Overwhelmed and in too deep
“You know, if it wasn’t for my in-laws, I don’t know what we would have done,” Pete began. “Her cancer, even with the benefits, has cost us at least half a million. That, plus the kids..,” his voice trailed.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that my life insurance didn’t pay off on suicides, I’m not sure that I’d be here now,” he chuckled nervously.
Clouding the mind
We were supposed to be having a one-on-one meeting to discuss recent performance, but it was clear that Pete’s mind wasn’t really there. Generally a man of few words, this was the first time that he’d ever been personal in conversation with me, and his attempt at lightheartedness was flat. Despite his best efforts to the contrary, it was clear that he was burdened.
“Can I ask you a direct question?” I asked.
“You okay?” The silence lingered for a moment, and he responded, “Yeah, I’m good, I’m good.” The repetition seemed more an effort for Pete to convince himself than it was to answer me. We moved on to the business before us, but as he left my office, I turned to my computer and sent him an email, thanking him for our meeting, and making sure he knew of the company’s employee resource plan, which could provide him access to licensed therapists which he could speak to confidentially, and for free.
Financial stress equates to physical and mental concerns
It’s been well-established that downturns or upheavals in personal economic conditions can be a significant stressor. The threat to the ability to care for your needs and those of your family, whether the threat is immediate or foreseen in the future based on current conditions, can cause us to experience a gamut of emotions and lead to inhibited decision making. An extended perception of threat to economic viability can have real physical consequences, as well.
In a 2011 article published in Health Social Work, authors Bisgaier and Rhodes identified correlations between poor health and adverse financial circumstances in a study of over 1,500 emergency room patients.
Patient reactions were examined across five categories of economic need: food insecurity, housing concerns, employment concerns, cost-related medication nonadherence, and cost barriers to accessing physician care.
Nearly half of all patients surveyed identified one or more financial concerns, and nearly one-third reported identifying with two or more categories of economic deprivation.
Furthermore, a significant relationship was found linking the number of financial circumstances and indicators of ill health in the patient: poor/fair self-rated health, depression, high stress, smoking, and illegal drug use. Beyond the critical point that individual concerns related to financial security are relevant to physical health, mental health concerns are often an undiagnosed byproduct of financial stressors as well.
Effect on the entrepreneur
The entrepreneur often bears a dual-edged burden, as the success of their business is often inexorably linked to personal financial success.
Everything the entrepreneur has invested—time, reputation, not to mention leveraging personal resources—can be lost during periods of economic instability, and the stresses that face small business owners during these times are significant.
Even a booming economy is no guarantee that the entrepreneur’s own business will benefit from the rising tide, as the Small Business Administration has identified that the survivorship rate for small businesses over a five year term is only a 50/50 proposition.
Living daily in these circumstances can lead the entrepreneur to be at risk for an unexpected problem: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What is PTSD?
When we think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we often associate it with professions who have frequent or prolonged exposure to traumatic situations, such as first responders or military personnel.
While those two groups often do face a very real challenge with their ongoing exposure to stressors that can lead to troubling symptoms, it is by no means an exclusive fraternity. PTSD is different than your reactions to dealing with day-to-day stress, and it’s also different than your reactions to dealing with a single traumatic event, such as a severe downturn in your business or a bankruptcy. Stress in those situations is normal and you should expect that your behavior and emotions may change over time as you deal with them.
That’s not what PTSD is, nor is it a manifestation of another physical illness or medical condition, or a reaction to outside stimuli, such as prescription medication, alcohol, or drugs.
How it’s triggered
Defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as meeting the diagnostic criteria of exposure to death, either actual or threatened, a serious injury, or a sexual violation, PTSD stems from exposure to these scenarios in which the individual either experiences the event personally, witnesses the event personally, or learns of it occurring to a family member or a friend, or has ongoing or extreme exposure to details of the incident that are troubling.
Regardless of which type of event caused the manifestation of PTSD in the individual, the outcomes are noted to be significantly impactful, making the ability to interact socially with others or to work challenging at best and impossible at worst.
While some experience symptoms soon after the traumatic event, it’s important to note that not all do. For some, the symptoms don’t begin until months or years later, when they are triggered. And it’s important to note that symptoms can come and go over time, and their intensity can spike and wane, depending on the external stimuli you face. For example, you may experience an increase in symptoms or severity when you’re feeling tired or stressed about other things entirely, or when you have an unpleasant reminder of the situation that you’ve faced.
Deeper into the effects of PTSD
Psychiatrists have identified four major areas of symptomology associated with PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognition/mood, and arousal. Depending on with of these areas, or which combination of them, you’re dealing with, individuals can experience a gamut of symptomology.
For some, there may be nightmares and flashbacks about the incident or series of incidents that led to the financial concerns. For others, they become avoidant of situations and/or individuals that they associate with the events in their mind. In some cases, this avoidance can transform into an addiction to work or to activity, as it allows the individual to keep their mind engaged on things other than their financial condition.
Depending on the root cause of the trauma, it is not uncommon for personal beliefs about self and others to change, and a loss of trust can occur, for self, others, and systems. Hyper-aroused states are also common in some individuals as a response; always looking for reoccurrences of the situation may manifest itself if a lack of ability to sleep or concentrate, or in a mood shift towards irritation and anger.
These shifting moods are addressed in the current DSM-5, which notes that individuals suffering from PTSD can vacillate between the “flight” and “fight” modes of response.
Finances and PTSD
There’s always an antecedent to behavior; it’s highly atypical that an individual responds to a situation in a totally unpredictable way. So, when looking at how individuals come to face financial trauma, there’s the issue of what caused them to be in this position in the first place, and then the issue of how they’re left to deal with it.
It’s tempting to label those who are going through financial misfortune as being the product of their own poor choices and decision-making—and some undoubtedly are—but we can all think of incredibly talented, hard-working people for whom a life circumstance or factors within their field of industry have caused a problem to arise.
Once people have begun to experience the effects of finance-induced PTSD, its harder still for them to have the necessary capital to bounce back quickly.
This does not make them lesser, despite the temptation to invoke the stereotype of pulling one’s self up by the proverbial bootstraps.
It makes them our neighbors, who could use our support as they deal with things they never imagined themselves facing, doing the best they know how to do with the resources at hand. Because of the intrusion of the effects of finance-induced PTSD, the individual often isn’t at their optimum when dealing with the business side of things: their debt and how it’s structured, how they need to arrange their lives to deal with the situation at hand, or how to get back to work when they’re facing an unsure employment situation.
Audrey Freshman conducted a survey of victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme in 2012. In her research, published in Health and Social Work, over half of the respondents met baseline criteria that would put them in line for a possible diagnosis of PTSD according to DSM guidelines. A substantial loss of trust in financial institutions was noted by 90% of the respondents, and nearly 60% reported high levels of anxiety and depression.
How to get help
Remember, if you or a loved one are dealing with either financial concerns or the symptoms of what may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you don’t have to deal with them alone.
It’s hard and uncomfortable for some of us to reach out for help about something as personal as our own financial situation, especially when it’s messy, or our health, especially when we’re honest with ourselves that things aren’t what they ought to be.
But by doing so, by seeking information and assistance, you’re allowing yourself the gift of recovery, both fiscal and physical, and can transition forward from this rough patch.
For financial support, especially for the small business owner, the United States Small Business Association is a great resource. From their website, you can find your local chapters, and make an appointment to see a local advisor, who can provide assistance across a range of topics. For personal finances, there are a myriad of late-night TV ads and Internet popups offering credit counseling or debt assistance.
While it’s tempting to have help right at your fingertips, make certain that anyone you talk to is certified as a credit counselor either through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these organizations are creditable and certify other agencies to provide accurate, timely assistance without steering you towards one preferred solution or another.
For your personal health, your healthcare provider is the best first stop for you to discuss your physical or emotional health. Beyond the doctor’s visit, however, your support network who can be there for you is a crucial lifeline to recovery: people who you trust, who you know well and who know you in return, and who you can count on to give advice and support in your best interest.
If you feel that your situation may require more immediate help, there are other easily accessible and confidential resources for those who need them:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 either by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by going to their website at http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and engaging in an online chat.
For those who prefer texting options with qualified crisis counselors, the Crisis Text Line is available 24/7 by texting “Go” to 741741.
As always, if you think you’re in danger of self-harm or suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
With the holidays approaching, many struggles with finances can be felt more intensely. In the spirit of holiday gift-giving, give yourself the best gift of all—peace of mind and a sense of health—by taking care of you, so that you can deal with the situations that have arisen.
Blockchain has a competitor that could already obsolete the tech
(TECH NEWS) Just as people are learning what the word “blockchain” means, technology is already advancing beyond this groundbreaking innovation.
Blockchain’s new competitor may one day render the popular database service obsolete. Hashgraph pitches itself as a “superior consensus mechanism/data structure alternative to blockchain,” featuring a decentralized platform for micropayments, live collaboration apps, distributed MMOs, auctions, and distributed capital markets.
The distributed ledger technology system notes it’s faster, fairer, and more secure than blockchain. However, Hashgraph has very diplomatically stated, “The pitching of Hashgraph against Blockchain is a sensationalist angle that we do not endorse.”
They go on to say, “We consider Blockchain to be like a capable older brother who graciously paved the way by bringing the power of Distributed Ledger Technology to the light of day, for which we are very grateful.”
Very Miss America of them. Unlike Bitcoin, Hashgraph doesn’t need massive amounts of computation or energy consumption. This is in part due to how the system handles transactions, particularly mining.
Bitcoin mining is the process of adding records of transactions to Bitcoin’s public ledger. These records are a blockchain, which serves as a confirmation of past transactions. With standard bitcoin mining, each transaction is put into a container, forming a long single chain.
If two miners happen to make two blocks at the same time, one will be discarded eventually, especially if one arrives too quickly. Instead, Hashgraph uses every container, and any member can create transactions at any point without threat of deletion.
Currently, Bitcoin uses proof-of-work (POW), requiring costly custom hardware. PoW artificially slows down the mining process, which is why miners need special hardware to gain anything close to efficiency. However, Hashgraph offers faster transactions, too.
Right now, Bitcoin on standard blockchain are limited to seven transactions per second, but Hashgraph could be up to 50,000 times faster with 250,000 transactions per second (pre-sharding). The transactions would only be limited by bandwidth availability.
Further, Hashgraph brings fairness into play with consensus time stamping, meaning no one can alter the order in which transactions are processed. Basically, there’s no line cutting or fast passes like in blockchain, where miners can choose what order transactions occur in a block, even delaying or stopping future blocks.
Unlike blockchain, Hashgraph uses asynchronous Byzantine fault tolerance to achieve consensus within the community using virtual voting. Members cannot change the consensus once reached, nor can they prevent any community from reaching a consensus.
Plus, Hashgraph uses bank-grade consensus algorithms for added security, and is resilient to DDoS, Sybil, firewall, and virus attacks, as well as network partitions.
The amount of storage is reduced as well by only keeping the effects of the transaction, shrinking the amount of storage from its current 60GB for bitcoin to 1GB. So what does that mean? Your smartphone could act as a node.
Yes, you can start geeking out now.
At this time, Hashgraph isn’t available on public networks or ledgers, so no associated cryptocurrency is currently available. However, you can apply for an an enterprise or commercial license use on a private network by contacting Swirlds, the company that handles Hashgraphs licensing.
Like it or not, Millennials prefer Bitcoin over Stocks
(FINANCE NEWS) A new survey shows that the investment pendulum has swung to favor blockchain backed cryptocurrency over stocks when it comes to millennials.
Informed or not, Millennials prefer bitcoin over stocks. Could it be because “bitcoin” sounds cool and futuristic while “stock” sounds super boring? Studies haven’t officially evaluated my hypothesis, but let’s go with a maybe for now.
Venture capital firm Blockchain Capital’s survey of 2,000 people found that around 30 percent of the participants in the 18-34 age range would rather own $1000 of Bitcoin than $1000 of government stocks or bonds.
Additionally, of those surveyed, 42 percent of millennials were at least marginally familiar with bitcoin, while only 15 percent over age 65 knew of the concept.
On Wednesday bitcoin rose more than six percent to as high as $7,545, pushing the value of the cryptocurrency market over $200 billion for the first time ever. This time last year, bitcoin was worth around $700.
In the past year, cyrptocurrency has risen 600 percent. This is compared to measly gains of 15 percent for the S&P 500 Index. Despite the rise in value, only 2 percent of Americans currently own or have ever owned bitcoin according to Blockchain Capital’s survey.
However, as millennials become more involved in the investment force, this number is sure to increase. If U.S. regulators allow bitcoin ETFs, it may be even easier for new bitcoin buyers to enter the market.
According to Google Trends, more people are searching online for how to buy bitcoin that gold. Can you dive Scrooge McDuck style into a ludicrous pile of bitcoins? Well, no. But you also can’t have the Dothraki give you a melted bitcoin crown, so there’s that safety factor working in bitcoin’s favor.
What else is so appealing about bitcoin? Unlike traditional banks, the bitcoin network isn’t run by a centralized agency and has no physical backing. Instead, it’s run by a network of computers worldwide digitally keeping track of all transactions by storing records in a blockchain.
Since anyone can make an anonymous account, bitcoin gained notoriety a preferred method for drug dealers and ransom payment aficionados. However, the cryptocurrency is also accepted by many major businesses, including Overstock.com and eBay, for legal transactions.
Since there are no transaction or currency conversion fees, people in countries with high inflation can use bitcoin to avoid losing money. Plus, bitcoin makes international money transfers significantly faster than traditional methods.
While bitcoin certainly has proven fruitful for shady transactions, the rising popularity of cryptocurrency for legitimate uses indicates a market shift.
Venezuela cash crunch means workers won’t see money for months
(FINANCE NEWS) Venezuela is currently in a cash crunch due to a weakening oil market which means that Venezuelans won’t see pay for at least 5 months.
If you ever ran out of money as a broke 20-something, you know how nervewracking it can be to go without cash. Now, imagine you ran a country and ran out of money. Sweating yet?
Be glad you’re not Venezuela, who is extremely cash poor at the moment. According to coverage from Bloomberg, “more than $1.2 billion of the company’s debt is coming due in the next few days, and investors are showing less confidence that funds will be transferred.”
The country is already two weeks late to pay off several other bonds. Additionally, cargo ships full of crude oil have idled for months because Venezuela can’t pay for their supply of oil.
The biggest culprit for the cash shortage is the shrinking market for crude oil. PDVSA controls one of the large crude supplies in the world, and it’s been a lucrative export for the country. However, in three years, the price of oil has dropped by 50 percent.
The biggest demand for crude used to come from America, who would pay cash for the barrels; however, shipments are down 35 percent since August.
Part of that demand shortage is due to political sanctions, imposed on the country by the United States. In response to Maduro’s aggressive political maneuvering, which sought to arrest opposition leaders, “rewrite the constitution and strip power from Congress,” President Trump punished this behavior through sanctions on imports from Venezuela.
Because oil was such a lucrative export, PDVSA was targeted heavily by the sanctions. Oil importers don’t want to run afoul of these sanctions by buying crude from the country. That problem will get even worse if the sanctions increase, which Bloomberg predicts is likely to happen within the year.
There is a risk that PDVSA could default on its debt, which could have a huge impact on the oil economy. According to Bloomberg, if oil could be seized as an asset to cover for debts, oil traders will expect a significant discount to cover for that risk. That discount will sink overall oil revenue. This same problem came up when Ecuador, another large exporter of oil, defaulted on its debt in 2008.
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