How to get rich: Move to Bismarck, ND, and work in the Bakken oil reserve

Jobs on the Bakken reserve oilfield are paying unskilled workers as much as $120,000 a year. Even a local McDonald’s is paying $20 an hour.

This post is part of our long-running “How to get rich” series. Click see all the posts.

Hindsight is 20/20. I could have went to college and studied programming for mobile phones. I could have been a mid- to senior-level programmer by 2007 when the first-generation iPhone came out. I could have founded a mobile game development company and, well, started driving a Bentley.

No such luck. But I tell that what-if story to illustrate the point that we often identify trends in business long before that trend goes worldwide. But most of us don’t do a damn thing about it. A prime example of this is the newspaper industry. They reported on the Internet every day, while at the same time clinging to a print-first mentality that let younger, more nimble news start-ups steal eyeballs from them on the Web.

Like Wayne Gretzky skating to where the puck is going, we need to identify trends and get on the leading edge of them. This doesn’t mean we need to go to college and learn how to program applications for iPads. Getting on the leading edge of a trend could be as simple as an unemployed person in a town with high unemployment moving to a city where there are lots of high-paying jobs to be had.

Let’s take Bismarck, N.D. for instance. Forbes columnist Rich Karlgaard points out that the discovery of a major oilfield (the Bakken reserve) has lead to a surging job market where “unskilled laborers can make up to $120,000 a year.” The work’s 12 hours a day, seven days a week, two weeks on, two weeks off (and you might have to live in a barracks-like “man camp”), but there’s money to be had. Even a McDonald’s in the town of Williston is paying $20 an hour for counter help.

The whole thing sounds too good to be true. So I got on some job boards and starting looking for oilfield jobs in North Dakota. Lo and behold, I found at least one that’s willing to pay people with no experience up to $80,000 a year. You just have to be able to lift 50 pounds and stay alert for 12 hours in a row. Here’s the posting (and here’s a PDF screenshot of the posting for posterity in case the posting is ever taken down). The pay range is listed in the right-hand column at $50,000-$80,000 a year.

The world belongs to those who see opportunities and find ways to exploit them. It doesn’t matter if those opportunities are in our backyards or 2,000 miles away.


Five MORE cheap franchises to start with less than $10,000

We can all take a shot at starting our own businesses, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Here are five businesses you could launch with very little in the way of capital investment.

This is a follow-up to one of the most popular blog posts on this site: Five cheap franchises to start with less than $10,000. Here are five MORE businesses you could launch with very little in the way of capital investment:

1) Stroller Strides. Stroller Strides offers fitness programs for new moms and their babies. Since the business serves new mothers, it makes sense to have mothers run the company’s franchised outlets. Currently, Stroller Strides boasts of more than 1,200 locations in 44 states. Start-up costs range from $4,000 to $18,000 (per Entrepreneur).

2) GarageExperts. GarageExperts helps consumers “unclutter their worlds” by redesigning their garages to maximize storage and cleanliness. The company offers cabinets, floor coatings, racks and more. Start-up costs range from $4,600 to $20,500 (per Entrepreneur).

3) Buildingstars. A commercial cleaning company based in St. Louis, Buildingstars added 34 new franchisees in 2011. The company’s emphasis on “green cleaning” could be a part of that as it not only lowers costs for businesses, but protects the environment, too. Start-up costs range from $2,200 to $52,800 (per Entrepreneur).

4) Jazzercise. Jazzercise offers cardio classes that fuse jazz music, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing for a one-hour workout that burns up to 600 calories. The company now has nearly 8,200 locations across the country. Start-up costs range from $2,980 to $76,500 (per Entrepreneur).

5) Fairway Divorce Solutions. A company that helps its clients agree on the best financial and custodial options during a divorce, Fairway serves as a mediator during the often-painful process of splitting up. The company added eight locations in 2011. Start-up costs range from $10,000 to 35,000 (per Entrepreneur).

Other low-cost franchises include In Home Pet Services ($7k+) and restroom deodorizing company Aerowest/Westair Deodorizing Services ($8.5K+).


Top 10 silver price predictions for 2012

Last spring’s rapid sell-off in silver prices burnt a lot of investors, and they’re hesitant to enter the precious metals market. Will that change in 2012?

While gold was up more than 10 percent in 2011, silver prices quietly declined for the year. No one wants to remember that fact. What everyone does remember, though, was the sizzling hot spike the metal had when it shot to nearly $50 an ounce in April. For the entire year, though, silver was actually down 10 percent, falling from $31 an ounce in January to $28 an ounce in December.

Silver’s fireworks saw the metal rise 80 percent in three months last spring. When prices collapsed, the bottom fell out just as quickly. The metal crumpled 30 percent in five days! That rapid sell-off burnt a lot of investors, and they’re likely hesitant to re-enter the market.

Here’s what the pros think in a round-up of the Top 10 silver price predictions for 2012 from various sources around the web:

1) $33.21 an ounce. A Reuters survey of 45 analysts predicts silver prices averaging $33.21 an ounce in 2012 and $35 an ounce in 2013.

2) $34 an ounce. With low interest rates from the Federal Reserve, James Steel, analyst at HSBC, tells TheStreet he sees silver prices averaging $34 an ounce in 2012. He believes increased industrial demand could make up for any price weakness.

3) $60 an ounce. David Morgan, the publisher of the Morgan Report, has called for $60 silver by year end. “The key is to get through that $50 psychological barrier,” Morgan told Hard Assets Investor recently. “It’s probably going to take a couple of tries. And I do believe at some point it will. Once it does that, you could see silver go up from $50 to $60 in a matter of two weeks.”

4) $44.49 an ounce. A survey of members of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) shows they’re anticipating an average silver price of $33.98 an ounce in 2012 with a year-long high of $44.49 (that would be good for a 30+ percent gain on the year), per MineWeb.

5) $32.70 an ounce. Credit Suisse lowered their silver forecast from $33.70 per ounce to $32.70 per ounce (per SilverInvestingNews), but they did expect that a growing appetite for risk among investors could help the metal rise higher.

6) $35.48 an ounce. Morgan Stanley slashed their 2012 prediction for silver prices in 2012 from $50 an ounce to an average of $35.48 (per SilverInvestingNews). That’s a cut of nearly 30 percent.

7) Between $22 and $45 an ounce. Barclays believes silver will average $32.50 an ounce in 2012, per CommodityOnline. They also believe the metal will demonstrate more of its infamous volatility by touching a low near $22 an ounce and a high of $45 an ounce.

8) $100 an ounce. “With gold having passed $1700 (twice the 1980 high of $850) already … it stands to reason that $100 (twice the 1980 high of $50) silver is achievable,” Hubert Moolman writes on SeekingAlpha. Moolman argues that silver shadows moves in gold by several years. Just as gold broke through all-time highs four years ago, he thinks silver’s poised to do the same in 2012.

9) $50-$99 an ounce. Newsletter writer Patrick A. Heller gives 50/50 odds that we’ll see silver prices between $50 and $99 an ounce in 2012, per CoinUpdate. That’s by far the most likely range he believes the metal will land in by the end of the year (although he does give 14 percent odds silver will close out 2012 between $25 and $49 an ounce).

10) THE OPTIMIST: $200 an ounce. Gijsbert Groenewegen of Silver Arrow Capital Management told Forbes last week that a crumbling dollar could thrust silver up to $200 an ounce (per IBTimes).

I fully expect gold and silver stocks to outperform bullion prices in 2012. Check out our new book Top 500 Gold and Silver Stocks to learn more about our favorite miners.


Top 10 gold price predictions for 2012

With gold prices up 10 percent in January alone, where do professional analysts predict gold prices will go in 2012?

The gold market got a powerful jolt last week when the Federal Reserve announced plans to keep interest rates at historic lows through at least 2014. It was a sign, perhaps, that the gold rally has more than a year’s worth of climbing to do (until the Fed gets serious about combating inflation). The news has helped push gold prices up 10 percent in January alone, and that’s got us wondering what’s in store for the metal in 2012. Let’s take a look then at the Top 10 gold price predictions for 2012:

1) An average price of $1,765 an ounce. A Reuters survey of 45 analysts predicted an average spot gold price of $1,765 an ounce in 2012. That’s 14 percent higher than last year’s average spot price for gold.

2) New all-time high for gold. After getting pressed in an interview with the Washington Post, Puru Saxena, chief executive officer of Puru Saxena Wealth Management, didn’t name a price target for gold, but he did say: “My best guess is the price of gold could reach a new high.”

3) $2,300 an ounce. That prediction comes from Peter Schiff, a former U.S. senatorial candidate from Connecticut. He believes 2012 will be the year the dollar finally starts to “fizzle” out (per ETFDailyNews). “We’re a long way from a blow-off top that you would get at the end of a bubble,” Schiff said in the interview. “We might eventually get there, but we’re years away and thousands of dollars an ounce away.”

4) $1,845 an ounce. Global banking giant Morgan Stanley revised their gold price predictions lower on Jan. 17. They believe gold will average $1,845 an ounce in 2012.

5) $1,681 an ounce. Investment bank Goldman Sachs was more bullish than Morgan Stanley. On Jan. 9, they were predicting gold would hit a new record of $1,940 an ounce in 2012 (per Bloomberg). Two weeks later, they were revising that figure down to $1,681 an ounce in 2012.

6) $1,892 an ounce. Barclays Capital believes the yellow metal will surge 21 percent on the year. That said, they also believe the gold price could go even higher by Q3 2012: “Gold is likely to reach a new all-time record high above $2,000 per ounce during the third quarter of 2012.” (per IBT).

7) $1,450-$1,750 an ounce. Jeffrey Wright, senior research analyst at Global Hunter Securities, believes gold will remain range bound for the year between $1,450 and $1,750 an ounce (per NuWireInvestor). He echoes many other analysts, though, in arguing that we will likely see a sprint north of $2,000 an ounce in 2012 at some point during the year.

8) $1,000 an ounce. The bulls are tempered by Jon Nadler, a senior analyst at Nadler argues gold will hit $1,000 an ounce before it hits $2,000 an ounce. “The question will remain for 2012, to what extent will investment demand be able to remain the principle driver and continue to attract interest from speculators and investors,” Nadler told TheStreet.

9) $3,000 an ounce. John Ing of Maison Placements Canada Inc. expects to see gold at $3,000 an ounce in 2012. “There’s just a lack of compelling investment alternatives,” Ing writes.

10) A Long-Term Prediction: $3,600 an ounce. Frank Holmes, CEO of U.S. Global Investors, believes gold prices could double in the next five years to $3,600 an ounce (per NuWireInvestor). “Does anyone really believe in the long term strength of the U.S. dollar … We’re just going to have to live with this volatility for another 12 months,” Holmes told NuWire.

The biggest beneficiary of high gold prices in 2012 could be gold and silver mining stocks. See which companies we think our poised for success in our BRAND NEW book: the Top 500 gold and silver mining stocks.