Three Ways to Build a More Supportive Family and Friend Network

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When you’re trying to launch something new, it’s critical to get some early momentum. Many of us hope that our family and friends will be the first people to support our work and if they don’t it can be hard. Recently, I launched a campaign to raise awareness about how we can use new laws to shift more than 1% (the current percentage) of the United States’ $1.4tn of personal savings to local communities (find out more at www.thebigdeal.us).

The campaign is making steady progress but I’ve been disappointed with the support I’ve received from some of the people in my close personal network. Part of that is my fault and in this Brain Boost, I’ve shared 3 recipes that have helped our family network learn to be more supportive of one another. I thought I’d share them with you.

Strategy #1: Build the habit of celebrating small wins. You can find Harvard’s research behind this here.

Strategy #2: Teach your family and friends how to use social media well. Specifically, using hashtags and profile tagging will make their social media support much more effective.

Strategy #3: Build a culture that supports progress. When you’re doing something that will take a while to build, you need people to help you stay focused by reminding you of your progress. You should do the same for them.

Have you had an experience when your family and friends network didn’t support you?

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Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?

Is Marijuana Good for Your Brain?
New evidence shows that low doses weed might reverse the symptoms of aging in older brains. Exposure to THC might help older brains learn more easily and prevent memory loss. Andreas Zimmer from the University of Bonn in Germany says that after many repetitions of the experiment, his research team is seeing a “very robust and profound effect” of THC reversing the signs of aging in the older brains of mice.

The Experiment
Zimmer’s team gave young, middle-aged, and elderly mice a dose of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, over the course of a month. After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform tasks like finding their way around mazes and recognizing other mice. There were two primary findings to these experiments:

1. Young mice who weren’t given any THC tended to perform better than middle and older-aged mice who also hadn’t gotten THC

2. Middle-aged and older mice’s performance improved significantly when exposed to consistent small doses of THC over the previous month.

Stronger Case for Weed
The University of Vermont notes that in 2016, legal marijuana sales hit $6.7bn in the United States. By 2020, they expect that the market for legal marijuana in the US will grow to $22bn –larger than the amount of money generated by the National Football League. With increasing evidence that there are wide opportunities for the use of marijuana for natural health, the legal marijuana industry might be one of the breakout industries of this generation.

Further reading:
Chronic Low Doses of THC Restores Cognitive Function in Older Mice
Follow Dr. David Nutt, Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs on Twitter
University of Vermont’s Report on the Legal Marijuana Industry in 2016

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Are We Living in a Simulation?

Elon Musk and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman have now publicly said in recent days that there is a strong possibility that we’re all living in a simulation. Are we? Is this the Matrix?

The Case for It
Though this idea was floated as early as the 17th century, it was popularized again in 2003 by Nick Bostrom, the founder of the Future of Humanity institute at Oxford University in the UK. It basically goes like this:
1. In the future, it is inevitable that human civilization will have enormous computing power
2. This computing power will surely be strong enough to run simulations to understand how their ancestors (us) thought, behaved, and evolved.
3. There is a strong chance that humankind will not self-destruct in the future
4. There is a strong chance that if future humans have the power to run simulations, they will run them.
5. Therefore, there is a strong chance that we are now in one of those simulations.

The Case Against It
People like MIT professor of physics Max Tegmark believes that, while there’s a chance that we’re in a simulation, it’s a slim one. His argument against this idea goes like this:
1. The laws of physics show evidence of ever-increasing complexity
2. Those laws would need to be mastered in order to run a simulation good enough for today’s smartest humans not to find flaws in the simulation.
3. We do not observe such flaws in the laws of nature, therefor it is unlikely that we are in a simulation.

Here are some fun links related to this subject
• Follow the Future of Humanity Institute on Twitter 
MIT Prof. Max Tegmark on Twitter
Y Combinator discussion of this topic
• Nick Bostrom’s 2003 paper on why we are likely to be in a simulation

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Facebook is Making You Sick

Facebook promises to deliver social connectivity, a way to promote your business or cause, and a lot more but we think you should beware about investing in the platform as more and more warning bells are signaling that social backlash is building.

Facebook in Bed
According to Facebook, the average Facebook user spends almost an hour on the site every day and recent survey found that the first thing many people do when they wake up is check social media applications like Facebook on their phones.

Comparison Causes Negative Impacts on Well-being
In today’s individualistic world, many of us compare ourselves to other people to gauge how we’re doing in life. Because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on Facebook, users increasingly believe that their own life compares negatively to the people they’re connected with on Facebook. In a new study, which was the largest ever conducted on Facebook use, researchers conclude that the use of Facebook is clearly connected to a negative impact on people’s overall well-being and especially on their mental health. You can find the study here.

Risky Business
Facebook has tried to convince business owners, bands, and brands that it is the place they need to build a following but here at Eazl we’re not so sure. There are growing calls from the health and academic communities for people to quit Facebook altogether and if you’re trying to grow a brand or a community, putting all of your eggs in the Facebook basket is risky business.

Check out some of Ludell’s tips for a technology detox that will help you be more productive.

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Getting Right With Your Finances (Actionable Calendar for May 2017)

getting right with your finances

Your ability to use modern financial tools and systems is a crucial ingredient for a successful and happy life. Credit scores, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, tax-deferred investment accounts, and financial instruments like index funds, mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and bonds are fundamental to existence in our modern world.

Commit to getting right with your finances this May with this calendar that will keep you on track, taking you from assessing your current financial health to creating a plan for adding more income and determining investment opportunities.

personal finance calendar

Use the calendar (download and/or print) as a supplement to the tools and process we laid out for you in our newest course.

Ignorance is an expensive choice and there are plenty of organizations who would be happy to keep taking advantage of people who can’t navigate these systems. Get out of the weeds and upgrade your financial prowess!

Three Mobile Apps to Help You Manage Debts and Save

It’s personal finance month here at Eazl and we wanted to share some mobile finance apps we love with you. If you want to learn about managing your credit and money, getting started with investing, and buying a house, go to here to save 40% on Eazl’s new financial empowerment class.

• Acorns automatically invests your spare change. Every time you make a purchase with a card connected to the app Acorns rounds it up to the next highest dollar and automatically invests the difference in a portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that you select based on your risk preference. When you want to take money out, you withdraw and however much you take out is sold from your portfolio. Acorns costs $1/mo. and is available to people in the US and Australia. Link: https://www.acorns.com

• Digit makes the decision to save for you. It’s an automated savings tool that connects to your checking account, analyzes your income and spending patterns, and then makes micro withdrawals–sometimes as little as $1 or $2–to set aside for you. When you want to access the money, you just text the app and the money comes right back into your checking account. It costs $2.99/mo. and it only works with US banks. Link: https://digit.co

• You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a budgeting tool that doesn’t let you create budgets around money you don’t have – it forces you to live within your actual income. If you get off track it will help you see what you need to do differently to balance your budget. It also has a built-in “accountability partner” and online classes to help you get started. YNAB costs $50/year and it works everywhere but some direct data import functions only work in North America. Link: https://www.youneedabudget.com

FYI–nobody paid us to share these apps with you!

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How Social Media is Changing Credit Scores

LifePower, the Financial Empowerment Series from Eazl, just launched!☆

The credit system is one of the core systems of our society and it tends to lag behind social changes. There’s a perfect storm of social media platforms, big data, and fintech startups who are changing how we build credit and get credit scores.

Problems with the System:
Credit scoring systems are designed to predict the likelihood of future repayment by a borrower and currently, the credit scoring industry has problems…

Problem 1: There is currently a near-monopoly in the system. Three companies who set the credit scores of everyone in most of the developed world: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian

Problem 2: Older models are becoming outdated. Specifically, more companies are running credit checks for all sorts of reasons and each inquiry lasts for 2 years on your credit score. The problem is that too many inquiries drive down your credit and also, these frequent credit checks are insecure. Last year, Experian lost the SSNs and much more for more than 15m t-mobile customers. Additionally, credit ratings agencies give people a boost for having the same job for 5 years straight. That’s a problem in a world where 40% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020.

• Social Credit Scoring:
Today, live in a world where we share tons of personal data on social media platforms. Soon, credit scoring will likely include information from our use of platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. Instead of analyzing our past behavior to predict our creditworthiness, models will work to build an idea of who we are based on the patterns we reveal about ourselves on social media.

• Real World Examples:
One example of a company leveraging social credit scoring is Germany-based Kreditech, a company that uses more than 20,000 datapoints from social platforms and other sources to determine the creditworthiness of people with no prior credit history. Recently, the World Bank made an investment in Kreditech because social credit scoring is likely to help millions of people get access to the global financial system.

Key takeaway: Your interactions online are already starting to have an impact on your financial health.

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Explained: ISPs, Your Data, and Internet Privacy

Recently, the US Congress has made moves enable widespread data collection from Internet users in the United States. Internet service providers (ISPs) see this as a big win. Why? How are they going to use your data? Here it is explained:

What’s an ISP?
Internet Service Providers or ISPs handle all of your network traffic– meaning they can see everything you browse, watch, click on, and more unless it’s encrypted. Even when it is encrypted, they can still see most of what you’re doing online.

ISPs are different from web companies like Google because you can use the internet without Google but you can’t use the internet without an ISP.

Who Regulates ISPs?
Last year while Barack Obama was in office, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC created major privacy rules for ISPs that gave consumers more control over what’s collected and how it’s used. The rules were slated to go into effect this year but now, those rules will never go into effect.

ISPs want to be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission or FTC instead of the FCC. That’s because they say that the FCC is stopping them from innovating. The FCC tends to write rules that govern the current marketplace while the FTC tends to provide broad guidelines that lay out what constitutes harm and deception of consumers.

What’s at Stake?
There are two things at stake here: our privacy and money from the growing online advertising industry. Currently, Google and Facebook are the largest sellers of digital advertising. ISPs want some of that money and they plan to make it selling your browsing data to advertisers and other companies. One thing they really want to do is help advertisers figure out who you are across all your devices like your computer, tablet, phone, and TV.

Innovation with your data could get weird. For example, ISPs could sell your data to HR technology firms who decide not to hire someone because they don’t like something in their browsing history or insurance providers could use purchased browsing data to deny coverage for someone because it looks like they’ve been on WebMD trying to self-diagnose a health issue.

Currently, ISPs are able to opt you into data collection schemes by default. However, opting out of these schemes can be difficult because ISPs don’t want you to do it.

Now you decide: by letting ISPs be collect and sell your data by default, does this support innovation or does it abuse consumers?
Answer in the poll now and leave your comment below.

Further reading on this issue:
• Google’s Terms of Use state that Gmail users: “give Google (and those [Google] work[s] with) a worldwide license to use … create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services) … and distribute such content.” See http://bit.ly/2oemAJr.

• Here’s a transcript of Obama’s speech at the FTC on the internet and personal privacy

• This is a pro-privacy pressure group in Washington and this is a think tank that believes that personal data in the open is good for the economy

• Here’s a podcast episode about this issue from NPR

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Does the Government Hate Freelancers?

As tax time comes in the US, Eazl has a question: does the government hate freelancers? Should we rework the tax code to make sense for self-employed people? Have your say! Answer the poll at the end of this video or leave your comment.

• The New 40%: Freelancers and self-employed people represent the fastest-growing portion of the labor market in the US and in many countries around the world. There are currently 55mm freelancers in the US and by 2020 freelancers will be 40% of the work force [1]. This trend will only continue as millennials and Gen Z are the largest groups who opt in to the freelancer work style.

• Support for Big Business: Meanwhile, governments around the world continue to flow money towards massive corporations. For example, the CATO Institute found that $10bn in farm subsidies went to publicly-listed industrial agriculture businesses, $4.4bn in special financing was directed towards Boeing, and Walmart has received more than $150mm in land grants and financing at the expense of US taxpayers. [2]

• 43.3% Tax Rate: Now that it’s tax time, freelancers are cutting relatively huge checks to federal and state governments… and taxes on self-employed people are rising. In her Piece for the Huffington Post, Nancy Humphries shows that freelancers who make under $110k annually pay an effective tax rate of 43.3% in the US [3]. That’s a higher rate than most billionaires! The US isn’t alone in raising taxes on self-employed people. The UK just passed a hugely controversial law requiring self-employed people to pay higher National Insurance Contributions [4] which many self-employed people say makes it even harder to survive.

Sources:
[1] See https://www.slideshare.net/upwork/freelancing-in-america-2016/1
[2] See https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa592.pdf
[3] See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-k-humphreys/selfemployed-pay-highest-_b_2397853.html
[4] See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/09/self-employed-nics-increase-budget

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Viri Vlog: VIRI is Dead (+ What We Learned)

Well, it’s over. It was a fun ride, VIRI. In this vlog, you’ll find out why we decided to kill VIRI (and return our investors’ money) and what we learned from this experience.

What’s next? Bigger, better, stronger Eazl. Soon, Davis, is going to launch an equity crowdfunding vlog where you will see how we’re organizing communities around local entrepreneurs, helping them create jobs, and improving communities where people live . Our goal is to create a small business revolution and keep putting power into the hands of individuals. Ludell is going to be working on Eazl’s first physical space!

Link mentioned in this video:
How I Built This Podcast

Note: if you have full access to VIRI’s files, you will continue to have access to those files.

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