Posts By: Michael Scott

Is Reading the New Currency of Financial Freedom?

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“If you watched Warren Buffett with a time clock, I would say that half of all the time he spends is just sitting on his ass and reading.”

Charlie Munger, V.P. of Berkshire Hathaway

Reading has long been a part of my DNA. That can largely be attributed to habits passed down by my parents; my father was a voracious reader, and my mother was a middle school reading specialist for twenty-five years. Whether physical copy or Kindle, it’s not surprising that my most prized possession is a good stack of books in which to immerse myself.

Like you, I am on an ongoing quest for financial freedom. It’s here that books are an essential ‘food group’ in my  self-improvement and lifelong learning pursuits. Each day, I commit a minimum of two hours to autodidactic mode, poring over a great read.

This month’s theme here at Anthem Vault is Read Some Books. As we make the leap into March, consider making a pledge to #BeResponsible for your self-learning by grabbing a book and reading it today.

Given Anthem Vault’s focus on sound money as an essential element of financial freedom, I thought I’d personally recommend five books to help jump-start your reading pursuits. 

Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell

This book offers a comprehensive look at how the global economy really works, as well as timely prescriptions for advancing our world order. Be prepared for lots of reading with this telephone book-size tome.

The Real Crash: How to Save Yourself and Your Country by Peter Schiff

Lots of shocking predictions in this book, albeit some a bit far-fetched. But I found it quite informative, particularly its perspectives on the future of  gold markets.

Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Seeking real-world suggestions for managing your financial affairs? Then this book is a must-read. And the money app EveryDollar  that accompanies it is a gem.

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Bank Cash Withdrawals Raise Suspicion

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Imagine walking into a bank to withdraw funds to buy a used car from a private party, or withdrawing emergency cash for a friend who becomes unemployed and has no bank account. Suspicious? Do you know that if that amount is $5,000, your trusted bank teller is under a legal requirement to file a report to the Feds on what is deemed ‘suspected criminal activity’?

In what many see as an acceleration of statist control of U.S. citizens, the Justice Department has called on bank employees to report customers whose financial transactions appear to be suspicious or unusual. Known as a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR), this federal requirement has surprised many bank patrons who have discovered that their benign intentions have run afoul of The Feds.

Because banks are required to complete a SAR for questionable transactions (typically $5,000 or more for banks; $2,000 or more for money services businesses), unsuspecting customers are subjected to scrutiny for perfectly legal actions, such as merely withdrawing cash. Banks often file SARs even for smaller amounts due to regulatory fear, in what could be deemed a ‘defensive filing’ approach.

Tragically, this action against an innocent customer could result in a larger enforcement action such as a thorough investigation or even the seizure of their cash. And it could land one on a terrorist watchlist that could result in travel and other restrictions.

Beyond these requirements for brick-and-mortar entities, new legislation aimed at greater cybersecurity transparency between the Feds and financial institutions has taken root with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. Now, these financial institutions are required to be extra vigilant in terms of monitoring and including online information in their suspicious activity reporting. 

A Tweet, a Link and a Zap: 5 Keys to Building Connections Online

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 Whether building a book of business, pursuing a new job, or searching for love, we all have a fundamental need to connect. Now with the Internet being the primary tool for interacting with others, face-to-face interactions have largely given way to online exchanges. Given this reality, you may be discovering that navigating through a sea of social media can be challenging. At times, it can feel like a perfunctory, rote exercise, void of true meaning and significance. Unlike in-person networking, mastering the art of online connection requires some deft skills and savvy.

I’m not going to lie; as a 52-year-old who has been a freelancer since 1993, adapting to this new normal of connectivity has been an exercise in futility at times. Traditionally, my world had involved networking at events. Those of you around my age remember the days of slick sales pitches and folks with a repository of business cards to hand out. While these in-person pantomimes still occur, they have largely taken a backseat to the online competition.

The good news is that I have developed a framework that uniquely works for me within this new normal; one that has yielded a number of personal and professional connections over the years, as well as scores of business opportunities.

My 3 Lanes on the Connection Highway

Given the vast nature of the online social landscape, one can quickly get lost in a morass of places to build connections. So like entering the on-ramp to a highway, it’s important to quickly assess which of the three lanes you are going to use – and when.

Twitter: Laugh if you must, but Twitter is great for lazy-ass networkers like me. And I have generated a ton of business over the years from this networking platform. Because today’s rapport is often snatched in soundbites (think texts and messaging), the 140 character tweet limit is usually all I need to fuel a new connection. Just look at it as a squirt of lighter fluid, designed to ignite a conversation that you can then nurture.

Mobile Phones: What Every Budget Conscious Person Needs to Know

IMG_4829Like most Americans, I find myself tethered to my phone 24/7. It is without a doubt the most important tech tool I possess. So as you can probably imagine, I’ve always  been very careful to prevent any sort of lapse in payment.

Well, an unfortunate scenario occurred three months ago, or so I thought. My mobile service was disconnected because I was no longer able to come up with the $190 monthly payment. The good news is that I eventually paid the bill and had it restored.

Here’s what I discovered as a result of this experience. I was being charged for way more mobile data than I could possibly ever need. So I made a visit to my phone carrier retail store and reduced my data package to one gigabyte. The savings:  $90 per month.

My new monthly bill was therefore reduced to $100 plus tax and fees. Sounds more reasonable, huh? Well, not really when you consider the fact that I found myself now paying for what amounted to a phone number and 1GB of data. So I am now pondering the unthinkable: cancelling both my cell number and data plan.

Why would I do such a crazy thing when one could argue that 1GB of data is woefully inefficient? The simple answer – I have little need for a pricey data plan given the abundance of low or no-cost Wi-Fi available at public locations or via a mobile hotspot.

The Lebenskϋnstler Lifestyle

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“I put my talent into my work, but my genius into my life.”

Oscar Wilde

Some of my friends characterize me as a dictionary fanatic, an opinion that was recently reinforced when I became intrigued by a new word I stumbled across: Lebenskϋnstler.

The word evokes an archetype that to this day continues to have an influence on the German ethos, particularly as it relates to Berlin culture and nightlife. It connotes a person who, though not actually an artist, pursues life with the same zeal as a passionate artist, making life magical in myriad ways, putting a positive spin on everything and taking delight in the little things that others overlook. Such a person could best be described as a Life Artist.

This echoes today’s evolving millennial mindset; one where ripe opportunities are recognized and seized in an attempt to make the most out of our lives. It’s a life course that’s deliberate, yet fraught with profound risk. For these folks, it’s the deep path of life that holds importance, rather than a static destination.

Lebenskϋnstlers are fiercely independent, individualists who see themselves as architects of their own freedom. In this way, they reflect the core values of Hank Reardon, the hero highlighted in Ayn Rand’s perennial best-selling book, Atlas Shrugged. They care little about their next deal or the Big Win. Instead, only the present moment matters, and how they can create meaning right now.

These individuals are also susceptible to what I affectionately call Career Polyamory. Instead of being faithful to one career, they have dalliances with multiple jobs, designed to meet their psychic needs and/or pay the bills. They are the proverbial freelancers who – in contrarian fashion – abhor rules, bosses, suits, small talk and even formal offices.

A Slight Edge Makes a Huge Impact

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A few years ago on a flight home from Portland to Denver, I interrupted a woman seated next to me who was deeply engaged in a book. “What are you reading?” I inquired. “Oh, it’s an amazing book called The Slight Edge. You ought to check it out.” And with that, she returned to the book without uttering another word for the remainder of the trip.

I jotted the title down, only to be reminded of it a month or so ago when I randomly found it in my Evernote cache.

So what’s the principle message of The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success and Happiness? Quite simply, it is that success and failure are largely predicated on the small choices that we either make or don’t make each day. The truth is that these choices will do little to change the trajectory of our lives in the short-term. However, compounded over time, they have a massive positive or negative impact on our lives.