Is Housing a Good Investment?

Broken Picket Fence ResizeA recent Vox article has renewed the old adage that ‘housing is a good investment.’ While the author makes some salient points, this statement in general can lead some people into a trap.

Is a House an Investment or Consumption Good?

The author admits home values don’t increase much more than inflation on average, but then he tries to explain how they are still a good investment because if you own a home you can live there rent-free, which is “like a de facto dividend.” Let’s stop right there for a second.

It is a little odd to consider residing in your home as ‘paying you a dividend’ simply because you don’t have to pay rent. If I buy a car with cash, I don’t really consider the car ‘paying me a dividend’ because I do not have to rent or lease one. Yet there is a grain of truth here to untangle.

First, we need to start with a proper definition of the word investment. An investment is an asset purchased with the expectation of creating wealth, either in the form of generating income or appreciating in value. Therefore, it is not purchased for the purpose of consuming it today.

Houses are very much a consumer good, because we use them for shelter and derive a consumption benefit from them. Furthermore, the actual housing structure degrades with time and wear-and-tear, much like a car. Roofs leak, furnaces need to be replaced, and appliances break.

However, there is some truth to housing being an investment because a house is not just the physical brick and mortar structure, but also the land and property rights, which usually do not depreciate and tend to keep up with inflation.  Read More…

A Tweet, a Link and a Zap: 5 Keys to Building Connections Online

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 Whether building a book of business, pursuing a new job, or searching for love, we all have a fundamental need to connect. Now with the Internet being the primary tool for interacting with others, face-to-face interactions have largely given way to online exchanges. Given this reality, you may be discovering that navigating through a sea of social media can be challenging. At times, it can feel like a perfunctory, rote exercise, void of true meaning and significance. Unlike in-person networking, mastering the art of online connection requires some deft skills and savvy.

I’m not going to lie; as a 52-year-old who has been a freelancer since 1993, adapting to this new normal of connectivity has been an exercise in futility at times. Traditionally, my world had involved networking at events. Those of you around my age remember the days of slick sales pitches and folks with a repository of business cards to hand out. While these in-person pantomimes still occur, they have largely taken a backseat to the online competition.

The good news is that I have developed a framework that uniquely works for me within this new normal; one that has yielded a number of personal and professional connections over the years, as well as scores of business opportunities.

My 3 Lanes on the Connection Highway

Given the vast nature of the online social landscape, one can quickly get lost in a morass of places to build connections. So like entering the on-ramp to a highway, it’s important to quickly assess which of the three lanes you are going to use – and when.

Twitter: Laugh if you must, but Twitter is great for lazy-ass networkers like me. And I have generated a ton of business over the years from this networking platform. Because today’s rapport is often snatched in soundbites (think texts and messaging), the 140 character tweet limit is usually all I need to fuel a new connection. Just look at it as a squirt of lighter fluid, designed to ignite a conversation that you can then nurture.Keep reading…

Anthem Vault Customers: Free T-Shirt Friday!

Have you opened your Anthem Vault account? Have you been waiting to finally make your first gold and silver purchase? This Friday will be a great opportunity to make your move (even if it’s not your first!). All orders placed this Friday will earn a complimentary t-shirt from Anthem Vault!

Anthem Vault makes it so easy to begin saving in silver and gold, without the hassle of storing and selling the physical coins in your possession. You can place an order for as little as $25, select your choice of gold or silver, and liquidate your account directly into your bank account at any time.

Haven’t tried it yet? Friday will be an awesome day for it. Customer service will be standing by with any questions (1-855-428-2858)! After you make your purchase, whether it’s your first or your 20th, email us at support@anthemvault.com with your desired t-shirt size (we’ll do our best to accommodate) and mailing address to which you’d like the shirt delivered.

It pays to #BeResponsible! :)

Build a Network to Help You Succeed!

Professional Business People Working in the OfficeThe entire month of February we will be covering topics on networking. To some people, networking just seems like stuffy cocktail parties and useless business cards that end up in the trash, or are used as a toothpick. That’s not the case at all. Networking can become your foundation of support in your professional and personal endeavors. Networking can launch you into places you never thought possible. Networking could save you when you hit your lows. As cliche as it is, truly who you know can be just as important as what you know.

To get started, here are three things you can do right now to prepare for networking events that come your way:

  1. Order business cards. Vistaprint.com does small batches of great looking cards for cheap. (Pro tip: always check for a coupon code on the site or check coupon alert sites. You’re bound to find an additional 15%+ off)
  2. Sign up for Meetup.com. I met some of my best friends and former employers through meet-ups, and learned a TON!
  3. Open a networking calendar for yourself. This can be through your calendar app on your phone or perhaps a physical notebook. Being prepared for when the opportunities come up is key. This way life stays organized and you don’t miss appointments with new connections and friends that could change your life!

We are excited to explore with you and share our experiences. By the end of this month, you should feel more confident in your networking abilities, and hopefully attended some events (challenges to come that include prizes!). #BeResponsible

Windows 10 – What’s the Deal?

Microsoft_Windows_logo_(Pre-XP).svgMicrosoft made ripples when it announced that Windows 7 users who migrated to 8.1 would have the chance to upgrade to its latest OS, Windows 10, for free. Microsoft has a reputation for being stingy with its software updates, so this marked the first time in the company’s history that they have tried something more wallet-friendly. In conjunction with the release of the Surface and Surface Book computers, it all seemed like a calculated raid on Apple’s territory. But what about the upgrade offer’s fine print?

Supposedly, the offer will end this coming July, just a year from the date the free upgrade was launched. There is speculation that the deadline was put in place to try to avoid the kind of negative issues that Microsoft suffered when they dropped support for Windows XP. The problem with this kind of deadline is that, in all probability, users who decline a free upgrade for an entire year most likely don’t want the upgrade at all. If Microsoft is trying to transition its customers to a new operating system as efficiently as possible, they’re going to have a hard time convincing people – who didn’t want Windows 10 when it was free – to pay for it in the future. Hopefully, Microsoft has something else in mind with this deadline, because selling upgrades has never been the most lucrative part of their business model anyway.

Microsoft’s plan might include extending the offer, making a new offer once the next upgrade of Windows 10 hits, or taking the risky gambit of completely dropping the free upgrade. Right now, it’s all speculation and anybody’s guess. I hate to resurrect the age-old debate, but the whole situation just begs a comparison to Apple.

Having been a lifelong Windows user, I just recently made the switch to an Apple computer. I could go into a lengthy discourse on why I made that decision, but suffice to say that I have no particular allegiance to either company. I advocate the use of whatever tools help get the job done, whether or not they have a shiny white fruit on the outside. That’s why I keep a virtual Windows machine on my Mac for running Windows-specific applications that I still need. That being said, I have for the most part been happy with my switch to Apple. One thing that longtime Mac users might take for granted – but that I can appreciate as a virtual migrant – is how nice it is to not have to worry about software upgrades.

Frankly, I wouldn’t see any shame in Microsoft copying this feature. Microsoft seems to be trying to do a better job of integrating its hardware and software, and has even begun to produce its own high-end hardware with the aforementioned range of Surface devices. But part of the reason this model works so well for Apple is that they have made software integration seamless across all devices, while Microsoft still has people using old unsupported software that came out years ago.

If Microsoft is trying to hide the fact that they are competing with Apple, they’re not doing a good job of it. That’s not to say that either company’s products are inherently better or worse, but if Microsoft want to avoid the comparison, they’re going to have to figure out a system that works. The free Windows 10 upgrade offer seemed like a good step, but the jury is out until we see what they have in store for this July…. when the offer ends.

Fed Holds, Japan Goes Negative

JapanResizeTwo big central bank decisions this past week sent the markets down one day and then blasted them higher at the end of the week. I am talking about the Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan announcements, of course. Although the market had different reactions, I believe both point to more central bank easing to come this year.

First, the Federal Reserve concluded its two-day meeting this past Wednesday, deciding to keep rates unchanged. In its statement, the Fed noted that recent data suggest labor markets are improving but economic growth has slowed, while inflation continues to run below their 2% target.

The rest of the statement was quite dovish, hinting at a more accommodative policy, especially noting that the committee is “closely monitoring global and financial developments.” This suggests the Fed is worried about the recent market turmoil and stock market declines in the U.S. and China. Somewhat surprisingly, the markets sold off a bit more than 1%, indicating traders either wanted even more accommodation or at least more clarity.

I previously noted that the Fed’s last rate increase was due to their concern about keeping credibility intact, rather than the Fed actually believing a recovery was under way. The latest move to stay put and not increase seems to confirm this. If economic conditions and data continue to deteriorate, we could easily see a move back to zero or even more quantitative easing. 
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