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After my recent Financial Advisors are for Suckers post, I had a bit of an epiphany about using any currency as a store of value: it doesn’t do that.

And now my conversations with Carl Richards and others I’ve spoken to over the years suddenly makes so much more sense…

Rather than searching for money in some absolute form, it’s much more useful to think about the currency we use as if it’s a living thing. It’s not alive, but as a byproduct of we who are alive, it has much more in common with us than anything in the natural world.

Every currency has a life cycle after all: it is born, it grows, it matures, and it dies. This is true of every currency that has ever been, except the ones that haven’t died yet. Like any living organism, we don’t know exactly when they will die, or specifically why, but we can safely be quite sure that at some point they will. It’s not inherently good or bad, it just is. When the old things die, it makes more room for the new things to grow, and evolution goes about its merry way.

Like every other living thing, currencies go through stages and change over time. Though my own worth in terms of my life and its value to the rest of the world is tricky and a bit distasteful to calculate, it is calculable. And without even doing the math, we can intuitively see that my worth as a 1 year old, a 10 year old, a 20 year old, a 40 year old, and an 80 year old would be different. There is a mortality rate, and no guarantee that I’ll make it from 1 to 10, or from 20 to 40, or that I’ll ever make it to 80. Maybe I’ll live to 100? No one knows, but we know that the 20 years from 80 to 100 would be very different in terms of productive value than 20 to 40, or from my birth to my 20th birthday.

So it is with any currency, be it dollars or euros or renminbi or bitcoins or whatever. They are each, independent of each other, on their own life cycle. Someday they will be gone, just as no one uses francs or guilders or drachma anymore even though they were once the most valuable forms of money that there were. The overall trend for the last 500 years or so is that the “global reserve currency” spends about a century in that status (plus or minus 20 years).

Remember that we made all these things up. Money is not a concept ordained by God and handed down from on high, nor is it an evolutionary mechanism we can observe in any other species. It’s a people thing, a work of man.

Even with currencies, whether fiat or crypto or pieces of eight, they don’t actually exist. Okay, so the little piratey slices of silver do physically exist, but their value doesn’t in any absolute sense. Whether physical or digital, these are merely representations of a larger belief in some larger worth or faith in their value.

And only those who share the faith will find them valuable. I couldn’t convince a pirate in the Caribbean to take my hash on the blockchain in exchange for any of his loot. No matter how much it may represent to me, I’d be lucky to live through explaining the bargain. It’d likely be the same with rubles, what good would they be to someone half the world away and no ability to get there to exchange them for things? It wouldn’t matter how many I had, it’d make about as much sense as a Zimbabwean Trillion Dollar note.

So currency is bound by time and place, just as we are. It just happens that they are less bounded than we are. But the fact that they tend to live longer than us or get around more does not make them immortal or magical. They live, they die, life goes on.

The life that goes on is a lot of exchanging of things. We call these exchanges “markets” after their traditional roots in our exchanging of things to help life going on for many thousands of years. Regardless of what is bought or sold, and whether it is bartered for or there is a medium of exchange (money) in the middle, these markets very literally express value. As in what we do actually value, in terms of exchangeable worth, in any given moment.

And for many thousands of years, you could go to one market and sell something for one value, and then go to a different market and sell the same thing for another. The closer those markets are in terms of time and place, the more similar the values would be. The further apart they are in time and space, the less those values would look alike. Try to sell a pig at market in Chicago a hundred years ago, get one value. Try to do it today, get a pretty different one. (Pork bellies actually haven’t been traded there for a decade, but I think you get my point).

The function of the currency is as a summation of all the agreements about all the values of all the things being exchanged. Who agrees is constantly changing, what they’re agreeing about value is constantly changing, and thus the value of the currency itself is constantly changing. It’s supposed to, there’s nothing wrong with it. It was never meant to “store” anything, when we made it up we didn’t make it for this purpose. Currency is to express current value.

Then there’s the geopolitical element of state-sponsored and central bank managed fiat currencies. That throws a new level of manipulation/complexity into the mix, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of what a currency is.

Or we can take the governments out of it and talk cryptocurrencies. Again, new levels of manipulation/complexity to discuss, and again it doesn’t change the fundamentals. You can put it in cold storage, sure, but it’s only existed for a dozen years or less, so who can say what will happen to it a dozen years from now? Who can say for any currency for that matter? And just how similar in lifespan is a crypto compared to a fiat? We don’t really know. We just know that they both will die at some point.

Because that’s how it always works. That’s how we made it to work when we humans made it all up.

The fact that you and I weren’t consulted when it was all getting made up or that currencies tend to live longer than we do doesn’t seem fair, I agree. But here were are. If you want to make up something better, I’d love to hear about it! :)

Back to the store of value idea. We can project based on trends what something will be worth at some future time, but we can never know. Not with what we have right now. We’re just guessing as best we can.

Some people can guess well, granted. They can take lots of snapshots of valuation across lots of currencies and infer purchasing power over time for goods and services as things enter and exit the financial world as resources and waste, input and output. The closer in time and location the predictions are to the here and now of the person making the guess, the better their models about currency agreements (aka valuations) will tend to work.

Yes, they can plot all this info over time, beyond our lifetimes, and estimate what a cheeseburger is worth in a hundred years’ time. But there is no guarantee that we will be eating either cheese or burgers in a hundred years. Given the trajectory of our environmental stability from everything that we can see from here, resource rich and animal-based protein may not be so tasty then. Or it might be the most valuable thing in the world because of its scarcity. Place your bets as you please.

Storing any amount of any currency today for a cheeseburger beyond next Tuesday is just a guess. For whatever the 2121 A.D. or the 2121 B.C. equivalent of a cheeseburger may be, no currency in 2021 would probably be able to buy it anyhow. Who would want to take that silly money? If no one shares our belief in a currency as valuable, is it? Not as medium of exchange it isn’t.

And that’s fine. So I’ll stop trying now. I’m a vegetarian anyways, and I’m not having any kids, so it’s really not my game.

I’m finally psychologically prepared to use currency differently. How about you? Comments are valued here!

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If you’re not sure where to start with your disaster preparedness plan, I have some suggestions. Twelve of them, in fact! That’s one per month if you’re counting ;)

The reason I recommend focusing on one per month is so folks don’t get overwhelmed. Please know that no one solves for everything all at once! It’s layers of the onion here, people.

The more you can get done in any given month, the better. But don’t sweat it, really. Do what you can, then let the rest go. Live your life and be happy! This is probably THE single most important, healthy, and stick-it-to-the-man revolutionary thing you could possibly do. Really.
  1. Backup devices & data (January)
  2. Network security, secure searches (February)
  3. Food production / gardening (March)
  4. Diet, exercise, medications (April)
  5. Health & Identity documentation (May)
  6. Power generation (June)
  7. Scanners & Radios (July)
  8. Defense & alarms (August)
  9. Food storage (September)
  10. Financial instruments (October)
  11. Gratitude amplification & doing more with less (November)
  12. EDC / Car kits (December)

I have posts about most of the above here on this blog. And if there’s interest, I’d be happy to fill out the rest. Until then internet searches work wonders. Especially if you do them with DuckDuckGo on a Tor browser running through a VPN (which if you plan to go very far down the preparedness rabbithole would be recommended). But just starting is good. Start and work the rest out as you go!

If you have other suggestions for what would be a better cyclical beginner’s plan, please post them in the comments below.

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One year ago, I was one week into a three-week quarantine. I had plenty of reason to think that I had contracted this mysterious new Coronavirus strain known as COVID-19.

Fortunately, I had not. I had the flu, a normal flu. It was a coincidence that I’d just been around so many people in the SF Bay Area just as cases there were starting to pop up all over.

But as a precaution against infected my partner or her mother, I was in lockdown before it was popular. Trendsetter that I am ;)

I was much better prepared for this than most. Although I went into the pandemic having been out of work for the previous six-months and about at the end of my financial runway.

Still, in the last year, I tried to be of service to others as best I could by:
  • writing a few articles about my experiences above
  • advising friends & family about decisions during a pandemic
  • teaching people how to work from home, and how to make their internet work
  • teaching livestreaming to speakers & performers
  • teaching live-looping to musicians (online and in a video series)
  • connecting online equipped musicians with newly online teachers looking for live musical accompaniment
  • co-producing a free online conference for the L&D community, especially those hardest hit by downsizing
  • assisting with community management for the International Body Music Festival online
  • hosting sessions & contributing to the GoGoDone international productivity community
  • helping launch The New Alpha Male book and feeder online course for people seeking to redefine masculinity, become better men, and become more aware
  • creating a consumer comparison website for green energy in Texas
  • taking over all the insurance and medical headaches for my mom after her car accident, and while she was recovering from a traumatic brain injury
  • putting together a great video for my Dad’s 70th birthday and hosting an online party for my stepmom’s 70th
  • helping my mother-in-law through her second knee replacement surgery and months of recovery

Other than the above (and work), I’ve not really been in touch with anyone else in the last year. My friends around the world, my family here in the US, hardly anyone has heard from me. Though I have continued to write here, I pretty much stopped calling anybody, even including calling people back who reached out to me.

This is not like me. I’m not proud of this change, and I’ve been confused about it. But after a lot of thought about it, here’s the truth: it hurts too much.

It hurts that I can’t be a musician right now, and it hurts even more that my friends can’t really either. It hurts that nothing anyone wants to launch in the world is working. It hurts that I have no good advice to give, because nothing I’m doing is working either. It hurts to hear how lonely and distraught everyone is. It hurt to hear about how frustrated and scared or mean everyone was for most of the last year about governments and politicians and economies. It hurts to want to be there for people, and just not to have it in me because I’ve been working too hard or am already to burnt out with the help I’ve given others. Worst of all, it hurts that I’ve gotten into this self-propelling cycle of isolation.

I don’t know that I’m out of it yet, I’m sorry to say. And I’m fine by the way, I’m totally fine actually. I’m doing well!

And maybe that fact is the real reason I haven’t been in touch.

…Because nobody else has seemed to be very okay for the last year.

I think this may be changing, and I hope for all of us that it changes soon!

Your thoughts? Comments help.

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I’ve used several financial advisors over the last 20 years.

The first was a great choice. I worked for a company that had an ESOP and about $70k ended up coming to me by surprise when they got bought. I was in my 20s and had no idea what the implications would be. I needed help setting up everything about investing & retirement from scratch. That financial advisor saved my butt! Many of my coworkers blew their money buying cars and jewelry and stupid stuff — then had NO money at tax time. I was very happy to make smarter moves than this with the much needed assistance of a financial advisor :)

I put her to work finding socially responsible funds, and dumped everything I had into those. Return rates be damned.

15 years later, that financial advisor was moving on. I got assigned another one at the same firm. That dude was a hustler, and we did not get along. I asked for another. This person never even got a chance to meet with me before leaving the job. I got another, who ALSO left or was fired right after meeting with me. At that point I looked at changing firms.

I looked for financial advisors all over the place, and the more I looked into it the more the whole structure seemed crazy to me. They are not legally obligated to advise me on my own interests or even tell me the truth? WTF?!?

Here’s the question I was asking back in 2017 that no financial advisor wanted to deal with “How do I calculate, store, and reliably grow VALUE over time in a way that is not pegged to the USD as a currency? Given what the next 30 years are likely to look like, doesn’t this seem like a bad idea?”

I didn’t realize how emotionally confrontational people would get with me as a result of that question. It brought all sorts of weirdos my way, and nobody credible wanted to talk.

Well almost nobody. Eventually I found my way to Carl Richards, who is kinda famous at this and was nice enough to speak with me. He basically told me that what I was looking for didn’t exist. Soon after I took his word for it and stopped looking.

It still seems to me that VALUE should be quantifiable in some sort of absolute way. I mean, if I see that I bought a stock or something for $100 and sold it for $120, it sounds like I made money, right? But depending on the duration between the buying and the selling, the fees & taxes associated with the transaction, and the value of the currency at the exact moment of each end of the transaction, I very easily could have sold it for less in terms of purchasing power value. That’s what I care about. After fees, after taxes, after currency fluctuations, after it’s all said and done, what can I exchange my medium of exchange for? What does it get me?

I’m aiming at a target 20+ years in the future. We know that both Medicare and Social Security will be insolvent before then. The official Trustee Reports issued by the government’s own agencies have been saying so very clear language for several years. And that was all before Covid. I think it’s reasonable to assume that at some point over the next two decades, the trillions of dollars that just got made up and thrown into our economy in the last year will make our dollars worth less than they are today. I don’t think they’ll be worth_less_, but it’s hard to imagine that they’d ever be worth more than today — especially with compounding interest at such nominal rates.

So why would I hinge my entire future safety net on my money being worth more in dollars? That seems to be the only thing financial advisors know how to do.

I am not a doom & gloom kinda guy, far from it. I’m someone who believes in the future, but isn’t willing to count on it being there to take care of me by virtue of my privilege of birth. I’m very willing to do my part for society AND the best thing I can do is first ensure I’m not a drag on it.

What do you think? I’d love to hear! Please comment below :)

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This is my Now page and here’s what’s up for me these days (as posted on 03/02/21)

It’s one year into Covid and I guess I’m doing alright. But as I noted last month, I’ve been really bad at even keeping in touch with anyone, posting here, or following up on anything that’s not work-related. Work has been my main excuse for this since last July, though there’s certainly more to it than that.

Besides, I just clarified my daily schedule for March so what’s work got to do with it? ;)

Assuming I can reasonably keep to that, here are the things I’m up to for the month of March:
  • Taxes & Business Closeout Tasks = From figuring out the finances from my craziest and least profitable year ever, to closing out bank accounts and businesses, there are a lot of things that need timely doing in the next few weeks. Plus corporate taxes are due on the 15th.
  • Selling Stuff = I have my Dad’s old 1996 GMC Suburban that I’m cleaning up and and preparing to sell. Hopefully it moves on by the end of the month before registration is due. I’m also selling as many of the other “to go” things as I can that are over $100.
  • Gaining strength & losing weight = I’ve been hovering around 160lbs for months, plus/minus 5lbs. I’d like to be at 150 plus or minus 3lbs and a lot less squishy in the middle instead. It takes persistence to get there, I’m focused on this.
  • Network infrastructure = I’m still honing my overall tech setup, and making progress. This month I’ll be installing my second (offsite backup) Synology DS216 NAS that I picked up for half price on eBay, and following the advice of folks like Rob Braxman.
  • Birthday = This isn’t a project, but I do like to build in some reflective, visionary, and hopefully fun time around my birthday. March 20th in case you’re curious. Oh and I do have an ongoing public wish list over here but no pressure ;)

So that’s me! How about YOU? Hit me up or leave me a comment below.

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