Hyperloop: Speed Into The Future

hyperloop-new-ftHype About Hyperloop

In 2013, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X, revealed a high-speed ground transport concept called Hyperloop. This announcement came shortly after the California high-speed rail car plans were unveiled. California’s bullet train is reported to cost a minimum of $70 billion to link Sacramento to San Diego. Musk, among others, found California’s Read More…

Practicing Sound Money: Can the UnBanked Participate?

IMG_4608It’s shocking when you hear of someone functioning day-to-day without a bank account. But according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, this trend is not all that uncommon.

The FDIC reports that nearly 17 million Americans are unbanked, limiting them in their ability to execute financial transactions and accumulate wealth-building assets. Moreover, 51 million are referred to as underbanked, meaning that they may have to rely on options like check-cashing services and high-interest lending, just to make ends meet.

There are myriad reasons behind this lack of engagement with traditional banking systems. For starters, a growing number of Americans, particularly African-Americans, have grown leery of banks due to predatory lending and excessive fees. Others are simply unable to obtain even a basic checking or savings account, due to a tarnished financial history.

One Pew study found that a third of all households that closed their bank accounts did so because of unexpected or unexplained fees.

Then there is the case of growing numbers of young Americans who have voluntarily chosen to self-select out of financial institutions. FDIC data shows that a surprising 50% of those between the ages of 18 to 24 are unbanked or underbanked.Keep reading…

11 Economic Insights on Ghana and Gold

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We live in vast world – yet in some ways, it is quite small. I was reminded of this last week when I found myself in a random conversation with a complete stranger who lives in Ghana. Oh, the wonders of Google Hangouts.

Here’s what I initially discovered about Ghana. This small nation in West Africa has a population of 25.9 million and is richly endowed with an abundance of natural resources like diamonds, manganese ore, bauxite and oil. But Ghana is better known for is it’s mother-lode of gold deposits, making it Africa’s 2nd largest gold producer, after South Africa.

Curious about this, I mined for further information about the significance of this precious metal for Ghana’s economic fortunes. Here are 11 nuggets that I was able to unearth:

  1. Ghana has consistently been ranked in the top ten of gold production worldwide.
  2. Ghana’s mining industry accounts for over 5% of the country’s GDP. Gold makes up over 90% of the total mineral exports, and it represents nearly 50% of the country’s revenue.
  3. Because of its heavy dependence on gold exports, Ghana’s economy has been tepid. This is due to the overall price decline of gold from $1,900 per troy ounce in 2011 to below $1,200 in 2015.
  4. Obuasi, a gold mine that has been in operation since 1897 after it was launched by three Ghanaian merchants, has struggled of late amid this fall in gold prices. Today, miners have to dig deeper and manage expenses more closely just to stay afloat.
  5. With gold-mining weighed down by record levels of debt as well as prices that are near a five-year low, a growing number of Ghanaian miners are fearful of having their employer merge with others just in order to survive.
  6. Many parts of Ghana remain unexplored in terms of potential gold production. This particularly holds true for the northern Upper West region of this resource-rich country.
  7. A major policy emphasis on the part of the government is ensuring that modern and environmentally-friendly extraction methods are being used so that the surrounding ecosystem doesn’t become irreparably damaged; this may lead to the closing of some mining operations and an ensuing reduction in exports.
  8. Although known as an epicenter of global gold production, Ghana (like its neighbor Nigeria) has struggled with an energy crisis, meaning that the majority of its citizens have no electricity. This is due to the nation’s lack of infrastructure capital, compounded by broken promises from the government in addressing the issue. Ghanaians affectionately call this DUMSOR (meaning ‘on’ and ‘off’), because of the highly unpredictable energy supply.
  9. In addition to the aforementioned fall in gold prices, other factors that are adversely impacting the Ghanaian economy include a sharp currency depreciation as well as rising inflation and interest rates.
  10. In 2013, Ghana deported thousands of Chinese nationals involved in the illegal mining of gold
  11. Aside from gold, Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cocoa, behind Ivory Coast. Cocoa is Ghana’s third largest export after oil and gold.

Read More…

3 (not so) Crazy Ways to Save Money

woman-shaking-piggy-bank-shutterstock_96849385-400x400A little while ago, Business Insider published an article about a Google employee who was living out of the back of a truck parked in the company’s corporate parking lot. Brandon, the employee in question, stated that his goal was to save 90% of his post-tax income by living in the truck and eschewing electricity, heating, air-conditioning, a kitchen, toilet or a personal shower. While definitely effective, Brandon’s plan is a little ambitious, and his lifestyle is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. But it did get me thinking about some simple ways one could cut out extraneous spending without having to move into the backseat of a car. Here are 3 not-so-crazy money-saving ideas of mine:

Eat Out Less, Cook More

I definitely enjoy eating out. There’s a lot to like about it. It’s a good way to hang out with friends or to get out of the house and relax. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like putting in the time or effort to cook a nice meal for myself. Which reminds me. I’m not a great cook to begin with. Eating out is a way for me to try new foods which Read More…

Could there be a Future for Brick and Mortar?

brickandmortarIn recent times, it has seemed like online shopping is slowly pushing in-store shopping out of the picture. There are a lot of reasons why switching to online shopping makes sense. It doesn’t involve leaving the house and driving to a store, and sometimes sales tax is eliminated or the product is sold at a lower price than in-store. But brick and mortar stores might not be going the way of the dodo.

This week, Amazon opened its first retail store ever. In an ironic twist of fate,the online company that is so often credited with killing brick and mortar bookstores
is now looking to expand by opening its own physical location. Books sold in the store are offered at online prices, and they even come with customer reviews printed on cards. Located in Seattle, the new store primarily appears to be an experiment. As of yet, there are no firm plans to build more stores, but if this one goes well, Amazon hopes to open more locations.

It’s not quite clear what Amazon is hoping to achieve with this store, but it is probably safe to assume that they have legitimate reasons for venturing into the physical realm. Business News Daily reported on a study that found consumers still prefer to purchase in person. Many who participated in the study said they will often use the internet to research and browse before purchasing, but they prefer to make their actual purchases in a physical store. Read More…

Finally – Legal Investment in Small Businesses

SECYou no longer have to be super wealthy to invest in a new startup company or small business. On October 30th, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced new rules that will make equity crowdfunding legal, something investors and small companies looking to raise money have been waiting a long time for. While not perfect, the rules are a step in the right direction to allow capital to flow freely and efficiently to new business ideas and products, which could unleash exciting opportunities.

What is Equity Crowdfunding?

Many people are familiar with the idea of crowdfunding in general — raising money from a large group of people. The two biggest crowdfunding platforms are Indiegogo and Kickstarter. But have you ever noticed that both platforms only allow you to receive products in exchange for your contribution? In other words, you may get a t-shirt or the first product that rolls off the assembly line, but you can’t have an ownership stake in the company: that would have been illegal.

This problem became glaringly obvious to people when Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset in development, was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion. The project was initially launched on Kickstarter, and those who helped get the company off the ground were given an early prototype of the product in return. But when Facebook made the acquisition, these backers received nothing because they didn’t actually have any shares in the company.

Previously, only accredited investors, or those who were already wealthy, were able to participate in these investments. Now there is the potential for anyone to invest in companies looking to raise capital. This is important for a number of reasons.

Read More…