fee and tuition can be paid for the account holder, account holder’s spouse, children, grand children, great grand children etc.
    • Advantages of using Roth IRA
      • The contributions are flexibly available and if you don’t touch the earnings, they grow tax free.
      • Assets in Roth IRA are not used in calculating the Expected Family Contribution on the FAFSA (Financial Aid Form).
    • Disadvantages of Roth IRA
      • If your income is low and you could potentially qualify for Financial Aid/Scholarships, the amount of contributions which you withdraw, even though it won’t be taxed again, is still considered untaxed income on FAFSA (Financial Aid Form) and reduces eligibility for next year’s financial aid. The strategy will be to withdraw the amount a couple of years ahead of time called Prior Prior Year- PPY (losing the opportunity of growth for two years in hopes to qualify for financial aid/scholarships).
      •  There are usually income limits for Roth IRA contributions. People like me in the high tech industry don’t qualify to contribute. However, there are some loopholes which you can use. I will not list them here. If you are interested, you can either ping me for a friendly chat or read up online.
  • 529 Plans
    • Use it as the secondary college fund.
    • After tax money goes into the fund and grows tax free.
    • Disadvantages
      • Can only be used towards post-secondary education at the universities/colleges approved in your plan. If not used for post-secondary education, you have three options:
        • Change beneficiary to somebody else in the family.  Qualified beneficiaries are:
          • The designated beneficiary’s spouse
          • The designated beneficiary’s son or daughter or descendant of the beneficiary’s son or daughter
          • The designated beneficiary’s stepson or stepdaughter
          • The designated beneficiary’s brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister
          • The designated beneficiary’s father or mother, or ancestor of either parent
          • The designated beneficiary’s stepfather or stepmother
          • The designated beneficiary’s niece or nephew
          • The designated beneficiary’s aunt or uncle
          • The spouse of any individual listed above, including the beneficiary’s son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law
            Any individual for whom the home of the designated beneficiary is his or her primary home for the entire tax year
          • The designated beneficiary’s first cousin
        • Leave it intact for your child’s graduate school or college later or your own education at some point in time if you are thinking of going back to college.
        • Withdraw the leftovers. You will pay ordinary income taxes on the earnings and will also pay 10% federal penalty tax on the earnings portion (a state penalty might also apply).
      • Assets in 529 are used to determine EFC (Expected Family Contribution) on FAFSA and reduce Financial Aid Eligibility.
    • Advantages
      • Both contributions and earnings are available to pay for college without taxes or penalty.
      • The withdrawal from 529 does not show up as income in that year for FAFSA purposes since the EFC has already taken care of including these assets in its determination, so no double counting.

I know all of this can be a bit too much but I have excluded many unnecessary things which confuse the parents. I don’t hold myself to any liability claims for this advice. Please talk to your financial advisor before making any contributions/investments. This is just a friendly advice and not a certified financial advisor’s advice.

Meditation And Education

These two words are not often taken together and I am going to disclose why they should be.

Meditation is a term which is perceived differently by different people. One of the simplest books which clarifies what Meditation is, is a book called “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Henepola Gunaratana. It tells you exactly what meditation is not before instructing what it is. In plain words, meditation is an activity where a human being monitors and maneuvers her breath, leading to an observation of thoughts with non-attachment. For more details on how to meditate, read the book.

ChildrenMeditate

Meditation leads to lots of short term and long term benefits and have been studied extensively by the scientific community.  For example: A meta-analysis of 47 trials adjusted for all biases and with control groups, proves that meditation reduces psychological stress and enhances well-being. There are some studies done on a related activity- Yoga. A heavily cited experiment conducted to compare the influence of several weeks of yoga training with several weeks of nonyoga–based physical training shows children randomly assigned to the yoga condition performed better on a standard problem-solving test used to assess cognitive function.

With these proven benefits in place, these activities are catching up in the schools as well.

This article in The Atlantic states “Schools have also begun experimenting with the practice and discovering that its techniques can help its students. When a school in New Haven, Connecticut, required yoga and meditation classes three times a week for its incoming freshman, studies found that after each class, students had significantly reduced levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their bodies. In San Francisco, schools that participated in Quiet Time, a Transcendental Meditation program, had twice as many students score proficient in English on the California Achievement Test than in similar schools where the program didn’t exist. Visitacion Valley Middle School specifically reduced suspensions by 45 percent during the program’s first year. Attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, grade point averages improved, and the school recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco on the annual California Healthy Kids Survey. Other studies have shown that mindfulness education programs improved students’ self-control, attentiveness and respect for other classmates, enhanced the school climate, and improved teachers’ moods.

I think there is enough scientific evidence to warrant the pairing of the words Meditation and Education. My wife who shares my passion of Education and is a long term practitioner of meditation has founded a licensed after school “Damara Kids” in Livermore to integrate Meditation with Education in a holistic way. She reports seeing improvements in the kids in less than two months she has been operating.

My desire is that more schools and child care centers adopt it in their curriculum and provide these invaluable techniques to children to thrive in the difficult yet enjoyable journey called Life.

 

 

Demystifying Political Terms

With so much political discussion on Facebook, I find it justified to unravel some of the terms which are thrown around, especially related to forms of governance. They are often misconstrued and misplaced in their usage. For eg. Capitalism is often used in the context of “crony capitalism” while “socialism/communism” is thought of a system which can truly equalize:

SocialismVCapitalism

 

Capitalism: Is not “crony capitalism” where lobbyists control the lawmakers. Capitalism is a form of private free market enterprise, where means of production are owned privately and demand and supply dictate prices. No country on this planet is 100% capitalistic because in every country, Government controls some of the means of production; taxes public and enforces regulations on enterprises including price control in some cases. In this system, the enterprises are rewarded for their entrepreneurial efforts and hence this system usually succeeds because it capitalizes on the human evolutionary instincts related to incentives. Capitalism as an idea of a free market private enterprise is not against social progress.

 

Socialism/ Communism: Socialism and Communism are not the same but have a lot of similar ideas.  It is a form where Government controls the means of production and every citizen works for the Government. In Socialism, they earn roughly equal wages and benefits. They are free to spend their wages on anything of their choosing. Advancement and production is limited because there is no incentive to produce more since an individual gets the same amount irrespective of the effort. A perfectly socialist country will provide all things of necessity to everyone, equally, like education, healthcare, housing, clothing and food. This rarely happens in practice and most truly socialistic societies usually see widespread corruption in the Government. The different attribute of communism is that production is distributed based on need and in a true communist system, there will be no concept of money since the Government will provide citizens with what it thinks are necessities.

 

Knowing this, we need to understand that a successful country is usually a mix of more Capitalism and a little bit of Socialism if we define success as more production and advancement of economy.

 

Capitalism does not have anything to do with some social policies like abortion, homosexuality, racial prejudice etc. In the US, since the right wing politics is both pro-capitalism and socially conservative, capitalism is often mistaken with conservative social policies.

 

On similar lines, some fiscal socialistic ideas are not necessarily bad for the economy. Some regulation, taxation and Government control is indeed needed. Also, the left wing politics in the US is liberal about social policies, hence leading to progress on social issues.  However, it has been accused of overdoing its liberal fiscal front.

Are you a genius?

What is genius and are you a genius? The former is easier to answer than the latter. Silicon Valley, Athens, Vienna, Kolkata, Edinburgh, Hangzhou and Florence are all considered to be places of genius at some point in human history. Is genius a personal trait or is it cultural?

Eric Weiner tries to answer all these questions in his new book “The Geography of Genius”. In summary, genius is very much the product of culture. You get the geniuses you deserve, it has been said. Whatever is valued in a society thrives in that society. Silicon Valley values entrepreneurship and sure it gets but how did it start valuing entrepreneurship in the first place?

Genius
We met Eric at Google in January and he answered several of these questions. For starters, a place like Silicon Valley is initiated by several small steps.

If we look at Silicon Valley’s history, several names come to mind- Leland Stanford, Terman, Shockley and the Traitorous Eight. Leland Stanford established Stanford in the memory of his son who had died at 15. Terman started the practical education movement and tried the first cross-pollination of Stanford and industry (encouraging H & P to stat HP from a garage). Shockley came back to his hometown Palo Alto to be close to his ailing Mom starting Shockley Semiconductors. The traitorous eight were recruited by Shockley but later started companies like Fairchild Semiconductors and Intel, pushing Silicon Valley to the forefront of technology.That attracted more talent to the Valley and the Valley kept growing in the positive feedback loop. So, genius is the product of culture.

But genius needs expertise and the capacity and grit to create expertise is a mixture of genetic, psychological and cultural phenomenon. A fine balance of hardships and opportunities helps in shaping the geniuses. All luxury creates complacence and “only” hardships  with no security breaks confidence.

For the final question of whether you are a genius or not- unfortunately, it is not for you to decide. Genius is reserved for the society which based on good or bad judgement anoints this title to some of its members. Usually, the criteria are impact, timelessness and novelty of the work! Go figure!!!

So, what if you decided one day that you want to be a genius. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Build Expertise: Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers suggests a 10,000 hour rule. If you put 10,000 hours in any activity, you will undoubtedly be an expert. You don’t need to necessarily spend 10,000 hours but getting great at doing something is important if you are eyeing that envious title.
  • Create and Deliver Products and Services: Keeping the skill and expertise to yourself is not going to help influence the opinion of the society about your genius. You have to share it with the world to be acknowledged as a genius. Imagine, Einstein not writing all those publications or Edison not writing all those patents.
  • Create impact: Just creating and delivering random products and services is not going to fit the bill. You need to create an impact on the society.
  • On a lighter note, die early: Posthumously getting acknowledged has higher probability than in your lifetime.

Slavery of the 21st Century and its Education

This is one of the most important posts I have ever written in my life and it means a lot to me. This is about the slavery of the 21st century. It’s the most overlooked problem on this planet because no one wants to be associated with it. I am talking about human trafficking, especially of children. (Please join me spreading awareness about this topic so that our children are safe)

We live in a modern world where seemingly women have equal rights with men. But what does history tell and what do the economically poor neighborhoods tell us?  Women and children are at a lot of risk. Yes, the conditions are far better than the sex slavery of the past but it is far from ideal. And this is not only a problem of the “third world” countries. It’s a problem here in the United States. 300,000 girls of average age 12-13 are at a risk of trafficking every year in the United States. What could be the reason? The biggest ones are- poverty, lack of parental education about this topic and obviously lack of awareness among teachers, children and society in general. The chart below shows how lack of education and trafficking are positively correlated.

Ec3371chart

Before I proceed, I want to instill a sense of gratitude in all the people who have complains about the petty problems they face in everyday life. Your problems are nowhere close to the problems of an enslaved child. Historically, years before regulations for women equality had come in, the situation was  abhorrent. From Ottoman Empire to any other empire, men conquered lands; killed other men, raped their women and enslaved them. Women had no sense of equality. Yes, there was always a queen for a king; along with the harem the king possessed, but one woman commanding most of the resources is hardly an example of any sort of equality, let aside women equality. Then things changed over time. Democracy took over monarchy in most countries. Government made regulations to protect women and children. This was most spectacularly done in Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Women claimed independence and joined the workforce. Women can now breath freedom, chase their dreams and not be subservient to men. How true is it? This only holds true where economies and democracies function appropriately. Places where this is not the norm, women and children fall back to their backward status. So, if you are a woman  or a child or a parent or a husband, and if you or your loved ones did not have to go through the horrors of human slavery and subservient treatment, have an immense sense of gratitude for what you have- a life of freedom.  I am the first one to be grateful.

Examples of such slavery can been everywhere in the world, from the Soviet countries to India to the United States. There are three main ways this happens and I want to educate all parents about it with examples.

  • The Lover/Pimp method: This is more common in western countries but not uncommon in the East. Groomers (lovers/pimps) target either girls of very conservative families (like Sikh girls in London) or girls with neglecting parents (usually poor but sometimes rich). They shower them with gifts, much needed attention (works beautifully with children from broken/neglected backgrounds and runaway children/orphans previously abused) and promises of future together. Then, once the girl is in the trap; based on the girl’s background; they either  blackmail her with her inappropriate pictures or directly coerce her into prostitution. You won’t believe that sometimes this happens even when the child is still living with her parents . This problem can be solved by educating the parents and children about this phenomena. Children should be taught to never engage in doing anything which they find inappropriate and uncomfortable. Parents should watch out for any signs of distress in their children and should emotionally engage with them in meaningful dialogue. Conservative families should not focus on honor and shame during such times and not hide such issues from law enforcement. Doing this only encourages these goons to continue their detestable trade.8575772227_487a5c52f8_o
  • The financial prosperity method: This is the most common in all neighborhoods of poverty and especially poor countries in general. Girls are given promises of a good future, with decent paying jobs, if they are ready to travel to other cities or even countries. These girls, with little hopes of any kind of dignified life in their poor neighborhoods; take the leap of faith to try out for a more prosperous future. Once they travel to a different place; either their passports are seized or they are truly captivated and coerced into prostitution.  Thailand and Ukraine are one of the biggest destinations for such crimes. The only way this problem can be solved is by educating all these women and children about the truth of this scam. 8597306878_9bffce8509_o
  • The plain old kidnapping: In United States, there is something called “Amber Alert”. Amber Alert is a system where everyone receives an alert on their cellphones when there is information about an ongoing kidnapping, with details like the suspect’s vehicle’s number plates and his/her description. It is named after a 9 year girl Amber Hagerman who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996. The case was never fully solved but it created more awareness about kidnapping problems. Safety of children is of utmost importance to us parents and we should do everything in our capacity to ensure it. Don’t send your teenage children to parties where they just know one or two people or such. Always have an adult supervise them if there is a strong need to go to a party at night. Teach them to avoid any kinds of drinks at a party where they are not supervised by an extremely trusted adult. Give them a tracker device so that their locations can be tracked.  Call this number (in United States) if trafficking is suspected 1 (888) 373-7888.8577206423_906002d50f_o

I request all the readers to stand up and fight against this epidemic. This is one problem where social media can be highly useful because this is a problem of lack of awareness. Let’s all stand up for human dignity and safety of our children. We will NOT tolerate slavery in the 21st century.

What can a value investor teach about life?

Recently I met two big icons of value investing at Stanford- Mohnish Pabrai and Guy Spier. I had read Guy Spier’s phenomenal book -“The Education of a Value Investor” (thanks to my friend Saurabh Madaan who had gifted me a copy).

Saurabh also invited me to meet the icons at Stanford. Both of them are exceptional personalities but very different from each other. Guy is more reserved and gives contextual answers. Mohnish is extremely outgoing, can put you on the spot and gives black and white answers.

IMG_6436 IMG_6437

What can these guys teach you about life? Plenty is the answer. A lot of answers can be found in Guy’s book. Although, I have not completely read Mohnish’s book “The Dhandho Investor”, what I have read so far tells me that he has a compelling story to tell, starting with the Patel Motel Syndrome.

Since I have read “The Education of a Value Investor”, I urge every professional to read it to figure out what is important in work and life. You might be able to figure those out yourself but as we know, it’s better to learn from someone else’s burning experience than burning yourself. I will leave the gist of the book out so that you read the book instead of reading the gist 🙂

College Prep High Schools in Bay Area

Some parents asked me to list a few private college prep high schools in bay area. Here are some:

  • Bellarmine, San Jose
  • Harker, San Jose
  • St. Francis, Mountain View
  • Mitty, San Jose
  • Saint Lawrence Academy, Santa Clara
  • BASIS, San Jose
  • Oakwood High School, Morgan Hill

To help get into these High Schools, there are high school placement preparation agencies like SASO- HSPT.

Of course, there are popular public high schools like Cupertino High or Lynbrook High.