Every week, I like to pass along some of the most interesting and entertaining stories happening in the unconventional investing world.
The sorts of stories that go great with a quiet morning, some form of drink with steam curling upward… and the unhurried time that comes each weekend.
Well, now that we’re in the dog days and even Alaska is hitting triple-digit heat indexes now and again, I’ll bet you’ve set your sights on a cooler beverage.
Regardless! Relax, read, enjoy.
If You Love Lines, Skip This Item
Global Entry is a great way to skip the lines at Customs when you’re coming into the States (and you can get it for free when you get a credit card to sponsor your fee).
But it can be a pain to set up initially. If you’re conditionally approved, you have to make an appointment for an interview at a major airport (and not all of us live near one). From initial application to actual acceptance usually takes months — sometimes longer.
And of course, Global Entry costs $100 (for those without sponsoring credit cards) and must be renewed every five years.
But there’s another program that’s an awful lot like Global Entry… without any of the applications, interviews or waiting.
It’s called Mobile Passport Control — an app that can live on your smartphone. It basically lets you get through the Customs line before you even arrive at the airport (if you have a U.S. or Canadian passport).
Best of all, it’s 100% free.
If you’ve got Global Entry already, Mobile Passport Control won’t speed you up. But if you don’t, it’ll let you skip those crazy Customs lines — which can extend hours during peak times at busy airports.
I recommend downloading it today. Forget about it until your next international flight. Then when you skip the Customs line and get to your baggage carousel in five minutes, you can thank me.
Like a Snowball Down a Mountain
You know Christie’s and Sotheby’s — the two largest auction houses in the States by a wide margin.
You probably don’t know Hindman Auctioneers. Or any of dozens of smaller auction houses out there.
But that may change in the next few years… because we’re going through a wave of consolidation that is seeing lots of small auction houses teaming up to take on the top dogs.
It will be some years before there’s a third or fourth auction house worthy of sharing space with the Big Two. But things might get a little wild during the transition.
I’d expect smaller auction houses to make a few big splashes with expensive, explosive and popular work that can help get their names out there.
I’d expect fee wars — much like airline fare wars — with smaller auction houses taking smaller commissions to gain clients. And larger auction houses reducing fees in an attempt to starve the smaller players out.
And I’d expect plenty of the unexpected as well.
This is a slow-moving, slow-developing story. But I’m keeping my eye on it so I can let you know how it could affect your own auction-worthy investments. Not to mention if this proves a boon for fractional art funds like Masterworks.
Smile! You’re in the Panopticon
Do you use Google Photos? Great — it sure is convenient, isn’t it?
Oh! Except for that part where every photo you’ve ever shared is available to anyone on the web, with no privacy protections whatsoever.
Reading between the lines, this looks more like a software error that Google will correct sooner rather than later. But it’s still worrying how easy it would be for bad actors to get access to potentially compromising material — with no more than a rudimentary knowledge of how web addresses work.
And of course, it’s another sign that most of the big tech companies just don’t care about your privacy. They’ll make amends when their hand gets caught in the cookie jar… but they never feel enough pain to actually make privacy a priority.
Heck, even when the FTC decided to make an “example” out of Facebook with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations, the company’s stock went up. The fine is a pittance compared with the money Facebook makes by violating privacy.
The new rule? Trust no one! Put your information in as few places as possible! And for Pete’s sake, don’t go sharing any photos you wouldn’t want your mama to see.
Getting Green for Downtime?
Have you heard of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk?
Named after an 18th-century chess-playing machine — that was secretly controlled by a human — the Mechanical Turk marketplace is where companies, universities and regular folk go to hire people to do mundane tasks that are a step or two beyond current AI tech.
Most of the gigs only take a few seconds. Most pay pennies (literally, there are 1-cent jobs out there).
For most people, acting as a Mechanical Turk means getting paid way less than minimum wage. It’s something like 19th-century factory work — nearly slave labor — updated for the times.
However, there are some power users who’ve figured out the system and are able to pull in around $1,000 a month from this side hustle — using nothing more than their downtime (and a few apps and plug-ins that help identify the best gigs).
Could this be you? Personally, I think there are better ways to add $1,000 a month to your income — like this.
But if you often find yourself bored, mindlessly playing games on your phone to pass the time, it might not be so bad to get paid to waste it.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Have you ever taken any microgigs like those offered by the Mechanical Turk? Did you break out in a cold sweat when you realized all your photos could be easily found by anyone online? Think you know how the coming auction wars will play out? Let me hear you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...