Tag Archives: featured

How come today’s workers are making less & not “getting ahead”, when we are more productive than ever?

Every so often, I come across an article or comments that bear along the lines of:

“If today’s worker is more productive then the workers of yester-decade, why aren’t we getting further ahead? Shouldn’t we be all working only a couple of days a week instead of the 35-40+ hour standard workweek?”

Besides the fact that globalization has changed the value of what “productive work” is in America (which is another whole discussion altogether that I’d like to visit at some point), the other costs of living – such as housing and health insurance – may actually be the driving force behind where most of our productivity gains have gone.

Housing is pretty easy to explain.  Just take a look at the following chart, courtesy of Federal Reserve Bank:

FRED - CPI Rent vs Avg Hourly Earnings

In short, housing has kept up over 500%, since the 1970’s.  This easily explains why the “boomers” were seemingly able to purchase a home and fund a number of what appear now to be luxuries with far, far less income.

OK, so housing has gone up – so why have real wages seemingly gone down so rapidly? (i.e. why do most folks feel like they are just ‘treading water?’)

More interestingly – not only has housing increased, but Health Insurance costs may perhaps be the second major component to the problem of “declining wages”  Take a look here:


FRED - Housing + Health

As one can easily see – combining housing + health insurance costs, as a % of total employee compensation (or pay, in short) – steadily increased from 27-30% or so in the early 1970’s – to 56%+ (close to DOUBLE) in the present day.

Understanding the incredible increase in healthcare costs in terms of lost wages may be a bit tricky.  Unlike rent or a mortgage payment which is clearly paid by the employee – health care costs, besides being available with a myriad of options and also having a portion of it being covered by the employer – employees may not be as easy to “see” its true costs .

As a basic example, at my company, a plan with “pretty good” family coverage is about $1500/month. This works out to about $18000/year.

With median household income at less than $60000 a year[1], just healthcare alone is 30% of the PRE-TAX budget of an average family!

“But hold-up.. isn’t New York’s living expenses much higher?
Don’t New Yorkers earn alot more than the average US family?
Shouldn’t that increase be also taken into account?”

OK – let’s look at up… Unfortunately, the increase really isn’t much, at $58003 [2] . Working out the math, we’re STILL at over 30% of PRE-TAX dollars being spent on health insurance.

“But wait… it can’t be 30% of my budget.  Don’t most employers split or cover a portion of the cost of health insurance?”

Therein lies the issue.  Even with productivity increases, the increasing cost of just health insurance alone whittles away at many businesses abilities to increase their employee’s salaries accordingly when average yearly increases were in the realm of 10-11% per year. [3]

Granted, this rate is coming down with ACA / Obamacare being in affect in the past couple of years – but the increases have been happening for a long time.  For this article, let’s take a look at the more historical, longer time horizon perspective.

So, let’s do some quick math.  Let’s assume that:
– Our NY family earns the average $58000 income, pre-tax
– Health insurance takes up about 30% of a family’s actual compensation package / cost.
– The employer covers about 50% of this cost.
– The average annual increase in health insurance cost is 10%

So.. that works out to an average annual increase in $1800/year for insurance, or about  3.1% of the $58000 salary.

With this increase, whether the company or employee pays for it becomes immaterial.  Bottom line – before taking into account inflation, an average family is “losing” ~3% of their income / earning capabilities just because of rising health insurance costs.

Envision this – the company wants to give you a 5-7% raise…  but by the time they either cover the 3% increase in cost themselves, or deduct it off your paycheck – you’re only actually getting a paltry 2-4% NET.

So, forgetting Globalization for the moment, it’s easy to see how the two prongs of ever rising cost of housing plus exponentially increasing health insurance costs can easily cause the average worker’s income is flat-lining (or decreasing really, in real / inflation-adjusted dollar terms).


[1] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States#After_2010

[2] – http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html

[3] – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/upshot/in-context-health-premium-increases-dont-actually-look-like-increases.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

Best Practices : Affordable, yet Highly Reliable Data Storage and Backup

How do I backup my data securely, yet have access to it whenever I want, without the security and failure issues that can happen with Cloud-based Services?


I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about the best approach on storing, backing up, and protecting semi-sensitive content (such as designs & other IP).  I’ve been asked this same question a number of times, and figured an article that discusses what I’ve found for me to be “best practice” for affordable, yet highly reliable data storage and backup might be interesting to others as well.

First, let’s quick compare between the 2 most popular methods of data backup: Cloud vs local disk (attached of LAN) backups.

Cloud Backups

– Easy access anywhere
– Can be automated, “Set and forget”
– Low cost or even free (e.g. Google Drive)

– Possibly insecure
– Subject to failure (especially on free services), OR
– Recurring costs for services (Carbonite, etc.)
– Not suitable for large file sizes; takes awfully long to download TBs of data


Disc / Drive based

Computre Storage

– Secure
– Great for large sized files / where speed counts

– Must lug around media
– Media can be lost
– Inherent costs to start / upkeep per replication
– Generally not automated – needs additional custom software / configuration


The object here is to pull the convenience and benefits of Cloud storage, and combine that with the security, expandability, and fast upload/backup speeds of local storage.  I’ve used the following design with great results – here’s my general formula:

PC-to-Server Concept - FreeImages.com 1439271_12735323

“Best of Both Worlds” Design

1 – Order / Build your own RAID-protected FTP server
2 – Connect via uplink anytime via Dyndns.org services
3 – Keep it running at home/facility
4 – For additional security, back up said FTP server across LAN into another part of your home/facility

Server Software

On the server box’s software, I really recommend running it on a server OS platform.  For simplicity, I recommend Windows Home Server 2011.  While it’s been discontinued, licenses / discs can still be found on sites like eBay.  Windows 7/8 can also be used – but a server OS is best for stability reasons.

Server Hardware

While the temptation to build as low cost of a server as possible is always there – DON’T.  Spend the extra bucks and make sure it has field-expandable storage – you’ll thank yourself later.   We can also just start off with plenty of storage from the get go – but remember that storage drive prices drop over time, and by the time you need more storage, pricing has likely come down.  Remember: Drive space is cheap, and if time is valuable to you – expanding later on is just a lot of hassle.

For storage size, I recommend going for at least 4-6+TB at minimum, which should be suitable for most families at the time of writing. (Of course, more is needed if videos / movies are also digitized & stored, as they tend to eat up space quickly due to their massive file sizes.)

Automate the backup

Next, to automate the backup process from your PC, MAC, etc. – via software like Syncovery can be configured to do incremental updates via LAN and FTP synchronization.  Try it out here https://www.syncovery.com/

There are definitely others, but I’ve used Syncovery for YEARS and I’ve found it to be great.  Give it a whirl!

Making it Cloud-enabled

If you go outside of your LAN quite a bit, you’ll probably want FTP synchronization.  Be sure to set up a service like dyndns.org to keep your server box online and addressable directly even with a dynamic / DHCP address on your router – as your home/facility IP address is likely to change over time.

Then, configure and set your automated backup software above to target the FTP server running on your box – and your Cloud-enabled portion is ready to go!

Extra protection : Against Fire, Flood, and other Acts of God

For even more security – back up this new FTP server via LAN into another more basic LAN box – ideally elsewhere in the home / facility.  In the unlikely event of something like a fire, it’s not likely for it to hit (2) spots at once – allowing you to protect your data!


Properly built (or purchased from a custom shop), such a server would provide the following:

– Easy access anywhere
– Can be automated, “Set and forget”
– Never a need to lug around your media (no discs)
– RAID protected storage has built-in backups
– Can be additionally backed-up elsewhere in the same facility/home for more redundancy
– Secure – no one else has access to the files (Use SFTP for more security)
– No limit on file sizes, since you determine your storage space capabilities

– Cost of the initial server build
– Much more complex than either Cloud-based or disc/drive-based backups
– Recurring electric costs of running a server


Hope this helps!

Video : “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy”


Arithmetic, Population, and Energy

Titled “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy,” I agree with the Youtube uploader who called it “The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See.” A totally awesome video, IMO, in terms of breaking down into small, easily digestible chunks of how percentages / rates really work and how they apply in real life.

In 1 hour, the video explains the power of compounded percentages – in clear, concise terms even children can understand.  The video is somewhat old and dated, but the information therein remains totally relevant and absolute GOLD.

Definitely watch it when you have a chance!