Ten years ago, Joe Howard was a hip-hop MC in Miami and the Artist of the Month in Taboo Nights magazine. At the time, he was working as a bouncer at Club Mansion. It could be dangerous; a lot of bouncers wore bulletproof vests.
Once, Joe was threatened after work by a guy who had been refused admittance.
“That was one scary moment,” he said. The day he quit, “30 people on staff had to quell 200 people trying to riot and wreck the place. I got kicked in the head.”
Joe was also certified in home inspection. But the housing market in South Florida had tanked. Seattle was the second-hottest housing market in the country, so he moved here and took the state test.
“They wanted you to be a pest inspector along with being a home inspector and I didn’t do so well with the pest inspection.”
Instead, he found work at a day labor place. The manager “sent me out to these bad customers. There wasn’t proper equipment. I could only do the best that I could and that wasn’t enough for the customer, so he ended up trying not to pay me and putting the bad word back to the labor pool.” The manager just stopped sending him out, Joe said.
When Joe first saw Real Change, he wondered, “Are these people really making money or are they running some type of hustle?”
It turned out to be the former. Joe’s been at Real Change about five and a half years.
“The fun part is when I get to talk to people. If the cover story’s good I’ll pitch a question to make people feel curious. Sometimes it turns into a long-drawn conversation.”
Although Joe wouldn’t mind getting back into home inspection, what he’d really like is formal training in finance. Joe already knows a lot about the markets. “As the financial crisis deepened, I started studying business and economics,” he said. “I came across some money and opened up an account with OptionsXpress and started trading stock options two years ago.”
Joe also trades currencies against each other. He looks at charts and online investing sites to compare prices and analyze market conditions. He figures he comes out ahead 65 percent of the time.
“When I lose, it’s tough, but I get over it,” Joe said. “With the little bit of money I’ve put in the market, I’ve stayed in the game.”
Back in Miami, Joe was a songwriter. If he ever does make more money, he’d like to make some songs to put out on YouTube; “Just something to be remembered by.”
He’d choose a song he wrote called “Rising Warrior.”
“That’s what got me noticed in Miami. It’s about being down and out and having the spirit and inner strength and fortitude to just rise.”