The Morning News recently posted an article that asked several people for their advice on how to invest a single dollar. Here, we summarize and rate that advice.
Investor: Dev Aujla, Founder, DreamNow, New York City
Recommendation: Buy an abandoned theater, fix it up
Rating: Disqualified. Even if you do as suggested and “raise money” it’s likely that you will at some point need to spend more than the dollar you were given in order to make this happen.
Investor: Rev. Winnie Varghese, Rector at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, New York City
Recommendation: Invest in a local credit union
Rating: Credit unions are non-for-profit entities, and generally are not publicly traded, so I’m not sure what this person means here. Perhaps we’re talking about opening an account and placing a single dollar in it. However, there is much variation in how different credit unions operate, so one must be careful that the account one opens does not have a minimum balance requirement with regard to avoiding fees (which will eliminate your dollar). However, if one engages the services of a teller to open the account, and if that process takes them about fifteen minutes, one may get some return: Assuming the teller makes the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, you will effectively be obtaining $1.81 of service from that person. One star.
ROI: + 81¢
Investor: Xanthea O’Connor, Street Performer, Perth, Australia
Recommendation: None given
Investor: Chris Maddox, Creator of The Wild Woman Project, West Stockbridge, Mass.
Recommendation: Stare at the dollar, and maybe think of something
Rating: Difficult to nail down. You may be inspired to come up with a brilliant money-making idea, but unless that idea requires no investment larger than a single dollar, anything you dream of will necessarily be disqualified, per the rules of this exercise. But it is possible, we suppose. Half a star.
ROI: $0 to $∞
Investor: Serena Keith, Director of Product at Lovely, San Francisco, Calif.
Recommendation: Buy a cup of coffee for someone you admire, on the condition that they let you sit and talk with them while they drink it
Rating: The average price for a cup of coffee in the United States is a little over two dollars. You may of course be able to find a cheaper cup, but you may therefore have to travel to get it — which is not a problem if your guest is willing to cover the cost of transpiration. Also, unless you spend more than the allowed amount for investment, you’ll have nothing to drink yourself, so you’ll just be staring at the person while they sip their low-quality brew and (hopefully) drop pearls of wisdom on you. May I suggest finding a hotel that serves free coffee in its lobby? There are usually chairs there, too. However, getting to the hotel will cost you more than a dollar unless you walk. Also, unless your guest gives you an idea to make money without spending any, you’ll break the one dollar rule if you act on their advice. One star
ROI: $0 to $∞ ($0 more likely
Investor: Daisy Freund, Senior Manager of the Farm Animal Welfare Dept., ASPCA, Brooklyn, NY
Recommendation: Buy and plant an edible perennial vegetable
Rating: While many perennial seeds do indeed sell for less than a dollar, one must have at least a small patch of land to grow them in. If you’ve got that, then there’s nothing stopping you — unless your soil might contain toxins. You may need to have it tested (a test for lead appears to be around $20). Not necessarily a disqualifier though, if you’re willing to risk your health — or anyone else’s, should you decide to sell your harvest. Half a star.
ROI: Potentially poisonous vegetables
Investor: Jessie King, Social Worker, Boston
Recommendation: Donate it
Rating: Barely qualifies as an investment. The only possible returns you may receive are either a sense of well-being emanating from your perception of yourself as a good and altruistic person, or a highly hypothetical, extremely attenuated benefit of the “what comes around goes around” type. You are generally improving the world, but not very much. You could probably get the same return by smiling at a stranger or something. I throw a star out to the universe, I’m sorry, you’re all going to have to split it.
ROI: Very, very little
Investor: Phillip Stockton, Filmmaker, New York City
Recommendation: Bury it, draw a map to it
Rating: DQ. You’ll need map drawing supplies, which puts you over the one dollar limit.
ROI: Aside from the satisfaction you feel regarding your own cleverness, nothing.
Investor: Mike Merrill, “World’s First Publicly Traded Person,” Portland, Ore.
Recommendation: Burn it
Rating: While many investments result in losing your capital, this should not be confused with intentionally destroying capital. At least when you lose money on a financial instrument, you can comfort yourself with the thought that its not really gone — only stolen. Anyway, this barely qualifies, since the potential return on investment here is that your friends will reject your melodramatic, “am I blowing your mind?” pretentiousness, meaning that you’ll wind up alone a lot. When your repeated attempts to re-establish contact result in a brick being thrown through your window, you may at least sell the brick. I would give this entry a star, but I torched it.
ROI: Free brick, ashes
Investor: Hal Ross, Retired Hedge Fund Manager, Palm Beach, Fla.
Recommendation: 1. Don’t invest it. 2. Hire someone smart to invest it
Rating: Option one is disqualified by default. Option two… well, one suspects that anyone who is good with money is not willing to work for free. If you only have a dollar to invest, how will you pay them?
ROI: The hearty laughter of a financial professional
Investor: Patrick Martinez, Admissions Manager at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, New York City
Recommendation: Unclear: Either you should start a small business first, then earn a dollar, then frame and display that dollar so that it can inspire people, or find a business that just now opened, and give that dollar to them so that they can frame and etc, etc.
Rating: DQ’ed. Twice
ROI: Confusion, mostly
Investor: Erin Markey, Musician/Writer/Performer, New York City
Recommendation: Tip a barista
Rating: The idea is that the more you tip, the more likely you are to get free things. Since the rules are you’ve only got a dollar, one suspects that you won’t get much for free in return. On the other hand, if you don’t buy any coffee at all, you will save yourself around two bucks (see above). No stars. The give-a-star/take-a-star tray was empty.
ROI: Vague hopes
Investor: Rena Singer, Communications Director at Landesa, Seattle
Recommendation: Donate it to The Girls Project
Rating: While this is certainly a fine use of a dollar, the rules of this exercise permit us the use of only one dollar. Thus, if we donate this buck to this cause, that’s it. That’s all we can donate. Instead, we suggest you donate a different dollar that you might have, along with several of its friends. As for your original, strings-attached dollar? We have no idea.
Investor: Emily Bryngelson, Fashion Designer, Brooklyn, NY
Recommendation: Buy something at Goodwill, then design a product “inspired” by it
Rating: If you haven’t been there in awhile, you may be surprised to learn that $1 doesn’t get you very much from the Goodwill anymore, but if you’re not picky you may find… something. Letting it inspire you to design a different, salable product though will inevitably take you beyond the one dollar limit, however. Incidentally, it can apparently cost $5,000 a year for schooling toward a degree in fashion design, so we’ve got to take that into account. One star, but it’s bespoke, so it’s really really nice.
ROI: One item from Goodwill, which probably smells pretty bad
Investor: Ben Harrison, US Marine, San Diego, Calif.
Recommendation: Give it to somebody working on clean-water issues
Rating: We’ve been lenient towards the donation suggestions — which aren’t technically investments and, when capped to a single dollar, are nearly useless anyway — but enough’s enough. Disqualified.
ROI: Feel good, and so on and so forth
Investor: Rob Friedman, Risk Associate, New York City
Recommendation: Buy a (creditable) newspaper, and then…?
Rating: The intention here is obviously that you should learn something from the information that the paper carries, but if information is all you’re after, why not read the free copy at the library? On the other hand, a physical newspaper has lots of uses, most of which require that you actually own the copy you’re stuffing into your hat or whatever. Though it’s not what the investor intended, this one actually turns out to be pretty good advice. Four stars!
ROI: See the above link about the uses of newspaper
Investor: Robin Sloan, Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, Berkeley, Calif.
Recommendation: Play a classic video game
Rating: Um, okay. But surely this is merely spending rather than investing. Unless you spend one quarter to play the game, and gamble the rest on how you’ll do, maybe. Four one-quarter stars.
ROI: If some sucker gives you even money, you stand to make 75¢
Investor: rAndom International, Design Studio, London
Recommendation: None given
Investor: Tom Henske, Partner at Lenox Advisors, New York City
Recommendation: “I can’t say how to invest one dollar for any given person.”
Rating: Oh, there’s more, but nothing that actually fits the rules. DQ’ed.
Investor: Laura Lee, “Scotland’s Premier Escort,” Glasgow, UK
Recommendation: Draw a poster, make photocopies, post those copies
Rating: Getting out your message is a good thing. Probably not the worst way to spend a dollar, but the return on investment is terrible, since it’s going to take a great deal more than that to change the world. Three stars for good intentions, minus two for not making anyone any money.
ROI: Hard to say, really
Investor: Filip Marinovich, Poet/Occupy Wall Street Participant, New York City
Recommendation: Give it to somebody, but only if they’re on the subway and they ask for it
Rating: We’re of two minds on this. On the one hand, this is another donate-rather-than-invest type of suggestion. On the other hand, you never know if someone on the subway who asks you for money will snap if you don’t give it to them. So you could be investing in not being verbally assaulted at the very least. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a drug addict… if any of you could spare some stars today, I would really appreciate it.