Boy Crazy: The Fraudster Lou Pearlman

The story of Lou Pearlman is set out in a rather lengthy but compelling article by Bryan Burrough. In short, Mr Pearlman swindled about $300 million from people who thought they were investing in his (fake) aviation business. It seems most of the money was spent on high living and to fund a Walter Mitty life as a boy-band impressario. Amazingly, he had major success. I have even heard of some of the bands he managed: Backstreet Boys, NSync, Take 5. With his energy and intelligence, Pearlman could have been a successful businessman, but he chose his path and is now serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Pearlman’s antics were shocking and thrilling to read about. But the part which most surprised me was where it tells of a dentist who handed $12 million over to Pearlman in the course of 22 years in the hope that Pearlman would make him rich. I drew three lessons from this:

  • Firstly, to contribute sums over such a long time with no return indicates the kind of hold fraudsters can have over their victims.
  • Secondly, it’s a good reminder why you should never invest everything you have in one thing. Even if it’s a legitimate investment, government guarantee of high return etc., wealth must be diversified to reduce risk.
  • Finally, and most important, there is something wrong when a person who is able to acquire $12 million in two decades thinks he is not rich. I find it difficult to be sympathetic with someone who only invests and never tastes the fruits of his investments, but nobody deserves to be a victim of fraud. One of my pet themes is how to live within your means but not too far below them. I will be publishing articles on this topic soon. The dentist continues to live in his studio (one bedroom) apartment.
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Why the Poor Stay Poor


1100 words

I have often heard people who ridicule the poor, blaming them for their poverty. They consider the poor to be wasteful and foolish. They imagine that if they themselves were poor, they would be able to lift themselves quickly out of poverty. These people have usually never, themselves, been poor. I have been through hard times before, but I’ve always had the knowledge that my education, family, experience and connections would bail me out if I needed them.

In this article I will explore some of the obstacles that stand between poor people and the possibility of improving their financial positions.

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How to Negotiate your Salary

1270 words.

The best opportunity for you, as a salaried worker, to improve your income is through the salary negotiations that occur when you are offered the job and usually every year after that. It is hugely important to negotiate the highest possible salary for yourself right from the start. This is because it sets a base for your future earnings. Annual reviews tend to be an increment on that initial base and it is difficult to negotiate a much higher salary once this base has been set.

Most people getting their first full time job are so relieved to get the offer they forget to negotiate their salary. The employer usually presents the salary to you as if it is an industry standard, or an afterthought, inconsequential in comparison with the big favor of offering you a job. Don’t be fooled by this. Although you are not in the strongest bargaining position, there are some factors that strengthen your position.

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How to Set Up a Budget

  1. Add up all the income you get each year, from your job, dividends, interest, gifts from family, everything. Allow for tax. Divide the total by 52 to give you your weekly income.
  2. Make a record of everything you spend. Check your bank statements to see your spending patterns. Think about big items that only come up once or twice each year.
  3. Work out a budget. Use a budgeting template from Google or from a government website (there are plenty). Make sure your budget is realistic, if you spend $30 on drinks, don’t put down $20.
  4. Add up your budget. If your spending is more than your income, try to find ways to bring your speding down or increase your income.
  5. Test your budget. Continue to track your spending. At the end of the month, if you find you have more or less savings than you expected, try to figure out the reasons for this. Update your budget and adjust your spending or saving pattern accordingly.

Knowing how much you can save, you can work out what date your goals will be met. Write your goals in a notebook as well as beside your budget.

If you’re the type to be tempted by having spare cash sitting around, consider putting it into a term deposit so you can’t get at it until you have reached your goal.

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Tips on Getting a Rental Flat

  • You will need to have enough savings to pay for the bond as well as rent in advance.
  • Costs might be higher than they were in your previous situation, so budget for that.
  • Put the word out that you are looking for a place. My latest tenant approached me directly when he saw me doing some work on my then-vacant rental property. I was happy to get the place rented without having to advertise.
  • Be prepared to prove to your landlord that you are responsible and able to afford the rent. Prepare your referee for a phone call.
  • Ask about for furniture, don’t buy it too soon. Chairs are a priority. Gumtree, Quokka, ebay, or their local equivalents, are good places to start. Try second hand shops and thrift shops.
  • Look for the smallest place you can bear to live in. Having only one room to eat, live and sleep in cuts down on air conditioning and furnishings. Not having a room mate means you don’t have to pay for their constant hair drying, failure to turn off the heater etc etc.
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A Few Tips on Sharing a House

180 words.

The main advantages in sharing a house or apartment are not just that it can save you a lot of money on rent, but it also allows you to live in a better neighborhood, closer to shops and work than you might otherwise be able to afford.

While it is advantage to be young and also to share the same culture as your flatmates, I have seen many cases of successful shared occupancy where the residents were older folk from different backgrounds. I think the trick to successfully sharing a house is to have rules which are acceptable to all.

I only have a few tips for you in this article:

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Tips on Finding a Job to Apply for.

530 words.

Job opportunities are gradually drying up. This is a process which has been continuing since I started in the workforce, and probably before. Still, there are plenty of jobs out there, here are some ways to find them. You should try to use all of these methods in your search for a job.

Networking. Don’t make a secret of the fact that you want a job. Parents, friends, teachers, neighbours, the guy running the corner store… everyone potentially knows someone who can give you a job, and they can recommend you to that person. You might be surprised to hear that most people who are working got their job this way.

Online. In Australia, the most popular employment websites include Seek, Careerone and mycareer. Some employers post jobs on trading sites such as Gumtree or The Quokka. Commonwealth Government jobs are listed in Jobsearch and there are state government versions of this too. There are also specialist job sites and agents who post jobs online.
Being active in internet communities which are relevant to the kind of work you are seeking can also result in job offers, you never know who is lurking online.
What are the main employment websites in your country, or in your specialist field?

Newspapers. Job advertisements tend to be posted on one or two days of the week. So get up early and scan the listings.

Recruitment agencies. These tend to specialize in particular types of work. If you are unskilled or a student, try one that specializes in temp work.

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Review of Street Smarts by Jim Rogers


(This video is a bit off topic, but it gives you an idea of what Rogers is like. The full documentary is about an hour and well worth watching to see how things used to be in China.)


The review starts here:

(525 words)

Seeing this book has six pages of index, I thought it would be packed full of useable information. In fact it’s a memoir of Rogers’ life and achievements.

Rogers has enjoyed a very successful and interesting life. From (apparently) humble beginnings he won scholarships to Yale and Oxford, learnt from some of the great investors of Wall Street, partnered with George Soros, made a fortune and retired at 37. But that wasn’t the end of it. He became a professor at Columbia University, traveled the world and became a highly regarded media commentator.

Sadly, the book does not reveal exactly how he achieved any of these things, except through hard work and good connections. But there are a few tips for traders.

Rogers advises the way to make a lot of money is:

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001 In the News

Three items of news this week that sent my mind off.

Studies found an increase in the rate of suicide since the 2008 financial crisis began. It is assumed that the financial crisis was the cause. I have never understood why someone would deal themselves out of the game for such a minor thing as money. But I suppose if a person is already on the edge, a financial shock will be enough. So pay attention when someone you know loses a big amount.

A car dealer lost his franchise when news came out that he’d ripped off a vulnerable customer. I’ve always thought it’s good business sense to treat your customers fairly. There often don’t seem to be enough consequences for intolerable behavior, but in this case some justice has been served.

This final article shows the foolishness of making money solely for your children. It’s good to leave your descendents without money worries, but it takes more than money to make them into the type of person that you are proud to carry your name.

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35 Frugal Grocery Shopping Tips

Supplement your vegetables with what you can easily grow yourself e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, beans, lettuce.
Keep your shopping budget in cash and only bring that cash when you go shopping. That way you will not overspend.
Make a shopping list before you go shopping. Find out what items you really need. Think about what you’re going to cook between this and your next shopping trip.
Know what price the things you buy normally sell for. If you can’t remember, keep a list of the most common items. That way you will know whether the bargain you see is really a bargain. Keep a spreadsheet, if you’re able to.
Buy the cheap meat, but buy the premium meat when it’s on special. Buy the smaller portions. Substitute meat with beans, tofu etc. whenever possible.
Meat that has been packaged (marinated, stuffed, wrapped etc.) is about twice the cost of preparing it yourself.
Buy fruit only when it’s in season.
Avoid packaged meals. Do your own cooking.
Ask the deli staff if they have cheap off cuts for sale. Make sure you consume these quickly, they might have been in the shop a longer time than usual.

Eat before you go. If you go shopping when hungry you’ll buy all sorts of junk and spend more than you wanted to. Supermarkets are starting to cook food in-house (bread, chicken) because they know you will be tempted by the smell.

Article continues with a whopping 25 more grocery tips:

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