SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had an interesting year so far.
In January he overtook Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for the first time in the horse race for hoarding wealth. Then he got himself mixed up in the r/wallstreetbet Gamestop insanity, boosting the movement with his "Gamestonk!!" tweet, and has remained a part of the similarly strange speculation around the meme "currency" known as Dogecoin.
Bought some Dogecoin for lil X, so he can be a toddler hodler— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1612969691.0
Then in early February Musk announced that he was taking a (short-lived) break from Twitter following a major recall of Tesla vehicles and the explosive landing of SpaceX's SN9 rocket — the second test to end in flames in a matter of weeks. But now there are once again some positive headlines for Musk to bask in, as Tesla has turned some impressive profits in February — not from its car sales, but from a major investment in bitcoin.
Just two weeks after Tesla filed paperwork on its January purchase of $1.5 billion in bitcoin — as well as their decision to accept the cryptocurrency as payment — the price of bitcoin has risen by more than 50%, reaching an all-time high of more than $58,000 on Sunday. It has since waned from that peak, but the highly volatile digital currency is still valued well above the price at which the car company bought in.
Depending on when in January the car maker made their purchase, they might have nearly doubled their money. One analyst noted that, if Tesla had sold their bitcoin at the peak price, they would have realized around a billion dollars in profit — more than they netted in the entirety of 2021 from the sale of elctric vehicles and solar energy equipment. With that said, why would a company that ostensibly exists to make cars be investing in cryptocurrency in the first place?
Responsible Investment or Shady Business?
According to their filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, they made the purchase in pursuit of "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash." But is that really what investors gave them that cash for?
If Tesla shareholders wanted to invest in bitcoin, they might have done so directly. And if they wanted someone to be using their money to make prudent investments, they could have given it to an investment firm. Surely they invested in Tesla because they believed in the company itself and in the future of the solar energy and electric vehicle industries.
So why mess with something like bitcoin, which is so far outside their supposed field? One answer is in the increasing financialization of the economy at large.
Noam Chomsky - Financialization of the Economy www.youtube.com
The value of publicly traded companies is increasingly divorced from any product they make or any service they provide to customers. Instead, their stock becomes their true product, and they boost the value of that product by buying it back from investors, leveraging their assets to receive loans, and pumping as much money as they can into profitable investments.
While those profitable investments can include expenditures for new equipment, factories, and employees, there is a limit. There are only so many people looking to buy electric vehicles and solar roofs. If the value of Tesla stock has risen so much that investing that money in manufacturing would outpace the market, then they owe it to their investors to find somewhere else to turn a profit.
This opens the question of whether they should still be considered a car company, or if they're now just an investment firm with heavy ties to the solar sector. But apart from that, there's still the question of why they chose bitcoin above other investments —especially when Musk has staked his claim on a more environmentally friendly future, and bitcoin mining wastes as much energy a large country.
Considering the currency's general upward trend — despite dramatic shifts — part of the reasoning might have to do with providing some cushion now that they're accepting bitcoin as payment. If a bitcoin millionaire buys a fleet of Teslas when the currency is at a peak, Tesla could end up losing a lot of that value by the time the cars are delivered. But if that's folded into a larger bitcoin investment that can (probably...maybe) be expected to continue increasing in value in the long term, it's not a big deal.
That would make a certain amount of sense. But if we were being less charitable, we could look at Elon Musk's personal history of using his social media to influence investment and the price of cryptocurrency, in particular.
In 2018 Musk was sued by the SEC, who alleged fraud over a series of false tweets in which Musk said he had secured funding to take Tesla private at a price of $420 per share. At the time, Tesla was valued at closer to $350 per share, and Musk later acknowledged that he chose the figure of $420 as a "funny" reference to cannabis.
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1533660493.0
That dumb joke led to a 14% jump in Tesla stock, amounting to hundreds of millions in value for Musk. But even that doesn't compare to what Elon Musk has been able to do with the value of cryptocurrency and meme stocks.
Over and over his tweets have sent their values soaring. And Tesla and SpaceX, there is no concrete output of cryptocurrency. There are no cars that can be recalled and no rockets that can blow up.
While Tesla and other companies can put some distance between their profits and their actual productive output — relying more on investments, stock value, and hype — there are still real-world products at the core of the operation. When sales are down or one part among thousands is revealed as faulty, the company can take a major hit. That's not an issue with bitcoin.
While some cryptocurrencies have a value tied to a recognized asset, bitcoins only value lies in its perceived worth. And, unlike the dollar and other fiat currencies, it's not even tied toward a government's ability to collect taxes.
@PeterSchiff An email saying you have gold is not the same as having gold. You might as well have crypto. Money is… https://t.co/Ci7r8Q38Qc— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1613801271.0
When more people want to buy it, the price goes up, when fewer are willing, the price drops, and there are no quarterly earnings or product reviews attached to it. Short of an undiscovered fault in the blockchain technology at bitcoin's core, the price is purely subject to hype. And that is an area where Elon Musk thrives.
With more than 47 million followers on Twitter — in the top 25 of individual users on the platform — musks often inane, memeified thoughts are guaranteed a wide audience. And when he sends some of that attention toward a meme stock like Gamestock, or toward a cryptocurrency like dogecoin, he can be sure that the value will see a spike.
Lately, however, he has been casting doubt on dogecoin and shifting his attention toward bitcoin. Perhaps he wants to see how far he can push the power of his hype.
Rather than using that power to manipulate Tesla's stock — which got him in trouble before — he could be using his considerable corporate control (with minimal personal liability) to shift his company's value into an area where he has more freedom to comment, speculate, and drive interest under the cover of "humor." That would certainly explain some of his bizarre, s***posting of late.
Heard a rumor some crypto coin was pegging the dollar 🤣🤣— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1613854376.0
If so, the experiment has already paid off. Along with recent developments like the addition of bitcoin to Apple Pay, Tesla's bitcoin announcements on February 8th — along with a lot of dumb tweets — have contributed to the currency's steep rise.
Of course the alternative is that the richest man in the world is genuinely about as smart as the average redditor...which is as upsetting as it is plausible. Tough call.
When people think of gifting, they tend to think of the winter holiday season.
Suddenly, every store offers gift wrapping and the internet is a cornucopia of gift guides. I get super into it, making lists — like Santa himself — of who’s getting gifts r and who’s getting nuffin because they scorned me last time around. Black Friday and the winter sale season have trained me well - I’m now in the groove of saving in advance, prepping my budget, and keeping an eye out for major sales.
But with all that anticipation in winter, there’s almost nothing of the sort in spring. And, after going through my spending last year, I realized why I felt like all my money was going down the drain from April to June: this is a holiday-filled season too!
At first, I blamed it on hot-girl summer — and maybe in part, this was the case. Buying new clothes to refresh my stale pandemic wardrobe, and admittedly getting carried away with my post-vax excitement for going/doing/seeing everything all took hits at my budget.
In the future, I’ll make sure to prep more for summer because every year brings new exciting things to spend money on – especially outside.. Plus, as travel becomes more and more seamless with fewer restrictions, having a “summer buffer” will let me dip into my savings for trips that may come, not into my credit card balance.
I told myself I’d make those financial decisions for the summer, but it wasn’t just the summer. The whole spring was a financial pit and I didn’t completely understand why. After all, isn’t spring for cleaning, decluttering, and even making money by ditching things that aren’t serving you? Why then, did I keep watching my accounts get drained?
The answer is gifts. From Easter in April, Mother’s Day in May, Father’s Day in June, and more, spring is a parade of little holidays that sneak up on you with their obligatory gifting. And it doesn’t even end there for me – I have a ton of friends’ birthdays during these months! With Tauruses being known for their materialism (or maybe that’s just the ones I know), I always splurge on their presents. This leaves me with an empty checking account … kind of by surprise.
In the winter, I prep and save and budget. In the spring, I scramble and overspend. But not this year. This year, I’m very aware that it’s gifting season and I am planning accordingly.
Adele, a Taurus, courtside in all designer. See what I mean? Does she LOOK easy to impress? No, this is why I'm broke
How to Save For Short Term Goals Using Sinking Funds
According to personal finance blogs, one of the keys to saving enough for seasons like this is starting early. Establishing what is known as “sinking funds” is the most efficient way to consistently save for short-term goals. From everything to impending vacations to holiday gifts, sinking funds let you start planning early and reinforce good spending habits. No longer will you be surprised by recurring bills or how much a vacation really costs – the money will be saved, waiting for you to enjoy.
TIME defines sinking funds as a special kind of savings account. “A sinking fund functions similar to a savings account, but with a purpose and approach all its own,” says TIME. “A sinking fund is money you set aside for a specific upcoming expense. Unlike a general savings account or emergency fund, a sinking fund has a clear purpose attached to it — whether it’s to save for a vacation, down payment on a home, or a big-ticket splurge. The financial educator Haley Sacks has a sinking account just for astrologists. If you have a big expense coming up, you might consider creating a sinking fund to take the stress out of saving for it.”
I’m taking notes — and even considering starting my own astrology sinking fund — and I already made one for “Spring Surprises.” For any savings goal, keeping a separate savings account apart from your checking account is the first step to making sure you’re actually contributing to it. Seeing that number get closer to your goal is great motivation. For sinking funds, I make many different savings accounts, all with specific names according to the goal. I even add the goal amount and the month it’s “due” to the account name so I know when each is coming up. This gets me excited to see the fruits of my labor and keep contributing consistently. It also makes it easier to budget for my sinking funds each month with a dedicated amount.
Sinking funds are great cash flow tools that keep you in control of your purchases. According to Clever Girl Finance, a popular personal finance blog for women: “When you don't have a sinking fund, you may be forced to make these purchases through another source of funds, i.e., your emergency fund, your savings account, or your credit card. A sinking fund helps you to plan for large purchases. It also helps you stay on track with your savings goals, keeps your debt low, and allows you to make purchases freely without feeling the pinch.”
This added security lets you spend money on gifts guilt-free. Once it’s in your sinking fund, you can spend it for its allocated purpose without having to worry about other expenses or going into debt. You’ve planned for this. And now you can be generous without the unexpected stress of draining your checking or even your own spending money.
What to Buy This Spring
With all the little holidays that accumulate during the season, it can be easy to be surprised by them. Sinking funds take care of the financials, but an extra step of planning never hurts. Figuring out what you actually want to buy in advance lets you track prices and take advantage of sales, rather than buying whatever marked-up mother’s day bouquet you come across last minute.
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Never spiral out of control when spring comes again. Make a smart purchase decision for you, your lucky giftee, and Ukrainian refugees by choosing Uncommon Goods for all your gifts this season.
Kim K is acting up again — nature is healing.
After Kanye West recently went on an online tear trying to win Kim back by … weaponizing his fans against her and her boyfriend — the logic is flawed, especially since West was simultaneously parading his relationship with Julia Fox — a judge declared Kim Kardashian legally single. Silly me, I thought this would be the end of the whole ordeal. I naively hoped that I would get some peace, quiet, and respite from the Kardashian/Jenner/West/Barker/Fox/Davidson/whoever-else brood for at least a little while.
Once again, I was wrong.
Kim Kardashian recently made it Instagram-official with Pete Davidson in a very on-trend photo dump. And — predictably — this went viral. This is … whatever. Good for them. However, at the same time, a video of Kim’s advice to business owners also went viral.
In an interview for Variety, the magazine asked Kim for her "best advice for women in business." In response, Kim said — in all seriousness and without a hint of sarcasm or self-awareness — “Get your f—ing ass up and work.” She continued: “It seems like nobody wants to work these days. You have to surround yourself with people that want to work. No toxic work environments and show up and do the work. Have a good work environment where everyone loves what they do because you have one life.”
If this sounds like bad advice, it’s because it is. In fact, none of it really means anything substantial. At best, it’s vacuous and unhelpful. At worst, it's ignorant and completely insensitive.
Emerging from a global pandemic that ravaged the economy with high rates of unemployment and confused work boundaries for those who could work, Kim’s assessment of people “these days” is outrageously out of touch.
In fact, most people are working more. Studies show: “Nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends. And 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before.”
While the rise of remote work promised more freedom and flexibility, it actually placed increased pressure on employees. They face rising workloads — especially in shrinking departments that laid off some employees due to budget cuts — and less ability to advocate for themselves. So, even if Kim is right and people don’t “want to work,” they’re working anyway. And they’re working more than ever.
According to Paul McDonald, senior executive director at LA-based staffing firm Robert Half, "While remote work affords employees greater flexibility, it also makes disconnecting extremely difficult. Many people feel pressure to keep up with rising workloads and are putting in long hours to support the business and customer needs.”
This pressure, combined with hastily-set-up remote systems means employees have been left in limbo, clocking in at the end of the world. “Simply handing an employee a laptop and downloading Zoom or some other collaborative software is not enough to help employees manage their work and lives through the pandemic and beyond,” says Cali Williams Yost, a nationally recognized expert on workplace flexibility and founder of the Manhattan-based consultancy Flex+Strategy Group.
Due to the prevalence of hustle culture, these boundaries are even more blurred. Unfortunately, the glorification of non-stop hustling was omnipresent during the pandemic. Remember when we first started lockdown and everyone was like, “write a book,” or “get a six-pack.” Somehow, that expectation still stands, and now those who got crypto-rich or exploited people’s pandemic vulnerabilities are looking down on the people who didn’t.
Kim is the latter. Her various business ventures all depend on selling consumer insecurities back to people. The self-image she constructed for her brand is one that promises her fans they can get a piece of her life, her success, her looks if they only spend more and more money.
According to Kim, her job is burdensome. She defended herself, saying: “When you do product shots (or) when you (post) things that are work-related posts, it's still a job and it's still really hard. Success is never easy. If you put in the work, you will see results.” But once again, this is overly simplistic, oblivious, and ignorant.
Not to say that she hasn’t leveraged the privileges she’s been given, but that’s just it. Kim Kardashian was born in proximity to wealth and fame, all of which provided her with the opportunities she has now leveraged for her success. And some of these opportunities have come at the cost of other people — i.e. her whole aesthetic and how it was built on a foundation of anti-blackness. As a fair-skinned woman, Kim was praised and uplifted for embodying aesthetics that Black women have been shamed and degraded for. So her success is not merely a result of her desire to work, her individual actions. Rather, it’s because she had all the prerequisites to success. But not everyone can just reach out and choose a life of access, ease, and abundance.
To be honest, the Variety question was kind of a setup. Kim’s relationship with work is not like most people’s, so no advice she would have given would be relatable. Sure, it didn’t have to be so shallow or perpetuate toxic ideas about work. But the lesson here is clear: don’t take work advice from Kim Kardashian.