Conquering Your Financial Empire

Military Contract Bonuses: Government Claw Back Edition

Published October 25, 2016 in Government , Retirement Planning - 2 Comments
Contract Bonuses - Angry Pug

I’ve got a lot of respect for the military.  They endure things that the average person could not cope with.  This is especially true during a wartime situation like the United States has been faced with since 2001.  We send our men and women to serve all across the globe.  Some make it back and some don’t – it’s a sad, but true, fact.  However, to compensate our soldiers, we pay them in outstanding fringe benefits like education, pensions, and healthcare.

Sometimes during wartime, when ranks run thin, we even pay them with contract bonuses.  The same type of contract bonuses you see athletes or corporate executives get to entice them into signing contracts.  Generally, so long as the term of the contact was honored – and there was no malfeasance by either party – they are irrevocable and free to enjoy by the signing party.  Last year, Peggy Johnson, then an executive with Qualcomm, received a $7.8Million bonus to sign with Microsoft.  Could you imagine the outrage if, 10 years from now, Microsoft claws back that bonus saying she was ineligible for the bonus because the Board of Trustees didn’t vote on it?

Strangely enough though that’s exactly the case that’s happening to nearly 9,700 troops associated with the California Guard.  The L.A. Times reports that the soldier’s bonuses are being clawed back – and I’m pretty peeved about it. Continue reading

First Week in Real Estate

Published October 21, 2016 in Career , Real Estate - 4 Comments
first week in real estate

Week one is in the books ladies and gentleman!  I’ve concluded my first week in real estate as an agent with a brokerage.  I need a vacation.  If you haven’t read how I came to choose my brokerage, be sure to read it here.  It’s now clearly apparent that Phil Dunphy, the REALTOR character in Modern Family, has lied to me.  For all of his self-deprecating humor and carefree self, he led me to believe this thing was easy!

It’s been hectic.  I still thought it would be a great idea to let you all in on what your first week as a real estate agent would look like.  A lot of it follows exactly what you may think, but you may also be surprised.  There is a lot of back-end work that goes into making your first week successful.  There is also a lot of time that needs to be spent on one and done activities – which is frustrating. Continue reading

Picking a Brokerage for Real Estate

Published October 17, 2016 in Career , Real Estate - 0 Comments
Picking a Brokerage - House Picture

I’ve been incredibly busy as of late.  It’s actually been very difficult to try and post consistently.  So what have I been doing that’s taking up so much time?  Trying to pass real estate school!  Well, as of October 3rd, I had passed the state exam and officially became an inactive holder of a Florida real estate license!  So then, the trek to find a broker officially began.

Presently, I have officially selected a broker (and am now licensed and active) and I’d like to share my thoughts on what my thought process was.  Part of writing this is so everyone, should they decide to get licensed, will have some guidelines.  The other part is so I can have a record for my thoughts a few years from now to see if my expectations were met.

If you’re in the Central Florida area looking for property as a buyer, seller, or investor, look me up.  A great place to start is my agent page at www.realestatecelt.com.  I would be happy to sit down for a free consultation.   Continue reading

Sleepover at the Sheriff! What I learned About Professional Hardships

Published October 10, 2016 in Career , Government - 7 Comments
Professional Hardships? Let us know!

In every job, you will have professional hardships.  I had my first major one while working at the sheriff’s office.  As most of you know, Central Florida was hit by Hurricane Matthew this week.  I’m a dispatcher, so I’m considered part of the essential emergency staffing.  This meant that, from 5:30 AM Thursday to 6:00 PM Friday, I was working and sleeping at the sheriff’s office.  We were fortunate that Matthew went further east than originally predicted, and our lock down was lifted early.  But I learned some very important things about work and personal life.

Before I get into that though, I want to take a moment and shout out to all of my coworkers – including

Professional Hardships?  Let us know!

Professional Hardships? Let us know!

those from neighboring agencies.  My living situation was pretty miserable, but it pales in comparison to those deputies and officers that were literally living in their car for days as they responded to calls when wind would briefly die down.  When I left the sheriff’s office, the road patrols were still required to be on emergency staffing, meaning they didn’t get to go home.  They handled their professional hardships with tact and diligence.  Bravo on them all.  They embody all that is right with protecting and serving.

Further, while the road units were outstanding on the road, the communications center also performed admirably.  We received TRIPLE our normal 911 call volume on Friday.  Not a single 911 escaped agency standards.  All phones were answered in under ten seconds to keep us in line with national accreditation standards.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Now, onto what I learned. . . Continue reading

Restaurant Tipping and all of its Inefficiencies

Published October 3, 2016 in Policy Analysis - 4 Comments
Nobody likes tipping

Lady Celt and I were in Olive Garden the other day getting a quick lunch before going to BJ’s to stock up on non-perishables.  Being the financially savvy guy I am, I know that going to a wholesale store on an empty stomach is bad news bears.  Buying 15 boxes of Goldfish crackers “because I was hungry” probably won’t go over smoothly once I get home.  So we’re in Olive Garden, munching away.  Our service isn’t bad, but I also don’t think it was great.  While there I began thinking about our service at another Olive Garden a month or so prior (don’t judge me.  We’re trying to use gift cards from last Christmas).  At that meal, our server was excellent.  She interacted with Mini-Celt nearly every time she was at the table and was friendly and prompt.  While thinking about this, I got kind of annoyed.  Our so-so server got a 15% tip, while our server before got 20%.  That 5% difference is worth $1.50, maybe.  Yet the service was markedly different and left vastly different impressions on us.  And then I remembered something. . . That’s exactly why I hate tipping.

So on the drive to BJ’s I began to think about the varying levels of service and quality of restaurants.  We were at a more upscale restaurant back in August for Lady Celt’s birthday.  We had the Mini-Celt so we decided to go just before the dinner rush to avoid upsetting everyone trying to enjoy their Friday night dinner.  Our server was training this new fellow.  Not terrible I suppose, this is an upscale establishment – he probably has experience; I’ll cut him some slack if he fumbles over the menu.  He clearly lacked server skills.  However, his trainer was professional and tried to make up for his shortcomings.  They got 18% on a bill over $100.

These stories all reinforce how much I hate tipping.  It’s not efficient, it’s not economic, and it’s not based in meritocracy.  Rather, it’s got a murkier past. Continue reading

The Value of DIY Renovations

Published September 27, 2016 in Budget , Real Estate - 5 Comments

This past weekend, I ventured into the wilderness that was my backyard.  We’re talking months of neglect.  We have a lawn guy for the front, and it’s a fairly large yard for our area.  It’s also more than adequate for our Mini-Celt, so we had no use for the backyard.  But I got sick of feeling like Teddy Roosevelt wandering through Panamanian jungles every time I walked by the back door.  For my out of state readers, the humid and hot Florida climate makes shrubs and grass grow like no other.  We’re talking zero to four feet tall in just six months, if left unchecked.

Renovations Gone Wrong

Bathroom Renovations Gone Wrong

The good thing about yard work like that is that it’s easy on the mind, which allows me to idly think about other things.  So I got to thinking.  First about how much a lawn guy would charge me to clear out the backyard (for its dire state of repair, I estimated about $200).  Then I got to thinking about our upcoming renovations on the home.  Renovations that I am determined to do myself!  My DIY mentality was born out of a willingness to learn and the thought that knowing these skills might be good for my eventual venture into land lording.  It also doesn’t help that I’m a public servant and thus not flush with cash. Continue reading

Financial Literacy: 5 Reasons You Should Have it

Published September 23, 2016 in Budget , Credit , Debt , Retirement Planning - 2 Comments
Financial literacy leads to success

One of the major reasons I started this blog was because my friends asked for it.  Many of them asked for it because they were entering, or finishing, law school and were faced with enormous debt loads and were coming to an age where they were becoming classier consumers.  Trading in their futons and beanbag chairs for sofas and dining tables.  While they sought practical applications for money, what they were really asking for was how to become more financially literate.  An important topic for upcoming professionals that need to fund retirement 40 years down the road.

Financial literacy has been an avid passion of mine for many years.  Advocating the benefits and small research costs involved is something I do for pleasure.  It’s why I got the title of the money guy in my sphere of influence.  Much to my chagrin though, financial literacy rates are still garbage in America.  I was reminded of this fact while listening to NPR when they had a segment on the topic.  While listening, all I could think about was a paper out of Wharton School of Business on the topic (you can read the overview of it here).  This paper described the dire state of financial literacy in America and abroad.

Consequently, I thought a paper on the value of financial literacy might be in order. Continue reading

The Fall of Theranos: A Brand Management Study

Published September 19, 2016 in Career - 2 Comments

There is a healthcare company in Silicon Valley that is currently under fire.  Full disclosure: I was awe struck by the company and the potential it had if the claims were true.  I’ve been following them now for nearly two years.  Their product would have been a revolutionary change to the healthcare industry.  The company is Theranos and was founded by Elizabeth Holmes.  Holmes was 19 when she dropped out of Stanford University to start Theranos and just last year, at 31 years old, she was valued at $4.5 Billion.  As of today, many put her fortune at less than $100,000.  Holmes is also banned from owning or operating a medical laboratory for two years.

Some of you may be wondering what Theranos produces.  You’re probably also wondering why they were so revolutionary.  Theranos had created a blood-testing machine by the name of Edison.  This machine was supposed to take blood from Nanotainers – which were vials no more than half an inch long – and run them through 15 different tests.  These tests ranged from cholesterol, prostate cancer, Herpes Simplex, and even pregnancy hormones.  All these tests from just a few drops of blood.  Like I said, revolutionary.

What actually happened was that Edison could only accurately test for Herpes Simplex 1, and then lied about all of the rest.  Theranos went so far as to run their proficiency samples with other lab testing machines and then slap the Edison name on the final result.  The end to the tragedy was Shakespearean in quality.

The Fall of Theranos

I encourage you to check out this story by the New York Times for a brief synopsis and history of Theranos.  It’s published as an easy to read timeline.  Here are a few key features though: Oct 16, 2015 Theranos collecting of tiny blood samples opting for a traditional direct venous approach; April 18th, 2016 the S.E.C and Justice Department begin their investigations of Theranos; June 12th, 2016 Walgreens closes the 42 testing centers using Theranos products – these centers were most of Theranos’ customers; July 7th, 2016 the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services bans Elizabeth Holmes from owning or running a medical laboratory for two years, and also ban her laboratories from receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments.

How Do You Manage Your Brand?

How Do You Manage Your Brand?

Theranos still exists.  At least in theory, anyway.  They are still trying to market products, but it’s mostly falling on deaf ears.  The company was so carefully crafted as a revolutionary breakthrough and Silicon Sweetheart, that the level of penalties and credibility issues they’ve received have made them defunct.  Simply said, they lack credibility.  The fact that their COO explicitly told Theranos lab techs to run proficiency samples with other company’s products, and then publish those results as Theranos results was damning.  Theranos has also voided any and all tests done on the Edison machine in 2014 and 2015.

The problem with Theranos is that they kept everything guarded.  Employees Department A were not allowed to communicate with Department B, this led to Holmes understanding the master plan, but the employees were left in the dark – this breeds discontent.  This also turns into a bunch whistleblowers coming out to the news media in secrecy if something goes wrong.  That’s exactly what happened with Theranos.  Furthermore, Holmes refused to allow any scientist doctor or medical journal to review their science, even under non-disclosure.  That means someone in Theranos didn’t feel confident enough in the product to show off how it worked.

In medicine, credibility is paramount to success.  If you’re a doctor, and your patients don’t trust you, they don’t use you.  If you’re a drug maker, and people don’t believe the drug works, they’ll refuse to take it.  Theranos created lab equipment and couldn’t prove to others that their science worked, so why should they be amazed when people won’t use it?

What Theranos Can Teach Everyone

Theranos is a modern day brand management example that applies to everyone.  It’s important to craft yourself as unique brand that stands out from the crowd.  What’s more important though is to craft a brand that’s real.  It needs to be authentic.  Theranos created a beautiful image, but they failed to substantiate their claims with credible science.  Don’t be a Theranos.

Instead, be yourself.  Create a beautiful image based upon something you know to be true in yourself.  Why did I choose Cash Flow Celt?  Well, my ancestors come from both Scottish and Irish roots.  More than that, Irish and Celtic history has become a passion of mine to research.  Through college I read volumes of material on the topic and still continue that today.  Thus, “Celt” is central to my image.  It also helps that I’m a big, bearded, kilt-wearing man.  Cash flow was just the extension for finance – my other love.  I didn’t start a fashion blog because I don’t follow haute fashion themes and the upcoming fashion shows.

As important as being authentic is to be kind.  Treat everyone with compassion and respect.  Holmes ruled with omniscience because she kept her employees in the dark.  Personally, I feel this strategy is disrespectful to the intelligence of employees.  Disrespect breeds discontent as well.  She also knowingly lied about her product to investors and people relying on her blood tests to be accurate.  Lying is showing a disdain for other people’s emotions and it’s narcissistic; neither of which are respectful or compassionate.  Moreover, lying does not strengthen a brand – just check out my article about Wells Fargo for more examples of that.

Conclusion

Theranos will go belly up soon enough.  The lied, and lied, and then lied again.  Moreover, they knowingly gave false results to people relying on their tests to give relevant medical advice to patients.  Not only were they dishonest and a farce, but they could have very easily put people’s lives at risk.

If you’re looking for an example of what NOT TO DO, check out Theranos.  Your brand should be authentic to you, but it should also be truthful and compassionate.  If you follow those three simple truths, your brand will grow and develop.  In today’s marketplace, your brand is your livelihood.  Whether you’re a business owner, an employee, or a freelancer, once your brand is tarnished your ability to work will falter.

Just be wary, in today’s social media driven environment it’s even easier to inadvertently tarnish your brand.  Yet, in a grand streak of irony, we’re increasingly being forced to post on social media to stay relevant.  That means you need to be hypervigilant when it comes to the tailoring of your brand.  Fear not though!  If you’re a kind and truthful person in everyday life, your brand is nothing to fear.  It’ll grow simply because you’re you.  And that’s the best feeling of all.

 

Readers, do you agree with my views on brand management?  Let me know in the comments below!  If you haven’t already, check out my review on Republic Wireless to start saving 50% on your phone bill!  Also, be sure to like my Cash Flow Celt Facebook page to stay up to date on all the new articles!

Why Wells Fargo Should get the Death Penalty

Published September 14, 2016 in Government , Policy Analysis - 5 Comments
Wells Fargo Grave

I love a good bank drama.  Watching executives get called up to Capitol Hill and watching question after question fired at them and seeing them squirm; it’s great fun.  I’m by no means anti-banking though.  I went to school for economics and even got offered a job at a boutique firm up in NYC as an investment analyst.  I even refuse to use mobile deposit and avoid drive-thrus if possible because I just enjoy the face-to-face interaction of a bank visit.  Frankly, I just find it amusing to watch a guy making $6Million a year try to justify a crooked action that needlessly cost people, and cities, money.

Thus, when Wells Fargo got busted for their most recent lapse in judgment I got giddy with excitement.  This hasn’t been a good year for Wells Fargo after getting smacked with two other settlements this year.  However, this new one is a little disappointing because there was really no reason for it.  Wells Fargo, in an attempt to reach their sales quotas, was conducting fraud by opening unasked for customer accounts and then closing them shortly after.  It was purely a numbers game. Continue reading

The Apple Tax – Is $15 Billion Fair?

Published September 9, 2016 in Government , Policy Analysis , Taxes - 3 Comments
Measuring the Apple Tax

Between Brock Turner’s release from jail and Kaepernick’s refusal to stand the EU Apple tax went under the radar for many people.  It’s actually a fairly interesting case though!  This “Apple tax” is to the tune of $15Billion dollars.  Which is a fairly small portion of Apple’s oversea industries.  They could pay this tax, repatriate all of their offshore earnings at 35%, and still have over $100 billion left over for dividends and investments.  So the money isn’t the issue.

The issue is one of fairness and paying your share.  To be fair, I don’t think news sources are doing this case justice.  Those who are for the tax aren’t being considerate of the fact that Apple acted in good faith.  Those who are against the tax aren’t taking into consideration the special treatment and tax evasion that Apple went through.

Personally, I refuse to buy Apple products.  I think they’re morally perverse and I find their product quality versus their product pricing to be flawed.  You pay more for less.  However, the EU commission is going about this the wrong way.  They’re trying to enforce a rule that doesn’t exist, for actions that preceded the current version of the EU. Continue reading

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