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Lightning Network makes Bitcoin more viable to small businesses

(FINANCE) Small brands are contemplating accepting cryptocurrencies, and the Lightning Network hopes to make the process less cumbersome.

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Whatever your opinions on Bitcoin, the fact remains that (in its current iteration) it’s not feasible as a mainstream everyday currency. It takes too long to process transactions, and the fees for each transaction are relatively enormous. Over an estimated 25 million people use Bitcoin today, which is much larger than it was meant to handle when it was first created.

Many of Bitcoin’s problems stem from the fact that it simply wasn’t designed to scale to this large of a user base. This is where the Lightning Network comes in.

The Lightning Network is not a replacement of Bitcoin’s infrastructure, but rather an overlay that works on top of Bitcoin.

One of Bitcoin’s core appeals — its security — is also its shortcoming. Every transaction made on Bitcoin is public. Recording all of this info publicly takes time, and each transaction costs an additional fee. The Lightning Network modifies this slightly, making a direct private connection between payer and payee, and only publicly recording the transaction’s result.

This method greatly reduces the amount of data publicly recorded, both speeding up transaction time and costing less in fees. As an added bonus, having a direct channel open between payer and payee encourages repeat business.

These factors mean that the Lightning Network could make Bitcoin a viable source of payment for small businesses.

Having been introduced earlier this year, the service has been growing by leaps and bounds. Currently an estimated 1.6 million dollars worth of Bitcoin is stored in Lightning-specific channels. Despite overall Bitcoin usage at a yearly low right now, usage for the Lightning Network is skyrocketing.

In September, Coingate announced that over 4,000 of its bitcoin-handling businesses will also be Lightning Network compatible. This is already a huge bump up from the 100 businesses announced as part of Coingate’s pilot program announced in July.

Whatever your opinions on Bitcoin (or cryptocurrencies as a whole), it’s difficult not to see the possibilities that the Lightning Network can offer. If you’re a small business owner even thinking about accepting Bitcoin for goods and services, the Lightning Network is going to make your decision a whole lot easier.

James M Lane, AINS was born into this world without his consent an ornery 60 year old man with a full beard. He has worked in the insurance industry for the last half decade, and was a foreign language preschool teacher for years before that. He writes horror in his spare time. Follow him on Instagram for deliberations on pro wrestling and beards.

Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Poindexter helps handle finances so you can focus on your business

(FINANCE) Poindexter is a startup that helps you manage financial questions so that you can build you business, not spreadsheets.

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Balance sheets, cash flow statements, compliant income. These are phrases you come across every day in the business sector that also bring another word to mind: confusion.

Luckily Poindexter is here to help. The startup was created as a resource to help businesses make profitable decisions that lead them to success.

Poindexter uses simple business modeling software to generate business plans that users can easily understand. It was built mainly for startups and small businesses that may not be in the position to afford a financial expert.

There is no need for prior financial or excel knowledge to use Poindexter.

Their motto is “build businesses, not spreadsheets.” They don’t want the technical side of finances to hinder businesses, so they are simplifying the process.

The software offers various features to create businesses’ specific financial forecasts. These features include tracking marketing expenses, estimating ROI, comparing alternative projects and defining customer acquisition goals. In addition, implementation is easy.

Just like every aspect of a business constantly changes, the budget must adapt as well.

Users of Poindexter are able to fine tune their budgets and test out assumptions. This allows for the software to help create a unique financial plan for success no matter what the business is.

Business owners can think of Poindexter as their automated financial planner. It will still offer all of the advice of an actual financial planner while you remain in complete control. For the creators of Poindexter, the goal is simple: to aid innovators in making smart and profitable business decisions.

They eliminate the hassle, and emphasize achievements that will keep you on track to reach your financial goals.

Anyone can try Poindexter for free. Fees will only start as you add more projects and premium features. The software will continue to be updated as they gather feedback from users.

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Business Finance

How to spot and avoid crowdfunding scams

(TECH NEWS) Crowdfunding has become ripe for scams, don’t be a sucker — here’s how to spot ’em.

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When it comes to your personal life, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a crowdfunding campaign because if you’re turning to GoFundMe or YouCaring, it means your house has burned down, you have cancer or your dog has died.

We regularly see these campaigns pop up in our social feeds and for the most part, we believe them because they’re our friends, they’re in need and we trust them so, of course, we pitch in.

However, some people use crowdfunding to fleece you. By now, you’ve probably heard of the couple from New Jersey who teamed up with a homeless man to raise over $400,000. The campaign was a scam, the cash was split and now these crooks are facing some serious consequences in court. Ugh.

We shouldn’t need to write this article, but some people suck and they’re out there duping us. Here’s how to spot them.

This should be obvious, but do not give money to people you do not know or do not at least tangentially know. It never hurts to scroll through the donor list to see if you recognize any of your friends or acquaintances there. If you do and have questions, reach out to them before you reach deep into your wallet.

What about victims of natural disasters? Offer your money to emergency funds run by non-profit organizations. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign, but in times of crisis many platforms create verified campaigns.

If the objective of the campaign is unclear, do not donate. We’ve all come across campaigns that are strangely worded or lack enough specifics to piece together a plausible story. If it feels like a Nigerian Prince is the campaign administrator, close the tab.

If a campaign’s photo looks fishy, do a reverse image search on Google to help validate that fishy feeling. If the search yields a lot of results for the photo, scammers have stolen it and are using it to tug at your heartstrings.

Most campaigns run for a very short amount of time, typically a couple of weeks and rarely more than a month. While there is generally a final social push to get to an unmet goal, there are rarely open-ended campaigns. Again, if the goal is unclear or out-of-reach, move on.

We’ve all seen campaigns that are truly gut-wrenching – deaths of loved ones, fights with cancer, entire villages wiped out. As with the case of the three jerks from New Jersey, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. While some sites may be able to reimburse your donation, others won’t and nothing feels worse than falling for a scam AND losing your money.

And so, dear friends, this is why we at The American Genius almost never, ever write about crowdfunded projects. We care about you and we want you to use your money to help your real friends, fund YOUR next project or pay off your student loans.

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