Take 2

There’s a lot going on in the world. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote. Obama was still president and prime rate was at 3.50%.  I wrote this in response to the gun violence and suicide epidemic.

When people die before their time, it’s a terrible experience. As a human being, and now a father, I couldn’t imagine reconciling over the loss of a child gone before their time. A tragedy that continues to happen in places that should be safe, for reasons that are completely indefensible by a human being, or father. The solution is obvious but frustration is growing at the lack of better solutions, than the obvious. The human mind is complex. When processing stimulus, many variables can affect your perception of the world. Refusing to hear another point of view is irresponsible. Propaganda or state sponsored marketing campaigns have become increasingly accurate at stimulating behavior. On social media, most of the times the intention is to make you buy something; what’s impressive is the ability to get people to act. A state sponsored marketing campaign maliciously incited violence and divide… or did it? See, when they get so good at making you act by, showing you a distorted view of the world that fits perfectly with your own you, become convinced the whole world is just as you see it. In many ways, it is. Taking the time to understand why someones view is distorted, in comparison to yours, helps make sense of why people act in ways that you would consider absolutely absurd. We’ve all been shaped by our environment, moments that changed us but, to overcome and help overcome is a genuinely human feeling.

We need to overcome the money in politics. Capitalist entities writing the federal and local laws that govern its shareholders and employees without regard for the public good, is wrong. It feels like we hit rock bottom in our ability to discuss things over a beer and come up with a better plan. Facts are the counter to our biases but we’re getting fed different facts. So we must trust our ability to identify alternative facts and sources that contradict peer reviewed irrefutable evidence. But first, we have to question and then we have to research. Much more difficult.

In the end, time has a way of sorting these things out.

Manifest Bikini at the Clevelender

I’ve always admired the efficient public transportation in the developed cities of our country.  Los Angeles, incorporated 46 years before Miami, has had a train system for only the last 25 years. The Miami Metro Rail began in ’84, 6 years before LA. By 2012 Miami added Orange Line, it’s second, for extending the Metro Rail to a grand total of 24 miles.  LA has 6 lines, spanning 87 miles.

I’ve also noticed, in the less developed cities I’ve visited, there’s a lack of public train. Coincidence?  I think not.

I am biased, but I firmly believe Kendall is a suburb filled with competent employees prohibitively separated from the business center of our city.  The benefit of downtown salaries, without the restrictive cost of owning a car or congesting our streets, will benefit the 2nd generation of Immigrant-Americans.  FIU students deserve the opportunity to live in inexpensive housing close to a train that can take them to their parents house, school, and the culturally diverse restaurants and bars of Miami Beach. Tourists should be able to take a train from MIA to our world famous Fontainebleau Hotel.  How much easier would it be for a Marlins fan in the Hammocks to see a game in the Marlins Stadium, if he could take the train from West Kendall to a Marlins Shuttle at Culmer Station.  You can take the 4 train to the Yankee stadium in the Bronx from Grand Central station in Manhattan.  You can get to the Cubs stadium and White Sox stadium from West Chicago, by train.  The Nationals play 2 stops away from L’Enfant station, the intersection of FOUR train lines in DC.  A shuttle will take you from Union Center in LA to the Dodgers Stadium, for a total cost of $17 from Anaheim, 30 miles away.

Fun cities in their own regard with moderately priced suburbs within an hour train ride of their business centers.  They lack pastelitos; we lack an efficient train system. I present the longest train lines of 4 major metropolitan cities for your consideration:

A Train

  • The A train in NYC crosses 31 miles from 207th st to Far Rockaway.
Blue Line

Blue Line

  • The Blue Line in LA crosses 22 miles from 7th Street Metro to Downtown Long Beach. 
Red Line

Red Line

  • The Red Line of DC Metro runs from Shady Grove to Glenmont, 31.9 miles.
Red Line

Red Line

  • The Red Line in Chicago extends from Howard Street Terminal 21 miles to the South Side. 

Allow me to present distances for my proposed stops on the train from Kendall & Krome to Lincoln Road:

  • 10 miles from Dadeland to Hammocks
  • 8 miles from Dadeland to FIU
  • 11 miles from Dadeland to Dolphin Mall
  • 9 Miles from Government Center to Lincoln Road, through the Julia Tuttle
  • 46 miles from Kendall & Krome to Lincoln Road
    • Passing through Dadeland Station, Dolphin Mall and Government Center

The new lines:

  • 1 Line from Kendall & Krome to Dadeland,
  • 1 Line from Dadeland to Dolphin Mall
  • 1 Line from Dolphin Mall to Government Center
  • 1 Line from Government Center to Lincoln Road
  • 1 Line from Kendall & Krome to Lincoln Road
  • Extend the MIA train from Earlington Heights, 8.4 miles south to the proposed intersection of the Dolphin Train and the Dadeland Train.

Lincoln Road Mall to N Kendall Dr & Krome Ave - Google Maps

How cool would it be to work in Downtown without succumbing to the numbingly high prices of real estate in a 10 mile radius of our highest paying jobs.  Hours of traffic from Kendall to Downtown, replaced by a 20 mile train ride, in less than an hour.  Happy hour on the Beach is a 9 mile, 15 minute train ride from Downtown.  After too many drinks at LIV, a 46 mile train ride will get you home safer and cheaper than the 46 mile car ride through congested highways and streets.  A tourist can fly into MIA, stay as far as the Miccosukee Resort, and always be an hour train ride away from enjoying everything Miami has to offer, without ever renting a car or taking a parking spot.

So why hasn’t it been done?

$102 Million dollar estimate too expensive? That can’t be it, Rent prices go up because higher paying wages are accessible without the added cost or dangers of another vehicle on the road.

An article from 2012 says not enough revenue potential to justify the cost.  Estimates of usage showed that an East-West line was, not profitable.

December 2014 MiamiToday released an article.  “The [new] study would look at the feasibility of reactivating the CSX line, which runs more or less parallel to Northwest 12th Street, from Northwest 37th Avenue west to 137th Avenue, county records show.” Juan Zapata, County Commissioner for District 11,  is credited for its proposal.  “This could be an amazing thing for Dade County” said Xavier L Suarez County Commissioner District 7.

Let’s make it happen.

A bank by any other name would smell as sweet

Unless you name the bank Shit, then I won’t stick around long enough to find out how it smells.

I recently was approached by a client who complained endlessly about CD rates being on the floor.  Poor guy ends up at a brokers office and gets sold an index-linked CD.  Fear makes you stupid.  Any product that promises all the up-sides with no down-sides is usually over-hyped.  You as the informed consumer, must do your research.

Everyone says read the fine print.  That’s a good start but, you’ll probably be frustrated by the time you get to the second bullet point.  You can Google it (add terms such as fraud ex.  index-linked CD fraud), talk to someone who has professional knowledge of the product, or talk to your trusted un-biased Banker.

Opportunity out of Defeat

I gave Wealth Management a valiant push.  Sold myself the best I could to whoever would listen.  I felt like a Subaru salesman looking for Lamborghini drivers.  Selling the potential of what could be, what ought to be, and the benefits of doing more with less. Interviews with prospective employers ranged from douche bag jerk offs to incredibly helpful and pleasant but always with the same result, I wasn’t there yet.  I pushed myself through month after month of studying planning strategies and rules for: income tax, investments, estates, retirement, insurance. Spent almost a quarter years pay chasing a 3 letter acronym after my name that would prove, to the world, I was capable of advising the most financially sophisticated.  A job offer was on the horizon, all I had to do was pass one 170 question, 6 hour long test, against all odds.  Weekends packed with monster 12 hour study sessions only breaking to eat and use the bathroom (and the occasional StarCraft nerd out session) were not going to be wasted.  After failing once, I embraced the sunk cost fallacy putting in more money, time, and effort.  I was determined to pass, to get promoted, and to finally prove my worth even if it meant sacrificing everything I enjoyed about my free-time. I failed again.

Where did I go wrong?  Thoughts flooded my brain, was it a 1245 recapture? Was it the probate estate or general estate?  Was it 50% or 30% of FMV or basis of a donated asset?  I before E except after C, I can remember that, but I can’t remember the AGI phaseouts for an IRA. How could anyone ever trust me to plan their finances!? I’m hopeless!

During a perfectly scheduled vacation to our nations capital, I reflected on my failure.  I wasn’t listening to the world around me.  I thought I was carefully carving out my future with a scalpel but I was really hacking away a path through an endless forest with a dull machete.  There was a path right next to me the whole time.  My failure was quickly suppressed by a job offer that came after an informal interview weeks prior.  A banker, who I admired for advocating for his clients and doing good in the community, believed I was the best fit to manage the flagship branch of a bank half the size of mine.   My previous manager and mentor had told me I should manage my own branch.  Often suggested as the natural progression of my skill set and experience, I denounced the idea every time remembering the over-worked, under-appreciated, whip-cracking managers of my past.  The path was clearly marked with a green box that read “beginner” yet my whole career I was determined to jump into the black diamonds. This is not a deviation from my ultimate goal of Wealth Management rather, a correction to the path.

Zoot Suit Riot

Every generation has had a period of unrest where riots and public demonstrations come to the forefront of the American media. The manifestations of the last decade have not been about race, creed, or nationality, but because of lack of Government response and accountability.  We have found ourselves in a time where wealth has left the majority of Americans and Americans have little say in how they are governed.   Government, as a wealth equalizer, is being influenced by the wealth accumulators in such a way that laws and time, are being wasted on solutions for corporations and the wealthy rather than, everyone else.  Protests are for those who don’t have a voice but, believe there can be change with enough support.  Riots are for those who have lost hope for change and have no voice with their law makers/enforcers.

Clearly our Constitution did not account for such drastic wealth inequality. The business entity was way too small to compete with a big FEDERAL government. Few businesses were multi-city and only a handful of NGOs existed. With the advancement of communication and the ability of small groups of people to very efficiently manage enormous amounts of data, we have willingly driven wealth out of our neighborhoods at an unprecedented rate.  We have set up laws in favor of shielding this wealth from liability and scrutiny.  Eventually, a part of those profits end up in the coffers of Federal Politicians with little interest in bringing that money back into our neighborhoods, perpetuating a negative feedback cycle.

I’m having a hard time finding corporate interests in our preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What I did find, is the responsibility of our government to address the epidemic of income inequality and cash hoarding of the wealthiest families and corporations in America.  Our government is not promoting the general Welfare, or creating a more perfect union when it reduces taxes on the biggest wealth accumulators in our country and subsequently reduces the funding for Welfare programs (not limited to food stamps and unemployment but education, infrastructure, research and public space).

The internet as the great stabilizer.

When people lose faith in their government, it is their patriotic responsibility to assemble.  What is so barbaric about rioting, today, is that more than ever, we have the ability to publicly hold our civil leaders accountable yet, we refuse to get involved.  Through Social Media we can start grass-roots campaigns, and be able to rally and organize very quickly and peacefully. With a simple tweet to @tomas_regalado @marcorubio @FLGovscott @jebbush @hillaryclinton @sensanders  @barackobama we can request an immediate response to the frustrations in our community, state, and country.  We have the power to vote good people in and not give a second term to the people who have lost interest in their constituents.  Our government officials might be wrong, but our form of government is not.

Let’s not be entitled or privileged and expect to have our government step in for us, let us also control how our money is generated and where it is spent.  It is your patriotic duty to go into business for yourself.  If you have a hobby, you should monetize it.  If you have a skill or perform a service you have the responsibility to compete against the big businesses that aren’t as agile or personable as you.  Now more than ever, an individual has the ability to market themselves internationally through the same channels as big business.  An individual has access to the same suppliers and cheap labor as big businesses, why not exploit that?

The pacification of the American employee has contributed to the wealth gap more than any law congress has signed or failed to sign.  We have accepted that for-profit corporations can be our employers, financial advisers, bankers, investment advisers, insurance agents, mortgage bankers, retailers, builders, and accountants with little social accountability.  We have allowed billion dollar executive boards to create, the biggest income gap between CEO and lowest paid employee, that the world has ever seen.  We sit back in awe as golden parachutes go unchecked after a company has sucked up all the profits it’s balance sheets allowed.  We have also come to accept that ridiculous tuition fees and predatory student loans are our future.  All the while trying to live a lifestyle that is unsustainable.

If the average person paid as much attention to their local politics as they do to presidential elections, I believe we would be closer to a more perfect union.

New Year; Same Goals

You ate your grapes after counting down with, Pitbull on TV performing in Miami’s Bayfront park.  You swore off fat and excessive spending, just like every other year.  What are you going to do differently this year?  Exercise more and save more; got it.  Well since that obviously didn’t work for you last year, I’m going to tell you what to do differently this year.  Set a goal and hold yourself accountable.  Make it attainable, make it easy, and track it so you can celebrate your progress.

In 2014 some of the common mistakes people made that hindered their financial and exercise goals were, creating a plan (or lack thereof) that was impossible to attain and, hard to stay motivated with.  The majority of us are too busy with work goals that are set by over zealous managers and shareholders so we bench our personal goals.  We relax on the couch when we should be at the gym, we spend to unwind when we should be saving.

Here are some of my own mistakes for 2014.

Spending too much on my car.  I leased a childhood dream car instead of, opting for an entry level economical car, or something used.  I justified the expense because it was cheaper than my previous gas guzzling RWD Coupe.  I thought I was better off.  After all, I was saving $20 a month and, my new car is cheaper to maintain.  My mistake was comparing my current situation with my previous one instead of following a financial plan.  2015 is different, I have a plan.

Ate out way too much.  According to mint.com, my wife and I spent an average of $1318.00 on Food every month. 34% of that was on groceries.  The rest was on restaurants, bars, and fast food.  2% was in coffee shops. Depending on where you frequent for food, your spending can be cut considerably by just cooking at home.  For pete’s sake, you do not have to eat at home just because you cooked at home.  Go OUTSIDE.  You can have a cute picnic at a park, you can take sandwiches to the beach, you can eat at home and then go to a restaurant for desert or soup.  Cooking more at home does not mean that you have to become a hermit.  Pot lucks are more cost effective, for everyone, than a big dinner party at any of the 305’s finest restaurants.

Forgetting to pay down debt.  How the hell does that happen?  Well you see, at the beginning of the year my wife and I were still adjusting to shared accounts and spending habits.  We didn’t have a plan.  We shared our income but we didn’t share our credit card debt.  To build our emergency fund (3-6 months of non-discretionary spending), we started paying minimum payments on our credit cards and saving the cash.  Once we built our savings we kinda just… forgot to go back to paying down our debt.   We figured as long as we stopped using our credit cards, we were still progressing. Stupid, stupid, stupid mistake that cost us about $1000 of interest charges for 2014.  For 2015 we’re using our savings from tightening up spending to pay off our credit card debt by March.  We’re also going to start maximizing our credit card churning to fund our dream vacation to Spain in September.  Most importantly, we put it down on paper and made changes to our budget to get us there.

So my friends, What are your goals?  How is your bank a part of them?  Does your banker support you?


Billy Noel

I should be able to offer a live pianist in my office.
The Ocean Bank on Le Jeune and NW 7th st, has a Pianist in their 80’s Cocaine White Marble lobby. The tints on the windows are purple… But they chose to have a pianist on a grand piano in their lobby.

I’m so jelly.