What I learned at our second annual ‘Personal Finance Day’

Following up on last year’s inaugural, two friends and I returned to the rural county we grew up in together and had a day-long nerd out on personal finances.

Yes, after cocktails and dinner and catching up, we literally gave presentations and shared tips on things we were learning about navigating the very complicated personal finance world. It’s all about fun and self-improvement.

We shared and discussed and debated over ideas and rules of thumb and data — like the above pictured Zillow chart predicting longterm real estate growth in my neighborhood of Fishtown.

Below, I share a few notes that aren’t top secret.

Continue reading What I learned at our second annual ‘Personal Finance Day’

10 years after graduating, here are some high school stories I hope to always remember

This fall is my 10 year high school reunion. Wow. I’m only there now a few times a year at most to see my father, but I still think fondly of my time growing up in rural northwest New Jersey.

The reunion sent me back to think about what made me most happy, more than a walkable town square, even more than than learning — making people laugh. Likely more for me than for you, I share below a few jokes I remember fondly. Next time we’re stuck on an elevator and short on more meaningful conversation: ask me to tell you the stories.

Continue reading 10 years after graduating, here are some high school stories I hope to always remember

How Spring Street could thrive: survival for small towns in a new urban age

Newton is a small town in the northwest corner of New Jersey, where preserved forests, protected open space and state-backed farm land has curtailed suburbanization to maintain the foundation of what could be a thriving community in an urban age. It has a dense Main Street corridor and the anchor institutions of a 250-year-old town, as a gateway to this beautiful rural region. It also happens to be where I grew up.

Elsewhere in Sussex County, there are lake houses and golf courses that attract vacationers and tourists (and reporters) from the New York City market — that’s where my parents and other families came from. Though I believe there are unique assets, I also think this story is one that will relate to communities throughout the country and certainly elsewhere in the U.S. Northeast.

Continue reading How Spring Street could thrive: survival for small towns in a new urban age

How 9/11 helped shape New York City for the better

The New York 9/11 terrorist attack site view on Sept. 12, 2001 from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus camera on NASA's Landsat 8. Click to see original. H/t Gizmodo

Nearly 3,000 people are said to have died 10 years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, perhaps more if some first responder deaths are to be included.

That is brutal and sobering and tragic and heartbreaking.

TL;DR — Why I believe the pain of 9/11 helped shape NYC for the better.

  • A long history exists between pain and strength.
  • After 9/11, Americans embraced New York City as patriot territory.
  • After the attacks, an even stronger NYC identity has developed.
  • Following that day, NYC is now protected by more of a veil of patriotism than it perhaps has ever had.
  • Why I wrote this: To argue that a dramatic shift in our national perspectives on NYC changed after 9/11 and it has largely benefited the city.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey, a rural enclave in the New York City region. Like many others there, my parents were from the city and arrived an hour west chasing suburban sprawl. Much of my family still lives in and around that city. They worked in and around the Twin Towers. A couple times a year, my parents would take my sister and me to Manhattan for nice dinners with family; I always wanted to play sandlot baseball or get lost in the woods instead.

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in English class that September Tuesday, but I don’t want to rehash my story. Plenty are doing that and, quite frankly, they are doing a better job of it than I can. Moreover, many people with whom I was in class had parents or other close family working there or near to the buildings. I didn’t, after some confirmation, so my personal story isn’t compelling.

Instead, I want to suggest what might be considered a rather unsettling thought, but I think it’s an important one.

That the most costly, most visual portion of the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan have, looking back at the last 10 years, been good for New York City.

People died. Real people. At a different time, my uncles, or cousin or sister could have very likely been in that number. Philosophy isn’t developed enough for us to understand why not. Very little is ever worth death. But, I believe, these attacks have propelled New York City to first city status among the few generations of Americans alive for 9/11 in a way that nothing else ever could.

I am not a resident of New York City. Never have been. The city was around me — literally and by means of familial roots, but, no, I wasn’t there that morning and know little of that moment. My arguments here rely most heavily on outside perception, so having roots and family there, but being distant enough to evaluate that perception is a strength, I believe.

Now let me tell you why the idea that something so painful could be beneficial is not only plausible, it is clear.

Continue reading How 9/11 helped shape New York City for the better

Are things changing at the New Jersey Herald?

The newspaper of record for northwest New Jersey is the Herald. As such, it was the first newspaper I knew, the first read and the first I learned to criticize. But things may be changing.

The New Jersey Herald, now active six days a week, has published continuously since 1829. It is like many small, rural newspapers. With small communities, investigation is sometimes rare. Might Publisher Bruce Tomlinson and Editor Chris Frear avoid criticizing potential advertising streams when their coverage area is less than 150,000 people and their circulation is less than 15,000? Of course, but they’ve made a series of changes in recent years – like dropping their old God awful masthead seen above – and I’ve seen more of late.

Continue reading Are things changing at the New Jersey Herald?

Northwest New Jersey: a case for that extra geographical distinction

Today I am enjoying the Sussex County Farm & Horse Show, so I thought it was time to write down a conversation I have had too often since leaving the nest four years ago.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey. Of course, when I tell people this – anyone outside of this rural swath of the Garden State, even others from the state – they think it’s a curiously specific geographical distinction.

Click for Detail

There is North Jersey and there is South Jersey and, when pushed, there is Central Jersey. Here’s the breakdown, North Jersey is urban backfill from New York City, exurbs, grime and business sprawl. South Jersey is full of Phillies fans, Jersey tomatoes, big, greasy hair and the Shore. Central Jersey is full of elite suburbs around Princeton and the buffer between its two geography neighbors.

But my native Sussex County, and Warren County beneath it, are decidedly dissimilar from North Jersey nomenclature. Despite growing up less than 60 miles from Manhattan and 90 miles from Philadelphia, my childhood could easily be classified as small town, in the Garden State’s prime rural hinterland that you didn’t know existed.

My parents left their New York City roots for the simpler pastures of Sussex County – bringing me to Newton, N.J. when I was still an infant, so I am our first-generation of this rural community, though I didn’t know it until I left there.

Continue reading Northwest New Jersey: a case for that extra geographical distinction

Fatherly Advice (NPR submission: 5/20/07)

By Christopher Wink | May 20, 2007 | NPR submission

It is too rare what I have, two spectacularly loving parents who coincidentally love each other as well. Still, understanding that I also someday want to be a competent father with strong arms and too much advice, I particularly idolize my own father in a way that everyone should have the privilege to do.

Because he is always muttering advice like clean up your own mess and never drive behind a car with a mattress on its roof. Advice like treat secretaries, custodians and garbage men with respect because they do the hard work. Advice like wear your seatbelt, and don’t be afraid to use a band-aid if it hurts.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey, a gentle swath of rural America that is only now being discovered by the faceless, suburban sprawl of family-style chain restaurants and one-stop shopping. I was freckle-faced, loved my mother’s cooking and posed for Norman Rockwell paintings.

Continue reading Fatherly Advice (NPR submission: 5/20/07)