It’s cold out there!
After running around the country — with, I’m guessing, thousands of you inconvenienced by the massive storms that hit on the busiest travel days of the year — we all could use a little down time.
A little time to forget the hours in airplanes, cars and transportation hubs…
A little time to warm up, with nowhere particular to be…
A little time for yourself — before the holiday season heats right back up and you start traveling (or hosting) again.
So today, take some of that time to relax with these unconventional stories from around the web.
Get that hot drink. Sit before a roaring fire if you can. Put your laptop on your lap to feel the warmth. These won’t all be happy, positive stories — some are downright scary.
But they are perfect for contemplating on a cold Saturday morning.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Tired of constantly being spied on? So am I.
It’s hard to avoid — if you don’t have protective layers (like VPNs), everything you do online can be learned by the highest bidder.
Every purchase you make goes into a black-box algorithm… which might decide you see higher price points than your neighbor, who gets discounts all day.
And it’s impossible to take a step in public without being caught on camera. Which, in these days of AI and facial recognition, means someone could track your every move if they so desired.
Or maybe not.
As in all arms races, offense and defense are constantly jockeying for the upper hand. And privacy seekers just got a nice new tool to add to their protective arsenal.
In this case, it’s this wild-looking T-shirt.
One that just so happens to break the brains of AI so you can’t be identified by facial recognition. In fact, it seems to make you invisible to AI entirely.
These aren’t on sale yet — they’re just proof of concept. But when they are publicly available, it’s not a bad idea to pick one up.
You never know when it could come in handy… I’m sure a few million people in Hong Kong would like to get their hands on one right now.
The world of social media influencers is a weird one.
Folks get paid just for having a bunch of followers… and hawking products to their adoring fans.
There’s nothing new about the practice. It’s been around ever since celebrity and fame became concepts.
But social media has changed who the players are — and how the marketing game is played.
In fact — because so much of the commerce behind these advertorials is hidden — the FTC has decided the whole process is unfair. They want any paid programming to be labeled as such, part of the slow, inexorable creep of regulation into the internet world.
You see, the Wild West was fun while it lasted… but we’re also getting regular reminders why regulation came about in the first place.
An unchecked marketplace leads to plenty of abuse.
The truth is there aren’t any reasonable people who want to see a world with zero regulation… and there are no reasonable people who want to see every little thing have a statute or code attached to it either.
It’s all about balance.
Right now the internet is still finding its balance. Things will probably swing toward too much regulation in the short term — as a response to the problems that arise with zero regulation.
It’ll be awhile before we find the sweet spot (which, let’s be honest, we never will — it’s always a moving target).
But this is an important part of the discussion.
What do you think? Should influencers have to tell you when they’re being paid to market a product? Or is this an example of overreach? Let us know your opinion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Safe Haven in the Badlands
When you think of tax havens for the super-rich, you probably think of exotic locales — lush tropical islands like the Caymans… or failed states with little rule of law, where a greased palm is the key to anonymous banking services.
You probably don’t think of Mount Rushmore. But if you are a member of the super-rich — in America or elsewhere — you are probably stashing a lot of your cash in South Dakota.
The state doesn’t have income tax, to start. Or inheritance tax, or capital gains tax, either.
Those are necessities for a tax shelter… but you can find similar deals in other U.S. states like Delaware.
What makes South Dakota so special — and the reason so many yacht owners park their money there — are these unusual South Dakota trusts.
You’d need to be a financial lawyer to understand all the details, but the gist is this: Any money you put into a South Dakota trust is protected from almost any threats that could come your way.
Exes can’t get access to it.
Neither can business partners or litigious clients.
Indeed, about the only thing that can open up the books on a South Dakota trust is a criminal investigation.
No wonder Chinese billionaires are hedging their bets by putting huge chunks of their money in one of the least populous and least prosperous states in the nation.
If you’ve got any worries about creditors or unscrupulous claimants on your cash, you could do a lot worse than hiding your cash in South Dakota.
But only if you’re talking about a decent chunk… getting everything set up and organized isn’t worth it for only a few hundred — or a few thousand — bucks.
What’ll They Question Next?
For as long as anyone can remember, owning a home has been a cornerstone of the American dream.
But should it be?
The answer has been obvious for most of the 20th and 21st centuries. But the truth is getting muddier today.
If you need to borrow more than you can afford — on top of other debts, like student loans — maybe not. A foreclosure is a lot worse than renting for a few years.
If you live in a city with outrageous real estate prices — we’re looking at you, San Fran — it might not make sense.
And if you don’t do your homework and wind up with a money trap — then all bets are off.
Look — it still makes sense to build equity in a home, no matter how many scare pieces are out there.
But that doesn’t mean every home purchase is a home run. You still have to do your due diligence, make sure you understand the financial terms and don’t overextend yourself and wind up in trouble.
Do that and homeownership still can be a major tent pole for the American dream. Yes, for millennials and Gen Z too.
Just do your homework and it’ll lead to greater wealth — in the form of forced savings, if nothing else.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
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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...