Monthly Archives: September 2015

Host of NOLA Invesment Conference Recounts Past Keynotes

Brien Lundin has been the head of the most notable gold conference in the world since the early 1980’s. He’s seen some of the biggest names like Margaret Thatcher and Alan Greenspan take the stage at this intimate event in New Orleans. Lundin took some time to talk to me about past guests and what’s to come at this year’s spectacular event (Oct 28-31st).

Register for the event to see Marc Faber, Anthem Blanchard, Peter Schiff, and more at this year’s event. Discounts apply for a short time! Click here to register.

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Don’t Shed a Tear for Chicago Public Schools

bus-878697_1920Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have started the new school year without having the money to last the full academic year. Even though the school system has taken care of more than half of the budget shortfall, through cuts and more borrowing, they still face a $480 million gaping hole for the current school year. Yes, that’s right, the hole was previously $1.1 billion. Instead of getting their finances in order, CPS is running to the State of Illinois and expecting to be bailed out.

There is just one problem with this plan – the State is also broke and facing their own budget gap of $5 billion. While the Illinois Senate has passed legislation in an effort to patch the hole, by using state dollars and lowering the required payments to pensions, the House hasn’t yet passed the Bill, and it is unclear how it will be funded, according to the WSJ.

If the money doesn’t come through, the school system will be forced to make additional cuts, mid-year. Adding to the turmoil is the fact that the Chicago Teachers Union is operating under an expired contract. While a strike is not on the table yet, a mediator has been enlisted for help which means that negotiations cannot be going well.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest drivers of the CPS budget shortfall is their pension obligations. While the teacher’s pension fund is the highest-funded in Chicago at 49%, (the other city pension funds are around 40% funded or less!), it is also the largest pension fund and therefore carries the largest pension unfunded liability at $9.6 billion.

Chicago politicians and pundits would have you believe the shortfall is because city finance managers had to choose between funding the pensions or paying for teachers and school expenses, but a recent study by Illinois Policy has found that was not the case. Rather, it is because pensions have been treated as a political slush fund.

Uh-Oh Canada

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“Oh Canada, my home and native land….”

This opening refrain of the Canadian national anthem is a melody which is indelibly etched in my mind as an earworm (defined as a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind, after it finishes playing). It’s a song I unconsciously memorized while watching live hockey games featuring my two favorite teams: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadians.

My love for our northern neighbor began when I was in college. It all started with a road trip with some good friends back in 1983; a journey from Columbus, Ohio, up and across the Ohio Turnpike, around Buffalo, New York, and then across the U.S./Canadian border to the Queen Elizabeth Way. Our destination was Toronto, Ontario, Canada, a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city that reminds me a great deal of Chicago. I’ve also visited Vancouver, a city in western Canada that is annually listed as one of the top places to live in the world.

So are you impressed by all of this? Well, don’t be. That is, unless you are Canadian.

Recession in Canada?

Canada is currently experiencing a fascinating time, an era that has become fodder for lively neighborhood conversations over Molson beers. Amid what some economists are calling a recession, questions are now being raised about the country’s long dependence on natural resources extraction as its economic underpinning. Boom towns are a relatively recent Canadian phenomenon, attracting miners and builders to build expensive pipelines and terminals. With this development, the country subsequently became what one might describe as a dig-and-deliver producer of pricey raw materials in a world flush with inexpensive commodities. “

5 Ways to Create an Extra $500 a Month

Piggy BankIt’s becoming increasingly popular for Millennials to save their money instead of increasing their debt. This generation, while engendering the start-up boom, is simultaneously spending and saving wisely. This powerful shift in financial consciousness is partly a response to the devastating burden of student loans. With projected retirement at 65 becoming increasingly unattainable for Baby Boomers, Millenials understand this caution and know that a key factor here is one’s early creation of a meaningful personal savings account. I know, because I’m a Millennial myself and my entire financial strategy revolves around how much I can save each month.

I read about a younger couple who have cut their spending down so they can put away 71% of their income each month. I’m proud to say I’ve created a savings plan of about 55% a month, and it’s VERY do-able. Can you imagine saving an extra $500 a month? What would that mean for your overall savings plan? Here are a handful of ways to save/earn an extra $500 a month – or more – and increase your overall savings.

1. Don’t buy a drink at dinner. I won’t tell you to not go out to eat, although I can advise that getting food delivered or ordering take-out can save 15-20% off the price of a sit-down restaurant bill. Buying a drink at dinner can cost you close to the price of your meal. Most sit-down restaurants offer a cocktail menu ranging from $7-12 a drink, except during Happy Hour. So after two beers or two glasses of wine, you have run up a $14 pre-tax beverage bill, yet you hardly even have a buzz on

Unconventional Wisdom From A True Rebel: Rebel Saffold III

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Rebel Saffold III

True to his first name, Denver-based entrepreneur Rebel Saffold III lives each day with purposeful abandon. As President of Lebertech Technology Services – a  firm that provides consulting support to non-profit organizations in the areas of technology, leadership, operations, database management and donor relations – Rebel brings a ‘full tilt’ approach to his game while modeling the essence of free enterprise and abundance. In my exclusive interview with him over wine and pizza at Second Home in Denver’s toney Cherry Creek North District, Rebel uncorked a steady flow of uncommon wisdom about entrepreneurship, technology, money and the vicissitudes of life. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom he shared from our conversation:

On Education

I was an undergraduate major in political science and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa before working at the State Senate for about a year. During that time, I reconnected with some friends that I grew up with in high school and from whom I received my first computer: an old Compaq Presario. Because it only had a 166 MHz processor along with 64 MB of RAM, the high-speed internet connection I used proved too much for the computer to handle. In any event, a friend of mine started a business installing network cards for people in our neighborhood. After the two of us hung out for a few months, we started to get into file-sharing and other tech functions. This early orientation to technology still informs my work today.

On The Unexpected

I’ve had plenty of these but there is one life experience that stands out in my mind. My wife (at the time) and I had moved to St. Louis so that she could attend school in the field of social work. I was temping at a call center, collecting on consumer phone bills, and would often spend time after a busy day with some of my work buddies. One evening, we went to East St. Louis and hung out in the basement of someone’s home. Two of the guys I knew fairly well, but I didn’t know the rest. While sitting there engaged in conversation, a bunch of guys I’d never seen before walked in with these brown bags which they proceeded to open up, pouring the contents out onto the table. Eight handguns. And then another guy opens up his bag and pulls out three bricks of cocaine.

So here I am – this guy from Iowa – screaming on the inside from panic because I had never been around guns or drugs before. But I recognized that I mustn’t show fear around these guys because if I do, they’re going to think something is wrong and that I’m a snitch, which could end up getting me hurt. So I sat there and gave off the impression that everything was normal. As I look back at this incident years later, I recognize that this was one of many experiences that gave me the strength and backbone that I now have.  I was pretty naive back then for sure.

On My Dad

My Dad went to prison for five years when I was a kid. He was caught selling drugs on the street and he got shot four times. The next day at school, every kid was talking about it. I was in the 9th grade.

Land of the Free, Home of the Idiot

testscoresForgive the suggestion, but it seems we may have reached an era in history where finding the village idiot may not be so difficult. Bloomberg reported that this year’s SAT scores were lower than they’ve been in some years. The SAT is a globally recognized collegiate admissions exam that tests a student’s critical reading, mathematics and writing abilities. This year’s students earned an average score of 1,490 out of the possible 2,400 points that the exam has to offer (800 per section). 

The two traditional sections, critical reading and mathematics, averaged 495 and 511 respectively. The writing section was an addition to the test in 2005 in an effort to assess a student’s ability to read and respond to a prompt in an analytical fashion. This section received the lowest average score since its conception: 484. The ACT, which is another (more popular) collegiate admissions exam, had average scores that remained relatively stable when compared to previous years. While the ACT exam tests what a student has learned in high school, or their ability to recall information, the SAT is more of a test of reasoning, logic and verbal skills. 

These statistics reveal much about the current nature of education in the United States. Regardless of beliefs regarding traditional education versus common core, American students are not learning. They are not learning to think critically, logically or rationally, and it doesn’t take any explanation to understand how this is becoming a dangerous phenomenon. A student, in order to learn, must be open to the learning process. It may not be a matter of which educational tactic is best, but rather teaching a student who is attentive and willing to put in the necessary hours to truly learn. As a biology student with aspirations of attending medical school, I know that for every hour spent in class, I require two hours studying outside of class. It’s not always enjoyable and it is certainly detrimental to an exciting social life, but it is what’s necessary for greatness. There seems to be a problem with high school students where academic mediocrity is not only acceptable but even encouraged among one’s peers.