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 — preferably warm and fragrant — and a little time and space to let thoughts unfold.
Relax, read, enjoy.
I Really, Really Like This Shop
Consignment shops often have a down-market connotation. Used clothing, after all, will seldom be mistaken for haute couture.
Partially thanks to the reach of the internet, high-end luxury consignments are having a bit of a moment — with The RealReal stealing the show. Started in 2010, The RealReal shows what a difference reach can make.
Used to be consignment shops were limited by supply available nearby — and shoppers interested in that supply. Consequently, high-end consignments were usually confined to the toniest neighborhoods in the richest cities, like New York, London or LA.
But that’s no longer the case. The RealReal makes it possible to have items sent from anywhere — and delivered anywhere as well. Suddenly, a small expensive niche market becomes a huge expensive niche market.
If you want your own Louis Vuitton item or something from Saint Laurent, now you can get it lightly used for less than retail.
Or — if you’ve got a high-end item and want to see a high-end price tag attached to it (which would rarely happen at a local consignment shop), you can just swing by The RealReal and recoup much of that initial cost.
I Wonder Which Amazon Is More Dangerous?
For two straight years, Amazon has made OSHA’s “Dirty Dozen” list — the 12 most dangerous places to work in America.
Considering how many people work in mines, on oil rigs, felling lumber, deep-sea fishing or any of a number of dangerous lines of employment, it’s somewhat shocking that Amazon makes the cut. After all, Amazon is more of a shipping company than anything else.
Tragically, Amazon has lost six workers in the past year. Not what you’d expect in warehouses that pack and unpack boxes all day.
Is this the sort of problem that can, at some point, affect the bottom line? Unclear — though I certainly trust the company to do a better job addressing bad press than Facebook.
But it looks like there are some chinks showing in Amazon’s armor. Which is opening a hole for drop shippers to fill.
If you’ve ever thought about opening an online store — which, remember, doesn’t require dealing with any logistics, just creating a sales page or piggybacking on a larger site — now’s a potentially great time to get set up.
Is UBI About to Have a Moment?
Universal basic income (UBI) has been growing in the public consciousness for a while now… Here’s the basic pitch: Instead of worrying about a patchwork of social support programs aimed to stop people from falling through the cracks, just give everyone a little money every month.
To be clear, no one is proposing a UBI that could replace a job. It’s always a small stipend — $500 a month, maybe $1,000 at its most generous — that could support no more than a subsistence lifestyle.
And with automation obsoleting more and more jobs, it’s weighed as a potential answer. Or at least it’s a lifeline to help people transition into new fields when old ones wither.
Instead of limiting how you spend support, it gives control to the people receiving it — who usually know best where they need help.
UBI has had bipartisan support in the past — Dems like handing out help to the needy, while the GOP see it as a way to save costs by simplifying the welfare system and handing control back to the individual.
That may change in the next few years — the Dems have a somewhat popular presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, who has made this his signature policy. Even without Yang, everything that can be debated gets polarized these days and assigned to one party or another.
The same will probably happen to UBI.
But before that happened, it would be helpful to know how UBI would work. Which is why a number of municipalities are running pilot programs to test UBI out.
A recent UBI test in Stockton, California, forcefully answered one criticism UBI has received: Many wonks worry that the extra cash would be spent frivolously. But the $500 monthly payment Stockton families got went directly to necessities like food, rent, utilities and clothing.
Whether UBI can scale effectively — and whether it actually would lead to overall savings on spending — is still an open question. But right now, we’re in the data-gathering stage. And Stockton just provided a very positive piece of data.
Do You Even Office, Bro?
Don’t look now — but the nature of work has been shifting under our feet for years.
Widespread broadband internet has made it possible for most people to consistently work remotely, if they so desire (and the company is in on the deal).
Over 5% of people exclusively work remotely, while something like two-thirds of employees work remotely at least some of the time.
And remote work has actually proven a boon on many sides…
- Contrary to management fears, people are more productive working from home
- The flexibility increases worker satisfaction and decreases employee turnover
- People miss less time, as they can schedule their workday around doctor’s appointments or picking up the kids, instead of taking time off
- Businesses get to save money on infrastructure — as you need less office space when people are working remotely
- Workers save time and money on commutes — often the worst part of everyone’s day
- Society benefits as rush hours decrease in length and intensity.
Of course, it’s not all good. The biggest problem people have is work creep — when you can work from anywhere, at any time, it becomes much harder to unplug.
And businesses lose some of the creativity that comes naturally from people interacting at the office, sparking ideas between different departments and/or viewpoints.
Still, overall, remote work has been a flying success. Now we’re nearing a tipping point — where remote work may become the standard. Or, at least, no stranger than going into an office.
Which is why you can’t go anywhere in any city without seeing co-working spaces around every corner. WeWork may have mismanaged itself, but co-working spaces aren’t going away.
All of this will result in plenty of repercussions we haven’t considered yet. Personally — as someone who has worked remotely most of my career — I’m excited to see where it all leads.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Hate the office grind, but still want a steady paycheck? There’s no better way to control your time, your space and the size of that paycheck than by being your own boss.
Luckily, you don’t need to build a company from the ground up to enjoy this kind of lifestyle. You can buy a business that’s already working — often with absolutely no money down. Find out how right here.
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...