Tag Archives: money

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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Filed under health, Jack Fisher's Insights, men's issues, technology

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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Filed under Current Events, politics, technology

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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What Will The Currency Of The Future Be?

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Most people don’t think about what gives their money value. There’s just a general understanding that it’s vital for basic economic activity. Whether it involves simple bartering or complex cryptocurrencies, the assumptions are the same. Money is a measure of value and exchanging it is how we ascribe value to basic goods and services.

There are all sorts of economic and financial complexities that determine how money works. Rather than bemoan the issue, knowing I am not the least bit qualified to do so, I’d like to focus on the nature of money in the future. Having already given plenty of thought to advanced artificial intelligence, human enhancement, and intimacy, I think it makes sense to contemplate how it all affects our ideas about money.

By that, I’m not referring to current trends in digital currency and older trends within modern banking systems. I’m talking about what money will be in a future where people, resources, and our entire understanding of economics has rendered the existing system obsolete. If you don’t think that’ll ever happen, then I only request that you give some added scrutiny to the concept of money.

I often find myself scrutinizing it whenever I watch a bit too much sci-fi. Some of my favorite sci-fi movies and TV shows of all time don’t give much thought to money. In “Back To The Future II,” a world of flying cars and cheap fusion power still had money. Things were just exceedingly expensive due to inflation. A Pepsi cost around $50.

While inflation is a real force that was certainly present in the non-movie version 2015, it’s somewhat strange that it would get that excessive in a world where fusion power plants could fit into cars made in the mid-1980s. In the real world, advanced technology tends to counter inflation. Logistically, better technology means more efficiency. More efficiency means cheaper goods. Cheaper goods mean lower prices.

We can certainly forgive movies like “Back To The Future II” for failing to understand the economics of money. In addition, the technology of that world wasn’t so advanced that it undercut the foundations of society. However, the money systems in galaxy-spanning space operas can’t make those excuses.

Star Wars” still used some form of currency. It was necessary for Han Solo to pay his debts and for Luke to enlist his services to Alderaan. Other space-faring epics like “Mass Effect” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” have a form of currency that allows characters to be greedy and ruthless. Whether they’re called credits or units, the principles are the same.

There’s this vague concept of money. Everyone agrees that it has value, but there’s little information about why it has value. That’s not entirely flawed. It’s just no different than traditional fiat money, which nearly every modern society utilizes to some extent in the real world. The money isn’t backed by anything. People just collectively agree it’s worth what it says its worth.

Now, I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists who claim this form of money is part of a global conspiracy theory run by lizard people who may or may not have murdered John F. Kennedy. I don’t know enough about economics or finance to make sense of our current monetary system. All I know is that we have a system of money that works within the constraints of our current society.

Whatever you think of that system, there’s still a larger question worth asking. What will money look like in the future when some of those constraints disappear? To some extent, our current system requires that people be frail, products be flawed, and resources be scarce. Through certain advances, some of which may occur in the next 50 years, those limits may disappear.

What happens to money when we perfect advanced energy generation that makes electricity cheap, abundant, and clean?

What happens to money when people begin upgrading their bodies with advanced biotechnology and cybernetic implants?

What happens to money when nanotechnology advances to a point where the production and assembly of every conceivable good is dirt cheap?

What happens to money when advanced artificial intelligence gets to a point where it gets so intelligent that it can solve every conceivable problem and manage every conceivable issue perfectly?

What happens to money when our civilization gets to a point where we can just upload our minds into a perfect simulation where all our wants and needs are met on a whim? Regardless of whether you think we’re already in a simulation, the question surrounding money and what form it takes remains.

While it’s impossible to predict the cumulative impact of technology, especially the kind that subverts modern economic forces, I believe there will be some sort of currency in the future. Even if we perfect nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and teleportation, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that we’ll need some system for exchanging goods, services, and overall value.

I also don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that our current fiat money would work. Just putting images on paper and using it as a token may not be practical in a society of advanced AI and immortal humans. These days, most of our money exists only as code in a computer and not as piles of paper or gold. I think for any form of money to work in a society of such technology, it needs to be backed by something.

Some sci-fi stories explore that concept. The movie, “In Time,” wasn’t that good, but the idea was intriguing. In that world, everybody is immortal and never ages past 25, but the system is such that the currency is measured in time. In a sense, a dollar is backed by a year of life as a healthy 25-year-old. For most people, that has plenty of value.

The rest of the movie is awful and I don’t recommend it, but it presents a novel, albeit dystopian concept. For that economic system to work, there has to be some sort of tyrannical power structure that has the ability to snuff someone’s life out the second they can’t pay. Even corrupt insurance companies aren’t that bad.

Then, there’s the Netflix series, “Altered Carbon,” which I highly recommend. That world also has a problem with massive wealth disparity, but not in the sense that rich people horde money in giant vaults. In this world, technology has advanced to the point where people can transfer their consciousness to different bodies the same way most people transfer files between computers.

In that world, the most precious assets are the best bodies. Being able to live in the body of Brad Pitt is inherently more valuable than living in the body of Danny DeVito. Much of society, from prisoners to billionaires, is divided by who has access to those bodies. In the story, the super-rich Bancroft family have that access and that’s what makes them so rich.

That kind of wealth may not show up as numbers on a balance sheet, but the value is there. Being able to produce, inhabit, and live within strong, beautiful bodies provides a powerful basis for any currency. Talk to anyone who has dealt with the effects of aging, which is pretty much everyone over the age of 25. Most would gladly pay a premium to live in a stronger, fitter body.

While “Altered Carbon” doesn’t get into the specifics of that system, the principle holds true. In a future where people aren’t bound by the limitations of biology or the human body, the greatest asset they can possess is a medium with which to experience life. A better medium means better experiences. Some companies today are already seeking to provide those experiences. Technology will simply change the methods.

Whether we end up in a simulated utopia or not, the experiences a currency affords us is what will give it value. Even though worlds like that of “Star Trek” present a world where money doesn’t exist, there is still plenty of value ascribed to life experiences. You may not be able to print that on a piece of paper or send that in a wire transfer, but that is still recognized as valuable.

I could still be wrong. Remember, I’m not an expert in money, nor can I predict the trends that future advances in technology will incur. Whatever form it takes, though, I expect that the overall goal will still be the same. We use money to pursue better, more rewarding life experiences. However we go about pursuing is, and always has been to some extent, the only true universal currency.

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How I Would Spend A Million Dollars (And NOT Go Broke)

We’ve all dreamed about it. We’ve all fantasized about it. In fact, other than having an army of naked bikini models or an army of Ryan Gosling clones, it’s probably one of our most frequent fantasies. What would we do if we suddenly became rich?

I know I’ve fantasized about it. Then again, I fantasize about a lot of things. It’s kind of necessary when you’re trying to be an erotica/romance writer. You need to be able to conjure the kinds of potent fantasies that make women need to change their panties and men wish they hadn’t worn such tight jeans. It’s a skill I’m developing and one from which I hope to gain greater success in the future.

Now I know the odds aren’t exactly in my favor right now. The odds of any writer of any genre, regardless of sex appeal, becoming as wealthy as Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer is right up there with scoring a date with Taylor Swift. However, with the recent interest I’ve attracted from publishers, those odds are improving. It’s not much, but any improvement is better than no improvement at this stage of my publishing career.

Even with the odds still not in my favor, I often find myself entertaining various scenarios on what I would do if one of my books became a best seller. Specifically, I often wonder what I would do with the money I make.

First off, I would not immediately get on the first flight to Las Vegas and spend three nights in a hot tub with five strippers, a keg of beer, a buffet of deep-fried Twinkies. Unless you’re a billionaire, that sort of thing is best left to pornos and low-budget skin flicks on Cinemax.

Second, it’s worth pointing out that a whopping 70 percent of lottery winners end up going bankrupt. On top of that, according to Sports Illustrated, over 60 percent of professional athletes go bankrupt after their careers are over. Even if you suck at math, you should know that those are not trivial figures.

Here’s a good way to illustrate that point: imagine you ordered your favorite pizza, but over two-thirds of it was eaten before it got delivered. That’s a lot of pizza you’re missing out on. Now imagine you were supposed to live off of that pizza. Losing over half of it now feels a lot more serious, doesn’t it?

So why does this happen? Who do people who strike it rich go broke? Well, it isn’t just a matter of owning pet Tigers, owing child support to multiple women for multiple children, investing in failed business ventures, or buying one too many cars, although that’s part of it. There’s a psychological component to it.

Unless you’re born rich or become rich through skilled business savvy, which only applies to a fraction of the population, you don’t know how to be rich. Yes, there is a certain amount of skill to being rich. Like any great talent, not everyone has it. As such, not everyone knows how to deal with it.

There’s even a psychological term for it. It’s called Sudden Wealth Syndrome and it’s pretty prevalent among lotto winners and professional athletes. When someone gets a sudden influx of wealth, it causes a great deal of stress because their brains aren’t wired to handle it. They’re so used to being not rich that it just feels off.

This is why it’s so easy for lotto winners and professional athletes to go broke. Their brains aren’t wired to see all this money the same way Bill Gates of Warren Buffet sees it. In some respects, they look at money the same way they look at milk. They need to spend it or it’ll expire.

That’s what leads them to just throw it away, giving it to friends or investing it in businesses that have the organization of a 6th grade science fair project. They don’t realize until it’s too late that money doesn’t go bad. It’s okay to actually save it and it’s possible to invest it in a way that’ll ensure you don’t need to dine on Ramen noodles and hot pockets.

Now to be fair, most people don’t know squat about finance or investing. It’s not a class public school teaches to kids at a young age. I get the sense that administrators understand that most kids in public schools aren’t going to strike it rich so it’s not worth the effort. It’s cynical, but understandable.

Given these odds and the tendency for non-rich people to piss their money away like an incontinent monkey, I’ve already crafted a plan on how I would invest a million dollars if I ever achieved that kind of success. This isn’t a fantasy. This is a plan. I may never get a chance to implement this plan, but like a condom, it’s better to have one and not need one rather than need one and not have one.

For this plan, I start with about a million ($1,000,000) dollars. I know Bill Gates can probably find that much money in his couch cushion, but it’s a nice even amount to work with. Since the human brain is terrible at dealing with large numbers, it helps to keep things even.

With this million, here are the simple steps of my plan. Any future lotto winners or professional athletes who want to follow this plan are welcome to do so. It’s free, it’s easy, and anyone who knows how to work a cell phone can do it.

Step 1: Pay off ALL the taxes first, if possible

This is, by far, the most important step anyone with money can take. The IRS is, in many respects, the ultimate dominatrix in that she’ll hurt you in ways you didn’t know were possible. You do not want to defy her.

Step 2: Set up an investing account with a reputable bank and pick one with the lowest fees

This is fairly easy for someone with money. If you have a million dollars, most banks will roll out the red carpet for you. Some will even waive certain fees if you have a lot of money in the account. Depositing a million dollars will usually get you a lot of leeway in that respect.

Step 3: Buy either an index fund (VFINX) or buy a blue-chip stock with a healthy dividend like Verizon, Exxon, or GE

The key here is not to buy a stock you’re going to sell for a quick turn around. The key here is to buy the stock and just basically forget about it. From here, you focus entirely on the dividends. They’re basically Wall Street’s version of masturbation. They’re the gift that keeps on giving.

Step 4: Build a budget around the dividends

From here on out, I focus on the monthly or quarterly dividends that the stock or index fund pays. With a million dollars, it’s usually not enough to just live in a mansion and never have to work again. You usually need several million for that. However, it’s still pretty considerable.

For example, let’s look at how $1,000,000 pays with buying Verizon. As of this posting, the dividend yield is %4.49. Do a little basic math and that comes out to $44,900 a year, which is paid out quarterly with four payments of $11,225 over the course of a year.

Take a breath now. That’s the most math you’ll need to do with this strategy. With this means is that you’ll have a yearly income of over $40,000 for doing absolutely nothing. It’s basically a slacker’s wet dream.

Now unless you want to dine on caviar and snort cocaine off a supermodel’s ass every week, you can budget $44,900 a year to live fairly comfortably. For me, this means taking that $11,225 quarterly dividend and budgeting it for three months at a time.

In most areas that aren’t New York City or San Francisco, you can find a decent home with decent amenities for that sum, plus utilities. That’s the ultimate endgame for this plan of mine. I invest the money in a way that gives me a passive income I can use to pay for the essentials, ensuring that any money I make beyond that is just icing on the cake.

There is one more step though and it’s also quite essential. If you followed the first step, then it should be easy to figure out.

Step 5: Pay all the necessary taxes associated with your investment and dividends

Again, it’s worth re-emphasizing how much you do not want to mess with the IRS. They don’t care if you take your money and throw it at a flock of pigeons. If you don’t give them their cut, they’re going to come after you and you will be in a world of legal trouble that no amount of money can make easier.

There you have it. That’s my plan if and when I ever become rich from either my publishing efforts, by winning the lottery, or by marrying Jennifer Lawrence, whichever comes first. I hope I get a chance to implement it one day. Until then, I hope others take the wise advice of Warren Buffet.

When it comes to money and investing, nobody can beat the market. The best you can do is not lose to it, but unlike gambling or sports, not losing can still be pretty damn profitable.

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