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Based on your current spending, when can you retire?

(FINANCE NEWS) Sometimes it is hard to connect current spending in your mind with your being able to retire. This tool changes that.

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Livin’ the dream

For anyone working these days, retirement can seem like a far off island, accessible only by a boat crafted from your hard-earned savings, but also a boat that you may be too old and tired to row once you get the chance to.

Sometimes it is hard to think of retirement when you are just going through the motions day in and day out. Luckily for all of us stuck in our routine, Four Pillars Freedom has created an “Early Retirement Grid” to estimate how long it will take you to reach financial independence based on annual income and spending.

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A closer look at the grid

The grid was made to be simple. Therefore, a few things such as savings and debt are not accounted for. In addition, the grid assumes an annual withdrawal rate of 4% and investment return of 5%. Lastly, your annual income is after taxes.

So, let’s take a look.

Let’s say in this dream world you made an annual after-tax income of $80,000 – go you! However, you like the finer things in life so you end up spending $60,000 a year. The grid estimates it will take you a little over 31 years to reach retirement island. However, if you rake in your spending to $40,000 annually, perhaps pass on updating all of your Apple products the moment they are released, then you could reach financial independence in less than 17 years!

What’s the key?

According to the grid, the key to early retirement is to spend less money each year, or as they put it “widen the gap between income and spending as much as possible.”

What counts year after year is how much you are able to save and profit from investments.

No matter your annual income, if you aim to spend only half of it, then you could retire in an equal amount of time as everyone else doing the same, about 16.6 years. Of course, this will vary with your choices and things that come up along the way, (i.e. paying for college tuition, having children, finding that you went a little overboard on Treat Yo’self Day), but your income could increase as well.

Overall, this grid shows that the path to financial independence is not unattainable, and that retirement island could be closer than you think.

#ReachRetirement

Natalie is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and co-founded an Austin creative magazine called Almost Real Things. When she is not writing, she spends her time making art, teaching painting classes and confusing people. In addition to pursuing a writing career, Natalie plans on getting her MFA to become a Professor of Fine Art.

Business Finance

How cryptocurrency works – basic vocabulary and concepts

(FINANCE) Cryptocurrency is a concept that dates back a decade, but as it becomes newly mainstream, many are struggling to catch up – knowing the basic concepts can get you up to speed.

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One of the most exciting things to arise out of new technology is the idea of better ways to optimize and improve concepts that we already find in the real world. None of us should be surprised when that includes currency.

With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, Dash, NEM, Ethereum Classic, Monero, and Zcash (to name a few), it may be hard for the average consumer not to just keep up, but to know what’s going on in this revolution in our modern day economy. Knowing how crypto works makes you a better consumer, as well as investor in your future. Let’s get started with the basics.

What is a cryptocurrency?

To ask what cryptocurrency is, one should also contemplate what modern day paper or coin currency is. At its most basic, all currencies share this core trait: you can exchange a unit (or units) which has predetermined value for either goods or services. Whether it’s dollars, Yen, the gold standard, or Dogecoin, all of these currencies allow you to complete basic transactions.

Where cryptocurrency is different, is how these transactions are completed and how cryptocurrencies are processed.

How does crypto differ from common currencies?

Cryptocurrency allows you to send money directly peer-to-peer (p2p) electronically instead of operating through third-party systems like banks or governments.

The technology that makes this happen is called Blockchain. Blockchain technology is the primary difference between the dollars in your wallet and the virtual currencies in your crypto wallet. The Litecoin School of Crypto uses a great analogy to explain how blockchains work:

“In its simplest form, blockchain is data. It’s a list of recorded information called “blocks” strung together in a chain. Think of blocks as folders stuffed with information i.e. how much Litecoin was sent, who sent it, and who received it. The great thing about blockchains is that it’s public and anyone in the world can see it.”

How does a normal crypto transaction work?

Here’s an example using the fictional cryptocurrency, bitquarters: Karen owes Jamal 10 bitquarters for her movie ticket, so she’s going to pay him back. Karen first requests the transaction through her digital wallet. Because of the nature of cryptocurrency, she can’t send him bitquarters she doesn’t have (there is no “overdrawn” account status in crypto, like modern banks), so it’s a good thing she just got paid!

When Karen initiates the transaction, she uses her private key to virtually “sign” it. When a transaction is completed, an individual will “sign” their transaction with their private key – the reason why cryptocurrency is called as such is because of encryption, after all. The requested transaction is sent via peer-to-peer (p2p) sharing to a network of computers called nodes. These computers validate Karen’s key and verify the transaction.

After the transaction is verified, it is added to the blockchain, the virtual ledger, that all bitquarter users have access to. After that is finished, in only a matter of seconds, Jamal is paid!

What is this cryptocurrency “mining” thing I’ve been hearing so much about?

Mining is a vital part of the cryptocurrency transaction. Miners are the only individuals in the crypto process that can confirm transactions. Their job is to take a transaction, to verify that it is legitimate, and spread them p2p in the network.

To make it a part of the public ledger (the blockchain) every node has to add it to its database. Because mining takes a computer’s energy and electricity to perform, miners are rewarded with small amounts of cryptocurrency per transaction (like how you pay to pull money from an ATM). However, to prevent fraudulent transactions, a computer must solve an encrypted puzzle in order to add it to the blockchain.

What are other important crypto terms I need to know?

Address: the only piece of information that needs to be used for a transaction, similar to a user name or email address. Each transaction uses a different address.

Block: a unit of data in the blockchain that holds and validates transactions. A blockchain is where all blocks of transactions reside.

Double spend: the action of trying to spend cryptocurrency to two different recipients simultaneously. Mining as well as the blockchain prevent malicious actions such as this from taking place.

Cryptocurrency is held up by some as being the currency of the future, while many others think that due to over-speculation, that it will be a investment bubble with irrevocable consequences for brick and mortar institutions. Regardless of any market forecasters perspective on cryptocurrency, the technology is here to stay and knowing the basic vocabulary can help you understand where things are going.

Don’t be intimidated by all of the language around this concept – if you choose to dive into the crypto waters, you’ll learn as you go along. If you invest in stocks, you know a specific concept and vocabulary list, and crypto functions differently but is just another finance mechanism, both of which can be overwhelming but learning the parts necessary to your goals is all that matters.

PS: If you’re more of a visual person, there’s a short video available that has circulated that explains Bitcoing well, and applies to crypto in general.

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Business Finance

Credit card companies crap on cryptocurrencies

(FINANCE NEWS) Credit card companies are now trying to make customers slow their roll when purchasing crypto – and it’s kind of shady.

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Visa and Mastercard and now making it more difficult for their customers to purchase cryptocurrency by slapping additional fees on transactions. This month, Bitcoin investors using Coinbase noticed additional fees on bank statements and were like, wait what?

Turns out, the credit card companies decided to reclassify cryptocurrency transaction type from “purchase” to “cash advance.”

Coinbase confirmed the change in an email to its customers, noting “the MCC code for digital currency purchases was changed by a number of the major credit card networks.”

A Mastercard spokesperson claimed the change “provides a consistent view of such purchases for both merchants and issuers.”

This means an additional five percent fee is slapped on to every transaction from the credit card company in addition to the four percent credit card processing fee Coinbase already passes on to its users.

Right now, if you want to buy Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies instantly, your only option is using a credit or debit card. Transferring funds from your bank can take days, and since crypto prices can change in an instant, this isn’t a great option. Although there are lower fees for transferring funds via ACH, investors may get stung by fluctuating prices.

So basically, you’re going to use a credit or debit card for efficiency, but Visa and Mastercard want to make this harder on you. Unlike purchases, transactions labeled as “cash advances” don’t fall under an interest-free grace period. As soon as the purchase goes through, it accrues and compounds daily, so that’s pretty neat.

In addition to the new fee, cash advances carry higher interest rates as well.

Adding insult to injury, using a card for crypto purchases does not earn credit card points.

The card companies are equivocating bitcoin to withdrawing money from an ATM. This conflicts with the IRS’s stance that bitcoin is not currency, but rather taxable property.

Until everyone gets their stories straight, investors get stuck in the middle with more barriers to purchasing crypto, and conflicting regulation and processes.

And for Visa and Mastercard, that’s kind of the point. Their aim is to slow the rush of investment, even at the risk of losing potential millions in additional revenue. Assuming Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency don’t total crash and burn, eventually financial middlemen like credit card companies will be cut out of the picture.

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Business Finance

Don’t mess with Texas – especially when it comes to crypto

(FINANCE NEWS) The State of Texas is cracking down on crypto companies, and this won’t be the last cease and desist issued.

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After a one month undercover sting of crypto-currency startup DavorCoin, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) issued another cease-and-desist letter, ordering the cryptocurrency company to stop all operations in the state immediately; this is the state’s fourth emergency cease-and-desist in just one month regulating cryptocurrency companies.

Jason Rotunda, director of enforcement division at the TSSB told CNBC, “We confirmed our suspicion that they were being marketed toward retirees. [DavorCoin] was not disclosing the information that needs to be disclosed to an investor.”

Other cryptocurrencies being issued cease-and-desists include companies r2b coin, BitConnect, and USI-Tech Limited. All of these companies either were promising implausible or impossible returns on investment, low risk investments coming from Bitcoin mining–without the evidence to back it up, or not disclosing information required by state law.

After the TSSB pulled the plug on BitConnect, they started their investigation of DavorCoin for promising extremely similar ROI. DavorCoin also has another strike against it, a potentially more serious one: Investment fraud. DavorCoin, according to CoinDesk, has “intentionally hidden material information of its business–including its principles and business location, as well as how it plans to realize investment promises for investors.”

The lack of transparency on not just the basic information regarding the business itself, but also an investor disbursement plan violates sections of the Texas Securities Act.

Texas currently is leading the way regarding the regulation of cryptocurrenty investment opportunities, in which other states as well as the federal government are following suit. Other states filing formal complaints against cryptocurrency companies include Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Kansas.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is taking note of the heightened amount of activity surrounding cryptocurrencies as well. Rotunda, also in his role as the vice chair of North American Securities Administrators Association, is trying to encourage regulatory agencies to adapt to this new way of doing business and investing.

“In both of those roles we’ve been monitoring cryptocurrencies quite a bit,” said Rotunda. “I think what we’re doing right now is we’re adapting to a new way of selling securities.”

The old adage is, after all, “don’t mess with Texas.” Especially when it comes to potentially defrauding investors through cryptocurrencies — but that’s kind of a mouthful.

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