Mortgage Insurance Vultures

I refinanced my 30 year mortgage into a 15 year mortgage earlier this month. This week I received 7 offers for a “Revolutionary New Mortgage Protection Plan.” All of them used similar urgent language warning me of my potential death, terminal illness, chronic disease, disability, etc. All name dropped the company I refinanced through as if this were a required form/service. Only with a magnifying glass at the bottom of these fear inducing documents did it note that there was no affiliation to the mortgage broker, and that everything had been pulled from public records. They’ve all be shredded.

One of my main reasons for refinancing was to drop the mortgage insurance payment that wasn’t scheduled to be removed from my 30 year loan until 2022.

I had a few goals related to refinancing:

  • not having to make mortgage payments into my mid-70’s. Success – I should have this one paid off before I turn 65.
  • dropping the interest rate; Success – down a full percentage point.
  • no mortgage insurance; Success – gone.

I surprised some people when I bought my town home in the first place a few years ago. I still don’t know if this is my forever home. The layout is a bit quirky. I don’t know at what age all of the stairs will become an issue. But today, I like the idea of having it fully paid off and owning it outright. When I consider the balance of cost, location, features, commute time – it works, and it should continue to work into the foreseeable future.

Courage, Risk-taking, Resilience, and Managing Ambiguity

How do you rate on these traits?

Image from The Corporate Dominatrix by Lisa Robyn

Image from The Corporate Dominatrix by Lisa Robyn

A recent Harvard Business Review Article (We Interviewed 57 Female CEOs to Find Out How More Women Can Get to the Top) investigated the behavioral traits and career paths of Fortune 1000 and other large company female CEOs. Their goal was to figure out what characteristics were shared by successful female CEOs to help bridge the perceived “gap” in the percentage of women in CEO roles.

There were a number of interesting findings:

    1. Female CEOs worked in more roles, functions, companies, and industries than men leading companies of a comparable size.
    2. Two-thirds didn’t realize they could be CEO until someone else told them.
    3. Backgrounds in STEM, business, finance, or economics are prevalent for both male and female CEOs.
    4. Critical behavioral traits include: courage, risk-taking, resilience, and managing ambiguity.
    5. Women are more likely to be selected for senior leadership roles when the position is associated with a state of crisis or high risk of failure.
    6. Women are driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to contribute value and shape culture.

I’ve been given a remarkable number of professional opportunities due to #5. And even when you might realize that the opportunity is fraught with hazards, the desire to make a difference (#6) kicks in. But some of these, like #2, just boggle my mind. One of my biggest frustrations with professional women, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this, is our tendency to wait for permission. From whom? For what? Could we just agree to stop getting on our own ways?

Perhaps my favorite part of this article was the list of necessary traits: courage, risk-taking, resilience, and managing ambiguity. How many people do you know who have all four? I’ve known a lot of entrepreneurs and business leaders over the years, and the most successful ones definitely had all four.

Personally I’m a bouncy ball of resilience (The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks – great book) and am fairly good with managing ambiguity. I’m definitely lower on the risk-taking scale.

Fitness Update

I am 16 weeks into my second year of Precision Nutrition Coaching. I described my first year previously. The Cost of Getting Lean is one of my favorite Precision Nutrition articles. One of my long-term goals had been to get into the 16-19% body fat range (similar to 6 to 9% for men) shown below. The health benefits are clear, but the tradeoffs are hard to sustain. I had a DEXA scan done on Friday (at Body Fat USA in Denver) to assess my body fat percentage. I am finally there, 18.9%, albeit barely!

Side note: there is a lot of controversy on the best way to measure and track body fat. For daily use I use an older version of the Omron bioelectrical impedance device. Some folks think they are terrible, but mine has been very close to my DEXA measurements. Typically my Omron is about 0.5% to 1.0% less than my DEXA results. There is day-to-day variation based on hydration, but I use weekly averages for tracking. So, while it’s not perfect, it’s great for trend data. And really does it matter if I’m exactly 17.9% or 18.9% fat?

This was my fourth DEXA scan. I’ve done three in 2017 to track my body composition progress. For my first, in 2002, I participated in a research study that included a DEXA scan and cholesterol testing. My body fat at that time was 33.2%, and my cholesterol had hit 288, with my LDL was 200. I was 34 years old and felt like an old lady. While not quite obese, I certainly was not healthy. It’s hard to see from this old DEXA, but my fat distribution was more like Waygu (Kobe) beef – marbled throughout with a thick layer on top, versus my more recent scans.

Changes in DEXA scan over time

Body Fat Metrics
The DEXA images and table with more specific data show that I’ve always carried most of my fat in my legs and hips. I still remember being called “thunder thighs.” I am still working towards getting significant muscle definition in my legs, but they are slowly, millimeter by millimeter, leaning out. My arms and torso have leaned out nicely over the past 16 months. I am starting to see striations in my shoulders, and muscle definition in my arms. My lower abdomen is oddly vascular.

Goblet Squat

Getting Stronger

Nutrition:

This 4 month cycle had my second formal “cut.” In terms of nutrition, my diet generally follows Precision Nutrition Guidelines – lots of mostly green veggies, lean protein at every meal, smart carbs (fruit, corn, potato, oats, brown rice, chickpeas), and healthy fats (nuts, nut butters, avocado, olive oil). I still eat too many protein bars as snacks – muscle milk, Quest, Perfect, Pottentia (hard to find but these, especially coconut date, are fantastic), and even Kirkland (Costco) protein bars. I do love protein bars! And I discovered Halo Top “healthy ice cream. Luckily, I generally avoid that aisle of the grocery store.

With my current workout schedule (below), I maintain on about 2,150 to 2,200 calories a day. For cutting, I was targeting a small deficit of about 250 to 300 calories a day, so ~1,900 calories a day with 150 grams protein, 175 grams carbohydrate, and 66.7 grams of fat.

Like last time, I meant to keep it up for 12 weeks, but completely caved after just 8. I’d find myself late at night eating all natural peanut butter from the jar with the refrigerator door still open. So, the last month has essentially been at maintenance. That wasn’t the plan, but it’s what happened. Still, I’m not upset with my progress, but I am ready to take a break from tracking every gram of nutrition that goes into my body, trying to hit certain macro-nutrient targets at specific times of day based on my workouts. It’s simple and it works, but it’s not easy to sustain.

Current workout schedule:

  • M, W, F = Precision Nutrition weight lifting workout as assigned in training portal first thing in the morning
  • T, Th, Sat, Sun = 90 Minute Hot Yoga Class at night
  • T, Th = short HIIT run in the morning (2 to 2.5 miles max, focused on running cadence)
  • Sat = longer, slower run (~4 miles, still focused on running cadence)
  • Sun = maybe a long walk, more of rest day except for hot yoga class
  • Daily = slow walk on treadmill at night, if needed, to hit 10,000 steps for the day
October 28, 2017 Photos Shared with my Coach

October 28, 2017 Update Photos Shared with my Coach

After 12+ years of consistently better nutrition and daily physical activity, I almost accept that I’m a fit person without qualifiers (for a PhD, for a non-athlete, for almost 50, etc). I am fit. Of course the fitter I get, the more I learn that there are whole new levels of fitness, such as  extraordinary fitness, where I currently hit only one of the ten physical measures (I can do the pull-ups) listed. There is always more!

What’s next?

I’m planning to just maintain for the next month or two. Then I  need to decide if I’m mentally ready to mass and put on more muscle (and fat) to get stronger with more muscle definition. There are many benefits to women adding muscle. And I trust the science. But mentally, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get leaner. It’s hard to wrap my brain (emotions) around gaining weight on purpose, even if I logically know gaining weight with my currently training plan will not suddenly create the soft doughy body I used to have. But for now, I’m just going to live in this one, and enjoy feeling fit, and while getting stronger and faster every day.

Is the thank you note dead?

We’ve been interviewing candidates for an open position in our office. Some of the applicants have been terrific, most have been qualified, which in a market with just 2.4% unemployment is a relief.

What’s shocking to me is how few follow-up with even a quick email (I’m guessing it’s too much to expect a hand written note these days?) to (a) thank us for the opportunity to interview, and (b) express continued interest in the position. Or even, (a) to thank us for our time, and (b) let us know our opportunity is NOT a great fit for what he/she is looking for.

Thank you note image

This was not a follow-up from the job interviews we’ve been doing. Instead, a former employee of mine sent it to me when she released her first music CD earlier this year. Give her a listen.

I feel ancient. But, and, also this is a customer facing marketing and communications role. There will be thank you notes drafted and sent as part of the job. How are these candidates not seeing this as a fantastic opportunity to showcase their creativity in this regard? I am baffled. Unless universally we’ve made a horrible impression and none of them would actually want to work with us?! I’ll guess we will find out soon enough. We’re about to finish up the first round of interviews, so we’ll see if anyone comes back if invited for round two.

We post our open positions on Andrew Hudson’s job list which also has great career/job seeking advice. Some articles focus on getting the first interview in the first place such as The Path to Hired: Keys to Callbacks and Job Offers. Job Seeking: Myth vs. Reality digs into the importance of follow-up thank you letters, and many other relevant topics.

The best article I found (What an employer is thinking: the most important job interview questions that will never be asked) started:

In a recent New York Times profile, a respected CEO was asked, “How do you interview job candidates?” His response? “I have two basic questions in mind: Can you do the job and would I enjoy spending time with you?

Indeed. The article also digs into other back of mind questions about how a given candidate will contribute to the team and the goals of the organization. Great stuff if you ever wondered what your job interviewer was thinking!

Invisalign – Early Halloween Costume?

Invisalign attachments look like horns

These teeth have horns

My dentist has been talking to me about Invisalign since 2012. I used to think I had good teeth. My childhood dentist never wanted me to get braces or a retainer. People have told me that my smile is one of my best features.

happy teeth photo

Big smile circa 2008/2009

I think I must have started clenching my teeth as a child, as I used to have nightmares about breaking my teeth. I broke my first molar back in about 2008, after a stressful meeting. I just clenched down too hard. After that tooth was crowned, I started sleeping in one of those soft mouth guards that you boil to fit, not so different from the one I wore playing field hockey in high school. Very sexy. But the headaches I used to get almost daily disappeared completely.

Everything was fine for a few more years, during which I moved frequently and seemed to have a new dentist every 6 to 12 months. And, then I broke the next tooth, and found Robbie Baxter, DDS, Emory trained like me, who was willing to fit me in with zero notice. I’ve been loyally going to her ever since, and oh did she have plans for me and my teeth. One by one the mercury fillings had to go (apparently the hardness of the mercury filling makes it more likely for the teeth to crack). Teeth with cracks were fixed with some cool engineering tech in office via custom 3D designed porcelain inlays and onlays. But always her plan (recommendation) was to eventually fix my bite so that my teeth do not come together top to bottom in a way that makes them prone to breaking.

So a few weeks ago we took all of the molds and photos needed for Invisalign. It’s going to take 19 sets of trays (some people only need 6) and at least 38 weeks to align the teeth properly. It’s the same cost whether it’s 3 sets or 25, so it’s not like this is a money grab. Apparently my bite is just that out of whack. And to help the teeth move, they put “attachments” on some of the teeth to act as levers. I didn’t do too much reading on the procedure, thinking it would be more like smile direct the cheaper self service option where you take your own molds/photos and they send you the sets of trays. Here are 11 things a young lady wished she’d known before doing Invisalign. At least my dentist rejected all options that required attachments on the front teeth, even though that might have sped things up. Ah, vanity. The other less that fun part of this process, is sometimes they need to make space between the teeth, so my dentist spent time with a thin metal file shaving down several teeth so they can move as needed. More of that may be needed as this process moves along.

I still think that the attachments look like some crazy weird teeth horns. I have 6 on one side (3 on top, 3 on bottom) and 4 (2 on top, 2 on bottom) on the other.

 

I love a good fitness rant

Renaissance Periodization published a post today called “No more Sugar Coating!” And it is hilarious. And full disclosure, I’m guilty of everything in there. Snippet below:

Last time I checked, the RP Diet was not called “The Eat What You Feel Like Eating Every Day AND Lose Weight!” diet.

And it wasn’t called the “You Can Have a Cheat Meal per Week while Cutting and STILL Get your Best Results!” diet.

And it wasn’t called the “You Can Eat Everything You Eat Today and Still Lose Weight!” diet.

And it sure as sugar was not called the “Mass Without Eating Much Food” diet.

It’s not quite as snarky as “The Best Fat Loss Article on the Motherfuckin’ Internet” by Aadam, but equally worth a read and reality check if you are not reaching your goals.

I have been working with a Precision Nutrition fitness and nutrition coach since July of 2016. And while my physical transformation has not been fast, I am in the best shape of my life through consistently (a) doing the workouts, (b) eating to support my fitness goals, and (c) measuring and tracking those things that I want to improve.

Because I’m a scientist I track a ridiculous number of metrics: sleep (amount & quality), distance per day (walked, jogged, run), running cadence (actively trying to improve this), total calories, grams of protein, fat, fiber, & carbohydrates, workouts done, time spent lifting weights, number of reps, sets, weight used, how much alcohol consumed if any, weight, body fat (daily bioelectrical impedance, quarterly DEXA), and numerous body part girths. If I had to prioritize these, my two primary goals are related to (1) body fat percentage and (2) sleep. Everything else being tracked may impact those primary goals.

Here’s the funny thing. I have the RP diet templates, the book, & the physique templates for weight-lifting (20% off discount code = fall20 – expires October 16, 2017). I know that if I just followed their programming 100% for 8 to 12 weeks (they break everything into 12 week cycles), I could make dramatic physical changes relatively quickly. So, I’m definitely on the receiving end of the rant! I am not ready to be that hungry and tired. For now, I use RP’s strategies to tweak my much more sustainable Precision Nutrition programming for short bursts where I lose a few pounds and then hold. For me this is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m focused on staying injury free, not getting completely OCD about my nutrition and exercise, and finding the joy in my body becoming stronger, faster, and leaner. And I can get joyful about very small things – 5 unassisted pull-ups in a row, 1 arm planks, my first feet elevated push-ups, getting my running cadence close to 180 for a few miles, doing a front squat correctly (after my coach sent me video of how place the bar correctly), etc.

One arm plank

I don’t know why this makes me so happy!

One article Precision Nutrition coaches like to share is “Side Effects may include Leanness.” In my first year of coaching I hated everything about this article. I wanted to achieve my goals quickly, get to my destination. Are we there yet? (Yes I was that kid in the backseat of the car during long road trips.) I am finally starting to appreciate the sentiment in this article. It’s the journey. It’s just life and the choices we make every day.

Unemployment, Education, and Wealth Generation

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I fell down the financial independence retire early (FIRE) rabbit hole. One writer who I failed to mention is Financial Samurai. He recently wrote Your Chances Of Becoming A Millionaire By Race, Age, And Education. Great stuff. Pretty data.

Let me sum up – education matters in the USA but it varies by race with White > Asian > Hispanic > Black. He’s got some fantastic charts and graphs that showcase the striking gaps. And with age, the likelihood of an Asian become a millionaire exceeds that of everyone else.

This aligns with recently released data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on employment rates by education, race and gender. PDF link: Charting the labor market: Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Everything I read in the news makes is sound like unemployment is at historic lows with a slight recent uptick with the hurricanes, but the employment participation rate has never really recovered (~63% vs. ~67% before 2008). And, some demographic groups (youth, minorities, not college educated) have found it harder to reenter or join the workforce. I have seen very little press on these disparities since the overall numbers look good.

Let me start with education – a clear passion of mine. Those of us with at least a college degree were much less hard hit by the last economic down turn than those with less educational attainment. Times are changing, and the internet makes education essentially free, but at least today, an actual degree seems to still create more employment potential than not having one.

Chart 17. Unemployment rates for persons 25 years and older by educational attainment

Chart 17. Unemployment rates for persons 25 years and
older by educational attainment

There is extensive talk about glass ceilings for women, but if this graph is correct, women have experienced less unemployment than men after most major downturns. And young people are just screwed if they’d like to skip college and just start working. Of course this graph is not complete as it does not address wages, but it’s still striking.

Chart 15. Unemployment rates for adult men, adult women, and teenagers

Chart 15. Unemployment rates for adult men, adult
women, and teenagers

The racial information aligns with that shared by Financial Samurai. Perhaps the most interesting component of this chart is that Asian unemployment in the US is approaching zero. Outside of the controversy around reverse discrimination against Asians at Ivy League Schools, this gets almost no press.

Chart 16. Unemployment rates by race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

Chart 16. Unemployment rates by race and Hispanic or
Latino ethnicity

I don’t have any easy solutions for the gaps and disparities. But you can’t change what you don’t track. The first step is acknowledging what is and noting the gaps that need to be closed, if any. It’s not a simple as just making sure everyone goes to college, although that can’t hurt.

Fall Road Trip – Denver to Los Angeles

Saturday morning, after a quick run on the treadmill to get the blood moving, we left on what was supposed to be a leisurely two-day drive from Denver to Los Angeles to move a vehicle out to California.

Land Rover Defender

I love taking road trips in the Defender.

We’d planned to take mostly back roads – prettier drive – and stop about half-way in Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. A few days before our journey, I’d looked for hotels in Flagstaff, but regular $100 a night places were listed for $400+. I figured hotels.com simply trying to not honor my “free night voucher.” When I tried to book a room, the online portal rejected my reservation, every single time. So, we decided to just head off, and stop about half-way. Surely there would be no problem finding a hotel room while driving.

While Denver is due to be hit with 3 to 6 inches of snow on Monday, Saturday was spectacular – sunny, mid-70s – the perfect day for a drive. At lower altitudes, we were able to catch the stunning turning of the aspens.

Ranch hidden in valley

Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa Springs, Colorado

We still can’t figure out why, but every single hotel room in Flagstaff was sold out. Indeed, every hotel room in 100+ miles in any direction of Flagstaff was sold out or posting prices that were obscene. A $54 per night Holiday Inn listing showed a price of $999 with 1 room left – in desperation we called the hotel – “sold out” so someone went for that exorbitant rate. In Flagstaff, we decided to skip the back roads and hopped on I-40 thinking surely somewhere on I-40 there would be a hotel vacancy. Even 150 miles west of Flagstaff everything was still sold out. No one knew why. Crazy. There is nothing in the local papers explaining what event drew so many to Arizona this weekend. All hotels seemed to have normal availability for Sunday night, so it was definitely a one day thing.

At that point, we were a few hours out of Los Angeles and ended up driving straight through. We arrived in Los Angeles about 6 a.m. Sunday morning. It was not the plan, but it certainly wasn’t a hardship to spend a day in Marina Del Rey napping, walking the beach and enjoying the warm sunny day before heading back to snowy Denver.

Level Up

In June, shared my love of Precision Nutrition’s coaching program, and its impact on my fitness, after finishing up a year of receiving coaching. I redid my PN Level 1 certification, required every 2 years, in July. Essentially the Level 1 program teaches strong nutrition fundamentals with some coaching basics added on. With PN Level 1 Version 3, they updated the text and the videos making the curriculum more fun and accessible. They’ve also made the coaching section of the text better match how the PN coaches work with clients in the coaching program.

Image of PN portal

What I see in my Precision Nutrition Portal: Yellow arrows point to completed programs. Blue arrows point to ongoing programs. I seem to be alternating between receiving coaching and learning to coach. 

On Monday I start the PN Level 2 Coaching Certification Program. FAQ. This is a year long mentored program with daily assignments, case studies, etc. Curriculum PDF.

Why now?

Well, now is always the best time to start!

Why this?

I don’t know if I will ever do any fitness or nutrition coaching. So, my primary goal is to be a better mentor and manager to the people who work for me. PN coaches have, and I want to learn, a magical skill of energizing others to achieve their goals. I want that superpower to consistently be able to turn talk into action, about any goal!

I do have a few secondary goals. I’ve been PN L1 certified for a few years. I’m in my second year getting coaching. I’m the fittest I have been in my life. (Follow up DEXA and quarterly photos coming in November). People have begun to ask me if I’m fitness coaching on the side, and randomly ask me fitness and/or nutrition questions. And yet, I haven’t hung my shingle. I am not sure what’s standing in my way, but perhaps this will push me over the edge. While I have deep academic knowledge re: nutrition and fitness, I do not yet know what is needed to motivate people to make better choices, consistently, over time – to get out of their own ways – to achieve their goals.

I will.

We’re Hiring: Marketing & Communications Assistant/Associate

We have a great opportunity for someone with Marketing & Communication experience in Denver, Colorado. PDF of Complete Job Description: 2017 Marketing Communications Assistant or Associate

Apply

Title: Marketing and Communications Assistant/Associate

Reports to: Sales and Marketing Manager

Summary of Position
The Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) provides e-Government solutions to more than 425 state and local governments across the state of Colorado. SIPA is seeking a creative, detail-oriented Marketing and Communications Assistant/Associate to support the activities of SIPA’s Sales and Marketing Manager.

The Marketing and Communications Assistant/Associate is a crucial member of SIPA’s team with a variety of diverse responsibilities including: designing and editing marketing materials, press releases, conference presentations, newsletters, webinars; keeping accounts and opportunities updated in Salesforce; helping to onboard new customers; answering customer questions about products and services; maintaining SIPA’s website and social media presence; scheduling meetings; supporting events including SIPA’s annual User Conference; and supporting SIPA’s annual micro-grant program.

The successful candidate will be eager to learn and willing to take on any challenges that come his/her way. This is a great position for conscientious individual, with outstanding people and communication skills who enjoys a small-company-feel.

Duties and Responsibilities

Content Development (25%)

  • Draft and edit newsletters, press releases, articles and case studies.
  • Design impactful presentations for new business pitches and conference presentations.
  • Prepare meeting materials for on-site and external events.

Database Management and Administration (25%)

  • Coordinate customer outreach efforts with vendors and SIPA’s Sales and Marketing Manager.
  • Onboard new customers and ensure customer records are up-to-date in SIPA’s CRM system.
  • Monitor and process inquiries, requests for service and project paperwork on a continual basis.
  • Regularly communicate with customers to answer questions, respond to concerns, add new services, and facilitate strong working relationships.
  • Monitor project status and customer satisfaction throughout the project lifecycle.

Design (15%)

  • Artwork creation: brochures, newsletters, merchandise, advertising, flyers, and other marketing collateral in line with brand guidelines.
  • Think creatively, generate new ideas, designs and concepts.

Online Marketing (15%)

  • Ensure SIPA’s website is up-to-date.
  • Manage and monitor multi-platform social media strategy utilizing Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Utilize Salesforce Marketing Cloud to send newsletters, batch emails and promotions.

Events (15%)

  • Internal and external events such as meetings and strategy sessions.
  • Assist all aspects of the planning and execution of SIPA’s annual User Conference.
  • Assist in all aspects of SIPA’s annual micro-grant program.
  • Assist in the planning and execution of other in-person and online events that SIPA sponsors (ex. webinars, conferences).
  • Support SIPA staff with scheduling, travel plans and other tasks as needed.
  • Serve as a representative of SIPA at trade shows and other related events.

Other duties as assigned.

Position Type/Expected Hours of Work
This is a full-time professional position. Days and hours of work are Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00 p.m. Additionally, this position may at times require hours beyond the operational hours stated above. This position is based out of Denver, CO and may require up to 15 percent travel throughout Colorado, primarily throughout the Denver metropolitan region.

Skills/Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree or commensurate experience.
  • Excellent interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills.
  • Positive attitude, creative, conscientious and reliable team member.
  • Experience with Google Apps, Drive, Docs, and related tools is preferred. Proficiency required within 90 days of employment.
  • Experience with Salesforce.com CRM tool is preferred. Proficiency required within 90 days of employment.
  • Experience with Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop) is preferred. Proficiency required within 90 days of employment.

Salary Range: $35,000 to $45,000; Salary & Title commensurate with experience.

Benefits: Health, Dental, PERA Retirement, PERA 401(k), Paid Time Off.

How to Apply: Complete our online application at http://www.tfaforms.com/374489
You will need to submit a resume and cover letter outlining your qualifications for the position. Employment with SIPA requires a criminal background check. Contact catherine@cosipa.gov with any questions.

Top