Tag Archives: money

My Early Experiences With Bitcoin And Helpful Tips I’ve Uncovered

Recently, I finally took the plunge and bought some Bitcoin. I even wrote shared the experience. Overall, it wasn’t that groundbreaking. It didn’t involve a radical rethinking of how I used or thought about money. It was not that different from depositing money in a new account from an ATM. The account in this case just happened to be Bitcoin.

Since then, I’ve bought more Bitcoin. To date, I have a couple hundred bucks in my lone Bitcoin wallet. I’m still using BRD, which is one of the simplest wallets you can get. I have looked into getting others that have more features, but many of them seem to be more trouble than they’re worth.

That may change. I am quite interested in what BitPay has to offer with some of their services, but for now, I’m content to stick with BRD.

However, since I bought my Bitcoins, one issue has come up and I suspect it’s still the primary issue that most people face when they first get involved in this. It’s probably the same issue that prevents a lot of people from getting into it to begin with.

How do I spend my Bitcoins once I have them?

It’s the main issue that all these cryptocurrencies face. Getting them and securing them is challenging enough. Actually spending them like real money is still a challenge. While there are some noteworthy merchants that accept Bitcoin, most major retail outlets do not. You cannot use Bitcoin at Amazon or WalMart or even a standard grocery store just yet. Until that changes, its use will be limited.

This is what kept me from buying much of anything with my Bitcoins. Then, I discovered a useful tool that has helped make that easier and I think it’s worth sharing. While it’s true that companies like Amazon and Apple don’t accept Bitcoin directly, you can still use them. You just have to do it indirectly.

One way to do this is to use a site I found called Bitrefill. What it does is simple. You just use your Bitcoins to purchase digital gift cards for popular retail outlets. It works like this.

Step 1: Go to Bitrefill.com and browse the various gift card options, which includes the likes of Amazon and Walmart.

Step 2: Pick a gift card, choose an amount, and enter your Bitcoin account information for the desired amount, which is usually around $50 to $100.

Step 3: Complete the purchase and wait for the gift card code to come in via email. Then, just add the amount to your existing account.

For those who buy most of their stuff on Amazon, this is a quick way to turn your Bitcoins into something spendable. There are a few other workarounds, like Moon and Purse.io, but I’ve found this to be the easiest. There’s even a similar website called CoinsBee that allows you to do the same to your Apple iTunes account.

Basically, if you know how to send or spend gift cards, you can spend Bitcoin. Does it require a few extra steps from traditional cash? Yes, it does, but you can still spend it.

That may still raise the question as to why bother with Bitcoin in the first place. If it’s just adding an extra step between you and the retailers you prefer, then what’s the point? Well, this is where I’d like to share another part of my Bitcoin experience.

After buying my first batch, the price went up. I don’t know why, but it did. Suddenly, the first hundred bucks I put in was worth $125. That was great. It was downright thrilling. Granted, it did go down to around $103, but it was still impactful in a major way.

That’s because Bitcoin, unlike traditional money, fluctuates in value. Many see it as a reason why they don’t buy in. It’s just too volatile. I can understand that, but I also understand the impact of inflation.

If you go to your bank account right now and look at your money, you won’t see it change much in terms of value. However, inflation does ensure that its value goes down. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just basic economics. Over time, most fiat currency loses value. That has been the trend for nearly a century.

With Bitcoin, it fluctuates. One day, it has more value. The other, it has less. You’ll win on some days, but lose with others. With regular cash, though, you always lose. You don’t lose nearly as much. Most of the time, it happens so slowly that you don’t even notice. Even so, losing is still losing.

The Bitcoins I have now may only be worth a few hundred bucks. By this time next year, they could be worth a lot more. That’s even more money I can convert to Amazon or WalMart gift cards. There’s also a chance the price could crash, as it has before, but given the finite nature of Bitcoin, there’s more incentive for its value to increase rather than decrease.

That doesn’t mean its value will always go up. There’s still a non-zero chance that Bitcoin’s value could stall or outright collapse, as other currencies have in the past. That’s why I’m not converting all my money into Bitcoin anytime soon.

For the time being, though, I’m satisfied and encouraged by my Bitcoin experience. I also encourage others to get into it as well, if only to get a feel for it. Hopefully, the sites I’ve listed here will help you get some use out of your Bitcoins. Money is a powerful force in this world. So long as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies keep operating as such, they’ll have a part in our future. Now is as good a time as any to carve your place in that future.

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Filed under Bitcoin, Jack Fisher's Insights, technology

What Keeps Bitcoin From Being A (Bigger) Part Of Our Future

I consider myself an enthusiast of technology. On many occasions, I’ve wildly speculated about emerging technology and expressed unapologetic excitement about certain trends. In general, I have the utmost respect and support for those who share this passion. I don’t always agree with their outlook or speculation, but I get where they’re coming from.

Then, there are Bitcoin enthusiasts. I’ll just come out and say I have mixed feelings about them.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to diminish what a remarkable technology Bitcoin is. It is a complicated and, at times, confusing technology. Even the Wikipedia page only does so much to explain what it is, where it came from, and why it matters. That’s not surprising. There was plenty of confusion about the internet too when it first emerged.

While I don’t consider myself an enthusiast, Bitcoin has sparked my curiosity. I do sometimes look into major news stories and developments surrounding the technology. The fact that it has lasted over a decade and made some people legitimate millionaires is proof enough that Bitcoin has real, tangible value. Those who keep saying that Bitcoin is just a fad or will crash are becoming increasingly scarce.

I’m convinced that Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies like it, are here to stay. They’ve proven that they have value in an increasingly digital landscape. As the internet becomes more prevalent and accessible, their role will only grow. That being said, I’m not yet convinced Bitcoin’s role will go beyond a certain point.

Those who say Bitcoin is the future of money are likely talking in hyperbole.

Those who say Bitcoin and the blockchain are the most revolutionary technologies since email are also likely exaggerating.

I don’t doubt for a second that these people believe in what they’re saying. I just haven’t seen enough to warrant that kind of enthusiasm. The issue isn’t as much about the merits of the technology as it is about how it’s being used. I’m not just referring to its role in the illegal drug trade, either.

At the moment, Bitcoin is fairly accessible. If you have a smartphone and an internet connection, you can download a simple wallet for free. If you do a quick search for a Bitcoin ATM, you can purchase Bitcoins with the same ease you would when purchasing a gift card. It’s what you do after that where the issues arise.

What exactly can you buy with Bitcoin that you can’t buy more easily through other means? That’s not me being facetious. This is where I tend to diverge with Bitcoin enthusiasts. I understand that some major ecommerce sites accept Bitcoin, namely Overstock. I’m also aware that more and more retailers are accepting Bitcoin.

However, the only ones taking advantage of that option are those who go out of their way to use Bitcoin. For most people, especially those who aren’t as tech savvy, there just aren’t enough benefits to warrant the extra effort. On top of that, Bitcoin does have some lingering flaws that are hard to work around. Then again, you can say the same thing about traditional money.

None of that even begins to highlight the growing issues associated with mining Bitcoins.

Now, that could change. It’s not a certainty, but it is a possibility. Like any new tech, the issue isn’t always about whether or not it works. Bitcoin clearly works and it’s been working for nearly a decade. It’s whether or not there’s a “killer app” to entice ordinary people to go through the effort of learning about, acquiring, and using Bitcoin.

The problem is that, thanks to incidents like the Silk Road, the primary use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies like it have been for the purchase of drugs or other illicit services. Regardless of how you feel about the politics surrounding illegal drugs and services, that’s the reputation Bitcoin has. It’s just a way for criminals and their cohorts to operate.

That’s not a killer app. It’s also not sustainable.

In order for Bitcoin to play a bigger part in our future, it needs to have a good, meaningful use. It took cell phones decades to find that. Just being able to make phone calls, remember phone numbers, and occasionally host a game of solitaire wasn’t enough. Other apps like music, video chatting, and cameras had to get into the mix before the public and the market embraced them.

That’s what Bitcoin needs. I don’t claim to know what that entails. I think Bitcoin has to get to a point where using it is as simple as using a credit card or debit card. It also needs a particular use or product that will justify the physical and financial investment. That use also can’t be illegal. It’s no secret that the internet owes much of its early growth to the porn industry, but porn isn’t illegal.

Bitcoin, in my opinion, will need something bigger than porn. It might also need to wait until more parts of the world are connected to broadband internet. Maybe it involves voting, enforcing contracts, or the development of new peer-to-peer networks, such as Open Bazaar. I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to figure it out at the moment.

In the meantime, I’ll certainly keep an eye on Bitcoin. I don’t deny it has its uses in the current world. It’s just too limited right now. Whether it has a large or small role in the future that awaits us remains to be seen.

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A Note To Investors/Enthusiasts Of Dogecoin

We live in a strange time. I know you could say that about almost any point in history, but let’s face it. The past year has been more eventful than most. The past few months have been even more eventful if you’re an investor or follow economic news. We recently learned that a multi-billion dollar hedge fund is no match for a bunch of shit-posters on Reddit.

I’m not gonna lie. That story still puts a smile on my face. Last year sucked, but when a bunch of shit-posters on Reddit tank a predatory hedge fund, the world is an objectively better place.

As much fun as that is, there are some other stories related to investing that are worth noting. On top of the craziness caused by r/WallStreetBets, it has been just as chaotic for investors of cryptocurrencies. When the financial world is in chaos, cryptocurrencies that thumb their nose at old economic institutions tend to thrive.

Now, full disclosure, I do own Bitcoins. That’s the only cryptocurrency I own and I don’t own much. I’m not a bold investor. I buy index funds and ETFs. I would not fit in on r/WallStreetBets, nor would I be a good evangelist for Bitcoin.

For that same reason, I’d like to send a special note to those currently caught up in the Dogecoin craze. If you don’t know what Dogecoin is, then that’s understandable. It is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, but it’s unique in a few very particular ways.

Most notably, Dogecoin is often treated as a joke. That’s because it started off as one.

That’s not my opinion. That’s literally part of its origin. Its creators, Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer, were legitimately surprised when people started using it. I guess they didn’t get the joke.

That doesn’t mean Dogecoin has absolutely nothing going for it. It is a functioning cryptocurrency that uses some of the same technology as Bitcoin. Its most notable difference is that, unlike Bitcoin, there’s no limit to how many Dogecoins can be mined. Whereas Bitcoin can only ever have 21 million, Dogecoins can be mined indefinitely.

It may seem like a small difference, but that difference matters if you understand the basics of scarcity in economics. Most people understand it on some levels. If you can make an infinite amount of something, then it’s not going to have much value. If something is incredibly finite and difficult to obtain, like gold or Bitcoins, it’s going to have more value.

It’s that concept that I’d like to convey to those cheering on Dogecoin. Thanks to the recent upheavals from r/WallStreetBets, Dogecoin has been surging more than most currencies and even people like Elon Musk are cheering it on.

That’s not unusual. Sometimes, certain assets get propped up for a brief period. That has happened a lot with cryptocurrencies over the past decade. However, with Dogecoin, it’s a lot more style than substance.

Whereas Bitcoin gains value as it becomes more accepted in various sectors of the economy, Dogecoin gains value because people are just cheering it on. One has long-term sustainability. The other ends as soon as people get bored or find something else to cheer on.

Today, it’s Dogecoin.

Tomorrow, it could be JackCoin, a cryptocurrency made exclusively for people named Jack.

Is that the dumbest idea in the history of finance? I don’t know, but entire economies have gone bust for dumb things before.

Again, I’m not an investment expert. I’m not giving investment advice to anyone. However, to those thinking about getting in on the Dogecoin craze, I offer one important message.

You can win with style over substance in a lot of things, but not when it comes to money. At some point, a product has to demonstrate its value. You can only prop it up for so long before basic economic forces take over. It’s not fair and it’s not rational, but that’s how economics work.

Dogecoin will find that out at some point. Investors may have to find out the hard way.

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Filed under Bitcoin, Current Events, rants

Why We Should Treat Our Data As (Valuable) Property

Many years ago, I created my first email address before logging into the internet. It was a simple AOL account. I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t think I was creating anything valuable. At the time, the internet was limited to slow, clunky dial-up that had little to offer in terms of content. I doubt anyone saw what they were doing as creating something of great value.

I still have that email address today in case you’re wondering. I still regularly use it. I imagine a lot of people have an email address they created years ago for one of those early internet companies that used to dominate a very different digital world. They may not even see that address or those early internet experiences as valuable.

Times have changed and not just in terms of pandemics. In fact, times tends to change more rapidly in the digital world than it does in the real world. The data we created on the internet, even in those early days, became much more valuable over time. It served as the foundation on which multi-billion dollar companies were built.

As a result, the data an individual user imparts onto the internet has a great deal of value. You could even argue that the cumulative data of large volumes of internet users is among the most valuable data in the world.

Politicians, police, the military, big businesses, advertising agencies, marketing experts, economists, doctors, and researchers all have use for this data. Many go to great lengths to get it, sometimes through questionable means.

The growing value of this data raises some important questions.

Who exactly owns this data?

How do we go about treating it from a legal, fiscal, and logistical standpoint?

Is this data a form of tangible property, like land, money, or labor?

Is this something we can exchange, trade, or lease?

What is someone’s recourse if they want certain aspects of their data removed, changed, or deleted?

These are all difficult questions that don’t have easy answers. It’s getting to a point where ownership of data was an issue among candidates running for President of the United States. Chances are, as our collective data becomes more vital for major industries, the issue will only grow in importance.

At the moment, it’s difficult to determine how this issue will evolve. In the same way I had no idea how valuable that first email address would be, nobody can possibly know how the internet, society, the economy, and institutions who rely on that data will evolve. The best solution in the near term might not be the same as the best solution in the long term.

Personally, I believe that our data, which includes our email addresses, browsing habits, purchasing habits, and social media posts, should be treated as personal property. Like money, jewels, or land, it has tangible value. We should treat it as such and so should the companies that rely on it.

However, I also understand that there are complications associated with this approach. Unlike money, data isn’t something you can hold in your hand. You can’t easily hand it over to another person, nor can you claim complete ownership of it. To some extent, the data you create on the internet was done with the assistance of the sites you use and your internet service provider.

Those companies could claim some level of ownership of your data. It might even be written in the fine print of those user agreements that nobody ever reads. It’s hard to entirely argue against such a claim. After all, we couldn’t create any of this data without the aid of companies like Verizon, AT&T, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. At the same time, these companies couldn’t function, let alone profit, without our data.

It’s a difficult question to resolve. It only gets more difficult when you consider laws like the “right to be forgotten.” Many joke that the internet never forgets, but it’s no laughing matter. Peoples’ lives can be ruined, sometimes through no fault of their own. Peoples’ private photos have been hacked and shared without their permission.

In that case, your data does not at all function like property. Even if it’s yours, you can’t always control it or what someone else does with it. You can try to take control of it, but it won’t always work. Even data that was hacked and distributed illegally is still out there and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Despite those complications, I still believe that our data is still the individual’s property to some extent, regardless of what the user agreements of tech companies claim. Those companies provide the tools, but we’re the ones who use them to build something. In the same way a company that makes hammers doesn’t own the buildings they’re used to make, these companies act as the catalyst and not the byproduct.

Protecting our data, both from theft and from exploitation, is every bit as critical as protecting our homes. An intruder into our homes can do a lot of damage. In our increasingly connected world, a nefarious hacker or an unscrupulous tech company can do plenty of damage as well.

However, there’s one more critical reason why I believe individuals need to take ownership of their data. It has less to do with legal jargon and more to do with trends in technology. At some point, we will interact with the internet in ways more intimate than a keyboard and mouse. The technology behind a brain/computer interface is still in its infancy, but it exists and not just on paper.

Between companies like Neuralink and the increasing popularity of augmented reality, the way we interact with technology is bound to get more intimate/invasive. Clicks and link sharing are valuable today. Tomorrow, it could be complex thoughts and feelings. Whoever owns that stands to have a more comprehensive knowledge of the user.

I know it’s common refrain to say that knowledge is power, but when the knowledge goes beyond just our browsing and shopping habits, it’s not an unreasonable statement. As we build more and more of our lives around digital activities, our identities will become more tied to that data. No matter how large or small that portion might be, we’ll want to own it as much as we can.

It only gets more critical if we get to a point where we can fully digitize our minds, as envisioned in shows like “Altered Carbon.” At some point, our bodies are going to break down. We cannot preserve it indefinitely for the same reason we can’t preserve a piece of pizza indefinitely. However, the data that makes up our minds could be salvaged, but that opens the door to many more implications.

While that kind of technology is a long way off, I worry that if we don’t take ownership of our data today, then it’ll only get harder to do so in the future. Even before the internet, information about who we are and what we do was valuable.

This information forms a big part of our identity. If we don’t own that, then what’s to stop someone else from owning us and exploiting that to the utmost? It’s a question that has mostly distressing answers. I still don’t know how we go about staking our claim on our data, but it’s an issue worth confronting. The longerwe put it off, the harder it will get.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, biotechnology, Current Events, futurism, Neuralink, politics, technology

Buying My First Bitcoin: My Reason And Experience

I talk about the future a lot on this site. That’s because, in general, the future excites me. I genuinely want to see some of the emerging technologies under development manifest. From advanced artificial intelligence to hacking our own biology to sex robots, I think these developments will lead to some major upheavals in society and I want to be around to see them.

I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see all of them, but I want to make the effort. I want to experience the future and not just speculate about it.

This brings me to Bitcoin. Now, before I go any further, let me disclose that I am not one of those hardcore, uber-libertarian Bitcoin fans who see Bitcoin as the technology that will bring down corrupt governments and banking cartels. I’m also not among those who think Bitcoin is a total scam. For this technology, I try to keep my perspective balanced.

I see Bitcoin the same way I see email. It’s basically a digital form of a tangible thing/service that we’re familiar with. Email was a supplement to regular mail. Bitcoin is simply a supplement for money. Email didn’t end all forms of regular mail. As such, I don’t see Bitcoin ending all other forms of money.

As for the technology behind it, I’m no expert, but I definitely see the value. Bitcoin, unlike other currencies, has no boarders. It has no middlemen or central authorities. It doesn’t require a big bank or some other financial institution to authorize it. All it requires is an internet connection and a smart device with an app.

Beyond the money, the technology behind it, most notably the blockchain, has some exciting applications. It promises to change the way we process, manage, and scale big data. It has the potential to create secure, decentralized operations that can’t be run from the top-down by the future Mark Zuckerbergs of the world.

Even if you think Bitcoin has no inherent value, I hope you see the value in that.

Now, I have been following news about Bitcoin since 2013. I remember the first time it became a major source of headlines. It was primarily associated with black market economies on the dark web, namely the Silk Road. That was not necessarily a good association, but that didn’t stop Bitcoin from growing considerably in both value and use.

However, I didn’t invest in it or seek to buy any Bitcoins. Some of that was mostly because it was still so new. I wasn’t sure what to make of it and I didn’t necessarily trust the early Bitcoin wallets. It also didn’t help that some of the early Bitcoin exchanges went completely bust.

I understand this era still created plenty of Bitcoin millionaires. Those people are the lucky ones. Even after 2013, I don’t think we’ll see Bitcoin create any more millionaires like that. I still watched Bitcoin with a skeptical eye. I didn’t want to buy in until I could be sure it was able to weather these upheavals.

In hindsight, I think I waited too long. At this point, I think Bitcoin has proven its worth and its utility. It’s been around for more than a decade now. If it were a bubble or a scam, it would’ve failed long ago. Even if I’m late to the party, I can safely say that I have finally joined in.

Granted, I didn’t put my whole life savings into Bitcoin. I decided to start off small and honestly, it was a lot easier than I thought.

Here’s what I did to get my first batch of Bitcoin money.

Step 1: I downloaded a basic Bitcoin wallet, namely BRD. It’s the simplest, least cumbersome wallet I could find.

Step 2: I compiled about $100 in cash. These were just a bunch of $20 bills I had in my drawer. They were actually bills I got from Christmas cards. Since I buy most of my stuff with credit cards and my phone, I really didn’t have much use for them.

Step 3: I went to a gas station up the road from my house, which had a Bitcoin ATM. I used that ATM to purchase $100 in Bitcoin. It took less than four minutes.

That’s it. That’s all I did. I didn’t have to give my bank account number to anyone. I didn’t have to give my credit card number to anyone. I just took some bills that I probably wasn’t going to spend anyways and turned it into digital currency. I have every intention of purchasing more down the line.

In terms of loose change or extra bills, I believe Bitcoin is actually better than just letting that paper money gather dust. Unlike bills, Bitcoin’s value actually has the potential to go up. That’s something paper money rarely does.

It’s a key part of Bitcoin’s legendary volatility. That sort of thing turns a lot of people off and I understand that. They don’t want to wake up one mourning and find out their money lost half its value.

However, I would counter that paper money would lose that same value, but just over a longer period of time. It’s like owning fruit. It’ll only ever rot. It’s never going to get fresher. Bitcoin is a bit more like a game of cards, but with the odds in your favor.

Sometimes the value goes up.

Sometimes the value goes down.

Overall, due to the scarce nature of Bitcoin, its value is inclined to go up.

That $100 was only going to get less valuable sitting in my drawer. At least with Bitcoin, there’s at least a possibility that $100 could be worth a lot more later this year. Compared to what inflation does to money, I’ll take those odds.

For now, I just wanted to share my experience. I genuinely believe that Bitcoin and the technology behind it is going to be a big part of our future. It may not completely replace money, but it will improve on what we’ve got.

I’ll share more stories as the year unfolds. In the meantime, I’ll leave everyone with this little anecdote.

The first known Bitcoin purchase was on May 22, 2010 when a man named Laszlo Hanyecz bought a pizza for 10,000 Bitcoins. As of this post, one Bitcoin is valued at $32,711. That means someone payed $327,110,000 for a pizza.

That must have been a damn good pizza.

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Filed under Bitcoin, Current Events, Jack Fisher's Insights, real stories

Jack’s World Thoughts Experiment: How Much Money Do You Need?

The following is a video for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It explores another thought experiment, something I’ve done plenty of times before. This one just happens to involve money. Given the recent events with the stock market, I think the time is right to contemplate money and how it guides our lives. Enjoy!

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Filed under Current Events, Jack's World, Thought Experiment, YouTube

A Subreddit Exploited Wall Street Hedge Funds (And I Applaud Them)

Every now and then, a news story comes along that just puts a smile on my face for all the right reasons. Granted, a lot of those news stories involve comic books and sex robots, but certain news transcends my preferences. They’re just too inherently awesome and cathartic to ignore.

This recent story surrounding a sub-reddit beating a multi-billion dollar hedge fund on Wall Street is definitely one of them. In the process, it suddenly turned Gamestop, a store I haven’t been in for three years, into the hottest stock on the market.

It’s the kind of story that would make a ridiculous movie. It’s not “The Big Short.” Hell, reads like a “Robot Chicken” sketch, plus or minus a few poop jokes. Except, this actually happened in the real world.

For those who haven’t been following this story, here’s a colorful breakdown by Esquire.

Esquire: How WallStreetBets Redditors Used Their Collective Power to Manipulate the Stock Market

News about the stock market rarely crosses over into the cultural mainstream, and historically when that’s happened, it’s meant some catastrophic financial event has taken place. (See: The housing and stock market crashes of 2008.)

But the stock market was the single biggest news story Wednesday, financial or otherwise, due to a group of Reddit shitlords pumping up a collection of stocks and pushing some billion-dollar financial institutions to the brink of bankruptcy.

Hedge fund Melvin Capital needed a $2.75 billion bailout on Monday after the stock price for GameStop, the video game retailer, spiked to more than $70 a share over the weekend. Just a month earlier, the stock was hovering near $15. Melvin was shorting the stock, hence the need for a bailout. Reports of Melvin Capital’s financial struggles sent GameStop’s share price soaring even higher, though, to more than $100 a share on Monday, putting the hedge fund in an even more precarious financial decision. As of this writing, the stock was trading for $330 per share—77 times higher than its share price of $4.28 a year ago.

The GameStop stock rally is the handiwork of r/WallStreetBets, a Reddit community where people share news, memes and personal anecdotes about playing the stock market.

Let’s all take a moment to shed a fake tear for a hedge fund that sought to make money by hoping a company would die. Let’s also take a moment to contain our rage that those assholes still got a multi-billion dollar bailout with little to no debate, but I digress.

That article gave us the basics. In short, a bunch of people on Reddit decided to exploit the short positions that a bunch of hedge funds had on Gamestop and make a ton of money on the side. It’s the kind of gimmicky stock trading tactics that you’d see in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” minus the strippers and ludes. The only difference is this didn’t break any laws and only fucked over hedge funds.

If you need a more thorough breakdown of just how those hedge funds were fucked over, here’s a video by the YouTube channel TLDR News. They break it down beautifully. I must warn you, though. If you get excited by seeing hedge funds get screwed over by a bunch of Reddit trolls, you might not be able to contain yourself.

Now, why do I love this story so much?

Why am I making such a big deal of it?

Why is this even news on such a large scale?

The answer is fairly simple. It’s not just that I love Reddit and have been an active user for years. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen that often. A bunch of normal, everyday people on Reddit getting the best of a Wall Street hedge fund? It just doesn’t seem possible.

Even if you’re a die hard capitalist or an dogmatic liberation, you can’t be too fond of hedge funds. In addition to being fertile grounds for fraudsters, con-men, and Gordan Gecko wannabes, they have just one goal. They seek to make rich people even richer. How they go about that varies, but they’re not above lying, cheating, and effectively gaming every capitalist system to their advantage.

They’re basically villains for both capitalists, socialists, and communists alike. They’ll screw over anyone, be they individuals or companies, so long as they can turn a profit. They don’t make anything. They don’t create or develop products that they sell to willing consumers. They mostly dick around with math, balance sheets, and stock prices to make money. That’s it.

I’m not a fan, to say the least. Watching them lose is like watching Lex Luthor get beat up by a five-year-old girl. You don’t think it’s possible, but it’s a glorious sight when you see it.

Honestly, this is the kind of story we need right now. A bunch of nobodies on the internet find a way to screw over a hedge fund whose business model involves screwing over struggling companies. What’s not to love? That’s a superhero narrative wrapped in true capitalism wrapped in American ingenuity. Ron Swanson himself would be proud.

There’s a lot more I could say about this. Since the story is still unfolding on many fronts, I’ll hold off. I’ll just say that if r/WallStreetBets does nothing more than screw over a hedge fund trying to profit from Gamestop’s demise, they’ll still have done a great good for this world.

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Filed under Current Events, psychology, rants

Lasik Eye Surgery: The Best Money I Ever Spent

We all waste our money on incredibly stupid things. I don’t care how frugal you are. At some point in you’re life, you’re going to buy something that will ultimately be a waste of time, money, effort, and patience.

There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re only human. Hell, you could argue that wasteful spending contributes significantly to the overall economy.

Then, there are those select items or services that are worth every penny you spent and then some. They’re a lot less common and understated, but that’s exactly what makes them so valuable.

It’s easy to waste money on something stupid. Browsing Amazon or EBay for any length of time will accomplish that. Buying something that feels completely worth it, even years after the fact, is much harder.

Sometimes, it’s an investment. People who bought stock in Amazon or Google in the early 2000s can attest to that.

Sometimes, it’s personal, like a ring or a piece of artwork. The dollar value, in that case, isn’t as great as the sentimental value.

Sometimes, you buy something that you don’t think is too valuable at the time, but it only grows over time, like your first comic book, video game, or romance novel.

I could list some of my most cherished purchases and tell the story behind them. However, I’d like to highlight just one that, by pretty much every measure, was the best money I ever spent. It wasn’t an investment. It wasn’t cheap, either.

It was elective Lasik Eye Surgery. To date, this is still the greatest thing I ever spent my hard-earned money on.

Now, the story behind this requires a little context. For the first 25 years of my life, I endured some seriously terrible eyesight issues. I found out early on that I had Astigmatism. It gave me blurred vision and terrible headaches. It was not pleasant in the slightest. As a result, I started wearing glasses when I was in third grade.

I never liked it. I didn’t like how my glasses made my look, but I needed them. I couldn’t see squat without them. It only got worse over time, so much so that I could barely see my alarm clock in the morning, even though it was just a few feet away from me. For a while, I wore contacts. However, they were expensive, uncomfortable, and a pain in the ass to maintain.

Naturally, I was open to alternatives. I’d been looking into Lasik Eye Surgery for a while, but I was told I wasn’t a candidate while I was a teenager. I was still growing and my eyes were still getting worse. In addition, the technology at the time was still emerging and still extremely expensive.

It was also not something that insurance covered. If I wanted to ever do this, I’d have to pay for it out of pocket. For someone who left college with plenty of student loan debt, it seemed like a distant dream.

I endured glasses and terrible vision for most of my 20s. Even after I paid down my student loan debt, I continued life with glasses and contacts. My eyesight continued to be an ever-present pain in the ass.

Then, as it just so happened, I had a roommate who had Lasik surgery done. She also had eyesight issues similar to mine. She was the one who referred me to the doctor who ultimately did the surgery.

At the time, I’d saved up approximately $7,500. Some of that was emergency money, but most of it was mine to spend. This surgery would cost me around $6,500 total. Again, insurance wasn’t going to pay for this. I had to foot the entire bill. While I was conflicted for a time, I ultimately decided to take the plunge.

To date, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.

I won’t say the procedure was easy. In fact, it was downright uncomfortable and the drugs they gave me were a bit too strong. On top of that, I needed two procedures to fully fix my eyes. My vision was just that bad.

However, as soon as I got up from that operating table, it was like a miracle. To this day, I still remember that feeling. When I went into the operating room without my glasses, there was this large warning sign about wearing eye protection while the lasers were operating. I couldn’t see much of it. Most of the letters were blurry.

Then, as soon as I got up, those letters were clear. I could read them. I could see them, the doctor’s face, and the details of the wall. It was like magic. I can’t put into words how amazing it felt. At that moment, it sank in.

I didn’t need glasses anymore.

I could see clearly.

I felt more attractive and confident than I had at any point during my awkward teen years. It also did wonders for my confidence. I wasn’t nearly as self-conscious anymore. I could approach people without feeling like I looked goofy. I could also wear non-prescription sunglasses. That may not seem like much, but trust me. It meant a lot to me.

If I had to pay twice the price for the same result, I’d have paid it gladly. I like to think it ultimately saved money on all the new glasses, contact solution, and doctor checkups over the years. It was both liberating and empowering.

I have great vision now and don’t have to worry about losing my glasses. Not all my purchases can ever be that valuable, but this definitely was. Lasik Eye Surgery remains the greatest money I ever spent. Until I meet the love of my life, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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From Stimulus To UBI: Has The Pandemic Made Basic Income A Relevant Issue?

Sometimes, it takes a big, jarring, and outright awful incident to spark meaningful change. It’s an unfortunate necessity, given the stubborn proclivities of human nature. People naturally resist change. Change is hard, risky, and potentially dangerous. Even when the current state of affairs is awful, we won’t pursue meaningful change without kicking, screaming, and whining every step of the way.

The murder of George Floyd was one such incident. As bad as previous acts of police brutality had been, this one was just too awful to stomach. It triggered a wide range of vocal protests that, while limited in their impact, has made the need for change more palatable. It’s frustrating that it takes this kind of horror to get us to change an objectively flawed system, but that’s just the cards we’ve been dealt.

While efforts at justice reform and tempering police brutality are important endeavors, there’s another major change that has been brewing in recent months. Again, it’s becoming relevant due to something utterly horrific. In this case, it’s the COVID-19 global pandemic that has upended our lives, our economy, and our politics.

Now, let me make one thing clear. This pandemic is fucking awful. It’s killing people. It is, by any measure, doing a massive amount of harm to people all over the world. There is no silver lining that’s worth all the lives that have been lost and all the suffering this disease has caused. From killing thousands to canceling major events, this pandemic is as bad as it gets.

That being said, this might be the big, horrific event that makes Universal Basic Income a relevant issue and a feasible recourse for the future.

I wrote about Universal Basic Income, also known as UBI, a few years back. At the time, I considered it a fringe issue that wasn’t going to gain traction in the United States, or any other country, for at least a couple decades. It shouldn’t be that radical, giving people money directly instead of having them jump through so many bureaucratic hoops. Unfortunately, it was still seen as an extreme by ever political party.

That started to change with the surprisingly successful Presidential campaign of Andrew Yang, who made UBI the central pillar of his bid. That campaign helped expose more people to the idea while making it a legitimate political policy.

Then, as has been the common mantra of 2020, the pandemic hit and everything changed.

Now, with millions out of work and unemployment benefits being incredibly limited, the idea of UBI doesn’t seem so extreme anymore. If anything, it’s starting to feel necessary. That could ultimately accelerate this issue’s ascension to the mainstream much sooner than any could’ve expected.

In America, millions have already gotten a taste of it in the form of a one-time $1,200 stimulus check. It wasn’t much, in the grand scheme of things. It certainly wasn’t going to fix the many problems that were unfolding as millions of people lost their jobs, due to the pandemic. It was still real money that people desperately needed.

I can personally attest to how useful this money was. Like many, I received a stimulus check around mid-April. While I wasn’t in the same dire straits as millions of other working class families, that check still helped a lot.

At the time, I had some back-taxes that I was still trying to pay off from having purchased my current home. I wasn’t in a position to pay it back all at once. I would likely need a payment plan, which would’ve accrued interest over time. Then, the stimulus check came and I was able to pay it all off at once with no interest. I even had enough left over to do some overdue car repairs.

My situation was not typical. Millions of people spent their stimulus checks on a variety of goods and services, but therein lies the key. It still got spent. In economic terms, that’s critical for a functioning economy. While the state may take a short-term hit in its finances, a sizable chunk of that hit will be countered by people buying things and subsequently paying taxes on them.

While economics is an insanely complicated endeavor, most people understand the importance of having money to spend to keep businesses going and communities intact. Other countries are conducting even bolder experiments in this pandemic. The results vary, but the basic trends are the same. When you give poor, desperate people money, they spend it. They have to in order to survive.

If you’re rich, or even upper middle-class, you have the luxury of saving. An extra $1,200 isn’t going to do much. For some, it’s not even a single mortgage payment. However, since most people aren’t that rich, it’s guaranteed that money is going to get spent and push the economy along. It helps poor people and it generates business for the not-so-poor.

It certainly isn’t without cost, but the benefits thus far have been more than worth it. As more people who experience those benefit, the idea of UBI is only going to grow in terms of appeal. It’ll even become more feasible because these recent stimulus checks have proven that the government has the infrastructure to make this work. It just needs the scale.

Even after this pandemic ends, there will be huge upheavals for rich and poor alike. The economy is never going to be the same. Society will never be the same. The continued impact of automation and artificial intelligence is sure to accelerate that change. UBI might not have seemed feasible or necessary before, but 2020 has changed that. Expect more changes before all is said and done.

This pandemic has caused a lot of pain and irreparable losses. If, however, it can be the catalyst to make UBI a viable policy, then we might be able to draw some meaningful good from it. Only time will tell.

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How Much Money Do You Really Need?

Most people aren’t born into wealth. The vast majority of the population has no idea what it’s like to be a billionaire, a millionaire, or someone who just doesn’t live with the constant dread that they’re just one missed paycheck away from total ruin. There’s a reason why they’re called the one percent and it goes beyond basic math.

I admit I’ve often contemplated what it would be like if I suddenly became wealthy. I’ve even articulated some of those musings in detail. I suspect most people have day-dreamed at some point what they would do if they suddenly had a billion dollars at their disposal. For most people, it’s difficult to contemplate because, like it or not, money changes people and not always for the better.

When someone asks what you would do with a million dollars, it’s easy to come up with all sorts of answers. Some are inevitably going to be more absurd than others. The movie “Office Space” articulated that point perfectly. However, there’s another question that I feel is worth asking and I also feel it’s more revealing.

How much money do you really need?

I’m not talking about fantasy wealth here.

I’m not talking dream vacations, dream homes, or spending sprees.

How much money do you actually need to live a happy, comfortable life by whatever standards you define it?

That’s a harder question to answer because it varies for everyone. There are some people in the world who think a million dollars isn’t enough. Depending on where you live in the world, that’s not an unreasonable position. Even with those variations, it still doesn’t zero in on the answer. How much is enough?

I’ve seen how people act when the lottery gets above the $300 million mark. In my experience, once things get over $100 million, that’s when even a typical day dream isn’t enough to appreciate just how much money that is. I’ve tried to imagine it and in every case, I come to the same conclusion.

If I had that much money, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with it.

It’s not that my needs are simple or cheap. I think my costs are fairly average for someone living in a suburban area. If I had $100 million, didn’t invest a penny in stocks or bonds, and stopped making money today, I still wouldn’t be able to spend it all before I turned 100.

I probably couldn’t even spend $50 million. When things get into the billion-dollar territory, it gets even more absurd. Even millionaires have a hard time fathoming how billionaires operate. Most people, even with decent math skills, don’t understand just how much money a billion dollars is.

At that point, you’re way beyond basic needs and wants. You’re in a domain in which you literally cannot spend all that money at once. You have to legitimately try to lose it all and while some people have done that, it often happens in the process of seeking even more billions to add to their fortune. It rarely occurs just by spending money on your day-to-day needs.

In that context, contemplating how much money you actually need says more about you and your situation than it does about your understanding of finance. If you need that much money to be comfortable, then that says something about your mindset and it’s not just about greed. Some want to change the world for the better with that money. Some want to impose their will on it. It depends on who you are and what drives you.

For me, personally, I don’t think I need anything above $10 million. I probably wouldn’t need more than $5 million just to maintain my current living costs, adjusting for inflation, and planning for my future. That might change if I ever get married and have kids, but for now, that’s my perspective.

I’m interesting in hearing how others would respond to this question. How much money is enough for you? How much would you need to be content, stable, and happy? Let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to revisit this issue again down the line.

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