The Financial Samurai Podcast Episode 1: Genesis

Financial Samurai Podcast Dear Readers,

Welcome to The Financial Samurai Podcast! I decided to start a podcast to try and connect with readers in a new way. I’ve been writing online since 2009 and I feel very comfortable whipping out any sort of writing fairly easily. I thought it would be fun to mix things up and good practice since I hardly ever speak in a public setting. Things will probably be a little rough at first, but I’m sure the podcasts will get better through practice over time.

The initial goals of this podcast are to:

1) Provide a new medium of communication for those who prefer listening, rather than reading.

2) Provide a new way to convey ideas that aren’t as easily captured in my writing.

3) Improve as a speaker.

4) Be a friendly voice when you’re feeling confused, lost or down.

5) To go on a new adventure. It feels great to do new things.

The Conquer Cancer Foundation: Funding The Hopes Of Many

Conquer Cancer Foundation Tom RobertsRecently I had the pleasure of participating in a Conquer Cancer Foundation event at the home of my friend, Dr. Thomas Roberts and his beautiful wife Susan. Tom used to be an attending staff oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School before joining Farallon, one of the first hedge funds in the world to manage university endowments.

My favorite thing about Tom is not that he’s a very smart and successful guy. The thing that stands out most about Tom is how nice and thoughtful he is. You might think a man of his stature wouldn’t bother hanging around with someone like me, yet he’s been nothing but kind and magnanimous with his time. We met on the tennis court several years ago and have been good friends ever since.

Tom is on the board of the Conquer Cancer Foundation and I’ve promised to help him spread the word about this devastating disease that has affected so many. Although I cannot match the funds that many generous benefactors have offered, I do have an online platform to help raise awareness. My grandfather died of skin cancer before the age of 65 and my good friend’s father was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. It seems like everybody I know has been affected by cancer to some degree, whether it be a family member, close friend, neighbor, or colleague.

Here are some cancer statistics:

* One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

* There will be over 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths in the US in 2014.

* Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.

* There are nearly 14.4 million survivors worldwide.

How Much Is Optionality Worth To You?

D Sharon Pruitt

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

When we first graduate, we have little-to-no options since we know nothing. We’re a cost center that does what we are told and likes it. We develop skills that provide us more options over time. We look for better opportunities or ask for raises with more skills. Sometimes we get complacent and just stick with a company for way too long like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend.

Eventually we stop being so parsimonious with our money because our financial nut grows to the point where we can afford luxuries otherwise foreign to us in the past. The luxuries I’m willing to pay up for now are convenience, time, and less stress. I used to be OK waiting at the DMV for 3-4 hours to register a used car. No more. I used to be fine waiting 45 minutes for a bus instead of taking a cab. But no more. Waiting in line for hours to get cheaper event tickets was no big thang. Now I am more than happy to pay a premium to get access to nice seats.

I think most of us who really care about our finances have a strong frugal side. Savings is in our DNA. We know that so long as we always spend less than we earn, we’ll eventually reach an amazing financial place. But due to the confluence of old age, awareness, and more money, we eventually change our spending habits.

Deciding On Leasing Or Purchasing A New Car: Saying Good-bye To Moose!

Ferrari Enzo

My new Ferrari Enzo

After 10 years, I’m sad to say that Moose is gone! He just had too many problems that cost too much to fix as a 14 year old Land Rover Discovery II. I hated to let him go because he was like my big boy. I still remember finding him with 87,000 miles at the orphanage (Craigslist) for $10,000 in early 2005. The owner got a sweet consulting gig in Amsterdam from Pricewaterhouse Coopers and she had to sell quickly. We agreed on the steal price of $8,000 and the fun journeys to Tahoe, Napa, and Carmel began.

I actually hate driving today. There are just too many cars in San Francisco and the Bay Area now that the economy has roared back. Traffic was very manageable just three years ago, but condos are sprouting up everywhere downtown next to main arteries, making driving very stressful. The worst is when delivery or garbage trucks double park during rush hour and traffic backs way up. Dear local politicians, please outlaw such activity.

There was a point where I almost thought about not buying a car at all, and just using UberX as it is so cheap and signing up for a ride-sharing program since prices have come down so much. But in the end, I still valued my freedom of being able to get in a car and drive anywhere whenever I wanted. 

Free Uber Rides! Changing Lives By Disrupting The Rules

Uber App Dashboard

Uber App Dashboard

For the past several years, I’ve seen Uber grow from a scrappy startup to an enormous success based right here in San Francisco. In the Fall of 2013, the company was “only” valued at $3.5 billion. A year later, the latest round of fund-raising puts the company’s value at $18 billion! Instead of driving for them, the best way to get rich would have been to work for Uber when it first started in March 2009.

Jabir, the “richest poorest person I know” actually became an Uber driver a couple years ago. He was unemployed for almost three years with a wife and daughter to support. It didn’t matter what time of day it was, he was always available to play tennis. We’d also drive all around the Bay Area to watch struggling professional players battle up the ATP points ladder for eight hours a day sometimes. As tennis junkies, we were in heaven!

Then one day Jabir stopped being available. No longer could he play pick-up tennis at Golden Gate Park at 2pm. No longer could he be my pal when everybody else had to work, so I had to find a new friend to pass the time after my morning writing was done. When I asked him what was up, he responded that he decided to drive for Uber.

For the next 12 months, I didn’t see Jabir at all. He drove ~10 hours a day for six days a week like a mad man. It was as if he was making up for lost time. When I asked him how much he was pulling in, he said well over $7,000 a month. Not bad coming from $0.

Uber allowed my friend and many other unemployed or underemployed people to find a way to earn some money and improve the inefficient taxi system in San Francisco. The disruption has been huge. I was even considering driving for them during my spare time, but Moose was too old as a 2000 Land Rover Discovery.

Starting in early 2014, Jabir began to come out and play again. When I asked him how were things going, he said that he was no longer driving for Uber, but driving a black SUV for a specific hotel instead. “Sam, I was getting too tired driving all those hours. Hotel driving is so much easier. Also, Uber kept cutting its prices so I was only making like $3,500 a month. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore.”

Jabir actually started outsourcing his car to his brother to drive for Uber so he could start collecting a percentage of his earnings and free up time for him to drive for the hotel. Smart man. There’s passive income opportunities everywhere!