The Euro and U.S. Dollar Have Reached Parity: Now What?

The Euro and U.S. Dollar Have Reached Parity: Now What?

For the first time in twenty years, the euro and U.S. dollar have an equal exchange rate. The last time they reached parity was December 2002 when the currency was first introduced. Since then, it has been consistently stronger than the U.S. dollar. At least, until now. On July 13th, the euro and dollar reached parity. But what does this mean? Is it a result of fluctuations in the global economy? Or, it is a sign that the currency which was once intended as a symbol of unity is now tracking Europe’s economic downturn?

What’s Going On with the Euro and the U.S. Dollar?

The War in Ukraine

Since February, the war in Ukraine has sent shock waves through the global economy. Supply chains have been disrupted and the prices of imports continue to rise. Furthermore, inflation is skyrocketing and everyone is concerned over increased energy costs. It could become even more dire if import-dependent countries are entirely cut off from Russian oil, natural gas, wheat, and other staple commodities, especially with winter just around the corner.

As the violence persists, the impact continues to devastate Europe and threaten the euro’s stability. This year alone, its value has sharply declined by 11%. Although banks are raising interest rates to counteract inflation and stabilize the euro, financial and economic experts fear it is too little, too late. Some say that parity with the U.S. dollar hints that global trade is simply slowing down. However, some analysts fear that the euro will likely continue to depreciate and that a recession is looming in Europe.

Searching for a Safe Haven

From the outset, the U.S. government has taken an offensive strategy and aggressively increased interest rates to bolster the value of the dollar. Not only has this helped to counteract the effects of inflation, but it has caused the value of the U.S. dollar to increase by 10% since the start of the year. 

Although the entire world is feeling the effects of the conflict, the U.S. has remained relatively insulated from the worst of it. This fact has drawn attention to U.S. companies and caused some foreign investors to view the U.S. as a safe haven in a volatile market. The parity between the euro and the U.S. dollar has made it more attractive to international investors, further affecting the value of the euro.

USD remains the dominant reserve currency and shows more stability through market fluctuations. However, no one can predict how long these conditions will last. And, will the situation stabilize? Or, are things going to get much, much worse for the euro?

What Does This Mean for the Global Economy?

No one can say for certain what the long-term repercussions will be. However, there are a few immediate ways that parity between the euro and the U.S. dollar will impact the global economy.

1. It will cost more to do business in Europe.

Unfortunately, the depreciation of the euro will make it more expensive to do business in Europe. Companies that rely on materials from Europe will have to pay higher production costs. Furthermore, European consumers will no longer be able to purchase as much as they have in the past.

2. It will be cheaper to buy exported European goods.

Those who are trading in U.S. dollars now have more buying power, making it cheaper to buy European exports. Not only does this ease the effects of inflation for buyers in the U.S., but it’s also good for European exporters whose products are now more competitive with domestic brands.

3. It presents new investment opportunities.

While a volatile market is terrifying to most investors, it also creates new opportunities. When stock market prices are down, it presents a good opportunity to buy on the dip. If you make the right moves or choose the right stocks, it could reward you handsomely when the markets rebound.

4. It’s a great time to visit Europe.

In the past, I’ve always avoided traveling to Europe because I knew my money would go further in other countries. However, that has changed now that there is a 1:1 exchange rate between the euro and the U.S. dollar. American travelers win big with the currency exchange since they now need fewer dollars to buy euros.

This has made it much more affordable for travelers to visit Europe with reduced airfare. However, the increased purchasing power is where you can use the parity between currencies to your benefit. Luxury and import items have become much cheaper and offer huge shopping discounts. And, you no longer have to worry about converting the exchange rate in your head since they are now equal.

The Significance of the Psychological Barrier

While this may not seem like a big deal, the euro and U.S. dollar reaching parity has much deeper implications for the entire world.

Although the two currencies have been close at various points, this is the first time in two decades that the U.S. dollar has surpassed the euro. There is a good probability that the market will stabilize in time, but it signifies the threshold of an important psychological barrier. The euro has been a stabilizing force in the global economy for a long time, and now its position has come into question.

The steady decline of the euro also accentuates the underlying concerns of the countries across the EU. It signifies that their currency is getting weaker and their economic prospects may be fading. While the banks and national leaders are taking steps to counteract inflation and bolster the value of their currency, it may not be enough.

Many Europeans are feeling a greater sense of dread as inflation increases and questions arise over possible rationing through the winter. Unfortunately, the farther the euro drops, the longer these conditions will persist. It greatly reduces the chances of a quick rebound and seems to make the prediction of a European recession more of an inevitability.

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The 5 Fundamentals of Monetizing a Facebook Page

Fundamentals of Monetizing a Facebook Page

A Facebook page can be a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. Not only does it allows you to connect with customers and fans, but it also provides an opportunity to monetize your content.

Monetizing, however, isn’t as simple as flicking a switch. Here are the 5 fundamentals of monetizing a Facebook page. By following these tips, you can create a successful strategy for generating revenue from your Facebook page!

Understand How Facebook Ads Work

A Facebook Ad is a form of advertising that allows businesses to promote their products or services to the users of the social network. It works by targeting specific demographics and interests — placing ads on Facebook’s News Feed.

This is a great way to generate revenue, but it is critical to understand the inner workings before you begin your campaign.

Here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success with Facebook Ads:

  1. Target your audience carefully: Make sure you target users who are likely to be interested in your product or service.
  2. Use strong visuals: Ads with strong visuals tend to perform better than those without.
  3. Keep your message clear: Your ad should have a clear and concise message that tells users what you are offering.

Connect Your Facebook Page With a Payment Processor

If you want to monetize your Facebook page, you have to connect it with a payment processor. This will allow you to start accepting payments from customers who purchase products or services through your page.

There are a few different options available and one is Meta Pay. Be sure to find the best one for your business. Once you have connected your page with a payment processor, you can start accepting payments and generating revenue!

Create High-Quality Content Relevant to Your Audience

We’ve all heard the saying “Content is King.” This has never been more true than now. One of the most important aspects of monetizing your Facebook page is to create high-quality content that is relevant to your target audience. This means creating content that they will find valuable and interesting.

If you can provide value to your audience, they are more likely to trust you enough to purchase products or services from you. This could include blog posts, infographics, videos, or anything else that would be useful to them.

By creating relevant and valuable content, you can increase your chances of monetizing your Facebook page successfully.

Use Facebook Page Insights

Facebook Page Insights is a powerful tool that allows you to track the performance of your page. Including how many people are visiting your page, what kind of content they are engaging with, and how often they are clicking on your ads.

By tracking the performance of your page, you can adjust your monetization strategy accordingly. If you see that your audience is not engaging with your content, for example, you may need to adjust the type of content you are creating.

Experiment With Different Monetization Strategies

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to monetizing a Facebook page. What works for one business may not work for another. This is why it is important to experiment with different strategies until you find one that works best for you and your business.

Some monetization strategies include content creation and promoting affiliate products, selling of products or services, and paid memberships. Try out a few different strategies and see which one generates the most revenue for your business.

Monetizing a Facebook page can be a great way to generate additional income for your business. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of success. Good luck!

If you have any additional tips on monetizing a Facebook page, please leave them in the comments below!

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Is It Worth Paying for Digital Security?

How Can You Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times?

Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

Is It Worth Paying for Digital Security?

Is It Worth Paying for Digital Security?

My work relies on digital security. Therefore, I make sure that I always have an antivirus on all my devices. Most of my laptops came with a free subscription. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. In the past, I have always relied on free antivirus software rather than paying for the upgrade. However, things are a little different now since I am running a business. Now that I am getting pop-up reminders to renew, I’m wondering if it’s worth paying for digital security. Are the free options enough, or do I need more to protect myself and my business?

What Do You Get With Basic Digital Security Options?

Over the years, I’ve had dozens of computers and used several antivirus programs. Since most of my PCs use Windows operating system, they usually came with a free trial for Avast, Norton, or McAfee antivirus software. However, once the trial ended, I would switch to the free version.

I currently own two laptops that I use for work and when I travel. My older laptop has the free Avast antivirus while the other uses TOTALAV. They both run regular scans and have kept my computers at optimal performance. However, I seem to receive more security threat warnings lately. So, I wasn’t sure if I should pay for one of their upgraded packages.

In order to protect my clients and information, I wanted to know if it was worth the cost of the extra precautions. After looking at the online reviews of the most popular antivirus programs, it seemed like Avast is one of the best free options out there.

Not only is Avast Essential One free to download, but it also has excellent scores from labs and hands-on testing. And, it’s compatible with PC and mobile devices that use Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. Furthermore, it offers many privacy and performance features with the free option in addition to generous VPN bandwidth limits. However, it’s missing many advanced firewall features. If you want access to the advanced features, it requires an upgrade with a paid annual subscription.

How Much Do You Gain by Paying for Digital Security?

Now that I am conducting business and dealing with client information, I’ve decided it’s time to make a change. Therefore, I want to increase my protection by paying for digital security. But which one do you choose?

While I could have upgraded with Avast, a side-by-side comparison of subscription plans convinced me otherwise. The upgraded options provide sufficient protection. But, there are much better antivirus software that offer more value for your money.

Industry experts across the board have touted the merits of Bitdefender. After further review, I can see why. It outscored the competitions in all the areas that matter. And, it adds enhanced ransomware protection, banking protection, and a VPN as well as other bonus features.

Best of all, they are currently offering a 60% discount on all their products. The basic protection gives you antivirus protection for Windows PC on up to three devices states at $23.99 for a year. However, complete protection will cost you a little more. For $36 for the year though, you can extend your subscription to five devices and it’s compatible with Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. Unfortunately, you’ll still need to pay if you want their VPN Premium package.

What Other Measures Can You Take for Cyber Security?

Adding antivirus software to your computer will protect you from malware and other threats. Unfortunately, paying for digital security won’t solve all your problems. While it takes many measures to protect your online presence and information, you can do more to enhance your cyber security (infrastructure, networks, systems, digital components, etc.) And, most of them don’t cost a dime.

As cybercrime becomes more commonplace, here are a few things you can do for added cyber security.

1. Choose strong passwords and change them regularly.

Although it’s easier to use the same password for everything, it isn’t great for security purposes. Therefore, you should choose a unique password that uses combinations of characters, casing, and symbols. It’s also important to change them regularly. I usually change mine every 3-6 months. If it’s hard for you to keep track of them all, you can also store them in a password manager to keep them safe and organized.

2. Use two-factor authentication.

Adding this feature for banking, email, social media, and other accounts that require a log-in will deter most cybercriminals. Having the extra step that sends passcodes, asks security questions, or requires a key adds an extra layer of security.

3. Avoid using public wi-fi networks.

Although this seems like common sense, it’s better to avoid public wi-fi. You have less exposure to hackers when you use a VPN.

4. Be aware of potential risks.

Awareness of your browsing habits and potential threats is the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Learn about phishing practices and popular scams so you know what not to do.

5. Schedule regular scans and updates.

Outdated software leaves you vulnerable. So, automatically schedule scans and updates to stay protected.

6. Encrypt storage on your devices.

If you need to keep sensitive data private, adding encryption will ensure others can’t view or copy it if it’s stolen.

7. Don’t share your information.

Although it seems obvious, people become careless online. Don’t share personal information, because you never know who is paying attention and how they could use it.

8. Enable security monitoring through your credit cards and bank accounts.

Most credit card companies and banks offer fraud protection. For a small fee, they will monitor your accounts and notify you of any suspicious activity.

9. Find a practical balance.

Security is important, but so is convenience.  Adding too many security measures could be counterproductive. So, you need to figure out what is most important and necessary for you.

10. Have a plan.

With so much information online, it’s more than likely that your information will be compromised at some point. The best thing you can do is limit your risk and be prepared. Have a plan and know what you have to do if you face a cyber security threat.

Have you ever been a victim of cybercrime? What digital protection has served you best? 

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How Can You Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times?

How Can You Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times?

If you’ve checked your portfolio or the stock markets lately, you know just how volatile the market is right now. Especially if you have heard the debates that many financial advisors and analysts are engaged in about an impending recession. However, as we see more businesses restrict their hours or close, you may start to worry that an economic downturn could affect your job security. And you’re not alone. If you are worried about your employment status, here are a few ways you can secure your job in uncertain times.

5 Ways to Secure Your Job in Uncertain Times

For those who are questioning their job security, there are actions they can take to help secure their station within the company. Rather than waiting around for the leadership teams to make decisions, you can take control of your performance. Here are 5 ways you can help secure your job in uncertain times and prove that you are a valuable asset to the company.

1.  Make things happen.

People can talk a good game and come up with grand ideas which is often why there are hired for their positions. Unfortunately, the conversation often stops there. Ideas need action to make things happen. Sadly, many people never follow through. Therefore, one way to set yourself apart from the other employees is to be the person who is willing to take on more challenges and show the higher-ups that you can get things done.

Even if you feel your job may be in jeopardy, don’t let your insecurities cause you to fall behind on your workload. Instead, look for ways to make yourself indispensable and position yourself as your boss’ go-to person. If your employer sees your value, you can worry less about job security and sleep more soundly at night.

2. Find ways to generate revenue.

Companies are very unlikely to get rid of their employees who are bringing in revenue. But depending on your position and what industry you’re in, this can take many forms.

Perhaps you have creative solutions to cut costs and improve the profit margins. Or, maybe you take the initiative to go after new leads and accounts. Another way to do this is to help identify employees with skill sets that the company is underutilizing. Those who demonstrate that they can maximize resources or bring in new business won’t have to worry about their future with the company.

3. Cultivate New Skills.

More candidates mean there will be more competition for the most coveted jobs. So, you should look at your resume and add new skills to your credentials. The most successful people constantly seek ways to improve and advance.

Despite what they say, old dogs can still learn new tricks. Adding new skills to your repertoire provides more options and makes you more valuable to your employer. Plus, prioritizing personal growth will pay off later. Remember that the more you bring to the table, the more secure your job will be in uncertain times.

4. Get actively involved.

Perhaps it’s time to go above and beyond your job description and take a more active role in the company. You can show that you want to be part of things by attending informal meetings, volunteering to help at events, or offering support to other departments.

This also gives you the chance to emphasize your skills, expertise, and commitment. And, going to social events and extracurriculars is a good way to demonstrate that you want to be involved with the company and your coworkers. The best part is that it will make you feel more secure and show your boss that you are invested in the company’s success.

5. Look for solutions, not problems.

For the last few years, many teams have been suffering from low morale under the current working conditions. However, dwelling on the negative things will get you nowhere. Moreover, it prevents you from finding solutions if you only see the problems.

Instead of looking at what you can’t do, change your perspective and start asking what you can do to make improvements. When you have an idea, offer suggestions to tackle complex problems. Having a positive attitude inspires others to contribute as well. And, managers will see you as a problem-solver which is a valuable skill in the professional world.

Keep Your Options Open

The harsh truth is that we are experiencing a downturn and no one can predict the future. There’s no crystal ball that can guarantee your employment status. While some things are within your sphere of influence, there may be circumstances beyond your control that affect your job security.

If you start seeing clear signs that you could be out of the job soon, then you need to take steps to protect your future. Having a plan in place if you are facing possible unemployment will provide a path forward. Having a financial safety net can also ease your anxieties about your situation and offer support through lean times.

For those who are concerned about their job or their future with the company, here are a few steps you should be taking right now:

    • Take an honest assessment of your job performance and areas of improvement.
    • Ask for feedback and suggestions from your leadership team on what they would like to see from you.
    • Address any issues you are having.
    • Work on personal growth and development.
    • Talk to your coworkers to see if they share your concerns.
    • Maintain an emergency fund with enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses.
    • Keep your resume up to date.
    • Search out potential opportunities.
    • Take an interview to keep those skills sharp.
    • Always have a backup plan in place.

When facing uncertain times, you need to do what’s best for your future. Taking steps to secure your job can offer more peace of mind. But it never hurts to assess your value as an employee and keep your options open.

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Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

When people purchase real estate, most buyers are only interested in the land and buildings. However, many never consider the value of empty space. In large cities where space is limited, the air space above the property may be just as valuable as the lot itself. If you are looking to pull money from thin air, there are potential opportunities for huge profits to buy and sell air rights.

What Are Air Rights?

Since air rights may add value to your property, it’s beneficial to know what they are and how they work. The term “air rights” refers to the legal right to use or develop the space over or near a property. These rights apply to both vacant lots and those with existing structures. The definition is a vague guideline that varies by location, but it can incorporate upper stories of tall buildings, power lines, or coveted views.

Most cities severely restricted air rights, especially in residential zoning areas. However, in places where ground space is limited, the ability to build up becomes more important. Companies and real estate developers pay big bucks for the unused and transferrable development rights for air space.

Unfortunately, calculating air space can be complicated and often requires professional input to “true-up” the numbers. But to give you a basic idea, you have to find the floor area ratio (FAR). To get this number, you take the maximum floor area permitted for the zoning lot and subtract the floor space of the existing structure (if there is one). The remainder is your total amount of air space for a given lot. Once you have a quantifiable amount of space, you can put a value on it to buy and sell.

What Laws Regulate Air Rights?

Like all valuable assets, there are laws that establish and regulate air rights. Generally speaking, you can utilize the air space on your property however you see fit. That is, as long as new development complies with height restrictions, zoning laws, and the city’s building codes. For those who are just learning about them, here are a few of the most important regulations you should be aware of when you buy and sell air rights.

Elevation Restrictions

In most cases, when you buy real estate, you are also purchasing the air rights, unless otherwise specified. However, your air rights aren’t endless. For example, they don’t extend into navigable space. Your air rights include a maximum of 1,000 ft above the highest obstacle. Beyond that, you enter into FAA federally regulated space.

Municipal Zoning Laws

Additionally, air rights depend on the local zoning laws. Cities strictly regulate land use and development. Therefore, all buildings must comply with municipal codes and regulations which determine the reasonable amount of vertical space suitable for development on a given lot. Zoning laws vary by location and district within a municipality as well. 

Furthermore, different zoning laws exist for commercial, industrial, and residential spaces within the same city. Ignorance of the laws could lead to expensive complications. Therefore, it’s best to do your research and seek legal counsel before making any purchases.


Lastly, the boundaries of all structures and new development must remain within the specified property lines. While lots can be strung together to increase the amount of usable air space, it cannot encroach upon the space of properties you do not own.

If any new construction extends into the air space of a neighboring property, you may have to remove it at your own expense.

Can You Buy and Sell Air Rights?

The Cost

While the legalities are important, the most pressing question is “How much will it cost?” Unfortunately, there are no standardized answers. The pricing for air space depends on where you are looking.

Like real estate pricing, air space is more expensive in densely populated urban areas. And people will pay even more for desirable locations with great views or highly sought-after zip codes. So, it’s going to be much more expensive to buy air space in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Furthermore, you may face additional challenges and fees if you are looking at historical buildings or cities with high taxes. However, you can expect anywhere from $200-$400 per sq. ft. for available air space.

The Gains

Once you understand what they are, you may be asking yourself why people buy and sell air rights. The simple answer is that it can be lucrative for both parties. Property owners who need an influx of cash for repairs, maintenance, or other development get the capital they need. And if they had no plans for the air space, it is pure profit.

On the other hand, the buyer gains more options when they buy air rights. Obviously, they get more space which they can use to build larger structures. However, many developers purchase air rights of surrounding lots to protect views from their building or increase the property value.

The Fine Print

Air rights can get complicated, especially when there are several interested parties. Obtaining them often involves negotiations, legal fees, and an official contract.

In most cases, air rights transfer with a sale agreement. However, you can also gain more air rights through a zoning lot merger as well. Either way, you must purchase the space and secure the Transferable Development Rights from the current owner.

Although it is possible to buy and sell air rights, there are strict limitations. Local zoning laws dictate many of them. However, you should also be aware of any light and air easement provisions that prevent future development as well.

Before you make a financial commitment, you can hire a consultant to review the development rights and city zoning codes. Having an expert on hand can help you identify good investment opportunities and avoid paying more than you should. Not only can you avoid costly mistakes, but you can also ensure you are getting the best value for your money.

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Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2022

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2021

When it comes to investment strategies, there is no single prescribed way to maximize your returns. While most investors choose to put their money into stocks, bonds, or real estate, they are not the only options out there. Some people seek out more unconventional assets such as collectibles. Although many of us are still holding on to childhood memorabilia in the hopes that someday it may be worth a fortune, chances are slim that you will see five-figure returns. However, some of these may net you better returns than traditional portfolio assets. Here are some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2022.

The Best Collectibles to Invest in 2022

1. Stamps

As the king of all hobbies, most people know that rare stamps are worth a small fortune. With a quick Google search, you will find dozens of news stories of stamps that sold for millions of dollars. Although experts estimate that only 1% of stamps worldwide will appreciate over time, it is one of the safer options on the list of oddest collectibles to invest in 2021.

If you are lucky enough to have one of these in your collection, it could earn a yield between 5% and 20%. However, they also advise that you will need to hold these assets for up to 15 years before you see significant returns.

2. Coins

Collecting coins is a popular pastime that has huge rewards to the most persistent collectors. In fact, rare coins can bring in thousands or even millions of dollars at auction. While your wheat pennies will only sell for a few bucks, coins made from precious metals or featuring mistakes are the most valuable ones. Unfortunately, investing in coins doesn’t earn you any dividends. Therefore, the value depends entirely upon how much someone is willing to pay.

However, gold coins provide a more tangible return for investors. Even after nearly 600% growth in the last two decades, gold prices continue to rise. So, even if these coins hold no value among coin collectors, they will always be worth their weight in gold.

3. Comic Books

In recent years, Hollywood has brought our favorite childhood superheroes back to life. But, it has also made many super-fans rich. With the recent surge in popularity, original comics in mint condition now fetch top dollar at auctions. For example, a 1938 comic featuring Superman’s first appearance sold for over $2.1 million.

If your comic books have been well-loved and show their age, they won’t be worth nearly this much. However, it is possible to find rare issues at conventions that you can sell or trade for a profit. Comic-Con events are a great place to build your comic book collection as well as find some of the oddest collectibles to invest in 2021. has a very good series of which comic books are the most valuable, by decade.  The site also provides a useful discussion about what makes comics valuable. Hint: when the comic’s characters get adopted by popular culture, the value of the comic book increases.  Here are the lists of the most valuable comic books of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 199os.

4. Trading Cards

While this is a broad category, trading cards are a solid choice if you want to invest in collectibles. The most attractive thing about trading cards is that you can personalize them to your own passions or interests. Whether you are into baseball, Pokémon, Yugioh, or Magic the Gathering, rare cards are worth millions.

If you had any trading cards as a child, dust off your collection and check their value. Even if you don’t have a Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle card, your trading cards could still be worth money.

5. Toys

Vintage toys are another good option for collectors. As with comics, vintage toys from the 80s and 90s have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. If you held onto your favorite toys after the various toy crazes subsided, they could fetch a good price, given they are in good condition. Action figures, Beanie Babies, Legos, Barbie dolls, and Hot Wheels are all hot-ticket items right now.

When you are ransacking your home for valuable collectibles, look for items still in the original packaging. However, if you don’t have any toys from your own childhood, you can always begin a new collection.

The Oddest Collectibles to Invest in 2022

Now that we’ve covered the most common and valuable ones, here are some of the oddest trends and collectibles that people are investing in.

1. Sneakers

Any vintage item in good condition will generally bring a good price. However, sneakers are quickly becoming one of the most valuable vintage items on the market. There is a huge demand for first and limited-edition sneakers. In particular, Nike and Adidas sneakers in mint condition regularly sell for thousands of dollars on eBay.

A recent article from the Huffington Post uncovered that vintage sneakers provided better returns than gold. However, be warned that prices and demand are unpredictable. So, it’s a bit of a gamble knowing which shoes to invest in.

2. Electronics

It’s not surprising to learn that vintage electronics fetch high prices at auction. Original Apple products and first-generation devices not only make great conversation pieces, but also sell for millions online.

While you probably don’t have an original Macintosh computer lying around, early generation iPods, Alexas, and Nintendo DS gaming systems are likely to appreciate in value over time. Since most of this technology is still relevant, early editions are relatively easy to find. So, if you have any vintage electronics still in the box, it would be worth your while to hold on to them to see if they increase in value over the next few years.

3. Anthropomorphic Taxidermy

This is by far the oddest collectible to make the list. For those who don’t know what it is, anthropomorphic taxidermy is the art of preserving dead animals and displaying them in human situations. For example, specimens are usually dressed in human clothing or posed into human roles and settings. Although it may seem odd to many people, this type of art is extremely valuable to the right collector.

Investing in Collectibles

If you are looking to invest in less traditional assets, collectibles are a fun and interesting way to diversify your portfolio. However, it always includes greater risk than more traditional options like stocks and bonds. While there are no guarantees that your collectibles will bring high returns, patience is a virtue. Although most collectibles won’t earn a fortune in your lifetime, you never know…your favorite collectibles could bring you more than enjoyment in the years to come.

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What to Do When You’re Feeling the Pain at the Pump

Find Ways to Relieve the Pain at the Pump

Since the start of the year, gas prices have skyrocketed. This week, the national average for a gallon of gas is $4.97 for regular and $5.74 for diesel. However, during a recent trip to California, I was paying way more than the national average to fill my tank. At this point, nearly everyone is starting to feel the pain at the pump. And, it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon. If soaring gas prices aren’t in your budget, here are a few ways to help you maximize your savings and offer relief as prices continue to rise.

7 Ways to Relieve the Pain at the Pump

1. Join fuel rewards programs.

One of the easiest and most popular ways to save on fuel is to join a rewards program. Many companies have created their own rewards programs and offer great savings to loyal customers. They all work with the same basic concept of earning points at the pump for every dollar you spend. However, some offer additional perks through partnerships with other retailers to offer greater incentives and savings.

Circle K Easy Rewards

What’s great about this program is that it’s free to join and easy to understand. You get 10 points for every gallon of gas and 20 points per dollar for items from their store. Once you reach 2,000 points, you earn $2 off your purchase at the pump.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+

Exxon Mobil offers even more ways to earn. Not only does it give members 3 points per gallon of fuel and 2 points for every dollar spent in the convenience store and car wash, but you also get $1 off for every $100 you spend. And if you’re an AARP member, you can earn even more points with each purchase.

BPme Rewards 

Some rewards programs, like BPme Rewards, also have incentives for new members. BP is currently offering $0.05 off per gallon during your first month. However, all members can earn an additional $0.05 when you spend $100 on gas from BP and Amoco stations. They also regularly offer special bonuses and opportunities for additional savings.

Shell Fuel Rewards

While many competitors are offering fuel rewards, Shell is taking it a step further. In addition to earning points for gas and convenience store purchases, they offer additional points from qualifying purchases with non-fuel retailers. So, you can earn $0.10 for every $50 you spend with participating vendors. This means that you can build points even faster.

Speedway Speedy Rewards

Speedway Speedy Rewards is very similar to other fuel rewards programs. You earn 10 points for every gallon you buy with them and 20 points per dollar on store merchandise. But, it offers more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. You can use your points to claim coupons, gift cards, free merchandise, and entrance into sweepstakes. Also, be sure to check for special offers and ways to earn additional points as well.

2. Comparison Shop for the lowest gas prices.

The golden rule for budget shoppers is to compare prices before you buy. The same holds true when it comes to buying gas. Use the “gas” feature on Google maps to find the cheapest gas near you. Or, you can also download the GasBuddy app to compare prices. It works with over 150,000 gas stations nationwide to help you find the lowest rates no matter where you are.

3. Carpool or share a ride whenever possible.

Although people have been doing this for years, carpooling is gaining even more support now that gas prices are skyrocketing. So, if you live near one of your coworkers or in the same neighborhood as other families who attend the same school or activities as your children, consider starting a carpool. In addition to saving you money on gas, it will also give you more free time in your busy schedule.

4. Ensure that you are properly maintaining your vehicle.

Learning how your car consumes gas and ensuring the proper maintenance are important things for every car owner to know. However, maintaining your vehicle can save you gas money as well. When your car is at its peak performance, you get more miles to the gallon. Here are a few basic things you can do to ensure that your car is getting optimal gas mileage:

  • check the tires for proper air pressure
  • check fluid levels and choose the correct oil
  • perform regular tune-ups
  • replace your air filters
  • limit your use of the AC
  • drive the recommended speed limits
  • maintain speeds and accelerate gently while driving
  • turn off your engine when you park

Depending on what kind of car you drive, there may be additional things you can do to improve the gas mileage as well.

5. Lighten your load.

This tip for easing pain at the pump comes down to physics. By reducing the total weight of the vehicle, you gain better gas mileage. So, it’s a good idea to unload everything that isn’t necessary. Some models even have removable seats which can drastically lighten your load. You can also remove racks to decrease wind resistance and boost your savings.

6. Buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

I’m not saying you should run out and buy an electric vehicle tomorrow. But, if it’s time for a new car, perhaps you should consider a more fuel-efficient model. Large SUVs and trucks have their purposes. However, it may take a small fortune to drive them in the current conditions. If gas prices are a major concern, look at other models that consistently get more than 30 miles to the gallon. You can also compare hybrid options for even greater fuel savings.

7. Find a job that lets you work from home.

Although there are many more postings for remote positions, you don’t necessarily have to find a new job to work from home. Many offices are transitioning to a virtual or hybrid environment to save money. Therefore, choosing to work from home could also solve some of your financial problems. It would eliminate the daily commute and decrease your transportation budget. This could help relieve some of the pain you may be feeling at the pump.

The Hard Facts

Unfortunately, gas prices are spiking worldwide. While prices are high here in the U.S., Europe is paying nearly double. And, there is no telling how long we will be paying elevated prices. There is a real possibility that the price of gas could go up even further.

The only long-term solutions are to find new sources or decrease our reliance on gasoline. However, in the meantime, you can find ways to ease the pain at the pump and use these tips to lower your monthly expenses.

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7 Passive Income Streams from a $1000 Investment

Passive Income Streams From a $1000 Investment

One of the best ways to generate income and supplement your salary is through passive income streams. Sure, you could make more money by working longer hours, getting a second job, or trying to advance your career. But, there are only so many hours in a day which severely limits your earning potential. Investing your money in passive income streams allows you to put your money to work for you. And, you don’t need a ton of money to get started. Here are 7 ways you can create passive income streams with a $1000 investment.

7 Passive Income Streams from a $1000 Investment

1. Buy Stocks

Many investors will tell you that buying dividend stocks is the simplest and most profitable passive income stream. You can purchase stocks from well-established companies with a history of good returns. Or, you could try your hand at picking your own stocks. While this comes with greater risk, it could also have greater financial rewards.

Those who are more risk-averse can invest in mutual or index funds. These offer you more market exposure and a percentage of the dividends from multiple companies. Another benefit is that the built-in diversification helps protect your assets during market fluctuations.

However, if the idea of choosing your own stocks has you panicking, you can always hire a robo-advisor. Having an automated investment manager that uses your preferences and input to customize your portfolio takes the guesswork out of the equation. It also takes a hands-off approach and avoids the predatory sales tactics of human financial advisors. And, the low fees and lack of account minimums are great for beginning investors.

2. Invest in REITs

Investing in REITs is another great option for those with a specific interest in real estate. These trusts pool money to buy and manage residential, commercial, and industrial properties, then pass a percentage of the earnings to their shareholders.

You have over 200 publicly-traded REITs to choose from. But, a handful stand out from the competition. The ones that are making the most recent headlines include AvalonBay Communities, Realty Income, W.P. Carey, and SL Green Realty.

There are also new crowdsourcing platforms such as Fundrise, CrowdStreet, and DiversyFund where you can buy a percentage of properties. These are great options for people with little cash since you only need $10 to buy-in. And, most earn an average of 8-12% returns on their investments. If you were to reinvest your dividends, it could turn into one of the most lucrative passive income streams from only a $1000 investment.

3. Purchase Bonds

Now that the stock market isn’t performing as well, there is more focus on purchasing bonds. There are various types to choose from including bonds issued by a company, the state, or the federal government.

When you purchase bonds, you are essentially loaning money with the expectation that they repay the loan plus interest. And, you can choose terms and timelines that best suit your goals. In general, bonds are a low-risk investment that helps offset the equity in your portfolio. Furthermore, since their value is indirectly correlated to the stock market, they perform better when stock prices are down. So if you want to hedge against inflation and market fluctuations, bonds are a safe bet.

4. Open a High-Yield Savings Account

If you aren’t looking for ways to expand your portfolio, there are smaller changes you can make to generate passive income streams. For example, choosing accounts that offer better interest rates will earn you money. Rather than letting your money accrue minimal interest in your checking or savings account, you can transfer it to a high-yield savings account.

It’s easy to set up and transfer funds, especially if you already hold other accounts with the bank. However, you can earn even better rates if you choose an online bank. By opening a high-yield savings account with interest rates of around 0.6%, you earn more money with minimal effort.

5. Rent Out Your Spare Room

Another trend that has gained popularity is renting out personal property for travel accommodations. If you have an extra room in your house or a vacation rental that you don’t use, why not make some extra cash?

With all the different sites out there, there are endless ways to attract potential guests. And when you cross-list the rental space on the most popular sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, Flipkey, and Homestay, you’re more likely to get bookings. By using your money to spruce up the place to make it more appealing, you could create passive income streams with only a $1000 investment.

6. Sell Your Spare Bandwidth

If you don’t want to use your home to generate more income, you could consider selling your bandwidth instead. Many people pay for unlimited data. However, you could sell what you aren’t using to earn money.

Although they function in different ways, you can start generating passive income by installing an app on your phone or PC that runs in the background. People pay to utilize your bandwidth, bringing you more monthly income. Packetstream pays you $0.10 for every GB shared while others such as EarnApp can give you about 30$ a month selling 1GB of bandwidth a day.

Your location, network speed, and the number of IP addresses affect how much you can earn. The more traffic, devices, and IP address you use, the more you earn. However, safety is always a consideration since there are no guarantees of who will be using your bandwidth.

7. Own Royalties

Another alternative asset that is gaining traction among alternative investors is owning royalties. With partial shares and online marketplaces, it’s becoming easier to invest in creative assets. Although you wouldn’t own the copyrights, you could earn a portion of future revenue. When you buy royalties, you earn money every time your intellectual property gets used.

To attract new types of investors, sites such as Royalty Exchange package them into familiar investment vehicles with term-based yields. They perform independently from the stock and bond markets, have a history of strong returns, and have the potential to outperform traditional assets. And now you don’t need to be an industry insider to get in on the ground floor.

Using Time to Your Advantage

Even if you feel you don’t have enough money to start investing, it doesn’t require a fortune to get started. Additionally, the sooner you start investing, the greater advantage you gain. Time and compounding interest are your greatest assets if you’re low on capital. So, you can start making small, steady contributions now that will exponentially increase your initial investment.

There is no “right time” to start investing, so don’t use a low bank balance as an excuse to get started today. Rather than letting your money sit idle, you can use it to help build your retirement savings, protect your family against income loss, and reach your financial goals faster.

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7 Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

Since the day I turned 18, I have always been conscientious of my credit score. Over the years it has remained relatively high. However, it hasn’t budged in the last few years. I feel like I’ve reached a credit plateau and wasn’t sure how to boost my score. Then, I realized that I had been buying into these 7 myths about improving your credit score.

7 Myths About Improving Your Credit Score

1. Checking your credit reports hurts your credit score.

This is one of the most persistent myths about improving your credit score that many people still believe. If you’re like me, it probably stems from misunderstanding what kind of inquiries affect it.

There is a distinct difference between “soft pulls” and “hard pulls” of your credit history. Requesting your free credit report from one of the credit bureaus or getting your FICO score from your bank won’t hurt you. On the contrary, regularly monitoring your credit score can help you track your progress as you work towards improving your credit. These inquiries are considered “soft pulls” that don’t impact your score.

However, when you submit a formal application, a “hard pull” could make your score slightly drop. Furthermore, each “hard pull” will cost you a few more points. And, it could signal a red flag for potential lenders if you have recently submitted several credit applications.

2. Maintaining a balance on your credit card will improve your credit score.

This is one of the worst myths about improving your credit score that I fell victim to. When I got my first credit card, I misunderstood how paying off revolving credit worked. I thought that carrying a balance on my card would boost my score. But after receiving my first few statements, I quickly saw how much more I was paying in interest.

If you aren’t paying the balance in full each month, this can actually work against you. Not only do you pay more in the long run, but it could also ding you if you miss a payment. And, it also affects your credit utilization rate which is directly linked to your credit score.

3. Immediately paying off your debt boosts your score.

The problem with this myth is that there is some truth in it. Consistently paying off your credit card charges each month will boost your score. However, paying off installment debt such as loans and mortgages could be to your detriment. If you pay them off too quickly, there could be penalties. And, it will reduce the number of credit accounts and available credit you have. This also affects your credit utilization rate.

Maintaining a history of repayment on several accounts will raise your credit score faster. Make sure you are meeting your minimum monthly payments. But, perhaps you could put extra funds towards your high-interest debts first. Not only will it help boost your credit score, but also save you money in interest fees.

4. Closing credit card accounts increase your credit score.

I used to carry several credit cards in my wallet. But, I found myself only using one or two of them regularly. Rather than running the risk of the others getting stolen, I decided to close the accounts.

Unfortunately, I didn’t understand how this would impact my credit score. Since I had fewer credit accounts and less available credit, my credit utilization rate drastically changed. In turn, it caused my score to drop. The good news is that I have rebuilt it with consistent payment history since then. But, if I could go back, I would have kept the ones without an annual fee to help boost my score.

5. A higher salary will improve your credit.

Although earning a higher salary can improve your ability to repay a loan, it won’t affect your credit score. This figure isn’t reported to the credit bureaus, so it isn’t factored into your score. Your credit report will only contain information about your payment history and the amount of credit you have. However, it may be an important factor for lenders who are deciding to approve your credit application.

6. Regularly using your debit cards will raise your credit score.

While they may look the same, credit and debit cards are two completely different animals. While credit card usage directly impacts your score, debit cards don’t because they don’t use credit. This is true even if you choose the “credit” option on the card reader. Your debit cards are tied to your checking account, so the activity is never reported to the credit bureaus.

7. Credit report companies can remove black marks on your credit report.

Many scammers out there claim they can fix your credit by removing things from your credit history. This is a bald-faced lie. The only way to remove something from your credit report is if the information is inaccurate. While there are legitimate companies that can assist you with creating a plan to raise your credit score, they won’t do anything that you can’t do for yourself.

If there is inaccurate information on your credit report, you can dispute it yourself. There are several ways you can do this such as submitting evidence to contest the negative information, asking the bureaus for validation on questionable items, requesting a goodwill request for deletion from the creditor, sending a pay for delete letter, or waiting it out.

Although hiring one of these companies to act on your behalf can save you time and convenience, there is no magic wand that will remove the black marks on your credit report.

The Hard Truth

As hard as it may seem, the only way to repair bad credit is with time and self-discipline. You must take the steps to regain control of your finances, advocate for yourself with creditors, and develop better credit management.

If you feel like you are in over your head, it never hurts to take speak with your financial advisor or set up a free consultation with a reputable credit management company. An hour of your time may be the difference between remaining on the credit plateau and improving your credit score.

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How to Get Help with Spending Addiction

How to Get Help with Spending Addiction

We live in a society that encourages spending and thrives on consumerism. Every year, advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to convince us that buying things will make us happy or that we need to have the newest products. Unfortunately, the strategy has been very effective. So much so that people with addictive tendencies can cross the line into addiction. And, with the rise of online shopping, it has become even easier to fall into poor spending habits. If you think you have a problem, here’s how you can get help with a spending addiction.

What Is Spending Addiction?

Spending addiction is a broad term that encompasses patterns of both overspending and shopping addiction. However, according to Promises Behavioral Health treatment centers, a spending addiction is a compulsive and mood-altering behavior that involves making unnecessary, emotionally driven, and negatively impactful purchases.

Although it isn’t an officially recognized psychiatric condition, it shares many of the same symptoms and behaviors like other types of addiction. Spending addicts feel the need to shop compulsively as a means to relieve anxiety or make themselves feel better. Many people with a spending addiction also suffer from other mental health conditions.

What Are the Financial Impacts of a Spending Addiction?

In addition to the mental and emotional toll a spending addiction takes, it also has negative financial repercussions. When poor spending habits are left unchecked, it could lead to financial ruin.

The compulsion to spend has led many people to max out their credit cards which ruins their credit and bury them deep in debt. Others resort to taking out loans, lines of credit, or asking loved ones for money to support their habit. 98Those who are desperate enough may resort to illegal ways of supporting their addiction. Some of the long-term consequences of a spending addiction include bad credit, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, criminal activity, and incarceration.

What Are the Signs of a Spending Addiction?

If you are asking yourself whether you have a spending addiction, it is probably a good sign that you need to re-prioritize your finances. However, it isn’t necessarily a sign of addiction.

The signs of a spending addiction are similar to those dealing with substance disorders or pathological gambling. Although not indicative of a full-blown problem, these are a few of the most common symptoms:

    • mental preoccupation with spending
    • gradually increasing the frequency of the behavior
    • continuing the behavior despite a desire to refrain from it
    • feeling distress or discomfort when you refrain from spending
    • binging in the compulsive spending behavior
    • experiencing a mood alteration or “high” from spending
    • failing to fulfill your responsibilities or obligations
    • continuing the behavior despite the negative impacts

How Do You Know When to Get Help with a Spending Addiction?

According to surveys and statistics from psychological evaluations, approximately 5-6% of all people are dealing with a spending addiction. It occurs across all demographics and affects people of all classes, backgrounds, and genders.

There are a wide variety of root causes. But, it usually stems from issues related to mental health, stress, grief, or loss. Those with a spending addiction may find themselves in a vicious cycle that can’t break. This can create a sense that they have lost control which perpetuates the cycle.

Those who feel they may suffer from a spending addiction can use the Bergen Shopping Addiction Scale as a starting point. It is a clinically recognized tool to assess the severity of your problem.

It’s important to remember that not everyone who frequently shops has an addiction. It’s also important to note that while spending addictions are common among people who suffer from severe depression, anxiety, and other mental/mood disorders, the two are not mutually inclusive.

However, if you think that you have a spending addiction, here is a general checklist of questions that made indicate it is time to seek professional help.

    • Is there a compulsion to buy things?
    • Do you hide your spending or lead a “double life”?
    • Are you spending money to numb your pain or avoid negative feelings?
    • Do you rationalize or justify the behavior?
    • Does it give you a sense of excitement?
    • Do you avoid people who confront you about the behavior?
    • Has it had familial, social, occupational, financial, legal, mental, or emotional consequences?
    • Have you become more isolated because of it?
    • Do you experience feelings of denial, guilt, shame, helplessness, hopelessness, or feeling that your life is unmanageable due to your spending?
    • Are you continuing the behavior despite escalating consequences?

Where Can You Get Help?

If you are ready to seek professional help, there are many places you can get help with your spending addiction.

The most effective treatment for addiction is behavioral therapy. This can be either individual or group counseling to establish healthier coping mechanisms for depression, anxiety, or impulse control. It can also incorporate family counseling for those supporting someone seeking treatment.

There are also several self-help and support groups in your community for people who are suffering from addiction. Compulsive Spenders Anonymous, Shopaholics Anonymous, and Debtors Anonymous have been especially helpful for those with a spending addiction. They rely on the same 12-step structure as Alcoholics Anonymous. Membership is usually free and run by fellow members who emphasize group support and sponsorship to cope.

Medication can also be an effective way to help those with underlying mental health issues. Mood-stabilizers and anti-depressants can reduce depression, anxiety, and the compulsion to spend.

While each can be effective on its own, treatment for addiction utilizes several treatment techniques, often used in combination to address the behavior. However, only a licensed professional can help you determine the best treatment for you.

Medical Disclaimer: The information in this article was gathered from medical journals, treatment centers that help those with addiction, and other published materials that have been reviewed by licensed professionals. It is not intended and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. If you are struggling with addiction, talk to your primary physician or other healthcare professionals to get the assistance you need.

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