Too Big to Fail – Too Small to Succeed

“Too big to fail, yet too small to succeed,” is a popular phrase often used to describe the challenges of running a small business in New York City.  Indeed, the phrase could easily resonate across many countries where both young and old have been left to hold an empty bag of dreams when their institutional, social and religious frameworks have been shown to have feet of clay.

Just yesterday, I read this heart-wrenching article about the plight of the Young and Educated in Europe, but Desperate for Jobs.   One desperate young Spanish woman who emigrated abroad had tattooed the word “Valiente” on her forearm to remind herself to remain resolute:

“I did this to remember that I must keep dancing until the end,” Ms. Abadía said. “I was forced to leave my country and everyone I love just so I can have a life. But I need to keep dancing and trying and getting stronger. If I do that, someday, I can conquer the world.”

How can one not be moved, but the real tragedy is that no one seems to have any honest and practical answers to help this young woman “conquer the world.”

“Baguette Lady” Alison recently brought to my attention an article published in the New York Times how JPMorgan Chase abruptly cancelled their online Twitter session with consumers when the questions turned out to be a bit more direct than the softball questions senior management  tends to field at Congressional hearings on financial improprieties.  Found below are several lovely Tweets that left the Tweety Birds at JPMorganChase speechless:

  • Did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?
  • I have Mortgage Fraud, Market Manipulation, Credit Card Abuse, Libor Rigging and Predatory Lending AM I DIVERSIFIED?
  • Does it feel better paying the biggest bank fines in history so far, or did the satisfaction of the crimes outweigh the fines?
  • @tadonovan writes: As a young sociopath, how can I succeed in finance?

While all of this frustration makes for amusing reading, a “Twitter Revolution” is – as Shakespeare would say –  a rant  “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”    In fact, I suspect that the political, media and business “powers that be” would prefer people (read Muppets) to vent their frustrations in 140 characters or less rather than throw a Molotov cocktail or worse.

Let’s all stay “Valiente” and say “no mas!”

P.S.  To that young Twitter sociopath (@tadonovan):  I am looking for someone with your mental tenacity to manage my stock portfolio.   If you happen to read the Gourmay Blog, contact me at my Twitter handle of @GuidoDeFanged

Nothing Wrong with Being an “Empty Suit”

empty_suits

People were  prone to accuse me of being an empty suit, but I have long ago donated my suits to charity. While I wore my suits with pride – particularly after they had been sent out for dry cleaning – in all honesty, there was not much going on between the lapels when I was younger.  Let’s just say “empty suits” have no heart!

Lest you think I am making some sort of boring political statement, I am not! In fact, I am here to provide some very practical advice on how to erase your digital footprint. It used to be that your carbon footprint was important, but Edward Snowden has dramatically pointed out that your digital persona is far important to the suits that run our government.

Found below and printed verbatim is some useful advice to help erase your digital footprint from Gizmodo:

If your growing weariness of being constantly tethered to the internet has become overwhelming, it might be time to scrub yourself from the social media sphere altogether. Here’s how you can become a ghost on the Internet, by tracking down and eliminating your digital past.

The Big Four

Before you go hunting down your old MySpace and Yahoo Fantasy Sports accounts, you should probably go ahead and nix your existence from the four largest social media sites on the planet—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn—seeing as how they have the greatest reach and the most information on you. Luckily, each service makes the self-destruct process fairly straightforward.

Facebook

Facebook makes it very obvious how to deactivate your account; it’s under Account Settings > Security > Deactivate your account. Don’t be fooled! Deactivation isn’t deletion, and when you chose this option, Facebook holds on to all your bits and pieces juuuuussssssst in case you change your mind.

To truly nuke your account, you need to head to the Delete My Account page and click the big blue button. That’s it, you’re officially off Facebook. The process might take up to a fortnight to complete since the system has to scan the entirety of itself making sure all data related to you—every tagged picture, like, and mention—but when it’s gone, it’s all gone. The process is irreversible.

Don’t worry, though; if you still want that treasure trove of pictures and updates living on your hard drive, you can download the whole shebang by going to Account Settings > General > Download a copy of your Facebook Data > Start My Archive.

Twitter

Unlike on Facebook, on Twitter deactivate means delete. And it’s easy! Go to Account Settings > Deactivate my account > Okay, fine, deactivate account. Then just enter your password and you’re good to go.

Well, almost, anyway. Twitter also holds onto your info in case you have quitter’s remorse, so it’ll still stick around on the company’s servers for 30 days. After that, though, you’re all clear for a RTless life.

LinkedIn

Another easy one. Head to the upper right hand corner of the page, and select Privacy & Settings from the drop-down menu. From there, head to Account > Close Your Account. Answer a quick question about why you’re leaving (as if you need a reason!), verify your account one more time, and then revel in the fact that you’ll never get LinkedIn spam again.

It’ll take a while for all professional network traces of you to leave Google and other search engines, but you’ll be purged before long.

Google+

There’s a decent chance you’re a Google+ member without even realizing it—which makes leaving all the more compelling. It’s also the most convoluted process of the four.

The important thing here is to delete your Google+ information and account without nuking your Google account (assuming you’re a Gmail and Gcal user).

To get rid of just your public information, first sign into Google+ if you somehow aren’t already. Click your name and/or email address in the upper right hand corner, and go to Account Management > Delete profile and remove related Google+ features > Delete Google+ content. That’ll take care of profile, your Circles, your +1s, etc.

To get rid of your entire Google+ account, meanwhile, repeat the above process, but select Delete your entire Google profile. This sounds scary! It’s not. You’ll still be able to use Gmail, your Google Drive, and so on. It will, however, totally vanish your Google+ presence, and will make for some annoyances if you’ve coupled it with other Google accounts (most commonly YouTube).

If you really want to go all the way with this and delete the entirety of your Google account (mail, calendar, etc). To do that, go to to your Google Account homepage, click Close account and delete all services and info associated with it, and kiss Gmail and every other Google-thing you love goodbye.

Cleaning Up the Scraps

Once you’ve taken care of the four elephants in the room, it’s time to go after your smaller and older accounts. But unless you’ve been keeping meticulous notes on every single forum board and half-baked social site you’ve ever joined, you’re going to need to spend a fair amount of time tracking them all down.

Luckily, there are tools for that.

Just Delete Me offers a similar service, as well as a handy Chrome Extension that will light up whenever you’re on a site that JDM recognizes and will link you directly to the site’s account deletion page.

Knowem, meanwhile, finds sites that you may have forgotten about entirely by doing a username search on more that 500 popular social sites.

Now if you want to get really thorough and start eliminating traces of yourself from further corners of the Internet, check out our helpful guide on removing your personal information from background check websites. That’s for extreme cases only, though—and it requires some extreme solutions. In the meantime, enjoy being an internet ghost, and remember, you’ve still got some time to reactivate that Twitter account.

[LifeHacker – Hongkiat – Images: ArtFamily – Amy Walters]

Thanks for this useful article.

Retirement Planning and Happy Talk

I have found that Americans seldom take retirement planning seriously until it is too late to do any planning at all. Granted, times are changing in the United States, when workers (and even bankers) realize that you have to pound the treadmill even faster just to stay in place.

Europeans are far different. They take retirement planning very seriously – even from an early age. I recall one of my colleagues at Chase complaining that they could never find “go-getters” in Austria because the first question they asked during an employment interview was “How soon can I retire?” Seriously, what do you plan to do with the 40 years in between?

Spain was no exception, I recall a lunch with some banking clients in Galicia (northwest Spain) when the conversation turned to the number of Gallegos who had emigrated to South America in search of employment.  Despite its beauty, rich fishing water and religious significance (Santiago de Compostela), there are very few employment opportunities in Galicia.  Many Gallegos seek employment abroad, but they always buy a burial plot before leaving.  Indeed, this 24 year old banking officer said that the first thing he had done when he accumulated sufficient savings was to buy a burial plot.   Now that is an example of forward planning.

Like many Americans, I have given some thought – neither serious nor profound –  to retirement planning.    I suppose it comes down a question of location, lifestyle and your budget.  Some months ago, Thérèse and I decided that the “location” must be a university town where the median age is less than the national average.  In other words, we wanted to surround ourselves with young people in a community with intellectual resources.

Now, I am busy entering other factors into my algorithm to identify the “perfect” retirement location. As Google engineers soon discovered, this is no easy task, but I am reminded by quant-traders on NASDQ that it is far better to rely on imperfect trading models than common sense. One of the factors that I now consider quite important is the “general happiness index” or GHI. GHI simply measures the level of happiness of your potential retirement neighbors.

Surprisingly, I have turned to Twitter to collect the variables. The software firm of Vertaline seeks to measure the happiest place in the US (and conversely, the most unhappy) by tracking the number of Twitter users who Tweet “Good Morning” against users who Tweet “F___ You.” (Note to Langston: New York City was properly excluded from the data sample since everybody knows that “F___ You” is the equivalent of “Have a Nice Day” for New Yorkers. Found below is the heat map developed by the scientists at Vertaline:

 

Not surprisingly, the city that starts their day with “happy thoughts” is Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.”   I am not sure that natives of Philly  finish their day with the same “brotherly” feelings.   A not-too-surprising second was Lubbock, Texas (the home of Thérèse), dust storms and prairie dogs.   Buffalo stands out as being the rudest place in the United States.   Unfortunately, statistical analysis is never quite that simple as San Diego scores quite well for both Tweeter users who start the day with “Good Morning” and those who drop the F-Bomb.  Perhaps, they are simply displaced natives of Buffalo who have now retired in San Diego.

Further analysis is required, but this is certainly useful information that needs to be refined and processed further.