The number one overall seed in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament fell to the 64th overall seed -- the first time a 16-seed has beaten a one-seed in the history of the Final Four tournament. But that one upset hardly tells the story of the bad beats abound during March Madness.
My friend and I experienced the bad beats abound during March Madness on a blue chip parlay betting the spread -- even though I had planned to not bet the spread beforehand. We placed $20 on Duke, Kentucky and Kansas to cover their respective spreads because the $76 payout on our $20 bet was too attractive to avoid. (We made another $20 parlay bet on the same three teams to win outright to cover our potential loss on the spread parlay.)
Duke doubled the 10.5-point spread against Rhode Island, and Kentucky easily covered the 5.5 points by which they were favored, winning by 20. Kansas just had to win by five over Seton Hall and we would have won almost $150.
With 1:20 left, Kansas led by eight, but then Khadeen Carrington scored seven points in a minute to keep Seton Hall just five points back. After a pair of free throws by Malik Newman, we were good, leading by five. But there was plenty of time for Seton Hall to get off a three, and despite being well defended, Myles Powell knocked down a fade-away three as the buzzer sounded to deliver our money to the house.
We managed to find one of the few bad beats specifically betting the spread. I even went to Vegas with a plan for betting the Final Four that included never betting the spread, but the potential payout for betting the spread was just too attractive for me to avoid.
If you were betting on Texas Tech to cover the 11.5-point spread over Stephen F. Austin, you were disappointed that the Red Raiders didn’t try to score in the final 20 seconds while up 10. If you had your money on Purdue covering the four points by which they were favored, you were ecstatic when Dakota Mathias hit a three-pointer with 17 seconds left to push the Boilermaker lead to five. Even after Kelan Martin hit a layup to cut the Purdue lead to three with three seconds to play, if P.J. Thompson hits the front end of a one-and-one, you at least get your money back. If he hits both free ones you’re a winner. That had to hurt.
You might not have predicted Buffalo upsetting Arizona let alone covering the nine-point spread. But you might have been willing to bet that the two teams would score more than 158 points. The brutal irony in Buffalo’s drubbing of Arizona is that the Bulls actually took their foot off the gas pedal after Wes Clark hit a three to make it 89-64 with 1:17 left. The four points Arizona scored the rest of the way was two points short of 159 and a win for those betting the over.
Eight of the 32 first-round games ended with an underdog on top. University of Maryland-Baltimore County led the charge with its win over top-seed, Virginia. But two 13-seeds (Buffalo and Marshall) also upset two four-seeds (Arizona and Wichita State).
Syracuse, an 11-seed and a team some said didn’t deserve to be in the tournament, upset six-seed Texas Christian University. Another 11-seed, Loyola-Chicago defeated sixth-seeded Miami. Tenth-seeded Butler rounded out the upsets by double-digit seeds with its win over seventh-seeded Arkansas.
Alabama and Florida State both upset eight-seeds Virginia Tech and Missouri, respectively.
Six of the 16 second-round games resulted in upsets. Syracuse went on to upset Michigan State to make the Sweet 16. But Syracuse isn’t the only 11-seed in the Sweet 16. Loyola-Chicago also beat a three-seed in Tennessee to join Syracuse as a Cinderella.
Florida State is the next lowest seed left in the dance, defeating one-seed Xavier. Two seven-seeds also remain, as Texas A&M and Nevada defeated four-seed Auburn and two-seed North Carolina, respectively. Fifth-seeded Clemson beat fourth-seeded Auburn to conclude the second-round upsets.
Duke has the best odds of making the Final Four final and the second-best odds of becoming champion. They’ll face the lowest overall seed remaining in the tournament, Syracuse, whom they beat by 16 back in February. Syracuse’s zone defense was and still is superior to Duke’s, and it didn’t and still won’t matter.
Duke hit just two of 18 three-point attempts against the Orange zone, but the Duke zone sent Syracuse to the free-throw line just six times. The Blue Devils hit 14 of 16 free throws, 14 of which went to big men Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr. and Marques Bolden. They hit 12 of those 14, which is well above their season average. Bagley shoots 62 percent from the charity stripe, Carter shoots 74 percent from the line, and Bolden hit 59 percent of free ones this season.
Syracuse will have to put the Duke bigs on the line again and hope they miss more often. It’s really the only chance they have unless they shoot the lights out against a Duke zone that has improved since they last played.
The team with the best odds to become champion is one-seed Villanova. They get a tougher test than Duke to open the Sweet 16, though. Fifth-seeded West Virginia will hope its full-court press can limit Villanova’s league-best scoring efficiency, a tall task for the gritty Mountaineers.
Gonzaga checks in with the third-best odds to reach the final and win it all. Florida State stands between Gonzaga and the Elite 8, where either third-seeded Michigan or seventh-seeded Texas A&M will be waiting.
Second-seeded Purdue has the fourth-best odds to become champion despite having just the sixth-best chance to reach the final. That’s because Purdue has the toughest road to the Final Four, playing three-seed Texas Tech and potentially facing one-seed Villanova.
Fifth-seeded Kentucky has the fifth-best odds to be one of the Final Four and tournament champion and has one of the easiest paths to those ends. Ninth-seeded Kansas State awaits on Thursday, and if Kentucky wins, the Wildcats will either see seventh-seeded Nevada or 11-seed Loyola-Chicago.
Michigan has the sixth-best chance of reaching the final and becoming champ, with Kansas, a one-seed, checking in at seventh. The Jayhawks’ low odds despite their seed likely has to do with how Duke and Clemson have looked in the tournament thus far. Fifth-seeded Clemson smoked fourth-seeded Auburn by 29 in the second round, and Duke won both its games running away.
So if you’re looking to make back some of the money you lost on the bad beats abound during March Madness’s first two rounds, Duke and Villanova are the best bets to reach the Final Four.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch
Home renovations aren’t cheap and can be especially costly for old homes, but there are ways to give your old home a facelift without spending a fortune. Follow these tips to renovate your old home on the cheap.
What I mean by “finish your walls to the floor” is to hang your drywall so that it comes as close to your floor as possible. Finish your walls to the floor also means applying wall texture as far down the wall as you can if you’re using wall texture. You don’t want to leave a few-inch gap because you know there will be baseboard trim there and then find after you’ve attached the trim that there are glaring spots lacking texture. You can’t re-apply wall texture without covering your trim or removing it, so do the work properly upfront and you won’t run into problems that waste your time or money later.
Leaving a considerable gap between your floor and your wall might force you to buy a wider baseboard to affix to the base of the wall in order to hide the gap. That’s exactly what the former owners of my 1925 home did, likely because of damaged edges of the drywall they thought the 3.25-inch baseboard would cover and didn’t. Hint: the baseboards you’ll commonly find at home improvement stores are 3.25 inches wide, and the next largest size is likely 4.5 inches, which increases your costs considerably. Special ordering 3.5-inch baseboard trim is a possibility, so if you have other renovations you can do while you wait for your baseboard, do that.
If your renovation can’t wait on a special order, you can affix another piece of trim, called a toe kick, to the bottom of the baseboard so you can cheat the baseboard up the wall and cover the unfinished portions of your walls. The toe kick can help hide the slope of your floors, too, as you can affix it to the baseboard while it’s flush with the floor. It’s a lot easier to do with an automatic nailer loaded with finishing nails than to risk damaging your floors using a hammer. This is all more expensive than finishing your walls to the floor, though.
Wall texture makes painting your walls more expensive, and it’s expensive itself. You’ll undoubtedly use more paint to cover the bumps and holes wall texture brings with it, and you’ll spend more than $12 per can on wall texture to cover your mistakes. That can doesn’t go as far as it says on the can, either. On the medium setting, you can blow through a can of wall texture before you finish two walls in an average-sized room.
If you finish your walls properly, you shouldn’t need to use wall texture. Finish your walls with thin layers of drywall mud and then sand them to a flat finish. Vacuum the dust off the floor and the walls, and then wash the walls with a damp rag. You should be able to get away with one coat of paint in most cases.
Wallpaper is a pain in the ass to hang and remove. It’s also more expensive than paint. And eventually, you’ll tire of the puppy wallpaper you hung in your son’s bedroom when he was a toddler, but won’t be too excited about taking it down. So just paint instead.
In fact, you can save a bunch of money by planning your paint projects ahead of time. I shop the “Oops” paint at hardware stores to get a gallon of paint for less than $10. There is nothing wrong with “Oops” paint. The color just wasn’t acceptable to whomever ordered it. I was actually paid $1 for buying a gallon of “Oops” paint at Lowe’s after a mail-in rebate. That paint goes for $45 per gallon regularly. Even if one gallon isn’t enough to complete my project, I can have the color matched and get just enough to finish the job at regular price.
I stretch my paint as far as I can by using a paintbrush as much as possible. Rollers waste a lot of paint, so if you are going to use a roller, invest in the “high-dollar,” sheepskin rollers that advertise “one coat coverage” on the package. They’re usually only a few cents more expensive than economy rollers and are more efficient when painting walls with a lot of wall texture.
I took out one of my two bedroom doors and put in recessed shelving in its place, which meant I needed baseboard trim for the wall I added that matched the trim already in the living room. The same trim is used throughout the house, but a lot of it has paint drippings dried to it because the last person who painted failed to tape over the trim. Since that trim needs to be removed, sanded and refinished, I cannibalized a piece of baseboard in my bedroom that was roughly the same shade and mostly clear of paint and affixed it to the new wall in the living room. Since I’m painting the baseboard trim in the bedroom, I’ll buy a new piece and paint it to replace the one I moved.
You’d be surprised what you’ll wish you had kept when you start renovating your old home. Since I intend to add both a bathroom and kitchen sink in my unfinished basement, I kept all the plumbing pieces from my kitchen sink upstairs that were no longer needed after I installed a dishwasher. I’ll keep the old faucet when I install a new one as well.
Old homes tend to have a lot of potential in unutilized space. Homebuilders back in the day were less concerned with how to best utilize the square footage of the home than they were with building a home that was structurally sound.
Old homes tend to have load-bearing walls in all the wrong places, and small homes are even worse because there are so few walls. Neither allow homeowners to easily take out walls and create a more open floor plan that makes the home look bigger. So you have to find space where you can. The easiest place to find more square footage in every home is between the studs of every wall.
Don’t buy bookcases and make your home smaller. Build a bookcase into your walls and make it look bigger. Every two-inch by four-inch wall has roughly 3.5 inches of potential shelf space between the studs, which are usually 16 to 24 inches apart. While 3.5 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, it provides plenty of space to install supports for a shelf you can extend beyond the depth of the wall.
That shelving unit I installed in place of my second bedroom door will have 7.5-inch shelves I can use to store my vinyl record collection. Those records are 12.5 inches wide but don’t need a shelf equal in width to support them. I know this because they currently sit on shelves that are 7.75 inches wide. I’ve pulled them out more than an inch, and they still sit flat on the shelf.
So instead of storing my records on a bookshelf sitting on the floor and losing valuable square footage in my home, I’m actually making my tiny home look bigger than it is by keeping the shelves off the floor and recessed into the walls.
I’ve already found more square footage in my old home by building a custom shelving unit into my living room walls for my stereo equipment. Instead of having an entertainment center with my turntable, amplifier, receiver and power center sitting on the floor, it’s all neatly stacked in the corner of the living room above my subwoofer. What previously robbed my home of eight square feet now sits in an area less than 2.5 square feet in size.
Follow these tips to renovate your old home on the cheap and you’ll not only save some money for a potential addition or new appliances, but you’ll save yourself valuable time, space and headaches.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, What’s Cookin Today, The Easy Organic Gardener, Home Talk
Sure, a business card will remind a potential customer who you are, how to contact you and what your business does, but you can be sure most people will never look at that business card again unless they absolutely need your services. And even then, they’ll probably have a hard time remembering where they stashed it. I know I have multiple stacks of business cards on my desk and bookshelf in the office that were organized in a certain manner I can no longer remember.
Even the nicest business cards get lost in the literal shuffle. Your business needs more than just business cards to convert potential customers into paying customers. If you really want to make a good first impression, you need to leave potential customers with promotional items they love so much they won’t even consider them advertisements. They’re just cool things they want, or even need. So here are the best promotional items to advertise your business and turn potential customers into paying customers.
While more expensive than your typical promotional item, a clever t-shirt worn by a loyal customer is the best walking billboard in which you can invest. Not only do you have ample space to let people know what makes your products or services unique, but you have an ambassador who can pay lip service to your company’s quality, too.
T-shirts are an especially effective investment for nonprofit organizations because their supporters are much more likely to represent the organization on their backs, or even pay for the t-shirt to represent their favorite nonprofits. Nonprofit supporters associate themselves with their nonprofits of choice like sports fans associate themselves with their favorite teams. They aren’t just consumers or spectators -- they have a real effect on the game. Some nonprofit fans even get in on the marketing efforts by designing t-shirts for their favorite nonprofits. That’s the case for the Marijuana Policy Project, which holds a t-shirt design competition annually.
You can save some money by printing your own t-shirts. Here’s a video on how to do just that. Personally, I can attest to how difficult it is to make great looking t-shirts, not because making the t-shirt is difficult. The problem is never applying the ink to the shirt, but properly exposing your silk screen. If you mess it up, you’re out at least $50 -- $25 for the screen you ruined and $25 for the new screen you’ll have to buy. The best screens we’ve worked with we built ourselves rather than buying at the arts and crafts store. They still work to this day despite bottles upon bottles of ink going through them.
Building and exposing your own screens might not be worth your time given the many options to design custom t-shirts online for around $3 to $6 per shirt, depending on quantity. But if you intend to print a ton of t-shirts over a long period of time, having a means to print them yourself whenever you need them would be a wise investment.
Ranging from 60 cents to around $2 each, a customized, ceramic mug is something everyone can use and everyone around them can see. Giving your potential customers or even loyal customers a mug is commonplace in many industries. Most of my mugs advertise something: the title company who helped me close on my house, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, New York Air Brakes, Makoshika State Park, Hershey’s Chocolate. In fact, just one of my six mugs lacks advertising.
Mugs are always useful and tend to be used in the company of others. People at the office drink coffee or tea from their personal mugs at meetings, and people at parties drink beer from glass mugs. Both of which should be advertising your business.
As phones get larger, pocket space gets smaller. Enter the mobile phone wallet -- a silicone wallet to hold identification, credit cards and cash right on the back of your phone. The backs of people’s mobile phones are like billboards for your brand. People are on their phones constantly, so your brand is bound to reach people while giving your potential customer the convenience of carrying less stuff.
You can easily design your mobile phone wallet using online software and choose multiple colors so your potential customers are comfortable affixing your promotional item to their precious mobile phone. You can order mobile phone wallets in bulk at less than 70 cents each.
Classic car calendars are my personal weakness. Everytime I see a classic car calendar for free I take one. I could have two at home and still find another place to put a third. You can never have enough calendars or pictures of hot cars. It’s cheap wall art as well as a practical item that serves a purpose. But not all calendars provide the same promotional payoff.
First of all, don’t bother with the peel and stick calendars that simply have your company logo atop a small, plain calendar capable of nothing more than telling your potential customer the date. There’s no space to write on it, so it’s not likely to get much attention. It also can’t be easily seen nor does it attract the eyes of passersby. If you’re going to give a potential customer a calendar, make it a calendar that draws their eyes as well as the eyes of anyone in the vicinity.
The same could be said of desktop calendars. They’re just too small, and while more practical and useful than the peel and stick calendars, you’re not going to catch the eyes of anyone except the person behind the desk.
The traditional, spiral-bound, hanging calendar is still king of the calendars. The average price of a customized calendar is less than $1, and you can design one yourself using online software and your own images.
Magnetic calendars are starting to catch on because they combine two great marketing materials into one. Most people’s magnets on their refrigerator/freezer were probably free and probably advertise something. Of the eight magnets on my fridge, I paid for one, and that’s because I wanted a momento from The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which is well worth your time and money if you’re in Sin City. While I have no use for a calendar on which I can’t write, a magnet always comes in handy, which brings us to the best promotional item to advertise your business.
While most calendars have a promotional life of one year, magnets will promote your business for as long as they’re magnetized, so don’t pinch pennies, which is all you’ll be pinching. Most magnets can be had for less than 50 cents each unless you’re going big. While I really like the practicality and convenience of magnetized notepads, they too have a limited promotional life, so stick with a magnet that won’t exhaust its usefulness.
Invest in a thick magnet that will stand the test of time and secure a bunch of stuff to the fridge. There’s nothing more annoying than a cheap magnet that struggles to keep my cousin’s holiday, family photo attached to my freezer. But don’t pay the premium for the magnetized paper clips. They don’t allow you to convey any other information about your business besides your logo, which will be lost amongst the many papers the clip will hold.
The only real drawback of magnets is the competition. Refrigerators are consumed by children’s drawings, “A+” test papers, grocery lists, to-do lists and all manner of coupons or receipts -- each suspended there by a different magnet likely advertising a different company -- maybe even a competitor of yours. So it’s very important that your magnet stands out from the crowd.
The only people who see keychains are the owners of said keychains, so you can’t expect your investment in this promotional item to payoff. But I’ve seen variations of this promotional item that keeps it out of last place.
After a football game one day, I was handed a keychain that doubled as a windshield scraper. I’ve seen others that serve as flashlights. The best keychain I’ve seen is a bottle opener with a beer brand advertised on it. So if you’re going to go this route, make sure your keychain serves a purpose besides hanging from people’s keys.
People who regularly wear hats tend to have hats they prefer to wear. A cheap, trucker hat with your company’s logo is not likely one of those preferred hats. The only time I wear promotional headgear is when I’m doing construction work outside and don’t want to ruin one of my preferred hats. That’s not going to get your brand noticed.
Hats are also expensive promotional materials, especially given the limited return on investment. You can expect to pay about the same amount for a hat as you would a t-shirt, which is just asinine.
Pens are too small to allow others to see what’s advertised on them. And while they’re an affordable investment (less than 40 cents each), the return on investment in terms of lead generation is next to nothing.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl
The stock market is not the economy. It is not indicative of the economy’s health. The stock market is a human collective reacting emotionally to news and numbers. It is merely a means to measure the perceived value of publicly-owned companies based on human emotion and expectations. Those perceived values can be overvalued, undervalued or properly valued, and with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping nearly 1,000 points the last three days, it seems stocks were overvalued.
Stocks were overvalued due to a myriad of factors. According to the “Shiller PE Ratio,” stocks were more expensive than they were on “Black Tuesday” in 1929, but less expensive than they were at the height of the dot.com bubble. So historically speaking, stocks were dangerously expensive.
Stocks are overvalued when things are going right. A lack of volatility over the past few years has culminated in a perfect storm that’s seen the VIX -- the stock market’s most popular measure of stock volatility -- rise more than 300 percent in a month.
“One big change affecting the market is interest rates, which have climbed sharply in 2018 to multiyear highs in the U.S. and around the world as economies have picked up steam,” Ed Carson writes for Investor’s Business Daily. Higher interest rates mean higher borrowing costs, which result in people consuming less. Much of the stock market’s recent losses are tied to an expectation that consumers will be spending less in 2018.
Don’t expect the stock market to continue providing 2017 rates of return, and with interest rates likely to increase, bonds aren’t necessarily the best place to put your money, but not the worst either.
There is good news for this newly volatile stock market. Midterm elections are more often good for the stock market than bad. “[T]he seasonality associated with midterms has brought positive returns for the stock market a lot more than it has brought losses,” according to Dominic Chu of CNBC. “On average, the S&P 500's return between Oct. 31 of the midterm year and Oct. 31 of the following year has been an eye-popping 17.5 percent.” So it’s not time to pull your money out of the stock market; it’s time to invest in the stock market.
The best approach for investing in 2018 is the same approach for investing in 2017 and any other year: invest and forget. You’re not going to get rich buying Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), but you will realize a better return than you would from putting your money in a savings account or buying a Certificate of Deposit (CD).
Attempting to time the market is also a mistake, as is reacting to the market like stock traders did this week. Pulling your money out of the stock market at the first sign of adversity is the same emotional response that drove the stock market down in the first place. Traders selling shares in fear worsened the market’s decline because they had come some accustomed to the market’s lack of volatility. In fact, regular contributions to the stock market help limit volatility. So expect volatility and accept it. Just keep feeding the beast and try to forget that it’s there.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl
According to the CDP Carbon Majors Report released in July of 2017, “investors in fossil fuel companies carry influence over one fifth of industrial greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” There’s a very good chance your investment portfolio includes the ticker symbols of some of the biggest contributors to climate change, and with the largest greenhouse gas emitter, Saudi Aramco, opening up its initial public offering to foreign investors, it’s time you knew the ramifications of giving these companies your money.
Of the 30.6 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide of operational and product greenhouse gas emissions from 224 fossil fuel extraction companies, 41 percent are either public- or private-investor owned. While another 59 percent are state-owned, there’s not much you can do about those emitters unless you live in those countries. But you can withhold funding from publicly-traded companies looking to use that money to further sully the Earth, and 20 percent of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions comes from companies owned by public investors, which will grow significantly with the addition of Saudi Aramco as a publicly-traded entity. Saudi Aramco was responsible for 4.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
The best way you can curb climate change is to not give or loan your money to these carbon-emitting companies. If you can’t afford an electric vehicle, you still have to fill the tank, but perhaps instead of filling your tank at the nearest or cheapest gas station, you fill it at the gas station owned by the company that emits the least carbon, which is likely Conoco in the United States.
According to the CDP report, ConocoPhillips was responsible for 61 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, half the emissions of BP, and emitted 40 percent less carbon dioxide than Chevron in 2015. So buy your fuel at ConocoPhillips’ stations if you can and Chevron if you can’t. If neither are available near you, Shell seems to be working the hardest toward a low-carbon, energy policy globally. Phillips 66 is doing the least.
With enough people boycotting the purchase of shares in corporate carbon emitters, these companies will be forced to change their approaches. So here are the publicly-traded companies to avoid supporting financially.
Saudi Aramco is responsible for almost twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the next biggest emitter in the CDP report. When it comes to polluting the Earth and warming the planet, no one does it like Saudi Aramco.
But even Saudi Aramco is planning for life after oil, investing $20 billion to construct the largest chemicals facility in the world. The move is in tune with the wishes of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who would like to see the country wean off its “dangerous addiction to oil.” Still, investing your money in what is likely to be the biggest initial public offering in history is an investment in the destruction of Earth.
Gazprom is the largest natural gas company in the world and is tasked with providing most of Russia and some countries of the former Soviet Union with natural gas. It controls one quarter of the world's known natural gas reserves and accounts for eight percent of Russia's gross domestic product. But international sanctions have cut into the success of Russian energy companies since the country’s annexation of Crimea, so Gazprom isn’t exactly a safe investment. It certainly isn’t a safe investment for Earth.
Coal combustion is generally more carbon intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electricity, which is why Coal India easily makes this list. Although coal accounted for about 70 percent of CO2 emissions from the electricity sector, it represented only about 34 percent of the electricity generated in the United States in 2015. In India, more than 75 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- up from 67 percent in 2011 and at an all-time high.
India is working its way off coal just as Saudi Arabia is looking to lessen its dependence on oil. Research from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) suggests that India can cut its CO2 emissions by up to 10 percent or 600 million tons after 2030 if renewable energy and batteries become less costly than coal within 10 years. An investment in Coal India is a sucker bet.
Shenhua Group is a Chinese coal company, where 72.63 percent of electricity came from coal in 2014 -- down from an all-time high of 80.95 percent in 2007. It’s another sucker bet, as China is ahead of schedule when it comes to curbing carbon emissions.
Rosneft is a Russian oil and gas company. Again, sanctions have limited the success of Russian energy companies, so you wouldn’t want your money behind them regardless of their damage done to Earth.
ExxonMobil is selling itself as an innovator in energy solutions and biofuels, but it also spent almost $31 million supporting organizations that spread climate change denial propaganda between 1998 and 2014. ExxonMobil reportedly spends $27 million annually to oppose climate policy as of 2016. It’s the largest carbon emitter amongst the gasoline companies and that should be all you need to know.
Shell was second to ExxonMobil in dollars spent to oppose climate policy with a $22-million annual budget. It even made a film warning of climate change in 1991 but did not heed its own warning so it could reap the benefits of increased profits. Of the energy giants, though, Shell and Total are the only companies to receive a “D” rating from InfluenceMap when it comes to transitioning to a low-carbon, energy policy globally. ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron all received “E-” ratings.
We all know BP for spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 people at Deepwater Horizon -- the largest oil spill in history and eight to 31 percent larger than the next largest. In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct, and in July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines -- the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
Peabody is a coal company based in St. Louis, and as less and less American energy is produced by coal, Peabody’s stock price will fall more and more. Just 34.34 percent of America’s energy production came from coal in 2015 -- down more than five percent over the course of a year.
Petrobras is Brazil’s largest oil and natural gas company and is dirty in more than one way. It paid $2.95 billion to settle a U.S. class action corruption lawsuit at the beginning of 2018 -- the largest settlement paid to the United States by a foreign entity. The settlement was six times more than it has received so far under a Brazilian probe into bribery schemes that involved company executives and government officials.
Shares of Chevron have increased nearly 30 percent in the last six months, so there will be no bargain for buyers of CVX now. Worse yet, its $34-billion project in Western Australia could face tougher emissions curbs, which would increase costs and sink shares.
Gross profits of the state-run, Malaysian oil and gas company have decreased over the last three years in all divisions -- gas processing, gas transportation, utilities and regasification. And its Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline transporting liquid natural gas sprung a leak on Jan. 10. A 2015 report found that there’s enough natural gas leakage to outweigh the climate benefits of using natural gas instead of coal.
The Democratic Republic of Congo forced Glencore’s billionaire head of copper into a smaller role after a review raised questions about accounting and management, but Congo’s doubling of taxes on cobalt will hurt Glencore even more.
How much Koch Industries actually pollutes Earth is difficult to determine, as Koch is privately owned and exempt from risk disclosures required of publicly-traded companies. Multiple estimates have Koch Industries at 300 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, but the Kochs do more to obstruct policy addressing climate change than anyone.
InfluenceMap ranked Koch Industries dead last in its readiness for a transition to a low-carbon policy globally. The Koch Brothers also contribute more to climate-change-denying candidates than anyone else. They budgeted for $889 million in campaign contributions to Conservative candidates in 2016 and are planning to spend up to $400 million during the 2018 midterm elections.
You can avoid giving Koch Industries your money by avoiding the companies it owns, like Vistra Energy Corp. (VST), of which it holds nearly five million shares. Vistra is a Texas energy company.
The Australian-English company is the world’s largest mining company.
The French, multinational, “Supermajor” oil and gas company was fined $313,910 for air emissions violations at its Port Arthur refinery in Texas just under a week ago, and this after the Clean Power Plan was mostly repealed.
Arch Coal is an American coal mining and processing company. They burn coal.
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With the Republicans’ tax bill set to become law on Jan. 1, you have just a few days left to prepay your 2018 property taxes before the federal cap on your state and local tax deduction goes into effect. The Republicans’ tax bill will cap the state and local tax deductions on federal tax returns at $10,000.
Thomas Mould, a certified public accountant of Valley Accounting and Tax in Apple Valley, Minn., said the $10,000 cap applies to all state taxes, including income tax. So if you pay a combined $10,000 in state and local property taxes and state income taxes, you’ll probably want to prepay your 2018 property taxes today.
Most people don’t have a state and local tax bill over $10,000, but those who do should take advantage of the uncapped deduction for property tax payments one last time. People living in high-tax states like New York and California should be the first to jump at the opportunity. Oregon, Maryland and Minnesota also have high income tax rates, but some states are still sorting out how they’ll handle pre-payment of property taxes and whether they will recognize the deduction.
Some states have made their intentions clear. Oregon, for example, is not allowing or recognizing prepayment of property taxes. However, New Jersey’s Governor just issued an executive order allowing the prepayment and deduction at the State level.
Mould said three of the four counties he contacted in Minnesota will take a prepayment on 2018 property taxes but wouldn’t tell him whether that prepayment would be recognized as income by the County, ensuring deductibility by the IRS. So states are scrambling to find answers for citizens with just days to determine whether prepaying 2018 property taxes will payoff for them next year. Small businesses shouldn’t be as confused, though.
“If the business itself...is subject to taxation, then there’s no limit on the state taxes. But if all the taxes are paid at the personal level, then the $10,000 cap would apply,” Mould informed.
Translation: if your business is taxed as a corporate entity, then the $10,000 state and local tax cap doesn’t apply to you. But if you run a sole proprietorship, then the $10,000 cap on your state and local tax deduction does apply.
So do your due diligence and determine whether prepaying your 2018 property taxes will save you money come tax season next year, and if you intend to start a sole proprietorship in 2018, keep in mind that your state and local tax deduction will be capped at $10,000, and it might be worth paying your 2018 property taxes ahead of time.
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It might be a while before post-secondary education is free for any American accepted to a public college or university. New York has become the first state to offer residents a tuition-free, post-secondary education at community colleges and public colleges and universities, and California could be next. That doesn’t help those of us who have already graduated from college with massive student loan debt, but you can get out of student loan debt without paying it all or worrying about interest accruing. The earlier you take these steps the better.
There are a ton of corporate scammers out there preying on recent college graduates struggling to repay their student loan debt. These companies offer nothing you can’t do yourself from the StudentLoans.gov website but charge a monthly fee for playing middle man between you and your student loan servicer(s).
You should be able to identify these scammers by their too-good-to-be-true offer, but if you ever call any other number besides (800) 557-7394 or (800) 557-7392, you’re likely dealing with a scammer. Keep in mind, though, that these companies already get a bad rep, so if you do end up being scammed, do not hesitate to demand a full refund.
This might sound impossible for an unemployed, college graduate, but it’s essential to improve your borrowing power during the six-month grace period you have before your first student loan payments are due.
What you can borrow depends on your debt-to-income ratio, which is probably pretty terrible for any recent college graduate looking for a job. But even if your income is low (or nonexistent), you can take steps to improve your financial situation by simply moving your debt around. The first step is prioritizing your non-student-loan debt.
Credit cards can be an asset if you use them correctly. If you’re struggling to find a job to improve your debt-to-income ratio by increasing your income, you must improve your debt-to-income ratio by reducing your debt. But how can you reduce your debt without income?
You should know which credit cards are costing you the most in interest. Some of these rates can be upwards of 30 percent, so check to see if there’s an opportunity to transfer your highest credit card balance to a credit card with a lower rate. You might pay a three percent fee on the balance transferred, but if that’s less than you’d pay in interest over the life of the introductory rate, better to pay that amount upfront during your six-month grace period.
The key is to never allow your credit card balance to grow. At the end of every month, your credit card balance should be less than it was when you graduated. That way, when the six-month grace period on your student loans expires, you can work with smaller (or nonexistent) credit card payments.
If you are tired of paying multiple student loan servicers, consolidate your loans under one servicer. This will make your student loan payments one payment paid to one servicer. The important thing to keep in mind when consolidating, though, is when asked the question of whether you work for a nonprofit, answer “yes,” even if you don’t. This will assure that your loans are consolidated with a servicer who qualifies for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). So if you end up working for a nonprofit in the future, your loans already qualify for the program.
You can only pay what you have, so anyone with student loan debt should be on an income-based repayment plan, unless, of course, you make a ton of money. If that’s the case you should just pay off your student loans as quickly as possible to avoid paying interest.
While you must reapply for an income-based repayment plan annually, regardless of your change in adjusted gross income, it will result in the lowest qualifying payment you can make on your student loans.
If your income is low enough, you could end up paying $0 per month, but unless you intend to work for a nonprofit for 10 years and have the remaining balance of your student loans forgiven, interest will accrue at an astronomical rate.
Under the PSLF program, if you make 120 payments -- even of $0 -- while working at least 30 hours per week for a nonprofit organization, the remaining balance of your student loans after those 120 payments will be forgiven. It will disappear.
You don’t necessarily have to be paid by the nonprofit. If you volunteer for 30 hours per week with a nonprofit or multiple nonprofits, you just need an executive of that nonprofit to verify that you work 30 hours per week for them using this form.
You can even start a nonprofit and have a member of your board verify your work hours. I just found out all the work I did for a nonprofit I started to grow ice sports in my hometown qualifies me for the PSLF program, so if there’s a cause near and dear to your heart that isn’t being addressed by a nonprofit, start one. It’s as easy as raising some money and filing some corporate paperwork with the state to acquire tax exempt status. (Note: partisan political nonprofits and labor unions do not qualify.)
Don’t let student loan debt cripple your economic outlook. Take these steps as soon as possible to get out of student loan debt.
Attending a first-time homebuyer workshop is a great way to prepare yourself for purchasing your first home. You’ll learn how much home you can really afford and how mortgage interest rates are determined, the importance of home inspections, what to look for in a home and how to thoroughly inspect a home during an open house. But an eight-hour, first-time homebuyer workshop isn’t enough time to completely prepare you for the home-buying process. Here are 5 things they don’t tell you at first-time homebuyer workshops.
You’ll probably be looking at homes during the day, so you might not turn on all the lights to make sure they work. You should. When I moved into my house I found almost every light bulb dead, which isn’t a big or expensive problem, but one fixture had a connection that needed cleaning with steel wool and electronic parts cleaner. It could have been worse. I could have had to replace the entire fixture, or worse yet, the wiring to the fixture. So turn on every light switch.
Flush the toilets and turn on all the faucets, too. You might find out your kitchen faucet or sink leaks, or your toilet doesn’t flush, or your shower head needs to be replaced, or your washer or dryer doesn’t work. These are all things you should request the seller repair, and you should go so far as to request all the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and thermostats have fresh batteries. When buying your first home, you should nitpick.
Even your home inspector might not do a thorough inspection of your attic or crawl spaces. Their biggest concern is with the insulation of those areas, which they can see from afar. When you tour a home, check those areas for rodents or places where rodents could enter the home. If there are holes where rodents can enter, request the seller cover those holes with steel, which rodents can’t chew through. This will save you a lot of trouble you really don’t want.
You can get a sense of what utilities will cost you before offering on a home by making a few calls. Call the city or county regarding garbage and water, and call the electric company to see what the monthly electricity bill will run. If your home has natural gas, that should excite you, as it’s more efficient and cheaper than electricity. Once you have an idea what your monthly living expenses will be, you’re ready to make an offer.
Even after you submit your highest and best offer and it’s verbally accepted by the seller, the seller has more than a week to sign the papers officially confirming the acceptance of your offer, which is contingent on your request for work to be done on the house prior to the sale. If the seller decides to go with another offer because they don’t want to do the work you’ve requested, they can. So don’t get too excited when your realtor says your offer was the highest and best, and the seller has verbally accepted it, because the next eight to 10 days (depending on whether your offer is accepted around a weekend) will be the longest in the entire home-buying process unless your realtor has made you aware of it. Now you’ll be prepared.
If you’re the owner of an “aggressive breed” or “bully breed” dog, you won’t even qualify for home insurance policies with some insurers. Others will raise your rate because of the perceived risk associated with your dog, even if your dog is the gentlest dog on the planet. So before considering homeownership, shop around for home insurance so you get the absolute best policy and price.
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If the tax plan presented by Donald Trump and Republicans is adopted, the average American stands to benefit very little. According to a new report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, four-fifths of American taxpayers can expect their after-tax income to increase .5 percent or less, while the top fifth of earners would see a three percent increase in after-tax income.
The study also found that 80 percent of tax benefits would go to the top one percent of American earners. Households making more than roughly $900,000 a year would save $200,000 on average. The top one percent of American earners can expect a tax cut of 9.8 percent between now and 2027. Repealing the estate tax would cost the federal government $240 billion in tax revenue over the first decade, most of which would stay in the pockets of the super rich.
Big businesses stand to benefit from the Trump tax plan, too, thanks to a decrease of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But businesses that rely on debt to finance their investments, like real estate companies, private equity firms and financial companies, will likely see costs increase, because Trump’s tax plan proposes limiting the deductibility of corporate interest.
Realtors have been especially opposed to the Trump tax plan, because while it preserves the mortgage interest deduction, fewer people would benefit from itemizing their mortgage interest given the plan’s proposed increase to the standard deduction, which is closer to a 15 percent increase than a doubling of the standard deduction. This could make homeownership less attractive and hurt the housing market.
High-tax states like New York and California would be especially affected by Trump’s plan to eliminate the state and local tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who itemize to deduct property, state and local taxes. Congressional Republicans in high-tax states have already expressed their concern, so Trump’s tax plan might not pass without the state and local tax deductions being preserved.
Who is paying for these tax cuts for businesses and the super rich? The Tax Policy Center found that a majority of households earning between $150,000 and $300,000 would pay more in taxes under Trump’s tax plan, as would almost 30 percent of Americans earning between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.
Trump’s tax plan also doesn’t come in under budget. The tax plan would increase the deficit by $2.4 trillion over the first decade, and by $3.2 trillion over 20 years. And while the Royal Bank of Canada thinks Trump’s tax plan will raise gross-domestic product by .5 percent annually, even if that were sustainable over the next 20 years, Trump’s tax plan still increases the federal deficit by $1.252 trillion.
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Loyalty to your bank doesn’t pay. In this era of online banking, there is no reason to keep all your money in one bank. Even if you live in a small town and use a credit union, online bank accounts at the very least give you leverage over your bank to negotiate higher interest rates, but I would suggest taking some of your money out of that credit union or bank and stash it accordingly:
Discover Checking is the best checking account on the planet. Most checking accounts don’t allow you to accrue interest on your money, or if they do, it’s a very small amount of interest. Discover doesn’t offer interest, either. It offers cashback rewards.
Every time you spend the money in your Discover Checking account you get free money. Every check you write is worth 10 cents in rewards, and you’ll get enough free checks to last you a decade. Every time you use your Discover debit card, you get 10 cents.
Consider you pay every monthly bill with your Discover Checking account: rent, water, energy, credit card and a student loan or car payment. That’s 50 cents. Now consider all of your debit purchases each month. You probably buy groceries and fuel at least once every two weeks. There’s another 20 cents, and if you go out for dinner or entertainment a couple times per month, you’re making at least $1 per month in cashback rewards in lieu of interest. I’ll take that over a miniscule interest rate on my tiny checking account balance.
Oh, and if you ever need cash, you can withdrawal on your Discover Checking account at over 415,000 ATMs and do so for no fee at 60,000 of those ATMs. There’s an even better checking account if you live a mobile lifestyle, though.
The Aspiration Summit Checking account offers an interest rate up to 100 times bigger than the big banks. I get .25 percent APY on my Summit Checking account balance currently, and one percent APY when my balance reaches $2,500. The best part is I never pay an ATM fee no matter where I am in the world. Instead of getting traveler’s checks before going on vacation, you can just open an Aspiration Summit Checking account and use your debit card anywhere.
So those are my recommendations for checking accounts, but where should you keep your savings?
Synchrony is one of three banks that offer 1.2-percent APY on savings accounts (Barclays, Goldman Sachs), but Synchrony comes with easy access to your money, which could be a good thing or bad thing. Regardless, Synchrony offers discounts on hotels and car rentals that Barclays and Goldman Sachs don’t offer.
Since I already have a Discover Checking account, I opened a Discover Savings account as well. It stacks up well against the competition when it comes to its interest rate (1.1 APY), but it makes this list because of its $100 bonus offer. If you make an initial deposit of $15,000 into your new Discover Savings account, you get $100.
For an even better return on your savings, you can open a Wealthfront personal investment or retirement account by answering a few simple questions. Before opening your account, Wealthfront asks you questions about your preferred savings goals. If you want to take more risks for the chance at a better return, you can do that. If you want to preserve as much of your investment as possible, you can do that, too. Wealthfront will invest your money based on your answers to those questions, and they’ll even sell investments that have dipped in value so you can deduct the amount from your taxable income if you enable tax-loss harvesting. That’s why Wealthfront makes the list of 5 best places to keep your money: ease of use. You can open the account and never check it again until it’s time to collect.
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