This scam is most commonly encountered when you are trying to sell something online like on Facebook Marketplace. It is a form of the fake payment scam. The scammer will claim they send a payment. You will then get an email saying you need to upgrade to a business account but there is not such things as having to pay to upgrade to a business account in order to receive funds from someone else. The scammer may even claim they sent you extra money and you need to send the money back.
Money goes straight to your bank account from Zelle, you don’t have to actually accept it.
Zelle has no purchase protection. You can’t ask for the money back because the other party didn’t deliver. Only unauthorized transactions can be reversed.
Always require cash from online marketplaces. Zelle, CashApp are only for people you know and trust. Zelle transactions can work just based on phone numbers. Email addresses are not necessary. Always look at the From email address. It will usually have a strange domain address. If you are going to meet someone, do not allow third parties.
Many scams use a sort of intelligence filter so that the only people that fall for them are easy pickings, and it essentially becomes like shooting fish in a barrel. Scammers don’t want to waste time on a mark, only for the victim to realize what is happening.
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It is convenient to argue that the reason State Farm and other insurance companies have left California is because of climate change but this is not entirely true, or the whole reason. It is true part of the issue is California’s poor forest management, and drought conditions in general.
Did you know California is the only state that requires insurers to set premiums based on historical experience? The result is that insurers are required to base rates on prior decades when wildfires were less frequent and intense than they are now. Companies are prohibited from factoring in the increased likelihood of droughts going forward. The environmentalists in California will argue that droughts and wild fires are becoming more prevalent and increasing in frequency and intensity as time passes. Then why does the state prohibit insurance companies from planning around this assumption?
The real issue with operating in California is the state’s hostility to the insurance industry.
State Farm could not accurately price risk into its rates and raise them to cover the ballooning liabilities the company faces. Other companies like AIG and Chubb have been reducing their business dealings in California.
As if this was not bad enough, construction costs in Calfornia are surging. The cost to build a house on average excluding land is $1.35 million. The reason is the state’s burdensome building code, extensive red table, and high energy and labors costs.
California is not lashing out at insurers, claiming they are prioritizing short term financial goals instead of protecting consumers in California. This isn’t true. These companies are protecting their customers, investors, and creditors. The state should not be driving insurers out. They are reducing competition and forcing customers into state established insurers of last resort.
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You can see that things that are necessities have increased in relative price. This could be due to a real scarcity in the market. Necessities have genuine supply chain issues that go back decades.
In contrast, the price of luxury items has largely stayed the same or decreased, and this may be due in part to artificial scarcity.
Homes are prohibitively expensive to build, and the technology and materials haven’t really changed much over the decades. It is rare you will see a house torn down and rebuilt but renovations are common.
It is quite remarkable how the cost of college tuition have continuously increased. Student loans are guaranteed by the government. Colleges can effectively charge whatever they want with no risk of default. Even in bankruptcy or death, student loans can be erased.
Another way to look at this is that education and healthcare have inelastic demand where they demand for these does not change based on price change. Consumer habits stay largely the same whether the price increases or decreases. In contrast, elastic demand experiences significant change in demand when the price changes. Medication is inelastic but luxury items like vacations and jewelry is elastic.
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A house where a murder was committed would be just one example of a stigmatized property.
Houses that were the site of grisly crimes or murder can lose 10% to 25% of their value but the stigma can go away almost entirely after 10 to 25 years.
You might be able to get a good deal on a stigmatized property but you will have a tougher time reselling the house.
Legally required disclosures vary from state to state. In general, the seller is not required to tell you the property was the scene of a infamous murder or crime unless the death is directly related to the condition or location of the house. I do not think many realtors would hide the fact the property is stigmatized, because, after all, you would just hear it from the neighbors.
Almost 60% of stigmatized houses are home to regular people. Only about 20% of these homes are purchased by corporate entities for investment purposes.
When you ask people this question, the amount of people saying they would buy a murder house is very telling about the state of the real estate market.
If you have an older house, it is highly likely that someone died in it at some point.
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Spain’s Dual Labor System
Overregulation and excessive labor protections in Spain makes employers reluctant to offer permanent contracts because the cost of firing employees is very expensive. Therefore, Spanish employers prefer to offer temporary work contracts to avoid the costs of dismissing an employee. The result is that between one quarter to one third of employment in Spain is temporary. These workers have few rights and are easily fired.
Businesses need to be flexible, but workers require job stability. Businesses need to react to demand shocks, disruptive technology, and changing costs. The costs of firing employees with regular work contracts are excessive.
The duality of Spain’s labor market increases unemployment volatility.
Increases in the number of temporary workers reduced the number of days they work and their earnings.
Spanish workers have become discouraged and are leaving the labor force. The labor force participation rate has declined in Spain since 2012.
Spain should make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers on permanent contracts. Another alternative is to eliminate temporary contract employment entirely and transition to a single, unified employment system.
Increasing permanent jobs in Spain will improve the employment situation for workers and allow low skilled workers to gain more on the job training.
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The social security tax on employers in Spain is almost 30% which is high.
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I’m often saying to invest in the S&P 500, but this is because most of you are investing in only a couple companies, some of you own only one stock and that’s the company you are employed at. However, you should not be only investing in the S&P 500 because diversification is the name of the game in personal finance. You don’t want all your eggs in one basket.
Since its inception the S&P 500 has averaged 11.8% annually.
The issue with the S&P 500 is that you are overexposed to large cap companies in the USA. You actually want some exposure to international markets. The S&P 500 and international stocks take turns outperforming each other. People often cite the years 2001 to 2009 when S&P 500 returns were averaging a little more than 1% per a year as a reason to get international exposure.
Target date funds are technically more diversified than the S&P 500. If you are purchasing them through your workplace, the expense ratio is likely going to be higher than what you can get on your own. However, the expense ratios wherever you may buy them is still quite low.
It can be argued that the S&P 500 will outperform the target date fund over the long term. The expense ratio of the S&P 500 will almost always be lower than that of a target date fund. One of the biggest things I drill into you is that there is not a whole lot you can control, but you can control the investment you choose based on the expense fee.
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7) Nvidia hit $1 trillion on 5/30/23
6) Tesla hit $1 trillion on 10/25/21 and has since fallen to around $612 billion
5) Meta Platforms hit $1 trillion on 6/28/2021 and has seince fallen to $671 Billion
4) Alphabet Google hit $1 trillion on 7/22/2020 and has since rose almost 60% to $1.6 Trillion
3) Amazon his $1 trillion on 2/4/2020 and has since risen 20% to $1.2 trillion
2) Microsoft his $1 trillion on 4/30/2019 and has since more than doubled to $2.5 trillion
1) Apple hit $1 trillion on 8/2/2018 and has since almost tripled to $2.8 trillion
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Everyone is talking about how Nvidia has become America’s most valuable semiconductor company and is approaching a $1 trillion market capitalization. Nvidia is fabless meaning it designs but does not manufacture semiconductors. In contrast, Intel both designs its own chips, as well as manufacturers both its own chips and other company’s chips.
Intel rose to power in the 80’s and 90’s making CPUs. In the 2000s, the company failed to make progress producing chips for cellphones and computer graphics.
The current situation stems from a botched transition in how chips are made.
Intel’s current plan is to expand factories and create foundries to attract orders.
Currently there is a glut of chips in the market.
On April 27th, the company posted its worst quarterly loss in its history. It’s undertaking aggressive cost cutting. A $200 million research center in Israel was scrapped as well as a $700 million lab in Oregon.
The goal is to make Intel the second biggest contract chip maker after TSMC.
To be transparent, I own TSMC, I like TSMC, but I acknowledge the risk of a mainland invasion of Taiwan. If this invasion does happen, that might help Intel.
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It’s no secret that office buildings are sitting vacant. However, this does not mean that America’s big cities are empty. In fact, foot traffic and rent data show strong performance for neighborhoods throughout New York, Chicago, and LA. The activity is not happening in office districts, but rather neighborhoods that have apartments, bars, and restaurants.
Some people predicted a downward spiral for big cities as remote workers shifted to cheaper and more spacious places to live. While that did happen to come degree, population loss in cities has slowed or reversed. Many remote workers continue to live in cities and frequent the bars, cafes, shops, and restaurants in their own neighborhoods which is driving business. For example, foot traffic in downtown Chicago is down, but foot traffic is up in neighborhoods like Logan Square. Grubhub data shows less corporate lunches are being sold in the traditional business districts.
Falling commercial building values present a looming issue with city budgets and tax revenue.
The housing shortage continues to keep rents elevated.
This is a reminder to support your local businesses.
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Disney’s Orlando Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel is a 100 room hotel opened in March 2022 as a two night, themed adventure. It hasn’t even been two years but it is slated to close in September 2023.
It was a risky gamble that never caught on with fans due to its outrageous pricing, small rooms, boring interiors, and low entertainment value. Given Disney’s declining stock price, and focus on cost cutting, the hotel seemed a logical thing to shutter. The minimum price for a pair of guests was $4,809 for a mere two nights during off peak times. The cost for a family of four would be $6,000. Imagine all the things you could spend five to six thousand on rather than a two night stay at a Disney hotel in Orlando.
Disney struggled to get bookings, so they started pushing huge discounts.
The lesson is that the consumer is extremely cost sensitive especially during poor economic times.
As much as Disney is trying to blame Governor DeSantis, there are certainly economic factors occurring, and more specific issues with their business and operations.
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There was a time when pinball machines were viewed as encouraging gambling. In the 1940s, the mayor of New York City would smash them with a sledgehammer. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it was demonstrate that pinball is a game of skill rather than pure luck.
Video games became mainstream and widespread in the 1980s and 1990s which pulled players away from pinball machines. The largest manufacturer, Bally and Williams, stopped manufacturing them in 2000 to focus on slot machines instead.
However, since 2008, pinball machine sales have been on the rise. Stern Pinball, located in Chicagoland, has plans to double the size of their factory. These machines can fetch prices over $10,000.
Nostalgia seems to be fueling the boom. A generation of children that were raised on pinball machines and arcades now has the money to burn on their own machines.
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Did you know there are over 4,100 commercial bank in the USA? In Britain there is only 353 and Germany only has 261.
In the 19th century, there were regulations that restricted where banks could operated, and these regulations varied from state to state. Some banks were permitted to open anywhere in their home state while other states banned branches altogether. The logic was to prevent banks from becoming to powerful. However, states were earning a significant about of money from dividends and taxes on chartered banks which created an incentive to avoid the expansion of out of state banks.
The 1970s saw deregulation, as well a new technology like the ATM.
Today, big banks control a large part of the banking industry in the USA holding 42% of assets versus 11% in 1990.
In 2018, Congress adjusted the asset thresholds which determine how strict regulatory oversight is. Given recent turmoil, Congress might lower the threshold at which additional scrutiny kicks in. Therefore, banks are likely strategizing if they want more or less assets.
Given the recent chaos in the banking industry, there will be even more consolidation.
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Volkswagen has struggled to capture more than a small share of the market in the United States, only about 4.1% across its brands that include Audi and Porsche. Currently, China makes up over half of the company’s sales but it is on the backfoot as Chinese manufacturers capture increasingly more market share. The most profitable segment of the US auto market is SUVs and pickup trucks. Volkswagen is making a huge bet on the USA and electric vehicles by resurrecting the Scout brand, a defunct property of Navistar which is acquired in 2020.
To be fully transparent, I worked at Navistar, and witness Volkswagen acquiring the company. International Harvester, which would become Navistar, produced the Scout from 1961 to 1980.
My concern is there is not going to be a gas or diesel version, the Scout will be all electric. Business Insider had an article about a Rivian owner that was stranded in Upstate New York when his vehicles died driving in a snow drift.
The vehicle should have drain holes in the floorboards, no carpets, so you can wash the mud out with a garden hose.
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I’m going to cover the most preliminary basics of personal finance and the sequence you should do things in.
Step 1: Get a understanding of where your income is coming from and what you expenses are with a budget. You want to minimize expenses where possible. You should look to limit spending on entertainment, eating out, and clothes.
Step 2: Once you budget and reduce your expenses, start putting aside money for an emergency fund. Any of us could lose our jobs at any time or have unexpected costs like medical procedures or something breaking. The goal is to have an emergency fund with 3 to 6 months of expenses.
Step 3: Once you have an emergency fund, find out if your employer will match retirement contributions. There is a limit to how much they will max, so try and take full advantage of this. The reason I want you to contribute before paying debt is the matching funds essentially guaranteed, risk free money.
Step 4: Start paying down high interest debt. The avalanche method involves paying debt in order of highest interest rate. The snowball method involves paying the debt with the smallest balances first.
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If you just got a large medical bill and you are freaking out, I’m going to walk you through what you should do. Most people are drowning in the cost of living at this point and can’t afford all their bills. If you don’t pay the medical bill, it will go to collections. There should be a minimum monthly payment option. Before you start paying the minimum payment, contact the hospital and see if there is financial aid or charity options.
A lot of time, if you flip over the bill, on the back there will be a form you can fill out. If there isn’t a form on the back on the bill, go to the hospital’s website and find the patient assistance section. You need to communicate that you are uninsured or underinsured. It will almost always be worth your time to contact the hospital and communicate your situation.
If you financial situation has changed lately, reapply for financial help from the hospital.
Also, ask the hospital for an itemized bill. Try and make sure the bill reflects the treatment you received. If the bill is correct, try and negotiate the amount you owe.
It may take multiple phone calls. Keep track of who you talked to, and try and get on a payment plan you can afford.
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Homeowners through much of Florida and the Gulf Coast, especially places like Louisiana, are seeing their home insurance premiums go through the roof. They may even be dropped by their insurance company.
Many insurance companies are leaving the area entirely. The issue involve both legitimate and fraudulent insurance claims related to hurricanes and other weather events.
The roofing companies have “canvassers” with zero construction experience going through neighborhoods and recommending major repairs to homeowners. The contractor or roofer will promise to rebuild your roof or siding for very little money because they plan on getting insurance to cover it because it is storm damage. The contractor goes to the insurance company and asks for money to fix the roof, even though the roof may be over twenty years old. If the insurance company refuses to pay for the roof, the roofer calls in a lawyer to sue the insurance company. If the homeowner and contractor win, they could get an award plus attorney fee’s multiplied by a multiplier of three. In addition, the insurance company has to pay their own legal costs. Therefore, it is cheaper for the insurance company to pay out the claims, but then raise the premeiums for homeowners. At this point, more than 3/4th of insurance related lawsuits originate from Florida.
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State Farm is the nation’s largest car and home insurer by premium volume.
California has been trying to maintain a vibrant insurance market for homeowners despite the persistent threat of wildfire. In addition to the risks of natural disasters, construction costs have gotten out of control in much of the state. Construction costs in the state have outpaced even the high rate of inflation. California is increasingly unprofitable for insurers to operate in, despite raising premiums. There is a rapidly growing risk of catastrophe exposure. Insurance for insurance companies is called reinsurance, and this has posed a significant challenge to the company. It is becoming more expensive and difficult for insurance companies to protect themselves and remain profitable.
For now, home insurance policyholders that have State Farm will be able to keep their policies in effect, but the company will stop accepting new home and business policies.
Many homeowners in California believe their insurance rates are unfairly high. However, the decision for State Farm to exit California demonstrates that even at these inflated premium rates, California is still not worth the risk of conducting new business in.
In 2022, State Farm’s auto insurance business alone reported losses of $13.4 billion
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It is not secret that a lot of people, including myself, have very little respect for Cathie Woods. ARKK sold Nvidia in early January, just before the artificial intelligence frenzy. For a investment firm that prides themselves in emerging technology and researching it, how could she not have predicted the rise of AI, and that computer chip companies would profit handsomely from it?
Nvidia is up $560 billion since Cathie Woods sold it. She claimed that the stock was overpriced. I am confused, because a stock being overpriced has never stopped her before.
I have long advised you to just buy the S&P 500 and hold it long term. This again demonstrates by point that these fund managers that are actively managing stocks, going in and out, in and out, are not able to foresee the future. If the person, and fund, that is dedicated to disruptive technology did not see this coming, what hope does a regular person have.
Chat GPT released in 2022. Cathie Woods should have stayed in the stock. She has had months to reopen her position in Nvidia and she didn’t do it. Yet people continue to pay her to gamble money away in the stock market on overpriced tech stocks.
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One of the largest drains on profit for a store is returns because of shipping, warehousing, and labor costs. Also, by the time returns are processed, many items are out of seasons and have to be sold on clearance. On average it costs more than $25 for every $100 of returned merchandise processed.
Stores are increasingly focusing on profit rather than sales growth. Rising interest rates means there is less capital to invest.
Privacy changes on the part of Apple and other technology companies means it is more costly to acquire customers.
While customers say that free returns are important to them, they will continue to shop at retailers that charge for returns which demonstrates a difference between what people say and what they will actually do. In fact, sixty-six percent
Amazon is now warning shoppers about items with high return rates.
Some stores like Zara and H&M are charging shoppers for sending returns by mail. Other stores are offering discounts if the customer agrees not to return the item.
A small portion of customers represent that majority of returns. The 80-20 rule applies to many things and it can be applied to generally say 20% of the customers represent 80% of returns.
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Artificial intelligence applications are driving demand for computing power, in particular, language generating AI. Nvidia’s chips are being used to create AI tools. One AI system alone can use thousands of Nvidia chips which are essentially computing engines. The market’s adoption of ChatGPT is already resulting in a surge of chip orders.
While there are fears this is a one time sales acceleration, there is evidence to suggest that these sales could be sustainable as part of a long term trend. Big data centers are retooling their computers with AI. We are likely to see the global data center infrastructure industry transition towards generative AI throughout their businesses.
Nvidia is arguably the best positioned company to ride the wave of AI adoption. However, there are also fears Nvidia will not be able to supply the demand.
As we speak here at the end of May, Nvidia is closing in on a one trillion dollar market capitalization.
Nvidia does not manufacture the chips themselves, but contracts them to chip markers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, TSMC.
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Criminals are stealing checks and using chemicals to remove the ink so they can write new amounts and recipients. You will often here on the news about postal workers being robbed of their postal keys. Checks have very few security features and are easy to alter or counterfeit. Criminals can even deposit checks on their phones avoiding a trip to the bank.
There were almost 700,000 check fraud reports in 2022 which is almost double the frauds reported in 2021.
1. The simplest way to protect yourself is to limit how many checks you are writing to the absolute minimum. There are person to person payment alternatives like Zelle, Cash App, or Venmo.
2. You should regularly monitor your bank account at least once a week but preferably daily. It can take as long as seven months for a bank to investigate fraud on a customer’s account. Criminal activity happens the most on holidays when banks are closed. Check fraud is especially prevalent during tax season.
3. Use blue or black gel-ink pens and make sure to spell everything out including the dollar amount.
4. Go directly to the post office to mail your check, do not leave it in the mailbox in front of your house.
5. Seal the check in a windowless envelope.
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They go by many names: granny flats, in-law suits, secondary suits, etc. ADUs are self-contained living units on the same lot as a single family home. They often include a kitchen and bathroom. They can be basement apartments, detached cottages, or even garages.
Historically, early settlers would built a small home to live in while they constructed a larger, primary house. In the early 20th century, landowners would often built additional homes on their land for family or workers.
ADUs have become quite popular due to the housing shortages. They can provide additional income for homeowners. The are an economical housing option. They can represent the only affordable housing option in neighborhoods with only single family homes. They are great for the environment as they require fewer resources to build and maintain, as well as heat and cool. ADUs are able to house people of all ages, whether it is your child returning from college, or your aging mother. You could make it into your art studio or woodworking shop, or perhaps an office.
Texas is about to pass a bill that would end most restrictions on ADU construction. They would no longer be subject to municipal zoning restrictions.
In Seattle, there was a 250% increase in ADU construction in 2022 versus 2019.
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Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico. It is in the foothills of a mountain range and home to almost 90,000 people. At the heart of the city is a 400-year-old plaza. We must go slightly outside the city to ZIP code 87506 to find the priciest residential real estate by median listing. 87506 is roughly 200 square miles full of gated communities and sprawling estates where luxury country living can be enjoyed while being close to a culturally rich city. Nature is the primary draw for residents here.
You will find some charming villages, restaurants, and stores.
Santa Fe itself is known for its art scene with more than 100 galleries.
There are museums dedicated to the culture and history of the Pueblo people.
There are some really cool recreation and nature centers.
The Santa Fe Opera takes place in the summer every year.
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Brightline is a privately owned rail service has stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Aventura, and Boca Raton. A new stop in Orlando will open this year.
Brightline reported a 68% increase in ridership in March of 2023 versus 2022.
The rail line is so popular that it is driving up real estate values in its proximity.
In Fort Lauderdale, homes within the same ZIP code as the station have appreciated almost 70% since 2018 when the station opened versus 33% for the rest of the county. In West Palm Beach, homes near the stations appreciated 37% versus the 30% median for the area. If we look at Miami, there was an 83% appreciation for homes near the station versus 38% for the Miami area.
The thing is that you can’t just add roads as cities grow, you must turn towards public transportation.
Real estate developers are building large developments near the stations.
This rail company is creating the opportunity for people to commute and travel across South Florida.
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The Wall Street Journal did an article on a tech executive named John Foreman. He built a five bedroom, mountain modern home in Black Mountain, North Carolina which is 20 minutes from Asheville. The property was originally planned to be the primary residence, but his job changed from Atlanta to Utah. So he listed the property on AirBnB for $1,000 a night. Sounds great right? Well no.
Even though he was able to bring in $250,000 a year in revenue in 2022, that only left him with $80,000 in profit after expenses. However, as things break over time, and for tax reasons, this profit might decline over the years.
The issue is running the place. Even if you have a management firm running things, there are still things you might have to get involved in like the home warranty from the builder when things break.
A job change can quickly make your vacation home into a nightmare.
If we look at the house on Zillow. We see it is $3.75 million. I can tell you this house is not worth that much money. There are nicer house in that area for $2 million. Also, I’m not sure this is the location for an almost $4 million house. I’m surprised he is able to rent it two third of the year at $1,000 a night.
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