It’s estimated by a study that was performed by Harvard Health Watch that we spend an average of 101 minutes driving every day. This hour and 41 minutes adds up over time, and it’s clear to see this will be where you’ll spend a significant amount of your time over the course of your life. It’s only natural for us to want to personalize this space both to increase comfort and make our cars our own. However, nobody wants to go overboard and be that guy who’s obsessed with accessories to the point of looking silly. There are a few neat and classy ways you can personalize your car that you should consider taking advantage of.
Tinted windows allow the driver a higher level of privacy while giving the vehicle a brand new, mysterious look. Aside from aesthetic value, however, there are other wonderful benefits to be taken advantage of. Just a few of these include:
- Reduction in sun glare
- Interior is kept cooler
- Reduction in damage caused by the sun on interior
- Reduction in the exposure to the skin by sun when driving with the windows up
- Concealment of valuables in the vehicle
There are laws governing the level of tint allowed, so make sure you check the laws in your area before tinting your car windows.
Upgrade Your Exhaust
If you’ve always been excited by fast, loud cars, upgrading your exhaust can be a project that gives you just what you’re looking for. Best of all, for just a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a quality aftermarket system that will change both the look and sound of your car that’s sure to turn heads. As an added bonus, aftermarket exhaust systems typically add a few more horsepower to your ride. As you consider this option, make sure you take the increase in noise into consideration as this could cause problems with neighbors or even local authorities.
LED Light Bars
If you engage in a lot of night driving, LED light bars can transform the experience. They emit an illuminating glow outside the vehicle that can be enjoyed in a variety of colors. You’ll be surprised at the enormous difference these lights can make to your overall driving experience. There are a variety of products on the market, and it’s important that you take advantage of reviews of LED light bars before you make your final decision.
Enhance Your Stereo Quality
You likely regularly enjoy the use of your car stereo, but imagine the ability to take it’s benefits to a new level. When you take the steps necessary to enhance your stereo, you can enjoy better quality and truly immerse yourself in whatever music genre makes you tap your foot. Just a few enhancements you could consider putting into place include:
- Replace manufacturer’s equipment- the manufacturer is concerned with building a car and doesn’t typically focus on stereo quality
- Use sound deadening material to:
- Increase accuracy of sound
- Reduce vibrations
- Lower interior noise levels so you don’t have to increase the volume when you speed up
- Invest in an amplifier
- Install a signal processor or equalizer
- Have amp gains professionally set
Enjoy Your Ride Every Time
You’ll be spending many hours of your life behind the wheel of your car, and you only have one life to live. When you invest in these neat and classy ways to personalize your car, you can enjoy a higher quality of ride every time. Consumer Reports estimates that the average car will last its owner eight years or 150,000 miles, so any changes you make that will remain with the car such as tinting the windows is worth the investment, especially if you plan on owning the vehicle for an extended period of time.
Why Are High Net Worth Families Interested In Economic Citizenship?
This week the BBC published an article about the rising number of Americans that are renouncing their citizenship. In recent years this has become almost an annual article in the mainstream media.
The reason behind these articles is primarily a set of banking rules known as FATCA that place additional reporting requirements on non-US banks that have US clients. The extra level of reporting and risks of non-compliance have made it easier for many banks to simply refuse American clients. As the article explains, some of those who already have dual nationality are choosing, reluctantly, to give up their American passports so that they can avoid these problems and the potential for additional taxation that it brings.
This is, however, more of a global trend than an American phenomenon.
As the numbers of high net worth individuals and families continues to rise, more and more people are choosing to take the step of deliberately investing in schemes that provide a fast and direct route to a second passport.
Governments of nations – large and small – are realizing that citizenship and residence schemes are a quick and easy way to bring in money. Typically the applicants are successful, educated and entrepreneurial – characteristics that most governments would like to see more of in their populations.
The range of countries that offer these schemes is surprisingly large. At one end of the scale, the United States has a program related to the Green Card that can provide citizenship after five years, with investment requirements in the US$1 million range. At the other end of the scale, the tiny Antigua and Barbuda has a scheme from around US$200,000 investment.
In between there are a number of EU countries, such as Portugal, Cyprus and Malta from whom new citizens would have access to the Schengen area and all the travel benefits that entails.
The applicants of these schemes are generally looking for a few features and although legal tax avoidance is often one of them, it is rarely the main factor. Typically they hope to arrange a form of diversification and freedom for themselves and their immediate families.
The successful business owners and entrepreneurs will have to remain in their home country to oversee their empire and investments, but a passport from the European Union can open up a wide range of study and university options for their children and a greater degree of safety for everyone. Luckily, these options are very available for those with the financial resources to pay for it, in stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have poured into the EU in 2015 and 2016.
It would be fair to suggest that many citizenship by investment schemes are controversial at home. Even some of the most well-established plans have their critics. The reality though is that economic citizenship does generate revenues that smaller nations need and it generates it quickly. Some of these nations are lacking in natural resources which makes it very difficult to add to their taxation and revenue sources.
What is clear is that in the short-term at least, this is a cash cow for several small nations and they are meeting a growing demand, meaning that there will probably be more and not less economic citizenship program’s in the coming years.
Investment Advice In A Time Of Historically High Debt Levels
The turbulence shown by global stock markets in recent weeks highlights the vital need that almost everyone with savings has to diversify and protect their portfolio.
The harsh reality is that another global economic slowdown is either rapidly approaching or has already begun. There appear to be weaknesses almost everywhere in the system – from the price of oil and the impact it has had on jobs, to the continuing weakness in Eurozone economies, to the slowdown in China and general lack of faith that the markets have in their economic data – there are good reasons for asset prices to fall.
Depending upon the information you read and whom you believe, it also seems very likely that the world is near the end of a cycle of debt expansion that could produce much more weakness in the coming months.
In such an environment, it is important for investors to assess how they are exposed. For private investors, the current low-interest rate environment in most major economies looks set to continue. If anything, the risks are on the downside as more central banks move into the uncharted waters of negative interest rates. While economists can speculate as to what will come next, the reality is that circumstances like these have not existed in anyone’s lifetime giving us very few touch points to the modern world.
This means that the normal talking heads on television offering their best stock market tips and tricks might not be very helpful. As a rule, we humans are positive people and when we think about markets, we think about a better future – which means being long. At the current time, this might not be the smartest move.
The goal in all times, but especially now, ought to be lower risk, while also lowering volatility and trying to maximise returns. It is this hard to achieve combination that has helped to make Ray Dalio famous. His long-term returns through myriad economic conditions have built his reputation.
While this combination is difficult for most of us to achieve, with personal, corporate and government debts at all time highs in many countries, most of us really ought to be using our available funds to repay some of those loans. Clearly, this is not a great way to save for retirement, college fees or that wonderful holiday you have planned, but it would have the impact of reducing our own personal debt levels and therefore, the risks being taken in our own household.
When it comes to personal finance, often the most boring and sensible option is also one of the wisest.
Will Big Data Transform Sports?
Daily fantasy sports are almost certainly the cutting edge of number crunching in many professional sports.
Whilst the Brad Pitt movie MoneyBall helped to widen the understanding of data analysis as a way to select a baseball team, there will be many games – such as tennis and golf – where individual players will find it hard to justify the expense of a data analysis team.
In other sports, such as baseball, American football and cricket and soccer in Europe, there are huge internal resources being deployed by clubs to understand themselves and their opponents as closely as possible.
Big data is now having a major impact on the way spectators are able to enjoy and experience their favourite sports as well. The meteoric growth of daily fantasy sports in the United States shows just how many fans enjoy this form of entertainment. In Europe fantasy football is nowhere as popular yet, but it is growing quickly.
These are still very early days for data analysis in sports. Currently, most professional clubs and all bookmakers have some sort of team that monitors player performance. However, the real professionals of the betting world also have their own in-house teams of quants. In this regard, sports betting is well on its way to replicating the data and analysis arms race that financial markets have undergone with high-frequency trading.
As has happened in financial markets, such advanced use of technology draws a very clear line between the wealthiest and the rest. As if their advantage was not large enough, now they can put even more daylight between themselves and the trailing pack.
As was described in Michael Lewis’ book Flash Boys (Lewis was also the author of the book MoneyBall), the financial traders went so far as to housing their computers in the same building as the stock exchange machines to cut nanoseconds off the time it takes for their information to travel. They also had cables laid between New York and Chicago to make the execution of their own trades faster.
Sports are not at this stage yet, but it seems inevitable that whatever the sporting equivalent happens to be, is being planned under great secrecy somewhere. For now, a love of sports and an exceptional ability with maths and algorithmic programming looks like a great set of skills to combine for a lucrative career.
In fact, daily fantasy sports has already made it possible to earn a very good income as an independent. Some of the top players in the world are generating hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in prize money profits. There are almost certainly some earning in the millions, though they do their utmost to remain low profile.
This means that for now, big data in sports has begun to impact the clubs and players, bookmakers and the savviest supporters – it is hard to imagine how much more change is likely to happen in the next ten years.
In the first days of January the Bitcoin community experienced the painful departure of one of it’s core developers. This small community has been creating the code and systems that the rest of us rely on for our transactions. In his blog post explaining his thoughts, Mike Hearn suggested that Bitcoin has now failed.
His departure, combined with the announcement of problems at one of Bitcoin’s exchanges, lead to a sudden drop in price and considerable volatility for the rest of the month. Some of December 2015’s bullish price predictions have been made to look a little silly in the short-term, but given the extreme nature of BTC price movements, anything could be possible for this year.
Given a year or more for us to see the outcome of Hearn’s departure, he may eventually be proved correct. Who can say whether his exit will galvanise the community to solve the problems he highlights, or divide it further? In the meantime, there has been significant progress and 2016 is set for more positive developments. Below are four reasons why 2016 ought to be a great year for the coin and it’s investors.
The Economics Of Bitcoin Are Changing Forever
Perhaps the most important reason to be bullish in 2016 relates to the coming halving. Bitcoin’s algorithm is designed to gradually reduce the number of new coins that will be made available until a total of 21 million have been created.
Coins are created when complex math problems are solved. The solving of these problems, requires very significant processing power in what is known as “mining”. Each problem represents a new round of verified transactions on the blockchain.
Initially, the total number of coins created as the reward was 50, but four years ago that number was cut to 25. This summer it will be halved once again. The impact of this halving will be to limit the creation of new coins even further just as total transaction volumes seem to really be growing. The impact on supply is very likely to see the price pushed upwards.
The Economics Of China Are Changing
It isn’t well known, but China plays a huge role in Bitcoin.
The first reason for this relates to mining. As with many consumer electronics, manufacturing happens in China. However, the Chinese realised that when it came to building technology to mine BTC, they were better off not selling it to buyers in America and Europe. Instead, it has become very hard to obtain the latest mining technology and most of the largest mining operations are located in mainland China. While the operators will need to sell coins to pay their wages, rent and energy bills every month, it is very likely that they are also storing lots of coins away for the future.
Additionally, there are many people in China that are using bitcoins to protect their wealth. There have been a number of price spikes that correspond very closely with negative movements on the Chinese stock market or the yuan.
As the year has opened and global markets have tumbled, lead by China, it would be easy to predict that more uncertainty will lead to more buying in one of the few currencies that normal Chinese people can access.
The Economics Of Bitcoin Use Are Changing
Any substance or commodity with a finite supply will at some point be ruled by the laws of supply and demand. 2016 will see supply limited further, however, 2015 was a year that saw demand and the use of bitcoin rise substantially.
It would be silly to tell you that mass adoption is here, because it isn’t. But, as the months and years pass, adoption continues to grow consistently. The end of 2015 saw total transaction volumes rise week after to week to new highs. There is clearly much more demand than ever before and it is easier to buy, invest, spend and hold bitcoin than ever before.
If this trend continues, then it is very likely that the world will get to a place where there is a permanent supply crunch in BTC. If you are a holder of the stuff, this will be music to your ears. If you are not yet an owner, now might be a good time to ask yourself why not…
Needless to say there are reasons why this is happening. The prime reason for greater use would seem to be that it is now much easier than ever before to get started. Coinbase, perhaps the closest thing Bitcoin has to a central bank, is now so easy to use that total beginners can get started and not even need to know what cryptography is. Just a couple of years ago, securing your coins needed a very technical understanding – now you can just transfer your coins into the Coinbase Vault. It takes seconds!
This is important because the subjects surrounding Bitcoin – macro economics, web development, cryptography and algorithms – are not easy for a lay person to understand. If Bitcoin is going to become mainstream then normal people that do not understand these things need to be able to buy, sell and invest safely too.
The Reputation Of Bitcoin Is Changing
A few years ago if you read about Bitcoin in the news, it was almost certainly part of a story about crime, drugs, the Silk Road and criminals. Bitcoin is semi-anonymous and this online layer of protection enabled illicit trade to flourish on sites that operated like eBay for criminals.
Since then, the Silk Road has been closed, it’s founder sentenced to life in prison and no other marketplace has been able to successfully step into the void. On top of that, the reality is that transactions using Bitcoin can be traced if you have certain parts of the transaction history. Infiltrating and taking down the Silk Road has provided reams of data that law enforcement is now slowly using to round up the people that were selling drugs, guns and whatever else.
As many of the negative connotations are being removed, they are being replaced by more positive developments elsewhere. For example, it is widely known that the Bank of England is looking into ways to use either or both of the blockchain or Bitcoin. Many other banks, fearful of the disruptive power of this technology are researching ways to harness it themselves. From the Silk Road to the Bank of England is quite a journey in just a few years.
Clearly, while the risk of Bitcoin failing may have just risen by a notch or two, there is enough happening to presume that there ought to still be many good days ahead for the primary digital currency. (more…)
Subtle tips for saving small fortunes
Everyone knows how to spend less by cutting down on essentials. Eating less food, buying cheaper/fewer clothes, taking less vacations – these techniques are effective but they are also not painless. The real trick is to save money while maintaining a complete, fulfilling lifestyle – and you’d be surprised how easy it is do so – the means are literally hiding in plain sight:
Sleep well, stay healthy
The simplest way to stay healthy is to get good sleep and the key to that is having a comfortable bed – even if you can’t afford a high end, luxurious mattress, you can pick a mattress topper that will provide a comparable level of comfort at a fraction of the cost! When you’re healthy, you don’t have to worry about medical expenses and you can better focus on your career which ultimately translates into better income and thus better savings.
Re-evaluate auto insurance
Each year, you should reassess your vehicle insurance policy for any opportunities to save money. For instance, you might want to consider raising your deductible to lower the premiums. If you own an older vehicle, consider whether you really need collision coverage or not – this covers damage done to your vehicle when it hits another car or gets hit by another car or object. Also, be sure to compare auto insurance quotes annually – this can be done in a matter of minutes through a quick search on the internet.
Work on your credit score
Among all the ways to painlessly save money, enhancing your credit score is perhaps the most significant. From car and home loans to auto insurance and credit cards, a good credit score can help you save a small fortune. Over your life, the savings can easily amount to tens of thousands of dollars!
Make low cost investments
If you’re a mutual fund investor, go for funds which have low expense ratios. A staple rule is to keep the weighted average expense ratio for each mutual fund below 50 basis points i.e. 0.5%. When you compare this with funds that charge considerably greater than 1% in fees per year, you’ll be saving quite a bit through your thrifty investments.
Go for a triple play package
One of your largest monthly expenses may well be the cost of phone, cable and Internet service. Fortunately, the major service providers have discounts if you buy a bundle subscription for all three services. Known as a triple play, not only will this save you money, it will also be easier to pay one combined bill instead of three separate ones. Find more info on how to save your money here.
Use a prepaid cell phone
Even though this might not suit everyone, it does help many people save up a small fortune. Prepaid cell phone plans that charge as low as $0.10 a minute are easily available. And since they are prepaid, you don’t have to bind yourself to a long term contract.
Several retailers have special discounts for online shoppers. And almost all companies market their services and products online through discounts, coupons or promo codes. For example, iHerb is a California based retailer of natural supplements that provides hefty discounts to its customers if they buy in bulk.
There are numerous other ways to save some extra cash without compromising your lifestyle, all you need to do is identify them and take advantage.