Spendology CEO Declares That the Z Hook Will Be Made in America

WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – “We can make things in America. From the start, I was committed to teaming up with American manufacturers to make the Z Hook. We currently have suppliers in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Spendology will continue to manufacture the Z Hook in America.”

Keith Alexander Ashe

Z Hook Inventor

Spendology CEO & Founder

 

Z Hook – The Quick-Drying Bath Towel Hook

Video: Introducing the Z Hook

 

 

About Spendology

Spendology LLC is a technology company based in Washington, DC that uses science to improve financial and ecological decision outcomes. Spendology was founded by Keith Alexander Ashe. Mr. Ashe is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Columbia University. He previously worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and the Corporate Executive Board.

See more at GlobeNewsWire a NASDAQ OMX Company

Green is Good

Greed is good.

~ Gordon Gekko in Wall Street

 

Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is one of my favorite films. Gordon Gekko, a Vulture Capitalist of yore played by the iconic Michael Douglass, declares that “greed is good”. Gekko goes on to explain that greed helps guide successful decisions. I would argue that the new mantra should be “Green is Good”. I’ve found that using ecological intelligence to make decisions can positively impact one’s mind, body, finances, and the environment.

 

There are many different facets of intelligence. Dan Goleman has written about emotional, social, and ecological intelligence. At the beginning of this year I expanded Spendology’s mission to include advancing both financial and ecological intelligence. I did this because making good financial and ecological decisions has a positive impact on one’s mind, body, money, and the environment.

Mind Body Money Environment

Mind Body Money Environment

 

It pays to go green. Spendology has a Gas vs. Electric Car Calculator that shows the cost benefit of available subsidies for electric vehicles and not paying an estimated $1500+ per year for gasoline. I’ve also detailed how switching from bottled water to filtered water reduces waste, saves money, and it is better for your body and the environment.

 

Spendology will launch the Z Hook next week on Earth Day. The Z Hook (short for the Xerothermic quick-drying bath towel hook) dries bath towels in a third of the time, saves time & money from washing towels very frequently, and prevents the growth of mold & mildew. The Z Hook is also made in America. This is a green product that will positively impact your body, wallet, and the environment. Investing in green technology and sustainability is important not only because we should be good stewards of the environment but because it means that we will be healthier and wealthier.

 

www.zhook.co

Spendology Will Launch the Z Hook on Earth Day

WASHINGTON, DC, April 15, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Spendology will launch a green product; the Z Hook, short for the Xerothermic Quick-Drying Bath Towel Hook, next week on Earth Day, April 22, 2014. The Z Hook dries bath towels in a third of the time, saves time and money from washing towels less frequently, prevents the growth of mold and mildew, and it is made in the USA. Spendology is also declaring that #GreenisGood: making ecologically intelligent decisions will positively impact an individual’s mind, body, and wallet as well as the environment.

Z Hook – The Quick-Drying Bath Towel Hook

http://www.zhook.co

Video: Introducing the Z Hook

About Spendology

Spendology LLC is a technology company based in Washington, DC that uses science to improve financial and ecological decision outcomes. Spendology was founded by Keith Alexander Ashe. Mr. Ashe is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Columbia University. He previously worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and the Corporate Executive Board.

See more at GlobeNewsWire a NASDAQ OMX Company

Are You Ready for Tax Day?

Tax season is drawing to a close, and while many people have already filed and received their returns, IRS statistics show that roughly 20-25% of Americans wait to do their taxes in the last two weeks before the deadline. If you’re one of the folks who have yet to file their taxes, we’ve got some useful last minute tips that will help you get it done the right way.
 
Organize: When it comes to taxes, the three key words are: organize, organize, organize. Even if it’s with a shoebox, having all your tax documentation in once place will save you a ton of time and hassle. A great way to go about this is to pull out the previous year’s tax return and go through it line by line. Chances are that your current year should be pretty similar unless you’ve had some major life changes, in which case it will serve as a timely reminder of the new things you need to account for on this year’s return.
 
Pay Attention to Detail: This is critical, and every year there are countless returns that are delayed or otherwise affected by common errors such as writing down your Social Security incorrectly or sending forms to the wrong address. Make sure you look up where your return is supposed to be filed to (found here). Be sure to double and even triple check your forms and make sure you’ve signed and dated everything properly. You’d be surprised how many tax returns are held up every year by simply a missing signature!
 
File Electronically: Filing electronically actually has two benefits. First, as long as you’ve typed the numbers in correctly, all the calculations are done automatically and the software will prompt you for missing information or other common mistakes to ensure that your return is error-free. Secondly, if you’ve procrastinated, filing online can help you make sure that your return is filed instantly to help you beat the deadline.
 
Extend the Deadline: If you still can’t manage to make the April 15th deadline, the best course of action is file for an extension using IRS Form 4868. This extends the deadline until October 15th, though it doesn’t extend the time to pay any estimated taxes that may be due. If you don’t have all the money at the time, Form 4868 does allow several payment options. Another common misconception associated with filing for extension is that it makes you a more likely candidate for an audit, but the truth is that you’re always better off with a complete and accurate return filed with an extension than you would be by filing a sloppy return on April 15th.

Spendology Becomes an Advocate for Bethesda Green

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Earlier this year, Spendology expanded its mission – to enable people to use psychology and advanced analytics to make better financial and ecological decisions. Bethesda Green’s mission is to bring together business, government and community through programs and services to promote a healthy economy and sustainable living practices in order to reduce our collective impact on the environment.

Spendology provided a donation to Bethesda Green signifying the company’s commitment to advancing ecological intelligence. Spendology is also creating a Sustainable Solutions division which will be launching a green and sustainable product, the Z Hook, on Earth Day, April 22nd. The Z Hook dries bath towels in a third of the time of standard towel racks and hooks; saving consumers’ time and money, preventing the growth of mold and mildew, and keeping towels fresher, longer.

www.zhook.co

 

About Spendology

Spendology LLC is a technology company based in Washington, DC that uses science to improve financial and ecological decision outcomes. Spendology was founded by Keith Alexander Ashe. Mr. Ashe is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Columbia University. He previously worked as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and the Corporate Executive Board.

- See more at: GlobewNewswire: Spendology Becomes an Advocate for Bethesda Green

Want Less Stress and More Stability? All You Need Is A Savings Account

Happy National Financial Literacy Month! Allow the month of April to remind you that you can always take steps to improve your financial security and reduce your daily stress. If you don’t have enough money saved up for an emergency, you’re not alone-in fact, in a recent study, 76 percent of those surveyed claimed to be living paycheck to paycheck. More startling, 27 percent had no savings at all, while 50 percent had less than 3 months of livable income saved.

Perhaps that’s why the stress levels of Americans continues to rise. “Nothing helps you sleep better at night than knowing you have money tucked away for unplanned expenses, ” says Greg McBride of Bankrate.com, who released the study.

So if having an adequate savings account can help reduce stress and cushion the blow of unforeseeable disasters, why aren’t more people saving money? If you’re a part of the majority, the answer might seem simple: there is hardly enough money left to save after paying bills and other routine expenses. It’s time to start thinking of your savings as a mandatory bill, even if it’s only a $30 bill each month. Anything is better than nothing and over time you’ll be grateful you saved.

 

The Fundamental Reasons For Saving

There are truly unlimited reasons you need a savings account. No matter how passive, ordinary, or routine your life seems, the unexpected will happen. If you’re hesitant about transferring money into your savings account this month, realize that this money is only going to pay you back in the future.

Your savings account can help you:

-Have money for unexpected bills or incidents

-Protect you from steep overdraft charges

-Get a boost when you need a large down payment on items such as a house or car

-Reduce your overall stress

-Pay for college tuition

-Plan for a comfortable retirement

 

Change Your State of Mind

A savings account can actually change your state of mind. Once you start seeing your savings increase, you’re going to feel proud and accomplished. You might imagine yourself splurging on new golf clubs or a weekend getaway when you’ve reached your goal, but you will feel such a relief in having a fund for a rainy day. In fact, you will likely be motivated to save more. You will learn quickly that the good feelings derived from having savings can supersede the fun of splurging and the imminent guilt.

 

Debt Never Pays Off Alone

Are you skipping on saving because you are instead paying off debt? This is a legitimate concern, but it should not be enough to stop you from saving, even if it’s a tiny amount. Should something happen, you might re-load the same credit card you just paid off and incur the linked interest charges. This is part of the reason Forbes actually rates saving for an emergency cushionas more important than paying off debt. Try finding a balance between paying off debt in a timely manner and creating an emergency cushion. When an emergency arrives, you can use your savings instead of tackling on debt.

 

Reduce Your Risk, Increase Your Savings

Because of the low interest rates, you might be dissatisfied with the returns routine savings accounts are currently offering. On the other hand, the stock market is on a tear and placing your money in here might seem like the more lucrative option. But beware; the market could keep gaining, but there’s always sizable risk involved. Nellie Huang argues in this month’s addition of Kiplinger Magazine that bonds deserve a second look. He adds that while a safe and well-diversified stock portfolio takes around $100,000 of capital to maintain, “most bond funds, by contrast, let you through the door for $2,500 or less.”

It’s true that savings accounts, bonds, and low-risk retirement funds don’t provide the same yield as riskier investments, but it’s smart to have some money you can count on. And, you can always diversify later on, as your wealth increases. In fact, professional money advisers suggest having a variety of investments and always a reliable savings account.

Boiling the Ocean

You may have heard of a term in the corporate world called “Big Data”. This massive amount of information swirls around corporations, weighing them down with an over-extended amount of statistical data. This data is so large it is changing the infrastructure of the average corporation, requiring bigger and larger data centers, people just to manage the data, and hordes of data analysts and reporting specialists to look at it.

If you think on a personal level you are immune to Big Data, think again. As technology grows, so does the vast amount of data we can collect on our surroundings, our bodies, our families, our homes, our cars, and more. Already a common complaint is most people can’t keep up with their electronic lives. Between Facebook, online dating, weather tracking, emails, texts, online banking, and recording what you eat into that neat little app you got last week, the world has become a nightmare of constant data updates, downloads, feeds, and notifications. You can analyze everything from how many hours you sleep to the variation of gas prices throughout the state at a touch of a button. Imagine that you deal with Big Data all day at work, and then come home to a barrage of statistics on you and your family to analyze, and you can start to see the current dilemma before the average human being. Big Data can become a big problem. Just because information is available doesn’t mean that it should be used.

Trying to keep up with Big Data is akin to boiling the ocean. The real problem doesn’t lie in the absorption of the data, but in actually filtering, analyzing and using the data for something constructive and valuable. Data of any kind is only as good as its end result. Did the results of the data or analysis improve your life, waste time; or, simply, just not add any value? It is easy to get lost in an ocean of data if you don’t have a plan.

Corporations have long ago realized that automation of transactions and exception-based processing has taken the terror out of Big Data. In other words, automate as much as you can in your life so you have to touch and analyze the data for routine tasks as little as possible. It is paramount to use the right data and insights to add value to lives. However, effective use of data can help pay your bills, heat your home efficiently, send flowers to your mother each month or backup the pictures of your kids without you ever having to press a button. It is not necessary in today’s world of technology to spend as much time on the items that are constant, consistent and predictable.

The second part that Big Data can teach you is to only look at the exceptions; the items that don’t fit into the norm. You should opt to choose notifications of unusual account activity rather than email or text notifications of every transaction. For example, set up your nifty traveler’s app to only notify you when plane tickets go below $200. You don’t need a notification every time there is a special on tickets to Miami, because a “special” is relative.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t have a team of analysts, reporting gurus, and data managers for your personal life. It’s all up to you. Prioritize the data you want to see and eliminate duplicates. Don’t receive emails of your Facebook messages if you log in daily anyway. Don’t sign up for free coupons via email if you don’t have time to look at your emails. If you haven’t used an app on your phone in three months and it isn’t adding any value to your life, get rid of it. Don’t boil the ocean, you don’t need Big Data, you just need the right data.

Digital Salt

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

~ Mathew 5:13

 
A Thing of Value
Salt has historically had many uses as a preservative for food and a method of payment.  At one point, Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Hence, the expression “he’s worth his salt”. Salt was a commodity that was used as a medium of exchange and a store of value. Economists like Nouriel Roubini have said that bitcoin is not currency. FINRA recently claimed that bitcoin is not even legal tender.

 
In my last post, A Tulip By Any Other Name, I discussed how bitcoin exchanges would need to get serious about self-regulation to avoid the fate of pyramid and Ponzi schemes. There are some additional threats to the future of bitcoin, e.g., non-technical traders, uneducated investors, governments, and regulators.
 
The Regulators are Coming
The survival instinct in organisms and organizations leads them to eliminate threats to their existence. Politicians, regulators, and regulatory bodies are stepping up to the plate to talk about virtual currencies – and they aren’t saying anything nice. The US Treasury Department top official for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence has openly said that US bitcoin exchanges are most likely breaking federal laws right now by not meeting FinCEN requirements. FinCEN is a part of the Treasury Department. FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering.
 
FinCEN recently released guidance on digital currencies basically saying that US bitcoin exchanges may already be breaking federal laws. State governments and regulators bodies like FINRA are also weighing in on digital currencies. Needless to say, they didn’t have a lot of positive comments about digital currencies. Thus, bitcoin regulation is inevitable – or is it?
 
Let’s Get Serious
There are some serious threats to the success and longevity of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Governments can criminalize the transactions, rogue exchanges can swindle people, and unwise speculators can gamble away their money. The problem with movements and markets is that dumb money follows smart money. Tech pioneers may believe that this time is different, but why? Fools rush in. We are predictably irrational. Who tells the uneducated investors that a bitcoin exchange should have sophisticated accounting methods, high-level encryption, and Secure Socket Layers (SSL) certificates. There should be some self-regulation, investment in bitcoin mining capabilities, and processes standards, and a self-regulatory body to provide assurances to all appropriate bitcoin transactions.
 
My recommendation is to self-regulate and demonstrate how bitcoin exchanges operate at higher levels of transparency than banks and other financial institutions. Create a self-regulator body that Secures Authorized and Legitimate Transactions at member exchanges. Prove to the world that digital currencies are a viable alternative to other currencies that conforms with the necessary laws.
 
Setting a Higher Bar
What does financial regulation seek to do? The objectives of financial regulationn are as follows:

  • Market confidence (Manage price volatility)
  • Financial stability (online security standards, reserve requirements)
  • Consumer protection (Insuring digital wallet balances a la FDIC or NCUA)
  • Reduction of financial crime (Follow FinCEN requirements)

Digital currencies will continue to be attacked from outside and within. It is up to the exchanges to come together and define and follow their own standards. These actions may not get regulators off their back. However, this should increase consumer confidence and reduce the likelihood of another Mt. Gox. Implementing serious self-regulation will prove that digital currencies are worth their salt.

Mindfulness and Money Decisions

When it comes to thinking of ways to improve your financial situation, has mindfulness ever come to mind? It’s probably hard to see how mindfulness fits within the practical steps of improving your financial situation such as creating a budget, repaying debt, or saving money, but multiple new studies are starting to show how mindfulness can fit into this game plan. We are learning how it’s impacting cognitive functioning such as our financial decision-making. Research shows that this practice of present moment awareness can improve our rational decision-making processes and allow us to avoid cognitive pitfalls.

One common cognitive pitfall in financial decision-making is the sunk cost bias, where one continues an endeavor that has lost initial costs in order to redeem or recover these “sunk” costs. The saying, “throwing good money after bad” is often used to describe this phenomenon where people might not want to admit that their investment has led to loses and then lose even more resources in an attempt to regain their initial investments. The negative emotional reaction to these loses haunts later decision-making. In the Journal of Psychological Science, researchers Andrew Hafenbrack, Zoe Kinias, and Sigal Barsade published the results of four experiments on how mindfulness can counteract the cognitive trap of sunk cost bias. In one particular experiment, they compared two groups with the same sunk cost bias questions: one group was led through a 15-minute breathing meditation recording; the other group underwent a mind-wandering exercise that negated the practice of meditation. The results showed that the group that followed the mindfulness exercise did significantly better on the questions. According to one of the coauthors, Zoe Kinjas, the mindfulness contributed a way to bypass the emotional impact that can skew our rational decision-making. “First, meditation reduced how much people focused on the past and future, and this psychological shift led to less negative emotion. The reduced negative emotion than facilitated their ability to let go of sunk costs.” Therefore, the practice of mindfulness and concentrating on the present instead of past mistakes can enable a shift in emotional regulation that can enhance rational decision-making. The ability to let go of past failures or disappointments might help us avoid cognitive pitfalls such as the sunk cost bias.

Further, looking at financial decision-making through the lens of what psychology calls the dual process theory model might help us see what role mindfulness plays with these decisions. This theory views human information processing in two ways: one is more reflexive (more subconscious) including impulsive, energizing, and emotionally driven system; the other process is viewed as reflective (more conscious) including analytic, controlled, and cognitive. This theory gives us the opportunity to speculate what influences our decision-making process, and what is going on when we are making financial decisions. These systems can either work together or against each other. For instance, Stone and Ziebert (1995) demonstrated in a study how offering a financial reward created two distinct influences for decision-making: one being an emotional reaction due to arousal and affect (reflective), and the other being more analytic. In what ways does the interplay between these two systems (i.e. rational versus impulsive) influence our financial decision-making? Understanding how these two systems operate can help us make better financial decisions.

Mindfulness acts as a tool to strengthen our ability to be in the present moment and allow ourselves to become observer. This can help balance and become aware of these two systems. Cultivating the observer lens through mindfulness practice can help act as a check against impulsive behavior, as well as increasing a sense of well-being that dampens the impact of financial materialism (Stone, 2012). This is a move into a more conscious way of thinking that can bring about clarity and decisiveness that can facilitate better financial decision-making. Studies such as Brown and Kasser (2005) found that there is a strong relationship between mindfulness and stronger intrinsic values and more ecologically responsible behavior. In a 2007 study, Lakey, Campbell, Brown, and Goodie found that mindfulness helped reduce risk taking in gambling and lowered the propensity toward pathological gambling. Mindfulness practice can help balance the internal processes between emotions and thoughts that happen during our decision-making process. New research is emerging on the different benefits of mindfulness. Next time when you are thinking of making a significant purchase or doing some financial planning, consider a little mindfulness before acting.

References:

“Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation” by Andrew C. Hafenbrack, Zoe Kinias, Sigal G. Barsade

Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/2/369.abstract

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/mindfulness-meditation-may-improve-decision-making.html

Brown, K. W., & Kasser, T. (2005). Are psychological and ecological well-being compatible? The role of values, mindfulness, and lifestyle. Social Indicators Research, 74 (2), 20. doi:  10.1007/ s11205-004-8207-8

Stone, D. N., & Ziebart, D. A. (1995). A model of financial incentive effects in decision-making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 61 , 250–261.

Lakey, C. E., Campbell, W. K., Brown, K. W., & Goodie, A. S. (2007). Dispositional mindfulness as a predictor of the severity of gambling outcomes. Personality and Individual Differences, 43 (7), 13. doi:  10.1016/j.paid.2007.05.007.

Stone, D (2012). Consumer Knowledge and Financial Decisions: Lifespan Perspectives, Chapter 2: Cultivating Financial Mindfulness: Dual Process Theory.

A Tulip By Any Other Name

Mt. Gox has fallen. Approximately $500 m USD worth of bitcoins “disappeared” overnight. What is a bitcoin? It is a cryptocurrency with a floating price and a fixed supply. Bitcoins can be exchanged for free. No government, central bank, or financial institutions govern, regulate, or take fees from bitcoin transactions.  There are many other cryptocurrencies including litecoins, dogecoins, namecoins, peercoins, and the list goes on and on.

Bitcoin Stack

Bitcoin Stack

Trouble in Paradise

Mt. Gox got its start as an online card trading platform for the game Magic: The Gathering Online. The appeal of cryptocurrencies is the freedom from the perceived control and corruption of the Central Banking system. Mt. Gox provided users with the ability to exchange cash in various foreign currencies for bitcoins. At its height, Mt. Gox held as much as $500 m USD worth of the cryptocurrency and then things fell apart. The exchange suddenly stopped honoring transactions. Days later, the CEO apologized at a press conference where he announced that Mt. Gox was filing for bankruptcy. These actions left Mt. Gox customers broke and befuddled.

What is Money?

This post is not just about Mt. Gox or dogging bitcoin. The fall of one of the largest bitocin exchanges begs the question: “Why are cryptocurrencies any better than money?”. It helps to define what money and currency are. Money is a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account. Currency refers to a specific type of money. There are and have been many different currencies.

Government-backed currencies like the US dollar, Japanese Yen, or the Euro are backed by the full faith and credit of the respective government. Banks that are based or transact in each country have to follow a set up established rules and regulations. Central banks study trends in the economy and adjust the money supply to maximize employment and control inflation. Inflation occurs when the money supply exceeds the demand for money. Deflation occurs when the demand outpaces the money supply. I did mention that bitcoins have a fixed supply of the currency making them deflationary. However, the price does fluctuate.

The freedom derived from cryptocurrencies not being backed by governments is also its greatest flaw. The US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures customers’ money in banks up to $250,000 in the event the bank fails or files for bankruptcy. Mt. Gox customers had no one to turn to. Rogue exchanges also don’t have to follow best practices for security – leaving them more open to attacks from hackers.

Tulips, Stamps, and Bitcoins

We’ve heard this story before with tulips, stamps, and other bubbles. Tulipmania. The value of tulips skyrocketed to astronomical heights before crashing. Furthermore, Charles Ponzi thought he found a legitimate way to make money by trading International Reply Coupons (IRC) for postage stamps. For a moment, it seems like there was a business opportunity there. However, it just didn’t scale. That didn’t stop Ponzi (or Madoff) from engaging in his scheme.

A Tulip

It only requires a few believers in the bulb, stamp, or cause. Convince a few suckers to invest. Pay off the next set of suckers with the last suckers’ money. Wash, rinse, repeat. In this case, cryptocurrencies address the real problem of corruption in politics and banking. It is extremely important to attain freedom from financial corruption. Unfortunately, without adequate standards and regulations, cryptocurrencies are just tulips by another name.