Become a Free Agent Now

If you haven’t recognized that work is quickly shifting toward free agency and away from longer term employment, you really must understand what is happening to the nature of work if you hope to perform it and make any money going forward. Depending upon whom you read, the last several decades have seen an accelerating shift to an information, knowledge or creative age. However you choose to term it, they all mean the same thing: humans are moving toward ever-higher value work and away from more rote, assembly, industrial or lower value effort.

The difference now is that the internet and our tools (e.g., mobile devices, Wifi, collaborative web and app tools, etc.) has made it easier than ever before for us to work when, where and for whom we want.

The concept of free agency came from professional sports (via Wikipedia): In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is eligible to sign with any club or franchise, i.e. not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present, but who is allowed to solicit contract offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent’s options are limited by league rules.

free-agent-nationThat free agency concept was built upon by the author Daniel Pink (a guy whose books I embrace) but with a twist: sports free agency means a player can consider offers from other teams while the business concept means that one is essentially doing work for multiple companies, organizations or individuals.

The term free agent for business is believed to have been coined by Pink, author of a 1997 cover story in Fast Company titled “Free Agent Nation” and his subsequent book by the same name. From a Wikipedia article on business free agencyIn business, a free agent refers to someone who works independently for oneself, rather than for a single employer.These include self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors and temporary workers, who altogether represent about 44 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Besides the internet, there are other influences catalyzing the shift to a new, free agency age. For instance, the Affordable Care Act (i.e., “Obamacare”) is being looked at by many in the venture capital community and elsewhere as potentially one of the biggest catalysts to entrepreneurship ever (see Obamacare & the Coming Entrepreneurship Boom and Affordable Care Act Could Be Good for Entrepreneurship). The latter article points to this report (PDF) that says the number of self-employed people is expected to rise by 1.5 million as a direct result of the health care overhaul. Good news to anyone who is still stunned by the lack of hiring going on in the U.S. even today.

You might already be participating right now as a free agent. Many of my colleagues and peers are and they vary in age from 28 to 64. You may also be thinking right now, “OK Borsch…I get it that work is transforming and that I should be doing something about it. But what exactly?

Thought you’d never ask.  [Read more…]


Obamacare: $500 More?

laughing-execsHealth insurers were likely howling with laughter in their executive conference rooms when they came to realize the windfall coming their way due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., “Obamacare”). 

Though many of us have been eagerly anticipating the overhaul of the healthcare system to drive down the spiraling-out-of-control healthcare costs nationwide, it’s unlikely it will do that (at least initially) and will almost certainly cost us all more money every month as well.

It’s going to cost my family and I approximately $500 more per month starting in JanuaryLet me give you my real-world example:

  • WHAT WE PAY TODAY: As a self-employed couple, my wife, son and my healthcare coverage costs us $1,173 per month (for a high, $5,000 per year deductible each). I should also note that this cost has gone up since our health insurers have been slowly ratcheting up costs, undoubtedly because they can “grandfather” in any cost increases before the healthcare marketplaces kick in this January. 
  • mnsureWHAT IT WILL COST US IN JANUARY OF 2014: The Minnesota marketplace called “MNSure” is coming online January 2014 and their website has this calculator. Based upon our ages and household income level, it estimates* our payments to be $1,667 per month!   (*The calculator estimates since the State of Minnesota DOES NOT YET KNOW what the premiums will cost. Seriously? MNSure comes online in just over four months and you can only ballpark the cost!?!).

That is an increase of $494 per month in our monthly premiums for a “Silver” plan — a 42% potential increase! There will be three tiers of plans: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. A Bronze level plan will cover roughly 60% of the costs of services MNSure offers. Silver will cover roughly 70%, Gold will cover roughly 80% percent, and Platinum will cover roughly 90% of the costs of the benefits provided.

A website that explains much about Obamacare called Obamacare Facts had a section on Health Insurance Premiums was enlightening but useless as far as anticipating (or even calculating) what we (or you) will write checks for coming in January.

Here is the punchline and why you can absolutely be guaranteed your healthcare premiums will increase come January:

Some insurance companies are using the confusion over ObamaCare to raise premiums on unsuspecting Americans in order to capitalize before more protections are put in place, grandfathering people into more expensive plans. This is in response to protections going into effect in 2014 and the need to cover more high-risk Americans. If this has happened to you, please tell us who your insurer is and give us some other background so we can continue to investigate who is behind this.

Note On Health Insurance Premiums: Your provider can “grandfather you in” by upping your premium now and keeping it that way once the insurance cap protections kick in in 2014. They can also grandfather you into plans that don’t provide coverage options that are required under the Affordable Care Act until 2015.

Sigh. We’ll have to see what benefits Obamacare actually brings but even I, a former cheerleader for heathcare reform, have put my pom-poms down and I’ve sat down on the bench.


New Japanese Tsunami Footage

This was published last week by many bloggers but I just watched it last night. It’s stunning to see another perspective on the devastation and how I wanted to yell at the guy holding the camera to GET TO HIGHER GROUND NOW!



Lavabit Owner (carefully) Speaks Out

Lavabit, the secure email provider with over 400,000 users (including me as of last month) was unexpectedly shutdown by its founder, Ladar Levison. We don’t know why exactly because it’s a secret and Levison is under a gag order. 

It is likely Levison is “gagged” because he received a national security letter, an administrative subpoena used by the FBI, which has an attached gag order which restricts the recipient from ever saying anything about being served with one. The government has issued hundreds of thousands of such NSLs accompanied with gag orders. The gag orders have been upheld in court because they fall under the Patriot Act which, in my opinion, is one of the weakest, constitutionally violating laws ever passed by Congress.

What could Levison say about his instant shutdown of Lavabit?

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.” 

In probably his most obvious (since so many of us now do have knowledge, thanks to Edward Snowden) and troubling statement he added, 

“I think if the American public knew what our government was doing,
they wouldn’t be allowed to do it anymore.”

Democracy Now, the internet news organization, snagged an interview with Lavabit founder and owner Levison. Alongside him was his lawyer who was there to ensure Levison didn’t inadvertently cross over a fine-line that would land him in prison for violating the gag order. If you are somewhere that watching a video wouldn’t be appropriate, there is also a transcript of the interview here: Owner of Snowden’s Email Service on Why He Closed Lavabit Rather Than Comply With Gov’t.

Here is the interview:


I Am NOT Paranoid

spookSince I skim literally hundreds of articles per day in my news feed — some days are upwards of 2,000 or more — there is no question I stay on top of the latest developments in a whole host of categories (just look in the right sidebar at “Posts by Category” and you will see most of them). Add to that my deep interest and layman’s knowledge of history — and my awareness of the circumstances that have led up to massive shifts in power which have led to totalitarianism, fascism and war — and you bet your life I’m deeply concerned but don’t consider myself paranoid.  

Friends, family (and two of my clients who read my blog) have pooh-poohed my seeming “paranoid” concern about what is going on with the National Security Agency and the revelations. I must admit feeling vindicated and pleased that my fellow citizens are finally feeling outrage and are making their thoughts known to Congress.

Over the weekend I did some blog cleanup and was fascinated to take a look back at posts I wrote as early as 2006. I also remember deleting numerous posts in the 2002-2005 timeframe since it didn’t feel safe to publish them. Not that some shadowy figures would come to get me, but the sentiment and mood in the country had already shifted to the “rah-rah, waving the flag” toward treating anyone dissenting (or even questioning) with a mix of revulsion, anger and a seeming certainty we were traitors. [Read more…]


Is Thorium Our Energy Answer?


Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France – Photo by Stefan Kühn

Slowly but surely I’ve become a believer in thorium reactors as one potential energy source that is abundant, cheap and an element that is naturally present everywhere in the world. 

We will need it and Bill Gates is on board and investing in thorium so you know there has to be something world-changing about this element to get him involved.

To give you an idea of why we need more major energy sources — and we won’t be able to satisfy demand with solar, wind or other renewables since the demand is so great globally — let me share with you one sentence that starts off the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2013:

“The International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that
world energy consumption will grow by 56 percent between 2010 and 2040.”

Holy shit. A 56% increase in the next 37 years? Yep.

If you want to know more about thorium — and I’d hope you would at least ask your elected representatives about what the U.S. is doing with thorium research to make sure energy is top-of-mind for them — here is a link to a Wikipedia article on thorium and the video from that Bill Gates page here is about 28 minutes long, but is a great overview and I encourage you to watch it.


Don’t Believe in Climate Change?

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

Must admit I’m still stunned when I talk to an actual human being (one who seems intelligent) and they tell me that they do not believe in climate change. Anyone with an 8th grade education who can read should be able to figure out that the evidence is overwhelming.

NASA has this Global Climate Change website and the graphic above comes straight from their page entitled “Evidence.” With all of that extra CO2 in the air — a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and is a concept even an 8th grader who has been in a hot car could understand — the evidence goes beyond what we can see and experience ourselves. Seeing, analyzing and cataloguing the data from space and satellites is an amazing set of tools to collect it all and prove climate change is real. 

From NASA’s Evidence page:

  • normPage-3Sea level rise: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperature rise: All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • Warming oceans: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
  • Shrinking ice sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Declining Arctic sea ice: Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • Glacial retreat: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • Extreme events: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • Ocean acidification: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.

It might be too late to stop the acceleration in global CO2 levels. When it comes to climate deniers, maybe they will wake up when their crops whither and die due to abnormal heat and little rain, or when the oceans rise and either they’re inundated with water or millions of refugees flood their towns and neighborhoods. 


Skype to be renamed “Scrape”?

skype-backdoorSomething happened four and a half years ago that made me stop and wonder what the hell really happened: Skype was mysteriously taken offline so I dashed off this post: Skype. How big *is* the back door?

Confirmation of my paranoia back then has become clearer with articles about how Microsoft has setup Skype to be “scraped” by the National Security Agency like this one Skype: Reportedly Funneling Your Calls To PRISM Since 2011:

Skype, long thought to be a privacy haven for its encrypted communication, reportedly began integrating its systems into the NSA’s PRISM program as early as November of 2010, nearly a year prior to joining Microsoft in the fall of 2011, according to a new report from the Guardian

Skype reportedly began sending audio and text messages to the NSA, which shared the data with the FBI and CIA. The Guardian also reported that Skype, under the helm of Microsoft, worked closely with the NSA to enable the collection of video calls starting in July 2012.

Or this one Microsoft Hints Skype Calls May Be Fair Game for NSA:

Microsoft indirectly hinted that Skype communications can be intercepted and handed over to the National Security Agency, according to two privacy and security researchers’ interpretation of the latest statement by the company regarding NSA surveillance.

For security experts, that means Skype calls are at the mercy of NSA requests, just like traditional phone calls made with landlines or cellphones. In other words, the U.S. government, through its PRISM program, can legally compel Microsoft to hand over Skype communications, something that the company previously denied was even possible at a technical level.

I always try to leverage my strengths and use them to see what’s coming next. Rarely do I take on face value any announcement, strategic move or even terrorist ‘attack’ since I’ve been wrong every single time I did so. Only when I try to read between the lines or do a smell test on whether something feels right — all while taking in to consideration the facts I’ve been sticking in my brain through all my research and knowledge — that I become paranoid enough to take action and one action is to move off of Skype. More on that to come…

Good discussion from a quite varied group of folks on This Week on ABC:


We Are All Gonna Die! (But Before You Go…)

no-noNone of us are going to get out of here alive (meaning life overall) and ignoring the fact that you are going to die is never a good idea. But since you could very well live into your mid-80s—and be retired for 20 years or more—not planning for those 20 years is a huge mistake.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been examining our retirement portfolio in order to decide on when we could/should/probably-will retire. We’ve saved all of our lives (even when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together) and thankfully are in great shape, but it turns out that most people are not and the recent economic downturn didn’t help (though investment assets and 401ks are rebounding).

A few weeks ago Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, Inc (a wealth management firm), had his “radical retirement recommendation” discussed in this CNNMoney article. 

BlackRock Inc. chief executive Larry Fink said during a speech Tuesday that longer life spans and underfunded retirement plans are the defining challenge of our age, and went so far as to recommend that the U.S. consider making retirement savings mandatory.

Radical? Probably not, especially if someone 25 years old expects to get anything out of social security when they retire. Yes, Fink has a vested interest in sparking interest in retirement funds management, but he’s not the only one talking about this as a crisis[Read more…]


The Ends Justify The Means?

TEJTM101Was at two high school grad parties yesterday and found myself having disheartening conversations with several young people who had just graduated high school. We talked about what they’d be doing post-high school, their visions about their future lives and whether they thought what they wanted to do was achievable, and what kind of world they thought they were inheriting from those of us were close to passing it on to them.

I was not prepared to hear their sense of sadness, fear, pessimism and, especially, their true befuddlement that the BIG lesson they had been taught by those in power was that:

  1. It was OK to lie to the world to start a war and no one is held accountable
  2. If you are a huge financial institution and instrumental in facilitating a global economic meltdown, not only will you not go to jail but your company is saved and it’s back to business (and bonuses) as usual within a year or two and no one is held accountable
  3. That a “terrorism Pearl Harbor” is excuse enough to spend trillions abroad while at home our infrastructure fails and our country embarks on the largest runup in mass surveillance while trampling on our Constitution’s Fourth Amendment and no one is held accountable (at least not yet)
  4. The richest and most powerful nation on earth has the highest incarceration rate in the world, while many of the crimes (especially ironic compared to no jail time for those in #2 above) are petty in nature.

While I tried to continually steer the conversations toward a more positive note—and part of their funk might have been partially attributable to our crappy, rainy weather yesterday—they continued to be gloom-and-doomsters about the state of our country and how uncertain they felt about the future.

gordon-gekkomother-theresaThe lessons taught to (and learned by) these young people? The ends justify the means. Makes me wonder if the next several decades may make many of these young people look more like a Gordon Gekko character than a Mother Theresa, and that our country’s ethical decline is now systemic and most of the skids-are-greased to make it easier for the United States to become a totalitarian country.