Your Financial News Roundup
October 11, 2023
1. Economy: Americans are still hurting despite the positive September jobs report; while the IMF’s latest forecast upgrades the U.S.’s economic outlook.
2. Tech: Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s childhood friend turns on him; meanwhile, a Nevada lithium mine sparks controversy.
3. World: Tensions are climbing between Israel and Hamas; and a new malaria vaccine enters the market.
Personal Finance Concept [Part 1/12]: Profitable Side Hustles – Virtual Assistance
💩 Better But Not Good Enough: The September jobs report showed 336,000 jobs were created, adding to a rosy picture of the 2023 economy. By the numbers, 2.3M+ jobs were created this year, unemployment is below 4%, and 10M+ roles remain open. However, Americans call foul on this favorable outlook. Although inflation is on the decline, people are grappling with painful increases in rent, food, gas, and appliances. Notably, the median home sales price has surged by a staggering 27% since 2019 while the share of income as a percentage of home prices is at an all-time high. (CNBC)
Our Take: Headlines only say so much. Unpacking the September jobs report, 151K+ part-time jobs were created while 22K full-time jobs were lost — indicating people are taking on multiple jobs to make ends meet.
📈 IMF Signals Hope: The U.S. economy has demonstrated resilience in the face of the ongoing pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its economic growth projections for the U.S., anticipating a growth of 2.1% for this year and 1.5% for 2024 — up from the 1.8% and 1%, respectively, stated in July. This positive shift is attributed to stronger business investment, rising wages, and increased federal government spending. Conversely, economic growth forecasts for China and the euro zone saw downgrade adjustments. (USA Today)
Our Take: China’s real estate industry is imploding as major property developers like Country Garden and Evergrande struggle to rebound and face potential bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the euro area is grappling with the effects of high inflation and interest rates.
🧑🏽⚖️ The Trial Continues: The court case for Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), founder of the now-bankrupt crypto exchange FTX, progressed with former CTO and childhood friend, Gary Wang, taking the witness stand. Wang, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the Feds, confirmed the existence of a technical backdoor that allowed Alameda Research to secretly siphon funds from FTX to finance its trades. Alameda’s line of credit ballooned to an astonishing $65B limit, eventually leading the company to tap into customer money in late 2019 / early 2020. During the 2022 crypto collapse, Alameda owed FTX $11B. But SBF was unfazed and tweeted a lie that FTX was stable. (WSJ)
Our Take: SBF had delegated power in FTX to his friends and romantic partner, Caroline Ellison — who have all since pled guilty and agreed to testify in court against SBF. SBF’s rise and fall mirrors that of the crypto industry, which has a long road to regaining user trust.
⛏️ The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of White Gold: Northwest Nevada’s Thacker Pass is rich in lithium — an essential metal for EV batteries and pivotal for the U.S.’s EV transition. On one side, Lithium Americas, who secured the mining contract, and certain environmental advocates endorse the extraction of this “white gold” because it is vital for eco-friendly transit. On the other, local Native American tribes argue their ancestors died in battle against the U.S. Army in 1865 on this land. Thus, they should have a say in its use, advocating for its designation as a protected historical site. Lithium Americas disputes the historical battle and has won legal backing in court, emphasizing the creation of high-paying jobs for many Native Americans. The mine will start producing lithium in 2026 to supply to General Motors. (BBC)
Our Take: Thacker Pass is a flashpoint in the larger tradeoffs that come with responding to climate change, tech transitions, and respecting local communities. Similar events are unfolding at other proposed lithium mines, such as those in Chile and Ecuador. As the EV industry advances, it’s vital to understand tradeoffs without sacrificing speed in the transition to cleaner tech.
🇮🇱 Israel vs. Hamas: By now, you’ve surely heard of the attacks Hamas carried out against Israel, which involved indiscriminate killing and kidnapping of civilians and taking them to Gaza. Israel has struck back and is prepping for a ground invasion of Gaza, leaving much uncertainty over if and how the conflict will escalate. Though much is not yet known, Hamas claims it attacked because of violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (a Muslim holy site) and its broader anger against Israel’s policies towards Palestine (e.g., building settlements in Palestinian land). (NYT) (NBC)
Our Take: Hamas, a terrorist group based in Gaza, has significantly strengthened its power through Iranian financial, intelligence, and material backing — though Iran denies any involvement. As Israel began forging ties with Arab countries, it’s speculated that Iran sought to exploit Israel’s internal instability to undercut its normalization talks with Saudi Arabia. Their goal may have been to bait Israel into a mass invasion that would destroy its ties with its Arab neighbors and make the country an international pariah. Iran (which has sworn to destroy Israel) is also involved with other armed groups in Palestine, such as Hezbollah.
💉A New Shot on the Block: Scientists at Oxford have pioneered a cost-effective malaria vaccine, R21, offering protection for children at just $2-$4 per dose. The lower cost positions the vaccine to reach a bigger number of African nations, significantly aiding communities vulnerable to disease-carrying mosquitoes. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommended R21 this week, the 2nd malaria vaccine in 2 years. Given that malaria killed 619K people in 2021, the vaccine demand is high while supplies are limited. R21 could fix this shortage. Ongoing trials show the vaccine has reduced symptomatic malaria cases by 75%. (GNN)
Our Take: The current malaria vaccine costs about $9.80/shot, so R21 presents a 4.9x cost reduction for comparable effectiveness (from trial data) — enabling greater accessibility. Greater protection against the disease will help break poverty cycles in poor sub-Saharan African nations, where 95% of 2021’s global malaria cases occurred — costing its economies $12B.
Finance Concept of the Week
Lucrative Size Hustles [Part 1/12]: Virtual Assistance
Earn extra income on the side and live on your own terms
Virtual assistants (VAs) are remote workers who provide administrative services to clients on a freelance basis. While there are no specific requirements to become a VA, they usually have years of experience as an administrative assistant or office manager. VAs may perform tasks such as scheduling appointments, making phone calls, arranging travel, planning events, managing emails, blogging, and social media marketing.
How to Get Started
Businesses typically look for virtual assistants with some higher-level education or certification. Before applying to be a VA, look at the job requirements. Some companies may require you to know how to use specific software or possess certain skills, such as strong communication, time management, or basic accounting.
After doing some preliminary research, decide your ideal job responsibilities and pay rate. This helps you narrow down your criteria while job hunting. You can look for potential opportunities on LinkedIn, at networking events, online job platforms, or reach out to family and friends for leads. Once you find the right opportunity, clearly define the scope of work, terms, and pay with your clients to ensure both sides understand the expectations and responsibilities.
Top Platforms to Use
- Fiverr: Fiverr is a leading online platform that connects freelancers with businesses and individuals seeking specialized services across a range of fields. VAs on Fiverr can typically make anywhere from $5 to $30 per hour on tasks such as social media management, cold calling, telemarketing, and emails.
- Upwork: Upwork is a higher-end online freelancing platform connecting businesses with skilled professionals worldwide. As a VA on Upwork, you can set the hours per project and estimated delivery time for tasks such as market research, data mining, skip tracing, lead generation, and more.
- Fancy Hands: Fancy Hands is a team of U.S.-based virtual assistants who works on per-task basis with a minimum of 3 tasks subscribed to each month. VAs can expect to make $3 to $7 per task to start and will be responsible for making phone calls, scheduling appointments, booking travel, data entry, and price matching.
- Time etc: Time etc has over 500 remote freelancers who have an average of 12 years of administrative experience. The initial hourly rate starts at $17 and typical job responsibilities include managing emails, proactive communication, arranging calendars, data entry, researching services, marketing support, and handling general administration.
- Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: VAs often have the freedom to set their own work hours and choose where they work from. This allows for better work-life balance and flexibility to accommodate personal needs.
- Diverse Work Opportunities: VAs can work with clients from various industries and locations, providing exposure to a wide range of tasks and projects, enriching their skill set and experience.
- Reduced Commute and Overhead Costs: Working remotely eliminates the need for commuting, saving time and money. VAs can also reduce expenses associated with maintaining a physical office space.
- Autonomy and Independence: VAs have the autonomy to choose the type of work they take on and often act as independent contractors, enjoying greater control over their work and business decisions.
- Inconsistent Income and Job Security: As independent contractors, VAs may face fluctuations in income and may not have a steady stream of work, leading to financial uncertainty and job insecurity.
- Overworking and Difficulty Setting Boundaries: The flexible work environment can make it challenging to set clear boundaries between work and personal life, potentially leading to overworking or difficulty disconnecting.
- Client Dependence and Relationship Management: Relying on client relationships for work can be a risk if a major client ends a contract or reduces workload, highlighting the importance of diversifying the client base.
- Unpredictable Workload and Demands: VAs may experience sudden spikes in workload or urgent requests from clients, requiring them to manage time and prioritize tasks effectively.
What Else Is New?
- California becomes the first state to ban red dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil and propylparaben in consumer goods. These ingredients are found in popular candies and drinks, including Skittles, Nerds, Trolli gummies, protein shakes, and instant rice.
- Teens are using their social media skills to build a profitable side hustle on TikTok Shop, TikTok’s newest affiliate marketing feature.
- The Powerball jackpot climbs to $1.55B — the 4th largest prize in Powerball history. If you want to test your luck, you have a 1 in 292.2M chance of winning.
- New tech startup Recs is positioning itself as a social app for recommending physical spaces, like cafes, gyms, and museums, with friends.
Personal Finance Resources
🚀 Check out our collection of personal finance resources on Gumroad, featuring both free and paid options:
Stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, if there’s any other product you’d like to see, feel free to suggest it here.
If you liked what you read, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here!