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Posts Tagged ‘financing’

Rats.

In the same way that I can’t not pick a scab, not reread a love letter from 10 years ago, not reply to an e-mail to which I absolutely shouldn’t reply, not engage in verbal sparring with a telemarketing agent, I can’t not continue to check the EUR/USD rate.

Too many double negatives.

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I feel a little numb, but at least I’m done checking the exchange rate every minute.  I’ve just wired 30,000 EUR to INSEAD at the last possible moment.  I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have noticed until a month or two later if I hadn’t paid.  And then I could have spent another month or two running them around before I did finally pay.  

For a while, I kept up this little fantasy where I don’t wire the money. Instead I move to London, take The Knowledge and drive a black cab around.  Cab drivers in London are badass.  They have to take a ridiculous exam – according to Wiki, it takes some 34 months of preparation and an average of 12 attempts to pass the exam.  

From Wikipedia:

The 320 main (standard) routes, or ‘runs’, through central London of the Knowledge are contained within the ‘Blue Book’. [...] In all some 25,000 streets within a six mile radius of Charing Cross are covered along with the major arterial routes through the rest of London.

Okay, it would be badass to pass The Knowledge but not actually to drive a cab.  I hate driving, and I’m not very good at it.  In fact, two of my previous relationships had ended over my driving style.  I believe one of the exes actually said, “Your driving style reveals that you’re a bad communicator.”  Jerk.  

The other ex and I are back together.  Once, we ended up getting in an argument over something completely stupid in the middle of a Whole Foods, and I only later found out that what he was really pissed about is that I cut a corner through a gas station instead of waiting at a red light to make a right turn.  Who’s the bad communicator now, huh?

Right.  What’s I’m saying is that I’m trying to justify feeling so nervous about spending this kind of (borrowed) money and not knowing what’s on the flipside, especially in this economic situation.    

But it’s done.  In the process I learned a little about how Forex markets work and what drives exchange rates.  See, the bschool education started way before setting foot on campus!   

For your Forex transfer needs, here’s a good site with a low spread:

http://fxtrade.oanda.com

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I dated this guy in grad school.  Let’s call him Jon the Pervert.  That’s what all my friends would call him to distinguish him from Jon the Douche who was an uber-smooth HBS grad and Married John who was… well… married.   

Jon the Pervert got his name after I found out that for the 6 months that we were together he had been trawling for sex on Craigslist.  Something to the tune of “I have seats in such-and-such section for the playoffs.  I want a girl with DD breasts to go with me.  Send pictures.”  You can’t make shit like this up.  It’s no wonder his lab work wasn’t going anywhere.

One thing that absolutely drove me crazy was that Jon the Pervert was always talking about money.  Money he spent on rent, money he could save by moving somewhere else, his graduate student stipend, money he paid for a bottle of wine, money he was expecting from a tax refund.  Money money money.  We were students, living on $1500/month stipend, more than half of which went to rent.  I was also constantly stressed about money.  It was poverty-level, but doable.  It meant that I didn’t go out to eat often.  It meant that I didn’t spend my spare time shopping.  It meant that I didn’t go on vacation or travel.  But whenever Jon the Pervert would talk about money, I never knew what to say.  It felt so awkward.   

Jon the Pervert and I parted ways shortly before graduation.  He kept trawling Craigslist for sex and I got a real job.  And eventually came to enjoy having a real salary, eating out most of the week, setting off on a frivolous weekend trip, never thinking twice about a shoe purchase.

Now that I’m about to pay a 30K EUR tuition installment, I’m once again feeling the stress of being a broke-ass student.  While I could just rack up the loans, I’m nervous about not being able to pay them back.  Just like in grad school, the prospect of looking for a job in a recession is daunting.  There are July 08 grads still looking for jobs!  

I did lots of frustrated window shopping this weekend.  Sometimes there’s an entire season where I just hate all the styles.  Last fall had very little to offer and I was happy to shop for home decor at Scandinavian design stores.  To my chagrin, this season, I am drooling over all the t-strap shoes, the short jackets with balloon sleeves, the skinny belts, the jersey dresses a la Dior.  [Sigh]

Not talking about money with INSEAD students has proven difficult.  There’s visa fees totalling 200 USD, there’s housing deposits of one months rent, there’s the business foundations at 1500 EUR course (that Columbia offers for free), there’s 200+ EUR fee to take the test to prove you can habla Español or spreche Deutsch or govorit’ po Russki, and 500 EUR per term of language tuition should your Español not be convincing enough.  It’s quite easy to join in the collective bitching and moaning about the fleecing.  And there’s something of a bonding exercise to it.  Maybe Jon the Pervert was just trying to bond with me over the shared stress of being near-broke.  And being brought up not to talk about money I didn’t give him the satisfaction, so he turned to Craigslist.  Maybe he wasn’t looking for DD breasts, but for someone who would hear him out about his finances.

Maybe instead of the ropes course and trust falls and egg drops during orientation, we can all just sit in a room and talk about who got what interest rate or who made the mistake of converting money to Euro too early.

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When the INSEAD Dog and Pony show came to my town last winter, a very perky cheerleader-type spent about an hour telling a room full of men how hard INSEAD is working to recruit women.  The current class has somewhere just south of 30% women in the class, a several point improvement over the previous year.  The message wasn’t exactly on point for the audience (though having more ladies in the class is not bad for anyone – no one wants sausage only parties at the chateaux), and the cheerleader kept talking about why SHE (who was working for INSEAD rather than attending it or hoping to attend it) loved INSEAD and thought it was the best place for HER.  But, I did some mental math and thought that as a woman, I probably had a better chance of getting into INSEAD than any man who applies.  That’s fine.  I’ll take the leg-up, thankyouverymuch.  

Sometime last spring I also had an informational phone interview with IESE prior to submitting my application.  What I didn’t realize was that I was going to be walking someone through my resume at 7:30 AM.  When it was finally my turn to ask questions, I wanted to know whether the school was doing anything to increase the number of women in the class – currently at 27%.  Note here that it’s not so much that I’m worried about the disparity.  I’ve been in the 27% most of my student and professional life.  I was mostly just making conversation and trying to feel out the IESE attitude given how adamant INSEAD was about recruiting women.  

The director of admissions started by correcting me: “Well, it’s actually 30%” – yes, how could I have made that 3% error?  That’s like a difference of 10 women in a class 300.  “It’s a reality of the workforce,” she continued. “And, the US schools have like 45% women.”  A couple of things bothered me about her response.  First, that she didn’t answer my question.  If she had said, “IESE thinks that 30% women in the class is acceptable as it reflects the status quo,” I would have found that to be a legitimate, if lame, answer.  Second, that she corrected me by using faulty logic.  Following this discussion, I placed my IESE materials in the trash… err… recycling bin.  Really, I had already been looking for an excuse not to apply to more than 1 school.  

For one of the scholarship applications I had to write an essay about why there aren’t more women in upper management, what should be done about the situation, and how my “own ambitions will be fulfilled in respect to my potential.”  The why is relatively straight-forward.  Women tend to be less aggressive and less assertive than men.  Women take maternity leave in the critical years that men use to promote their careers.  Women leave the workforce to raise their children, and reenter years later, having lost valuable time and skills.  Women are less likely to ask for promotions and raises.  Women tend to be more loyal to their employer, and don’t tend to move up by switching jobs. Women who negotiate are viewed negatively by their male AND, sadly, by their female counterparts.  (If this were a term paper, I’d actually provide citations.  Since it is not, I ask you to take everything I say as self-evident truth).

The “what to do about it” question gives me pause.  Do women really, truly benefit from becoming upper management?  I can see clearly how enterprises can gain by having women in leadership roles.   Countless research studies have shown that women are better consensus builders, better at resolving tension, better able to relate to and sympathize with their coworkers.  But does the financial gain of upper management and the ego-gratifying role of executive decider make up for the physical and emotional stress associated with those positions?  For some, the answer may be yes.  I have a suspicion that my own Type A personality might be well-suited for and well-rewarded by a more cut-throat environment of an i-bank than by the touchy-feely one of my old job.  (I probably won’t go there, but it’s good to know yourself.) But, maybe it’s okay if only 30% of a business school class or 30% of suits in a board room are women.   

What’s not okay is that women’s salaries are still behind men’s.  What’s not okay is that McCain selects Sarah Palin as running mate based on gender alone and not based on her intellect or her accomplishments.  What’s not okay is that I still haven’t heard back about the scholarship.

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In the same cheery e-mail that informed me of my acceptance at INSEAD, I also learned that the non-sponsored students (those like me whose company is not about to foot the bill) would be paying a tuition of 50,000 EUR.  Actually, that’s not quite right.  The extra special nice touch is that the original e-mail contained a typo, saying the tuition was actually 48,000 EUR (which is what it was last year).  And, no one actually bothered to rescind that mistake until yesterday when I e-mailed to ask why the numbers on the payment schedule and the letter of admission did not match up.  Unprofessional.  I got admitted in late May, when the Euro to Dollar rate offered by my bank was at 1.65.  Making that first 5,000 EUR deposit was an ugly thing.  

After sending in the deposit to secure your spot, you gain access to an intranet with information on loans, visa process, renting an apartment, renting a car and an absolutely impossible-to-search message board full of inside jokes of the current class.  Mostly, the message you get is this: you’re an adult, figure it out yourself.  I was kinda hoping someone could hold my hand a little.  

On the financing side, it turns out that as a French national, you’re entitled to loans at interest rates as low as 2.4% plus some insurance.  Those who have a French relative or a close family friend willing to guarantee the loan are also eligible for those rates (given that the friend is wealthy enough to qualify for the amount you seek).  Those without can try to obtain a guarantee from a bank in their home country.  The rest are left to seek loans from their home country.  INSEAD used to have some sort of an agreementwith ABN/Amro, but that might have been as far back as 2001 when tuition was 35,000 EUR.

Try as I might, I quickly reached a dead-end seeking a guarantee from a US bank.  If you’re reading this, save yourself the agony.  Basically the French bank wants to assume zero risk when making loans to others and the US banks have no incentive to guarantee a loan at a lower rate than a loan that they would give you themselves.  Banks from other countries may not give you a loan for 75,000 EUR, in which case this guarantee actually makes sense.  

All are then encouraged to apply for scholarships.  I wrote essays to the tune of why aren’t there more women in upper management (is that a bad thing for women?), why my background is diverse from others, or why I deserve a scholarship based on my nationality.  Dinged on three, with responses coming in a month late, without so much as an excuse or a note of apology.  So, a Chinese national may qualify for a scholarship based on need although a French friend of the family may help them obtain a 3% loan, while someone from the US who is looking at LIBOR + 4% variable loans is likely to get squat and be left to beating up middle school kids for lunch money as a way of funding their MBA.  

I’m wondering about how this disparity is going to play out in our class.  Stay tuned.

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