I’m a Supercommuter. Here’s What It’s Really Like. - Kanebridge News
Share Button

I’m a Supercommuter. Here’s What It’s Really Like.

The money, miles and stamina it takes to work in New York and live in Columbus, Ohio

By CHIP CUTTER
Tue, Jan 9, 2024 10:12amGrey Clock 5 min

Sometimes I sleep in a different New York City hotel room every night.

On a recent Monday, it was a Midtown Manhattan Hampton Inn. The next night, a budget hotel downtown. Then I moved to a Hyatt in Queens, near John F. Kennedy International Airport, where I waited to check in behind a group of pilots and flight attendants.

The reason for this madness: My job is in New York, but my apartment is in Columbus, Ohio. When hotel prices are high, I property-surf to find a lower rate.

For more than a year, to the bafflement of family, friends and colleagues, I have attempted to live and work as a supercommuter. What began as a postpandemic experiment of flying to and from New York each week has turned into what I am hesitant to call a lifestyle.

Like many, I moved out of the city early in the pandemic, relocating near family in the Midwest. When it came time to return in 2022, I was underwhelmed at the housing options in my price range. I toured one-room studios facing brick walls and climbed crumbling staircases to reach dank apartments with ancient fixtures. I also had grown accustomed to midweek evening walks with my sister in Ohio, and a short drive to see my parents. I didn’t want to fully give that up.

Using back-of-the-envelope math, I thought I could keep my expenses—rent in Ohio, plus travel costs—at or below the price of a nice New York studio, or roughly $3,200 a month. The Wall Street Journal requires office attendance at least three days a week and, since I commute by choice, I pay all my travel expenses.

Luxury suites and room service

The challenge felt oddly thrilling. If anybody could find a way to subvert high New York real-estate costs, while remaining close to family, I thought it might be me. For years, I’ve been an on-call travel guru to friends and co-workers, coaching people on how to navigate flight cancellations and play the credit-card bonus games. I memorise aircraft configurations and spend hours reading mileage blogs and industry sites like Airliners.net.

Before mileage runs became useless, I obsessed over reaching top-tier airline status by spending as little as possible. (Family members still roll their eyes at the six hours I spent in Anchorage one December afternoon to requalify for Delta’s Diamond tier.) When a flight is oversold, I am quick to volunteer my seat in exchange for a voucher. (My best-ever haul: $2,000 after giving up my seat on multiple oversold flights one Saturday in San Francisco.)

Nerding out about this stuff has allowed me to travel farther and in more rarefied air than I could otherwise afford.

Entering my supercommuter era, I had visions of flying to New York on a weekday morning (8,500 points one way on American Airlines), spending the day meeting sources and filing stories, and retiring to one of my favorite points hotels—the Beekman. Mornings would begin with a free breakfast thanks to my Hyatt status, before a short subway ride to the office. After two nights, I’d return to Columbus and my roomy apartment, half the price of a Manhattan studio.

Shocking no one, that fantasy soon came crashing down.

Burning points on fancy hotel rooms was the first problem. The life of a journalist is hard to predict. I repeatedly found myself on deadline and having to rebook flights or stay an extra night, costing me money or miles.

Once I was back in the city, it also got harder to say no. Stay an extra night to attend a friend’s birthday party or meet a CEO in town just for the day? Sign me up. I didn’t want my living situation to strain relationships or interfere with my job, which I love.

To conserve hotel points, I swapped the Beekman’s elegant rooms in lower Manhattan for a Hyatt attached to a casino in Jamaica, Queens. My rooms overlooked a sea of empty parking spaces, but required half as many points as Manhattan alternatives.

Flight delays and blown budgets

By summer, with my miles dwindling and New York hotel rates rising, I reluctantly began to rely on the kindness of those around me. Hearing I might need a place, one friend mailed me the keys to her family’s unoccupied apartment in New Jersey. Another let me stay in her smartly designed Brooklyn one-bedroom for weeks as she traveled. A cherished deskmate, known for her tell-it-like-it-is demeanour, repeatedly offered a bedroom in her Chelsea loft, handing over the keys with a sometimes expletive-tinged reminder to: “Get a f—ing apartment.”

I watered plants, walked friends’ dogs and fed their cats while they were away. Still, working in a city without a permanent home took a toll. I came to dread the go-to question asked at parties and work events in New York: “So where do you live?”

After house sitting for friends, I fell in love with some of their pets, including my friend Vanessa’s Border Collie mix, Ivy. But when in hotels without a refrigerator or stove, uninspiring meals abounded; a late-night dinner of yogurt and fruit.
CHIP CUTTER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

If I admitted, “it’s kind of complicated,” I got sucked into explaining my life as a supercommuter. Sometimes, I’d just tell people the location of that evening’s hotel. (Chelsea!)

Costs mounted in the fall, New York’s prime tourist and business-travel season. Friends teased me for embracing a life of chaos. They weren’t wrong. Without a refrigerator or stove, late-night dinners often consisted of yogurt and fruit purchased from a 24-hour CVS. Needing to pack light, I stored shoes under my desk and left spare outfits on an office coat rack.

To get to the office on time, I set my alarm in Columbus for 4:15 a.m. and hustled to the airport for 6 a.m. flights. When everything went according to plan, I made it door-to-door in three hours. If delays occurred, I scrambled to rebook on other flights.

My obsessive tracking of New York hotel prices taught me that dynamic pricing isn’t reserved for airlines. Hotel costs can fluctuate half a dozen times on the check-in date, so instead of booking in advance, I’d wait to pull the trigger until 10 p.m. some days after the rates fell.

In the end, the math didn’t work. I blew my budget by 15% and drained my miles balance. But I flew so much and stayed in so many hotels that I kept my elite status with Hyatt and American.

I still enjoy having one foot in the Midwest and one on the East Coast, though I’m not sure how long I can keep it up. I’m writing this from Columbus, where I overlook a beautiful park outside my picture window. My lease is up, but hotel rates in Manhattan this winter have plunged now that the holidays are over. Maybe that New York apartment search can be put off a little longer.



MOST POPULAR

What a quarter-million dollars gets you in the western capital.

Alexandre de Betak and his wife are focusing on their most personal project yet.

Related Stories
Property
I.M. Pei’s Son Speaks of His Father’s Legacy of Creating ‘Places for People’ Ahead of a Retrospective in Hong Kong
By ABBY SCHULTZ 12/06/2024
Lifestyle
EV Trade War Could Spread to Luxury Cars
By STEPHEN WILMOT 12/06/2024
Money
To Find Winning Stocks, Investors Often Focus on the Laggards. They Shouldn’t.
By KEN SHREVE 12/06/2024

These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .