The Robots are Coming!

Seems like I feel this way about most drivers.

“Some Google employees have their self-driving vehicles take them to work. These car robots don’t look like something from ‘The Jetsons’; the driverless features on these cars are a bunch of sensors, wires, and software. This technology ‘works.'”
–Tyler Cowen

This post started out with an innocent enough tweet. I had seen an advertisement from Ford about a self-driving car of the future. While, naturally, I couldn’t find that exact advertisement on the Internet, I found something similar:

The picture in the advertisement was of a couple sitting in the front seat of their self-driving vehicle, chatting idly away while the car whisked them off to wherever it was that they were heading. They seemed engrossed in their own conversation, completely oblivious to whatever lay ahead in the road, which led me to wonder:

The tweet got a couple of likes and retweets, but no serious answers.

It’s not the first time I’ve wondered about robots doing the work of humans:

I live in a downtown urban area. I am at the point where I rarely drive. I’m a big user of Uber, or, secondarily, Lyft to get me somewhere around town if public transportation isn’t convenient. I happily use Megabus or Amtrak to get to other places that aren’t within flying distance. Gone are the days when I enjoyed 5-6 hour one-way trips when I was in college or stationed in Germany to get to far flung places.

In fact, urban living tends to breed its own version of laziness. Even though the nearest grocery store is less than a mile away, it’s across a major highway and the parking lot is always full, creating, in my mind, unnecessary hassle (yes, I know…#firstworldproblems). When we moved to our current location, there was a grocery store a block away that we walked to. It also had a growler bar, so we could always get a glass of wine or beer to put in the cart while shopping. Seemed like we always came home with more than we expected on those trips…hmm…

So, because of my decreased driving – a positive in my mind because it creates the corollary of increased walking – I’ve become fascinated by self-driving cars. I firmly believe that self-driving cars are not too far in our future (see the great Wait But Why series on Elon Musk to get a good overview of where this technology is heading), and that will have an astonishing impact on people who depend on driving to get something or someone from point A to point B, both as employees and as consumers.

I dream of the day when I can log onto Amazon, make my order of weekly grocery delivery, and have a self-driving car deliver it to my residence.

But, it’s not just grocery shopping where this could possibly occur. In Dallas (and probably other places), there’s a service called Favor where you can order foods from different restaurants, and a driver will go and fetch those orders for you. On binge day, we love to get i Fratelli pizza and Val’s Cheesecakes (if you’re in Dallas and haven’t tried Val’s, you’re missing out on a treat). As it works now, the app sends orders to both places, and then a driver goes to both places, picks up the items, and delivers it to our location.

How Much Should a Financial Planner Cost?

Korean restaurant bill

Check, please!

“Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts.”
–Albert Einstein

“Spending can be investing – if you spend on the right things and really use them.”
Ramit Sethi

How are financial planners like vacation timeshare salespeople? Read on and you’ll find out plus you’ll learn how to actually calculate how much your planner is truly costing you.

For some reason, financial planners like to be very circumspect about how much their services cost. Part of the obfuscation is understandable – nobody likes to commit to a price until they find out how complicated the project is going to be. I used to face that all the time in the software development company I co-founded. We’d have potential customers want us to do three weeks of investigative work to come up with a price tag for how much a project would be. That would never fly, so we gave them very broad price ranges with lots of wiggle room, and we promised that after three weeks of paid work, we could give them a much better estimate of how much it would cost as well as documentation they could use to go vendor shop if they so desired.

Financial planning has some of that mystery too. People’s situations could be very simple, and they could be very complex, and sometimes, we can’t really say how much a properly executed financial plan should cost until we’ve had some time to get to know you, your family, your situation, and your goals.

Part of the reasoning, too, is competition. One financial planner doesn’t want another financial planner to find out how much he’s charging lest he be undercut and lose out on price.

If you’re looking for the cheapest financial planner you can find, then you’re going to get what you pay for.

There’s a reason, after all, that Yugos were unreliable cars that nobody liked.

In a sense, being led to the cost discussion with a financial planner is very much like being led through a vacation timeshare presentation. If you’ve ever been through one of those, you know how it goes – you’ll go to some really nice location. The salesperson will meet you, offer you drinks, cookies, take you snorkeling, whatever. They walk you through the wonderful sales model and tell you all of the benefits of what you’ll get by buying a timeshare. They’ll address every objection under the sun that anyone in the long history of timeshare presentations has ever come up with.

Once they have you fully and wholly hooked on how owning a timeshare will be better than curing cancer or winning an Emmy, then, and only then, do they pull back the curtain and reveal the price.

I’m pulling back my own curtain before we even have a conversation.

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