Thursday, July 17, 2014

Badassity, Gender and Mustachianism

Yet another post, like my Mark Cuban one, where I talk about the gender divide.

The latest Mr. Money Mustache post is about Mustachianism ruining a marriage.

I found it fascinating that somewhere, someone existed who completely validated some of the complainypants comments. For example, on the WaPo article that features Mr. Money Mustache, many posters said that he obviously didn't have a wife or children, or that his wife was going to leave him for forcing her to live an austere lifestyle. He said that it was ludicrous to think that his wife was anything less than an equal partner, and he was not forcing her to do a thing.

Someone said that to him. He posted the email.

Subject: Please Stop
Dear Mutilator of My Monies,
Please stop writing. My husband is enthralled. I am watching all of my dreams of a mommyhood filled with Tahoes, lattes, endless monogramming, and a pottery barn dream house go up in smoke. 
The email is significantly lengthier, but the gist is right there in the first few sentences.

There was a poll taken on Mr. Money Mustache in the forums about gender; even though men bemoan the lack of Mustachian women, more than 50% of the forum is comprised of females. Today, we get to peel back the current to see someone who is not remotely Mustachian and actively hates the idea of early retirement.

Mr. Money Mustache said:
 On the other hand, you might want to explore your feelings towards challenge. I mean, who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike? And is this weakness something to cherish and cultivate, or to overcome so we can live a more fully human life? 
She said:
Also, I fear that the comment, “who is so soft that they prefer a gasoline-powered throne to a muscle-powered bike?” has quite missed its mark. I like “soft.” Remember, I am a woman? I put conditioner in my hair so that it’s softer, I shave my legs, so they’re softer, I put lotion on my arms, so that they’re softer. I even smudge my eyeliner a bit to give it a softer look. “Soft” is a feminine thing to be desired and in no way is it a turn off. Sooo YES! I am SOFT! And if a Tahoe makes me softer, bring it on!!! Also, I’ve never had muscles in my life and am totally ok with it.

She is a prototypical anti-Mustachian, come to haunt Mr. Money Mustache in his own home. Her badassity quotient is low.

Kacy Catanzaro



While I know nothing about Kacy Catanzaro's finances. I do know that she's a hard worker. She's a former college gymnast who did things that I would've sworn were impossible. She can use her body in ways that I didn't it could be used. She has split-second time, and the whole-body strength to do incredible things. She works hard.

That's what badassity is.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alternatives to Amazon

The Amazon-Hachette dispute has gone on for so long that it seems to be making headlines, or at least is interesting enough to the press to receive a ton of coverage.

The first time I took notice was when Joel Stein wrote about the dispute.

Malcolm Gladwell made a hilarious video about his perspective on it as a Little Brown author.

Stephen Colbert spoke about the dispute as well.

Yet another time was today in the NYT.

Fred Wilson, VC extraordinaire, talked about the idea of Amazon as a monopoly. He also said that the producers and sellers were cutting out the middlemen today.
Take Etsy for example. Before Etsy, if you made knit hats, you would sell them to a boutique for $10, and that boutique would turn around and sell them to your customers for $25. Now you sell them to your customers on Etsy for $25 and pay a 20 cents listing fee and 3.5% of the transaction and a payment processing fee. In the old model the knitter made $10 per hat. In the new model, the knitter makes about $23 per hat. That’s a big deal. And you see it all over the place in the Internet marketplace economy.
I really agree with his analysis. It reminded me of the case study at Ramit Sethi did on a student who made $28,139 in a way that would be impossible before Etsy became big.

But Fred also pointed out that someone with too much power is not good for customers as well.
When a platform like Amazon emerges as the dominant monopoly in publishing, who will keep them honest? When every author has left the publishing house system and has gone direct with Amazon, what does that world look like?
The NYT says this:
We’re all sort of looking around now, waiting for Moses,” said another university press director. As a measure of the anxiety inspired by Amazon, he was unwilling to make a statement as mild as this on the record.

Moses would somehow make the Amazon juggernaut stumble, preserving the good parts while getting rid of the bad. Another antitrust suit, this time supporting the publishers rather than going after them, might fill the bill nicely.
 

Alternatives

As an avid reader, book sourcing is paramount. 

  • I primarily get my books from the fabulous library system here, because otherwise I'd be bankrupt.
  • Barnes and Noble apparently has Malcolm Gladwell's books for cheaper prices than Amazon. If you buy a BN membership for $25 (as compared to Amazon's $99/year), then you can get 1-3 day shipping - not as good as the 2 day guarantee that Amazon offers, but still plenty good for us Americans interested in instant gratification. BN is the source that Joel Stein pointed to for readers of his that REALLY wanted his books faster than the turnaround times that Amazon is offering right now.


  • Walmart.com also has books, and I thought that logistically they'd be superior. They are more than anything else a fabulous logistics company. To my surprise, I found that they weren't. They weren't offering free shipping unless the price was higher than $50, and you could get something free to the store if you were content with 5-10 days to get to the nearest Walmart. They offer Malcolm Gladwell for a price on par with Amazon, but significantly worse than BN.

Conclusion

There are still alternatives to Amazon, and Amazon actively encourages consumers to buy used books or to go to competitors. They are comfortable in their position, and they recognize that consumers might be frustrated by not getting books in a timely manner. Amazon has much less to lose in this situation than Hachette and Hachette's authors. I imagine that Amazon will get the terms that it wants in the long run.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Felix Felicis

Today, I came home from Sarasota. I left my house around 7 AM, and I got my first lucky break when the airport people put me into TSA Precheck.
Source

My second was when my flight left on time and actually landed 14 minutes before the projected time.

My third was when I caught the bus that I would have otherwise missed, had my flight landed on time.

It was a series of very small fortunate events, but it made me very happy. I felt like I had drunk a drop of Felix Felicis.

This is probably part 2 of my other post about luck. There's luck that stems from hard work, and there's actual luck that stems from opportunities. You need some of both.

I'm lucky to live in the United States. This is oft-repeated by billionaires, including Warren Buffett and Nick Hanauer, the first nonfamily investor in Amazon, who reflects on luck, opportunity, and inequality.
My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, “There but for the grace of Jeff go I.” Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.
Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.
Appreciate your luck today. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review of How to Fail at Almost Everything by Scott Adams

I really enjoyed Scott Adams' part memoir, part advice book. It was a fun time, and I got some insights out of the book.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert


Dystonia

He kicks off the book by describing what it's like not to be able to speak. Before that, he had focal dystonia, which made him unable to draw. It was his major barrier to success.

Your Job is Getting a Better Job

He says that he sat on a plane next to a screw company CEO who told him that his job wasn't his job - getting the next job was.

A Million by 35

I'm starting to find a trend in financially successful people: all these guys wanted to make a million by age 35. Scott Adams wanted it. Mark Cuban wanted it. Warren Buffet (per The Snowball biography) actually made his million, got bored, and went back into the game.

Jean Chatzky's book The Difference says that one of the characteristics of the wealthy or financially comfortable is to make a goal of hitting $1 million. 

Vocal Techniques

He tells us that he had a lot of women wildly flirting with him when they heard his voice, but the flirting stopped the second that the women actually met him. I have seen his author picture, and he's a nice-enough looking man.

Systems

Like Ramit Sethi, Scott Adams has made systems of daily life. His system for eating healthy is giving himself permission to eat unlimited amounts of the food that he keeps in the house. This is the method I used when I was vegan and gluten free, and I approve of it. For example, if you were Alice in Wonderland (this is my example, if you can't tell), and you saw two piles of food, one labelled "Sleep" and the other labelled "Energize", which would you choose? Most people would choose the food that would energize them.  He also eats simple carbs for dinner.          

Four Dollars to Rent a Private Jet

JetSuite normally flies about a 3rd of its flights empty, to move its jets from between the places where paying customers need them. To offset this (slightly), they offer you an entire empty jet for $536.43 on a normal day. As you can see, the distance between Monterey and Van Nuys is a distance easily traveled by car. Not all of the legs are worth taking.

They announced that they would allow people to take $4 flights yesterday, by linking out to a TODAY article on their Facebook page.

I found it really interesting, given that I had a recent discussion about JetSuite with other Mustachians in the forums. We were discussing what the definition of "wealthy" was, and for me it included private jet travel.

Promptly, JetSuite decided to offer $4 plus tax private jet flights. I couldn't resist adding something to the forums.

I expected the response to be sharply anti-jet. The initial discussion had people ominously threatening to enforce me not using private jets...which is not what I was going for.

Happily, over 90% of the Mustachians said that they would definitely take advantage of private jets if they cost $4. It's possible that deals have already come and gone, but this is the first moment when I've seen the deal up on the site.

Happy flying, y'all.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Indra Nooyi on parenting

Indra Nooyi says that you can't have it all.
Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo

Stepping forward, she talked about the conflicts between parenting and having a job. She also talked about the night when she became the president of the company, and her mother sent her out for milk.

This is the meatiest excerpt.
You know, you have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt. My observation, David, is that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you're rising to middle management your kids need you because they're teenagers, they need you for the teenage years.
And that's the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you (laughing). They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they're aging. So we're screwed.
I loved her honesty and her fantastic storytelling skills. Look around minute 23 - blogger apparently does not let you do time marks.

I think that right now it's a time period where there's more acknowledgement that it's nigh impossible to do multiple full-time jobs at one time. And I think that her coping mechanism of having help and training her support staff to aid her parenting is pretty much the only way. She talks about the strain that it puts on her personal life, and I think that it's essential to understanding the problems of work-life balance that we face today.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Semi-ER

There's an emerging category of ER: semi-ER. It's where you hit your bare bones FI number and promptly quit.

I went to a Mustachian meetup in a park with a picnic. All of us are in our early 20s. We all have a number that's in the same ballpark, since we understand how much it costs to live. We were saying that we'd keep our 'stash, but work part-time somewhere. One of us had been a barista at Starbucks. He said that it was good, engaging work - that you got acquainted with the regulars and that the work was ok. Once you hit 20 hours a week,  you get benefits like health insurance and a 401k. Starbucks made headlines recently when it said that it would help pay for college.

All of us have 9 to 5 jobs. We aren't opposed to working, even after we've putatively hit "retirement." We're so young that the idea of just sitting on a beach for the rest of our lives doesn't appeal. One of us said that he wanted to get a camper van and live the freewheeling lifestyle. Another said that he wanted to go travel around the world. I just want to travel around Europe, especially stopping on the Mediterranean Coast (though not forever).
My favorite beach in Spain
Source
One of the nearby Mustachians, Buck at Bucking the Trend, is moving to Granada for a year or two. We were having a discussion in the forums recently about where to live in Europe - I said that I'd completely move to Spain. Analysis on numbeo showed that Valencia, where I'd go, has a cost of living around 77% of the cost of living where I am now.

The only things that I would worry about would be the paperwork and the desperation that currently is gripping Spain.
NY Times