First World Problems

“My question to Bernie Sanders supporters: When someone in Bangladesh observes your lifestyle, it seems as incredible to them as that of the 1% seems to you. Why are they not entitled to help themselves to your things, the way you consider yourself morally entitled to help yourself to the goods of the American rich? In your answer, avoid moral irrelevancies like national borders; can we tolerate inequality just because it’s cross-border?
Extra credit: Take a picture of yourself divesting yourself of most of your goods in the name of global equality.” – Tom Woods

“It is utterly clear to me that the highest priority need of world society at the present moment is a realistic economic accounting system which will rectify, for instance, such nonsense as the fact that a top toolmaker in India, the highest paid of all craftsmen, gets only as much per month for his work in India as he could earn per day for the same work if he were employed in Detroit, Michigan.” – Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth – Buckminster Fuller

“You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one!” – Nix (Tomorrowland)

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is about “Our jobs going overseas.” This frustrates me to no end. The facts are if your job is exportable then you do not own the job. Who does your check come from? If you are not the owner/operator of the company, you haven’t created your job. If you didn’t create the job then it is not yours to complain that it is leaving. Complaining about things like that show a small view, not a world view.

People who complain about “their jobs” leaving are also probably the same people who complain about paying taxes and complain excessively about whichever political group that opposes their group. They are also likely people who complain excessively about not having enough money, because they are complainers. These types of people will complain about literally anything that comes their way. They are complainers, not doers.

The funny thing about these people is that they will make a big point about “buying American” verbally but if you look around their house I bet most of the stuff is NOT made in America. They will complain that it’s too hard to check everything they buy. I would say if they took all the time they spent complaining about it and took some action to fix it, they wouldn’t have the “problem” as they see it.

The facts are that exporting of jobs allows us to have the material wealth we do. We don’t look at the harsh conditions in other countries. We are totally inwardly focused. If you are reading this your life must be pretty damn good. You have access to internet which means that you likely have access to running water and readily available food. You are also likely covered by some type of health insurance. Perhaps it’s a little expensive. Perhaps you can’t even afford a new Cadillac because you are paying to much for health insurance. That sounds tough. The fact is you aren’t likely dying from one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases or goiters.

If we are going to really waste our time being outrage about something it should be the fact that people are dying in other parts of the world while we drive Cadillacs to get our $5 lattes and complain that we have “high taxes” while watching football every Sunday.

On a more positive note according to  Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth in 2001 1.1 billion of 6.1 billion (18%) people lived in extreme poverty whereas in 1981 1.5 billion of 4.4 billion (34%) people in the world were in extreme poverty. The positive note here is that there are fewer people in poverty now and the percent is also lower.

I see poverty as the biggest problem in the world because of all the things that derive from it. Setting a strict definition of poverty is tough but determining the effects of poverty is not as difficult.

The worst poverty is poverty of the mind, which is what I would say people who complain about “our jobs being shipped overseas” suffer from. To assume a victim mentality will assure that you stay in your current position. The poorest of the poor also suffer from poverty of the mind, but this is because of a lack of access to mentally stimulating materials as well as their focus on surviving! It’s hard to plan for your future when you are starving.

While we are debating our higher taxes or the “crazy” gun laws we feel the government is trying to put on us, we are neglecting the the 21,000-50,000 people who die each day due to starvation in the world. That’s 3x-6x as many as die in the USA each day from all causes!

So that’s my rant for the day #FirstWorldProblems


“Some people are so poor all they have is money.” – Bob Marley (or Abe Lincoln, the internet will never know)

The Powerball is up to it’s highest ever, $1.3 billion or so, and people are going nuts! If you look to history you will find plenty of lottery winners and others who have come to money and fame fast (sports stars, rock stars, etc), who crash and burn and sometimes even die from the stresses and bad decisions that stem from large life changes like that.

Why does this happen? My belief is poor planning. This could have happened to these people at anytime but getting money only accelerated the inevitable. Money is a tool just like anything else and if you view money as more than a tool, if you worship it, or just about anything else, it can destroy you. The way I see of getting around this? Sort out life before you win any money. If you already have a positive relationship with money, getting a lot of it shouldn’t affect you. Many of us have a bad relationship with money, some of us just are able to avoid consequences because we make enough to avoid issues but not enough to cause bigger issues. Some of us don’t make enough to get ourselves into issues. Although most of us won’t win a million or a billion bucks in our lifetimes, it will still be valuable to think about what your goals and aspirations and work toward those. With that attitude you will feel like you’ve won the lottery everyday, that’s how I feel, most days.

There’s been a meme going around that the Powerball split among everyone in the USA would yield $4.33 million per person, which I’m pretty sure was a super clever marketing stunt by a guy to grow his exposure to the world, good work on that dude. What it really comes out to is $4.33/ person in the USA. We all scoff at that, but there are places where that’d be enough to feed some for a week or more! Think about that next time you are buying your $5 latte.

One thing that excites me each day is that I get to be the lottery to other families. I sponsor children via Children International. It’s a pretty interesting program that does what it says below:

Taken right from their website:

Your monthly sponsorship gift of $32 will change your child’s life! Sponsorship will provide them with:


  • Medical and Dental Care
  • Educational Support
  • Family Assistance
  • Emergency Food as Needed
  • Clothes, Shoes and More!


You get a letter every few months from the children and can read more about them on the website if you care to. My specific children, in the Philippines, belong to a family that lives on $100 a month! So to give them $32/month is basically like winning the lottery to them, every month! How much cooler is that than winning the lottery yourself? And you can do it for only the cost of 6 lattes a month!

The last letter I got from a boy who’s about 5 said that he wanted to be an architect when he grew up and he even drew me a picture of a house. I am really hoping that I can help support that dream for him, for less than a cup of coffee each day for me. 

Somebody could win the Powerball today (It’s Wednesday as I’m writing this so I guess that means numbers are drawn, I just learned that today (Tuesday as I’m writing this)) But remember, you could make it like someone won the Powerball also and you probably won’t miss the $32/month.


“Some people are so poor all they have is money.” – Bob Marley (or Abe Lincoln, the internet will never know)

I was having lunch with some colleagues at work today. Of 6 people, 2 had done PhD work and the rest held Bachelor’s degrees, engineers and computer science folks. A few were talking about how they were in the wrong business and they wanted to get into something where they made more money. They decided that $300,000 a year was a place they could feel comfortable at. I almost fell out of my seat!

I am a mechanical engineer in the midwest I keep my expenses relatively low and I have a pretty good paying job, although nowhere near $300,000 a year.

I started the year with 3 concrete goals.

  1. Save $100,000 in my retirements accounts (cumulative, not this year alone!)
  2. Get a mentor
  3. Do 100 push ups a day

There are more but I haven’t structured them well enough to be shared yet.

Of the above I am already thinking about if the first one, have $100,000 in retirement account by the end of the year is a useful one or not.
I am 26 years old.

Having already saved between my 401K (pre tax), ROTH IRA (post tax, limit $5500/year) and HSA (Health Savings account) $75,000 as of Jan 1, 2015 I would have to save $25,000 to reach $100,000 by the end of the year. Now that is do-able but I am starting to question if that is a good goal or not.

If you have looked at anything I have done in the past you will see that I like to project forward. Here is how to “Retire A Millionaire, The Easy Way”.

Using the various numbers I already calculated from there (7% growth a year, 3% inflation) and the $75,000 I already have invested, that puts me at $1,049,612 at 65 years old (39 years from now), yielding $72,420 a year (at 7%) which is equivalent to $22,866 a year in 2015 dollars. Now if I was getting $23,000 a year for free what would I be doing? Probably anything I wanted! (This is before social security, assuming it’s still around).

You would calculate a future value using the below equation.

FV = PV*(1+r)^t

FV = future value of lump sum  

PV = future value of lump sum ($75,000)

r = interest rate per period  (7% = .07)

t = number of compounding periods (39 years)

FV = 75,000*(1+.07)^39 = $1,049,612

I’m a millionaire! time to start living like it!
Of course this equation is making plenty of assumptions based on the numbers I put in. Last year certainly did not return 7%, but again, referring to the previous article, there is good reason to assume 7% average over the long term.

This makes me question why I would even put any more in my retirement account? It already seems that I have enough! Now I will continue putting money in retirement accounts as long as I can not think of any other ways to invest it, certainly don’t take this as me telling YOU to stop investing in your retirement!

The next question is why do people live the way they do?
Do people really understand the simple math I laid out above and in my other article about how to calculate future and present worth?
Do people understand how to calculate a return?
Do people understand inflation?

Now I certainly don’t live like a king. I have monthly expenses of about $1200 and drive a used (2007) Prius. It’s reliable. Having taken the time to learn about finances from The Crazy Man In The Pink Wig and understanding the answers to the questions I asked above, I am very confident. I’d suggest you read one of his books, preferable “What Color Is The Sky?” I’d even purchase and mail it to you as I have done for many others, if you like. (Drop an email at, or comment below!)

That all being said, back to the thought of enough. What does that mean? I guess each person has to figure that out for themselves, but it’s certainly something we should perhaps put a bit more thought into than we often do!

What is your “enough” number?
If you want to talk to me about what is enough, comment or drop me an email.

The Unabomber Manifesto – A Book Review

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle

I read “Industrial Society & It’s Future” also knows as “The Unabomber Manifesto” in 6 days in December 2015. It is not a very long book, only 79 pages.

It was written by Ted Kaczynski, also known as The Unabomber for his attacks on Universities and Airlines with homemade bombs between 1978 and 1995.

Ted Kaczynski wrote (p16) “we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people.”

He believed providing for our own basic needs, water, food, shelter satisfied some “power process” in us. If we didn’t have that power process satisfied we would turn to “surrogate activities” which often lead to creation of technologies that he believed lead to a reduction in the need for people having to provide their own basic needs. It is a never ending circle of people being less worried about what they had to do to survive turning to activities to make us feel as though we were in control of something.

A surrogate activity could be literally anything that does not contribute to our immediate survival including sports, writing blogs!, any viewing of television, fancy clothes, basically every industry or hobby you can think of would be under attack in his mind.. He specifically mentions the irony of the obsession of many of working out by saying “there is no practical motive for building enormous muscles”  (p27) as well as pointing to our fear of death by saying “It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never has a practical use for his body beyond walking from his car to his house.” (p25)

I do find this quite personally relevant. I went through a phase of working out in 2012 where lifting heavy weights was one of the only important things to me. I got big. But what did it yield me? Not much but potentially a micro tear in my left shoulder. Examination by a doctor has been inconclusive as to the cause of constant dull pain, but as everything is still working more or less fine, life continues on. The foolishness that lead to that situation though is one of the problems with modern society that Ted Kaczynski was pointing to while writing this book.

On page 30 Ted shares his definition of freedom “the opportunity to go through the power process, with real goals, not the artificial goals of surrogate activities, and without interference, manipulation or supervision from anyone.”

It is difficult for me to determine what he feels is a “real goal”. The only reason people see developed technology as a goal in the first place was to help them meet their “real goals” and we can agree that technology has succeeded in that endeavor, at least in the “rich world”. Now the proliferation of that technology to those who are disadvantaged should be our top goal or surrogate activity, if you consult myself or Buckminster Fuller.  

“Make the world work,
for 100% of humanity,
in the shortest possible time,
through spontaneous cooperation,
without ecological offense
or the disadvantage of anyone.”

  • Buckminster Fuller

My own goal for the world:

Our biggest goal for the world should be providing security to each person, the security to prosper independently or in collaboration with each other. People should get the opportunity to seek any position they desire. There will be people who don’t reach their goals but the fact that they got the opportunity to try is the important thing. – Axel Hoogland

Of note to the above should be that we should be allowed, as a society, to vet the goals of others, just a little bit, to determine that it’s not directly harmful to the rest of society. This is usually what wars arise from and this is where government regulations come in. For example: ISIS should not be free to try to reach their goal on world domination and imposing their form of Sharia Law on everyone. Also the car companies are restricted on emissions of greenhouse gases because it has been determined to be harmful to society at large. I think it’s obvious what I mean when saying that people should have the opportunity to seek positions such as engineer, doctor or policeman, unencumbered by the social or financial position they were born into. I believe we have a lot of systems in place to help these people already but those can always be improved and should be relentlessly.

Ted Kaczynski is not an idiot. In fact he is literally a genius having graduated from Harvard at 20 and receiving a PhD from the University of Michigan after that.

The irony of his situation is that his crusade to destroy all technology was in itself a surrogate activity of the type that he deplored.

In the rest of the book he explores some very advanced concepts, the kind which “normal” people give very little thought to, being absorbed in surrogate activities. On page 40 he says “If you think that big government interferes in your life too much NOW, just wait till the government starts regulating the genetic constitution of your children.” The possibility of this level of genetic engineering is moving closer and closer to reality. A page later he says “each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable.” (P42). This is a very real thought and one that we need to consider when developing any new technologies. Who will regulate them? That is why if you are really concerned about that you should work to attain positions of power in the government such that you can affect the regulation. If you can’t, you should at least be reasonably engaged in correspondence with your governmental representative. We in the USA have a strange relationship with the government. It seems we are always distrustful of “the government”. We are sure they are out to get us. That sort of thinking is just useless at best and damaging at worst. Perhaps we all need to go back to the words of JFK.

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy

Another idea that Ted Kaczinski discusses is the thought of “The Singularity”.

The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity. – From The Singularity Is Near” by Ray Kurzweil.

Although Kaczinski doesn’t mention it by that name, he describes it thus, on technology “it would presumably advance towards its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms.” For a less negative take on The Singularity I recommend the long book “The Singularity Is Near” by Ray Kurzweil.

On page 60 he says “We can imagine a future society in which there is endless competition for positions of prestige and power.”  If that doesn’t describe our current society, I don’t know what would. But there are plenty of rays of hope for our future in both religious and nonreligious people. I am just finishing a book called Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne which discusses the drive by some religious to live with the poor and downtrodden instead of apart from them. There is also the book “Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth” by Buckminster Fuller which shares a vision of the world in which none are suffering.

I would encourage everyone to read The Unabomber Manifesto and consider what surrogate activities you are working towards and why and how you could apply your free time to a better future for all as opposed to just yourself. As an alternative to the future envisioned by Ted Kaczynski, I would recommend reading “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” which lays out ways in which technology, rather than destroying our future, will build it better than we could ever imagine.