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Adam Neumann's inner circle, HBO Max power players, and the startups betting that your gut is healthcare's next frontier

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 11:49am


Much has been written about WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann over the past couple of months, and for good reason.

But this week our team turned the spotlight on a few folks in Neumann's inner circle, including a banker at the center of WeWork's attempted IPO, the lawyer who helped Neumann nab a huge exit package, and the trio managing his millions. 

Separately, WeWork plans to do more tests on phone booths after discovering thousands of them contained the potentially harmful chemical formaldehyde, according to an email seen by Business Insider. Julie Bort and Aaron Holmes revealed that the toxic phone booths were designed internally by WeWork and built by a contract manufacturer in China.

A proptech explosion

WeWork's rapid value destruction doesn't appear to have put VCs off from betting on so-called property tech. As Alex Nicoll reports, venture funds have poured $24.6 billion into proptech so far this year — and there's likely more to come.

In the commercial real estate space, landlords want to bulk up their office amenities, and a rush of startups are selling them tech to do it. And there's been a rush of fundraising in the residential and travel business too. For example:

Established players in both finance and tech are taking note.

The CEO of Blackstone's massive office portfolio called for landlords and operators to adapt "purposeful proptech," for example, saying the tech should attract or retain customers, or else help real estate operators cut costs

Meanwhile, Google Nest just launched a pilot with the nation's largest apartment manager — showing where it sees the next big opportunity selling smart devices.

Potential rivals to Silicon Valley

Thanks to those of you who emailed in with your ideas on potential rivals to Silicon Valley. Suggestions ranged from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Keep an eye out for more stories on the startup scenes in various tech hotspots in North America and Europe in the coming weeks and months.

The Drive Thru

Interested in the retail business? Our correspondent Kate Taylor is now serving up a weekly email breaking down the biggest stories in fast food, shopping and more, appropriately called The Drive Thru. You can sign up here, and catch the most recent edition here

We now have weekly emails delivering the inside scoop on what's going on in industries including advertising, cannabis, healthcare and tech. Let me know if you want to get more/fewer/different emails, and what you're interested in reading more about.

-- Matt

Finance and Investing

Jim Rogers earned a 4,200% return with George Soros by investing in overlooked assets. He tells us what he's buying now ahead of the 'worst crash of our lifetime.'

Jim Rogers is not backing down from his forecast that we're headed for the "worst crash of our lifetime."

Inside the quest to reboot Personal Capital, the wealth manager grappling with its identity in the cutthroat robo-advisory age

Personal Capital has long tried to tell people that it's not a robo-adviser. Now, it's assembled a new team of execs and a big re-branding push to focus on its human advice. 

Digital Asset, a blockchain startup that nabbed millions from the likes of JPMorgan, Goldman, and Citi, has lost at least 25% of its staff since April

A once-buzzy startup deemed a key player in Wall Street's adoption of distributed-ledger technology has seen significant employee departures, signaling the difficulty of building a business in the once-sexy tech. 

Tech, Media, Telecoms

Meet the 12 power players running HBO Max, AT&T's big bet to take on Netflix and Disney Plus

The generals who will lead AT&T's HBO Max into battle with Netflix and Disney Plus have emerged.

The cofounder of legendary VC firm Andreessen Horowitz on what almost killed Uber, what really led to WeWork's downfall, and what happened after he passed on Airbnb

Andreessen Horowitz was designed as a venture-capital firm in which investors could support entrepreneurs beyond just writing them a check.

The CEO of Google Cloud explains how joining forces with a giant in IT services gives it more muscle in the battle with Amazon and Microsoft

Google Cloud is joining forces with a giant in IT services, in a move that CEO Thomas Kurian said will give it more muscle in the cloud against key rivals Amazon and Microsoft.

Healthcare, Retail, Transportation

These 9 startups are betting that your gut is healthcare's next frontier, with millions in backing from investors like Marc Benioff and Vinod Khosla

Can the data from our guts be turned into a useful health product?

A hot cannabis startup just raised $18 million in a down market by promising investors it can more than quadruple sales in a year. See the slides that show exactly how 1906 plans to pull that off.

Raising money in the cannabis industry is hard. Peter Barsoom, the CEO of 1906 — a Colorado-based cannabis-edibles brand — can attest to that.

Join the conversation about this story »

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4 things to do with your money now, while interest rates are low

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 11:45am

The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates yet again on October 30, marking the third rate cut since late July. 

A lower federal funds rate essentially drops the earning potential on savings accounts, but makes borrowing money cheaper. Now is a good time to be strategic about paying off your debt and where you save your money.

Here are a few things you can do while interest rates are low:

1. Consolidate credit-card debt

When the Fed cuts its benchmark rate, borrowing money becomes cheaper.

It's never recommended to take on high-interest debt just because it's cheaper than it used to be, but if you're currently paying off credit-card debt and have ever considered consolidating it — i.e. taking out a personal loan at a lower rate and using the cash to pay off your balance — now is probably the right time to do it. 

Federal Reserve data shows that borrowers who were charged interest on their credit-card debt paid an average of 16.97% in the third quarter of 2019, Credible's Matt Carter reported. Meanwhile, the average rate on personal loans during that time was 10.07%. That's the largest spread in more than 20 years of Federal Reserve records, Carter reported, making it a great time to take advantage of savings on interest.

Since consolidation requires taking out a personal loan, you'll still have a monthly debt payment to make but it will likely be less than your credit-card payments and your interest rate will be fixed. If you're juggling multiple credit-card balances, this can be a good strategy to streamline your monthly payments into a single bill.

Compare your options for a personal loan to consolidate your credit-card debt with Credible »

2. Refinance your mortgage

While mortgage rates aren't closely tied to the Federal funds rate, they are down since last year, making it a good time to consider refinancing to lock in a lower rate.

The interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.78% as of October 31, compared to 4.83% one year ago, according to Freddie Mac. Average rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are even lower at 3.19%, compared to 4.23% at this time last year.

Depending where you're at in the life of the loan, how much you owe, and whether you credit is in good shape, refinancing your mortgage could save a ton of money in interest payments and even help you pay off your mortgage early. Bear in mind that you will pay fees equal to about 2% to 4% of the principal loan amount to refinance.

LendingTree can help you compare options to refinance your mortgage »

3. Refinance your student loans

After hitting a post-recession peak last year, interest rates for student loan refinancing fell to a 12-month low in September, after the second Fed rate cut in as many months, Credible reported. If you're holding on to a high interest rate on your loans from college, it could be worth refinancing.

Student loan refinancing is when a private lender pays off your existing loan and gives you a new loan with a lower interest rate. You can refinance both federal and private student loans, but you'll lose benefits like income-driven repayment if you refinance your federal loans.

You can refinance to today's lower rate and stick with it for the next several years through a fixed-rate loan, or go with a variable rate loan where the rate follows an index interest rate, such as the prime rate.

Keep in mind that in order to get the lowest possible interest rate, you generally need to have a very good or excellent credit score.

Credible can help you refinance your student loans to save money »

4. Open a high-yield savings account

Over the past three months, many high-yield account APYs have fallen from highs of over 2.5% to below 2%. But the rates on general savings accounts and checking accounts have dropped too, making them an even worse deal than usual. Right now, the average general savings account earns 0.09% in interest and most regular checking accounts earn 0.01%.

Lower interest rates may not be ideal for growing your savings right now, but there's still no better place to store money you need in the short-term than a high-yield savings account. These accounts keep your money safe from market risk and within arm's reach whether you're building up an emergency fund or saving for specific goals.

The best high-yield savings accounts still impose no monthly fees and have low minimum balance requirements. Plus, when interest rates inevitably go back up, you'll see a greater return on your money than if you started from scratch.

Join the conversation about this story »

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'Terminator: Dark Fate' is a bust at the box office, taking in only $29 million

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 11:33am

  • "Terminator: Dark Fate" opened with an estimated $29 million at the domestic box office.
  • That's below the $30 million-plus the industry projected it to make.
  • Its opening is on par with the franchise's last entry, 2015's "Terminator Genisys," which brought in $27 million.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Terminator: Dark Fate" was supposed to breathe new life into the franchise with the return of its creator James Cameron as a producer and Linda Hamilton as its star for the first time since 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgement Day." But none of that helped.

The sixth movie in the franchise brought in an estimated $29 million over the weekend at the domestic box office (not good for a movie budgeted at north of $180 million), which won the weekend box office but is below the high $30 million to low $40 million projected opening the industry had for it. Instead, it's on par with what the last movie in the franchise made, 2015's "Terminator Genisys," which opened at $27 million over July 4th weekend (though the movie earned over $440 million worldwide, it only made $90 million in North America). The global cume is $101.9 million.

This was hardly the plan Paramount/Skydance Media had for the movie, which was supposed to be a relaunch of the franchise. With James Cameron coming on the project and wrangling Hamilton, the plan was made to scrap "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Terminator Salvation," and "Terminator Genisys" from the history of the franchise and have "Dark Fate" take place after "Judgement Day." Basically being part three.

But no canon tweaking helped. It seems audiences are truly tired of this franchise.

And behind the scenes, director Tim Miller had to deal with the demands that come with working with Cameron and a studio uncertain with what it had. Miller told Business Insider he and Cameron had a disagreement about an element of the movie's time travel plot, and it wasn't decided until the movie was in post production if it was to be released as an R-rated movie or PG-13 (R won out). There was even talk of there being a simultaneous release in both ratings.

The irony is that critics were kinder to this movie than the last few. The score for "Dark Fate" on Rotten Tomatoes is at 69%, which is a franchise-best since "Rise of the Machines" (also a 69% score). 

However, that score on the lower side of fresh might have been a deciding factor for the non-franchise die hards. Six movies in (let's face it, the franchise has done six movies), it has become clear the general audience is not motivated to go to the theaters to see "Terminator" movies anymore.

In the era of streaming, don't be surprised if future chapters move from the big screen to a streamer.

Box office highlights:
  • Warner Bros.' "Joker" has grossed over $900 million worldwide ($934 million).
  • Focus Features' "Harriet" bests projections and earns $12 million its opening weekend.
  • Neon's "Parasite" expanded to 461 screens. The award contended has earned over $7.5 million to date.


SEE ALSO: "Terminator: Dark Fate" director takes us behind the scenes on the franchise reboot, from the debate over an R rating to a disagreement with James Cameron over time travel

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NOW WATCH: Behind the scenes with Shepard Smith — the Fox News star who just announced his resignation from the network

Altria's investment in Juul had the worst possible timing — and wound up costing it $110 million a week amid a mass vaping crackdown

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 11:25am

  • Tobacco giant Altria's $12.8 billion investment in Juul has lost $110 million in value every week since the deal was announced on December 20, 2018. 
  • Markets Insider calculated the weekly loss based on the amount of time between the deal's closing date and Altria's recent announcement that it wrote down the value of its Juul stake by $4.5 billion.
  • The intensifying crackdown on e-cigarettes has severely hampered Juul's business as regulators continue to investigate vaping-related illnesses.
  • Click here for a full timeline of Juul's struggles.

Altria, a company whose core business revolves around cigarettes, made a $12.8 billion bet on vaping at the worst possible time. 

Earlier this week, Altria revealed in its third-quarter earnings results that it took a one-time writedown of $4.5 billion on its stake in e-cigarette maker Juul. That means Altria's investment in the embattled vaping company has lost roughly $110 million every week since the deal was announced.

The tobacco giant announced that it purchased about one-third of Juul at a $38 billion valuation on December 20, 2018. Altria wrote down the stake as of September 31, about 41 weeks after the investment was revealed. 

In the months leading up to Altria's deal with Juul, federal regulators started paying much closer attention to the vaping industry. 

According to a timeline compiled by Business Insider's healthcare team, here are some key dates and developments that demonstrate the mounting scrutiny on e-cigarettes ahead of Altria's investment: 

  • April 2018: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gotlieb starts a massive crackdown on Juul sales to minors. 
  • September 2018: The FDA announces a plan to create a system to "properly regulate" e-cigarettes in an effort to keep them out of the hands of minors and to make them a less-dangerous alternative for adult smokers. 
  • November 2018: Juul temporarily stops selling flavored e-cigarettes in stores and the FDA unveils a plan to curb vaping sales.

After Altria made its investment in Juul public in December 2018, the regulatory pressure continued piling on. Here are some critical events after the deal:

  • April 2019: The FDA begins looking into links between vaping and seizures. 
  • September 2019: The FDA sends a warning letter to Juul stating the company wrongly portrayed its products as safe in marketing materials. The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California reportedly opens a criminal investigation into Juul.
  • October 2019: The Wall Street Journal reports that Juul plans to cut 500 jobs before the end of the year. 

The effect of the rising regulatory scrutiny on the vaping industry culminated this week when Altria announced its write-down, effectively chopping its valuation of Juul to $24 billion. 

While the company said there was no one factor that led to the charge, it did cite the intensifying regulatory scrutiny around e-cigarettes.  

"Altria considered impairment indicators in totality, including: increased likelihood of U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) action to remove flavored e-vapor products from the market pending a market authorization decision, various e-vapor bans put in place by certain cities and states in the U.S. and in certain international markets, and other factors," Altria said Thursday in its third-quarter earnings release. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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There are only 2 situations where you don't need life insurance — otherwise, you should have it

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 10:22am

Life insurance might be the most morbid part of personal finance, but it's also one of the most important. No one likes to think about dying. But if you have anyone relying on your income, it's imperative to plan for every worst-case scenario.

To make sure your loved ones have enough money to keep their home, put food on the table, and get back on their feet if you pass unexpectedly, you should get life insurance.

Do I need life insurance?

If you are a primary income earner or primary caregiver in your household, you should consider life insurance. The best kind of life insurance for most people is term life insurance. This type of insurance gives most people a very large death benefit for a low monthly payment.

Find the right life insurance policy today with help from Policygenius »

But just because you are not married with kids doesn't mean you shouldn't get life insurance. If you ever plan to have a family, getting life insurance now is a good idea. The cost of life insurance goes up with age, so the cheapest it will ever be for you is likely right now. Once you start paying for your term life insurance policy, the monthly cost is locked in for the entire term.

There are two main situations where you might not need life insurance. The first is if you really never plan to have any dependents. And that doesn't just mean kids. If your aging parents might end up living with you in the future, they could be considered dependents. If you are a primary income-earning spouse, your partner may also be a dependent. The financial security of those who depend on you is very important, even if you're no longer around.

The second scenario where you might consider skipping life insurance is if you have enough savings and investments to self-insure. That means you have enough money that your family would be fine even if your income stopped right away. But don't underestimate that number.

It is very likely that at least you or your spouse will live into your 90s. Even if one of you is no longer around, the cost of healthcare and a retirement that could last 30 years or longer are major expenses. Staying in your home, covering the bills, and paying for future medical expenses should all be factored into a decision about life insurance.

Some households decide to add extra life insurance coverage to pay for things like college, paying off a mortgage, and other major planned expenses.

Do I have the right life insurance?

Even if you get life insurance from your employer already, that may not be enough. Group life insurance from work is often a great deal and a benefit worth taking advantage of. But if you leave your job, group life insurance doesn't typically follow you.

If you become self-employed or move to a company that doesn't give you a life insurance option, you might have to pay a lot more than you would today for life insurance on your own.

For some people with a high income, whole life insurance or universal life insurance could make sense. But for most people, the best kind of life insurance to get on your own is term life insurance.

If you don't have your own life insurance policy and might need one in the future, the best choice is to sign up and lock in your lowest possible rate today. You can always cancel in the future, but you can't go back and get a policy at a lower rate after waiting for five or 10 years.

Do you need life insurance? If in doubt, the answer is usually yes.

If you're looking for life insurance options, Policygenius can help. Get a quote today » More coverage from How to Do Everything: Money

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A full quarter of Americans have debt and aren't saving for retirement, but they still feel good about their money

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 9:30am

There's a big gap between perception and reality in too many Americans' financial lives — or maybe that's just our new normal.

A recent survey by Insider and Morning Consult asked around 2,000 Americans about their debt, earnings, and savings for a new series, "The State of Our Money."

The findings reveal that a large share of the respondents feel ostensibly great about their money, even though they're lagging on traditional markers of financial success.

About 27% of the survey respondents had some sort of debt — whether a mortgage, credit-card debt, or student loans — and also are not currently contributing to a retirement savings account, yet still consider their financial health to be in good or very good shape.

That's not to say all debt is inherently bad. Taking on debt responsibly can offer valuable leverage — like getting a mortgage in order to buy a home that will appreciate in value or taking on student loans to get a job in a high-paying industry, for example.

It's possible some of the survey respondents with debt are working on building up an emergency fund before contributing to a retirement account or want to stamp out their debt entirely before saving for the future at all. Still, most people can't afford to waste time when it comes to saving and investing.

Usually financial planners recommend paying off all high-interest debt, like balances on credit cards, before turning to retirement savings. If you have a loan charging an interest rate below 7% to 8%, however, it's best to stick to regular payments and put any extra money toward retirement savings, particularly if you have the opportunity to earn a matching contribution on your employer-sponsored 401(k).

At the end of the day, it's a naturally American predicament to be juggling debt, current expenses, and saving for the future. With sluggish wage growth plaguing a significant portion of US workers and record levels of debt affecting every generation, the threshold for feeling "good" about our money may be sitting pretty low.

Check back on "The State of Our Money" throughout the month for more findings and analysis.

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America's railroads are in a downward spiral and it's expected to get even worse

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 9:17am

  • Despite strong consumer data, rail freight is in a steep decline in the United States.
  • Railroads across the board posted disappointing earnings, as volumes continue to fall. 
  • Cheap trucking rates have siphoned some shipments, but President Trump's trade war isn't helping anything. 
  • Moody's on Friday lowered its rating for the sector to negative from stable. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. 

The amount of freight shipped by railroad has declined for months thanks to cheap trucking rates and President Donald Trump's trade war and there doesn't seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.

After disappointing results by nearly every major freight railroad for the third quarter earlier in October, there's more bad news on the horizon, says Moody's.

Freight volumes across the board are likely to fall through 2020, the credit ratings agency said on Friday, lowering its outlook to negative from stable.

"Coal shipments fell 9% over the last three months, a decline we expect to accelerate to the low teens in 2020," Moody's said. "Absent a substantial federal policy shift, technological innovations or a significant and sustained increase in natural gas prices, none of which are likely, demand for thermal coal from US utilities is subject to a secular decline of on average about 7% per year over the next 10 years."

Intermodal, a big segment that has seen an outpouring to trucks, isn't set to fare any better.

"The continuing decline in intermodal shipments is at odds with a moderately growing economy and still healthy consumer data," Moody's said. "But high inventory levels, heightened competition from truck carriers and lane rationalizations weigh on shipments of intermodal freight."

In its third-quarter earnings call, Union Pacific, the nation's largest railroad, didn't directly name Trump — but said the economy wasn't doing the railroad any favors.

"The economy is what the economy is," Robert Knight, the railroad's chief financial officer, said. "We deal with the hand that we're dealt and we don't use that as an excuse."

CSX's CEO echoed his concerns, and called the economy puzzling.

"Both global and U.S. economic conditions have been unusual this year, to say the least, and have impacted our volumes," Jim Foote, who's worked in the industry for decades, said on a conference call. "The present economic backdrop is one of the most puzzling I have experienced in my career."

There's one odd sticking point: consumers.

Consumer spending has remained strong, despite the struggles from tariffs, especially on Chinese goods.

"The continuing decline in intermodal shipments is at odds with a moderately growing economy and still healthy consumer data, including robust retail sales growth (see Exhibit 6), a low unemployment rate and high - albeit somewhat more cautious - consumer confidence," Moody's said. "Positive consumer data underpin intermodal shipments because intermodal freight largely contains consumer-related freight."

Might that glimmer of hope save the sector? Not likely, says Baird analyst Ben Hartford. 

"What's quite clear is that we're not yet at a trough -- trains have not yet bottomed," he said in October. "We need to have some clarity in trade policy."

SEE ALSO: The US's largest railroad just had a terrible quarter and is cutting jobs because of Trump's trade war

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I've only had my high-yield cash account for 4 months, but I've already earned over $111 in interest

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 9:15am

Four months ago, I opened a cash account with Wealthfront. I had finally had enough of earning 0.01% on my money with the savings account I had used for years. So I decided to take action and move part of our emergency fund over to a high-yield cash account with Wealthfront.

Overall, I couldn't be happier with my decision. Here's a quick look at how much interest I've earned so far and how much I could earn down the road.

How much interest I've earned with Wealthfront

I opened my Wealthfront account on July 9 with an initial deposit of $20,000. Then, at the end of July, I moved another $1,000 over to Wealthfront. 

I haven't made another deposit since that time. So for the majority of those four months, I've earned interest on a principal of $21,000.

And how much interest have I earned? $111.57.

So, in just four months, I've earned over $111 on money that was essentially earning me nothing before. 

To put things in perspective, with my old bank I would have only earned a little over $2 in one year on that amount of money. And it would have taken me over 50 years to earn what I've made in four months with Wealthfront.

Open your own Wealthfront high-yield cash account today and watch your money grow »

Now that I see how much money I was wasting every month, I'm kicking myself for not moving to a high-yield savings account sooner.

How much interest could I earn down the road?

Just for fun, I decided to run the numbers to see how much interest I could earn with Wealthfront moving forward. Using Wealthfront's recent interest rate of 2.07% and assuming that I never made any additional deposits, here's how much interest I could earn with Wealthfront over time.

  • 1 Year: $439
  • 5 Years: $2,288
  • 10 Years: $4,825
  • 25 Years: $14,219
  • 50 Years:  $38,065

That's right, in the amount of time that I would have earned around a measly $100 with my old savings account, I could earn over $38,000 with my Wealthfront cash account.

And in this scenario, my total account value would rise to over $59,000.

Ultimately, the Fed will determine how much I make with Wealthfront over time

There's only one "catch" to the scenario I played out above. It assumed that the interest rate on my Wealthfront cash account would stay exactly the same over time.

But, in reality, that could never be the case. Like other banks, Wealthfront bases its APY on the Fed's interest rate at the time. And if the Fed rate goes down, so will the interest rate on my Wealthfront account.

This has actually already happened three times in the four months that I've been a Wealthfront customer. In August, Wealthfront notified me via email that my rate was being dropped from 2.57% to 2.32% due to a Fed rate cut.

At the end of September, Wealthfront published a blog post letting customers know that the latest Fed cut was forcing it to lower rates to 2.07%. And on November 1, Wealthfront lowered its interest rate again in response to the Fed's cuts, to 1.82%.

The good news? As Wealthfront pointed out in both instances, the rate it offers is still 20 times more than the national average. And if the Fed raises rates in the future, Wealthfront says that it will raise its rates too.

No one can know what the Fed interest rate will be one year from now, much less five or 10 years down the road. 

But I do know that Wealthfront is committed to offering some of the best rates on the market, whether it goes up or down. That's really all that I can ask for. And that's why I'm currently a satisfied customer and plan to stick with Wealthfront for the foreseeable future.

A high-yield cash account from Wealthfront can earn you 20 times more interest than a typical bank savings account. Open a Wealthfront account today to start earning more »

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NOW WATCH: 9 items to avoid buying at Costco

You don't need a company with several employees to qualify for a business credit card — even side gigs like driving for Uber can count

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 8:37am

It may be surprising to hear, but it's entirely possible that you could qualify for a business credit card. "But I don't have a business," you may be thinking. And you might not, in the traditional sense. However, if you're conducting business activities — even on a very small scale — you can likely be approved for a business card. And if so, it can make sense to sign up for and use a business credit card to keep your expenses separate and maximize your purchases.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back. 

Do you qualify for a business credit card?

If you get a 1099 instead of a W-2 for work that you do, such as driving for Uber and Lyft or freelancing part-time, you are conducting business activities that would likely qualify you for a business card.

However, conducting business activities isn't limited to people who receive a 1099. Own a rental property? Sell stuff on eBay or Etsy? These activities generate taxable income and are also business activities, meaning there's a good reason to keep your finances separate with business banking services like a credit card.

Don't forget nonprofits

There are tons of small nonprofits that handle money, from youth softball teams to bowling leagues to flower clubs. A lot of these are run informally, but could use business banking services including a credit card. You don't even have to federally register your non-profit organization. A lot of states have low-cost, low-overhead ways to register a non-profit organization, and this is sufficient to establish a business banking identity.

Establishing a tax identity

The foundation of obtaining a business credit card is establishing a separate tax identity for your business activity. Fortunately, you don't have to do something complicated like setting up a Delaware C corporation in order to do this. Instead, all you need is a free tax ID number called an "EIN" from the IRS. You can sign up for an EIN for free on the IRS website

The EIN is required for filing payroll taxes if you hire people, or if you issue 1099s to other people. You may never do that, but banks track and manage business accounts using this number along with your social security number.

You'll generally need an EIN in order to apply for a business credit card if you have a more formal business, but if you're a sole proprietor — meaning you have a side gig like selling items online — you can apply for a business card using just your Social Security.

Don't worry too much about income requirements

If you have a single rental property or a small side business like selling stuff on Etsy, it may not be generating a ton of income. That's fine — banks evaluate your credit risk based on the total picture of your income and assets, because you will be personally guaranteeing the business credit card (and on that point, consider carefully whether this is a good idea if anyone else is involved in the business activity).

I have a rental property that generates $6,000 per year in income, and that was sufficient to qualify for a business credit card because the bank evaluated its risk based on my personal income and guarantee.

Signing up for a business credit card vs. a consumer card

Business credit cards often have very sweet incentives to sign up, but they can also be harder to get than personal credit cards.

When you sign up for a business credit card, you're dealing with the commercial banking division of the bank. They operate differently, and the process with many banks tends to be more involved and take longer than getting approved for a personal credit card.

It's not uncommon for banks to ask for additional documentation, and an in-person branch visit may even be required. Banks do take a higher risk with commercial lending than with personal lending, so they'll want to get to know you and the business activity that you're conducting before approving you for an account.

Business cards aren't reported on your personal credit report

This may be a good or a bad thing, depending upon your perspective. Business credit cards don't impact your personal credit report. Instead, banks generally report to Dun and Bradstreet, which acts as a business credit bureau. That means that business credit card spending will not help you build personal credit (because these products aren't intended to be used for personal spending).

This also means that if your business gets behind on payments, it won't show up on your personal credit — unless the business defaults entirely and the account is sent to collections. At that point, the debt becomes "yours" because you personally guaranteed it.

Business cards are for business spending

Any spending you do on your business credit card should be related to the business — both for tax reasons and to stay in line with the bank's terms and conditions. That being said, a lot of spending you're doing personally today might more properly be categorized as business spending.

For example, if you drive for Uber, many automotive-related expenses such as gasoline, insurance, and repairs may be considered business expenses. Talk with your tax advisor to see where your business should be charging expenses.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you take money out of the business, it doesn't have to be in the form of a check. The business could pay you in an equivalent cash value, such as gift cards purchased with the business' credit card.

Top business credit cards

So, you've read this article, and you're now convinced it's worth opening a business credit card to separate your expenses and maximize your rewards. If you think you're eligible for a business card and simply want to find the best option for you, here are a few top picks to consider. You can see more in our guide on the best small-business credit cards available now.

  • Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business This card is one of the simplest business rewards cards out there. It offers 2x miles on every purchase (and 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One℠ Travel), and you can redeem miles toward travel purchases on your statement through the Purchase Erase feature, or transfer them to more than 10 airline partners. Plus, you can currently earn up to 200,000 miles as a newcardholder; earn 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $5,000 in the first three months, and earn 150,000 miles when you spend $50,000 in the first six months. The Spark Miles has a $95 annual fee that's waived the first year.
  • The Business Platinum® Card from American Express —  This is a very premium business credit card, with a $595 annual fee, but if you can put its luxury travel perks to use, it could be well worth it. You get Centurion Lounge access along with access to several other airport lounges, and you get 35% of your Amex points back when you use Pay With Points to book airfare through Amex. The Business Platinum card's currently offering a welcome bonus of up to 100,000 points. You'll earn 50,000 points after spending $10,000 in the first three months, plus an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 in the first three months.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card This card stands out for a great sign-up bonus — 80,000 Chase points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months — and strong bonus categories. You'll earn 3x points on the first $150,000 you spend on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year (then 1x), and Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of the most valuable points in the game. There's a $95 annual fee.
  • Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express — The Blue Business Plus is another great option if you want to keep things simple. It earns 2x points on the first $50,000 you spend each year, then 1x. There's no annual fee, so this is a great way to earn bonus rewards on your spending while keeping costs down if you don't need lots of extra frills.
  • Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card  Another no-annual-fee option, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all your business' spending, with no cap on how much you can earn. If you have a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards points, such as the Ink Business Preferred Card, you can convert your cash-back rewards into Chase points that you can transfer to travel partners like Hyatt and United.

Business credit cards aren't an easy slam dunk, but they're more possible to get than you may think. Given that, why not double up on welcome bonuses? When you're flying up front in first class on an award flight booked with points from a card like the Business Platinum, the effort will have paid off.

Click here to learn more about the Capital One Spark Miles for Business.

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Tech giants like Google and Amazon are beefing up their healthcare strategies. Here's how 7 tech titans plan to tackle the $3.5 trillion industry.

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 8:22am

  • Big tech giants have their eyes on the $3.5 trillion US healthcare industry. 
  • As healthcare costs keep rising for Americans, tech companies are betting they can have a part in fixing the broken pieces of the industry. 
  • Here's how tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are building out their healthcare strategies. 
  • Visit BI Prime for more stories.

The $3.5 trillion healthcare industry is ripe for disruption. 

Healthcare costs are rising for consumers, and numerous players all wanting control over the dollars flowing in and out. From the perspective of the fast-moving technology industry, change is slow going, leaving entrepreneurs and companies alike thinking, "There has to be an easier way." 

Tech powerhouses like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are increasingly focused on expanding in US healthcare. They've pursued strategies like selling software and computing services, offering hardware, and even shown some signs that they'll get into the business of providing healthcare.

They're not alone in going after the inefficient healthcare system. America's largest retailers like Walmart and CVS Health are also bulking up their healthcare strategies in a bid to win over patients with more convenient care and ideally lower prices. 

Here's how tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are building out their healthcare strategies, drawing from their respective tech industry expertise and often focusing on fixing healthcare starting with their own employees. 

Read more: Companies like Walmart, CVS, and Amazon are beefing up their healthcare strategies. Here are their plans to upend the $3.5 trillion industry.


Amazon in 2018 sent shockwaves through the healthcare industry when it said it was acquiring online pharmacy PillPack. PillPack mails prescriptions to people who take multiple medications, packaging them together based on dose. The company has pharmacies around the country that send out medications by mail.

In addition to PillPack, Amazon is building out services for its employees. In September, Amazon revealed its new health clinic program, Amazon Care. Through the program, which is still in the pilot stage, Amazon employees in the Seattle area can get virtual visits with doctors and in-home care that includes delivery of prescription medicines. The company has also acquired a digital health startup called Health Navigator, which will join Amazon Care, CNBC reported in October.

Read more: Amazon just launched a health clinic pilot program. It's the latest sign the company wants to upend US healthcare.

Over the past year, PillPack has started to give hints of where it's business is heading with the support of Amazon. CNBC reported in May that a group of health insurers approached PillPack about providing its services to their customers, though no agreement has yet been reached.

Read more: We just got the first look at how Amazon's $750 million acquisition of PillPack could upend the US healthcare system


Over the past year, Google has gotten deeper into healthcare, hiring Dr. David Feinberg to head up the Google Health division.

Feinberg's team is now responsible for coordinating health initiatives across Google, ranging from the company's search engine and map products, to its Android smartphone operating system, to more futuristic offerings in areas like artificial intelligence.

In his speech at a conference in October, Feinberg said that one of his first main goals for the team will be to oversee how health-related searches come up, and work to improve that with the Google Search team.

Read more: We just got our first look at what Google's grand plans are for healthcare after it brought in a top doctor to lead its health team

Google Health is just one aspect of parent company Alphabet's healthcare strategy. Within Google, Google Cloud is working to ink cloud contracts with healthcare systems. Mayo Clinic in September signed Google as its cloud and AI partner.

There's also Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, as well as Calico, its life-extension spinoff. Verily has its hands in projects spanning robotics to blood-sugar-tracking devices to work on addiction treatment. The company has also made investments in healthcare through its venture funds GV and Capital G as well as through Alphabet itself. 

On Friday, Google reached a $2.1 billion deal to acquire Fitbit. The brand, best known for its fitness watches, also has a big business selling a health platform that combines coaching and fitness tracking to employers and health plans.

Beyond working with existing products, Feinberg's oversight includes the health team at Google AI, hardware components, and DeepMind Health. Both Google AI and DeepMind have pursued projects that analyze medical images like eye scans and scans of breast cancer cells, with the hope of aiding medical professionals in diagnosing and treating patients.


Apple has slowly but surely moved its way into healthcare, in particular through its hardware including the Apple Watch. The watch can track heart rate and look for abnormal heart rhythms, and its most recent iteration also included an update for menstrual cycle tracking. 

Apple's phones are also pre-loaded with a Health app, collecting fitness and health data users opt to share with the device. The health app also has the ability to collect personal health record information and sync up with some hospitals. The app tracks things like vaccination records, lab results, and allergies. 

The company has been going deep on heart health, hiring cardiologists and in 2018 getting the Food and Drug Administration's approval for its heart-monitoring technology, giving it the ability to alert wearers of irregular heart rates.  

Researchers are also increasingly using data from the watch and other Apple devices in studies.

Apple's also been working with insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare. In the case of Aetna, the program is wagering that an app and an Apple Watch can keep its members healthier. Medicare Advantage upstart Devoted Health is covering the watch as a benefit. 

Apple also operates clinics for its employees, called AC Wellness Networks, which are run independently from Apple but are exclusively for its employees. 

Read more: Apple is going after a project Google abandoned — easy access to your complete medical records


Microsoft has historically had trouble cracking into the healthcare business. Most notably, Microsoft built its health-records tool called HealthVault, but it also ultimately didn't work and was wound down. 

Now, the company's health strategy lies in its ability to provide cloud services to healthcare companies as well as software. 

That's taken shape in the form of high-profile partnerships with the likes of companies like Walgreens, Novartis, Humana, and West Coast-based health system Providence St. Joseph Health.

In addition to providing cloud services, Microsoft also commits to working with its partners on projects. For instance, with Walgreens, it plans to test out health offerings, including 12 pilot "digital health corners" in stores. Those are in the process of being executed, Peter Lee, the corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare told Business Insider at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

"It feels like we're really well organized right now," Lee said.

Read more: Microsoft just forged a key alliance with the Swiss pharma giant Novartis to win a bigger piece of an $11 billion market


Facebook, the social network giant, is looking to intersect with the healthcare market via monitoring tools and leveraging its communities to put out the call for blood donations

Facebook' health plays are led by its head of healthcare research Dr. Freddy Abnousi, a cardiologist.

In October, the company unveiled a tool called "Preventive Health" that's aimed at prompting users to get check-ups and providing options where they can go get appointments and see what tests they might need to take, like to check on cholesterol levels. Facebook said the information provided on the tool is only accessible to a select team at Facebook and won't be shared with third parties like health insurers.

Even so, Facebook's health ambitions come with a major layer of skepticism based on the company's track record of data sharing with advertisers and other third parties. 

"No one's going to tell Facebook about their diabetes or STDs," New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway said in December.

Read more: Facebook just expanded its blood-donation tool to the entire US


Ride-hailing company Uber is betting that it can turn its healthcare ambitions into a key business, using its Uber Health unit as a new way to get into smaller, rural markets across the country.

Uber Health works with health plans to provide rides to doctor offices for patients who might otherwise have a hard time going in. In 2018, the company hired Dan Trigub from its competitor Lyft to head the team.

Uber Health works with health plans to manage the transportation needs of their members, particularly elderly Americans in Medicare plans — the federal health-insurance program for seniors — and those on Medicaid plans serving low-income Americans. Drivers are assigned rides that are treated the same as commercial trips. 

The health-transportation market is massive — LogistiCare, a transportation broker that Uber is working with, facilitates more than 60 million trips a year — and Uber is one of a number of players in the space that includes Lyft as well.

Because of the arrangements with health plans that want to coordinate travel for their members, Uber is able to move into more rural markets. 

"When we think about our aging population, they tend to live away from big cities and in those rural markets," Trigub told Business Insider in an October interview on the sidelines of the CB Insights Future of Health conference in New York.

Read more: We talked to a top Uber exec about how the ride-hailing giant is betting on healthcare to reach a new set of customers


Like Uber, Lyft is drawing from its expertise in transportation as it builds its health business. 

"You're seeing every tech company get into care. It's a sixth of our GDP. So it's kind of hard to ignore it as, as a market," Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, told Business Insider.

Callahan joined Lyft in November 2018 after serving as the chief strategy officer at Change Healthcare, a spin-out of McKesson.

Starting in 2016, Lyft has been working with health plans, health systems, and transportation brokers to manage their members transportation needs. The company now works with Medicaid plans in six states, tapping into what Callahan characterized as a little over half of the $6 billion non-emergency medical transportation market. 

Callahan told Business Insider that the team is a "fast-growing part of Lyft Business," the enterprise businesses associated with the ride-sharing company.

Callahan said that the company has a higher volume of rides than Uber's health division. Neither Lyft nor Uber breaks out its ride volume related to health. 


Canceling student-loan debt could have limited positive impact and introduce 'moral hazard' that would make the situation worse, Moody's warns

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 8:05am

  • Erasing student-loan debt could create a "moral hazard" that would weaken the effect of any economic stimulus, Moody's Investors Service said in a recent report.
  • Outstanding student-loan debt is $1.5 trillion, equal to 6.9% of US gross domestic product. 
  • Canceling student-loan debt could hurt the US government because it collects revenue on student loan payments, the report said.
  • Still, Moody's acknowledges the "significantly higher burden" of student loan debt in the US today. 
  • Read more on Business Insider.

Erasing outstanding student-loan debt could have a muted positive impact on the economy, and also create a "moral hazard," according to a Friday analysis by Moody's Investors Service. 

In the last decade, outstanding student loan debt has more than doubled, and now stands at $1.5 trillion — equal to 6.9% of US gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the US economy, the report said. That's made debt forgiveness a hot-button issue and led to proposals from Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to cancel some or all of Americans' student loan debt. 

But the potential benefits of erasing student loan debt would largely depend on the details of any legislation and how it is funded, wrote the team of analysts led by William Foster.

Student loan debt cancellation could "yield a tax-cut-like stimulus to economic activity" that would boost household consumption and investment in the near term, and encourage small businesses and homeownership in the long term, Foster wrote.

But he added: "At the same time, there are potential costs that could contribute to future generational inequality and moral hazard."

He continued: "For example, the economic benefit would likely only be transitory if debt forgiveness was a one-time windfall for current borrowers, as future generations of student loan borrowers would ultimately return to debt-based financing to meet rising college costs." 

In addition, canceling student loan debt now could lead future borrowers to expect that their debt will be erased as well, and give them an incentive to take out even more loans, Foster wrote. That "could ultimately exacerbate the acculmulation of higher student debt burdens in the future," he said, which would make the current issue much worse.

Foster also argued that universal student debt cancellation could hurt the US government because it currently collects revenue on student loan payments — some 90% of student loans are backed by the government. 

"Without offsets for the lost revenue, the government's fiscal deficit would widen, pushing government debt and interest burdens higher," he wrote. He also cited a 2018 study that estimated that debt cancellation would boost US real GDP by an average of $86 billion to $108 billion per year over 10 years. 

While those are large numbers, it's important to point out that they are small percentages of US GDP, which is estimated to be roughly $21.5 trillion in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

Foster did acknowledge the "significantly higher burden" of student loan debt in the US today and the current effect of carrying that debt for consumers, including weaker creditworthiness, reduced consumption and investment, and widening income and wealth inequality, according to the report. 

Overall, if student loan debt were canceled, "the magnitude of the stimulus would depend on the size of the debt relief and income level of the beneficiaries," Foster wrote.  

Read more markets and investing coverage from Business Insider: 

Mega-cap tech stocks have dominated earnings season. Here's how each juggernaut did, from Apple to Netflix.

A personal-finance expert grew his bank account from $2.26 to $1 million in just 5 years. He breaks down the mindset shift that sparked his success — and offers advice for getting ahead.

Beyond Meat's CEO isn't selling any of his shares anytime soon — and thinks the company could someday make $40 billion in revenue

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption

One market expert breaks down why the 'mother of all bubbles' is unlike anything investors have ever seen — and lays out additional evidence that a crisis is approaching

Sun, 11/03/2019 - 6:05am

  • Several warning signs including the "mother of all bubbles" are adding up to diagnose the next recession, according to Joseph Zidle, the chief investment strategist of Blackstone's private-wealth solutions group
  • He is concerned that investors are treating these signs as random events even though they are all linked — just like the 2008 crisis was the culmination of many separate risks.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories

Economic crises are easier to diagnose with the benefit of hindsight. But how do you identify one while it is brewing? 

Joseph Zidle, the chief investment strategist of Blackstone's private-wealth solutions group, is adopting the framework his boss used to foresee the housing crisis over a decade ago. 

Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman espouses the idea of hunting for "discordant notes." These refer to trends in the economy and markets that easily pass as isolated events but combine in a dissonant, troubling fashion.

As a case in point, the surge in housing prices and the collapse of The Reserve Primary Fund due to its exposure to Lehman Brothers seemed like two separate issues. However, we now know they were part of the same awful financial crisis. 

The next recession will likely be no different according to Zidle: Many warning signs that easily pass as isolated are adding up to forewarn investors. 

Today, the loudest "discordant note" that he hears is in sovereign debt, which he says might be the "mother of all bubbles."

He observes that investors have characterized the prevalence of negative government bond yields — a consequence of soaring prices — as normal. Some investors have stopped questioning whether it's a bubble even though the global stock of negative-yielding debt adds up to an unprecedented $13 trillion. 

The unique trouble with the run up in bond prices from Austria to Germany is that unlike other asset classes, fixed income has historically been used as a ballast for portfolio swings. However, bonds themselves have become subjected to huge moves like Austria's 100-year bond that doubled in price within two years. And, in some cases, investors are speculatively buying sovereign bonds for their price appreciation instead of their steady yields and protection. 

While Zidle is not alone in decrying the run up in bond prices or in calling them the greatest bubble ever, he is warning that investors are too easily dismissive of this and other signals that show something is wrong.

"The failures in the repo market, negative-yielding debt, a deeply negative term premium, trade conflicts around the world and a collapse in manufacturing all seem unrelated right now, but I don't think they are random," Zidle said in a recent note to clients. 

He does not expect a recession within the next six months. But he also does not expect this expansion to persist for up to two more years. 

Providing the wrong solution

Ironically, one of the factors that would ordinarily delay another crisis — central bank monetary policy — could end up being ineffective this time, according to Zidle. 

He says that central banks are placating investors rather than their economies by pumping liquidity into financial markets and cutting interest rates in a coordinated fashion. 

For example, US stocks have rallied strongly this year as the Federal Reserve has shown its readiness to keep the expansion going by cutting rates. However, these same rate cuts are not massively moving the needle on how easy it is for consumers to borrow money. 

"Even a year ago, when central banks were tightening monetary policy, credit conditions were not meaningfully more difficult than they are today," Zidle said. "So, if tight credit markets aren't the problem, easier money is unlikely to be the solution."

The real problem is trade, in his view. Solving this political issue would lift business confidence, keep hiring strong, and maintain the expansion. 

For investors, the other solution is a resurgence in corporate earnings growth, which would give stocks meaningful upside that is not reliant on the Fed. Cyclical and low-quality stocks — or those with weak balance sheets — should outperform in this scenario, according to Zidle. 

SEE ALSO: Jim Rogers earned a 4,200% return with George Soros by investing in overlooked assets. He tells us what he's buying now ahead of the 'worst crash of our lifetime.'

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These are the hottest fintech startups and companies in the world

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 7:01pm

It's a fascinating time for fintech.

What was once a disruptive force in the financial world has become standard practice for many industry leaders. 

Fintech industry funding has already reached new highs globally in 2018, with overall funding hitting $32.6 billion at the end of Q3.

Some new regions, including South America and Africa, are emerging on the scene.

And some fintech companies, including a number of insurtechs, have dipped into new markets to escape heightened competition.

Now that fintech has become mainstream, the next focus is on the rising stars in the industry. To that end, Business Insider Intelligence has put together a list of 10 Up and Coming Fintechs for 2019.


Total raised:   £1.9 million ($2.5 million)

What it does: Coconut is a UK-based current account and accounting platform for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Why it's hot in 2019: Next week, Coconut will launch its first subscription service, dubbed Grow, which will bundle unlimited invoicing and end of year tax reports, for £5 ($6.51) a month. This will make it a very attractive option for SMBs, that conventionally don't have a lot of time on their hands to handle their accounting.


Total raised: $282 million

What it does: Brex is a US-based corporate credit card provider, which initially focused on serving startups.

Why it's hot in 2019: The startup gained unicorn status in 2018, only months after it launched its first product. Now, after receiving debt financing worth $100 million, Brex wants to target larger enterprises with its topic — opening it up to a whole new set of customers and helping bring the company to the next level.

Want to get the full list?

There's plenty more to learn about the future of fintech, payments, and the financial services industry. Business Insider Intelligence has outlined the road ahead in a FREE report, 10 Up and Coming Fintechs for 2019

>> Download the report now

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The 16 most bizarre things Elon Musk has said he believes (TSLA)

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 2:55pm

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has an interesting way of looking at both the world and the universe.

In August, Musk tweeted, "Nuke Mars," repeating a sentiment he expressed on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" in 2015. At the time, Musk said hitting Mars with thermonuclear weapons could warm the planet.

Below are 16 of Musk's craziest views on everything from Mars to artificial intelligence.

Danielle Muoio contributed to an earlier version of this story.

Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct message.

SEE ALSO: Two of Tesla's boldest bets are paying off, Model 3 customers say

Musk has said he wants to begin sending humans to Mars by 2024.

"We're establishing cargo flights to Mars that people can count on," he said in June 2016. "The Earth-Mars orbital rendezvous is only every 26 months, so there'll be one in 2018; there will be another one in 2020. And I think if things go according to plan, we should be able to launch people probably in 2024 with the arrival in 2025."

Musk reiterated this timeline in 2017, though he did not meet his timeline to send a cargo flight to Mars in 2018.

He has even shared his vision for a Martian government.

"I think most likely the form of government of Mars would be a direct democracy, not representative," he said during the Code conference in 2016. "So it would be people voting directly on issues. And I think that's probably better because the potential for democracy is substantially diminished."

And he isn't merely interested in people surviving on Mars. He wants a thriving city to exist.

Musk said in a 2016 Reddit AMA that he wanted the red planet to include everything from "iron foundries to pizza joints."

But Musk also said anyone who goes on the first journey to Mars should be "prepared to die."

"The first journey to Mars is going to be really very dangerous," he said in 2016. "The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it."

And he's said hitting Mars with thermonuclear weapons could warm the planet and create the equivalent of two suns over the planet's poles.

In August, Musk tweeted, "Nuke Mars," and suggested he would make a t-shirt with the phrase.

If Mars doesn't pique your interest, you could still take a ride in a SpaceX rocket to travel around the world.

"Most of what people consider to be long-distance trips would be completed in less than half an hour," he said at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia in 2017. 

But if you do decide to risk it and journey to Mars, Musk said dying out in space wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

"I think if you're going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice," he said in 2016. 

On that topic, Musk has said dissuading people from using semi-autonomous driving technology is tantamount to killing them.

Musk made those remarks in October 2016 when he criticized the media's coverage of accidents involving Tesla vehicles using Autopilot.

"One thing I should mention that is, frankly, it's been quite disturbing to me, is the degree of media coverage of Autopilot crashes," he said, adding that it "is basically almost none relative to the paucity of media coverage of the 1.2 million people that die every year in manual crashes.

"And think carefully about this because if in writing some article that's negative you effectively dissuade people from using autonomous vehicles, you're killing people."

But Musk said this year that turning semi-autonomous technology into fully-autonomous technology will be very difficult, saying a "massive effort" will be needed to get fully-autonomous technology to "99.9999% safety."

He also compared a company accepting liability for crashes involving self-driving cars to getting stuck in an elevator.

"No, I think that would be up to the individual's insurance," Musk said in 2016 when asked whether Tesla would accept liability if it were able to develop self-driving cars and they got in an accident. "Point of views on autonomous cars are much like being stuck in an elevator in a building. Does the Otis [Elevator Company] take responsibility for all elevators around the world? No, they don't."

But when he's not planning to send humans to Mars, Musk said he regularly debates whether humans actually exist in another civilization's video game.

"I've had so many simulation discussions it's crazy," he said at Vox Media's Code Conference in 2016. "In fact, it got to the point where basically every conversation was the AI-slash-simulation conversation, and my brother and I finally agreed that we'd ban any such conversations if we're ever in a hot tub. Because that really kills the magic."

But it's a worthy debate, because it's more probable than not that we are living in a simulation than actual reality, he said.

"There's a billion-to-one chance we're living in base reality," he said in 2016.

In fact, humans should really hope we are living in some sort of simulation because things could get really ugly if not, he said.

"Arguably we should hope that that's true, because otherwise if civilization stops advancing, that may be due to some calamitous event that erases civilization," he said in 2016. "So maybe we should be hopeful that this is a simulation, because otherwise ... We are either going to create simulations indistinguishable from reality or civilization ceases to exist."

The Tesla CEO also said humans were "already a cyborg."

Musk said our ability to have a digital presence through email and social media gives us "superpowers" like a cyborg. 

"You have more power than the president of the United States had 20 years ago," he said in 2016. "You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things."

What's more, though, he said we should take the whole cyborg thing even further and add a digital layer of intelligence to our brains to avoid becoming "house cats" to artificial intelligence.

"I don't love the idea of being a house cat, but what's the solution?" he said in 2016. "I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer. A third, digital layer that could work well and symbiotically" with the rest of your body.

In fact, Musk has said AI could be our "biggest existential threat."

"So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence," he said in 2014. "I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence, we're summoning the demon."

Though he's also funded a startup, Neuralink, that wants to implant chips into people's brains to create a "brain-computer" interface.

Neuralink's end goal is to achieve "symbiosis with artificial intelligence," Musk said during a presentation in July.

UAW president takes leave of absence as federal corruption probe intensifies

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 12:10pm

  • The chief of the United Auto Workers union announced Saturday he would take a paid leave of absence amid an ongoing federal probe into alleged corruption at the top of the organization. 
  • The union said Rory Gamble, the second-in-command at UAW who led recent efforts to reach a labor deal with Ford Motor Co, would serve as the interim president.
  • On Thursday, federal prosecutors accused top UAW official Edward Robinson of an embezzlement scheme they said spanned back to 2010. Jones and several officials were involved in the new court filing.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

The chief of the United Auto Workers union announced Saturday he would take a paid leave of absence amid an ongoing federal probe into alleged corruption at the top of the organization. 

"The UAW is fighting tooth and nail to ensure our members have a brighter future," UAW President Gary Jones said in a statement, which did not specify a reason for the decision. "I do not want anything to distract from the mission. I want to do what's best for the members of this great union." 

The union said Rory Gamble, the second-in-command at UAW who led recent efforts to reach a labor deal with Ford Motor Co, would serve as the interim president effective Sunday. Gamble has been a member of the union since 1974, according to its website

The announcement came after a vote by the UAW executive board to grant a leave of absence to Jones, whose home was raided by the FBI in August as part of an investigation into fraud and misuse of funds at the union. Jones has not been charged in the four-year probe. 

On Thursday, federal prosecutors accused top UAW official Edward Robinson of an embezzlement scheme they said spanned back to 2010. Jones and several officials were involved in the new court filing, which alleged a conspiracy to defraud the US. Robinson could not immediately be reached for comment. 

The change was not expected to impact ongoing contract negotiations, Gamble said in a statement. 

"Together throughout the last few months, we've achieved substantial victories for UAW members and we know that we have more work to do," he added. "We want better health care coverage, better salaries, and respect for our work. That will not change."

Now Read: US adds more jobs than expected in October despite GM strike, trade-war tensions

SEE ALSO: US adds more jobs than expected in October despite GM strike, trade-war tensions

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7 signs you're taking money advice from the wrong people

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 11:30am

If you're taking money advice from the wrong people, it will probably be easy to tell. 

While there is a lot of good money advice out there, there's an equal amount of bad money advice. If you find yourself blindly following advice without doing your own research, following the latest financial trends, and acting on advice impulsively, you might be getting some bad advice.

And, if you aren't consulting with a financial planner before making moves, you could be taking some of that bad advice. 

If you're taking money advice from the wrong people, you might notice one of these red flags. 

1. The information you're getting is out of date

Financial planner John Pak of Otium Advisory Group in Los Angeles, California says a cue that someone is taking money advice from the wrong person is that the advice is out of date. 

"You would not believe how many people came into my office quoting someone else, something they read, or something they heard on the radio. I'm thinking to myself, 'wow, I haven't heard that 2014 or 2015,'" says Pak. 

Markets are always moving and the economy is always changing. And that means that money advice changes quickly, too. 

2. You're not fact-checking your information

If you're making money moves without doing your own research first or consulting a professional, you might be taking advice from the wrong people. 

"It's hard to tell what is fact or fiction, updated or outdated," says Pak. He finds that, generally, people who are taking the wrong financial advice aren't doing their due diligence, or don't know where to start.

"They don't know how to filter what's correct and what's not correct," he adds. 

3. You're trusting blindly

Just because someone is a close friend or family member doesn't mean that you have to take their money advice, says Pak. 

The logic he sees generally involves trusting someone blindly. "It usually goes like, 'you're my friends or you're my family member, And if you're doing it, hey, why not me? I'll join you.'" 

Just because you trust your family with other parts of your life doesn't always mean that it's a good idea to trust them with your financial decision-making.

4. You haven't consulted a financial planner

If haven't consulted a financial planner, you should do so before taking money advice. And, you're afraid to tell your financial planner what you've been doing or are keeping secrets, that's a big red flag that you're listening to the wrong people.  

There's a lot to consider before making big money decisions, and it's worth getting the third party opinion of a financial planner. "Contact a financial professional that you trust and talk it out before you do anything," says Pak. 

SmartAsset's free tool can help you find a licensed financial professional »


5. You're following the trends

Hearing advice about money that's trendy or suddenly hot might be a sign that you're listening to the wrong people. These "flavor-of-the-month" ideas, as Pak calls them, might seem like a good idea at first. But, the problem is that they might change in the future.

If it sounds too good to be true, Pak says that it probably is.

6. You're taking advice impulsively

If you're taking advice on impulse, it may not be from the right person. Understanding what you're planning to do, and why it's recommended, can be a big help. 

Pak suggests taking your time and doing thorough research before being certain. "Before you jump in, take a pause, talk to a financial professional, sleep on it, and then make a decision," says Pak.

7. You wouldn't trust that person as a financial planner

Pak has a unique way of telling clients that they might be taking advice from the wrong person. 

"I challenge my clients," says Pak. "I say, 'Whoever you're getting advice from, tell them Otium Advisory invites them to be a part of our advisory committee at the firm,'" says Pak. "And you would not believe it, but I've had zero callbacks."

SmartAsset's free tool can help you find a licensed financial professional to help you build wealth »

The cheapest private jet in the world can now land itself with the push of a button. We tested the revolutionary new emergency system.

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 10:48am

  • A groundbreaking new feature on the Cirrus Vision Jet can automatically land the plane in an emergency, no pilot needed.
  • The Safe Return Emergency Autoland System, designed by Garmin, can automatically figure out the best airport and runway, plot a flight path, communicate with air traffic control and other planes, navigate, and land the plane — all with the touch of a button.
  • Passengers can press that button if a pilot has a medical emergency — it's reachable by anyone in the plane.
  • Business Insider had the chance to test the Safe Return feature during a demonstration. Now I can say that I successfully landed an airplane.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I landed an airplane recently.

I'm not a pilot. And I've never taken a flying lesson. In fact, I'd never before touched an active control on an airplane. But landing this particular plane was easy.

The Cirrus Vision Jet is already the most accessible private jet in the world. A new plane costs around $2 million, about half as much as its closest rivals, and it was the most delivered business jet of 2018. With a single engine, composite body, and just one pilot needed to fly it, it's a powerful aircraft with a 1,150-mile range

A new feature unveiled last week makes the plane even more appealing: an emergency automatic-landing system.

The Safe Return Emergency Autoland System, designed by Garmin, can land the plane with just the push of a big red button, reachable by any passenger.

When activated, the system automatically takes control of the plane, determines the nearest and best suitable airport, plots a flight path around weather, buildings, and terrain, notifies air-traffic control, flies the plane to the chosen runway while avoiding other aircraft, and gently brings the plane down to the ground, coming to a stop at the end of the runway, where emergency services will wait.

This isn't quite the first automatic landing feature, but what makes it revolutionary is that it can take complete and total control of the flight from the moment it's activated. Other systems on commercial planes rely on continuous input from pilots like a traditional autopilot system. But this is unique in that a passenger can activate it, and zero pilot input is needed.

Late this summer, I took a demonstration flight with Cirrus to test the new autoland system.

We pretended the pilot was incapacitated, I pushed the button, and that was the last time anyone touched the plane's controls until we had come to a stop on the runway.

It was an incredibly impressive thing to see in action. Keep reading to see how it went.

SEE ALSO: I flew on Qantas' 'Project Sunrise,' a nonstop flight from New York to Sydney, Australia, that took almost 20 hours and covered nearly 10,000 miles — here's what it was like

Meet the Cirrus Vision Jet.

It may be small, but it's mighty for what it is: a single-engine personal jet. Pretty much a minivan in the sky.

The minivan analogy is actually pretty accurate, once you get inside. There are two pilot's seats (one can be used for a passenger)...

... And right behind that, two bucket seats.

Behind those, there is room for up to three more seats, depending on the configuration you choose. In this particular case there was only one seat in the back.

It really is a small plane, with a wingspan of 38.7 feet. It's 30.7 feet long and 10.9 feet tall.

The plane has an uncommon V-shaped tail ...

... And a single engine, mounted on the roof. It's a Williams International FJ33-5A turbofan. The jet nozzle is angled slightly upward so that it doesn't blast the rear fuselage with hot air.

As with all Cirrus aircraft, it's designed with an emergency parachute system called CAPS. In the Vision Jet, the parachute is located in the nose.

The Vision Jet's fuselage is actually made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum. Carbon fiber is lighter and stronger than aluminum construction.

Thanks to the minivan-like layout, the passengers and pilot occupy the same space.

The Safe Return button is located on the ceiling in between the pilot and the first row of seats. If something happened to the pilot — like a medical emergency, the passengers can see right away and reach the button.

For the demonstration, we took off from Westchester Airport in the suburbs of New York City.

After a brief taxi to the runway ...

... We were cleared to take off. It's loud on board, so we wore Bose noise-cancelling headsets with microphones. The pilot set the radio so I could hear air-traffic control just like him.

It was a rainy and stormy day, which made for a fun and bumpy ride the whole way.

A few minutes later, we broke above the clouds. Autopilot was active by this point, flying the plane based on the pilots instructions and inputs.

We flew and chatted for a few minutes (one of Cirrus' test pilots was also on board, seated next to me), as we headed toward Stewart Airport in Newburgh, a bit farther out from the city.

Then, I got ready to land the plane

Because it wasn't a real emergency, we did a few things differently.

For example, our pilot disabled the feature that communicates with air traffic control, since we didn't want to send out a false emergency broadcast. Also, because we didn't want to interfere with normal air traffic, we waited to push the button until we were in a scenario where it was obvious which airport, runway, and direction the auto-land system would choose.

But other than that, this was, the system behaved exactly as it was designed to.

As we got into position ...

... Our pilot sat back ...

... And I pushed the button.

If someone pushes the button by mistake, the pilot has a few seconds to prevent the auto-land feature from kicking in. They can also cancel it at any point before landing.

Then, the Safe Return system takes over.

From this point on, the aircraft is being flown by Garmin's system. After it chooses the airport and plots the route ...

... It starts to navigate, while broadcasting a pre-programmed message over the relevant air-traffic control frequency, based on location and airport. The message warns other pilots, too, who know to provide clearance for the plane.

Passengers can also override the automated broadcast to speak with air-traffic control directly.

The system also sets the plane's transponder to broadcast a distress signal.

Our pilot is monitoring and chatting with air-traffic control right now, since the radio feature of Safe Return has been disabled for this demo.

The screens offer a ton of information so that the anxious passengers who may not otherwise know how to read the avionics screens can understand when to expect turns or descents. They're also given an ETA for landing.

There are also instructions for anything the passengers may need to do, like buckling their seat belts.

Here the plane is automatically getting into position for its final approach.

It's been almost 10 minutes since I pushed the Safe Return button, but we're in position and lined up with the runway ...

After a gentle descent ...

... We lined up ...

... And landed. If I didn't know any better, I'd have assumed it was a normal landing.

We took off again pretty much right away and flew back to Westchester. This time, the pilot landed.

Cirrus and Garmin make clear that Safe Return is only for emergencies. It's not meant to help pilots with landings they may find tricky, or to help them land in conditions that they aren't certified to fly in under normal circumstances.

Safe Return will also be available on Piper planes that use Garmin's G3000 avionics system, as well as future planes designed to accommodate it.

I drove a $57,500 Tesla Model 3 and a $44,000 Nissan Leaf — here's how these all-electric cars stacked up (TSLA)

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 10:37am

  • Last year, I drove the Tesla Model 3 in several different versions. I also sampled an updated version of the Nissan Leaf.
  • The Leaf has been in the electric-vehicle market for longer, but the Model 3 was among the best cars I drove in all of 2018. 
  • I recently tested a new, longer-range version of the Leaf, the Leaf SL Plus. 
  • You can buy the Model 3 and the Leaf for around $40,000, so I decided to compare the cars.
  • The Tesla Model 3 is better, but the Leaf Plus has a lot going for it.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Nissan beat Tesla to market with a practical, all-electric vehicle when in 2010 it launched the Leaf.

Tesla caught up, but with the expensive Model S sedan.

The arrival of the Model 3 in 2017 signaled a new era. Now, consumers could choose between the proven Leaf and the stunning new Model 3; the Model 3 had better performance and longer range, but the Leaf was a known quantity.

This year, I tested a longer-range version of the Leaf — the Leaf SL Plus — and was impressed. So I thought I'd compare it with the Model 3.

Here's how the cars stack up:

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Here's the 2019 Nissan Leaf SL Plus! Looking sharp in "Deep Pearl Blue."

Read the review.

Pretty much the same Deep Pearl Blue as the Leaf that was a Business Insider Car of the Year finalist in 2018. That car had a single electric motor, producing 147 horsepower, a 40-kWh battery pack, and delivered 151 miles of range on a full charge.

The SL Plus trim level has a 62 kilowatt-hour battery. The larger pack adds roughly 70 miles of range compared to the standard Leaf's 151-mile battery.

The Leaf is the top-selling EV globally, which makes sense as the car has been around since 2010. Over 300,000 have been sold.

The SL trim level is the top-of-the-line version. That's why my test car cost $44,000. The base Leaf, with a smaller battery a less range, starts at under $30,000.

The goal when the Leaf was launched was for the Japanese automaker to embrace a "zero emission" future. It hasn't quite worked out that way, but the company is making progress, and Leaf is still with us.

Hatchback silhouettes aren't typically associated with automotive aggression, and EVs tend to project a mostly virtuous vibe. But the Leaf's fascia is rather bold.

The 2019 Leaf, like the second-generation 2018 car, is much sleeker than the original. However, we're talking about a practical hatchback here, so let's not get too excited.

Aerodynamics play a role in increasing EV range, so while the hatch design favors utility, the Leaf's front end has been engineered for airflow: the car has a 0.28 drag coefficient.

The LED headlights are a standout feature.

Overall, the Leaf projects a fairly European identity. That perhaps has turned off some US customers, who have basically abandoned small vehicles in favor of large SUVs and pickups.

The Leaf's "Light Gray" interior was pleasant, if a bit shy of premium. The seats were comfy, and there was a reasonable amount of space to stow small items.

The back seat was about average, space-wise, for the segment.

The Leaf has always received criticism for its "tweener" nature. It's not a luxury car, but it's also not bare-bones. I've always thought it hits a sweet-spot for customers who aren't wealthy but who have the means to invest in an EV.

The Leaf's eight-inch color infotainment display looks good, but we aren't the biggest fans of the system's layout. It is easy to use, and Bluetooth device-pairing is a snap. You also have available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The toggle-button shifter has a slight learning curve. And storage could be better, although there are the usual pair of cupholders between the seats.

An unassuming rear hatch for the most part, but you're quickly informed of this EV's nonpolluting pedigree.

The Leaf's cargo area is an excellent 24 cubic feet, expandable to 30 with the rear seats dropped. The hatch's opening is a tad awkward, with a sort of oval shape.

Charging is unchanged from the Leaf we tested last year, at least as far as the ports go. There are two, one for 240V "Level 2" charging and one for fast DC charging.

Our Leaf SL Plus had a 160 kilowatt electric motor, making a juicy 214 horsepower with 250 pound-feet of torque.

The Leaf also has regenerative braking. And when the e-Pedal feature is engaged, it's possible to drive the car using motor braking almost alone, putting power back into the battery. 

There's also an onboard charge cable "trickle" top-offs using a regular wall outlet for 120V power. Using 240V, the Leaf Plus is back to 100% in 11.5 hours. Fast DC charging, however, can achieve 80% in 45 minutes.

We used the ChargePoint network and did fine with two rounds of 240V charging over the course of a week. It's also possible to install your own 240V ChargePoint unit at home; one can be purchased for about $500, with installation handled by a qualified electrician.

We also used the Nissan Connect iPhone app to monitor charging and to manage climate control and vehicle diagnostics.

So how does the Nissan Leaf Plus stack up?

If you can afford the payments — which come in at about $670 a month, on a 72-month loan — you'll spend around $54 a month on electricity, according to Nissan and the Department of Transportation and the EPA (the cost is based on 15,000 miles of annual driving). Gas could cost you more than twice as much, for a comparable petrol-burning machine.

The Leaf Plus is also still eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, as well as various state incentives. 

AND you don't have to buy the top-spec SL trim, like our tester — you could opt for the $36,550 plain-old Plus and still get a 62-kilowatt-hour battery pack.

OK, you won't feel compelled to buy the Leaf Plus if your budget is more Nissan Versa Note, a $15,650 hatchback that runs on gas (but not much of it) and could be had for less than $250 a month. The Versa sedan is even cheaper: less than $15,000.

Electric cars, of course, aren't cheap (although you can pick up a used Leaf from the previous generation for around $10,000). But if you have the means and are serious about making the transition from fossil fuels to EEE-lec-tricity for propulsion, the Leaf Plus's 215-miles of range could flip your switch.

The 6.5-second 0-60 mph should also flip your switch. That's darn quick, for a car that outwardly resembles something you'd find parked on the streets of Paris and used mainly for baguette runs. My beef with the Leaf, compared to other EVs is that it felt solid yet sluggish. Against the Bolt, the shorter-range Leaf seemed to lack snap. 

Not so anymore. The larger battery and more peppy motors have made the Leaf Plus feel downright sporty. My test car also included a suite of driver-assist and semi-self-driving features (Nissan's ProPilot, for example, which can handle steering assist), so the Leaf has become a rather complete package that, for $44,000 as tested, was genuinely packed with content.

Now let's check out the Model 3!

I drove what was at the time a $57,500 Model 3 and raved about it in my review.

We also named it a runner-up for Business Insider's 2018 Car of the Year.

The Model 3 in "Standard Range Plus" trim with rear-wheel-drive and the "Partial Premium Interior" is the least expensive version available on Tesla configurator. It's about $40,000.

I also briefly sampled the $78,000 Performance version of the Model 3 when it first came out. The white interior is really something special — I can see why it's popular.

I spent a week with my test car, running it through its paces.

Read the review.

The Model 3 is a sharp set of wheels, designed by Tesla's Franz von Holzhausen to embody forward thinking without taking any wild and crazy chances.

The Model 3 is sleek, not overly curvaceous, and something of a hybrid of midsize and full-size sedan. No grille because ... there's no gas engine to feed air!

The roof is a continuous curve of glass, with a fastback rear hatch/trunk culminating in a crisp spoiler. The recessed door handles and the window trim are the only significant chrome on the Model 3.

The Model 3 is unadorned except for the Tesla badge. By the way, fit and finish on my test car were superb.

The Model 3 has plenty of trunk space — and an offbeat hatch design to enable that continuous glass roof.

With its "frunk" the Model 3 offers an ample 15 cubic feet of space. This gives the Model 3, a sedan, versatility on par with SUVs.

You have to be a minimalist to love the Model 3's interior. The leatherette upholstery is animal-free, and the flash is ... well, there isn't any.

Tesla makes its own seats. The Model 3's are quite comfy and supportive for more spirited driving, and the front seats are heated. There was decent legroom in back.

The Model 3 has no key fob. Instead, that duty is handled by a Tesla smartphone app ...

With a credit-card-size valet key as a backup.

The Model 3 in this configuration can dash from zero to 60 mph in about five seconds.

That's speedy enough for anybody, and the quality of that speed is very Tesla and very electric-car. EVs have 100% of their available torque at 1 rpm, which means potentially neck-snapping velocity.

A Model S P100D with Ludicrous Mode engaged can do zero to 60 mph in under 2.3 seconds. That's jarring acceleration. The Model 3 is calmer. But not too calm. You are rewarded when you punch it.

The Model 3 also has regenerative braking, which can be customized to be heavy or light. Heavy acts almost like an engine brake and permits the driver to actively brake much less frequently than with a gas vehicle, while recharging the battery. Light mitigates the sense that the Model 3 is tugging when coasting.

For what it's worth, the Model 3 I tested lacked a Ludicrous or Insane mode — the default is quick acceleration. But you can switch that to Chill Mode, which dials it back. And I did. Chill is considerably easier to live with.

The showstopper for the Model 3 has always been the dashboard. Beginning with the steering wheel. Unlike nearly every other steering wheel on the planet, the Model 3's has almost no knobs or buttons.

The large, central touchscreen handles almost all vehicle functions. The left side is reserved for the readouts you'd normally find on an instrument cluster.

Navigation is the standout feature, but the voice-recognition system is about the best I've ever used in a modern vehicle. The Tesla-designed audio system is superb, and connectivity with devices is a breeze.

I recharged my tester Model 3 at a Supercharger location near my home. But most owners will charge overnight using a "level 2" setup at 240 volts. It's also possible to trickle charge using the onboard cable and a standard wall outlet.

Free supercharging for life used to be a great perk of Tesla ownership. But as ownership has grown, Tesla has adjusted the deal.

The company also discourages owners from using Superchargers for casual daily fill-ups, preferring they plug into slower charging options at home and save supercharging for longer trips.

A Supercharger will recharge a Model 3 Long Range from zero to full in about an hour. Using 240-volt power will get the job done overnight, and a basic wall outlet will get you a mile an hour in an emergency.

Unlike a quick gas-n-go, you do have to cultivate some patience with Tesla's recharging process.

In case you're wondering about Autopilot: I've reviewed the technology before and consider it very advanced cruise control. I strongly recommend against ever going hands-free with it.

The Model 3 is engineered to someday have full self-driving capability. That day hasn't come yet. But it will surely add value if it does.

I used Autopilot with the Model 3 during my longest test, and it performed as it always has for me in other Tesla vehicles. But the truth is that I liked driving the Model 3 so darn much that I didn't flip Autopilot on very often. I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Teslas are a blast to drive — that ever-present temptation, to be honest, undermines Autopilot. I enjoy driving. For what it is, Autopilot is an excellent technology.


So what's the verdict?

The Model 3 takes it!

But it was closer that you might think. The Model 3 has longer range, is faster from 0-60 mph, has a cooler infotainment system and more forward-thinking interior design, exudes exterior styling mojo, offers better recharging options, and is reasonably well put-together.

The Leaf Plus comes in second in all of those areas except build quality. BUT the Leaf Plus is certainly the nicest EV than Nissan has thus far created, and it's much easier to simply go down to your local Nissan dealership, pick one up, and drive it home.

In fact, the closeness of the Leaf to the Model 3 is a somewhat uncomfortable reminder than the Model 3, while impressive, is more of a high-mid-market to low-end-premium vehicle. The Leaf is electric motoring for the masses, more or less, and so is the Model 3. But the Model 3's current customer set is being asked to accept a more bare-bones car than they'd get from, say, Jaguar with the I-Pace or Audi with its e-Tron. 

If I had to choose, I'd buy the Tesla. But I could also easily be happy with the Leaf. And if I bought the Leaf, I would be eyeing allegedly nicer vehicles from luxury brands, whereas with the Model 3 I might not.

That all said, this comparison did make me recollect the Model 3's general brilliance. It genuinely is a staggering achievement. While the Leaf Plus definitely gets the job done, the Model 3 demonstrates why Tesla is investing in making electrified transportation more than an A-to-B proposition, powered by something that isn't a fossil fuel. As I've said before, the Model 3 appeals to the automotive philosopher in me: it's crammed with ideas.

And the Model 3 by its nature makes you feel better about yourself. It is intellectually stimulating, a mood-improvement machine. I perked up every time I slipped behind the wheel, and most days I had to deal with rainy Northeast gloom. Gray skies weren't going to clear up, but it didn't matter, because the Model 3 helped me put on a happy face.

It can blast to 60 mph in five seconds, it can drive itself with your supervision under some conditions, and it has a five-star safety rating from the government. What's more, it's a California-made, all-electric car from the first new American car company in decades.

But the truly astounding thing is that Tesla, in only about five years of seriously manufacturing automobiles, could build a car this good.

If you're debating between the roughly $40,000 Nissan Leaf SL Plus or a slightly cheaper Leaf trim level and the approximately $40,000 base Tesla Model 3, the decision isn't hard. You won't be unhappy with the Leaf, but with the Model 3, you will follow some serious bliss.

7 reasons you may need life insurance, even if you think you don't

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 10:30am

Most people aren't thinking about life insurance in their 20s, but it's often the best time to buy it.

There are several factors that determine the cost of life insurance, but generally, the younger and healthier you are when you buy a policy, the cheaper it will be (unless you work in a high-risk job or have a penchant for extreme sports, but more on that later).

An average 20-something or 30-something nonsmoker can expect to pay between $10 and $50 a month for a term life policy depending on the coverage amount, according to Policygenius. That's less than the cost of a gym membership to protect your family's financial stability in your absence.

If you don't have life insurance, here are six reasons you probably need it:

1. You're having a baby

If you're planning to have a baby in the next year or so, now is a great time to buy life insurance.

For one thing, most people's health declines with age. The longer you wait to buy a policy, the greater the eventual cost. Secondly, if you're going from two incomes to one — that is, one parent will be leaving a steady paycheck to stay home indefinitely — there's even greater reason to set up a financial safety net before having kids.

If you're already pregnant and you're the breadwinner of the family, it's possible to buy life insurance, though you'll probably get the best rates if you undergo the medical exam before or after pregnancy, according to Policygenius insurance expert Logan Sachon.

Still, if you're already carrying a baby and the need for life insurance feels urgent, some insurance companies will allow you to retake your medical exam a year or two after giving birth and then adjust your rate accordingly.

2. You're getting married

If your soon-to-be spouse relies on your income to live the lifestyle you share, it's a good idea to get life insurance.

Whether they bring in their own paycheck or not, having a life insurance policy in place assures they can maintain a similar standard of living if you die prematurely.

3. You financially support aging parents

The general rule is that if someone else relies on your income to live, then you probably need life insurance.

Most people think of protecting a spouse or children, but according to a 2018 AARP Public Policy Institute report, about 6.2 million millennials and counting are acting as caregivers for a parent, in-law, or grandparent.

If you help out your aging parents, or plan to one day, a life insurance policy ensures they're left with some money for long-term care or personal expenses if you can no longer provide for them.

Policygenius can help you compare life insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

4. You have debt

When deciding on a coverage amount for a life insurance policy, financial experts recommend including your total debt amounts to ensure whoever receives the money in the event of your death will have enough to pay off your outstanding balances in full. The largest debt for most Americans is a mortgage, but you should also consider your student loans, if you have them.

Federal student loans are forgiven upon death, but private loans may not be. If you have a co-signer on your private student loans or you live in a community property state, you may want to consider a life insurance policy.

5. You're self-employed

Life insurance can be incredibly beneficial if you're a small business owner, Anna Baluch reports for Business Insider. If you set up a "Key Person" or "Buy/Sell Agreement" life insurance policy, your employees or key stakeholders will still get paid in your absence.

You can also use a life insurance policy as collateral to secure a small business loan, Melbourne O'Banion, CEO of Bestow, an online term life insurance company, told Baluch. Basically, the death benefit on your policy will go toward paying off the entirety of the loan in the event of your death, and then the remaining amount will be paid to your beneficiaries.

6. You have a high-risk job

Life insurance companies will always consider your occupation when they assess your risk level. Simply put, if you work in a dangerous or high-risk environment, you have a greater chance of dying than someone who sits at a desk all day.

Jobs in aviation, construction, firefighting, mining, oil and natural gas, and a few others will almost always result in a higher premium, according to Policygenius. Still, the high risk alone makes the policy worth having.

Most life insurance policies won't allow people in high-risk industries to add a disability rider, so Policygenius recommends buying a separate short-term disability insurance to protect against temporary loss of income if you get injured on the job or elsewhere.

7. You have extreme hobbies

If you're a thrill seeker with a penchant for extreme sports, you'll probably be deemed higher-risk by a life insurance company. But it's similar to having a high-risk job — you'll pay more to be insured, but the cost is worth it considering the likelihood you'll die from unnatural causes.

If you do have an extreme hobby — like rock climbing, scuba diving, or something equally thrilling — it's best not to lie about it on your life insurance application, Policygenius explains. If you die within the first two years your policy is active and you didn't disclose your regular high-risk activity, the insurance company has the right to decrease the death benefit, or cancel it all together.

As for the cost, you'll typically see either a higher base premium or an extra annual fee calculated as a percentage of your coverage amount. Every insurance companies assesses the risk of hobbies differently, so it's good to comparison shop if this applies to you. 

Policygenius can help you compare life insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Join the conversation about this story »

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The World of Hyatt card offers a free night each year, and it could be worth it for this benefit alone

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 10:22am

  • If you frequently stay at Hyatt hotels, the World of Hyatt Credit Card is a great way to elevate your status and accelerate your rewards.
  • It earns 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt hotels, 2 points per dollar spent in select categories, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • You'll also earn a free night certificate valid at Category 1-4 properties every year on your account anniversary.
  • The World of Hyatt card also provides some helpful protections, including trip cancellation and interruption reimbursement, baggage delay coverage, insurance against damaged or lost luggage, and purchase protection.
  • If you're less of a Hyatt loyalist but want to book a Hyatt award stay, don't forget that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, so a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve could also make sense.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.


Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back. 

World of Hyatt card details

Annual fee: $95

Sign-up bonus: 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and another 25,000 points when you spend $6,000 total within six months of account opening

Points earning: 4 points per dollar spent at Hyatt; 2 points per dollar spent on restaurants, airline tickets, commuting, and gym memberships; 1 point everywhere else

Foreign transaction fee: None

Sign-up bonus 

You can earn up to 50,000 points by signing up for the World of Hyatt card, with two tiers to the sign-up bonus. Earn 25,000 bonus points after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of opening the account, and earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after $6,000 in total purchases within six months of opening the account.

Other hotel credit cards, like the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, offer significantly higher welcome bonuses. The Aspire card is currently offering 150,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months, compared to up to 50,000 points on the World of Hyatt card. However, it's important to remember that not all points are created equal.

Travel website The Points Guy values World of Hyatt points at 1.7 cents apiece, compared to just 0.6 cents per Hilton point. These valuations are based on the hotel programs' unique award charts and are essentially a measure of how far each hotel point will get you in booking a free stay. So using these valuations, the World of Hyatt card's full 50,000-point bonus would be worth $850, while the Hilton Aspire's 150,000-point bonus would be worth $900. 

Points earning

With the World of Hyatt card, you'll earn 4 points per dollar spent on purchases at all Hyatt hotels; 2 points per dollar spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline, local transit and commuting, and fitness club and gym memberships; and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.

It's nice that the card earns you bonus points for more than just Hyatt purchases — this could be a good card to charge your monthly gym membership to, and if you don't have another credit card that earns bonus rewards on dining, the 2x points at restaurants could be a good way to earn Hyatt points quickly.

Annual fee and other charges

The World of Hyatt has a $95 annual fee, which is on par with other non-premium hotel co-branded credit cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card. It's not hard to justify paying $95 a year if you can take advantage of the card's benefits like the annual free night.

There are no foreign transaction fees — that means using this card is a great way to avoid extra charges when traveling abroad.

Free nights at Hyatt hotels

Every year after your cardmember anniversary, you'll receive a free night award valid at Category 1-4 Hyatt properties anywhere in the world.

This benefit alone is worth more than the annual fee for most people, since if you maximize it by staying at a Category 4 Hyatt property like the Andaz San Diego or the Grand Hyatt Berlin you're likely getting more than $95 in value. And if you spend $15,000 on the card in an account year, you'll earn another free night (valid at the same categories).

World of Hyatt elite status

As long as you have the World of Hyatt card, you'll maintain automatic Discoverist status in the World of Hyatt program, which includes the following benefits:

  • 10% bonus on points earned from stays at Hyatt properties
  • Complimentary premium internet and bottle of water
  • Priority check-in
  • Late checkout (until 2:00pm), subject to availability
  • Automatic Pearl status in the M Life Rewards program
  • Earn one World of Hyatt point for every dollar spent on American Airlines flights

Hyatt Discoverist status isn't a very high tier in the World of Hyatt program — you'll get the most benefits as a top-tier Globalist member — but it's nice that you get some level of status just for holding the card.

The World of Hyatt card also helps you climb towards higher levels of elite status, providing 5 qualifying nights every year just for having the card, plus an additional 2 elite nights for every $5,000 you spend on the card. There's no limit to the number of elite nights you can earn from the card.

Other travel benefits

If you book travel using this card and your trip is canceled or cut short due to unforeseen situations like illness or bad weather, the included trip cancellation/interruption insurance will reimburse you up to $5,000 for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses that you're not able to use. You'll get better trip protections with other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it's nice that the World of Hyatt card offers some level of coverage.

The World of Hyatt card also protects your luggage: If your bags are delayed over six hours, you'll be reimbursed for necessities (up to $100 a day for five days), and if your bags are damaged or lost you're covered for up to $3,000 per passenger.

Redeeming your World of Hyatt points

World of Hyatt points and free night awards are easy to redeem for free hotel stays through On the website, you can easily search for a hotel in cities around the world.

Free nights start at just 5,000 points for standard rooms; Regency Club and Grand Club rooms, which give you access to hotel lounges, start at 7,000 points per night, and suites start at 8,000 points per night.

You can stretch your points further with Points + Cash rates, which allow you to pay 50% of the points rate plus 50% of the standard cash rate.

You can also redeem your World of Hyatt points for room upgrades on paid rates (3,000 points for club lounge access; 6,000 points for a standard suite; or 9,000 points for a premium suite), and to book nights at Ziva and Zilara all-inclusive resorts for 20,000 to 25,000 points per night. 

So with the World of Hyatt card's sign-up bonus of up to 50,000 points, you could book as many as two nights at an all-inclusive, or you could stretch your points and get 10 nights at a Category 1 Hyatt like a Hyatt Place or Hyatt House.

Purchase protection

Your purchases will be covered against damage or theft for 120 days, up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account.

How the World of Hyatt card stacks up to other rewards credit cards

When it comes to hotel credit cards across different brands and chains, it's hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons because each loyalty program is so different.

Hyatt is one of the smaller global hotel chain, with around 850 properties compared to more than 5,700 hotels under the Marriott umbrella. So with Hyatt, you aren't necessarily as likely to find a hotel no matter where you're traveling, but you'll find plenty of high-end options in destinations like Paris and Tokyo.

If you know that you want to book Hyatt award stays, you have some options for earning Hyatt points beyond the World of Hyatt card. That's because World of Hyatt is a transfer partner of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, so if you have a card that earns Chase points, you can move those points over to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio.

Like the World of Hyatt card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has a $95 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. It earns 2x points on travel and dining, and includes strong travel protections such as primary car rental insurance. It's currently offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus to new cardholders who spend $4,000 in the first three months — you could transfer those 60,000 points to Hyatt and book two nights at a top-tier Category 7 hotel or 12 nights at a Category 1 Hyatt.

There's also the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has a $450 annual fee but offers up to a $300 annual travel credit and earns 3x points on travel and dining (excluding on purchases that count toward the $300 travel credit). The Reserve is offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

If you're a small business owner or have a side gig, you could also consider the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, which has a $95 annual fee and offers new cardholders 80,000 Chase points when they spend $5,000 in the first three months. This card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points on the first $150,000 you spend across travel and select business categories each account year, so it can be easy to rack up rewards depending on where you spend money.

Bottom line

The World of Hyatt card is worth considering if you want to earn free nights at Hyatt hotels and resorts, both through the bonus points you can earn through the sign-up bonus and everyday spending, and with the annual free night benefit. It's also helpful for frequent travelers who want to accelerate their path toward Hyatt elite status, since you get automatic Hyatt Discoverist status and can spend your way to additional qualifying nights to reach a higher level.

If you're less interested in Hyatt status, you could also consider a Chase card like the Sapphire Preferred that earns Ultimate Rewards points, since you can transfer these points to Hyatt to book award stays.

That said, I've personally had the Hyatt card for many years, and I'm happy to keep it because the annual free night award alone more than makes up for the annual fee.

Click here to learn more about the World of Hyatt card.

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