Daily Opinion: I Hope Nepal Isn’t the New Haiti

Haiti shack

If you didn’t already know, Nepal experienced a significant earthquake that claimed 3600-3800 lives on Saturday, 4/25/2015. It may be even more at this point. As beautiful as life is, it can be pretty brutal sometimes too. This morning, I noticed there were several sites showing how to donate to the relief effort. You know what I thought of? Haiti.

Have you seen Haiti lately? It’s not like it’s a hell of a lot better than it was back in 2010 and $1.4 billion was donated by the US that year alone. I believe about $13 billion was eventually raised. So what happened? How could so many people raise that amount of money to help the needy yet the needy haven’t been helped nearly as much as you would have thought once it was no longer a hot news story?

There have been successes for sure. People were fed and given temporary housing. But then other actually lost their new housing to make way for new government buildings. Around 85000 people are in displacement camps with sanitary issues while many others have just opted to building sheds on whatever land they can get a hold of. More affluent areas that had no earthquake victims had new property built for some reason. Hell, $18 million was spent on a rec center and soccer field while people live in squalor nearby.

Vice recently interviewed this dude Jake Johnston who investigated what was going on with Haiti and he found most non-government donated money gets used for emergency relief while government donated money… well that’s a whole other story.

So this one blew my mind: the US embassy actually paid for houses to be built in Haiti… for their own employees. Meanwhile, they never came anywhere near close to completing their projected housing goals while also going way over the intended cost. On top of all this, the companies hired for this work redacts the hell out of their documents so visibility is practically at zero.

I REALLY hope Nepal isn’t the new Haiti, but there’s no way to really know. Experiences like Haiti can potentially sour others on the power of charity. It doesn’t take much to make someone jaded, especially when they try to go out of their way to do some good in this world. Rather than let that happen, let’s put some pressure on our respective governments to be open about where relief money goes. I understand that  we don’t have to give anything at all, but that’s not the mindset I think we should have here. Charity is good. Helping others is good. Ulterior motives while helping others? Misrepresenting where money is going? That’s bad.

Obviously.

I’m not certain how to go about demanding more information about relief efforts, but I do know there’s power in numbers. If you happen to feel the way I do or are involved in something that pertains to this topic, let me know! I’m going to keep reading and whatnot so I can hopefully learn more. Then perhaps I can make an impact, hopefully along with some good people out there.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Daily Opinion: Making a Case for Bronies

Spoken Word Piece: I Want a Puppy

Sir Francis Pugsly

I want a puppy
Don’t judge me, pretending to be above me
All I want is a puppy, but I don’t have any money
Okay, wait, maybe I could just ask for a puppy
Somebody please, can you do a brother a favor
I swear you’d be my personal savior
If you just give me puppy
Please
With gumdrops on top; not a shot? You puppy hoarding bumbaclot
Pardon my patois, I didn’t mean to offend, my friend
Just lend me some advice on how I can attain a puppy
All I want is a puppy
Okay, fine, I’ll get a job, just stop calling me bum or slob or whatever
Let’s see what monster.com has to offer for worse or better
Cover letters, résumés, sweating bullets thank god for three piece suits at interviews
Can you spy my sarcasm?
Can I have a puppy, goddamn it?
Well, finally I’m hired, only 50 years until I retire
But in the meantime, can you guess what I’m doing with this first paycheck?
Correct!
I’m getting a goddamn puppy
Haters gonna hate, but nobody better judge me
Because truth be told, I secretly hope that he’s cuddly
I made the mistake of stating this publicly
And I was called a faggot, all because I want a puppy
Salesmen hungry for commission spot me on my mission
They say, “Hey, buddy. You got puppy insurance?”
Dog house? Versace dog blouse? No?
Step right up, if you plan to own a puppy, you’ll certainly need this stuff
Don’t have the money now? Turn that frown upside down
Better yet, forget the frown, jot your information down
Get 20% off as long as you apply for this credit card
Your puppy dog needs the finest
You want him to be happy, don’t you? Then don’t fight it
And ignore those silly terms, this ain’t for reading, it’s for signing
Well, alright I suppose, if you really say so
Maybe you’re right, I’ll sign, crossed T’s dotted I’s; How could I say no?
It’s all for my puppy
But the days are getting ugly, trust me
Even with this puppy I dubbed Sir Francis Pugsly
Because it seems all my money goes to debt
And all the money that I don’t have goes to stuff
I appear to be stuck; such is life?
No, such is the pursuit of having, stressed from work getting blasted
On Henny and Jack, double fisting with two glasses
All because I wanted a mother fucking puppy
That’s it. That’s all. But look at what this system wants from me
Why did I want this puppy in the first place?
It was simply a thought one day; I feel it was a Sunday
I was thinking it’d be awesome to someday have a puppy
Now I have a puppy and money, such a joy to be me
I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’d gladly give this puppy back
And all this other stuff for a chance to be free

Previously: Losing You

Daily Opinion: Are Modular Jobs a Possibility?

Photo Credit: Cabinet Office
Photo Credit: Cabinet Office

So I’ve been doing some thinking.

Don’t worry, I didn’t hurt myself.

I’ve been mulling about the knowledge that I have and the jobs I’ve done throughout my life. I’ve also been thinking about the knowledge I have that doesn’t get applied at all during work. Now I have a proposal in mind.

Like to hear it? Here it go.

At my last and current job, I have a wide number of applications I need to be able to support. I also must possess knowledge about a number of platforms and apply said knowledge to my job. Then I get paid for applying some of that knowledge. Here’s the thing: I can’t be an expert at everything. Even if I become well versed in many areas, there will always be obscure tasks and information that I won’t know as well. Hell, I just encountered something yesterday that I haven’t dealt with in five months. It happens to the best of us.

What if I was paid per responsibility? What if we all were? I have a few goals with this proposal:

  1. ALL people must have a minimum income.
  2. ALL people must have a job.
  3. Businesses must distribute money more evenly.

Okay, let’s take the United States, for example. Minimum wage sucks so let’s throw that out the window. How about everyone in the US earns a salary of $30K a year regardless of the job they have? Sound better? Great. Now, everyone’s base job should be VERY specific. For example, instead of me supporting eight different applications, I’d be responsible for answering client-facing questions about Exchange or writing advanced SQL queries.That’s it. Additional responsibilities would stack on to and increment one’s salary by some pre-determined amount. So if each additional responsibility adds, say $2500, just four brings me to $40K a year.

But Andre, I’m a Debbie Downer and I’m determined to prove this can’t work. Humph!

Go ahead! I’m not saying I have all the answers, but couldn’t an idea like this be refined? Maybe even with teamwork rather than naysaying?

Regardless, here are some closing thoughts:

  • Like I said, this system isn’t working if a baseline isn’t established for EVERYONE. This minimum salary must cover basic needs with some wiggle room for regular spending or saving. Otherwise, y’know, people end up supporting our economy with money that doesn’t actually exist. *cough*credit*cough*
  • Oh yeah, I forgot. FREE EDUCATION.
  • Responsibilities should be trained and people acquire certifications for each responsibility. Subject matter experts are paid to keep all documentation and knowledge current and up to date so certifications need updating as years pass.
  • Obviously some jobs require more skill than others. Some jobs are also much higher in demand. There should be a salary “bonus” as a motivator for people who work these types of jobs. Several factors should be taken into account to calculate this bonus: the number of required positions versus the current positions filled, the population of available candidate, average number of assumed responsibilities, etc. Additionally, all current people who already fill that role are eligible for the bonus, but all people should understand the bonus fluctuates as demand drops for certain skills/responsibilities.
  • In addition to certifications for skills, all workers are evaluated regularly for performance and aptitude. This way, if they are not a fit for the job/responsibility, they can be pushed in a different direction that better suits them rather than simple termination.

Maybe this is dreamland. Or maybe it isn’t. I think if we actually came together and discussed this, a system like this could work. The aspects I care about most is the ability to ensure all people meet some standard of living and a more even playing field. If everyone is so infatuated with money, how about we create a system where things are a but more fair.

No? Doesn’t sound worth it? Then please openly admit you’re fine with starvation and poverty. I mean, I know that sounds harsh, but capitalism (the way we use it) does nothing to solve those issues.

Anywho, I’m totally open to suggestions, alternate solutions, or just plain debate. Let me know what you think! This isn’t a perfect solution, but I think it’s one that is a viable alternative to just throwing this whole stupid system in the garbage where it belongs. With some tweaking and actual analysis, who knows what this could become? We’ll never know if we don’t talk about it.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: ISIS Brings Humanity to a Crossroads

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Learning about Investing

Photo Credit: OTA Photos
Photo Credit: OTA Photos

I love the internet, regardless about how much I complain about YouTube trolls and the constant influx of baby pictures on my Facebook stream. I love it because I can learn almost anything with the internet. I can also earn money using the internet. I met my fiance because of the internet. I released an album because of the internet.

I’m writing to you right now because of the internet.

Whenever I have a problem I can’t find myself, I watch videos. I read. I do as much as I can to absorb knowledge. For me, videos come first and if I have a thirst, I read. If you read this blog regularly, you already know I’m interested in data analysis. But I’m also interested in investing. The problem is, I didn’t actually know the real basics behind investing.

I look at things this way: capitalism is a game. It’s ruthless and the stakes are incredibly high, but it’s a game nonetheless. Well, every game has rules. To succeed in a game you, of course need to know the rules, but that’s not really enough. See, capitalism is full of unfair advantages. I can definitely delve into that further, but I’ll save it for another article.

Anyway, I have a problem: I want to get into investing, but I have some things working against me. I learned about the things working against me by watching an accessible video on investing: William Ackman: Everything You Need to Know About Finance and Investing in Under an Hour

Seriously. If you have an interest in investing, but have zero background, watch this video

That said, I’m not telling anyone to run out there and start dumping their money into stocks. I’m just saying I’m looking into dabbling in investing, but not before I have a nice lump of cash stashed away. In the meantime, I have a few questions while I continue to learn:

  1. How easy/difficult is it to earn $30K a year with investing. I’m not saying that’s what I’m trying to do (yet), but let’s just say I’m interested. Also, I realize this isn’t a simple question to ask, but curiosity has me nonetheless.
  2. How many people get into investing with an exit strategy in mind?
  3. I know investing is basically gambling (even gamblers have a strategy) so I should expect losses if I get into this. What is the baseline profit/loss ratio that makes continuing worth it in the short term. Obviously, net profit/loss is what matters, but assuming I’m profiting, is there a ratio of profit to loss that I should strive for as a baseline?

Anyway, I’m just starting out so don’t mind me if I sound like a noob. While my girlfriend and I are separated by a massive body of water, I’ll be teaching myself some new things. Check out my Dream Chasers series to find out more about my future plans that are not just income related. Also, if you have any questions or helpful advice, let me know! Let’s all win together!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Tim Ferriss Clones and the BS of Capitalism

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Tim Ferriss Clones and the BS of Capitalism

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond
Photo Credit: Anne Helmond

Last night I watched a movie called Nightcrawler. It was such a good movie I actually watched it twice in a row. I’m not going to spoil anything, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character that finds success with three tactics.

  1. Rigorous research and planning
  2. Persistence
  3. Taking calculated risks

Now, feel free to formulate your own opinions of his (brilliant) character, but I admire a few of his qualities, even if they were questionable. Sorry to tip toe around that one, but this movie is so easy to spoil. Go see it. Right now.

That movie also made me realize there are a ton of people I see like this online. If you’re a blogger and have ever searched for tips on how to grow your audience, you’re sure to have come across this type. Or maybe you just want to make money online. You know this guy.

The Tim Ferriss clone.

These are a bunch of people with (seemingly) heaps of knowledge on how to earn money, drive traffic, or whatever else you want. They give you a bit of (seemingly) useful knowledge to show you they’re smart, but it’s never enough for you to gain some real insight. Not for free anyway. It’s odd. It’s almost like paying to learn how you were tricked to pay for information so you can do the same to others.

Capitalism is a mother f**ker.

Now mind you, this isn’t ALWAYS the tactic, but as someone who is searching for a means of earning money independently, I see a ton of these guys around. They’re sharks patiently swimming in the water, waiting for SEO to bring you within striking range. These guys all have strong, direct speech and come off a the guy who is care free and wants to share his secrets.

Remember Lost? That show was selling secrets too. We all know how that one ended.

I bought the 4 Hour Workweek a while ago and it’s insane to see how many people have adopted this methodology and are trying make knowledge a commodity. Truth be told, I’m writing this out of frustration because I’m a struggling blogger whose money is going toward starting a new life with my fiancé. I can’t bother with your class, even if it’s worth more than the $199 you’re pitching.

Great. Now we have knowledge poverty. If you read my blog (hopefully you do), you know I’m anti-establishment. I see a system taking shape right before our eyes. I’ll break it down like this:

  1. Everything starts with statistics and research. This separates success from failure. Do you think successful poker players just win by luck? That’d be silly. They know statistics. It gives them an edge in staying ahead of competition. People who take this seriously are (theoretically) always observing data. Even data gathered from the people paying to get their information.
  2. Most people suck at gathering valid statistics. I certainly do. A lot of people have ideas, but knowing key statistics makes you a valuable resource because most people just want to be told how they can win the game. But you can never “win” the game, because the game never ends. You can only increase your odds of not being a loser.
  3. Selling knowledge means you are selling people the opportunity to increase their odds. But the people doing the selling will never sell everything. They’ll sell enough and become experts in their fields because data is always changing and they are likely better at gathering stats that will keep them successful. There will always be an audience that just wants to know and some of them become repeat customers. Knowledge is power after all.

I kid you not, Nightcrawler made me think about this in an entirely different way. Now I may be wrong here, but it seems to me anyone can achieve the same if you’re smart enough. But I’m not smart enough and this market of selling knowledge is quickly becoming flooded anyway. Especially for kinda-sorta vague specialties like marketing experts.

My problem is if you never learn how to truly gather and analyze stats, you’ll never stay ahead of the curve. This holds true for EVERYTHING in business. Stats are huge. Stats are just as important to your blog growth as it is to corporations starting a new line of products. But for us common folk, we either have to learn it, pay/partner with someone who can gather stats for you. You can get services, but you still need context for numbers. How does this relate to your business? How does it relate to emerging markets? You can do so much, which is why I’m stayed up all night studying web analytics and stat interpretation. It’s amazing how incorrectly I’ve been looking at this whole thing. Now I get why data is so important and why everyone and their advertising mama wants access to it. They want that advantage. This totally relates to capitalism as a whole.

Capitalism thrives on advantages and these things run deep. Wealth, race, gender, sexuality, and nationality all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on where you fall. The internet isn’t perfect, but it definitely helps to negate some of those categories as factors. I mean, the thought of a random Jamaican from Paterson, NJ becoming a freelance writer in the 1960’s is ridiculous.

But stats and numbers are powerful. We have the world we have today partially because we have companies that study us and market toward the things to which we gravitate. That’s why we have trends. But if you never understand the science behind why things become trends and jumping on markets before it becomes flooded. Essentially, most of us don’t understand our own data. We have pictures and posts and all manner of information out there and few of us truly realize how powerful that is. Powerful enough for me to study. I hate studying, but I want to learn this, but not for the reasons you may think.

I want to figure out a way to make stat interpretation easy. Or maybe a way to give people a way of seeing how their data is relevant to companies and the world at large. There’s got to be a cool way to spread awareness on this.

Actually, that sounds like an awesome idea. Anyone want to help me build that? I can’t pay anything, but there’s no profit in this idea anyway. I’m willing to partner with whoever actually cares about this idea. I’m not smart enough to know all the ins and outs of what I want, but I’m a quick learner when motivated and there’s a fire brewing in my belly.

In the short term, I’m totally going to put this theory to test to see if stats and data analysis is the real game changer I think it is when it comes to earning money. That’s more so I have a steady flow of income while I’m over in Thailand with my beautiful future wife. Other than that, I want to partner with some people who can make this happen. Or hell, steal this idea if you want. Just do it for the right reasons. We have enough people trying to profit from us.

Hit me up in the comments if you have ideas to contribute. I’m going to talk to a couple smart people I know and return with more thoughts later, but I urge you all to learn more about data analysis and statistics. I know I will be.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

The Dream Chaser Project: Week 2 – My Expat Criteria

Photo Credit: danorbit
Photo Credit: danorbit

How goes it, dream chasers? This week I had to do a bit of solo research when it comes to working remotely/independently and living outside of the US because my lovely fiancé has been sick.

Trust me, I tried bugging her, but her body wasn’t having it.

In the meantime, I decided to keep things simple and determine the criteria most important to me when it comes to choosing a country in which to reside. A few things to note:

  • I may end up adding to these criteria once the wife-to-be is feeling well enough to add her two cents.
  • I’ll be ranking the criteria based on what’s most important to me. This is also subject to change.
  • Living in the US is still an option, though I really would prefer to experience another culture.
  • Going nomadic may be an option as well.

Let’s get this party started.

  1. Monthly Cost of Living – This one is pretty obvious, right? I’d like to live somewhere cheaper than I do now. Granted, I live near New York so rent, food, etc. is pricier than other places. Seeing as how I want to maintain finances without working my tail off, this is a pretty major consideration.
  2. Ease of Residency – Some countries like Italy and France are difficult when it comes to expats attaining residency. When it coms time to make our move, I’m looking to do it as quickly as possible so… you know… ain’t nobody got time for that.
  3. Internet – This may seem like an odd one to place so high, but right now all of my income is generated from remote jobs and online freelancing. Also I have a blog to maintain, thank you very much.
  4. Crime – Who wants to deal with crime?
  5. Healthcare – Wherever we live, it’d be awesome to have a hospital in somewhat close proximity. That said, general quality of healthcare is a factor that we’ll be considering.
  6. Nature – This may sound silly, but I want to be around nature. I’ve been around urban areas my entire life; concrete and asphalt just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. I don’t have to be in the middle of the Amazon or anything, but being surrounded by some green wouldn’t be a bad thing.
  7. Public Transportation – Public transportation is good for the planet! Well, better than everyone having a car, right? Sadly, this is still last on my list, though it’s important nonetheless.

I’m currently putting together a spreadsheet ranking several countries we’re considering based on these criteria. I’ll share this in next week’s post. If you guys have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to let me know!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Week 1

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Chris Potter
Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Putting a budget together sucks. Quite a way to begin a blog post,eh?

If you read part one of this piece, you know my current goal is to save $15000 (US) by July. This is a tall order for a guy who currently works part-time. I’ll go back to fulltime work if a worthwhile gig comes along. But in the meantime, I need to focus on the minimum amount of income I need in order to achieve this goal. Last time, I came up with the following numbers:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

Remember, this takes saving and bills into account. Honestly, I feel like this could be much worse. It’s by no means simple (I’m essentially starting my life over from scratch), but I’m confident I can swing this if I keep my head in the game.

Right now I make about $47 a day in part-time work. While I’ve applied this over the course of seven days, I’m actually only working about 20 hours a week. Also, I tend to make more because I log out late some days, but I don’t want to rely on that. I need to know what I’m guaranteed. I don’t know what works for you, but if some amount of money isn’t a sure thing (or a close approximation), I see no good reason to track it. It’s simply a bonus.

Like when you randomly find a 20 dollar bill in your coat pocket.

So I’m a bit more of 1/3 of the way there (depending on the month).

Awesome.

Sort of.

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Either I need to get that fulltime job I’ve been avoiding or I need to simply earn more money. Truth be told, I became a bit spoiled over the last few months as time is a much better motivation for me than money. Earning more is awesome, but if I go that route, I want to ensure it’s an ideal situation for me. I’m not trying to be stressed out of my mind all day then take my work home so I can continue that feeling all night.

Been there, done that.

So I need to make up the rest of it with freelance work unless anything changes. This is where things get tricky.

I make my side moola freelance writing or editing. Recently I landed a somewhat steady editing gig, but I’m not getting any more than $55 a week from them. In this case, steady definitely doesn’t mean a lot of hours.Either way, let’s just reduce this to $30 a week because that $55 isn’t guaranteed. Per day, that’s about $4.29. Not much but it gets me over $50 a day.

Side note: I realize this is going to be a ballgame with a ton of singles and doubles. So be it. I should have been better at this months ago, but life (or in my case, love) became a higher priority than making money.

Yes, it’s actually true.

But with my fiancé stuck in Sweden until we have that K1 visa, I don’t mind putting forth some extra effort to reach this goal.

Anyway, if we’re talking about February, I need to make about $98 more per day to hit my goal. Actually, let’s just go with $150 per day as a nice, round goal. I realize this is totally stream of conscious and I should probably just update what I wrote before, but I’m lazy as all sin right now. Deal with it.

Most content writing gigs offer crap for pay and, quite frankly, are not worth my time. Some of them are decent if I need money in a pinch, but most of them demand a lot of effort with marginal returns. Next week I’ll dive into freelance writing more and what I’m doing to increase my odds of landing better paying gigs. But for now, let’s finish up the rest of this budget.

While income is a significant part of tracking finances, I would argue spending is far more crucial. That’s because any money that is earned will ALWAYS help. Spending, on the other hand, hinders monetary growth unless its an investment in something else that will generate revenue.

Luckily, getting laid off curtailed my loosey-goosey spending habits big time. All I need is food, honestly. I’m basically in stasis until my fiancé and I are back together. It sounds horrible, but I’m fine with limiting my outings, only spending when I end up exceeding my daily goal consistently. One or two days aren’t a green light to loosen up those purse strings.

January will end up being a proof of concept month. I will be tracking ALL of my spending. This way I’ll have a concrete idea of where money is going and where I can cut corners sans any negative repercussions. Here’s what I can estimate at the very least:

  • $25 a week on groceries (very doable living alone and being a vegetarian)
  • $5 a week on public transportation (I’m still debating selling my car. Right now it’s not on the road so I don’t have to pay for insurance)
  • $50 every two weeks miscellaneous spending

This is a strict budget. As you can see, I’m keeping it pretty minimal as I’m not factoring in much. This is because I don’t need much. This savings goal is more important than stuff I want to buy so I may as well act like it.

Okay, folks; that’s it for now. Join me next week when I start talking about things you can do to help snag more writing gigs (this should be appropriate for other types of freelance work too). I hope your journey is as exciting as mine and, as always, hit me up in the comments if you have any tip or feedback of your own!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)