Monday, September 29, 2008

What's Important to our Future.........the children!

I've always accused myself of living in the past.  I still think about high school sporting events, parties and some crazy antics that my friends & I pulled off in our small desert hometown. In recent years as Amy and I have frequently moved throughout the country changing addresses, employers and bringing children into the clan, I've often found myself living in the present, not for the present.  To be cliche, I take it "one day at a time" with little eye for my future except perhaps I would retire young, live long, and have lots of time and money. 

OK,  now fast forward to the present...September 29th 2008.  I'm now not only thinking about the future, I'm dreaming about it!  I suppose this was the result of so many events coming together in such a short period of time including becoming unemployed, back surgery, changing routines, and turning 40.  With a family, though, I've totally changed what I understand is my focus for the future. It is NOT only about me....I want what is best for my kids.

Sure, I want them to respect themselves and others. I'd be tickled if they graduate from the finest universities (on scholarship, of course), and are hired by the best American corporations (hopefully, there will be a few remaining in 20 years).  The 700 billion dollar question, however, is what can I do to give them a chance for a better future? 

Beyond giving constant love, guidance and setting a good example, and at present helping Alec make sure his shirt and pants face the right direction...what else do I need to do?  What about current events affecting the country? Does the presidential candidate who I vote for make a difference?   Will either Obama or McCain make good on any of their campaign promises?

Truthfully, as of late both parties get my blood boiling, but which candidate will be best for my children (& for ALL children in our country)?  My answer is both...or neither. It does not really matter. I'm tired of hearing that Obama wants more programs and McCain wants to cut taxes. I want one of them to stand up and say "everything I'm doing is for our children and grandchildren...not for me...I've lived a good life...time to think of future generations."

Obviously, this would include fixing the healthcare system to provide quality preventative medicine for all children, a sound educational model from pre-school through college, and eliminating the gigantic national debt. While we're at it, let's solve the rampant drug problem, obesity and lack of personal responsibility and integrity that has been diminished in recent years.  Of course, it almost goes without saying.....we all need to be much more G-R-E-E-N!

Wishful thinking...YES!  However, if I do my absolute best to raise them to be upstanding citizens and teach them to plan and prepare for their future....I know that is all I can dream (& hope) for as we move into the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jog-a-thon volunteer

Wow, parental involvement in your child's elementary school has changed dramatically over the years. With dwindling tax revenue, school districts are strapped for cash and now rely heavily on parents for assistance, both to donate cash, and volunteer time. So with some extra time this year I decided to throw my name into the volunteer pool at Brenna's elementary school. I would make myself available both in the classroom and to assist in various school activities.

The annual Jog-a-thon was my first assignment. My initial thoughts were that this would be a piece of cake. Kids would run around a track for twenty minutes, count their own laps...end of story. A few days prior to the event, however, I received a volunteer instruction notice from the event organizer (our school's PTC treasurer) detailing the general time lines, the important rules and the various job titles with description of duties. My previous life in corporate America had never been this organized!

My first impulse after reading the "Jog-a-thon 2008 Volunteer Instructions" was to step aside, fake an illness or just admit that I was not worthy of such a marvelously constructed fundraiser created by the PTC, administered by parent volunteers, and participated in by sweating K thru 6 graders for the benefit of our school. Well the truth be told, I did not understand the instructions. My wife Amy suggested that I just go and everything would be much clearer once I arrived at the "main volunteer check-in station."

Of course rules and procedures were explained to me upon my arrival that morning and I was assigned the job of "Tally Marker" which initially didn't sound too appealing. But I then quickly realized that I was responsible for marking up the tally cards as the kiddos ran each lap which actually was the most important job of all! The students took pride in the number of laps they finished which was tied to how much cash they would receive from the donations.....

I'm already looking forward to next year's Jog-a-thon.... if they'll have me. Hopefully I didn't mess up any lap cards causing huge controversy or costing the school big dollars. By the way, Brenna ran 28 laps which made me very proud (and no I wasn't her tally marker).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mortgage Meltdown and the Underwriter

Oh boy! Let's step aside from discussion of life with family, and take a look at why I'm where I am now (mid-life career purgatory).  The housing crisis like a drowning elephant threatens to pull under everything and everyone it can grab as it gasps and finally slips beneath the surface.  Let's make an attempt at honesty.  Anyone in the mortgage industry or any individual who was remotely paying attention knew that the double-digit annual increase in home values could not be sustained.  NO way!

As a mortgage underwriter who was entrusted to review and to decision residential loans for my employer, I was expected to go the extra mile to find a way to "make the deal."  I didn't want to disappoint my company, the investors, the account executives (sales), or our broker (client). GASP!  Not too many excuses for loan denials were accepted  given the plethora of loan programs available with the exception of fraud (this will be discussed at another time).

The poster-child loan program for this housing mess, the option arm/pick-a-pay was absolutely abused!  In a nutshell, the program allowed for borrowers to pay less than the standard interest requirement during the initial period of the loan which actually ADDED interest to the original principal...a term labeled "negative amortization." Scary... and to top it off, IF the borrower needed to payoff the loan early, he was slapped with a huge pre-payment penalty. This product was rarely applied as intended by the authors of the program, and often only was successful if/when housing values were increasing rapidly.

In essence, marginal borrowers were being qualified at rates lower than the current market rents to qualify for larger loans so they could outbid others for limited inventory (property). Consequently, strong borrowers in the traditional sense with excellent credit, high and stable income, and good asset position were actually forced to pay more than they should have. These borrowers, understanding their financial limits, often stepped aside.

To further layer the risk of the option arm product was the use of limited documentation which included the stated income product. Originally intended for the self-employed borrower whose income would fluctuate from year to year, stated income did not require an applicant to prove how much he truly earned via pay stub or federal tax return.  In fact, the program was widely used to include teachers, police officers, and fire fighters. HMMM.  We quickly named these deals "liar loans." I could see the long time business owner making $10,000/month, but not the young elementary school teacher.  If the application "stated" $10,000/month, this is what was used to qualify with few questions asked.

Wow, I could go in many directions from here. I could mention that often times I was told that the $10,000 included a spouse's, parent's or sibling's unverifiable income that wasn't included because that individual's credit was poor. I could stand up proudly and state that over time our company and other companies within the industry decided to require further documentation to support that "stated" monthly income through the use of or internet websites or "adda-boy" letters from independent parties who had some business relationship with the borrower.

Of course, in the end the lending business was fighting a losing battle.  All the parties involved from the unqualified borrower to the greedy investor fell in love with the high risk loan products, the limited documentation loans, and the no down payment programs.  Sadly when given the opportunity to stretch the truth for financial gain, some individuals will not think twice about doing just that.  

The trouble snowballed industrywide. Honesty, integrity and accountability were crushed by profits and greed. I couldn't stop what was happening and neither could anyone else. Why would a housing industry in which so many were making so much decide to slow down?  I suppose in retrospect, the only entity that could have made an impact was the federal government which obviously was too excited about how well the economy was growing and all the new jobs that were being created. 

My wife and I went to see "Burn After Reading" last weekend.  J.K. Simmons played a CIA supervisor whose final line seems appropriate to the current housing meltdown when he asks "what have we learned from this?"

Friday, September 19, 2008

10 year old girl....who you might want to meet? *by Brenna Riley*

Hi I'm 10 years old and I'm the daughter of "reinventing dad". You might of heard about me from his article, "technology and the 10 year old girl". My dad's a really cool guy. We've always had a really special bond.
Since my mom worked a lot, (and still does) I didn't see her that much. So I was with my dad a lot. He's the perfect dad. He is a very strong man. About eight months ago, my dad had a seriously injured back and couldn't even get out of bed. He was so strong and brave, it amazed me. I had terrible dreams that he was going to die. but luckily, the surgery went well and he is a lot better now. His back rarely hurts anymore, and if it does, it's only mild pain. I love him so much. I look up to him
I know everyone thinks parents are just here to make your life miserble, but they're not. I can't imagine life without my dad. He's a big part of my life. I now try not to say, I hate you, or get out of my life, or your stupid to him when we argue. Because I don't hate him. He's my big fluffy teddy bear when times are tough. He's my jester when times are dreary. He's my favorite boy in the whole world. I'll always love him. I know that will never change. I love my dad!!! He's my best friend!!!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Technology and the 10-year old girl.

OMG....TSNF! Such is the language of the next generation where text messaging and instant messaging have replaced the "archaic e-mail" of my generation. Forget "snail mail" - only to be used in desperation (when the internet is down) or during the holidays. This is the life of my daughter Brenna who happens to be a 10-year old 5th Grader, not a high schooler or college student.

Her interest in computers began when she was six on my old Gateway. A sandwich shop back in West Hartford, CT named D'Angelo gave away computer games with kids meals. Her love for the meatball sandwiches were eventually surpassed by her desire for more games which lead to the internet and various children's sites.

The latest destination on the web for young girls or "tweens" is "Miley's World" - you know the almost 16-year old star of "Hannah Montana" the one parents can't get away from whose continuous barrage of products on TV and EVERY store make you want to find the nearest tall building and JUMP! She chats with presumably other young gals and they perform make believe plays and discuss "girly" issues.

When I mentioned to Bren that I was going to start a blog because this is the latest on-line craze, she said "oh I started one a couple years ago." But after checking out my blog, she actually thought it was pretty cool and will start one of her own soon. Lucky break for me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wonderful thing about Triplets!

Didn't someone once say "The Wonderful thing about triplets is triplets are wonderful things?" No, I'm mistaken. This was used to describe Disney's Tigger. I'm not the greatest Disney fan on Earth or even in California, but I've always had an affinity for the bouncing friend of Pooh, Christopher Robin, and company.

Tigger often reminds me of our triplets. He's outgoing, cheerful and confident (sometimes to his own detriment), but remains a loyal friend and ally. Alec, Julia and Vivian have such a bond. They consistently "stick up" for one another even though the other triplet might be in the wrong.

A, J & V entered the world on June 3, 2004 via C-Section. Born in the evening at 7:10, 7:11 and 7:12, mommy had held them off as long as she could! If they had been a singleton, they would have simply been six weeks early, but as multiples at 34 weeks and change with birth weights all above 4 lbs, one could not ask for anything more. We counted our blessings.

Well, I suppose I could re-hash the early infant/baby months where we made 12 bottles every morning. I recently calculated via that the trips used approximately 18,000 diapers the first three years at a cost of almost $3,000.  Wow, thank heavens the $500 trips to Costco are over!

Fast forward to age 4. The trips are typical and appropriate for their age. Sure they argue, fight and throw an occasional punch, but they truly care about each other.  Unfortunately, we're to the point of feeling guilty when we separate them. How will we handle Kindergarten next year? Will our school want to split them up or keep them together?

Right now I'm just enjoying watching them explore their world.....bouncing about happily, thoughtfully and with confidence much like Tigger.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What to do with the 2nd Half of My Life

All right, let's get this web log started. For me, this marks my very first journal entry ever (after what was required in elementary school, of course).

I have a few reasons to begin this forum. First of all, I love to write. I was a journalism major for a couple semesters in college (in between accounting and management), but mostly I enjoy creative writing. I want to discuss those issues that I hold dear including family, and being the father of triplets + 1 quirky 10-year old girl. Speaking of that "big sister", I will ask for her input for this blog as she is more net savvy than I.

Most of all I want to learn more about myself. I'm soliciting the advice of strangers (& perhaps someday friends) who might provide suggestions as to which course a (gasp) 40-year man should take after being laid off from the shrinking housing industry. I'm fortunate that my wife is gainfully employed, and I have the luxury of time to sort out the dilemma.

So, stay-at-home dad or back to corporate America? In 2008, a dad staying home with his kids is still quite uncommon. Businesses target "mom" as the decision maker for purchases both big and small. Websites like aren't too inviting to dads seeking advice on parenting or hoping to form neighborhood play groups. On the other hand, corporate America is cut throat and job opportunities are disappearing. The mortgage business has imploded and won't recover anytime in the near future. HMMM, what about door #3?