Millennialisms

piggy-bank-850607_960_720Everyone loves to hate millennials these days. They are characterized as being lazy, entitled and self-absorbed. As is sometimes the case, those stereotypes might have some sort of basis in reality, but as is almost always the case, that’s not the whole story. Laziness, entitlement and narcissism aren’t all that millennials are good for. According to some recent studies, they’re also pretty good at saving. Maybe even better than their elders.

The percentage of millennials saving more than 6% of their income has increased substantially from last year. Not only that, it has surpassed the percentage of people in the 30-49 age range saving more than 6% of their income. Many have attributed these saving habits to the fact that millennials had to watch older generations struggle through an economic recession, as they were growing up. Keeping a healthy savings account is a precaution they can take against the economic troubles that their parents and grandparents faced.

Read More…

Cheers for Yuengling

yuenglingIf you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you may have read the ode to craft beer that I wrote several months ago. Although I’m always partial to a craft brew, sometimes I just need something cheap because drinking exclusively ‘craft’ can become quite expensive. I have nothing against a cheaper beer when I’m really just craving a cold one. Like any good Pennsylvanian, my go-to-budget-beer has been Yuengling traditional lager.

This beer is considered by many beer lovers to be one of the tastier budget beers. As a native of the state, I didn’t realize that Yuengling had the limited distribution that it does until I really started getting into beer. I was surprised to find that people in other states would trek across state lines to get a case. The amber lager is decidedly ubiquitous in Pennsylvania, however. If there’s anything you can count on to be on tap in any PA bar, it’s Yuengling lager. In fact, at many establishments, simply ordering ‘lager’ gets you a Yuengling.

Read More…

Trumps Shocking Clarity on Healthcare Reform

IMG_4933

Frankly, I am no fan of Donald Trump, let alone any of the other candidates from either party. But having served in healthcare industry leadership capacities early in my professional career, I have to admit to being absolutely floored by Trump’s health reform plan. What I found shocking about it is that from top to bottom, it makes so much sense.

Let’s be honest, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been a disastrous nightmare even to the scores of people who were originally rabid supporters. While a noble attempt at reform, many would agree that it has fallen short of even the most limited expectations. I will, however, give this landmark piece of legislation credit for fueling some much-needed debate about the plight of our broken healthcare system.

As many prognosticators originally predicted, Obamacare is on a course of implosion amid soaring costs, technology snafus, patient access barriers, high premiums and deductibles and lackluster consumer choices. The only beneficiaries of this are hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Recently, I decided to take a look at Trump’s campaign website, albeit reluctantly and was stunned by his level-headed solutions to the current healthcare quagmire. Here are some of the key elements of what he is proposing, as well as my commentary on each of them:

Free Market Driven: Noted Harvard Professor Michael Porter penned a wonderful book a number of years ago, extolling the virtues of free market healthcare. Sadly, it fell on the deaf ears of our statist political system. Undeniably, free market competition has consistently delivered positive returns in terms of lower business costs while increasing quality outcomes. And, health care which is rapidly approaching one-quarter of our GDP, is BIG business.  Unlike the other candidates, Trump gets that.

Economic Freedom and Choice: Trump is very clear in his intention to abolish the Obamacare individual mandate if elected, a point upon which I strongly agree with hi. To me, restricting choice among consumers is simply un-American, because no one should be forced to purchase insurance. Free markets open the doors to the affordable, high-quality plans that consumers are clamoring for.  If the airline industry can figure this out – Southwest Airlines low fares and quality service have revolutionized this market – then the health care industry can too.

As an aside, I recently witnessed a moderately injured person get forced by police and paramedics into an ambulance ride to a local hospital. Despite his pleas to the contrary, there was some arcane law which mandated he had to go. Of course, he loudly proclaimed that he was without  health insurance due to the expense and that he would be a burden on society. No dice. He was physically lifted into the ambulance, and off he went. Keep reading…

The “Laissez Faire” Tao of Hayek

IMG_4927

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with the work of the Austrian/British economist Friedrich Hayek. In particular, I’m intrigued with how his views are closely aligned with a passion of mine, Taoist philosophy.

Hayek is the most prominent 20th century champion of a concept known as Spontaneous Order – the theory that systems, such as economic markets, naturally self-correct and function most efficiently when not meddled with. This essence is captured in the French term laissez faire which means ‘allowing things to take their own course without interference.’

Hayek went on to suggest that complex systems are best created not through design, planning or force, but via synergies facilitated among micro-elements that operate in accordance with a set of basic principles or rules. According to Hayek, this market-based spontaneous order allows things like prices to ebb and flow unencumbered through the process of supply and demand. This natural rhythm is the true essence of how the world works, when left alone.

Just the other day, I was reflecting on how these views can be applied to the art of governing. Amid all the rancor in the U.S. surrounding this election year, there appears to be little in the way of acknowledgment among our political candidates of the virtue of self-restraint. I would argue that good government requires a healthy dose of laissez faire restraint to allowing issues to naturally resolve themselves, a technique that has stood the test of time.

Contrary to the belief of many, Hayek concurred that certain structures and rules were necessary to enforce agreements and resolve disputes. He believed that the foundational patterns and order of a civil society naturally emerge when we, the actors, play by the rules. Furthermore, he argued that these rules, which give rise to structural markets, are not due to government planning but rather they ensue from a somewhat mysterious socio-cultural evolution that naturally brings the pieces together into a whole. In the end, Hayek and his counterpart, Adam Smith, supported this concept of spontaneous order not as a means of opposition to the government, but to argue against intrusively meddling with the economy.Keep reading…

My Three Millionaire Friends All Have This in Common

IMG_4922

There is an old saying that those of average means ought to take their rich friends to lunch. Having long heeded this wisdom, I’ve been privy to a great deal of sage advice from these wealth masters.

Admittedly, I was quite surprised to discover one thing in common between them – a factor they all indicated was pivotal in their quest for financial freedom.

That factor? They have all chosen to forgo the use of electronic calendars on their computers or mobile devices, in favor of paper calendars. Yes, you heard right. Harking back to the post-Internet days when desk calendar blotters and pocket planners were in vogue, these three digital Luddites have elected to turn back the clock, at least in terms of planning their daily schedules.

Now for some breaking news. I have made the decision to join them. Yep, I’m ordering my PassionPlanner today.

Back in the 90’s when I was a freshly minted entrepreneur in my Armani suits, hustling for business in Chicago, I carried around the infamous Franklin Planner, a creation of that iconic time management expert Stephen Covey. Back then, Franklin had these huge Apple-ish retail stores where enthusiasts could pick up everything from calendar filler pages to pricey leather-bound briefcases in which to house their scheduling systems. They offered seminars on how to effectively manage your personal and professional activities, replete with a simple yet effective system for assessing your A-B-C priority list.  For me, The Franklin – as it was affectionately known – was my go-to source for everything I needed to maximize my day-to-day productivity.

Fast forward to 2007 when smartphones first appeared on the scene en masse. It was at this point that all reasonably minded people began to question whether it made sense to migrate the calendar function over to our electronic devices. Given my proclivity for being an early adopter, I was among the first to make the jump. And frankly, I’ve regretted it ever since.Keep reading…

The Future of Robotics

Robotics

Robotics

Artificial intelligence and robotics are advancing at breakneck speed, but do they make for a viable business? Google seems to think maybe not. Google’s new parent company Alphabet is planning to sell Boston Dynamics, a robotics company that it acquired a few years ago. Despite the marketability and relative success of simple, consumer-oriented robots like the Roomba, more advanced humanoid robots like those developed by Boston Dynamics probably have a long way to go before they will become feasible products. It has also been speculated that one deterrent factor is negative public response to humanoid robots that could threaten to take away jobs from humans.

Boston Dynamics have received funding from DARPA and the U.S. Marine Corps in the past, because many of their robots have been geared toward military or similar use. Historically, many of humankind’s greatest technological advancements have been made in the name of war. That makes it kind of disappointing that a consumer-focused company such as Google hasn’t found a way to make a sustainable business out of some of the most advanced robotics technology around. It would be great to see these kind of advancements supported by businesses and private investments, rather than military and government spending. Read More…