by Peggy Schulz ()
Richard Moheban has lived in Riverwest since 1988 and he loves it. It’s not just because of the diversity of the neighborhood, which he admits sounds like a cliché. Much more important to Moheban is his belief that his neighbors are far less apt than the general population to judge people based solely on their appearance.
“That’s rare and part of the great energy here,” Moheban says. “There’s an atmosphere here that you can be who you want and do anything.”
Moheban goes on to extol the walkability in Riverwest, “for practically any need you have,” and the fabulous Milwaukee River.
“If they gave out awards for urban rivers, the Milwaukee River in Riverwest would win,” he says.
Moheban grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Both of his parents were school teachers. He credits their profession, at least in part, with his always-curious nature. And, he adds that, as a child, books provided the single-biggest source of both information and entertainment for him.
He moved to the Milwaukee area from Madison, where he had earned a BBA degree in finance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He worked for a relatively short period of time in accounting.
Moheban and his then-girlfriend, who also had graduated from UW-Madison, originally rented in Waukesha, where she worked.
“We were not real thrilled out there,” Moheban says. “We were looking for some excitement.”
Neither of them knew much, if anything, about the Milwaukee area at that time.
Moheban recalls that “we started hunting for a place on a gorgeous day in June, when the foliage was bright green.” The only particular asset they were seeking was proximity to Lake Michigan and UWM. They ultimately found an apartment in Riverwest. Moheban has been more than content to live here ever since.
After living and renting in Riverwest for seven years, Moheban decided to become a property owner.
“In 1995 I bought a run-down Riverwest duplex and set about rehabbing it myself, room-by-room,” Moheban says. Even though he had not owned so much as a drill up to that point, he decided to perform the necessary work himself. When asked how he knew how to do things such as strip paint and refinish wood floors, much less build a garage from the ground up, the answer echoes other facets of his life: “I read some books.” In this case, several books.
“I built a large deck and garage I am proud of, that frame a lovely back yard with a garden,” Moheban says. “Right now, I’m working on diverting the house downspouts to a rain garden.”
Moheban’s duplex is a block north of Burleigh. The upstairs tenant recently moved out, so Moheban is taking advantage of the time to do some additional rehab work in that unit. But he plans to re-rent it soon. And he’s considering buying additional rental property, also in the neighborhood he loves.
On the subject of walking in Riverwest, Moheban recently assembled a prototype of what he calls a “human trailer.” The idea for the device came to Moheban down a path similar to that traveled by so many other thoughts and concepts he’s worked with over the years: as the result of prior experience, extensive reading and an ability to put two and two together and come up with 164.
“I was having random thoughts about backpacking,” Moheban says, including the stress that a pack holding upwards of 20 or 30 pounds can exert on one’s spine. He recalled from his reading of history as a child, that the Plains Indians had a good, workable idea they put into practice. The travois was, essentially, a pair of sticks joined together that the Plains Indians would drag behind them, putting the weight of their belongings on the ground rather than on their backs.
It occurred to Moheban to add a wheel to that very basic design. But not a standard, bicycle-like wheel. Rather, he decided to use one that could turn on a pivot point, making it more adaptable to a variety of environments.
He grabbed some PVC pipe, some screws and bolts, the wheel and, voila! The human trailer was born.
Once Moheban had it constructed, he tested it by putting a huge duffel bag on it. He then walked from his home in Riverwest to the intermodal station on St. Paul Ave., a distance of about three miles.
“It readily handles uneven sidewalks and even jumps curbs with ease,” Moheban says, “but isn’t ready for mountain trails yet. I’ll tweak the design when I get some time.”
Currently the majority of Moheban’s time is taken up by investing. He names Warren Buffett as one of his heroes. But that’s not because Buffett has been wildly successful with his own investment strategies.
“He [Buffett] understands that more stuff won’t make him happier,” Moheban says. “Many of his ideas and views mirror my own thinking. He’s a kindred spirit.”
When people learn that Moheban is an investor, invariably the complex subject of socially-conscious investing arises. Moheban is proud to be an Outpost Co-op owner. When it comes to investing in “bad” companies versus “good” ones, he holds no absolute right or wrong policies. Moheban does suggest, however, that those striving to make positive changes in the operation of “bad” companies might consider that, by purchasing shares of stock and becoming stockholders themselves, they would then have the right to attend shareholder meetings – and, hopefully, begin to make improvements in how the business is run.
As Moheban breaks it down: “It’s much more effective to be inside the annual meeting, voting on a shareholder proposal you’ve put forth to end sweatshops, than to form a picket line outside the meeting protesting the sweatshops’ existence.”
Moheban is the author of Debunking the Hyperinflation of Peter Schiff and the Gold Bugs.
In the smallest possible nutshell, Moheban describes the “Panic of 2008,” when the stock market crashed, and the policy debate over “whether the government should spend wildly on stimulus and bailouts and worry about deficits later, or cut spending to rein in deficits and just let the dominos fall.” His book came down in the first camp, for the most part.
Moheban notes that, as it turned out, price inflation still remains low in the face of the very high monetary inflation.
“They aren’t one and the same; that’s a myth,” Moheban says.
Moheban also contributes to the website seekingalpha.com. Those contributions include his thoughts on “democracy for investors,” otherwise known as giving the small investor a voice.
Perhaps as a result of the reading Moheban has done since he was able to do so, he has a vocabulary rife with color, vibrancy and detail. Or maybe the lilt one can hear in his speech is a reflection of the fact that he’s played the guitar for 40 of his 50 years of life.
Beyond writing, investing and inventing, Moheban claims music as his first love. At age 10 he picked up a guitar belonging to his older brother and hasn’t put it down since. Well, not for extended periods of time.
“For the last 20 years I’ve focused on solo acoustic guitar,” Moheban says. “I’m thinking of looking for gigs at restaurants and receptions to perform background instrumental music as I used to years ago. I miss it.”
Moheban holds a BFA degree in music from UWM. He also has given guitar lessons for about 20 years.
Playing guitar, and music in general, are sources of relaxation for Moheban.
“I think about the music of my youth,” Moheban says. “There was so much great music written in the’70s, it was a really exciting time for music,” he says.
What’s next on the agenda for this man of many facets? That’s anybody’s guess.
“I always love learning something new,” Moheban says. “I need that stimulation.”
NOTE ON BOOK COPIES: Moheban is offering autographed copies of his book to Currents readers on a sliding “pay what you can” basis. Contact Peggy Schulz for more information.