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How Much
11 hours ago

Investors are in the game to make money. They chase yield around the world, looking for ways to generate higher returns than everyone else. And it turns out, even with the stock market rising to all-time highs and Bitcoin suffering another pullback, investing in cryptocurrency very early on was still a brilliant strategy.

  • Bitcoin blows away any other investment considered in our chart. If you had invested $100 ten years ago, you’d have $9.2M today.
  • Amazon’s stock is the top performer out of the 10 biggest companies, coming in at $3.3K.
  • Only 3 other companies generate returns above $1,000, including Apple ($2.4K), Visa ($1.7K) and Microsoft ($1K).
  • Alibaba’s stock performed the worst in our analysis, barely doubling an initial investment of $100 to $208.

We plotted the stock prices according to Yahoo Finance for the 10 largest companies measured by market capitalization. We found the stock prices as of January 2, 2009 with the exceptions of Bitcoin, Facebook and Alibaba, which weren’t public yet. In these situations, we assumed $100 was invested as soon as possible. We compared these numbers to the market price on December 3, 2019, excluding stock splits and dividends. This lets you easily see Bitcoin’s dominance over the last several years.

Total Return (%) on an Initial $100 Investment 10 Years Ago

1. Bitcoin: 9,150,088%
2. Amazon: 3,156%
3. Apple: 2,345%
4. Visa: 1,597%
5. Microsoft: 899%
6. JP Morgan: 433%
7. Facebook: 420%
8. Berkshire Hathaway: 228%
9. Johnson & Johnson: 216%
10. Walmart: 171%
11. Alibaba: 108%

Even with Bitcoin’s latest price implosion, the cryptocurrency has still created an astonishing 9,150,088% return. Other companies like Amazon (+3,156%) and Apple (+2,345%) are still impressive, but nothing truly compares to the king of the crypto world.

There’s no doubt Bitcoin's price has fluctuated dramatically over the last 2 years, reaching almost $20,000 in December 2017 before imploding below $3,500 in November 2018. It now trades at $7,475 as of this writing, down from almost $12,000 in August this year. Sometimes stock prices for individual companies can change substantially too. For example, GE’s price fell off a cliff over the last 3 years, dropping from about $30 in late 2016 to about $10 today. But that’s a notable exception, and not as fast moving compared to Bitcoin. For the most part, stock market prices for individual companies aren’t so volatile, especially ones with predictable business models and multi-billion dollar market capitalizations.

Bitcoin has received its fair share of negative attention despite its performance. Jim Cramer lampooned the cryptocurrency as “Monopoly money,” predicting it would get “annihilated.” Jamie Dimon famously called Bitcoin a “fraud” before his bank started investing in blockchain technology. And a major study accused Bitfinex of intentionally manipulating the entire Bitcoin market, thereby swindling investors of their money.

That means Bitcoin’s rise and fall (and then another rise and mini-fall) are not for the faint of heart. Are you investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies? Why do you favor crypto assets as opposed to individual stocks of companies?

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How to Win in Court
11 hours ago

Understand these two simple things - or risk losing!

Every lawsuit turns on these two things:

  1. The law of the case and
  2. The rules of court (evidence and procedure)

That's all there is to it ... really!

Anyone can learn "How to Win in Court"!


The "law of the case" is the law that fits the facts.

Every case is different, so the law is different for each.

But the law for any particular case is usually quite simple.

And the law of your case is easy to find.


Once you find the law of your case, the rest is knowing how to use the rules of evidence and procedure to

  1. Prove facts alleged in your pleadings.
  2. Stop opponent from proving his facts.
  3. Move court for favorable orders.


That's all it takes to win.

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Rad Power
December 6, 2019

For many people, it is now possible to use an eBike for nearby errands and ride sharing services for everything else.

This can be a real money saver.


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How to Win in Court
December 6, 2019

Get your way the Right Way!

Having a judge rule against you because he doesn't "like" you isn't a good thing! It helps to have the judge "on your side".


There's only ONE WAY to get a judge's favor.

Know what you're doing, do it well, and don't waste the court's time!

Currying favor with flattery doesn't work. Judges get the "sweet treatment" every day. Trying to butter up a judge with flowery words will work against you. The judge won't respect you. The judge will wonder what you're hiding.

Challenging a judge's "oath of office" won't win points, either.

Nor will arguing over flag etiquette or your name in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

Know what you're doing, do it well, AND DON'T WASTE THE COURT'S TIME!

Know how to work within the system, instead of trying to make end-runs around the rules with silly games the judges are familiar with already.

Know how to state your position clearly with properly-drafted pleadings, motions, and memoranda.

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Hard Assets Alliance
December 6, 2019


Markets got their hopes up when rumors that a partial trade deal was imminent, and then once again those hopes were dashed.


President Trump said he hasn’t agreed to dial back tariffs on China after all. So the next round of tariffs will go into effect Dec. 15 in the absence of a breakthrough.  The trade war is definitely having an impact on growth.  The latest survey of manufacturers in the midwest gave its weakest reading in four years last month. It was also the second lowest in a decade. Overall, U.S. manufacturing contracted for the third consecutive month in October. 

What about the broader economy?

 The Devil Is in the Details

A couple weeks ago, two major economic figures were released for the U.S. One was third-quarter GDP, which came in at an increase of 1.9%. That figure actually beat expectations of 1.6%.  But the devil is always in the details.  That’s still less than the second-quarter growth of 2% and an indication of a slowing-down trend for U.S. economic growth. And once again, the business investment spending component declined over the quarter.


Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry is having its worst year since the financial crisis on the back of trade wars and a slowing global economy. So the economic data are still slowing down.  Plus, as I’ve been reminding my readers, it was the consumer spending component that beat expectations again and contributed to much of that growth.If the U.S. consumer gets tapped out, that key pillar of support for the economy would collapse. And that’s entirely possible.


Total outstanding consumer debt exceeded $4 trillion for the first time this year, and credit card rates are rising.Auto loan delinquencies are also increasing and student debt is a crisis in the making. Corporate debt is another crisis in the making, which I’ll get to in a minute. As you’ll see, that’s the likely cause of the next crisis.  So don’t be surprised if the consumer taps out before too long.  But I said there were two key economic figures recently released. The second was the October unemployment report. And they paint a somewhat brighter picture.




U.S. payroll figures for October beat expectations, with 128,000 jobs being added after a consensus estimate of 75,000.  The unemployment rate did uptick by a tenth of a percent to 3.6%. That figure nonetheless remains close to a half-century low.  So the Fed can see a more or less healthy economy — if it wants to.  Unemployment is at a five-decade low, the economy has been growing (although slowing down) and the U.S. consumer is still active (although also slowing down).  Added together, all these factors were enough to substantiate the Fed’s indication that it will leave rates on hold for the rest of the year after its “insurance” rate cut at the end of October. It’s already lowered interest rates by 75 basis points this year.


But that is certainly no guarantee more rates aren’t coming.  If the U.S. or global economic growth picture deteriorates more quickly, that could easily press the Fed to cut rates further.  Meanwhile, the Fed is using its ability to inject liquidity into the money markets as a form of QE-lite to support the financial system.  That means more “dark money” is coming from the Fed. But the problem is that the Fed is now caught in a “Catch-22.”


The Corporate Debt Bomb


As one article put it, the Fed “is stuck between an apparently booming economy and a financial crisis that might be right around the corner.”  If the Fed keeps rates this low, it means more financial asset bubbles can inflate. But if the Fed doesn’t lower rates, the corporate sector is most at risk.  During the last crisis, too much housing debt that was repackaged in nefarious ways by Wall Street tanked the markets and the economy. Now the ticking time bomb is too much corporate debt, also being repackaged by Wall Street. Corporate debt is really what you need to watch.  Corporate debt is out of control, fueled as it’s been by all the cheap credit courtesy of the Fed.


U.S. nonfinancial corporate debt is now about $15 trillion dollars, or more than half of GDP. That’s an increase of more than 50% over its previous peak in 2008.  And it’s not like all this debt went to productive purposes like R&D or expanding business. It was mainly used to finance stock buybacks and acquisitions.  They may be good for shareholders (not to mention corporate executives who have gotten larger bonuses), but they don’t add to the economy.  All U.S. companies combined are burdened by a record $15.5 trillion of debt, or about two-thirds of GDP. If interest rates were to rise, that debt could default and lead to a repeat of 2008


And it’s not like all this debt went to productive purposes like R&D or expanding business. It was mainly used to finance stock buybacks and acquisitions.  They may be good for shareholders (not to mention corporate executives who have gotten larger bonuses), but they don’t add to the economy.  All U.S. companies combined are burdened by a record $15.5 trillion of debt, or about two-thirds of GDP. If interest rates were to rise, that debt could default and lead to a repeat of 2008.  Meanwhile, companies that fattened up on all this cheap debt over the past decade will be facing a major test as $4 trillion of bonds come due over the next five years, according to Oxford Economics.


The New Subprime Mortgages


Compounding the problem is that $660 billion of leveraged debt is in the form of collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) that have been sold to investors and financial institutions. CLOs are used to package lots of high-risk debt to be sold to investors eager for yield in this yield-starved environment.  If that reminds you of the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that were behind the subprime housing crisis, you’re right. Only in this case they’re packing not mortgage debt, but corporate loans.  A meaningful rise in defaults would produce severe losses. And we could be seeing a massive wave of defaults, which could spread like wildfire and produce a crisis. It’s a dark money Catch-22 of the Fed’s own making, and it’s basically been going on for more than a decade now.


The Fed is aware of all this. A debt crisis is its major concern and it will behave accordingly. As always, watch what it does, not just what it says.  The ongoing bailout of the repo market shows us that the Fed will keep dark money going for as long as possible and in whatever amounts are needed. But it’s only deepening the Catch-22.


By Nomi Prins

Nomi Prins is a renowned journalist, author and speaker. Her latest book, Collusion: How Central Banks Rigged the World is an expose into the 2007-2008 financial crisis and how the influence of central bankers triggered a massive shift in the world order.

Hard Assets Alliance was created as a cooperative of investment professionals who believe there's a better way to invest in precious metals. This is a guest perspective on the markets from one of these partners; we hope you enjoy it.


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International Living
December 4, 2019

By Jane Dempster-Smith

A smooth crossing. Perfect weather. Glorious blue skies throughout the day, orange-red sunsets at night, and when we woke early, pink sunrises...we were crossing the Atlantic in style.

My husband Duncan and I are advocates of slow travel on land. Back home, the daily grind had us existing, not living.

So when our adult sons left the nest, we took off overseas and never looked back. That was 2013. We are still traveling and live by our daily mantra 'chase time not money'.

We are working through our bucket list and dedicate ourselves to finding the best possible value.

Hence we were, for the first time, experiencing slow travel on the open seas. With repositioning cruises we had discovered yet another cheap way to travel the world and we are hooked. For as little as $42 a day we can travel the world in style, with no jet lag, and we arrive at the other end relaxed and raring to go.

This is our new way of traveling—if there is a repositioning cruise when and where we want to go, we will be on it.

A repositioning cruise is when cruise companies need to reposition their ships and crew for the start of a new season, e.g. Europe to the Caribbean, the Middle East to Canada, and Australia to the U.S. or Asia, and vice versa. Any maintenance that needs to be done is carried out during this time.

We noticed that one bar would close for renovation or a new coat of paint, but others would stay open so there would be little disruption for passengers. It's often a way to change the crew contracts from one region to another.

For less than the cost of an airline ticket we sailed for 15 nights from Spain to Panama, had all meals and alcohol included, visited the gym daily, and enjoyed nightly entertainment.

We traveled with Pullmantur, a Spanish Cruise Company, sailing from Bilbao, Spain to Colon in Panama, stopping off in Lisbon, Portugal, and the Caribbean Islands of St Maarten and Aruba on the way. The ships return via a different route back to Europe.

There tend to be fewer passengers on a repositioning cruise. Our ship, the M.V. Monarch, could carry 2,800 and in total we had 1,800 passengers and crew.

On average, airfares between Spain and Panama or Central America range between $700 to $900, depending on the carrier and the season.

Our total cost (for 15 nights) per person was $623 inclusive of tax, tips, all food, and drinks. Where else could you have transport, meals, alcohol, and entertainment for $42 per night?

To be honest, before setting off, we had low expectations; little or no entertainment, limited meal options and service, and a stormy Atlantic crossing. How wrong we were. Around the main pool you could take part in salsa and Zumba dance classes, competitions, and fitness classes. At night you could enjoy live music in the bars, try your luck in the casino, watch the nightly gala show, or dance away in the disco till the last person is standing, usually around 6 a.m.

Breakfast and lunch were buffets, with so much variety to choose from, including very good vegetarian options. The dinner menu had just been created by a Michelin-starred chef from Spain.

Plus, Pullmantur don't charge a single supplement on repositioning cruises, which makes it an ideal way for solos to travel affordably. We even heard of a couple who booked two cabins, one for their luggage and one for themselves.

Here are our top tips to help you make the most of your repositioning cruise:

  • There's a good reason why the medical centre on ships is located lower down—less movement in bad weather. Our tip is to reserve a cabin on this level at the front of the ship, so you will not be disturbed by late-night revellers.
  • You need to be prepared for delays or missing scheduled ports due to weather. Leave enough of your WiFi package in case you have to change flights or hotels at the last moment.
  • Once you've departed the last port before the major ocean crossing, speak to reception and ask for an upgrade. We were upgraded to the outside cabin on the same level at no extra cost.


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December 3, 2019

IRS Tax Tip 2019-169, December 3, 2019

The tax filing season is quickly approaching. With that in mind, taxpayers should remember there's still time to make an estimated or additional tax payment to ensure their tax withholding is still accurate.

Those who need to make an estimated tax payment for 2019 should remember that the fourth quarter payment is due Wednesday, January 15, 2020.

These taxpayers will want to check to see if their 2019 federal income tax withholding will unexpectedly fall short of their tax liability for the year. They can check this by using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov.

All taxpayers can use the results from the Tax Withholding Estimator to determine if they should:

This tool helps employees avoid having too much or too little tax withheld from their wages. It also helps those working for themselves make accurate estimated tax payments. Having too little withheld can result in an unexpected tax bill or even a penalty at tax time in 2020. Having too much withheld results in less money in their pocket.

The Tax Withholding Estimator asks taxpayers to estimate:

  • Their 2019 income.
  • The number of children to be claimed for the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Other items that will affect their 2019 taxes.

The IRS Withholding Estimator does not ask for personally-identifiable information, such as a name, Social Security number, address and bank account numbers. The IRS doesn't save or record the information entered in the Estimator.

Before using the Tax Withholding Estimator, taxpayers should gather their most recent pay stubs and income documents from all sources. They should gather documents related to pensions, annuities, Social Security benefits and self-employment income. They should also have a copy of their 2018 federal tax return. This will help estimate 2019 income and answer other questions asked during the process.

If a taxpayer follows the recommendations at the end of the Tax Withholding Estimator and changes their withholding for 2019, they should recheck their withholding at the start of 2020. A withholding change made in 2019 may have a different full-year impact in 2020. So, if a taxpayer does not file a new Form W-4 for 2020, their withholding might be higher or lower than they intend.

Taxpayers should remember that the Tax Withholding Estimator's results will only be as accurate as the information provided. People with more complex tax situations should use the instructions in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax (PDF). This includes taxpayers who owe alternative minimum tax or certain other taxes, and people with long-term capital gains or qualified dividends.

How Much
December 3, 2019

States raise money through a variety of different taxes, fees and charges. They charge different rates for income, property, sales, fuel, wireless services and sins like alcohol and tobacco. This can make it hard to see how states compare to each other.

  • Wyoming is the most tax-friendly state in the country. It has zero state income tax and on average charges only $635 per $100,000 of property value.
  • Illinois is the most tax unfriendly state with a flat income tax of 4.95% with on average $2,408 in property taxes owed for every $100,000 of property value.
  • 6 out of the top 10 most tax-friendly states have zero income tax.
  • Tax levels vary substantially at the state level, with relatively heavy burdens in the Northeast and light tax levels across rural states like Alaska, Montana and North Dakota.

We performed a few different calculations to arrive at the data underlying our spider diagrams. First, we took tax rate information from Kiplinger and found the effective tax rate with a calculator from SmartAsset, using the median U.S. household income of $61,937. We assumed an average worker lived in the state capital with no dependents. Then, we weighted each category of taxation based on their contribution to total state taxes, including taxes on income, sales, fuel, property, wireless services and “sin” taxes like alcohol and tobacco. Finally, we used the summary of the weighted scores to create the ranking of most and least friendly states for taxation.

Top 10 Most Tax-Friendly States

1. Wyoming
2. Delaware
3. Alaska
4. Montana
5. Nevada
6. New Hampshire
7. Tennessee
8. Florida
9. North Dakota
10. Hawaii

The 10 Least Friendly States for Taxation

1. Illinois
2. New York
3. New Jersey
4. Connecticut
5. Pennsylvania
6. Nebraska
8. Wisconsin
9. Kansas
10. Michigan

It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Illinois is the least tax friendly state in the Union. For two years, the state couldn’t pass a budget, costing taxpayers an additional $1 billion in late payments and surcharges. In fact, the state is on track to reach a deficit of $3 billion this year. Illinois taxpayers are therefore on the hook for lots of new taxes and fees.

Another story in our visual is how state income taxes in particular impact the overall tax burden that workers face. 9 states have zero income tax, 6 of which are in our top 10 list above (Wyoming, Alaska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Florida). Income taxes are a major factor in overall taxation because they’re progressive, meaning high-income earners pay higher marginal rates. Florida’s status as an income-tax free state is one reason why many people move to the Sunshine State in retirement.

Our visualization also demonstrates how states levy uneven taxes on workers, a fact that gets largely ignored as the media fixates on Trump’s tax cuts and Democrats’ wealth tax proposals. There are several states in the Northeast with extremely high tax burdens, like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. By contrast, many rural states like Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota have very light tax levels. Congress and the President simply aren’t able to address these disparities.

There are lots of good reasons for different tax rates around the country. New York must raise revenue for infrastructure projects that other states simply don’t have. For example, the Gateway Program encompasses a major overhaul and renovation of the Northeast Corridor train network, which links together millions of people. And there are lots of rich people living in the area who can foot the bill.

What are the state tax rates where you live? Do you think the money is well spent, or is the state budget mismanaged? Let us know in the comments.

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How Much
December 2, 2019

Over the past 40 years, the average individual income in the U.S. has grown by 65%. However, not everyone has reaped the benefits of higher wages. Income inequality is at an all-time high, and the combined wealth of the top 1% of earners is almost as much as the combined wealth of middle-class Americans. Interestingly, some metro areas of the U.S. have experienced severe income disparity more than others, as shown in our new visualization.

  • Nationwide, the average individual income is $58,379.45 in 2019. The 25th income percentile is $22,000 and the 90th income percentile is $116,260.
  • There are 54,659,267 Americans who are not classified in a metropolitan area. The average individual income for this group is $45,946, with a $20,000 income at the 25th percentile and $89,000 at the 90th percentile.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau, one of the sources for this data, notes that “[geographic] estimates for the smaller metropolitan areas (those with populations under 500,000) should be used with caution because of the relatively large sampling variability associated with these estimates.“ 

We based this visualization on the DQYDJ Income Percentile by City Calculator in 2019, which takes income data from the IPUMS-CPS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series - Current Population Survey) released by U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We used the IPUMS definition of a metropolitan area for our visualization. Similarly, income in this visualization is defined as “total personal income” and includes all the types of income sources listed here

The visualization is a map of the U.S., with 262 of the country’s major metropolitan areas color-coded in different shades of pink. The darker shades of pink indicate that there is a higher disparity between the 25th and 90th income percentiles, while the lighter shades of pink show lower income disparities between the 25th and 90th income percentiles. In addition, the circles on the map list the income for the 25th and 90th percentiles in the 10 most equal metro areas and the 10 most unequal metro areas. Light gray circles are for the 25th percentile and dark gray circles are for the 90th percentile. The circles also correspond to the size of individual income, with larger circles representing higher incomes. At a glance, the most unequal metro areas will show a lot of dark gray and only a little light gray.

Top 5 Most Equal Metro Areas in the U.S. by Income

1. Jacksonville, NC: $42,002 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
2. Cleveland, TN: $42,173 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
3. Goldsboro, NC: $42,830 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
4. Ocala, FL: $43,626 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
5. Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL: $48,602 difference between 25th and 90th percentile

Top 5 Most Unequal Metro Areas in the U.S. by Income

1. Erie, PA: $215,559 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
2. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC: $206,871 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
3. Santa Rosa, CA: $157,050 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
4. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $152,000 difference between 25th and 90th percentile
5. Bloomington, IN: $151,340 difference between 25th and 90th percentile

In general, metro areas in the South and the Great Plains region tend to have less income inequality when comparing the differences between the 25th and 90th income percentiles. By contrast, metro areas in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and California areas have greater income inequality. But it’s not only the U.S. that suffers from income inequality. It’s also a pressing issue on the international stage. We’ve talked before about great disparities in average individual wealth in different countries, as well as the percentage of the world population that lives in extreme poverty. On the other end of the spectrum, roughly 1% of the world’s adults are millionaires. The U.S. alone has 18.6 million millionaires, more than any other country in the world. As the gap between rich and poor continues to grow--both in the U.S. and worldwide--political leaders will face increased pressure to facilitate a more even distribution of wealth.

Why do you think income inequality varies so much across different parts of the U.S.? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Win in Court
December 2, 2019

Who Must Do What ... and Why!

You must know who has the burden of proof ... and why it matters!

If you're being sued, the other side has the burden of proof.

If the other side files a motion, they have the burden of proof.

But, sometimes the burden shifts back-and-forth.

Knowing who has the burden is critical.

Don't be victimized by lawyers tricking you into thinking the burden is yours, making you struggle to "disprove" a fact or the application of law ... when the burden is not on you!

The burden is always on the party asserting a fact or law to prove what he asserts.

It's never your job to disprove what he asserts!

In more than 33 years as a case-winning lawyer, I've won many cases simply by forcing the court to require my opponent to "put up or shut up".

Knowing how to shift the burden is power to win!

Why be tricked by other members of my profession?

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