Mr Robot, Debt, and Jubilees

I just started watching Mr Robot on my Amazon Prime (Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial) because I wanted something to watch on the plane. If you haven’t seen it, there are going to be some minor spoilers. But the show is a couple years old already, so if spoilers bother you then you need to get cracking on your tv viewing! So after the first episode it looks like the over-arching plot (at least for season 1) is trying to create a debt jubilee by wiping out the credit records at a huge conglomerate, Evil Corp. For the moment, let’s set aside how that would never happen for both technological, legal, and logistical reasons. What would wiping out debt do? Would that be a net positive or a net negative for the world? At first glance, I’m inclined to say it’s a bad idea. What is debt? Borrowers want more money than they have. Lenders are willing to give it to them in exchange for a promise to pay over time with interest. Fundamentally, it’s the exchange between people with high time preference (borrowers who want money now) and people with low time preference (lenders who want more money later). And that’s OK. Who are borrowers? In the show they talk about personal borrowers. People who use credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, personal loans, and so on. Of course there are corporate and government borrowers as well, but I want to focus on personal for now. Who are lenders? Banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, retirees, investors, central banks, anyone who holds a bond or a bond fund. Why do people want to wipe out debts? Unsurprisingly, the people who want to wipe out the debts are those that owe them. So if their debt were wiped out, the stuff they bought on their credit cards would still be in the living room, but the payments would disappear. The house would still be there, but free and clear. Those looming student loan payments would disappear. The cars might drive a little better without a car note weighing them down. The motivation is pretty obvious. But what about the other side? Banks would be obliterated. The debt is a liability to the borrower but an asset to the bank. Without those assets, the “solvency” of a bank is annihilated. Oh and by the way, your bank account balance is a bank’s liability. If the bank doesn’t have any assets to pay for its liabilities, your bank accounts goes poof along with the debt. The financial institutions like your car lenders would have spent all the money to enable the (former) borrowers to buy the cars, but the revenue coming back in would disappear. Then the lines of credit between the financial institutions and the commercial banks would also be gone, so the financial companies would close up shop. Insurance companies keep most of their assets in relatively safe loan instruments, so their capital to payout on claims would disappear. […]

Getting Real About My Health

So the last several years have been… challenging… for my health. My day job keeps me sitting at my computer all day. Kids being born has wreaked havoc on my sleep, although that is finally getting better. Said day job and unhealthy food habits have really packed on the pounds. And I had gall bladder surgery about a year ago. The bottom line is that over the last 5 or so years I’ve gained about 50 pounds. So last week I decided to go back to my healthier ways. I am going full keto/paleo and doing intermitent fasting on a daily basis. One could argue that it’s not so intermittent if you do it every day, but whatever. This morning I went to and got a DEXA scan, a basal metabolic rate test, and a VO2 max test. Bottom line is I am 44% fat (!) and my cardio is crap. My plan last week was to get used to my new diet for about a month and then start working out again. I should probably stick with that, but now I want to start working out immediately. We’ll see how it goes I guess.

Scrivening 2016 07 05

Today Today I am following through with doing my 30 minute treadmill for my off-days of training. I forgot to pack my shoes, so I’ll be barefooting it again. After that comes a meeting with my accountability partner from Rhodium and then a day of taxes and PBNs. I decided to hire Josh to start my low-end PBN funnel, which should be an exciting project. Jean’s team is doing the writing and posting for my PBNs and I am super excited to use this as a solution. The content is decent and they do a pretty good job of uploading with pictures and everything. For such a low rate it’s a huge headache off my side of things. Yesterday Yesterday was pretty interesing. It was the 4th of July and I spent most of it in the office like I usually do. Since the tax office was closed, I was able to get lots of odds and ends done while talking with my team. This was a great opportunity to make sure we were all on the same page. As my team and scope of projects gets larger, the job of managing and keeping things on track becomes more complex. What I would like to do is get my systems more firmly established to reduce the time involved. I also have to develop better tracking systems in order to be able to see things at a glance. J took S to the fireworks show even after I told J that S would get scared. She did, and they had to go home after only a couple minutes. S kept saying “fireworks say, ‘boom boom boom!’” Which was adorable.

Scrivening 2016 06 16

In today’s reading, Robbins was discussing value sets and how important it is to make sure what you are doing is in alignment with your values. To do otherwise is to cause yourself misery. Part of the exercise is to write down your top 10 values. These are mine at this particular point in time: freedom honesty love contribution curiosity building health self-reliance planning conservation Putting it down this way really gives me clarity about what areas I need to develop. In terms of how fulfilled each value is, I’d say my list looks like this: freedom – 30% honesty – 100% love – 100% contribution – 50% curiosity – 100% building – 70% health – 20% self-reliance – 50% planning – 50% conservation – 10% A lot of these work together. I can fulfill my values for curiosity, building, and planning to achieve more freedom. So that’s a 4-bagger. Health I am working on by hiring a personal trainer and getting my diet in check. My biggest area for development is conservation. I think until I develop my permaculture homesteads that area will continue to be lacking. But overall this gives me a great view on what to do with new activities to check if they are in alignment with my values.

Scrivening 2016 06 15

Yesterday I stumbled across 2 very important videos on YouTube. The first one was from a neuroscientist in the UK who was making the point that physiology -> emotion -> feeling -> thinking -> doing -> results. The second one was a documentary on Wim Hof, the Iceman. In the first video, David, the speaker, was saying that to really change your life, you have to change how you feel. Interestingly, this lines up perfectly with what I’ve been reading in the Tony Robbins book. In order to get control over your feeling, you start at the base of everything with your physiology. And the single most important element in your physiology is your heartbeat. So his method is to control your heartbeat and train it into coherence through rhythmic breathing. Having done lots of breathing exercises in the past, I know this works for entraining the heart. Once the heartbeat is in coherence, the emotion (summation of physical states) becomes coherent. Once the emotion is coherent, we feel positive (expressing DHEA in the brain). This positive can be relaxed or excitatory. So long as it is positive, it will work. In the state of positive feeling, our thoughts will be more beneficial, more creative, and more results oriented. From there we not only know what actions to do, but will in fact do them. In the second video, the Iceman documentary, Wim Hof explains how his breathing method allows us to interact more directly with our brain stem and gain more control over our hormonal systems. This is what enables him to climb mountains without and clothing, sit in ice baths for hours, and so on. More importantly, anybody can do this with the proper breathing and focus. So exerting control over your endocrine system to release more adrenaline should enable you to have better exercise and overall health. What I especially love about all of this is that it dovetails nicely into the Miracle Morning method. The more I learn about human potential the more I realize that at the root of it all it’s very basic stuff and it follows the path of evolution. Breathe, Move, Think, Do.

How Many Americans Are Really Working?

I was talking with my business partner the other day about the latest employment statistics released by the government and got to wondering: how many Americans are really working? In our tax business we see people from all walks of life with all different economic situations. A lot of people out there are struggling to make ends meet. So I got to thinking about the labor force participation rate, how many people were really in the work force, and so on. Here’s what I found: The current population of the US is estimated to be 321,729,000 people. Of those, just under 65 million are children under 16. So that leaves 256,739,742 people 16 and over. Of those 256 million, almost 30 million are in school of some kind. So that leaves 226,979,810 adults out of school in the potential work force. Another 43 million are over 65 and older. Let’s just chalk them up to retired. That leaves us with a potential working population of 183,868,124. So far so good. About half the people in the US are available to work to support children, students, and the elderly. Now we get to the meat of the matter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that there are 95 million Americans 16 and older that are not in the labor force. Inside of that number we have to discount the students and elderly, so that leaves us with 22 million working age Americans not in school and not in the labor force. So now we are down to 162,021,742 potential working adults. Of those, 5.1% are unemployed. So that means an estimated 153,758,633 are working. But then there is government work. About 22 million people work for the various levels of government in America. Let’s be generous and say that half of those would have real jobs like teachers and such if the government did not exist (even though every private school operates with far fewer personnel than public schools – especially in administration). The other half, the DMV workers, the congressional staffers, and all the rest of the bloat would be gone. Discounting that half of the government workforce leaves us with 142,843,005 American adults with actually productive jobs supporting everyone else. Which is actually good news. I expected the number to be far lower. Essentially 44% of the population has a real job that contributes to the nation as a whole. So every person out there with a job is supporting himself or herself as well as 1.25 other people. Considering that the average household size in the US is 2.54 people, that’s actually pretty close to having an average of 1 person per household working productively. Of course, the actual distribution of jobs per household is not uniform. Some households have nobody with a job and some have multiple jobs. But on average, a single worker is approximately supporting a single household. All these statistics are based on government surveys, and I take them with a grain of […]

DeBeers, The Fed, and The Market, Oh My!

Hey, everybody I just wanted to make a quick post about this video that I just put up on YouTube. I was doing my browsing on Reddit this morning and I saw an article from Bloomberg that was talking about the cut in diamond prices from DeBeers. This got my attention since DeBeers is more or less a global monopoly on the diamond market So this may be think, why would DeBeers lower prices? The only answer is that there isn’t enough demand. And what does that mean for the global economy? Diamonds are a pure luxury consumption item. People buy them as gifts and people buy them for weddings. These are natural behaviors within our culture. So if people are buying fewer diamonds, that means that they simply do not have the money to do so. It is a sign of the times. The global consumer simply doesn’t have the cash to buy. So how does that tie-in to what’s going on in the stock market now where we had a day of the Dow Jones industrial average going down 1000 points? Essentially what is going on is that people are assuming the Federal Reserve is going to be raising interest rates in September. Even though Jenny Yellen has come out and said that if they do raise rates it’s going to be very small and are going to take a long time. For whatever reason, people have interpreted this to mean that Richard go way up the dollars and get stronger and therefore prices must come down. So they want to get out while the getting is good. That’s why stocks all across the world have been going down over the last little while. The silver lining for all those buy-and-hold investors out there is that the Fed can now use this as an excuse to not raise rates. In fact, I think they will use these events as an excuse to ramp up the printing presses again with another round of quantitative easing.

How Much Do You Really Make?

So I’ve been reading The Miracle Morning and for some reason it made me wonder about real jobs. And that got me thinking about how much people actually make. So let’s say you are an average American. The average American’s Personal Income per Capita is $43,735 according to the US Department of Commerce. As with all government statistics, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s assume this income is from a 40-hour work week. That works out to $174.94 a day or $21.87 per hour. First, let’s realize that the hours you spend at work are not all the hours you spend on the job. There is the commute and the getting ready in the morning. So let’s say you commute 20 minutes each way (the Population Reference Bureau says 25 minutes is average) and spend 20 minutes getting ready that you wouldn’t otherwise spend. So you’re (maybe) going to eat breakfast whether you go to work or not. So that time wouldn’t count. But you can easily add another hour to your work day for commuting and getting ready. So your per hour rate just went down to $19.43. And then there’s lunch. I think the days of being paid for your lunch hour or lunch half-hour are gone for the vast majority of people. So with a half-hour lunch, your hourly rate has now dropped to $18.41 per hour. And then there are all the expenses you have that are directly related to your job. That commute that you are driving costs you not just in time, but in gas and wear and tear on your car. Using the IRS’s data of 56 cents per mile and the average commute being around 14 miles each way, you are spending $15.68 on your trips to and from work (And yes, I know it’s not tax deductible). Basically your first 45 minutes of your job is to pay for you to get to work. So now our daily earnings just went down to $159.26 and our effective hourly earnings fell to $16.76. And what about your work attire? Whether you wear a uniform or “business attire” most people’s work clothes are not the same clothes they choose for themselves in their personal lives. The cost here can vary greatly depending on personal preferences and job requirements, but from what I’ve seen from my tax clients, I think $800 per year is a pretty conservative estimated average. This would factor in the purchase and cleaning of work clothes. So that only hits us for $3.20 per day leaving us with $156.06 per day or $16.43 per hour. And about that lunch that you don’t get paid for. You still have to pay for the food. How many people in your office brown-bag it? What does the average work lunch cost compared to the average meal that person would have had if he or she had eaten at home? I’m going to say an extra $7 per lunch over […]

#JustGovThings Parking at the DMV

At almost every private business, the parking for customers is the closest and the parking for staff is the farthest away. As I was paying my extortion fees property taxes upon registering my car in a new state, I realized that here at the DMV, the closest spots are reserved for the staff and the “customers” are relegated to walking as far possible. Granted, the parking lot had plenty of handicapped parking close to the door. Of course that part of the lot was completely empty. The actual difference in number of feet walked by each person to the building doesn’t matter so much as how this arrangement is reflective of government’s attitude towards chattel (that’s you).

Homo creatus

I’ve been having this idea recently that our species, Homo sapiens – the thinking man, is misnamed. Instead, Homo creatus – the creating man is more appropriate. Now before any biology geeks jump down my throat, I am sure that creatus is not the proper Latin or Greek or whatever. Fine, have it your way. The point is that more than thinking, creating new things is the defining characteristic of our species. Now that we aren’t living in the 18th century and some of our conceit has worn off, we know that animals think to varying degrees. We know that chimpanzees have a theory of mind. Chimp A will not sound an alarm to Chimp B if Chimp A knows Chimp B already knows about it. That’s a lot of thinking and knowing! So what really separates us from our near-cousin primates and other higher animals generally? My contention is that our drive to create is our truly defining talent. Side note: I’ll let the theologians and atheists argue about whether we were created in our Creator’s image as creators or if we created a Creator because we create. I can hear the objections already though. “I’m not creative.” “Not everyone is like that.” Nonsense! It took me a long time to realize that everyone creates things in their own ways. My wife is creative in the traditional sense. She’s a writer and she literally dreams sci-fi. She will wake up in the morning and tell me whole story lines she dreamed in the night. For me, that’s never going to happen. I don’t invent new completely new things like she does. But I create in my own way. I create business systems and ways of explaining things to people that they can understand easily. Everyone creates something. Even the proto-typical Joe Sixpack creates rituals around his favorite sports teams. These creations are how we express ourselves. And they are as individual as we are. What do you create in your life?