Category Archives: Nonnormative Economics

The Gift Card Scam

Just a quick post about a scam I’ve seen doing the rounds recently.

A scammer will use a swipe credit card to put several hundred pounds onto store gift cards. They will either use stolen or cloned credit cards or open an account and claim the card was used fraudulently. As the transaction has to be verified with a signature they can simply sign any signature – if it doesn’t match the signature on the card then the credit card company will charge back the money.

The beauty of using these cards to put money onto store gift cards is that many stores such as Tesco will allow you to buy anything with the gift cards including high end items such as electronics, alcohol and cigarettes. It is also extremely difficult to close the gift cards since stores don’t keep records of the gift cards they sell.

A Framework For Success – The Millennial Edition

I’m writing this up because I’m fed up.

Fed up of what exactly?

Lost kids, the Millennial generation; the product of our awful society posting on the Internet, looking for the answers to their problem. Their problem is their freedom.

They can’t drive.

They live in a toxic home or in another dire living situation.

They cannot do the things they want to do.

And they come to the Internet hoping for a magic pill to solve their problems.

And yet the answers are simple. But most people have been conditioned in a way that renders them incapable to see the obvious. Some have been instilled with a sense of worthlessness that means even when they do have the answers they cannot take action because they are afraid of failure.

Strap up, this is going to be a long one.

***

Freedom of Movement

When I was a younger lad, I lived in the middle of nowhere in rural England. Yes, there were a few cities relatively close by but most people were scattered all over the places. Public transport was a thing of legend. When I turned sixteen, I knew if I wanted to see my friends, hook up with chicks and have a good time I would have to learn to drive.

I realised the first step was to get an income.

I’d started a business but I gave it over to my brothers and it didn’t make that much money anyway so I started a few little online businesses, made bits of money here and there but that didn’t get me very far. So, enlisting my pals we set about running little scams, some of them completely illegal that I won’t go into here. The money was great but sporadic and we ran into trouble constantly. Everybody knew everybody so if you stole from someone you were marked. I decided to step back from that kind of stuff and get myself a job.

Getting a job was fucking hard. Everywhere that employed teenagers had lists of people ready to work for them so if you wanted a job with them you were at the back of a very long queue. In the mean time to alleviate the costs of driving lessons, I decided to use my initiative and borrow the cars of my friends who could drive and my girlfriends car and even my mother’s car so I could get practice. I’m not recommending you do this but it shows you the lengths I would go to in order to get what I wanted. There are ways to achieve things which are out of your comfort zone, you just have to go and do them.

Eventually an opportunity came up with a large local employer for a job with a very nice wage. There was a problem, the company had an aptitude test that was fairly difficult and few people I knew had passed it. So, I found someone who had already done the test who told me exactly what to do and what answers to choose. I got the job. I had two six hour shifts a week and truthfully was a very lazy employee but there was always overtime and shifts on Sunday’s which paid exceptionally well so I was able to put a lot of money into my bank account. While I actually blew a lot of this money I gave some to a family member to keep safe for me. When he passed it all back to me I had enough money for a beater and insurance.

It was then that I decided I had to make the car pay for itself.

My problem, the fact that my friends lived tens of miles apart and the cities nearby weren’t easily reachable became the idea behind my next move. I let everyone know that I was essentially now a taxi service. This rewarded me in many ways. I was making nearly £100 some nights and my beater had good fuel economy so nearly all of that was pure profit for me. As well as that I got to meet plenty of girls I wouldn’t have met otherwise, social proof and access to parties.

I finally had independence.

Sometimes when I was bored and had time to kill, I would literally drive hundreds of miles to go to new places, see old friends; It felt like I could do anything I wanted too. It boosted my self-esteem and my confidence. When I turned nineteen, the fact I had a car allowed me to get a job that paid more than what many university graduates earn. The keys to my car were in essence the keys to my freedom.

I can’t tell you what to do, I can only show you my path and hope that you can take something from it.

A Roof Over Your Head

If you aren’t going to college, joining the military or live in a toxic home environment I don’t actually recommend leaving home as soon as you turn eighteen. There are several reasons and several exceptions to this.

Firstly, living at home means you can stack money you would otherwise burn on rent. I know people who didn’t leave home for a good five years but saved enough for a deposit on a house. I don’t think living at home in your early twenties is ideal or to be strived for but these people will probably never pay rent in their lives.

One of the reasons I don’t advocate leaving home is that if you’re young and living with others it can be a recipe for disaster. I essentially ended up living in a squat for a year and it destroyed me, yes I was stronger as a person for living in that dump but it set me back over a year. That’s a year of my life where I could have been building my life and working on myself gone. Most young people have zero discipline and that is infectious and distracting. If you can live on your own and are capable of looking after yourself then go for it. But the truth is most people can’t. I wish it wasn’t so but most people are incapable of looking after themselves, let alone a house or apartment until they’ve grown up a bit. Blame it on society or the individual but it’s the truth. If you can live alone. It shifts responsibility solely onto you. Being alone for long periods will allow you to build discipline, study, work on yourself and deal with actually being alone, something that again most people seem incapable of doing.

People might say, “but I can’t take girls to my parents”. Listen, you can sneak girls in and out while your parents sleep or when they’re out. You can bang girls in your car or somewhere quiet. If you want the bang, you’ll find a way.

Financial Freedom

I touched on this earlier. When I was trying to get work I was relentless. I estimate that in six months I probably rang, emailed and gave my CV to at least a hundred different businesses. I went out. I got rejected. I handed my CV to people knowing that it would be laughed and scoffed at and ultimately trashed. This is the attitude you need to have not only to get a job but to keep a job and actually succeed in it.

Everybody has skills they can leverage. Everybody has problems that need solving. You need to find your niche.

Increasingly temporary/short term employment is going to be utilised by companies as business and labour demands shift over certain periods. Many people will not take advantage of this. You should. Find companies offering short stints of work. Look online. Many companies advertise in other businesses or on sites like Craigslist or Gumtree.

Once you have the income, then you stack.

Like I said, this article will not solve your problems. Only you can do that. This article highlights the possibilities and allow you to develop your own ideas to solve these problems in your life.

Let me know how this works for you.

As always, peace out.

Why I quit my own business – A rant of sorts

I’m writing this article because frankly I am dismayed by the culture of ‘wantrepreneurs’; people who think their personal and financial problems will be solved by running their own business. These people’s ideas range from ideas that are in the leagues of game changers like Facebook and YouTube to people who want to run small scale businesses. The reality is very different from the imagination land that some people live in.

Firstly, starting your own business will more often than not result in failure. The common ballpark figure I hear the most is that 85% of businesses fail. The cold, hard truth is that if it was easy, more people would be doing it. Very few businesses require small amounts of capital to start, so the risk of major financial loss is massive. I see dozens of posts from individuals wanting to pour $10,000, $50,000 and sometimes even more into a start up. Most of the time this is chronically flawed because these individuals have never had a business and a lot of the time they have never had a management job within a company that would provide the experience, knowledge and framework to actually build a business from the ground up.

I was 14 years old when I started my first proper business, which I grew from 13 customers to 32. It still exists to this day, nearly a decade later. I started many other small ventures into nonnormative economics when I was at school including a web design business and engaged in many little scams and quick money making schemes as well. This leads me to conclude that I have a natural business acumen which few people have. I don’t think that people who do not have this same mindset cannot go into business – I just think it is more difficult. It is also at this point that I will mention that the vast majority of my business ventures have failed. My web design business attracted only four customers that actually paid for the work. Another venture I had writing essays for students (While neglecting my own) had all its funds seized by PayPal.

So, having created a business that was profitable for a sustained period of time, thus putting myself in a minority of people, why on earth did I quit?

Running a business is extremely stressful. If you think your job is stressful, think again. You can find another job, even if it is below your current salary easily, provided you aren’t an idiot. On top of that if you’re in the minority of individuals who have savings you have something to fall back on so you can go without employment for a couple of months. You cannot just start another business. There were times I would sleep for only 2 or 3 hours to get shit done and I nearly had a mental breakdown and ended up eating shitloads as a result and putting a lot of weight on. I stopped taking care of myself. My house was a disgrace. When I moved to a smaller apartment the chaos remained. This is not just my experience but the experience of countless other individuals. If you don’t believe me go to Quora or check out the blog posts of James Altucher. You will see that this is by no means a unique phenomenon.

Running a business is emotionally taxing to a point that is almost incomprehensible. Even though it was the most mentally rewarding thing I have ever done it nearly destroyed and broke me. I ended up at one point owing an significant sum to a partner and had to work for a month solid, day in, day out, in order to get to the point where I was able to turn profit again.

There was the constant uncertainty – Would a supplier break an agreement?  Would the government introduce legislation against the products I was trading? Would I still have customers next month? Would I make any money this month? You may hate your job and your life but for most people they have a degree of certainty which is almost unimaginable compared to a lot of business owners. Be grateful.

So one day, I decided I would quit. I would move somewhere new and start over from fresh. At first, I had the idea of taking the business with me. Then I had the idea of refining it and changing it. Then, when I thought about it, I decided to quit, for good. I passed the business on to someone who worked for me and got up and moved. In the end, it was one of the easiest things I have ever done.

What was much more difficult was deciding what to do next?

I wanted to start something else, completely from scratch at first. So I got a job, with the intention of using some of the money towards a business that I had no plan for whatsoever. Then I ended up networking with a couple of guys with a startup. Things didn’t work out with us but I really began to question whether I wanted to be in the position they were in, where they were slaving away to the few customers they had, giving hundreds of pounds of free products in exchange for what I understand has come to very little. I didn’t and I still don’t.

Now I’m employed by a corporation, running a part of someone else’s business.

Notice, I didn’t say I work for them, because I don’t. I work for me. I have enough money that I can walk away any time I want, but I work for me in the sense that I am making money for me, building my confidence and increasing my skills, skills that I know will be important whatever I end up doing. It just so happens I also make them money, which is the same regardless of whether you work for someone else or run your own business.

To round this off, I will say that I am going to start another business and I am in the motions of starting one right now but this business will be a little different. I won’t be a slave to it. I will be able to switch it off and on whenever I want to and I will be able to work anywhere.

To aspiring entrepreneurs I will say one thing – If you do it to escape the idea of being a slave you will essentially replace the slave of a boss or a corporation with being a slave to something else, the difference is that you own it and thus if it fails, it’s on you.

Don’t let that stop you though.

An Introduction to Investing in Silver

One of the posters on our forum, JekyllandHyde, produced this article on investing on silver. I thought it was really good and serves as a perfect introduction for investing in silver and definitely worth publishing on this blog – He agreed to let me use it and all credit goes to him! If you want to discuss this in more depth, register and head on over to the forum – Gracias!

If you want to submit an article, either get in touch with me in the comments section or forum. Cheers.


 

This is an introductory article for newcomers (and oldtimers) for the various investment forms of silver that are available. Please feel free to discuss this article in the thread below.

Silver comes in many forms – bullion, coin, scrap, silverware, even paper, and varying finenesses – a new stacker might be at a loss knowing where to start, or what sort of silver they should be acquiring. The first question that should be answered is “WHY are you buying silver” – is it for investment purposes, wealth protection, nest egg, fallback stash, or even for some survival scenario! Once you’ve answered this question, you will be in a better position to decide what silver to acquire and from where.

Bullion Bars

The most commonly recognized form of investment silver to most people would be bullion bars. Condition really should not matter with bars – they are for all intents and purposes merely a lump of metal that is eventually destined for industrial purposes. What matters is the purity and weight – if possible get .999 or better fineness. Some countries have laws that dictate whether or not a metal is investment grade depending on the fineness. This is important when it comes to taxes! For example, in Australia silver needs to be .999 or higher to be classed as investment grade, and therefore not subject to GST. Check your local, state, and federal laws to be on the safe side. Commonly available weights are 1oz, 10oz, 20oz, 1kg, 50oz, 100oz and 5kg – even 1000oz bars are available. Larger sizes like 5kg and 1000oz bars may not have an exact weight, e.g. 5.005kg, and they are usually priced according to the exact silver content. Amongst casual investors though, perhaps the most commonly held sizes are 1oz, 10oz and 1kg.

Bars may be minted, milled or poured.

Occasionally bars gain a collectors status, and their worth can be more than their intrinsic value alone – usually they are historic bars, or bars associated with defunct mints or companies. For the casual or novice stacker though, these are best avoided as the premiums are subject to the whim of the markets.

Do consider liquidity issues when buying bars – larger sizes like 100oz or 5kg may be difficult to sell privately, particularly if a dramatic increase in the spot price occurs. The 1kg bar that is affordable today may be beyond the reach of many casual investors in a few years time if you plan on selling privately – so consider a mix of sizes.

Bullion Rounds

Another form of bullion are rounds – also known as generics. Usually 1oz in size (although available in larger sizes as well), these look like coins, but are privately minted. As they are effectively just a round form of bullion not issued by a government mint, they should not be priced any higher than the equivalent sized bullion bar, however they are usually minted and of a higher quality finish.
Some rounds have outlandish designs (e.g. Christmas or political messages) that may not appeal to a wide range of buyers, so consider liquidity issues when it comes time to sell. The 1oz size however is a very nice size for smaller sales if you do have to liquidate part of your stack. Best to stick to tame generic themes that don’t have the potential to offend or turn off potential buyers though.
‘Junk’ Coins

A sometimes overlooked source of low-premium silver is so-called ‘junk’ silver. This is an informal term used for any silver coin which is in fair condition and has no numismatic or collectible value above the bullion value of the silver it contains. The actual silver content of junk silver coins can vary quite a bit, even within the same geographical location. In American the actual silver content of junk silver coins can be 90%, 40%, or 35% depending on the coin.

You will need to research your local junk silver coins to see what is worth stacking. Also remember that the higher the actual silver content, the less space it will take up.

One difficulty with stacking silver in this form is liquidity – on the open market this silver often sells below spot, and is not always in favour. However it is the easiest and cheapest way to obtain fractional silver in Australia, with the occasional upside of a numismatic find amongst bulk purchases.

World Bullion Coins

Three very common world bullion coins are the American Silver Eagles (ASE), Canadian Maple Leaves, Austrian Philharmonics, and Australian Silver Kookaburras. These are all 1oz silver coins, and issued for bullion purposes. As a rule, these coins come loose in tubes of 20 or 25 depending on the country of issue, and have the appeal of international recognition. Expect to pay more per ounce for these government mint issued coins than generic bullion rounds, but there should never be a need to pay the same or more for these coins than for local Australian bullion issues.

Other forms of Silver

There are numerous forms of silver beyond that covered in the preceding paragraphs available for purchase – however by sticking to these recognized forms of silver, the average stacker will find themselves building a stack of recognized silver with generally good liquidity. Below are some of the more dubious forms of silver to acquire:

Graded Slabbed Coins

A common sight on auction websites are graded silver coins in plastic slabs, usually accompanied with guarantees and praise for their investment potential. Don’t be ripped off. Unless graded by a recognized tier one grading firm like PCGS or NGC, any grading is generally suspect. For bullion purposes, gradings have no meanings other than the potential numismatic premiums that a grading might attract, and for bullion coins in Australia, collectors of such items are few and far between. It is common to see world silver coins such as US Morgan dollars in plastic slabs from “no-name” grading firms – avoid paying anything more than spot price for such items – the slab is merely fancy packaging and a trap for the unwary. Another commonly slabbed coin is the American Silver Eagle – coins in MS-70 slabs from PCGS or NGC do attract massive premiums, but in the Australian market, the choice of such an investment could be questionable.

World Silver Coins

Most countries throughout the world have issued silver coinage at some time or other during their history. It’s not uncommon to encounter silver coins from Papua New Guinea, Great Britain, USA or New Zealand. For silver stacking purposes, these coins are often available under spot in Australia, but liquidity is an issue at resale time, and you may find it hard to recoup your investment if the spot price has not moved greatly. These coins are best left to collectors, unless you can obtain them for under melt value (which is the price a refiner will pay you, which is usually only a percentage of the spot price).

Sterling Silver

Sometimes bargains can be found in the form of sterling silver – whether it be in the form of flatware (cutlery), ornaments, commemorative issues… unless the items have particular historical or antique value for resale, paying spot for such items is a questionable investment. A better pricing guide is to find out the current melt prices that a refiner might pay for hallmarked silver, and use that as a pricing basis, ensuring that if you can’t resell the items as antique, you can scrap them and sell to a refiner. Be very wary of accidentally purchasing silver plate items over sterling silver – plated items have no value whatsoever from a refining perspective. There are numerous websites with good references on the various hallmarks, and you will soon learn to identify hallmarked pieces as sterling or plated. As a beginners guide, anything marked A1 or EPNS is merely silver plated – the relevant hallmark to search for on most Australian pieces is the lion with raised paw, indicating sterling silver of English origin.

In Summary

Hopefully this primer has given new stackers an appreciation of the physical silver scene. If after reading that and you’re still stuck, I think most readers would agree that the following three classes of silver would be a good place to start your stacking adventures if you were just looking for someone to tell you what to buy!

* World bullion coins (ASE, Maples, etc)
* Bullion bars or rounds
* Junk silver

 

Want to make money? Try this exercise.

I see a lot of people IRL and online looking for alternative ways to make or boost their income. A neat idea I had a few months ago was this little exercise.

Every single day for thirty days, think of a new business idea. Don’t look online for inspiration but look around you instead.

For example, I was chatting to a friend who works in the music and recording industry. One example of a business venture I thought of after talking to him was to teach people to use software to make music and also to teach people how to record their own music. With a vast array of home recording equipment available for a wide range of budgets, if you had the skill set and the right location this could definitely be a good money maker. I know my brother who plays guitar at a very proficient level has bought recording equipment he doesn’t really know how to use. On top of that he has no idea how to use software to work with music he has recorded. While he could definitely teach himself, it would be easier for someone to give him more professional advice.

Like most ideas I come up with doing this exercise, its not actually viable for me to do myself. I find though, that if only 10% of the ideas you generate are viable then generating these ideas is worthwhile. If you did this exercise for a whole year you’d come up with about 35 viable ideas.

The whole point of doing this is to teach yourself how to spot opportunities to make money in your day to day life. I think you could easily create a few income streams a year or maybe even something that allows you to quit your job. I’ve got two ideas that I’ve generated this way that I’ll be attempting to monetise come August. Both require minimal financial investment, so if I fuck up, it won’t be a massive financial loss to me.

Four Essential Books

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This is a highly rated book and it’s because the habits it talks about are true. Even introducing one or two of the habits into your life will massively increase your effectiveness, productivity and success. The key thing is that whilst the habits themselves are easy to integrate its keeping them consistently in your life that is the challenge.

It’s worth mentioning that the book has sold over 15 million copies and that the author, Stephen Covey introduced the concept of abundance mentality. That’s gotta count for something. Continue reading Four Essential Books

Fingerprint Based Security – And why it’s bad news…

Mobile fingerprint scanners; Making capturing fingerprints extremely easy.

Fingerprints are an amazingly convenient way of accessing certain things, such as for instance, your encrypted phone. Unlike a password or a code, you can’t forget your fingerprint and people can’t guess it, either. Continue reading Fingerprint Based Security – And why it’s bad news…