All posts by projectdave21

About projectdave21

Passionate about keeping folks well and healthy and reducing healthcare costs via positive behavior change.

Graduation- What’s Next?

For a handful of us, this was our last semester at Metro State in our respective programs. Last Saturday, I walked in the graduation ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center along with several hundred other students. As the procession included both graduate and undergraduate students, I felt inspired by my recent decision to begin looking into grad school. Though I haven’t even begun the application process yet, I’m struck by an onset of confidence. Obtaining my undergraduate degree took me a couple years longer than I anticipated as well as desired, but I made it and still in time to look good on my resume! Having accepted a recent job offer at Abbott Laboratories, I find myself stuck at a crossroads on what to do next. There are several obvious reasons for why I should graduate school as soon as possible. I think I’ve narrowed down my focus, so that’s definitely a start. Let me explain what I want to do next.

Having a five year plan has become somewhat of a trend recently and I find myself joining along. Although I’m not quite at my “dream job” yet (although it seems that many of us still have a ways to go in this endeavor), I think I will be soon. Let me start with what I want to do for education and then I’ll go from there. I want to obtain an MBA with a finance focus. Since I haven’t taken many business courses prior to this, I’ll need to take a couple prerequisites such as Financial Accounting and Micro & Macro Economics. Though I’m planning to attend Metro for this, I can take these courses at North Hennepin for cheaper up until I’m completely ready to apply. I’ve been having a friendly experience so far in the application process, having recently found out that more programs are doing away with standardized tests due to their underlying implicit racial bias. That could be saved for an entirely separate blog post however. So overall, my plan is to get settled in at Abbott, find a second job to help pay down some debt (student loans and car payment) and then begin the process of grad school. All in all, I’ve got a lot going on over the next couple years.

Since my goals are high caliber, my work ethic will need to remain so as well. I have a lot riding on me to be successful in these endeavors but I feel up for the challenge. I feel it is imperative to obtain my graduate degree soon for several reasons. For one, I want to obtain a job that pays me enough to do what I want without having to get a second one. I want to be able to spend time with both my future kids and my future dogs. Another reason is that I need to stand out with automation coming soon. Whether for better or for worse, automation is coming for a lot of jobs and we all must do what we can to remain competitive. Although this mission is paramount, I’m also doing my best to slow down and enjoy the journey along the way. Once I obtain a degree in finance, there will be a lot of things I can start doing that I’ve wanted to. I can consult with my friends on helping them start and expand their businesses. I can begin investing in real estate and other funds so that I can retire early. In order for all this to happen, I’ll also need to volunteer more and possibly complete some internships.

All in all, the next couple years will be busy for me as I’m sure it will continue to be for my classmates as well. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my journey so far, it’s to always expect the unexpected. And part of that entails striving for self-improvement each and every day. To close, I’ll cite a quote from one of America’s all-time favorite Presidents’ John F. Kennedy “Do not pray for easier lives, gentlemen, pray to be stronger men.”

What are your plans after graduation? Feel free to join the conversation in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading,

-David

Choosing an Employer- Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Are you satisfied with your current job situation? If you aren’t, have you thought about where you want to look next? If you are, what keeps you going in your current role? With the modern economy as it is, changing jobs is becoming more common and working somewhere for life is a thing of the past. There are several factors involved in this and different life situations which bring these on more than others. I’m sure we can all think of an example- graduating school, getting a certification, growing dissatisfied with work conditions, having a child, etc. And all this is backed by statistics. According to LinkedIn, the average person goes through 10 jobs before they reach age 40! With all of this in mind, how does one decide where to go for jobs? Job-hunting is very unique in the situations it can present to us and at times, dilemmas. Recently, I’ve found myself stuck in a weird place with multiple offers and having to decide on only one (that last part was rhetorical, I’m not crazy enough to take on two full time jobs!).

A couple months back, I decided to get a head start on my job search. I’ve known for a while now that I wanted to leave my current job at StayWell. Nearing graduation and knowing that I’ll obtain a Bachelor’s degree helped spur this. Additionally, I know how long the recruiting process can take for many companies, so I figured if I wanted to have a good job by graduation, the sooner I start, the better. My dissatisfaction stemmed from several factors: I wasn’t making the money I wanted nor given the hours I desired and in my opinion, the company was being mismanaged which in turn led to a shrinking market share and falling revenue. Though I’ll refrain from giving out more exact numbers, I will say this: my merit increase amounted to less than $500 for the total year. To add insult to injury, my former boss tried to cushion this by recounting that she’s worked at places that didn’t give any raise if finances were down. I think we can all attest to how well the economy is doing, especially healthcare. But the main reason for this short-sight was our falling revenue. What caused this downturn? One single factor can’t explain the entire situation but I can say with certainty that a lack of communication between corporate (product development, account managers, etc.) and customer-facing departments contributed. Enough about that. The good news is that I’ve given my two week notice and today is actually my last day. What’s even better is the alignment of timing between my two ventures. I will have next week completely off from work to give me time to focus on finals. This is especially helpful, having four classes (which I’ve never done before) and getting ready for graduation.

There is some…… well……… less good news to share however as well. I interviewed with a few different places and had some solid conversations and leads. Ultimately, I’ve accepted an offer with Abbott Laboratories which is a fortune 100 company and offers amazing benefits. There are both positives and negatives to the role I’m taking on. First off, it is somewhat of a continuation of my current path of staying in the Health Care sector. Another is that it is located very close to my house (less than 10 minutes away and on a residential road which will be great for winter!). The only downsides are that I’m not getting the schedule I wanted and that I was originally looking to enter a new field. I was originally contemplating Finance, which for the most part is a stark contrast to Medical Devices! Overall however, this presents me with a great opportunity to grow in the next few years. Now here comes the real kicker! I still have one more interview before I start at my new job! And that is with Securian Financial, headquartered in beautiful downtown St. Paul, very close to campus. Their benefits are pretty comparable but the hours for this position would be better and also in an industry I’m looking to gain a foothold in. If I get an offer from them as well, I’ll be in dilemma over which to choose. I’ve never been one to start a job and then quit within a short time. Contrarily, I’ve always done my best to stick it out, give it a try and make it at least worthwhile to the company from a financial standpoint. As a former retail manager, I know how costly turnaround can be, especially in the early stages.

As for my part, I tried to stall off the offer for as long as I could, knowing that I was still waiting for others to get back to me. What was especially unique about the offer from Abbott, is that it came the day after my interview, so I must have made a good impression on them! Anyways, I’m hoping that I will hear back from Securian before I start at Abbott to avoid wasting further resources. So then, my question is, what would you do in a similar situation? That is, have you been in a situation where you’ve had multiple offers, with deadlines for each where the timing may not align as well as you wish? How would you weigh the pros and cons? Both Securian and Abbott have great benefits and pay well. Both are close to where I live. On the one hand, working at Securian would give me a foothold into the finance industry, while staying on at Abbott would give me hours I don’t want. To complicate this further, I’ve also decided that I want to get a second job after graduating so I can pay down debt and save up for a down payment on a house next year. Ultimately, I think my decision will come down to money. With the benefits being comparable and having opportunity at both places, I lean toward Securian but it would also depend on if they’re able to match what Abbott has offered me, salary wise. Maybe for my last blog post before the class ends, I’ll be able to give a final update as to where I chose!

Thank you for reading and please feel free to join the conversation in the comments,

-David

The Case to Legalize Cannabis Completely, Once and For All

With the recent movement of states legalizing cannabis on a local level, many are now wondering when the call for ending prohibition nationwide will be finalized. Though there is still a sizable number that opposes legalization, I believe that they are impeding America’s progress on a number of fronts and I’ll explain these bit by bit. The first front I’d like to call attention to is the financial realm because I believe it holds the strongest potential to persuade folks to favor legalization. On this note, there are two main ways that legalizing marijuana would benefit Americans financially: taxes and investments.

Finances


I think we’ve all heard by now how Colorado and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, have brought in extra tax revenue to give well-needed funding to schools, corrections departments, etc. It’s really hard to argue against this point and I think that Democrats and Republicans, religious and non-religious, Whites and people of color alike, can all agree that extra tax revenue for programs such as schools is something we can all agree on. So I will not add more to that point. The second main point of the financial argument for legalizing cannabis is its potential for earning investors money. According to Arcview Market Research and its research partner BDS Analytics as reported by Forbes, the Cannabis market in North America alone is expected to reach $47.3 billion dollars by 2027. That is a more than five fold increase from $9.2 billion in 2017. It is also estimated in this same report that 67% of sales will come from recreational use (not that that matters when discussing the pure finances of it). These numbers are staggering and many people are recommending to invest in the Cannabis industry as the next “Google” or “Apple” of stocks. Though not everyone wants to be an investor (and that is absolutely fine), those of us who want to make money from this should be allowed to. On a personal note, it still perplexes me that this alone doesn’t convince more folks to hop on board, especially considering that many of the same people who still oppose it are staunch defenders of capitalism. On this same note, the main force that is preventing these companies from taking off even further is that most major banks cannot take money from the industry due to federal regulations. Banks of all institutions know the value of money and I would not be surprised to see them start to lobby Congress for a push to lift these regulations. There was recently a bill proposed in a subcommittee of Congress for this very purpose and according to Bloomberg, it is scheduled for a vote in the House next week (fingers crossed). Now that I’ve talked about the financial benefits of legalizing marijuana, I will cover the moral aspects that favor legalization.

Ethics

It may seem obvious, but prohibition on alcohol did not work. There is no single argument that would make cannabis any different in this regard. The strongest argument that I’ve heard when I talk about this is “well I don’t necessarily favor keeping alcohol legal either.” Okay, that’s a fair point but just like with any other “vice” in society (i.e. sex, drugs, liquor, etc.), people are going to do it anyways whether you like it or not, point blank period. It would make more sense for the government to at least put regulations on such substances so that minors do not have access and also to keep criminals such as drug cartels and black markets at bay. Next, I will cover the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.

Medicinal

By now, I think we’ve all heard about the therapeutic benefits associated with cannabis and medical marijuana generally seems to be a far less controversial subject as opposed to recreational use. Just to give a few examples, it has been shown to alleviate symptoms associated with nausea, seizures, arthritis, epilepsy, insomnia and multiple sclerosis just to name a few. The Harvard Medical Blog covers these in more details. Currently, 33 states offer some form of a medical marijuana program. Though medicinal use is far less controversial as previously mentioned, there are still more than 15% of Americans that oppose this, according to survey results from Pew Reseach. This is sickening considering that they’re okay with denying little children medicine to stop their seizures. Yes, this is a more extreme example but ultimately, that’s what this boils down to and I refuse to sugarcoat it.

Industrial Hemp

Hemp is something we’ve all heard of but few of us know much about it and its vast potential. According to a report compiled by the USDA, hemp has industrial use for clothing, oils and plastics, packaging, lotions, human and pet food, paper, construction materials and even bio-fuel. Though more restrictions on hemp have been lifted under the Trump administration under the new Farm Bill, it’s difficult to foresee the momentum continue without legalization of the entire plant. The reason I say this is that hemp and marijuana have a long history of intersectionality and have often been suppressed by the same groups and for similar reasons. For example, industrial hemp was used extensively in World War Two but soon was outlawed at the same time recreational cannabis was during the onset of the War on Drugs by Nixon. Though recreational marijuana was opposed on more moral grounds, these groups were often funded by large corporations that would have garnered a loss from the expansion of hemp (i.e. fossil fuel companies, lumber, etc.). This is detailed in a report on the history of Hemp by MIT.

All in all, there are many reasons to support the legalization of cannabis and end its prohibition once and for all. Whether you want to make extra money, garner extra funding for schools, help sick people get the medicine they need, support more sustainable industries or simply relax and have a good time, there is a reason for all of us to support this measure. With this in mind, though it may seem obvious, you don’t need to consume the plant yourself to benefit from its legalization. I hope you find this informative and helpful in making a decision on whether to support or oppose the legalization of cannabis. For a more comprehensive report with objective standpoints from experts in drug policy-making (the Drug Policy Alliance), please click here.

Thank you reading and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions,

-David

Trying to Make a Complicated Situation More Clear- Venezuela

A recent op-ed run by the New York Times, coming from a history professor at the University of Madison, Wisconsin argues for not intervening in the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. While I do agree with some of the points Mr. Iber made, I think that he is lacking context in his overall argument. His main points for us not stepping in are a.) that the United States has had a long and terrible history with intervening in the affairs of Latin America (which I agree with by the way) and b.) the Trump administration is not equipped to handle this and doesn’t have their best interest in mind (namely that we want their oil). While I do agree that the United States has committed illegal acts in the past by overthrowing democratically elected leaders and influencing elections in Latin America (and the entire world for that matter, take Iran for example), I believe the situation in Venezuela is fundamentally different. I say this because the majority of Venezuelans want and need our help. Although polls aren’t able to be conducted on this on a larger scale, extensive interviews and even “live aid concerts” have demonstrated support for an intervention. The type of intervention desired however is a little more murky. Moreover, in a more indirect show of how terrible conditions are, emigration from Venezuela to the United States has skyrocketed in the past couple weeks

I think we can all agree that we should do our best to keep troops out of Venezuela or neighboring countries. As standard procedure, we should make diplomatic efforts (i.e. sending aid such as food, doctors, water, etc.). The thing is, not only has the U.S. already attempted this, but also several organizations and individuals, most notably Richard Branson, with little success. These efforts have backfired immensely as Maduro literally set fire to these shipments and shut off the border. Shocking images and videos of Venezuelans attempting to salvage aid from literal burning cargo trucks broke the world’s heart (one such picture is featured on this post). On this note, I think we can all agree that some form of intervention is needed; whether or not you agree with militarily is perfectly understandable but something must be done. Again, we should do our utmost to solve things diplomatically but if their ex-leader continues to commit atrocious acts such as burning aid intended to help literally starving people, it is my opinion that we must keep all options on the table.

By now, I think we all can agree that President Trump is not the most intelligent person and that his moral compass is rather backwards. Even if you agree with his economic policies, everyone seems to find some sort of flaw they can point out in his character (whether it’s giving hush money to porn stars, having 3 wives with different children, mocking disabled people, etc. etc.). When it comes to Venezuela in particular, I can’t say what his intentions are. He’s used the situation as an opportunity to voice his opinions of socialism and has made reference to both their past economic prosperity (Venezuela used to be one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America) as well as their future potential. While this does sound the alarm for some (sounds a lot like colonization), research has shown that developing countries need as least temporary, foreign investment to get back on their feet. To this end, although Trump may or may not actually care about Venezuelans, his policies may benefit them in the end (sound familiar?). Furthermore, although many critics of the Iraq war believed that oil was an influence in our decision to invade, that never came to fruition and I don’t foresee that in Venezuela either. Lastly, Trump has actually decreased our military presence globally in stark contrast to past administrations, so it’s hard for me to believe that Trump is eager to pull the trigger.

Mr. Iber goes on to assert that a U.S. intervention would make matters worse as it could be used as a rallying point for Maduro touting anti-imperialism. While there is a small minority that still favors Maduro, the majority of the country favors Guiado as I mentioned above. Furthermore, this minority consists mostly of aristocrats and elitists; those who benefit from Maduro’s policies and are unaffected by the humanitarian crisis at hand. For this reason, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Iber on not intervening at all. While I’m still forming my own opinion regarding whether the military should be involved, I think we should all move past the debate of whether or not we should help at all. To be fair, as previously mentioned, I do agree with Mr. Iber on some counts. However, I don’t believe that he is considering the full context of the situation and is making this highly political when we need concrete solutions. And the longer we wait, the more people suffer.

Thanks for reading,

-David

A Health Crisis in the United States- Following the Paper Trail


As more of the public is becoming increasingly aware, the status of general health in the United States is looking more grim by the day. This holds true for nearly all aspects of our healthcare system, whether you have insurance, are under-insured or uninsured completely, chances are, you feel or at least see the effects of the crisis at hand. In particular, public health experts point to the epidemic we see emerging with chronic illnesses. These are generally the result of poor lifestyle choices. While some attribute this to the level of individual factors, others assert that a more holistic approach is accurate, pointing to environmental factors such as the ease of convenience of junk food as well as its heavy promotion by a plethora of large corporations, financial worries, stress, etc. It’s practically been ingrained into our culture and it cuts across all demographics- race, gender, age, you name it. Moreover, this trend of poor health is expected to continue as the new generation of millennials transitions to adulthood. Though there are several efforts underway by government agencies, non-profits and private enterprise alike to improve health outcomes, I believe using numbers is the best way of examining the current state of this issue.

According to a report compiled by the CDC, 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic illness and 4 in 10 have two or more. Overall, this contributes to our nation’s staggering 3.3 trillion dollar annual health care costs. As part of these costs, medical devices play a key role in helping folks manage these illness. Ideally, with the concept of insurance and risk-sharing, this cost should be spread out across all consumers to make healthcare affordable for all. Unfortunately, even with modern cost savings such as HSA’s, FSA’s and preventive care, this price tag is still too high and we see the effects of that with rising premiums. So, with all this in mind, who wins and who loses? Well, health-wise, pretty much of all us lose in some way. Financially? The general public loses while the healthcare industry sees its share of the GDP rise year after year. Now, some sectors are more profitable than others due to regulatory reforms, taxes, activism, etc. In particular, the medical device industry has seen record profits the last few years. Now, normally profit can¬†be a good thing, so long as the company is doing the right things (ethically speaking). Though there haven’t been any “major” controversies or scandals coming from well-known corporations within this field, a connection can still be drawn between rising rates of chronic diseases & healthcare costs and record-high profits associated with virtual monopolies in the medical device industry.

From an investor’s perspective, the most attractive companies for looking into a.) have high profits & high profit margins b.) have monopolies within their respective markets (again, this must be done in an ethical manner and for some industries, monopolies can be ethical) and c.) show promise for future earnings. Again, I am not writing this as a means of giving investment advice, but merely to show a correlation between the current health epidemic we’re facing and industry balance sheets, or in other words, what I like to call, a paper trail. With this in mind, the Motley¬†Fool has made formal recommendations for 3 particular medical device companies that they see as money makers with the potential to provide large ROI’s (returns on investment). Two of these, Abiomed and Inuitive Surgical, already have a large grasp in their market and are considered to be monopolies. NovoCure on the other hand, is a fairly new, emerging medical device company that, although is not yet profitable, shows signs of extreme promise to be big winners in the coming years (mostly due to creative and unmatched techniques). In this podcast, Jones and Feroldi go on to discuss the mind-boggling returns that some of these companies have yielded to investors. Personally, I see this as no coincidence.

As a disclaimer, just because a company enters a market, does not mean that they have bad intentions. To the contrary, some businesses enter a market because there is a need or demand for a product or service and they believe they can deliver in an efficient manner. There are countless examples of such companies. As for medical device companies in particular, I can’t say. We obviously need medical devices regardless of the status of public health. Furthermore, businesses need to make a profit in order to survive and continue providing the product or service they set out to. But one can’t help but wonder, how much profit do those companies need to survive? Again, profits are not inherently evil by their nature, but as we can all attest to, capitalism, especially recently, has driven corporations to ignore long-term interests in favor of maximizing short-term profits. With the rising costs of healthcare, families struggling to keep up with premiums and insurance companies denying claims, I ask you, do you see a connection here? As an old friend’s very wise dad once told me, “you wanna learn how the world works? Follow the paper trail.”

Thank you for reading,

-David

Tips & Tricks for Retirement Planning

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/retirement-planning.asp

Hey everyone,

I’m somewhat of a geek when it comes to money and numbers, so I decided to post the above link from Investopedia, a well-known resource for both rookie and veteran investors. What I like most about this site is that content is very easy to follow, even for laymen. Most articles usually start out with more broad concepts and eventually work their way to the more nitty-gritty details, allowing for maximal comprehension. This particular article outlines some tips and tricks for retirement planning in somewhat of a chronological fashion.

The author, Julia Kagan, starts by pointing to the constant state of change we see in the world of finance and how that can effect retirement. Following this, the focus turns to the individual as the author suggests that each individual has different needs and goals for retirement which can effect the appropriate strategy; the key-word here is customization. For example, folks wanting to unwind and avoid society after their work years would not require as aggressive a strategy as someone who wants to visit every country in the world before they die. With this in mind, it’s important for individuals to know where they stand and where they look to be before starting out.

Withstanding individual differences in needs and strategy, the author then sets out to break down the planning by years. For example, the optimal age to start saving is 21 however the first “period” outlined, stretches from 21 to 35. During this time, the author suggests making consistent, monthly savings. Moreover, the author sympathizes with young folks, acknowledging that this may be a time in one’s life in which it is hard to save or even hard to think about saving for that matter. Withstanding the barriers involved, the author suggests increasing the percentage deducted each year as income typically rises. The second stage, dubbed “Midlife” from 25 to 50 years of age, is a time in which individuals should continue saving and increasing the amount allotted to their plan. Though there may be additional expenses occurred during this age-frame (i.e. mortgage, student loans, children, etc.), it is important to remain consistent. Lastly, age 50-65 is labeled “Later Midlife.” It is during this time that saving should be the highest and is coincidentally, also the easiest time in life to save. It is during this time that debts such as student loans, mortgages, etc. are beginning to get paid off in addition to increased income stemming from promotions (lots of work experience at this stage in the game).

Kagan concludes by covering other miscellaneous aspects of retirement such as housing, taxes, healthcare, etc. Again, these needs can vary widely and are subject to individual differences. I’m glad however that the author did manage to touch on these points as they are an important part of retirement that often gets overlooked. For example, many Americans have become accustomed to relying on Medicare once they reach the age of 65, knowing that they paid into the system and are rightfully entitled to their benefits. What isn’t so commonly known however is the blatant inefficiencies within these systems, as more and more seniors are purchasing supplemental coverage to fill the gaps. This is an expense that often isn’t planned for in a standard retirement account, but should be. Lastly, the author provides links throughout the article to external resources that can help the viewer with both tangible (i.e. starting an account, pulling up a calculator, etc.) and educational tasks. I think this article can be especially helpful to a lot of young folks who are just starting out and have a lot of questions. What’s more, once the viewer gains knowledge, there are supplemental materials for more seasoned investors as well, with easy to reach links and related articles, making it a user-friendly site for many demographics.

For a quick snippet of the milestones associated with each age level, check out an Instagram post I shared.

Thanks for reading,

-David