In 1916, John D. Rockefeller, the father of the petroleum industry, became the world’s first billionaire. Nearly a century later in 2015, there were 536 American billionaires of a total 1,826 billionaires worldwide, according to Forbes. That number may in fact be low – the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census estimates there were 2,325 billionaires globally in 2014, including 609 Americans.
By Michael Lewis
Country wisdom is the collection of practical experiences gained by generations of pioneers, farmers, and ranchers as America transformed from a vast frontier to the world’s greatest economy. That experience – the result of constant trial and error – was passed from parent to child in plain language that left no room for misinterpretation. Living on a farm or ranch miles from the nearest neighbor meant solving problems on your own, making do with the materials around you, and accepting whatever happened and moving on.
The tension between science and religion has existed for centuries, the former dealing with the natural world and the latter with the supernatural or spiritual world. Many people may be familiar with the story of Galileo and his trial by the Inquisition in 1633. He was forced to recant his belief that the Sun, not Earth, was the center of the universe – that Earth moved around the Sun, and not vice versa, as the Church taught. More people may be familiar with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has been attacked by religious fundamentalists for more than 150 years.
Owning a piece of the past has universal appeal. According to philosopher and antique dealer Leon Rosenstein, it’s the value, uniqueness, and beauty of older items that attracts us, along with their historical and cultural associations. For some, buying and selling tangible pieces of history is a business – for others, it is a calling. Mike Wolfe, one of the stars of the television show “American Pickers,” says that discovering and restoring old relics from the past to their former glory is akin to saving America’s history, one piece at a time.
As the Internet becomes more and more ubiquitous in the workplace, webinars – or what some refer to as “online seminars” – have become increasingly popular. Educators and marketers have embraced webinars as a forum for spreading their message; sponsors find their effectiveness and long shelf-life appealing; and attendees are learning to take advantage of their low cost and convenience.
If you haven’t introduced webinars into your marketing, customer service, or employee training efforts – whether you’re running a Fortune 500 company or a one-person operation – you may be missing out on a significant opportunity.
By Michael Lewis
Modern humans are the greatest problem solvers the world has ever seen. While our predecessors developed primitive tools to better live in their environments, humans are the first to develop the mental acuity necessary to transform their living space. As a consequence, we thrive around the world, altering hostile, barren desert lands and freezing climates into hospitable habitats with growing populations.
Of course, problem-solving abilities vary considerably from one individual to another – some of us excel in resolving overarching dilemmas, while others are more adept at making basic day-to-day decisions. Researchers at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan believe that difficulty solving problems tends to stem from the following two issues:
In the past five years, a new type of financial advisor has emerged to compete with traditional investment advisory firms. Funded by venture capitalists, these new advisors exploit the latest technology to offer competent investment advice in exchange for drastically reduced fees.
Just as technology changed the full-service brokerage industry by lowering transaction costs and enabling online trading, it will also ultimately change the practice of investment advisors by automating portfolio management and investment advice. According to Grant Easterbrook, analyst at Corporate Insight, “These newcomers offer average Americans access to low-cost advice and investment solutions with fewer potential conflicts of interest and greater performance transparency.”
By Michael Lewis
In a single century, the introduction of the automobile has spurred massive changes in American culture, the communities in which we live, the environment, the economy, and personal independence. Every aspect of daily life has changed, from the places we live, to the food that we eat.
Automobiles, increasingly available to anyone, have blurred social class distinctions, expanded markets, and stimulated the economy. The industry directly employs more than 2.6 million people and, according to Auto Alliance, accounts for 3% to 3.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
By Michael Lewis
While constitutionalists and libertarians can argue about the rights of free speech on the Internet, it’s an entirely different matter when you’re the victim of sustained harassment or threats of physical violence. According to a Pew Research poll, 73% of adult Internet users have seen someone harassed online, and 40% have been victims.
Another Pew poll states that one in ten adult Internet users (10% male, 6% female) have been physically threatened or continually harassed for a sustained period. Pew also reports that teens are more likely than adults to experience hostile or cruel behavior online with real-world consequences. More than one-quarter of adult Internet users (29%) report experiences that resulted in face-to-face arguments, physical fights, or got them in trouble at work, and more than half of teenage Internet users (52%) report similar consequences.
Childhood immunizations have been controversial for centuries. To many, the idea that protection or immunity can be gained by deliberate exposure to a disease is counter-intuitive. That unease, coupled with the possibility that a child might have an allergic reaction to a vaccine’s ingredients, is enough to cause many parents to question the wisdom of inoculation.
Anti-vaccination sentiment began early, even prior to Dr. Edward Jenner’s creation of the first smallpox vaccine in 1796. In Boston in 1721, Reverend Edmund Massey published a paper titled “The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation,” which argued that diseases were sent by God to punish evildoers and that attempts to prevent them, therefore, were sinful.
While you can’t take your property with you when you die, you can direct how your assets will be distributed by making a will. Unfortunately, some people never get around to the task, and instead die “intestate” – a legal term dictating how all property greater than the sum of your enforceable debts and funeral expenses, in the absence of a will, is distributed. Surprisingly, almost half of all adults die without a will, according to a 2012 Rocket Lawyer survey. In such cases, state law determines who gets what – including custody of minor children.
New job applicants get haircuts, shine their shoes, and practice their interview skills while preparing to hopefully land a position. Those seeking to sell a home often repaint inside and out, primp the landscaping, and clean from top to bottom before hosting an open house.
And a business owner who hopes to receive a fair price for his or her company would be wise to engage in such “dressing up” activities as well. While it may go without saying, putting your best foot forward is always the best strategy to maximize the value of any sale.
Each year, thousands of small businesses change hands. Some owners decide to retire, others need new capital to exploit market opportunities, and some businesses fail and are liquidated.
According to the BizBuySell.com Fourth Quarter 2014 Insight Report, 7,494 small businesses traded hands during 2014, the largest number of transactions since BizBuySell starting tracking sales data in 2007. While higher than previous years, there are approximately 45,000 small businesses – ranging from restaurants and retail stores, to service and manufacturing companies – available for purchase at any given time.
By Michael Lewis
Many Americans are now discovering that a comfortable retirement and adequate healthcare are beyond their means. As a consequence, we are working later in life, lowering our expectations, and going without not only luxuries, but essentials as well.
The decisions we make through our lives come with financial consequences. These choices include the careers we develop, the colleges we attend, the people we marry, the size of our family, and the lifestyles we adopt. While many of these choices may seem out of our control, it is possible to make adjustments along the way to minimize their worst financial consequences. The advantage available to everyone is time: The sooner we understand the long-term impact of our decisions and make the necessary changes, the more likely we are to reach our financial goals.
The taxpayers of America are unknowing victims of corporate extortion, effectively subsidizing big companies at the rate of billions of dollars each year for corporate relocations. The subsidies are often in the form of tax benefits, but may even be cash payments to companies threatening to move from their existing location – or to companies willing to move if the bribe is sufficient.