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!

Is An MBA A Big Waste Of Time And Money?

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business MBADuring the summer of 2014, Personal Capital had the luxury of hosting three MBA interns in the marketing department where I consult part-time. One was actually a Harvard JD/MBA, which is darn impressive because she has to get into both schools separately. The other two were from Stanford. They did a great job brainstorming and executing fantastic ideas.

In addition to our summer MBA interns, our head of business development (Stanford), our head of client engagement (Stanford), our digital marketing executive (Michigan), our CMO (Cornell), and our CEO (Harvard) also have MBAs . Then there’s me, a Berkeley MBA grad. In other words, the marketing department is a majority MBAs. But having an MBA isn’t a requirement for joining. Relevant experience is much more important.

Most MBA graduates will probably say that an MBA is money and time well spent. It’s kind of like spending big bucks on a fancy dinner. To justify the extravagant expense, of course you’re going to tell yourself and all your friends, how incredibly amazing the dinner was. But we all know that spending $250 per person at Jean Georges isn’t worth 100X more than a tasty In N’ Out cheeseburger for $2.5.

For similar reasons why going to private university without a scholarship is probably not the best use of your money unless you have plenty of it, getting an MBA is also becoming a tougher choice today.

For those of you with MBAs, be forewarned. This is not a cuddly, feel-good post on why getting an MBA is a no-brainer. There are a lot of hard truths from what I witnessed as a manager who consistently interviewed MBAs during multiple bull and bear markets. I’m also providing the perspective as an MBA eight years after graduating. Readers trust me to speak candidly, so that is what I will do. 

Are Personal Finance Bloggers Some Of The Sexiest People On Earth?

Personal Finance Bloggers Are SexyI was eating dinner at my local Indian joint when a late 20s couple sat at the table right next to me. The guy, a new pharmacy graduate from UCSF was with a female pharmacy student. He was buttering her up with praise about how she’s so popular now that her research report got published in some pharmacy journal. She blushed with pride.

I tuned out their entire conversation for 20 minutes as I stuffed my face with chicken tikka masala until I couldn’t help but overhear one phrase. He awkwardly said, “I think I’ve gotta build myself an emergency fund, you know? I hear it’s a good idea to build this emergency fund so I don’t go into high interest credit card debt.”

Wahoo! Music to my ears and music to his date’s ears as well. As soon as he started talking about securing his financial future, the female pharmacist started leaning into the table all excited. “Tell me more,” she said with a sultry, but incredibly nasally voice. I’m pretty observant – like CIA observant – where I can tell you what color your shoelaces are and point out the stain on the lower side of your shirt 30 minutes after our meeting is over if questioned.

It’s pretty clear to me they’re both getting lucky tonight all thanks to some personal finance dialogue.

So I got to wondering: Are personal finance bloggers (and readers) just abnormal because we talk about money all the time? Or are we simply some of the sexiest people on Earth?

Let’s discuss!

Do You Make As Much As A Union Worker Electrician?

Secret Power OutletThe media loves misery. There’s definitely a lot of bad out there, but does the media really have to focus on suffering 24/7 to generate viewership? Perhaps disinterest with negativity is partially the reason why old media is dying. And perhaps because old media is dying, journalists can’t help but write depressing things. (life hack tip: don’t watch the news for a week and observe your stress level go down and your happiness go up.)

I’ve long believed that many people make much more than we know or think. Always watch what people DO with their money, and not what they say. If they are just making ends meet, why is there a nice car in their driveway? Debt and poor choices can’t explain everything. Or can they?

We sometimes like to think other people are struggling to make ourselves feel better. But “other people” are ourselves. It’s much better to focus on bettering ourselves don’t you think? Some people had to start over in their 60s due to the financial crisis. While other people made a fortune scooping up deals for cents on the dollar. Try to always look at the positive side of things no matter what, because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

Here’s a whole list of six figure jobs in multiple industries in case you’re curious and need proof that you don’t need to graduate at the top of your class to make a large income. This post is about discovering one more.

Tenacity And Faith – Do You Have It?

Stone HengeI’m not sure if it’s by coincidence or because I’m spending more time listening, but I’ve noticed more people sharing with me how they lost a lot during the 2008-2010 financial crisis, and how they’re doing everything possible to get back on track.

I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond the other day when I met a sales clerk in the home decor section. He was probably around 65-70 years old with withered skin and dark patches all over his arms and head. He looked quite ill and smelled like he had been hitting the bottle the night before. His name was “Bob” and he was full of smiles as he sought to help me find the perfect barstool.

I selected a set of four handsome barstools from the choices he showed me for my kitchen. I didn’t have the famous 20% off coupon BBB sends in the mail, but Bob gave me a wink and told me, “I got you, don’t worry.”

He asked me whether I had recently bought a new home, and I told him that I did. “I finally found that room with a view I’ve been searching for all this time,” I replied.

“I used to have a view, but then I lost my business of 20 years and then I lost my partner. It was just me in this old house for a couple years until I realized I could no longer afford the rent, so I moved. I have a small place now with the view of the street and another apartment’s window, but it will do,” Bob lamented.

I gave Bob my condolences and tried to cheer him up by continuing on the conversation, “Hopefully your new place is comfortable and at least much cheaper yeah?”

“Oh, yes, much cheaper,” Bob responded with a smile. “I miss the view, but I’m just thankful to have found an affordable place to live in the city.”

To lose money is one thing. I did that spectacularly well during the downturn. To lose love and money at the same time is unbearable.

But Bob showed an incredibly positive attitude during our time together, and he made me a very happy customer that evening. I even ended up doing some research on BBB and bought some of their stock. Fingers crossed their debt offering will help their financials and they can compete effectively with the likes of Amazon and other online retailers.

Maybe all Bob wanted was for someone to listen to his sorrows. Unless we die first, we might also one day end up alone.