Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Generalist Opportunist Case Study 3: Community Investor Magazine

How I Got My Company Mentioned on Community Investor Magazine

Drafting.  What is it?  In the sport of cycling, drafting is when a rider gets as close as possible to the bike in front.  The rider in front takes the full force of the headwinds.  The rider pedaling behind has a more aerodynamic (less drag) and energetically favorable position.  When the front rider can no longer “pull” as hard, that is, when they have lost their steam, they move over to the left, signaling to the rider behind to take the line and move-up.  Trading the front, back and forth, saves both riders substantial energy over the course of their bike ride.  It’s even better with three or more (a peloton) riders!
I’m a Generalist Opportunist in all walks of life, even out on the road when I’m on my Bianchi 10-speed.  You see, I normally ride for two hours, no matter how much ground I cover.  And where I ride, the Pacific Coast Highway in North San Diego County, headwinds coming from the north as I double-back are as certain as me avoiding being hit by a car at least once.  It is on my way back home, when the punishing headwinds begin to discourage me that I start looking for horses.  Horses?  That’s what I call cyclists with fresh legs that I can draft off as far as they will take me northbound.
All of what I’ve shared so far is a metaphor for creating financial opportunities.  I want to help you understand how I find horses and make pelotons out of them.  In this case, consider the horses to be small, privately owned companies.  You or your company is the opportunistic rider, looking to draft, realizing that you can benefit from someone else’s forward pull.
In late 2014, I read an inspirational and compelling story about six, young African-American men in Community Investor Magazine.  These gentlemen had pooled their money and resources together and founded a real estate company: Legacy Six Enterprises.  I saw a horse!  An upstart magazine (Community Investor is a recent publication) profiling and chronicling the business dealings of a newly founded small business.  Mind you, my own business, Common Core Money, LLC is less than a year old too!  So what did I do?  I reached out to the Legacy Six Enterprise team via Facebook Messenger.  At the time, the L6 team only had a Facebook fan page.  Their business website consisted of just their domain name.  This is what I wrote (I still have the string of messages):
JAN 4, 2015 11:14 AM
“Love what you guys are doing.  Following your story.  Check out my blog, www.commoncoremoney.com. I promo entrepreneurs/their companies for free.  Just be a matter of you doing a write-up.  It’d be free marketing basically.  Keep it up.  Carlos”
Response from L6:  
JAN 6, 6:35 AM
“Thank you.  That sounds great.  Just let us know what you need and we can write it up and send it to you.”
The response above was essentially an agreement.  The L6 team did right in looking after their interests.  They saw a free marketing opportunity being offered to them, and took it.  They didn’t perhaps understand how blogs work at the time, and missed seeing how I would benefit from their blog post contribution.  When communicating with small companies, a person does not have to reveal what they stand to gain from a brief partnership.  I didn’t have to tell the L6 team that I believed their contribution would jack-up my blog traffic.  They didn’t need to know that more traffic means more revenue from my blog in the form of more clicks on my affiliate or Google Adsense links.  All they needed to know is the most important business relationship hook around: What’s in it for me?
That’s what I spoon feed all of the horses I find.  I contact them.  I tell them who I am and what I can do for them.  I call this my “WIC-D-FY” or What I Can Do For You, email.  I almost always get a reply.  There are times when they pass up my offer to “pull” for them, of course.  But sometimes they fall in line and say, Carlos, lead the way.  I then do the initial pulling on our way to the front of the peloton; then they switch places with me, sometimes unknowingly, like in the case of the L6 team.  And even if the small companies I work with are on to me, there are no hard feelings because they know they got something for free too.
Once you establish a drafting relationship with a small company, you keep it going!  If the lead rider does something for you, you return the favor.  Let me explain.
Unbeknownst to me, Legacy PR man, Deon Watkins had shared with the editor of Community Magazine that I, “Carlos Gomez,” had done a feature of the team on the blog, Common Core Money.  Did Deon have to do this?  No!  But Deon is a smart man.  And he did what a Generalist Opportunist would do, anticipate.  I’m sure in his mind he figured that if he scratched my back, I would continue to scratch his.  And he was right.  I contacted Deon after reading the surprise mention of CCM in Community Investor mag.  It was an entire paragraph about what I had done for the L6 team.
This is the excerpt:
Free marketing
Common Core Money, a blog written by Carlos Gomez, recently published a post about Legacy Six. You can check it out here.
“We all agreed that it would be great for us to be in his blog—free marketing,” Deon said. “He asked us to write something about ourselves, and he sent over a template showing us the type of information he is looking for.”
And don’t forget to follow Legacy Six’s adventures in real estate investing on the team’s new website,legacysixenterprise.com.

I am now doing content for the L6 team pro-bono!  So far I’ve helped them improve their website home page.
I also suggested to Deon that he start a blog page.  He took my advice.  Now his website has more material for prospective clients to read.  It is clear that Common Core Money, LLC and Legacy Six Enterprise are on a bike ride where we share the workload at the front.  And this would wrap things up except that you may have observed from your end that on this ride, there are actually not two, but three participants!  Good eye.
You see, I too anticipate as a GO.  On the L6 blog post, I made sure to add every single link back to Community Magazine that was possible without redundancy.  Where did I do this on a guest post?  In the intro paragraph, duh!  See how I did it below: (From: Legacy 6 LLC)
Friday, January 9, 2015
Legacy Six Enterprise, LLC: Creating Legacies in Detroit

It gives me great pleasure to introduce stars in the making on CCM's blog series: Entrepreneurs Inspire!  Today, I have six of them to present to you.  I first heard the name, Legacy 6, LLC in November of 2014, thanks in full to my subscription to Community Investor magazine.  The magazine published a story, "Dire Streets," to help the company get the media attention it deserves.  The follow-up story, "First Steps to a Legacy," published on the magazine's January edition, was equally compelling.  So much so that I felt the need to have CEO Christopher Jones, come on as a guest author here at CCM blog.  I am quite positive that after reading Christopher's post, you too will join the Legacy 6 cheer squad as I have.  Enjoy!

There were a total of three links back to Community Investor mag.  Could the young, bright, and talented Editor of Community Investor, Erin Shipps, have seen these and seen a way to in effect promote her own work?  What do you think?  Erin discovered the L6 team!  She’s written all three articles about them.  Like Deon and me, Erin, for her personal success and the success of the magazine she supervises, saw an opportunity to draft on a bike ride she started!  Now we’re three strong: CCM, the L6 E team, and Community Investor mag, all trading the front of the peloton.  Remember, this wasn’t something we all sat and discussed at a table.  It is three people seeing horses they can lasso-in and share the pulling with.

Final Points:
  • Technology and social media has made it extremely easy to find “horses” out there.
  • Your hook or carrot is in clearly communicating (spoon feeding) your WIC-D-FY or What I Can Do For You, and letting the horse either turn the corner away from you or start pulling, allowing you to draft.  You then return the favor with your promised WIC-D-FY.  
  • Private companies/owners helping each other gain something need not involve a direct transfer of money; drafting is all about sharing the workload on a ride to each rider’s (party’s) destination.  Nor does there have to be an explicit, agreed-upon arrangement for drafting to take place.

Keep getting this series sent to you.  Subscribe to CCM blog, upper left sidebar.  Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Make Your Teen File Taxes!

I've signed and approved thousands of work permits at school.  I'm quite happy to do so.  There's nothing more impressive to me then a teen with a minimum 2.0 G.P.A. and a desire to make money, for whatever reason.  During the school year, teens can start working as soon as 14 provided they do not go beyond the limited amount of work hours per week.  These vary with school district and the labor laws of each state.  As teens get older, they can work more hours during the week, subsequently earning more money.  Earn more than $6,200 in income for the year, and your teen must file taxes.  But what if your teen earns less than this amount?  Is it worth it for them to file taxes?

Don't bother having your teen file taxes if,

  • They made less than $2,000.  First, to save on the actual job of filing, they will have to do the work themselves.  Your cheapest tax preparer will charge them between $50-$100.  They may not get this back in the form of a refund.  If your teen elects to file their own taxes, they will need the software for it.  TurboTax has a free Federal filing edition, but it will cost $29.99 to transfer the file for State filing.  A key lesson to teach your teen is the monetary value of time.  So, $29.99 (their cheapest option to get both Fed and State filings) plus 1-2 hours of their time in the chair, clicking and uploading, and now you're up to…$39.99 if they get paid $10/hour e.g. or more!  However, if you want your teen to learn about taxes and the responsibility they entail come April, then the dollar amount they spend to file will be well worth it.  You got my approval to sit with them and guide them through the process first time out.  Make sure they take notes so they can do it on their own the following year!

How Work Allowances Become A Key Lesson for Parents and Teens: 

It's with 16-17 year-olds that learning to file taxes becomes a key lesson in high school.  But there is so much more to this lesson.  Let's start with when your older teen first gets their job.  Here comes the employer provided W-4 form…"Mom/dad, what do I put here where it says, 'allowances'?"

I love this question.  Other than, "what's sex?," it is one of the best teachable moment type questions you could ever receive as a parent.  This is where you get to discuss with your child what they will be doing with their earnings.  This is where you can justify your being what they hate at this time of their lives: intrusive.  This is where you can introduce the concept of investing!  Unfortunately, many parents lose out on this opportunity, simply giving their child an answer, "Put '1,' honey."  Parents, stop being lazy!  If you have no idea why I'm insulting you, start here: Breakdown-w-4-allowances.

Scenarios: Your Teen Says…

1) I'm saving all my money for a car
2) I'm saving all my money for college

Noble…but they're lying to you.  All teens spend and can't biologically understand the concept of delayed gratification.  Trust me…I've worked with them for 14 years.  They will spend some of their check on clothes, a phone, food, etc.  Because they're teens and don't have the actual ability to leave money in the bank without temptation, tell them to put a "0" for allowances.  Explain to them that they will have more taxes taken out, a smaller check, but they will have a better tax refund.  Tell them that you appreciate their goal, but that this way they if they do tap their account, they won't completely undermine what they are trying to accomplish.  Everyone's happy.  Also, have a conversation with them about how much (%) of their check they intend to save.  If they say, "All of it!," go back; make sure that if they are bent set on actually saving 100% of their earnings, that they understand they will not be taking any money out of their bank account for ANY reason.  Suggest 80(save):20(for spending) if they don't have a clue.  

Credit for Pic

3) I'm going to save a little and use some to pay my phone bill.
4) I'm going to save a little and use some to pay my car insurance.

Nice job, mom or dad!  If your teen says this, most likely you have directed them to get a job so they can keep what you gave them.  You may have bought them the phone or the used car (please not new unless you're wealthy, and if you are you wouldn't be reading this blog) but you are making them pay for their bills.  Here, cash is an immediate need so tell them to put a "1" for allowances.  And yes, they should file taxes too.  If they are this responsible, they can learn about taxes in full.  Just like 1 & 2 above, you're going to want your teen to define, "a little."  Ask them, "What percentage of your earnings do you want to save/spend?"  Make them commit to this by having them come to you with their first paycheck.  Have them show you what they made and ask them how much of it they are going to withdraw in the form of cash once they deposit the check.  "Is that X percent, just like you said?"  From this point forward, it will be entirely up to them to stay disciplined to their strategy: pay their bill, use some $ for whatever they want, save the rest.  Parents, stay out of it.  They have to learn budgeting genuinely for it to stick.

For a similar viewpoint on whether or not your teen should file taxes, go here (Tax document record keeping is a great insight shared in this article): Teen taxes
5) I want to invest my money

What about that money conscious teen that understands that investing is a great thing they can start doing with their job money?  Now this "allowances" question turns into one of expected returns and investments (risk).  You can talk about Uncle Sam getting an interest free loan with your teen's money with a "0" allowance.  You can discuss whether or not putting a "2" would be a wise idea given the investment prospects and risk considerations.  You can pose the question, "When is it okay to pay taxes at the end of the year?"  (Trick question).

Thanks for reading!  @COsvaGomez. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Is Dentistry A Racket?

$1400.  That's how much I paid last month in dental expenses.  I know what you're thinking.  Sucks not to have insurance.  Wrong!  This expense was with insurance.  Educators are known to have some plush benefits.  Ah…but there are trade-offs.  Teachers and administrators who have top county ranking salaries usually have middle-to-low ranking benefits packages.  The opposite is true.  Educators who pay little for excellent benefits, usually do not have the top salary schedules around.  As they say…"You can't have your cake and eat it too."

I selected the cheapest benefits package during open enrollment.  For Kaiser, Delta CareUSA HMO, and Vision, I am subtracted only $197.66 each month from gross pay.  By the way, this plan covers me and ALL of my family.  Compare that to what most Americans pay for their health plans: About $6025/year or $502/month for single coverage.  Yikes!  Paying well below the national average for health insurance for my entire family is one of the many perks of being an educator.  Best part is I don't need to worry about Obamacare.  Don't all of you go rushing to enroll in a teacher ed program now…the pay is still crappy, taking the demands of the job into consideration.

Perhaps if I'd gone with the PPO option I wouldn't have been so much out-of-pocket last month.  It just so happened that Jessica and I both needed a crown at the tune of $700 per.

If I paid $700 out-of-pocket then the total cost was over $1000, easily.  Say the dentist I go to charges $1350 for each crown.  The insurance therefore covered only $650.  This would be Delta's set coverage amount for this procedure (hypothetical figure).  Coverage varies with policies, obviously.  Another insurer may cover $800, $1000, etc.

The smart dentist knows the average coverage amount for each and everyone of their procedures, and then decides how much to charge beyond this average amount.  How do I know this?  Dentist belong to a true profession.  They all have to do continuing credits of education every year to stay legal.  They have conventions, standards, an up to date body of knowledge, codes of conduct, you name it.  Unlike the often questioned and doubted profession that is teaching, dentistry is on a difficult to take down pedestal.  People still try, however.  See: Boards Straightdope.

So is Dentistry a racket?  This is what makes dentistry "racket-like":

  • You go to one dentist office and they tell you that you need a crown.  You go to another one to get a second opinion and they tell you that you simply need a filling.  You go to a third one and the dentist says you need a root canal!  Who is right?  Shady, shady, shady!
  • Some dentist charge more for the same procedure!  Why do some dentist jack-up their service prices?
  • Everybody has perio disease.  I mean…seriously!  Perio disease means you'll have to get deep cleaning done.  That will cost you a pretty penny.  But hey, the alternative is losing gum tissue and your teeth becoming so loose they'll fall off on their own.  Or you can die from a heart attack because poor buccal health is tied to heart disease now.
  • X-rays…conveniently there is no uniform online system to store these.  I can have X-rays done at one office (and now they are electronically uploaded…no more film types) and it will do me no good if I go to another dentist a month later.  All dentist want their own X-rays of your mouth.  $$$flows.
  • Cleanings…multiple each year.  It's like my mouth is a car and needs oil changes periodically.  Maybe my mouth is as dirty as the car's engine oil?  No matter.  I'm still paying $51 out-of-pocket for each 4 month cleaning visit.  How much do you pay for a routine cleaning out-of-pocket?

I'm not just going to give you one side of things.  My wife, Jessica, was a dental assistant for 10 years and she shared many stories with me about the business of her employer in Carlsbad.  Let's examine the business of dentistry…

Dental School is extremely expensive!  Yes, each dentist went to an expensive dental school and if still young, they are most likely still paying for their loans.  School debt is pushing many dentists away from private practice: Pjstar.  Over $200K for a four-year dental school education.  OMG.

Overhead.  Running a private dental practice is hard!  Here's the problem.  Dentists go to school to be Dentists!  Not business owners.  Many of them fail running their own practice because they have no business sense.  How much to pay hygienists, dental assistants, and clerical support don't even begin to describe all that running a dental practice encompasses.  Most recent dental school grads don't have the money to buy a private dental practice from a retiring dentist.  At least an established practice has financial history and ledgers to use as guides. 

Rent.  Only a minority of dentists own their own shop, so to speak.  Most have to pay commercial or residential rents to house their business.

The bottom line is this.  There are multiple "stressors" that determine how a dentist will charge.  Most people only see the face of the practitioner.  They don't see in its entirety (because they don't fully grasp) the face of the business owner.  I realize it's not the consumers fault for any of this; I mean, no one forces a dentist to buy the latest equipment, raise the monthly salary of an employee, decide on the type of anesthetizing medicine to use, get a mortgage on a building, etc.  

Last molar you can see in this pic is the crown

Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to choose the care you want from a dentist you like and trust.  I am very happy with the service I receive at Dr. John's office Andrew John in Oceanside.  The $700 x 2 in out-of-pocket expenses hurt, but the crowns were well done.  In some cases, finding the perfect dentist can be worth the fees!  Shout-out to Suzie and Heather!    

Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Golden Joes and the Suggins Gang: Providing Opportunities for Investors, Bloggers, Gamers, and Developers

I grew up playing in arcades during the eighties.  If I couldn’t make it to an arcade, then I’d walk to the local Laundromat; or sometimes the corner 7-11.  With just a few quarters, I could spend hours entertaining myself in any venue with a video game.  Arcade games as I recall were either collaborative, 2 players with the same goal, or competitive, i.e., player versus player.  The early eighties were highlighted by collaborative type arcade games such as Mario Bros, 1942, and Galaga.  With Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong, two friends could trade play with each subsequent “level” on one game, or compete on challenge mode after each player “died” attempting to reach the farthest level or highest score.
Part of this epic experience for me was not only watching older (and better) players beat and set new high scores, but also getting a chance to play against them.  Size or athletic ability didn’t matter.  If you could reach the joystick and had enough quarters and time on your hand, anyone could become a Kung-Fu Master.  Gaming at home was also a pastime of mine.  It started with Atari.  My favorite Atari game was Frogger.  I spent countless hours trying to get that frog to the other side of the road.  Many people believed that Nintendo’s game system would kill the arcade.  And to an extent it did.  Why go feed quarters into the Super Mario Bros when you could put in a code and have unlimited “lives” at home, using your own cartridge game system?  My parents bought my Nintendo at K-Mart via layaway.  I had to wait several months before I could take that puppy home.  Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt were included with the purchase of the system.  Thank god for that!

The Internet has brought the arcade back!  Virtual arcades, of course.  With an X-box, a Playstation, or a computer, you can play against people you can’t even see.  They’re out there somewhere, on the other side of a connection, attempting to outsmart you, outplay you, and out earn you.  Out earn you?  Yes.  Online gaming, or iGaming as it is better known, is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide!  Only for men, you say?  Wrong!  Check out the article: Women Play Video Games. Can We Cut The Sexist Crap Now?

Here’s the problem with online gaming as Wes Smith, Founder of Golden Joes & the Suggins Gang and creator of several table top and online games, sees it:

“Because much of online gaming activity involves actual gambling, most people are being put-off by it.  States also have got their hands in the establishment of these online gambling platforms, seeing that there could be a lot of money from taxable revenue.  What I have in mind (with the Golden Joes Competitive Gaming Lobby and Room SDK) is letting people enjoy gaming once again, playing games of skill that are Fun, Friendly, and for the Family.” 

Wes has recently launched his latest venture, the Golden Joes Competitive Gaming Lobby and Room SDK (Software Development Kit) for Web and Mobile Players.

For Gamers:  

Imagine playing at the arcade again, but instead of just a few games to choose from on the floor, there are no limits because it’s online.  And instead of simply having the self-satisfaction of “beating the game” or of earning the “high-score” you would end tournament play with a tangible, valuable prize for winning it all.  Sound interesting so far?  Players also get to earn credits, virtual currency.  I got this explained to me by Wes in an email.  He wrote:

Part of our system allows for players to play free games, and even with games they pay an entry fee for, they would receive ‘in game gold.’
Think of this like a pinball machine (for us old enough to remember pinball machines).  For others, think of it as loyalty points at Walgreens. 
Daily prizes and achievements in a game will reward a player with ‘in game gold.’ 

For every 5000 of in game gold, you get 1 ‘Joebloon.’  Joebloons are valued at 50 cents = real money.  There will be times when we will ping our players and inform them that the price of a Joebloon has gone down, e.g., to 4,000 of in game gold.
Joebloons are used to enter contests.  Each contest will have its own ID # that’s needed to enter. 
To play for a 32-inch T.V., the entry fee would be like 5 Joebloons, e.g., or $2.50 real world money.  Prizes get better as each tournament game gets bigger, i.e., more players involved.  You could win a house to rehab and flip by winning at Homevesting!
Players will also use Joebloons for in-app and in-game purchases, power-ups, skips, etc.

Players can also buy pieces of,

Golden Monkeys 
10 Golden Monkeys 
Each of these is a larger denomination of Joebloons:
Joebloons = cents 
Apes = single dollars 
Monkeys = $5s
10 Golden Monkeys = $50s”

Wes has an entire currency system developed for his gaming lobby!

For Bloggers, & Investors:

Now imagine yourself being not just a player, but the owner of the virtual arcade.  That’s right, the owner!  A franchise owner to be more precise.  As the virtual arcade “owner” you can play games with players that come to your arcade (make sure to let them win), or simply start a tournament and let “your players” have at it once they pay an entry fee.  Best part, a portion of the entry fee goes to you!  Your players want to play at another virtual arcade?  Not a problem, you would still make money from their entry fees playing at some other “owner’s” virtual arcade.  Wes has dubbed these virtual arcade owner/affiliates, “Brokers.”  And he’s making the Broker’s club exclusive, selling only 5,000 Broker Apps (like there only being 5,000 franchisee licenses for a Chipotle or a Starbucks, e.g.) to interested parties.  What this does is make the Broker App like a commodity that gains value as more people join.  Pay-up for the Broker App now and you can hold and flip-it later, give it away as a gift, or if you’re great at recruiting people, add to or replace your monthly work income!  Imagine setting up tournament online games for a living?  It’s possible!

You wouldn’t have to worry about ordering or shipping any winning prize.  Golden Joes takes care of all the mechanics.  You wouldn’t have to worry about there not being enough money to start a game, either.  Golden Joes holds all entry fees until there is enough to cover the prize value.  About the only downside to buying a Broker’s App is the monthly membership fee: $50.  However, when you buy the Broker App ($499) you get 6 months of free membership, plus a slew of other perks that will defray part of your expenses and help you entice gamers to play.  Have enough players with your Broker ID under you and this $50 will be peanuts in comparison to your take!

For Indie Game Developers:

Okay, so maybe you’re one of those types that likes tech and are quite comfortable developing things like apps or games of your own.  One of the biggest challenges indie game developers have is focus.  They focus on the technical aspect of making the perfect game but don’t draw their sights away to see the big picture: marketing the game!  How will you get your perfectly obsessive, money-making online game in front of a large audience if you wait until the end when it is done?  What about getting feedback during the prototype process?  Is that something you’d want from a person like Wes Smith who has actually developed several games, or would you rather have your little brother give it to ya straight?  Sure there are plenty of studios out there you can submit to.  But what kind of hoops will you have to jump through with them?  This is Wes’s guarantee:

3. We will encourage entrepreneurs to place their games with us, generating revenue for those who cannot afford to do it independently.

6. The Golden Joes system allows for a developer to create just a few simple screens and client/server message handlers. This minimal effort puts the game quickly on the road to being a successful skill-based competitive game for the Broker App platform.

I got more info on the money an indie developer would stand to gain from partnering with Golden Joes.  Wes said,

If they bring their own game, Table top and Point app, then we will split 65%, 35% Developer/Golden Joe. If we have to build the app or help finance the Table top game, then the split reverses.  Not bad for the indie guy, if they have no money for development.”

So as you can see, all you really need is an idea, and Golden Joes will be able to help you with the rest.


There is a lot to digest, I know.  Luckily this blog post will stay right here for you to come back to it as needed.  I would also suggest that if you are truly interested in having a side-hustle, or even turning something as fun as online gaming into a lucrative day job replacement, that you read every word, including reviewing each of the provided linked documents.  Review the credentials of the Golden Joes team.  Google each name if you have to.  Email Wes: goldenjoesgang@gmail.com.  Do whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable enough (your due diligence) to be part of this one-of-a-kind opportunity.

Thanks for reading!